Monday, August 31, 2020

JUSTICE: Harmony with All


Racial injustice, gender inequality, LGBTQ discrimination, are prevalent in our community, along with other injustices that continue to be persistent in our community, in our denomination, across our country -- certainly in other denominations and other communities as well. 

Live in harmony with one another.  Romans 12:16a (ESV)

 But we're responsible for influencing what goes on in our community. In our congregation, our community, our families, and in our church and denomination. So it's hard, then, always to feel like we're able to be in harmony, as the Bible invites us in so many ways to be in harmony. And yet in this passage really addresses... Paul addresses ways that we can do that. Ways that we can be in harmony, even with people who are on the other side of the issues that are so important to us. Without losing our stance or anything like that. It's important that we take a stand for what is right and for justice.

Transcript of sermon
Preached Extemporaneously [Video] on August 30, 2020  
for Briensburg UMC

So during this season after Pentecost, going up through Christ the King, we're focusing our lectionary readings on looking at our lectionary readings through this lens of justice. In doing so then I kind of... I don't know how I could ever stop doing that really... because it's always going to say that, it's throughout the whole Bible. That's what God calls us to. That's what Christ demonstrated: was fairness for all people, equality, and acceptance and love.

And so we have this challenge, that when we take a stand for an issue of justice, that automatically puts us in a discord with the people that are on the other side of that issue. And yet, so we're called to be in harmony with each other. But you know what? Here's the great thing, I think, is that whichever side of the issue we're on, we're going to be in discord with the ones on the other side. So we want to make sure we're on the right side of it. We're wanting to make sure we're on God's side of the issues. Because the way that this will all resolve, is that everybody that's on the wrong side will be converted, and get on the right side. So that's where we need to start out ourselves.

When we look at what Christ did, He went out with his ministry, and He stood on the side of the oppressed. He wasn't trying to pick a fight with the oppressors, but it automatically put Him at odds with those who wanted to continue their oppression. But little by little, some of those people were converted. And that conversion process is continuing to this day, and we're part of it. So when we stand with Christ, we stand with those who are being discriminated against, those who are experiencing inequalities, those who are experiencing injustice: we stand with them.

And then we are to love everybody else into that position. And the temptation is to fight fire with fire. Or as that... Christ brought out in the sermon on the mount and said, "You've heard it said", you heard it right in the Bible really, the Old Testament, "You heard it said, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, "love even your enemies." I believe especially, because that's where the change will come from. From people being loved into the Kingdom of God. Loved into the law of love. And if we try to use those other tactics that they use, then we'll all have the same result. Everybody will just be mad at each other and nothing will be accomplished. That love will conquer all. So that's what caught me in this passage. I think that's maybe a little overview of that passage from it, from this view of justice.

Be reconciled with God and all who believe in universal love.

Live in harmony with one another. Vs 16a (ESV)

Going down to verse 16 the passage, you see that in English standard version, it translates, "Live in harmony with one another". That just really stood out to me enough to make that the title of our message today. Harmony with all. Because we're invited to be reconciled with God and with all who believe in universal love. And not everybody does. We're going to be reconciled with somebody. We're going to be on some side of every issue. Why not choose today, and every day, that when we're confronted with those choices to take our position and be in harmony and reconciliation with those who believe that God loves everybody and that he invites us to do the same thing. So that as God loves, to love as Christ loves, let's do that, amen? Let's love everybody the way Christ loves us. We can't go wrong. The worst that's going to happen is that they don't love us back. But this passage addresses that, too. I love everyone, even those who don't love everyone.

Love everyone, even those who don’t.

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.    Vs 9a (MSG)

And again I say,  maybe especially those. Extra love for those who don't love everyone. Who only love those who are like them, or who support them. Take extra effort. And I like how it's said in the Message on this verse, "love from the center of who you are, don't fake it." Love takes a lot of different forms. So we might not be able to love in every way, all the time. We're going to have some struggle with that. But then that comes back to our own self reflection and self examination and spiritual growth within our own lives. To learn how to love better. Like we sang at the beginning of the service, "Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine" (Ode to Joy). Be genuine, at least in your intention to love, intentionally love in every situation.

We go back to 1 Corinthians 13, there's all these attributes given of what love is. These are the kinds of things that love does, love is, and activate those in our lives. And if we see a situation where we're having some trouble feeling the love, at least go to those attributes and show that love. Not from pretense, but from the intention of being able to love better. From an intentional purpose of bringing conversion to a situation, and to a person, to a problem and changing it, transforming it. Really, that's how the transformation of the world happens. One little tiny sliver, one tiny little moment in time. One relationship, one issue at a time. 

It would be nice to just think we can all just make a speech or, read a book or do something and everything in the whole world would all of a sudden be all right. But I think we have all been witnesses to the fact that's not going to happen. But what we can be witnesses of in our own lives are the times that we have just planted the seed, or watered, or given a word of encouragement. And we've seen that it's gone into a little river of likewise things that have been taking place in someone's life and came out to be transformative, contributed to the conversion, contributed to the happiness and the joy of someone and the change of someone's heart. One thing I have found, if I argue with somebody about something, they tend only to come up with more reasons to defend their position. In our congregation here, we took the path of standing up for what we believe in, but without arguing about it with everybody. We just say "this is fair." And we have the resources, a list of them on the website on why we think about that. You go there and read about that. We refer you to that. You can Google it or find out why we take the positions we take. We hope you'll change also. But we love you anyway, even if you don't and this is just where we are.

Hope and pray while working patiently to build harmony.

 Let your hope keep you joyful, 
be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 
Vs 12 (GNT)

 And we want to. We have found that to be helpful. To kind of diffuse situations. Not entirely, not for everybody. And neither did the disciples. They still ended up getting in trouble with people. Didn't like their positions. But we hope, and we pray and we work patiently to build harmony wherever we can. With whomever we can, and whatever ways we can build that harmony. And the good news translation verse 12 says, "letting you hope keep you joyful. Be patient in your travels and pray at all times." This is our hope. Hope is not just wishful thinking or just wishing something would happen. It's an anticipation, at least in a way that it's used here in this passage. It's anticipating what is going to be the result.

"Our hope is in the Lord, who made Heaven and Earth." Our hope is that His dream for humanity will come true. Our hope is that when He says, "every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" that eventually that's going to happen. Our hope it has that when Jesus... When God said that His desire, as Peter's expression was, that no one would perish, but all people would come to this knowledge. Our hope is that God is able to meet His goals, and accomplish what He has set out to accomplish. And that dream of God's will come true, just like the dream that He had of pouring out His holy spirit on all flesh and all the people would prophecy and they would dream dreams and they would have visions. And it would be everybody equally. That was poured out on. That was expressed by Peter in a sermon at Pentecost and quoting the prophet Joel.

Stand up for what is right without trying to pick fights.

 Do everything possible on your part
to live in peace with everybody.  
Vs  18 (GNT)

And so we're invited to stand up for what is right. Not trying to pick fights over it. When we took our... When we made our inclusive statement a few years ago, then when we joined the Reconciling Ministries Network, well, we got some pushback on that. But all I saw the people from our church doing was loving people and trying to explain if it wasn't going to be causing trouble to do so. And pointing to the resources, inviting people into conversation about that. And some people got really mad. Some people unfriended us. But some people appreciated the honesty of it all and the ability to engage, even if they didn't agree. And so, we probably all have friends on both sides of some of those issues. And they're still our friends, some of them. Because they, like us, hear this word, inviting us to try to be at harmony with each other, even if we don't agree.

Harmony is not a matter of every note being the same. What it is a matter of, every note being played in ways that are... that work together to make beautiful music. Then let the Lord strike the right note at the right times to make the song. If we look at harmony and other setting like with a machinery --aAnything that has gotten more than one part has got to have harmony between those parts for that machine to work. And then it only takes one little tiny part in your automobile, for example, to go out and you're stranded on the side of the road. And it might not be, seem like a very important part, but if it goes out, then you find out it was. Because you want all parts of the machine to work together, to do the task that the machine is supposed to be doing. So likewise, all of us work together. We all have different things, different places we're coming from, things that are important to us - priorities, beliefs, everything else.

We're not any different than these people back there when these words were written in that regard. But yet, Christ still calls us into that same harmony. The one expressed on the day of Pentecost when they were all in one place in one accord and the Holy ghost descended on them - empowered them - beyond any amount of imagination. So we stand up for what we believe in, but we do everything possible on our part to (this is how it is translated in the Good News Translation), "do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody."

Paul maybe wrote this. Now they also have in mind some of the ways that he had tried to do that and it didn't work; there were still people who wanted to get him and who punished him in many ways throughout his ministry. And yet he still worked at that. And out of that came a whole lot more people who joined into this cause of love and harmony, than those who were against it.

And in Christ, the message has always met similar resistance. Sometimes most of the resistance has been from other people in their church. Because the people outside the church probably didn't hear the message so much. But the people inside the church, (not our church, of course), we have some churches, inside the body of Christ. And that's where the pushback comes a lot of times. Because we all come together, hear the word of the Lord and we all hear that. Then not everybody likes it. Not everybody responds the same way. Well maybe everybody could hear this message to do it as much as we can to be at peace with one another, regardless of how we feel about these issues. But yet still just stand for them.

When we left off our live services for awhile because of the virus, we had been doing meant a special series on putting on the full armor of God. We made about halfway through that. So I'm thinking maybe next week we finished this time of emphasis on justice that maybe we'll finish up that series. But the whole purpose of putting on that armor, is so we can stand. Put on the full armor of God, so you can stand. Then, "having done all to stand, stand." We take our position, we take our stand. We stand for what is right, but we also don't try to cause trouble doing it. It's going to cause enough trouble on its own.

And so we try to be reconciled with one another. That's one thing I like about being a part of the Reconciling Ministries Network is that we're part of a group that is taking the position that we need to be reconciled with one another, that everybody needs to be brought into harmony. And that's the work that Christ was doing on Calvary. We talked about that Wednesday in Colossians in our Bible study, that Christ was at work on the cross reconciling all things to himself. Everybody, everything in heaven and in earth, and we might be one tiny part that we might think that we're not so significant, but that's where the whole thing breaks down if our part fails.

Change the world by doing good.

Do not be overcome by evil, but be overcoming evil with good.   Vs 21 (DLNT)

And so we're invited to change the world. Our mission statement for the United Methodist church is to make disciples, to transform the world by making disciples for Jesus Christ. "Making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world" is how it's actually said... We're invited to change the world. And we do so by putting these teachings of Jesus into practices on our personal lives, in our relationships, in our community, our choices and doing that as a church. Verse 21, the disciples little new Testament that said, "Do not be overcome by evil, but be overcoming evil with good." And that stood out to me, that particular translation of the verse, instead of just like overcoming with good, be overcoming. Because it kind of gives us a little bit of a sense that this isn't all going to be over in one day.

The world's not going to be set right in just a short moment. But we're doing our part to be overcoming, we're in that process. We're a part of that process. Each of us. Even here, even in our congregation, even in our relationships, in our friendships, we are in the process of overcoming the world. Not by lording anything over people, not by force. But by the power of love. By loving one another as Christ has loved us. Not meeting evil with evil, but meeting evil with good. And knowing and hoping and trusting and praying that that good will overcome the evil. 

That's our invitation to be that kind of a disciple of Jesus that believes in love. We believe in the power of love to conquer and overcome whatever else may come against it. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

JUSTICE: Light for the World


 God's definition of justice, as exemplified in the love Jesus demonstrated and taught, illuminates the darkness of all other perspectives.

I will set my justice for a light to the peoples. Isaiah 51:4 (ESV)  

We're looking still at the lectionary readings. And this time there's a lectionary reading from Isaiah that talks about justice as light your own life. The light of the world, where a lot of times thinking along another term besides justice, but right here, that's what Isiah calls justice: light. And in this passage of scripture and verse one, it speaks of in the King James version look unto the rock whence you are healing and then a good news Testament there. It says, think of the rock, from which you came, you came the quarry from which you were cut, as we go along and see, this really is talking about our genealogy. Both our genetic history and our spiritual genealogy as well, because it points to Abraham who was the genetic parent , the biological parent of all of the Israelites. But then in the New Testament, the rest of us are brought into that spiritual tradition, into that spiritual family, "grafted" as Paul puts it, "adopted" is another way of thinking of it. But made to be a part protectors and participants in that same family.

Transcript of sermon
Preached Extemporaneously [Video] on August 23, 2020  
for Briensburg UMC

The Rock from Which You were Hewn

Think of the rock from which you came,
    the quarry from which you were cut.    
Vs 1 (GNT)

Their father, Abraham is our spiritual father. And the faith of Abraham is what the Bible really lifts up and invites us in that to look not only to the person of Abraham, but his descendants, both in all ways. And when we look at our heritage of our parental heritage, on the lineage and the earth, and after the lives of other people who have been our spiritual family, and then we're seeing them having a lot of influence in our lives and the shaping of our lives and who we are. The ideas and the traditions that have been handed down to us in our family, and our biological family, as well as in our spiritual families, amongst our friends and society, and they've all shaped who we are and they continue to. And while we do continues to shape those after us as well. But not everything in that means that's good, to look at it doesn't mean to accept at all, either.

It means to look at it, to examine it the way we examine our own hearts and minds and filter and sort, and make choices and decisions based on that. So Abraham, who is named here and the others who go unnamed in this passage all the way down through the generations to us, had some good times and some bad things that Abraham did some things that were pleasing to God, and sometimes there weren't so pleasing. So we filter those out and we said, well, we don't want to do this, I'm just, don't, we're not please whether it was by Abraham or by our parents and grandparents and great greats and all the way or by other members of the church, other parts of the body of Christ, other people in the community. And then there were other things that God really loved.

And the main thing that the Bible lifts up about Abraham was his faith in God. And then he said that his faith was imputed to Abraham as righteousness. And so his confidence that he had in God overrode a lot of those things that were into off shore. There's another way that Saint Peter put it one of his letters. He said, no cover as a multitude of sins. And so it's got a lot, I paint, paint the wall. Then a lot of those defects just go away. They're covered up and they don't appear anymore. And the same with us; love and justice and goodness, and faith and confidence in God and God is doing rights a lot of wrongs, even on our own lives and the lives of our friends and family. So we do look to the rock from which we were here. Look at what brought us here to this moment, even this hour, where we worship together. And then going on down to verse four and the Message translation is written, "Pay attention, my people. Listen to me, nations. Revelation flows from me."

The Word of God

Pay attention, my people.
    Listen to me, nations.
Revelation flows from me. 
Vs 4a (MSG)

One of our earliest learnings as people of God, verses we probably memorized earlier this time in our childhood in Sunday school, was about that Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. The word of God and God say I supposed, that's why I got to listen to me, pay attention, hearken unto me, as it says in the King James, because God's word speaks to us and through that we hear, but it shines in our minds and helps us to know while we're supposed to be doing and what we're not supposed to be doing and guides us. And as we delve into it and understand then the word of God speaks to us to our personal situations. It gives us hope and confidence and guidance for them for today. For where my feet are right now and for the next steps that I'm taking.

And he does this through revelation. So the light is shining and the pathway is revealing to us what steps are true and what steps will take us off and shows us where we're going. And what obstacles might be in our path. And so that in that sense, then the word is alive or fate. And then Jesus speaks to us in the sermon on the Mount and says, you are the Light of the world that you personally let your light shine so that everybody can see and give glory, see your good works and give glory to God.

Justice will be the Light

 I will set my justice for a light to the peoples. Vs 4b (ESV)

When we think of Jesus as the light, that shine and came into the world and Isaiah prophesied about that, the people that sat in the darkness, I've seen a great light. There's a lot of times when we thank God. The light of God's word as just what we are able to wrap our minds around and what we can know or explain or learn in, in just in that sense as knowledge information, that is a certain type of light, but I like them to just go so far, the light that shines and penetrates the darkness is not just something that we've learned about, that as we mentioned last time, justice is something that we do, light is something that shines and we experience it. We look outside and we see from the light of the sun, all of those around, or inside the room too, when we have the lights on.

We see lots. We say what's around us. And that's an experience we've got, we close our eyes and we all that's still there, but we don't see that we're experiencing it maybe in another ways, but not visually because the light is shining and illuminating what's around us. It become a part of our experience. And then that's what God goes on to say through Isaiah and in this next part of the verse that in the English standard version, it says I will set justice for a light to the peoples. We think back again to the definition of justice in the Bible, is fairness, equality, goodness, and kindness, acceptance, encouragement. All of these qualities make up that balance of what justice is in the Christian sense of the word, that everybody is treated fair. Everybody has a fair opportunities that everybody treats one another right, and then harmony.

And we encourage and strengthen each other. You see ourselves as a family, a spiritual family, looking to the rock from which we were in and looking to the other people of faith that have passed the faith to us, looking to the different layers in our faith, down through the ages, looking to the apostles and disciples of Jesus and the prophets in the scriptures, looking at that to the mighty throng of witnesses gone on before and knows yet you come unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before him. So after the cross and now is seated at the right hand father. That justice, that fairness, that view, that relationship that we have with each other, and that love is set as a light, for all the people who see in all the world.

A Garden of Compassion

 Joy and gladness will be there,
    and songs of praise and thanks to me.  
Vs  3b (GNT)

And then I'm going to go back now, to verse three, because he uses imagery in verse three. That it's good. There's testament that says joy and gladness will be there and songs of praise and thanks to me. And then the King James said that he will make her wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of the Lord. I think that's a pretty neat picture to have in mind. I like having that in my mind, a gardener of compassion, a garden of love when we think about a garden of our best views and the imagery of a garden is one that's not fully grown isn't as bearing fruit and all the things, but it has to get there. To Get there it has to be lying down and dug up and the soil prepared and the seeds planted and water and nourished and kept attended. We did it everything as those plants grow to the time that they produce these fruits.

And so we're like that garden. We plant, we work the soil and water and we do all this and that's growing up, but, and this image is one, one of the garden of love and compassion. And we're a part of that. We're in that work and that garden we're living in that garden and that garden is living in us. And we're a part of that. And we're a part of what's growing in God's garden, compassionate, and loving. And so there's a lot of ways that we can look at that. And, you know, we can take turns being on different parts of the garden, tending under our banner plants in the garden or being in any, any part of that garden, but it's such a rich imagery full of joy and gladness of that stuff. That's enough fruit that we expect, or we can think as the fruits of the spirit that that Paul wrote about in Galatians, these fruits of joy and peace and love and faith and all of the happiness that God wants for us and for the world around us. And that's all growing as the garden grows.

God’s Healing Salvation is Permanent

My salvation will last forever,
    my setting-things-right will never be obsolete.  
Vs 6c (MSG)

And then at the end of the passage in the message ever it's, "My salvation will last forever. My setting things right will never be obsolete." God's healing salvation is permanent. That's become important to me as time has gone by over the years in my, with Christ and with ministry and with the scripture has brought me to understand synonymously the words, healing and salvation, that God's salvation is more than just getting people to switch their views on something, our become a member of a particular organization, but that salvation is a the healing of our souls. Salvation is wholeness- snatches us from the jaws of perdition from all of the hearts and that, and the pains and struggles of our lives from where we're sinking and saves us in this rescues us, and then works with us you know on a day to day basis to cleanse us and to tend to the wounds in our hearts and minds, as well as in our bodies and in our relationships.

And then he strengthens us as, as, as we're healed, we're strengthened to then extend that same healing to others. And to perpetuate that, that salvation, you bring others into that fellowship of the redeeming, the fellowship of those who are being healed, the fellowship of love and life. And together, we continue to be healed and preserved unto everlasting life strengthening our spiritual immune system and it gets strengthened and we become, we continue to become more whole, and this life and look to continuing completion in the life of the world to come. Hold us and healing that never ends and never becomes obsolete. And I like that way, that Peterson's a message though, not becoming obsolete because you know what, our faith, the light that is shining in our lives, the wholeness that God brings us, the garden, I have compassion. All of that applies to what was going on right now in each of our personal lives, in our families, in our communities and in our world, this is relevant and fresh and new too, what we'll see on TV, when maybe I turn it on after a while over to the news, as it was when these words were raised thousands of years ago. It's because God's word, God's light,

God's love is eternal.

That's what he brings his sentencing. That's what he invites us to be. When Jesus says "you are the light of the world", that's what he is calling us to join him in being the light of the world. Doing what Isaiah is talking about, what God was talking about through the prophet Isaiah so long ago, and extending God's justice, god's mercy, God's fairness, God's forgiveness. All that God thinks of when he thinks of him, when God thinks of justice, thank God for his goodness and righteousness and love. And he invites us to be a part of that. Will you accept that invitation in new and fresh ways today to be for your family, your friends, the light of the world? 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

JUSTICE: Do Justice

Justice is not only to have, but to do

The Lord says to his people, “Do what is just and right, for soon I will save you. Isaiah 56:1 (GNT) 

We've been talking about looking at the lectionary readings through the lens of justice during this season of Pentecost and this Old Testament reading for today has those words in it. In James, it just says, "Do justice". So I thought, what better title for a sermon than "Do justice". The good news translation says, "The Lord says to his people, 'Do what is just and right for soon, I will save you'". In the King James version, it starts out, "Thus saith the Lord". Whenever I'm reading the Bible or hearing it read, and I hear words like that, "Thus saith the Lord", then it makes me feel like I should maybe be just a little extra layer of attention. Give it just an extra layer of attention to what comes after and the next words are, "Do justice".

Transcript of sermon
Preached Extemporaneously [Video] on August 16, 2020  
for Briensburg UMC

So it's not just me, or Mitch, or the district superintendent, or the Bishop, or even Isaiah, or any of the other preachers that have preached on this. And down through the ages, it's not us. It's not us saying it. All we're doing is telling you what the Lord said. This is what the Lord said. And this is why he asks of us.

Thus Saith the Lord

The Lord says to his people, “Do what is just and right, for soon I will save you.    Vs 1 (GNT)

 It's to remind them and also reminds us, I'm sure all of us, about Micah 6:8, where he said, same thing. What does God expect to be but to act justly, love, tenderly, and walk with your God? And so this is what God is asking for us, of us, that we would do justice. There's an action there. I meant to ask Cheryl about the parts of speech, what those really were, but I mean, whatever are the parts of speech are, it says that we're supposed to do this.

So it's not telling us that justice is just something that we can just have over here and put on the shelf and enjoy that we have that. It's not just an experience, not just a state that we live in. It may be all of those signs. But what God asks of us to do is to put that in action. I actually do justice. Justice is something that we are to be active in and in making happen and to contribute to. There may be all kinds of ways to do that. And each of us is gonna maybe hear a different sense of calling as to how to do justice, but we want to respond to God. Amen. When he calls us to do this. When he calls and tells us to do something we only need to think about how, not whether. We need to think about how then we're gonna do that. And then he has this promise: "And soon I will save you. Soon I will make everything right. Soon, I will take care of everything. I will protect you. I will preserve you. I will help you."

All Who Love God

And as for the outsiders who now follow me,
    working for me, loving my name,
    and wanting to be my servants—
Vs 6 (MSG)

 And then Isaiah in the Message, verse six is this way: "And as for the outsiders who now follow me, working for me, loving my name and wanting to be my servants". So he's addressing there everybody who loves God. And that is a pretty general statement. He didn't really qualify that with block denomination, they remember it, or even a whole religion, they remember it, or even if they were a member of any combo or national religion, or if this is something in their hearts that they wanted to do, to follow God. And he didn't really qualify that. He just said, "all who love God and want to be my servant".

When we have our communion, I like to extend the invitation and friends. Everyone who loves God and wants to live in harmony with each other is invited to join us at the table of the Lord. And I feel like that's an extension of this kind of sentiment that Isaiah is reflecting from God in this reading. That God is opening his home, his heart, his house, not made with hands, to everyone who feels drawn to him, regardless of what they think or believe or how they... what's going on in their lives or wherever they've been or where they are now. He wants everybody, he wants it to be open to everybody. His house. His love. And as his people, when we want to reflect that in our dealings with one another in our, even just when we're thinking about understanding God's word for our lives, then that's a part of the understanding.

Joy in the House of the Lord

“I will bring you to Zion, my sacred hill, give you joy in my house of prayer.  Vs 7a (GNT)

 That's a part of what we use to understand what God is saying to us and all the other things that he says. And then he says, "I will bring it to Zion, my sacred hill. I will give you joy in the house of prayer". And that's how it's phrased in the Good News testament in the first part of verse seven: "Joy in the house of the Lord". And I think that's how wonderful, don't you think it's wonderful when we come to the house of the Lord, when we comes to church and we're in fellowship with each other and we feel good and joyful? I'd rather feel joy from everywhere, wouldn't you? Especially in the house of the Lord.

God wants us to feel the joy of our salvation, the joy of his presence, and even the joy of the opportunities to face the hardships and difficulties that we face when we leave this place and any kind of struggles that we or our friends and family and neighbors, to face them joyfully because of what has happened here in our hearts and minds, while we were in this room together.

Now we were worshiping God and feeling his presence and feeling the joy. God wants us to have this joy. And he calls about the house of prayer. You know, we think of the church, a lot times, the building, as a house of prayer, but I think it's really helped to bring out this point during the pandemic, that it's not the building. It's our hearts. The throne of God is in our hearts. Like the song says, "there is a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God". And that is our heart and God's heart mixed together in our hearts and minds, our spirit, it's a spiritual house, not made with hands, the house of the Lord, the house of prayer. It can't be contained. You know, when they built Solomon's temple and David was considering the plans board in the first place, God said, "Well, what kind of house do you propose building me?"

Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool, how big of a box are you going to put me in here? How big of a place can you build to fit me? That was all put off for another generation when Solomon built the temple and then the glory of God filled the temple. So full of just the glory and joy of the Lord that there wasn't even any room for the people who were in there. They all had to go outside. And this cloud glory enveloped everybody. That's the house of prayer. But it is represented by the building. It's represented by the building that we're in, and by the altar in front of us, and the candles on the altar, and by our posture before the Lord, and with one another as we pray.

House of Prayer for All People

 Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.  Vs  7b(KJV)

 And then out of the imagery in this passage also comes a connection with Jesus cleansing the temple. He went into the temple during his earthly ministry one day and he drove out all the money changers, turned over the tables, and he declared, "My house shall be called a house of prayer". That's what the rest of this verse says. That's what he says in the rest of this verse seven. And in King James, it says, "Mine house shall be called the house of prayer". It has another phrase with that. "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people".

So not just a little shrine for our personal use, but a house of prayer for all people, whoever they may be. You know I've traveled a little bit onto this path before when I was younger, but traveled to different places. And I've been in different churches and worship, sacred spaces of different Christian people and the sacred spaces of people from other religions. And in all of those places, well, in most of those places, I felt welcome to worship God and my heart as I felt led. Even amongst people that were completely different than what I might be accustomed to. That kind of connects with me there, then with this verse where he said, "My house shall be called the house of prayer for all people". Because in the Lord's heart and mind, we're all God's children, regardless of our differences in beliefs and practices and how we understand God debate or any of that. We're God's children. And God is inviting everybody to be a part of God's kingdom and love and of fellowship and friendship.

His house, spiritually, that is open to every person to come to from wherever they are at whatever place in their spiritual seeking and journey that they are. God will meet them there, on your own. Or somebody who tries to find God and search out who God is and search out and wants to be a part to connect with their creator, god will back away from them and meet them there. And harder relationships and our facilities need to reflect that open love for one another, for the world around us, for all God's children. They take us away to be able to work out how to do that, like I said. When it says, "thus saith the Lord" the question is not whether, but how. Though we may not know how to do that, we have to work on that. But doesn't it really make you want to open your mind to other people when you know that's what God wants? Is that his house will be a house of prayer for all people?

All People Are Invited

The Sovereign Lord, who has brought his people Israel home from exile, has promised that he will bring still other people to join them.  Vs 8 (GNT)

 And then that finishes up the passage that Mitch read, "The sovereign Lord, who has brought his people, Israel home from exile has promised that he will bring still other people to join them," and that's in the Good News translation. We're presented in the scriptures as the people who want to follow Jesus and want to be working on building his kingdom and who want to love God and whose faith is in Jesus Christ. So as a group, we're one of the references that are possible. There were a kingdom of priests, the priesthood of believers, a royal priesthood. The duty of a priest is to build a bridge, to build bridges between people, between God, to help people come to Christ, to help people who've gotten into a relationship with God. That's our calling as the people of God, as the people who follow Christ.

When people first started to follow Christ, they didn't even call them Christians yet for a long time. They just call them people that followed Christ, people that followed it in the way that Christ is teaching, the way of love and the way of commitment to Christ. And when they had to counsel in Jerusalem because all the people that Paul was leading to Christ were Gentiles... Excuse me. So they had to settle this question: did they need to follow the law of Moses? And after several days of deliberation, they all agreed that they didn't need to follow the law of Moses. That's what they wanted to be a part of the Jewish faith. But as a newer people who were following this new way of Christ, they just needed to place their faith in Christ.

And they gave them some, a few things that would be helpful and asked them to do their best. They began to form these groups of Christians, of followers of Christ, that first were called Christians at Antioch, and they set apart people to lead the community. And there had been people set apart in different ways so that the elders and the apostles had one job and the deacons then had another, the pastors had another.

But these people, they sat them apart, not over the group, but having special tasks to minister within the communities. Likewise, we, as the church today, we're not set apart to condemn the rest of the world in any way, but to serve the rest of the world, as Christ serves. To be ministering to the world, to minister to the community around us, to build the bridges that need to be built so that other people will come to know the love of God and Christ. That's who we lift up and Christ said, "If I'm to be lifted up, I will draw all people to me". And that's why the Bible says right here in Isaiah 56:8: "The Lord, which gathereth the outcasts of Israel says, 'Yet, will I gather others to him beside those that are gathered unto him'".

Well, thus saith the Lord. I want you to think about now, what is God? That's something for each of us to personally consider. What is God inviting me to do in this? When God says, "do justice" the point is he's telling me about my life, my ministry, my spiritual gifts, my understanding, my relationships, and my conversations. And then we just have to respond accordingly and make the changes that need to be made in our personal lives to be answering that call, and that command, and that request. Strong request. 

Thus says the Lord, "Do justice". 

In the name of Jesus, amen.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

JUSTICE: Walking on Water


All the justice issues we are addressing are represented in Jesus' walking on the water.

Between three and six o'clock in the morning Jesus came to the disciples, walking on the water.  Matthew 14:25 (GNT)

Sometimes, when I think about the things that Jesus did, a lot of times, it only says once, maybe, in the Bible, that He did it. But I think, then, you probably extrapolate that, that might not have been the first, or the last, time that He walked on water, just the only time it was written down about it.

Transcript of sermon
Preached Extemporaneously [Video] on August 9, 2020  
for Briensburg UMC

And, in this particular case, He had just come from the feeding of the 5,000, and there was all this leftover, even though such meager resources they had to start with. But, He multiplied all that, and made it more than what it was, and made it more effective than it would have been, otherwise. And so, there was so much leftover that everybody was surprised. And the crowd, when they found out that Jesus and the disciples were going over to the other side of the lake, they began there, and walked around to the other side.

Jesus Walked on the Water

Between three and six o'clock in the morning Jesus came to the disciples, walking on the water.  Vs 25 (GNT)

 In the meanwhile, the disciples headed over on a boat, and encountered some rough waters and stormy weather. And Jesus went up into the mountain to pray. And then, after being up there all evening, in the mountain, then He came down, and He decided to take that shortcut across. And He walked across the lake. And, of course, when the disciples saw Him coming up to them, they were all shook up. They were all scared, because this was not something they were used to. They thought, maybe, He was a ghost, or something.

So, when I'm thinking about this event of walking on the water as being, itself, unusual, and not very often happening, and not necessarily really required of us. But then, when I think about it through this lens of justice, then that makes me think that it stands in for a whole lot of things. All these various issues that are a flurry around us in the news, and in our personal lives, in our community, that any one of them can be, sometimes, like walking on water, can't they, to be able to address them. And they're very difficult, and it would take a miracle. It would take resources beyond us, and capabilities beyond those that we have, and it would be scary to try. And so, really, that walking on water, in a sense, can represent any one of these issues and challenges that we face, or that we stand up for, or that we stand against. Any of these things that are going on in our lives, and in the life of the world around us, is walking on the water.

Have Courage

Jesus spoke to them at once. “Courage!” he said. “It is I. Don't be afraid!”    Vs 27 (GNT)

And so, everybody was scared. And we're scared sometimes too, in the facing the situations that we're in, when we don't know what to do, or how to handle them, or what's coming at us next, or when the other shoe's going to drop. It seems like, we're like a centipede, sometimes, where it's not just the other shoe, but it's one of the many other shoes, dropping all around.

And so, Jesus spoke to them. And, in the Good News Translation, it says, "Jesus spoke to them at once. 'Courage,' He said. 'It is I. Don't be afraid.'"

It reminds me of our grandson, when he was little. We were at Lourdes Hospital. Kyler went up to the little fish tank they have there, in the visitor's area at Lourdes. And, when he got close, the fish kind of scattered away, and he said, "Don't be afraid, little fishes. It's just me." And, I think that's what Jesus was saying to His disciples, just, "Don't be afraid, it's just me. It's all right. Don't be afraid."

But I like how it's brought out in this translation, too. The words, "Have courage." That idea of not just being scared, don't just not be scared, but also, be encouraged, have courage, take courage, because it is Christ, and Christ is doing this work. He's the one that has called us, and invited us to be a part of the work. He's the one that empowers us with his gifts, the spiritual gifts. He's the one that gives us our sense of vision, and our purpose, and our understanding, and our hope. And He's the one that gives us the reward, along the way, for our faithfulness.

Join Christ in What He is Already Doing

He said, “Come ahead.” Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus.  Vs 29 (MSG)

And so, we leave the success in Christ's hands, and we do the part that He invites us to, as He did with Peter. Peter said, "Well, if it's really you, call me Peter. Tell me to come, and I'll come walk to you on the water." And so He said, and this is how He said it in The Message, "He said, 'Come ahead.' Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus."

And I love that image of, not just climbing out, or be tentative. Jumping out, and going. And a lot of times, that's how we do, we get going. We're excited, because Christ has given us something that He would like us to do, and the opportunity has opened for us, something that is happening, or some movement in an interesting direction. And God is inviting us. And so, we jump out of the boat, and head out. But, then, after we get going, then we do like Peter did, and realize, "Hey, there's some things going on around that make this, maybe, a little more challenging than what I was thinking that it might be." That we might, you know... The proverbial waves and wind start in on us.

And we see, and feel, the challenges of the moment, along with the opportunities. And so, we begin to sink in that, and we don't know what to do. But, it's exciting to know that Christ is inviting us, even if we don't know what to do, even with our fears, and our lack of resources and understanding, and everything else that goes with it. He's inviting us to join Him in what He's already doing. Christ was already walking on the water, with or without Peter, with or without the other disciples. Storm or no storm, Jesus was walking on the water. Jesus was already there.

And, if we look at these justice issues, again, through this passage, then we see that Jesus is already there in those issues, in the storms of our lives, in the deep sea, or the, however we want to... imagery that we associate with that. He's already here with our congregation, as we strive to turn corners, and make new, different opportunities in ways of ministry. He's already here in our community with the struggles and challenges that our community continues to wrestle with, and the rest of the world. He's there in our relationships, He's there in our workplaces, He's present in all of these difficulties and challenges of society.

And so, He's inviting us, not to just go, and Him stay back here, and us go out there and see what happens, but He's inviting us to come join Him in what He's already doing. To heal, and to help, and to make lives better for people. And to say, and to address all of these situations to reconcile, and to, you know. What's He doing? Bringing love to the world, Amen. He's already out there doing that, and invites us to join Him.

So we jump out of the boat. We start to run. We see ourselves sinking. Then, we're sinking for His cause. We're sinking because we're following where He has invited us. And so, we cry out to Him, with Peter, "Lord, save me." And He does.

Jesus Saves

When he noticed the strong wind, he was afraid and started to sink down in the water. “Save me, Lord!” he cried. Vs 30 (GNT)

I like how it's said in this Good News testament. It said, "When he noticed the strong wind, he was afraid, and started sinking in the water. 'Save me, Lord,' he cried." And so, then that kind of shows the dependency that we have on Christ, when nobody else can help, Christ can. And when we're sinking in any kind of a situation, or we're struggling with any kind of a situation, then we can always turn to Christ, and pray that simple prayer. "Lord, help me." That's my prayer I make more than any other others. I say, "Lord, help me," and He does.

And so, that's a rock in the middle of the sea. I've got this picture that my grandmother gave me, a long time ago. One she had gotten decades before I was born, when they had some, I think, Dutch cleanser, she told me, that had a contest. And, if you sent in something, so many wrappers, or something, then you would get this picture. And, it's a picture of two women, and they were in this stormy sea, churning all around. And there was this big stone cross that was emerging in front of the sea, and they were clinging to it. And the title of the picture is Rock of Ages. And, I think that's a good image for us, in the storms of life swirling about us, is that Jesus is our Rock of Ages, and we can cling to Him. We can call on Him, and He will help us. He will save us.

Don’t Doubt

Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?” Vs 31 (MSG)

And then, finally, in verse 31 in The Message, it says, "Jesus didn't hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. And then He said, 'Fainthearted? What got into you?'" So, we're encouraged not to doubt Christ, not to doubt His love, and His saving power. And, when Christ says "fainthearted," or "O ye of little faith," it's not to condemn us, or to discourage us, but to encourage us to put another layer of something on our faith. Put another layer of confidence in Him, put another memory together to remind us how that Jesus saves, how He cares for us. How He hears us, how He's ready to reach out, grab our arm and pull us up, and help us to the next step, when turbulent times come.

So, here we are, we're, in a way, we could say, we're all walking on the water, to some degree. We're all walking through challenges, and we're all willing to join Jesus in the work that He's doing. We're all ready. We know that there are going to be challenges, that there're going to be storms, but we're working, and we're praying. And we're hoping that we will be faithful, even in the midst of the storm, because we trust Him. And so, we accept His invitation to come. "Come ahead. Join me." Amen.

Amen. In the name of Jesus.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

JUSTICE: Give them Food

Feeding the 5,000 in Matthew 14:13-21
There is no justice where there is starvation, whether of heart, mind, body, or soul.

"Jesus said unto them, "They need not depart. Give ye them to eat." Matthew 14:16 KJV

 Sacred meals in the scriptures speak a message all their own. Each is a language of love, and of compassion, and of nourishment, both physical and spiritual.

God invites us, and calls us, and challenges us to make sure that everybody is properly fed with the sustenance they need for body and soul. Many of the great stories that we have, like the one about Zacchaeus, and the one about Mary and Martha and others like that all take place around the table, a dinner table, a meal table.

Transcript of sermon
Preached Extemporaneously [Video] on August 2, 2020  
for Briensburg UMC

The Lord's prayer teaches us a very clear, succinct petition. When we pray, say, "Give us this day our daily bread." Whenever we do any kind of a study about that, we understand that that simple verse unpacks into a whole array of meaning, of need for our daily sustenance in every dimension of our lives.

Jesus taught everybody, and healed them, and then he fed them. Then he went and left, and the next day the crowd went around to the other side to find him, and there he continued to teach them about the spiritual food. He wasn't putting one against the other. He was putting them both together.

He talked about the children of Israel going through the desert and God providing the manna and the other daily food for them as they traveled for forty years in the Exodus. Then he said, "I am the bread of life," and he spoke of his own body and blood as food, nourishment.

In Compassion, Jesus Heals

And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude,
and was moved with compassion toward them,
and he healed their sick. 

Vs 14 (KJV)

In this passage of scripture about the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus was teaching and saw these people. In the King James Version, it says, "He went forth and saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick." A lot of times we have these different reasons that are given that people think of why Jesus maybe did the miracles that he did, and it really is pretty simple. It says right in the Bible, several of the times when he does the miracle, he uses this very word. He had compassion on them. That's why he did it. The same reason John 3:16 says why  God sent Christ to be our Savior in the first place, because he loved the world.

Sometimes it's hard for us to wrap our minds around how that could be a whole motive, even for God, even for Jesus, because it's difficult for ourselves or in our world sometimes to think of somebody having a pure motive of nothing but love and compassion. Even if we do even begin to think about that, the people that come to mind are extraordinary saints of the faith who've done these just over the top things, because we just can't place ourselves or other people that we're familiar with, either personally or through the news or however we familiarize ourselves, we can't imagine people just having love as their motive.

But for those who do have love as their motive, or shall we say to the extent that we have love as our motive, then these works of Christ, these miracles are a part of our lives, both as recipients and of channels or instruments of the miracles to some degree, pretty much to the degree that compassion is our motive.

The World Expects Everyone to Fend for Themselves

Send the people away
and let them go to the villages to buy food for themselves.

Vs 15 (GNT)

The world has a different approach. The world expects everybody to take care of themselves, and if they can't make it, then they have the sayings about the strong survive and all that. They kind of have and then people will sometimes make an exception. Well, if they're really bad off, maybe we could help them a little bit or allow somebody else to help them. If not necessarily us, but somebody. We wouldn't get in their way too much, as long as they didn't help them too much.

I think we see that happening right now. We see that with the crisis that we have in our country. We see that tension of people wanting to help more and other people wanting to make sure that people don't get helped more, even though it doesn't take anything away from them. It doesn't take anything off their table. It doesn't take anything away from their power. In fact, it actually would empower them more greatly to do so, and yet that resistance is there of helping people, because that's what the world expects.

In the Good News Translation verse 15 of the 14th chapter of Matthew, that's where we're getting all this today. Jesus said ... or the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Well, you know, it's getting late and people are getting hungry." They said, "Send the people away and let them go to the villages to buy food for themselves."

That's really the expectation. I mean we should try to do what we can for ourselves, and we should encourage others to do that, too. You know, like the saying, if you give a person a fish, then they'll eat for a day. If you teach them how to fish, then they'll eat for the rest of their life, something like that. But they still have to eat today. They still have to eat until they do learn how to fish, until they do learn or ...

Not only, and part of the problem is not just learning how, the people learning how to tend for themselves, but people having the opportunity to do so. If there aren't any jobs, then it's hard to get a job. Then if the jobs pay slave wages, or as we like to say "minimum wage" or worse, as many of our jobs in our country do, because there's a lot of jobs that don't even pay minimum wage. There are a lot of loopholes that prevent, that make it where people don't ... where people get around that and don't have to pay a minimum wage.

Then if the prices all around go up unjustly and the wages go down unjustly, or the jobs are lost unjustly, then that's a matter of justice, isn't it? That's unrighteous. That's unholy. It's flies in the face of everything the gospel of love and redemption is about.

Jesus Expects Us to Take Care of Each Other

“They don't have to leave,” answered Jesus.
“You yourselves give them something to eat!” 
Vs 16 (GNT)

 One of the things that James said that gets people riled up sometimes, but he said that what good does it do if you go and pray for people and say, "Be well, and be warm, and be fed," but then you walk away and don't try to help them in the very least to have those needs be met? It doesn't do any good at all. You're just saying things.

Jesus expects us to take care of each other. This is what Jesus answered to those disciples when they said, "Send them off to take care of themselves." "They don't have to leave," answered Jesus. "You, yourselves, give them something to eat." I think that's a challenge for all time, for all ages in every circumstance. There's no justice where there's starvation.

I know there's that verse that says, "If they will not work, let them not eat," something like that, but I think that's thrown around in a lot of ways that it was never meant to, it was never meant to be used. There's a difference between those that simply refuse to, do not want to work, don't want to support themselves, or be creative, or do anything and the vast great majority of people who want to do more, who want to work, who want to figure out their own way, and have their own freedom, and have their own livelihood, and pursue their career but are held back. That's a form of oppression, a great form of oppression, and it happens all around the world in all kinds of ways and degrees.

Sometimes it's intentional. There's a lot of places in the world where people are intentionally shut out of jobs. There are a lot of places in the world, in our country, where people are intentionally held down to where they can't get a better job and for all kinds of reasons that people come up with for making it where they can't be the one to get the job because of those reasons of those issues of justice that we keep bringing up, that we keep trying to address. Racism, and age, and gender, and sexual orientation, all of these things that hold people back and then you turn around and say, "Why aren't you doing this?" Well, because people put in laws to prevent it. They set up systems to discriminate, and to hold people back, and to shut people out.

But Jesus expects us not to do that. Jesus expects us to take care of each other. That doesn't just come out of this passage. It comes out of ... It doesn't come out of a whole ... It comes out of a whole array of teachings of Jesus and of the other prophets throughout the scriptures. It comes out of the teachings of the apostles.

It comes out of a particular incident that is very similar to this on a very small scale. At the end of Jesus' ministry pretty much, after the resurrection, the disciples went fishing. As they fished all night, they didn't catch anything. They looked up on the shore, and there somebody called from the shore to them, so they looked over there. He said, "Children, have you caught any fish?" They said, "Oh, we've been fishing all night and we haven't caught hardly anything." He said, "Well, throw your net over on the other side," and so they did and they caught all these fish. Peter said, "Oh, it's the Lord," and they took off for shore.

When they got there, Jesus had some bread and fish on the fire, just like this. He had some bread and fish like this feeding of the 5,000 was about. He took the bread and fish, and they shared that together. When they got done eating, then Jesus talked to Peter and he said, three times he asked him, "Do you love me?" Each time, peter assured him forcefully that he did, and each time then Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep."

We've already kind of seen and the whole gospel shows how when Jesus talks about feeding, he's talking about with all kinds of food. He's talking about physical and spiritual. He's talking about our daily bread, our daily needs for sustenance, and so it covers the whole range of human need, that is focused in and symbolized most greatly by the loaf of bread.

When we partake together of the sacrament of holy communion, reflective of the meal of celebrating and remembering Passover, when we share that bread, when we break this bread and drink this cup, then all that comes together with a message. This message. "You give them something to eat."

Our Resources Seem So Scarce

We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
Vs 17 (KJV)

Well, we, like those disciples, could probably very much relate to what they said, because our resources to carry this out seem so scarce. Now, there's a lot more that we could do if we had a lot more resources with it. Maybe that's part of the hesitation. There's kind of a sense that ... It's natural for us to have, I suppose, a sense that there's just like a finite amount of resources, and so that if we share those, then somebody else loses what somebody else gains. If more people share, then that means less for everybody.

But in this case, there were 5,000 people, but a young person brought what he had and offered it to the disciples for this work of the Lord. The disciples brought it to Jesus, and they said, "We have here but five loaves and two fishes." As they pointed out, that wasn't very much to share between 5,000 people, and really probably more than that according to how they counted people. They counted people.

That's a big thing of justice, too. How do you count people? Who counts? Who does the counting? Who gets counted, and how much does that person count when they get counted? Those are some pretty big issues historically for our country, even now during this census period. That's been another way people have been oppressed, even in our country, for the centuries is just how they did the math, how they do the math.

But anyways, he had this meager amount of food, five ... That wasn't even as much as this last breakfast I was just talking about when Jesus said, "Feed my sheep," when he was fixing bread and loaves on fire for 12 of them, much less for thousands.

Jesus Multiplies Our Offerings to Be More than Enough for All

Everyone ate and had enough.
Then the disciples took up twelve baskets full
of what was left over.
Vs 20 (GNT)

But he took this amount, and the Bible tells us that Jesus blessed this bread, and these fish and blessed them, and they distributed it, began to distribute it to all the people. In the Good News Testament, it says it this way. "Everyone ate and had enough. Then the disciples took up 12 baskets full of what was left over."

These leftovers kind of put it out of mind that just a little tiny taste was enough to fill everybody up. It wasn't that. It was that the food was multiplied over and over and over, and everybody was full. Everybody got what they ... It wasn't by just because if they passed the loaf around and they got a little whiff of it, it filled them up miraculously. No. It was because they had enough to eat. They had enough to eat, and everybody eat, and then have 12 baskets full of food leftover.

There's some other stories like that in the Bible of food being multiplied. The point of it is that Jesus multiplies whatever we bring. Whatever we offer, he multiplies that to where there's plenty for all, and more than enough. That's a pretty big, important thought and promise really implicit in this feeding of the 5,000.

Now, when we bring and offer our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness to the Lord, then he multiplies all of that in ways that we can't even begin to imagine, let alone figure out how, and turns it into plenty for everybody. Now, the pie is not finite. It just makes more pies. If one pie's not big enough, then make it two, or five, or however many, 12 baskets full of whatever it takes.

Christ invites us to trust that providence, and act on it, and receive and give accordingly. I'd like to close with this song, not sing it. I'll read it, and it's short, familiar hymn.

Break Thou the Bread of Life,
Dear Lord, to me,
As Thou didst break the loaves
Beside the sea;
Beyond the sacred page
I seek Thee, Lord;
My spirit pants for Thee,
O Living Word.

[ Thou art the Bread of Life,
O Lord, to me,
Thy holy Word the truth
That saveth me;
Give me to eat and live
With Thee above;
Teach me to love Thy truth,
For Thou art Love.
Oh, send Thy Spirit, Lord,
Now unto me,
That He may touch my eyes,
And make me see;
Show me the truth concealed
Within Thy Word,
And in Thy Book revealed
I see the Lord. ]

Bless Thou the truth, dear Lord,
To me, to me,
As Thou didst bless the bread
By Galilee;
Then shall all bondage cease,
All fetters fall,
And I shall find my peace,
My All in all.

(by Mary A. Lathbury, 1877)

In the name of Jesus. Amen.