Thursday, March 31, 2011

this side of the Cross Covenant by Pastor Bettye

March 27th, 2011 The Third Sunday of Lent Exodus 17:1 – 7 “Dying to self means trusting the catcher” or so says a troupe of trapeze artists. Van Morrison in one of his musical hits sings of an invitation to a lover to join him from the dark end of the street to the bright side of the road. God simply says “trust me with all things” and the people of the Exodus cry, “Is the Lord among us or not?” In today’s first reading we hear the struggle with “dying” to the fears and anxieties of life and trusting the God of promise. We hear this today most profoundly in the text from Exodus; a text which is referred to as one of the “murmuring stories” from the books of Exodus and Numbers. Let’s look at a companion story as found in Numbers 20:1 – 13: 1 In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried. 2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” 6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” 9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. 12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” 13 These were the waters of Meribah,[a] where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD and where he was proved holy among them. Murmuring stories…..the stories of whining, frightened people of God. What could any of this ancient information have to do with us today? Surely we have developed enough in our understanding and relationship with God that we would never ask “is the Lord among us or not?” or would we? Can our personal stories resonate with the story from the Old Testament? This is a question we ask ourselves in almost every Bible Study class. Let us take a look, go a little deeper within ourselves this third Sunday in Lent as we pull out bits and pieces of the story of the people from the Exodus and learn from their experience with trusting in God. First, the difference between the account of the lack of trust as found in Exodus and the one found in Numbers differs in one major way. One occurs BEFORE the covenant or promise God made with the people at Sinai; the other occurs AFTER the covenant rpomise. Before Sinai the slaves were frightened children living for centuries as slaves with the psychological marks of the slavery experience. God took pity on these poor slaves and showed them patience in the EXODUS murmurings. After all, they had been deeply wounded as a people and needed to learn again that God is a God of trust and love. They were to learn this at the hand of a loving God who exuded patience. After the Sinai covenant we hear the people of the Exodus murmuring as “renewed covenant “people who had a lack of faith despite God’s exhibition that he is a God who can be trusted and has chosen his people Israel. Apparently, it was still very difficult for the second generation Exodus wanderers as found in Numbers to get over the oppression that the first generation slaves experienced. They could not hold unto the promises of a covenant God. Memories of God’s salvific acts with his people ran short. Perhaps, God in both cases was offering testing or challenges to see if the people of the Exodus were ready, even in fear, to move out into the dangers of God’s wilderness simply with trust. Perhaps God was engaging in a “trust building” exercise with the people of the Exodus. God allowed witnesses in the elders to help ensure a trusting response by the people. God’s provision to the people of Exodus followed them throughout the wilderness. Lack of trust, does not beget God’s wrath but rather, as in the case of Moses and Aaron not entering the promised land, it does beget consequences. The burden of the Exodus story is found in its final questions: “Is the Lord among us or not?” Moses in both the Exodus and Numbers murmuring stories is caught in a very difficult space with the burden of the question “Is the Lord among us or not?” Moses in the ancient account of the Exodus gives today’s listening ears a means to handle the burden. First, Moses prays; short sweet and to the point. As the problem arose he did not head to his accountant or community gossip leader for advice. Moses goes to the God of covenant in prayer. Second, God reminded Moses that he possessed the tools to solve the problem a hand, tools which God had gifted him with. Grumbling was not the answer. Moses resorted to that which he knew worked with God in the past. Third, Moses worked miracles in front of the leadership, the people of community influence called to comfort and guide the people. Leadership for the solution came from the people God had chosen. So….. Was the Lord among the people or not? During our Lenten journey this year we have concentrated our learning times with voices from the past, voices of experience with God who can testify that the Lord is most definitely among us. The question posed in the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament covenant with Jesus. We are and remain in a covenant through baptism with the One who came to answer our sermon question with his own innocent suffering and death. This season among our own fears and trembling we remember the fears and trembling of the ancient’s on the other side of the cross of Christ who hoped for his coming as the final covenant act with God. We stand loved and forgiven on this side of God’s completed plan, flesh and blood covenant story with the barren cross and the empty tomb. This Lent the voices from Exodus calls us to remember this God of covenant on this side of the cross. This is the message Jesus brings to the woman at the well who like the people of Exodus before her where thirsty for hope. Today’s living water in Jesus is the continuation of the covenant God‘s love as found in Christ, the ultimate answer to our sermon question. God is among us and Christ is not only the bearer of the ancient hope but the hope itself for all time and for all people to God’s glory.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lenten Poem

The Journey with Jesus: Poems and Prayers
Selected by Dan Clendenin
Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet
Yours are the eyes, you are his body
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on the this World
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fear Not by AEK

The Bible book that at my age
I'm still not thru.
The book of creation I like to read
the why, where and the how.
Then the book of His rules
the why, where, and the how.
The best books are the life
of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The why, where and the how.
There are books about how
His Church was started and books
of mysteries and histories.
These books were written for you and me
The most words used I've told are
"Fear Not" not only once but many times.
Having trials in your relations
"Fear Not"
Calamities that shake our psychic
"Fear Not"
Christ is with us.
Doors open and doors close
Knowing not His purpose or plan,
things we don't understand
"Fear Not" He'll show the way
His will be done and in our final throes
"Fear Not" His promise
He'll always be beside us.
"Fear not only believe"

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Service Mar 13

Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Pastor Bettye

March 13, 2011
First Sunday in Lent
Matthew 4: 1 – 11

Let us pray…..
O Lord Jesus, like Saint Paul, may I count everything as loss in comparison with the supreme advantage of knowing you. I want to know you and what your passion and resurrection can do. Give me grace to make every effort to supplement faith with moral courage, knowledge with self-control, self-control with patience, patience with piety, piety with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. May these virtues keep me both active and fruitful and bring me to the deep knowledge of you, Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Welcome to Lent. Welcome to the days of learning, praying, contemplating and experiencing Jesus in a renewed way…because we already know who Jesus is…..or do we? In this season of Gospel texts we will be “meeting Jesus again for the first time”. The Gospel according to Matthew chapter four starts us off. This particular text on temptation is a good beginning for where we are going in our quest for “meeting Jesus again for the first time.” Jesus’ forty days and forty nights in the wilderness are about to end but ours is just beginning. Matthew in his telling of the temptation of Jesus is speaking to a confused audience both then and now. Matthew simply wants to introduce Jesus to those with ears to listen. Today, the first Sunday of Lent we are beginning our quest of “meeting Jesus again for the first time” in the words of the Gospel writer whose writing centralized on this “knowing” of the Son of God which would then lead to believing not because of what he does but because of who is. Matthew spends his literary genius introducing the son of God to the world and again to us. It is the perfect text with which to begin our Lenten Sunday journey. The Gospel according to John will continuing our knowing of Jesus in the weeks to comes but for today Matthew offers answers to the question “Who is this Jesus?”

Matthew uses many titles of Jesus throughout his entire gospel texts: the Messiah, Son of David, and Son of Abraham. God announces, according to Matthew, “This is my Son, the Beloved.” Matthew gives the listener to today’s text a Jesus who knows that his very nature comes from scriptures as he quotes Moses three times during his temptation:
· From Deuteronomy 8: 3 – “One does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
· From Deuteronomy 6: 6 – “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
· From Deuteronomy 6:3 – “The Lord your God you shall fear; him you will serve.”
The use of these ancient texts in the story of Jesus’ temptation points us to the character of Jesus, the Son of God. Matthew uses Old Testament images to preach and teach Jesus as a humble King like Moses, a patient king in the wilderness who trusts God and who has not allure for the trappings and temptations of this world. Jesus lives the talk of the faithful, trusting servant king, the Son of God... This is the golden nugget in today’s Gospel text with which we begin the quest of “knowing Jesus again of the first time.”
The Gospel according to Matthew while rich with opportunities to discuss our own temptations is simply about Jesus, who he is and what sort of character he shows. This temptation story illuminates for us the Son of God. This story is about him, not us. We, my friends cannot put our God to the test in order to meet our selfish need to be able to define Jesus, the Son of God in our own terms. The Son of God:
· Does not turn our stones into bread simply because we would be more comfortable with our given “hungers” if he did so.
· He will not prove God to us simply because we are too lazy to seek God ourselves with all our hearts, mind and souls.
· Jesus will not turn from his very basic nature as the Son of God to embrace the kind of successes WE would applaud and WE would recognize.
Jesus remains the steadfast Son of God. How long will WE stand as HIS Tempters waiting for proof of who Jesus is? We cannot tempt Jesus to be something he is not on this the first Sunday of Lent. We can gather together and begin a quest started in the Gospel according to Matthew to be continued in the Gospel according to John – meeting and knowing Jesus again for the first time. We may think we know Jesus, Matthew and John will be helping us learn Jesus the Son of God!


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ash Wednesday Poem

George Herbert (1593–1633)

The Crosse from The Temple (1633)
What is this strange and uncouth thing?
To make me sigh, and seek, and faint, and die,
Untill I had some place, where I might sing,
And serve thee; and not onely I,
But all my wealth and familie might combine
To set thy honour up, as our designe.
And then when after much delay,
Much wrastling, many a combate, this deare end,
So much desir’d, is giv’n, to take away
My power to serve thee; to unbend
All my abilities, my designes confound,
And lay my threatnings bleeding on the ground.
One ague dwelleth in my bones,
Another in my soul (the memorie
What I would do for thee, if once my grones
Could be allow’d for harmonie):
I am in all a weak disabled thing,
Save in the sight thereof, where strength doth sting.
Besides, things sort not to my will,
Ev’n when my will doth studie thy renown:
Thou turnest th’ edge of all things on me still,
Taking me up to throw me down:
So that, ev’n when my hopes seem to be sped,
I am to grief alive, to them as dead.
To have my aim, and yet to be
Further from it then when I bent my bow;
To make my hopes my torture, and the fee
Of all my woes another wo,
Is in the midst of delicates to need,
And ev’n in Paradise to be a weed.
Ah my deare Father, ease my smart!
These contrarieties crush me: these crosse actions
Doe winde a rope about, and cut my heart:
And yet since these thy contradictions
Are properly a crosse felt by the Sonne,
With but foure words, my words, Thy will be done.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tranfiguration Sunday by Pastor Bettye

March 6, 2011

Matthew 17: 1- 9

Grace, mercy and peace to you this day in the of the Beloved Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. AMEN
On Sunday nights I sat in front of the big black and white T.V. in our living room waiting for it, waiting for one splendid moment when fantasy held the possibility of reality. Then it appeared….the castle, the fireworks display! For me at a very young age this was the closest thing to glory I could remember. Then in a flash it was gone. But I knew it would return…every Sunday night. I was watching the opening credits for the “Wonderful World of Disney”. I was watching the place were dreams come true. For just a moment it all felt so real. All I wanted was for that one moment to affirm in my very young mind that there was a magical place. I stopped watching for that moment on Sunday nights as I grew older having lost that sense of wonder as my mind developed and my world enlarged. After all, it was just make believe and grownups don’t believe in such nonsense. It was not until forty plus years later that I had the opportunity to recapture this moment of glory in person.

In the preparation of today’s sermon, this bit of my personal history came back to me. This moment on Sunday nights when I was given the opportunity to observe the illumination of the ordinary; not unlike what our disciples experienced today.

During a conversation this past Epiphany season with a pastor friend we discussed “favorite” Gospel texts on which to preach. After a season of the ‘Sermon on the Mount” instructions I commented that I was looking forward to the glory of Transfiguration Sunday; the text which allows us a glimpse of Jesus in his original form, holy, pure and revered as the Son of God and the disciples in their “beginning”, their transformation. In this text the itinerant preacher named Yeshua in the Aramaic tongue of the day or Jesus as we know him is illuminated, transfigured from an ordinary state to the “Beloved” the Son of the Most High God. In a flash Peter, James and John are given a mountain top experience then, in a flash it is over. Briefly they are allowed the privilege of seeing what a “transformed” life looks like. They are momentarily illuminated themselves with the knowledge of who they follow; the one who called them from their nets at the Sea of Galilee a few short years before. In a moment in time on a mountain top they see the Son of God and they too as ordinary men are transformed. What they DO with this illumination is the real issue as disciples.
Despite the brevity of this illumination, this vision that is all informing, the disciples believe that it is real. It is this moment in time that propels them to share with others NOT this particular event but rather what this event did to renew the belief in the one with whom they stood on that mountain top, namely the Beloved Son of the One to whom they were called to LISTEN! Because of this moment they are encouraged as ordinary disciples to witness to other followers illuminating for them the Gospel message of the Beloved Son of God. Peter, James and John were ordinary men who had their own transformation on a mountain top and thus a part in the continuation of the ministry and message of the followers of the Word.
Martha Grace Reese in her book Unbinding the Gospel shares insight from interviews with two thousand people and in short learns this: people come to Jesus through the words, the teaching, the sharing of other Christians and their “mountain top “moments which transfigured, transformed them. Our ability to be ordinary disciples like Peter, James and John and the sharing of our faith in Jesus Christ is what draws others into the illuminating yet ordinary experiences of the church. Our words, our stories, His Gospel of salvation bring light to the dark places in our beings. We like Peter, James and John seek moments of illumination in prayer, service , worship, and study. We as Christians have the illuminating, transformative story to tell of the Beloved Son of God; his life, his love, his death , his resurrection for all humankind. The transformation of the heart of others is, to a great part dependent on our ability and desire to share our faith with those who wait and wonder amidst the difficulties of life without hope.

At the age of fifty my daughter and I traveled to the mountain top of my youth….we went to Disney world. One night we stayed in the magic Kingdom to watch the fireworks. Suddenly I saw it…the flash when the ordinary was illuminated and Cinderella’s castle is covered by the lights of a myriad of fireworks and I literally gasped. What briefly went through my mind were these words, “It’s real!” The depth of this momentary excitement can hardly be articulated yet I found myself wanting to share it with anyone who asked me, “How was your vacation?” Their kind nods and blank stares told me they were only politely interested. Of course, not being an evangelist for the Disney Corporation I let it all drop over time.
I wonder….I can’t HELP but wonder, do we have ordinary experiences in church which are so illuminating to us that our desire to share the mystery and miracle of God is right on the tips of our lips? Are we afraid to share the illumination we feel at this table, at the font, in the forgiveness of our sins, in our worship and our songs? Do we sense the reality of these mountain top experiences and yet keep them to ourselves?
This Lenten season is filled with “ordinary” services which have been planned to be illuminating. I cannot wait to teach and preach the messages of the season to waiting ears. I cannot wait to have others be like Peter, James and John in their sharing of the stories of the Gospel. I cannot not wait to be illumined with the ordinary on Easter morning and gasp in delight as did the disciples because ….it IS real!
How about you and others who you are called to invite to this miracle filled season?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Trips by AEK

Mankind strayed from God's intentions
physically, mentality wandering around.
In our language its called a trip.
We travel by plane or go by ship.
take the train or go by car
to so many places near and far.
We need this and maybe that
so much luggage we must pack.
The shortest, longest trip
is our journey thru life.
filled with good, evil and lots of strife.
Travel with God, He'll see us thru.
We carry no luggage-
Christ carries it all.