Monday, September 26, 2016

Plans for Y'all

Plans for Y'all from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.



Luke 12:13-21
13Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “friend, who set me to be a judge or arbiter over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” 18Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

22He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Jeremiah 29:1-14
These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2This was after King Jeconiah, and the queen mother, the court officials, the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the artisans, and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem. 3The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whose King Zedekiah of Judah sent to Babylon to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. It said:

4Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the LORD.

10For thus says the LORD: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14I will let you find me, says the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Runaway Faith

Runaway Faith from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


I Timothy 1:12-17
12I am grateful to Christ Jesus out Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, 13even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the foremost.

16But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who could come to believe in him for eternal life. 17To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Luke 15:1-10
1Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3So he told them this parable: 4”Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

8”Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’

10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Making Plans




Jeremiah 18:1-11
1The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2”Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.

5Then the word of the LORD cam to me: 6Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. 9And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it. 11Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the LORD: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Luke 14:25-33
25Now large crowds were traveling with him, and he turned and said to them, 26”Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30Saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider where he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then while the other is still far away, he ends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Bring a Towel (Preach It Again!)

John 13:1-9
1Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered , “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Hebrews 11:29-12:1
29By faith [the Israelites] crossed the Red Sea as if they were on dry land, but when the Egyptians tried it, they were drowned. 30By faith Jericho’s walls fell after the people marched around them for seven days. 31By faith Rahab the prostitute wasn’t killed with the disobedient because she welcomed the spies in peace.

32What more can I say? I would run out of time if I told you about Gideon, Barak, Sampson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. 33Through faith they conquered kingdoms, brought about justice, realized promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34put out raging fires, escaped from the edge of the sword, found strength in weakness, were mighty in war, and routed foreign armies. 35Women received back their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured and refused to be released so they could gain a better resurrection.

36But others experienced public shame by being taunted and whipped; they were even put in chains and in prison. 37They were stoned to death, they were cut in two, and they died by being murdered with swords. They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. 38The world didn’t deserve them. They wandered in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground.

39All these people didn’t receive what was promised, though they were given approval for their faith. 40God provided something better for us so they wouldn’t be made perfect without us.

12:1So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, 2and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne.

This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

When I was in high school, every August meant the same thing: Lawn mowers on the football field, lines being carefully measured and painted on a practice field. It meant hours assigning uniforms and making sure that every piece of equipment was in top shape, ready for the first game of the season. It meant drilling and fundamentals and practice after practice. Each August of my tenure at Freedom High School was the beginning of another season in the Marching Band.

Each hot August afternoon was spent on the lumpy practice field in the nearby park as we learned the show we would perform at home games and band competitions. 140 of my closest friends and I would march around in the 90 degree weather while the drum majors and band directors called out commands. We stood at attention while mosquitoes and gnats ate us alive. And when the first year marchers asked us why we bothered with all this unpleasantness, we pointed toward an experience they didn't know yet, and told them to trust us. It was all worth it.

We pointed to the moment at the first home game after we marched onto the field and were called to attention, after the drum major counted us in for our opening number. We pointed to the moment after the thousands of precise steps, after the hundreds of measures of music. We pointed to the instant we finished our last note and brought our instruments down together, when we could hear our last chord reverberate off the brick stands as the applause and cheers of the fans mingled with and overcame it.

At that moment, we are breathless, exhausted, and overcome with joy because we have accomplished something together that none of us could do alone. We have to rely on each other to get through the show, to play the right notes, to watch our neighbors and keep our lines straight. The only way to get through the show and for it to be good, is for us to trust and rely on each other.

Because no matter how talented an individual band member is, they cannot do it all. We need the great crowd of musicians all around us to bring forth that wall of sound that makes the emotional impact of the music so powerful.

In my experience, when we talk about the gifts God has given us, we're talking about the gifts each individual in the group has. God has given the builder the ability to turn raw materials into a sound and solid structure. God has given the business owner the resources to provide employment for others. God has given the musician the talent to play a musical instrument. God has given the teacher the capacity to inspire and challenge students. God has given me words that I may speak. Yet even as we value the particular gifts we have been given, none of us can claim every gift.


The greatest gift God has given us is himself, as Jesus Christ. The second greatest gift God has given us is each other: the great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. The  Presbyterian Church of Lowell is not merely a building in which individuals gather to be spiritually entertained each week. The Presbyterian Church of Lowell is a community that shares a history going all the way back to the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. It is a community of faith in the one who endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God's throne. Our faith is in the God who is the source of all our gifts. This is our faith, and that of the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us.

“By faith they crossed the Red Sea as if they were on dry land. Through faith they conquered kingdoms, brought about justice, realized promises, shut the mouths of lions,   put out raging fires, escaped from the edge of the sword, found strength in weakness, were mighty in ware, and routed foreign armies.”

This history of great deeds is included so that we might know that we have a mighty shared history that spans nations and centuries, all based on faith in the living LORD our God.

These are great heroes through whom God worked great wonders because of their faith. However, faith does not always make for an easy road. It doesn't promise to fix all our problems, and it doesn't always soften the blow of what falls on our path.

“Others experienced public shame by being taunted and whipped; they were even put in chains and in prison. They were stoned to death, they were cut in two. They went around wearing skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. The world didn't deserve them.”

Following Jesus Christ, for me, means that I am called to follow him to places of grief, where people carry heaven burdens. I remember once, a tear-stained face told me that "God doesn't give you more than you can handle, but sometimes I feel like I can't handle it, and sometimes I feel like I don't want to." I am certain that she is not the only person who feels that way.

There are people who are suffering from overwhelming burdens. To ask them to carry them alone is to abandon our call to love them. Just as we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, so too we are each part of that cloud for one another. The suffering that many of our brothers and sisters endure is not what God intended for them. It breaks God's heart to see his children suffer in this way. But the suffering is not the end of their story, because our God takes that pain and shame on himself. All these people didn't receive what was promised, though they were given approval for their faith.

God provided something better for us so that they wouldn't be made perfect without us. While we may find ourselves given more than we can handle, I promise you that it is not more than God can handle. Jesus endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him.

That joy is the kingdom of heaven made real. It's the joy of a family playing a game together where each one of them has a chance for their particular talents to shine through, laughing together and knowing that the game would be less fun if one of them were absent. It's the joy of a long-carried burden being taken up by a loving community of faith. It’s the joy shared between teacher and student when they finally grasp something difficult. It’s the joy of our faith, perfected at last in the resurrection of that great shepherd of the sheep: our Lord Jesus Christ, who took a towel and wrapped it around his waist, and washed his disciple's feet.

The British Science-Fiction author Douglas Adams writes in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy on the subject of towels. He writes "a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a [non-hitch hiker] discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the [non-hitch hiker] will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost".

A towel is a simple thing, just a bit of woven cloth. In Adams's novel, knowing where one's towel is shows that you've really got your life together. It's a symbol of a life of adventure.

Jesus took a towel and wrapped it around himself in full knowledge that he was headed for the cross. Rather than a symbol of having his life together, it was an act of service for the community of faith he had gathered around him. “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands,” chose to welcome the disciples, who did not have their lives together, with the act of a servant.

We are not meant to run the race that is laid out for us on our own. It is not God's intention that we push our way to the front of the crowd so that we can be first through the gate. It is not God's intention that we go through our lives relying only on ourselves, the perfect self-made person, a pioneer in her field, a perfecter of his technique. God gives us each other, and we love and serve one another because we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us.

I cannot do it by myself, and neither can you. There are gifts I do not have, things I do not know. But God has given us each other so that we don't have to do everything. Though none of us have every gift we will need, each of us does have some gift to offer. By faith we are drawn together to be a great cloud of witnesses, sharing in the joyful work of the one who sat down at the right side of God's throne.

By faith, we’ll bring a towel knowing that somewhere along the way, we’ll need to have our feet washed as well. By faith, we’ll bring a towel, not to show our competence and ability, but to put our faith into action by washing the feet of those whom God has given us to love and serve.

Amen

Sunday, August 21, 2016

If it Delays... (Preach It Again!)

If it Delays (PiA) from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Luke 17:20-24
20Pharisees asked Jesus when God’s kingdom was coming. He replied, “God’s kingdom isn’t coming with signs that are easily noticed. 21Nor will it say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ Don’t you see? God’s kingdom is already among you.”

22Then Jesus said to the disciples, “The time will come when you long to see one of the days of the Human One, and you won’t see it. 23People will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Don’t leave or go chasing after them. 24The Human One will appear on his day in the same way a flash of lightning lights up the sky from one end to the other.”
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God 

Habakkuk 2:2-4, 18-20
2Then the LORD answered me and said,
Write a vision,
and make it plain upon a tablet,
So that a runner can read it.
3There’s still a vision
for the appointed time;
it testifies to the end;
it does not deceive.
If it delays, wait for it;
for it is surely coming;
it will not be late.
4Some people’s desires
are truly audacious;
They don’t do the right thing.
But the righteous person
will live honestly.

18Of what value is an idol,
when its potter carves it,
or a cast image that has been shaped?
It is a teacher of lies,
for the potter trusts the pottery, though it is incapable of speaking.
19Doom to the one who says to the tree,
“Wake Up!”
or “Get up” to the silent stone.
Does it teach?
Look, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
but there is no breath within it.
20But the LORD is in his holy temple.
Let all the earth be silent before him.
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Afraid to Ask (Preach It Again!)

Afraid to Ask (Preach it Again!) from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 20-25
4Hear O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
20When your children ask you in time to come, “What is the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the LORD our God has commanded you?” 21then you shall say to your children, “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out with a mighty hand. 22The LORD displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household. 23He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land that he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24Then the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our lasting good, so as to keep us alive, as is now the case. 25If we diligently observe this entire commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, we will be in the right.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Mark 9: 30-37
30They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
33Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37”Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

A number of year ago, I had the opportunity to worship at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. ITC is a consortium of six Historically Black Seminaries from various different theological backgrounds. Together, those six schools build a boundary-crossing theological education. The students and faculty at ITC have shaped theological discussion across the country for fifty years or more.

In the mid-week chapel service I attended, the preacher lifted up an ancient proverb from the West African country of Ghana. “Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.”

“It is not wrong to go back for that which you may have forgot.”

“Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.” “Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.” “It is not wrong to go back for that which you may have forgot.”

Jesus and the disciples are headed back through familiar territory. They’re returning from a mountaintop transfiguration, they have passed through the healing prayer “I believe, help my unbelief.” “They went on from there and passed through Galilee”

This passage does not contain new healings, new deeds of power, or new sermons to vast new crowds. “Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.” It is not wrong to go back for that which you may have forgot. This passage is a review. The mysteries are already revealed. This is a text where Jesus is teaching the intimate circle of disciples. We can see ourselves in the reflection of Christ’s early disciples, following our Lord through the familiar territory of the churches and communities in which we were raised. We step back into the traditions of our ancestors so that we may remember “the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the LORD our God has commanded [us].”

“Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.” “It is not wrong to go back for that which you may have forgot.” We have come back to this familiar territory, and Jesus reminds us why we are here, “…Saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.’”

The promised hope of the cross and the empty tomb is worth remembering even if we do not fully understand it. This is the second time Jesus has predicted his death and resurrection. “But [the disciples] did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.” Verse 32 tells us that they did not understand, and their actions in verses 33 and 34 show that they do not understand. “Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked home, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way that had argued with one another who was the greatest.” The disciples have lost sight of the gospel, so they revert back to arguing over their own greatness.

Hey disciples, there’s something you may have forgot. You may want to go back and review. The gospel is not about advancing our own greatness, it’s about declaring the greatness of God. Christianity is not an olympic event or a political platform, or a specific checklist of morality. God does not grant high scores based on performance. The only one who has won is Christ. Every aspect of the Christian life should proclaim the gospel, because the gospel story is the bedrock of our identity. Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi. It is not wrong to go back for that which you may have forgot. Go back to the text, go back to the gospel, go back to the unyielding grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, go back because you may have forgot that our lives are based on love of God and neighbor, and on the teachings which Christ has commanded us. Christian living reminds us of the power of the gospel to transform our hearts. We live lives of love and service because God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.

So Jesus brings us back, and gives us once again that which we may have forgot. “[Jesus] sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’” The disciples have got to get that “which of us is the greatest” nonsense out of their heads and be claimed by the cross, wrapped in the sure hope that resurrection is waiting on the other side. Jesus did not come to make Jerusalem great again. Christ is not called to drive out the Roman empire and re-establish a Davidic King in Judea. “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.”

The disciples did not understand. Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi. They needed to return through the familiar territory of Galilee, they needed to return the the stories of their ancestors for what they had forgot. They had forgotten that if God had stopped at bringing them out of Egypt it would have been enough. They had forgotten that if God had stopped at leading us through the Red Sea to liberation, it would have been enough. They had forgotten that if God had only given us the Torah, it would have been enough.

But whenever we return to our traditions, to the stories that form who we are, we find that God is still working on us. God is still active, fulfilling the covenant in new ways, not for our greatness, but to show his own. The disciples, though, were so caught up in pursuit of their own greatness that they had forgotten with whom they were dealing. When they didn’t understand, they were afraid to ask. Because asking is disruptive, is risks losing our position, because we may look foolish.

But what if they had not been afraid to ask? What if instead of arguing about which of them was the greatest, they had gone back to their Lord for the good news which they had forgot. I wonder how this story would have been different if the disciples had not been afraid to ask. I wonder how Jesus would have replied if they had reached out in faith. What if they had asked, “Lord, why must it be this way? What is the meaning of your suffering and death?”

Perhaps that’s why Jesus put a child in their midst. This is not the meek-and-mild, well trained model of politeness kind of child. This is the little one who, I can tell you from personal experience, is disruptive of your routine and life. The child Jesus tells us to welcome is the one who asks questions that make us re-evaluate why we do what we do, who makes us go back and remember the stories that shape who we are as the People of God. We welcome the disruptive one because he is not afraid to ask, not afraid to learn more about what she doesn’t understand. That one, who challenges us to go back for what we may have forgot, is the one through whom we welcome Jesus, and the one who sent Jesus.

It is not wrong, after all, to go back for that which you may have forgot. The disciples have forgotten that “The LORD displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household.” They did not realize that in handing over the Son of Man, in allowing him to be killed, and in raising him from the dead, God was bringing us out of bondage once again. Only this time, it wasn’t merely political or economic bondage.

“Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.” We must go back, time and time again, to remember that once we were slaves to sin and death, but the LORD brought us out with a mighty hand. We must never be afraid to ask what God is doing, because it is not wrong to go back and get that which you may have forgot. The LORD displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders, breaking the power of sin and death through Christ’s death and resurrection.

When your children ask you in time to come, “What is the meaning of our Christian living? Why do we got to worship every week? Why do we not argue over our own greatness?” Then you will remember that Christian living grows from the Christian narrative of grace and hope. The source of Christian hope is Christian memory, for we remember the stories. We remember that the Son of Man was betrayed into human hands, that they we killed him, and three days after being killed, he rose again. That hope means we do not need to argue over who is greatest. Grace is not a competition, it’s a free gift. We know who is greatest, the LORD our God, the LORD alone. And even if we forget, “Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.”

Then you shall say to your children, in parallel with our spiritual ancestors, that once we were slaves to sin and death, but God brought us out with a mighty hand. He brought Christ out from there in order to bring us in, to give us eternal life that he promised on oath to our ancestors. “Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.” It is not wrong to go back for that which you may have forgot, because regardless of our forgetting, we are welcomed into Christ’s household as children. And Jesus “took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’” The good news of God, that the kingdom of God is at hand, is shown in Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Though we are prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love, we are not afraid to ask, because “Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.” It is not wrong to go back for that which you may have forgot. We are not afraid to ask what God is doing. We are not afraid to ask after our sovereign Lord. We are not afraid to live our lives in faith. We are not afraid to ask, because even if we forget, even if we wander off, we have seen the steadfast love God has shown us, is showing us still, and will show us from now to the end of the age.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

For Christ's Sake (Preach it Again!)

Note: This is part of the "Preach it Again!" series, where my congregation chooses which sermon gets revisited. For the original version of this sermon, click here.

John 17:1-8
1After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

6‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

Ezekiel 36:22-38
22Say to the House of Israel: Thus said the LORD GOD: Not for your sake will I act, O House of Israel, but for My holy name, which you have caused to be profaned among the nations to which you have come. 23I will sanctify My great name which has been profaned among the nations - among whom you have caused it to be profaned. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD - declares the LORD GOD - when I manifest my holiness before their eyes through you. 24I will take you from among the nations and gather you from all the countries, and I will bring you back to your own land. 25I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean: I will cleanse you from all your uncleanness and from all your fetishes. 26And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit into you: I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh; 27and I will put My spirit into you. Thus I will cause you to follow My laws and faithfully to observe My rules. 28Then you shall dwell in the land which I have given to your fathers; and you shall be my people and I will be your God.

29And when I have delivered you from all your uncleanness, I will summon the grain and make it abundant, and I will not bring famine upon you. 30I will make the fruit of your trees and the crops of your fields abundant, so that you shall never again be humiliated before the nations because of famine. 31Then you shall recall your evil ways and your base conduct, and you shall loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abhorrent practices. 32Not for your sake will I act - declares the LORD GOD - take good note! Be ashamed and humiliated because of your ways, O House of Israel!

33Thus said the LORD GOD: When I have cleansed you of all your iniquities, I will people your settlements, and the ruined places shall be rebuilt; 34 and the desolate land, after lying waste in the sight of every passerby, shall again be tilled. 35And men shall say, “That land, once desolate, has become like the garden of Eden; and the cities, once ruined, desolate, and ravaged, are now populated and fortified.” 36And the nations that are left around you shall know that I the LORD have rebuilt the ravaged places and replanted the desolate land. I the LORD have spoken and will act.

37Thus said the Lord God: Moreover, in this I will respond to the House of Israel and act for their sake: I will multiply their people like sheep. 38As Jerusalem is filled with sacrificial sheep during her festivals, so shall the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. And they shall know that I am the LORD.

This is the Word of The Lord
Thanks Be to God