Sunday, September 27, 2009

WHAT IS THE ESSENCE OF ALL TRUE RELIGION?

This is a great sermon offered by one of my friends and a retired minister at WPC.  I'm very grateful to him and his wife for the ways they continue to minister in various ways to the congregation, to me and my family, and witness to Christ in the world.  

 Sermon by the Rev. Dr. Robert A. Chesnut
                            Westminster Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe, New Mexico
                                                     September 27, 2009
           
Pastor Chester invited me to share with you this morning the same sermon that I preached back in June at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Wooster, Ohio. It’s the campus church of the College of Wooster, one of our Presbyterian-related colleges. The occasion was Jan’s and my fiftieth college reunion. It was Alumni Reunion Weekend and I was invited to be the guest preacher that Sunday. My message today is basically the same, though I’ve made a few revisions toward the end for this different context.

“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee!” There were three reasons that I chose this as the opening hymn in Wooster and again today. Firstly, the hymn affirms the themes of my message today. Secondly, it was the processional music for Jan’s and my wedding fifty years ago on June 13, a week after our Wooster graduation. Thirdly, this hymn bears a special Wooster memory for me, going back to the days of required midweek chapel assemblies in 1950s.

Chapel assemblies then were not typically religious, but the gathering did always begin with a hymn, chosen by the organist, Professor R. T. Gore. One year I recall we welcomed the Republican National Committee Chairman as a chapel speaker. The opening hymn was “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” The next year, in a show of bipartisanship, the Democratic National Committee Chairman was invited to speak. Professor Gore, however, was apparently having no part of this fair and balance approach. His opening hymn that day: “Turn Back, Oh Man, Forswear Thy Foolish Ways.”

About twenty-five years ago, after my mother died, I was looking through a personal journal in which she recorded some favorite quotations she had come across in her reading. One brief, anonymous statement read, “… (Blank) is the essence of all true religion.”

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Our Father (traditional)

Oh to get this kid to come and pray this prayer in my church. Wow. Wonderful.
Let the little children come unto me... Unless you become like a child....


video

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Recognizing Beauty in Chaos and business

Great story about a famous classical violinist playing in the subway station in Washington DC.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html

Who are you...preached at youth sunday

August 23, 2009
Westminster Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe
Who are you..who who who who?
THis was actually preached by Trasie, because I was sick...I don't know what the final version looked like, but I'm sure she changed a fair amount. 


When someone asks us that question, how are we supposed to respond? Well Chester says: I’m Chester.  Woah, that raises eye-brows.  Is that really his name? Maybe we talk about occupation? Chester’s a Presbyterian minister.  Talk about a conversation killer.
Who are you? 

When Chester interviewed for this position at the church Thomas Burnett asked me a question: What do you think is the biggest problem facing young people today? The answer was easy.  Identity.  Who are you?  If we don’t know who are we  can easily be swayed into doing this thing or that thing, that is really not who we are. If we don’t know who we are we are blown to and fro and never have any grounding or stability in our lives.  I am cool.  I am smart. I am a soccer player. I am a nerd, that’s what Claudia always says..about herself J.

So often our identity is defined by others…and sure there are people who really love us and say nice things about us, but there are also people who will tell us hurtful things, and would like to see us fail.   What does God say about who we are?

A woman was very bitter and upset with everyone. She went see a pastor-councilor about a failing marriage and she shared an experience when she was very young—when she was in the fourth grade. She had a teacher that didn’t like her when she misbehaved. One day she did something that was very disturbing. The teacher called her forward to sit in front of the class and said, “Catherine, do you realize that nobody in this class likes you?”

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dandole el Avion

Westminster Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe
Mark 9:30-37 - “Dandole el avion”
September 20, 2009

In Mexico there’s a wonderful saying… dandole el avion, literally, “giving someone the airplane.” It’s not vulgar, I promise. We do this all the time.
You’re with someone who just talks and talks and talks—just won’t shut up—you’re stuck, you don’t want to be rude, so you just give little signals: “Uh hu..Yeah. That’s nice.” Or maybe: someone’s talking over your head, not really making any sense, but you don’t want to look stupid, and you don’t really care enough to have them explain themselves. So you just nod…Uh, yeah, Interesting. Le estas dando el avion. Me dan el avion a mi--You give me the airplane: I see it. I see it when I’m preaching. The nice smile that says your looking, but your mind is totally elsewhere ☺.

You know what the disciples are doing to Jesus in this passage? Le estan dando el avion. They’re walking along toward Capernaum; Jesus is talking, 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 didn’t understand what he was saying..
“Uh, Yeah…That’s nice. “ They don’t understand, but they don’t bother to ask.
They sort of just nod, and drift back and then talk about, no argue about… who was the greatest. Doesn’t that seem a little odd?

This morning, we continue our series on the cost of discipleship, drawing on the theme of the early 20th century German minister, Dietrich BOnhoeffer, who wrote a book called the Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer summarized Jesus call to follow in this way: When Jesus calls anyone to follow, he bid him or her to come and die.

In the passage from Mark, we are challenged with a new facet of the cost of discipleship. When Jesus and his disciples get to where they were going, Jesus asks, “So what were you talking about after hearing that I was going to be killed?” They’re silent. Jesus huddles them up: “Take a knee, fellas.” “If you want to be first you must become last, a servant to all.” Servant…I thought we were talking about greatness. We are all lured to desire greatness. Who doesn’t want to be great? We who claim to be followers of Jesus…we are right there with the disciples, talking about how we might be great, giving Jesus the airplane.
We ignore the fact that the one we follow sets the example of losing his life for others. The one we follow Says if you want to be great, you must serve.

I love what Martin Luther King, Jr. says about this passage:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

John 6 Eat flesh, Communion

Service of Worship, August 16, 2009
John 6:51-60: Eat my flesh
Prelude
Jesus stands with open arms
Bienvenidos and welcome to worship. This is a day that the lord has made!  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

On Friday, Claudia, Trasie, Ruby and I had dinner with a couple from Iglesia Betesda, the Spanish speaking church that gathers here for worship on Thursday and Sunday evenings.  After dinning, having heard more of each other’s stories—
how we came to Santa Fe, and how we have experienced God in our lives-- Hermano Cruz turned to me and said, “There’s always a reason for why people do the things they do, there’s always an explanation for what motivates people to do things in a particular way.”

I agreed. But it has taken me some time to come to this understanding.  Sometimes people do some strange things that seem beyond explanation. 
They just don’t make sense, at least not in my mind.

In this morning’s service, things are a little different.  But there is a reason…
The entire service of worship has a specific focus on the practice, the ritual, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. 

What do we know about this act of breaking bread and dipping the bread in the cup?  Why do we do this? Why do I and other ministers and priests do and say so much?  Why does this church have communion twice a month, and other churches have it more often and others less often? What happens to the bread and juice in this practice?  Does it become flesh and blood? Who can partake? Only those who are baptized? Only those who “believe”? Who can serve? Just elders? Doesn’t the bible say something about self-examination before participating?  What if I don’t participate?  Will people look at me funny?
We call this a supper, even a feast, why don’t we have more than just bread and juice?  Why do we rip and dip?  Tear a piece of bread and dip it in the cup?

Believe it or not, there actually is a reason, an explanation for why we do this practice the way we do, even if they aren’t necessarily satisfactory or make a lot of sense. 

I’m not going to be able to get into all of the possible questions and attempted answers this morning, unless you want to skip lunch (we are having communion). 
But, I hope to at least begin the exploration of a very challenging passage found in John, and a very sacred and special practice of observing the Lord’s Supper;
which I pray my deepen our experience of this ancient act, that has profound and meaningful implications for who we are in relation to God, and what our life is about.

What are some of the names you’ve heard the Lord’s Supper called? Holy communion, Eucharist, divine liturgy, breaking of the bread.  Regardless of the name it is called, it is a deeply Trinitarian celebration.  And to emphasize this Trinitarian aspect, every time we have communion we offer a prayer…
some feel like this is a long prayer.  It is actually called a great prayer of thanksgiving.  And the first portion of the prayer is focused on the mighty acts and attributes of God the Father, the Creator.  Then we sing the sanctus….santo, santo, santo es el SeƱor….
Then our great prayer has a focus on the acts and attributes of Jesus. Born of Mary, word made flesh, before time, present with us, hope for the future. We conclude this portion with the memorial Acclamation. “Great is the mystery of our faith: Cristo ha muerto…Cristo ha resusitado…Cristo vendra de Nuevo.
And finally the great prayer focuses on the mighty works and attributes of the Holy Spirit.  Come and be present with us!  Empower us to be your servants in the world.

Did you get that?  This entire service is in a way designed to be a great prayer of thanksgiving, as we are reminded of all of God’s lavish gifts in the creation and preservation of the world, and most of all Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for our salvation.  The first portion of the service will focus on God the Creator.
Then we will sing Santo Santo

The second, with scripture and preaching will focus on Jesus the Redeemer, Then we will sing Cristo ha muerto.

And the third segment, with prayers of the people and offering and announcements of ways we can be Christ’s body in the world, on the Holy Spirit, the sustainer. 

Please note that the actual great prayer of thanksgiving will come toward the end of each section, it will be prayed by Claudia Aguilar.

Now, always before we begin the great prayer, there is an invitation offered to the table.  Something like: Jesus says, “come to me all who are weary.  Jesus said I am the bread of life…whoever comes to me will never be hungry.

To begin the service, we sang a song, “Jesus stands with open arms.” The invitation has been extended. Who can participate in the Lord’s Supper?
Well, in this church, we understand that not I, and not any other person we see here is the host at the table. The host is Jesus himself, mysteriously present with us.  So instead of asking, “Who can participate?” Maybe we could ask:  Who would Jesus turn away? “Jesus stands with open arms and welcomes any and all who come.” 

And we welcome one another.

Are there any guest who wouldn’t mind being introduced this morning?

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, desires all to be at peace with one another. 
As we prepare to share in the feast, let us welcome one another as Jesus welcomes us, by sharing a sign of peace … The peace of the Lord be with you all.

Reading from John 6:51-60:
I love the last verse of the passage Erik read:  “This teaching is difficult, who can understand it?”

Difficult!

Jesus had just told those who were gathered that he is the “bread that comes down from heaven”.  And as if that isn’t challenging—better yet agitating—enough.  Now he puts the claim even more outrageously: “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.[1]

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Father Daughter Workout Video

I love working out with my little girl; if you want to see a better picture of this go to youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUBtdrYWjQ4
video

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mark 8:27-38: how much does that cost?


Westminster Presbyterian Church, Sept 11, 2009

We live in a capitalist society. We know about buying and selling. Contrary to what MasterCard says: Priceless.  Everything has its price. Right? 

Back just before the second world War, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote what has become a classic book on Christian ethics and discipleship.  He called his book: The cost of Discipleship.  Maybe some of you have heard this term used in reference to being a disciple of Jesus?

So what do you think about this idea?  Are you a disciple of Jesus?  If so, how much did it cost?  Did you get your discipleship at the discount store? Or, maybe you got the marked up verson at Nieman Marcus or Tiffany’s. Maybe discipleship cost you a few extra hours of sleep this morning so you could make it to church. 
Maybe it cost you a few dollars when you came across a homeless person with his hand out.  Is that what discipleship costs? Starting today and over the next several weeks, we are going to be looking at passages from Mark’s gospel that hit on this idea—the cost of discipleship, what it costs to be a follower of Jesus. 

Jesus says this about discipleship in our passage from Mark: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?
Life = death.  Death = life.  A strange formula Jesus has.