Sunday, January 31, 2016

All We Need Is Love - 1 Cor 13

1 Cor 13:1-13; CPC Commerce, GA; January 31, 2016

My eldest daughter is truly captivated by stories--Fairy stories and mermaid stories are some of her favorite--and most are interwoven with themes of love. Last night’s was of an 11th century Irish farm boy who was out staring at the stars one evening when a band of jolly miniature marauders swept him up and carried him off to a party for the princess of France who was to marry a man she did not love. So, the farm boy and his miniature friends kidnap her, which they feel is better for her, and bring her back to Ireland.  And somehow this princess is grateful, and so she falls in love with the farm boy and they live happily ever after.
How romantic...I guess. quite strange really.

From an early age stories are what shape our lives and inspire our living.
On our visit to D.C. we visited the King Memorial on Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday.  My girls were mesmerized by what the heard and saw of his story.
In the book shop we picked up a story about a little girl named Ruby--the first black girl to go to an all white public school in New the face of parents who protested her presence and even boycotted by not sending their own children to the school, Ruby, my daughter, asked me: Why didn’t they want her at their school?

Ruby, a real child of the 60s, attended day after day, and each day she prayed for those who did not want her there. Eventually they accepted her and returned to school.

Our lives and living is our own story unfolding.  How is your story being told? Is it a love story?

We are gathered here this morning because we have been inspired, even transformed by the story of one man, and his example of living. His was a life marked by service and sacrifice. His was a life motivated by love--love of God and love of neighbor. I hope you know who I’m talking about.

It was his life that inspired groups of people to establish a Church in his name.
It is the story of his faithful followers who have inspired others, generation after generation, to continue to gather and seek to follow his example over the centuries.
We call ourselves Christians--followers of Christ.  
SLIDE: And over time stories of Christians are told.
Some of these stories are stories of Francis and his love of nature and service to the poor;
stories of Theresa and her love for the outcast and orphans…
stories of Christian families in Nazi Germany who housed Jews in the face of persecution
Even today it can be easy to find stories of Christians whose lives are truly about loving service, I saw it when I dropped off our food donations at the food bank on Friday…

Stories are told of those who have done less than loving actions--stories of Crusades and Inquisitions.

And there are stories of those who claim to do things because of their Christian faith which has gained the church a reputation as being hypocritical, homophobic, judgmental, and irrelevant.

How is our story being told?
How are we following along the way of Jesus?
Is our story a love story?

The Apostle Paul in early churches he helped guide, saw how easy it can be for those who gather in Jesus’ name to lose our way.
It was happening even just one generation removed from the early disciples.  
Paul uses words to describe what is going on in that early church:
words like envy, because this is what the Corinthians had (3:3);  boasting, this is what Corinthians do (4:7; 5:6); Puffed up, the Corinthians are (4;6)[1]  
People grappling over positions of power and authority.  
People bickering over who was truly worthy to be admitted into their company.  
And so Paul writes one of the most well known and beloved passages from the Holy Scriptures, in which he describes the most excellent way!

Love, Love, Love---it’s easy, so say the Beatles.

Well, not so fast, Paul McCartney and John Lennon.  
the Apostle Paul is quick to fill in some blanks of what love is and what love isn’t:
Turns out, it may not be so easy….

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Many Are One

The Many Are One: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Commerce Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe, January 24, 2016

This morning’s sermon is about our calling to unity as members of the body of Christ.

“The human body has 206 bones, 639 muscles, and about 6 pounds of skin, along with ligaments, cartilage, veins, arteries, blood, fat, [organs, fibers, tissues]....
Every time we hear a sound; every time we take a step; every time we take a breath [or eat a bit of food], hundreds of different parts [and thousands of different cells] work together, so that we experience a single movement, [accomplish a common purpose]….”[1]
The body is a holy mystery…I still can’t get over the miracle of birth, the miracle of food converted into energy, or air converted into mostly oxygen, making a sound to sing.  
Richard Rohr says, “The spiritual world is hidden and perfectly revealed in the physical world.”[3]
We know a lot more about the human body today than Paul did when he was writing 2000 years ago.  
But he knew enough to know how powerful and mysterious an image the human body would be for the church.[2] Paul uses the example of the particular parts of the human bodies to describe how collectively we are the body of Christ as a Christian community. The body of Christ--united for the singular purpose to carry out the mission of Christ.

As the body of Christ—in our baptism—Christ’s mission found in Luke 4 is our mission.  Christ’s purpose gives us purpose.  Trusting that the Spirit of the Lord is upon us, together: We are to bring good news to the poor; heal the brokenhearted; announce release to captives; help the blind to recover sight; and aid the oppressed in becoming free; and by doing so live into the year of Jubilee, for the sake of land, creatures, humanity, and God.

Isn't it beautiful to consider what Christian community has accomplished in the past? Isn't it inspiring to think of what can be done in the future?

Just as there are endless needs, the possibilities are limitless as to what can be done, and we can do them well until...division, then falling apart, then dis-integration…
It seems there has been some division in the early church community in corinth…dissenting among the members….a disturbance in the force….
What has led to the divisions?
Let’s see

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Child of God, You Are

SLIDES can be found at this link

Previously titled You are baptized, what did you expect?

Luke 3:15-22, Commerce Pres, Commerce GA. Jan 10, 2016

[Much of the ideas and outline for this sermon came from Joanna Adams sermon broadcast Jan 10, 2010 on entitled "God Believes in You". She retired Jan 10, 2010 after faithful parish ministry.]

A few years ago, dear friends, Jeff and Renee, came from out of town for a visit with their energetic and wonderfully curious four-year old twin girls. One of our stops--A children's Museum--fun with face paint, bubbles, magnets, insects... we had a blast!
While we were admiring giant Costa Rican cockroaches…Jeff asked me:
"Hey Topple (that's what my old friends would call me), Renee and I were wondering if you would baptize our kids tomorrow at church?"
He caught me off guard. “What?”
Participating in people's baptisms are some of the most sacred and treasured moments I have as a minister. What an honor and a privilege!
But, tomorrow? I...I...I need session approval? What will your connection be with the church when you go home?  What about your home congregation?
All of these things came to my mind.…
but, all I wanted to do was say: YES!
Let’s baptize them, let’s claim their inheritance as beloved children of God! I’ll do it!

The next day, Sunday, we didn’t baptize my friends’ girls....
Looking back on it, maybe we should have captured that spontaneity.  

Looking at John’s practice of baptism out in the doesn’t look like he was overly concerned with church order.
There was just a line of people coming to claim their inheritance...
You sins are forgiven! Next!
You are reconciled with God! Next!
You are made clean again. Next!

Slide: variety of baptisms
The way baptisms are done in many churches these days is a curious thing.
Some churches, upon session approval, baptize tiny tiny infants using all kinds of words and proclaimations....  
Others in the middle of worship might have altar calls, and invite anyone who responds to the call to be baptized in a large pool--even if they been baptized many times before!
And the practice of going down to the river to pray--Yes we’ll gather at the river...the beautiful the beautiful river--hopefully not too polluted river!  
River baptisms are some of my favorites, really.