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Minding the Outlet Store Monday and Wednesdays at ComputerCorps in Carson City, Nevada


Preaching at the 11 AM services Sunday, December 9th at Valley Presbyterian Church in Bishop, California


 

 

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Sunday
Aug252013

Good Sabbath

Luke 13:10-17 Christ Presbyterian, Garnerville

Listen to “Good Sabbath”

Right click to download a recording


“Good Sabbath” is a greeting among the Jews. If you could design a perfect sabbath day what would it be? Brunch? Going to church? Sunday comics? A good nap? Football? Being with family? Sleeping in until noon?

 

We struggle with what a Good Sabbath is. Sunday is now the second most popular shopping day of the week. I used to go out with a group of church folks to dinner every Sunday after worship and considered all the people working to keep the restaurant open, including our members. What is a good Sabbath, taking off work to go to church and then having servants work to bring lunch?

Struggling over what a Good Sabbath means is as old as creation. Exodus 20:11 roots the Sabbath in creation, in recording the 10 commandments,

For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Before the revolutionary war in this county, by law Sabbath would include church attendance. Activities from car sales to sales of alcohol to shuffleboard have been excluded from the Sabbath day’s activities in the effort for a Good Sabbath. In 1961 the Supreme Court described a Good Sabbath when it upheld mandatory closing laws:

“However, the State’s purpose is not merely to provide a one-day-in- seven work stoppage. In addition to this, the State seeks to set one day apart, (apart) from all others as a day of rest, repose, recreation and tranquility - a day (on) which all members of the family and (all the) community have the opportunity to spend and enjoy together, a day on which there exists relative quiet and (a) disassociation from the everyday intensity of commercial activities, a day on which people may visit friends and visit relatives, who are not available during normal working days.”

- U.S. Supreme Court McGOWAN v. MARYLAND, 366 U.S. 420 (1961)

Creation as rest is where our friendly, neighborhood Pharisee gets his idea of what a Good Sabbath is. Note it isn’t just about one day of rest but also specifies six days for work. We’re closed today, come back tomorrow. The Pharisee is reminding people of this traditional and Biblical definition. He makes a good point. While it is allowed to save someone’s life or care for an urgent medical need, in this case, there is no reason to break the Sabbath, she can wait until tomorrow if she has survived these many years.


 

Pharisee = Presbyterian


Now I have a public service announcement. When you are studying scripture that includes a Pharisee, read it at least once with yourself as the Pharisee. This will be helpful because the good Pharisees back then weren’t too far from the place in society and religion that good Presbyterians hold today. They were the community leaders, the respectable people, the folks you wanted to be a reference for you. They were sincerely religious and upset about how secular culture had become. And finally, if you needed any more evidence of how they are our spiritual companions, they liked their religion done decently and in order.

 

If you can’t quite put yourself in the story as a Pharisee, then at least, don’t dismiss them as foolish folk. Consider them instead as good, sincere, intelligent, and devout religious folk of their time. You would like them as neighbors and friends. Our friend here is faithfully quoting the practical and traditional view of Sabbath, that had been followed with good effect for centuries, that needs no redefining: if something can wait until after the Sabbath, then it must wait. And the unasked healing of a decades long, non-life threatening condition, could certainly wait another day.

In deference to our spiritual forebearer, lets wait a bit before considering Jesus’ response to the Pharisee.


 

Free to Rest


What is a good sabbath for a slave? A slave never rests. Only free men and women get to take a day off. In fact in Deuteronomy 5’s listing of the 10 commandments the freedom to rest is cited as the reason behind a good Sabbath. After almost the same wording about resting on the Sabbath as Exodus 20, Deuteronomy has a different final verse as the reason for the command to rest, rooted not in creation but in salvation, freedom, liberation:

Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

- Deuteronomy 5:15

Jesus points us that it is allowable even expected to untie an animal on the Sabbath to lead it to food, water, and shelter. Now strictly speaking, untying is work and not allowed, but an exception is made so an animal doesn’t have to suffer. Jesus argues from the lesser to the greater, can’t we treat this daughter of Abraham, this child of God, as well as we do an animal? Releasing her from Satan’s bonds must be allowed, even celebrated on the Sabbath, when we remember that God released us from the bondage of our oppressors.

The Sabbath is not just rest but freedom for all people even for animals! Both Deuteronomy and Exodus state that no work is done by human or beast, by slave or free, by Jew or foreigner. The sabbath is a celebration of freedom not the banning of activity, but the declaration that, at least for today, no one works as a slave to another.

We Don’t Have to Rest, We Get To


We dig under the rule and find the reason, not just we need to rest because God did, but that we can rest because of what God did. God has provided a good creation for us, God has led us into freedom. My favorite Psalm verse: “It is vain to rise up and early and go late to bed, eating the bread of anxious toil, for the Lord provides for his beloved while they sleep.” (Psalm 127:2) combines the idea of freedom from work and rest in the provision of God.

 

We easily slip into the idea that faith is following rules, forgetting where the rules are rooted. When one of my children would ask me in a whining tone if they HAVE TO do something, like go on a family trip, or to church service, or sports or music practice, or anything requiring effort; I tell them: no you don’t HAVE TO, you GET TO. You have a family to love and spend time with, we have the time, money and interest to take a trip, you have freedom of religion and a God who welcomes you in worship, you have opportunity to learn in school, or play a sport or learn music, you GET TO, not HAVE to. You GET TO have a sabbath because you are free from toil, from oppression, from having to work constantly. You GET TO rest. It isn’t about the burden of following rules, but the reality of God’s grace that frees us from slavery. If the sabbath is a job, you’re doing it wrong, in fact backwards. Sabbath isn’t an exchange of chains.

Approach life and faith as Jesus shows us here, following the will of God to make people free, to lift them out of bondage of working like a slave for others, even if that other is religious rules and rites that bind instead of free people. May we all be freed from our own and others bondage of body and spirit. Enjoy the creation that our Good God made and blessed as good.

Tuesday
Feb122013

All Ends But Love

1 Corinthians 13 by wordle.net Love is a mystery wrapped in an enigma tied with a riddle.

Here is the audio portion of the message Only Love Does Not End recorded on Sunday, Feburary 3, 2013 about what to do after everything ends.

 A different take on the wedding scripture about love, 1 Corinthians 13.

 

Sunday
Jun172012

Easy on the Eyes

This recorded sermon is from 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 given at Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church in Akron, Ohio, on June 17, 2012. See as God sees, not as mortals see.

The following is a transcript of the live no-notes presentation flawlessly prepared by eDigitalTranscription.com. All errors are mine own. The recording is downloadable here.

“She’s a looker.” “He’s easy on the eyes.” You ever heard these expressions? These expressions are right here in our scriptures today. One of the expressions, when David comes, one of the ways to translate that is that David was easy on the eyes. Do you judge by outward appearances? By look? You can’t help but do it. You can’t help but look. It’s almost genetic that we look at someone, and we size them up by how they look, their appearance, whether they’re comely or good-looking or tall or thin or all that. Sometimes we don’t even realize it.

When I came back to Akron, I needed a doctor. Turns out that my doctor was no longer there after 30-some years away. And so I thought, I know what I’ll do. I’ll ask a nurse. Nurses know. They know who are good doctors. So I went and asked nurses. And I said, “Hey, who is the best doctor?” And they looked at one another, and they said, “Well, Dr. [Shanafelt] or Dr. [Fantelli]. Yes, yes, definitely Dr. Shanafelt or Dr. Fantelli. It’s hard to tell. One of those two.” And the other one’s, “Yeah, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, those two. Those two, definitely those two.” So I said, “Oh, that’s great. That’s great. Where are they?” “Well, they’re both out in Tallmadge.” Okay, great.

So I went out, signed up. Shanafelt was out. I had Fantelli. I said, well, they said either one was good. Fine, got along great, start going to the doctor. And months later, your intrepid pastor says to the nurses, “Hey, thanks for that recommendation for Dr. Fantelli. I’ve gone out there and really like him.” And the nurse says, “Yeah. He’s dreamy.” They didn’t know I was asking about a doctor to go to for doctoring. They thought I was asking who was the “best” doctor. He is quite a handsome man. And at the time he was single. He’s getting married soon. The difference between looking and seeing. I was looking for a doctor. They were looking at the outward appearance.

The Lord doesn’t see as mortals see. Did you see the changes? That’s actually a change in verbs in the Hebrew about between looking and seeing, looking on the outward appearance and then seeing what’s really there. You ever wonder that, boy, that was a long reading. Why didn’t God just tell Samuel, “Hey, Samuel, got a job for you. Go on down to Bethlehem, check out Jesse, he’s got a son David, probably out with the sheep. Anoint him king. We’re good to go.” You know, like 10 verses gone. Why didn’t he just do that?

Instead, there’s good old Sam, you know, sitting by the fire. Who knew he had eight sons? Geez, seven’s perfect. And so one after another they come by. One after another, Sam is looking and saying, “What am I doing here? Lord, nope, no. What is this guessing game? Just tell me which one it is.” The Lord never tells him to go get David. He has to see it for himself. Finally, in this little drama, in this pageant, if you will, of men walking by, I can imagine – what do you think? Was there a swimsuit competition, you think? I don’t know back then. What would they do? He now he goes, “And what would you do, your fondest wish for the world?” And then he goes, “Oh, no, not that one.”

But after all the pageant was done, and after the judges had put in their – imagine, if you will, the pageant is done. Everyone’s gone. And then the judges come back and say, none of these. No one. You got anybody in the back? Samuel finally sees beyond what he looks at. He’s looking at seven sons, a perfect number, well suited to be kings. And God says, you know, looking’s not enough. You’ve got to see more than what you can look at. And it occurs to him, maybe there’s something here I’m not seeing. More than what I can look at. And he turns to Jesse and says, “Am I seeing everything? Is there another son? I don’t know.” “Oh, yeah, I’ve got another son. He’s out there getting the sheep.” “Bring him here.” And God says, “You got it. You got it.”

Remember that grief, that sadness you were with Saul? You know, imagine Samuel’s got to be so sad. I mean, he was rejected as a judge. You know, they didn’t want him anymore. He was old. They actually came out and said, “You’re old. You’re old. We don’t want you no more.” How many here like to hear that? Okay, I’m saying no, none. And then they said, here on Father’s Day, last week they said, “Your sons are no good.” And it really hurt because they weren’t any good. “Yo, your sons are no good. We want a king.” Sammy did everything he could. Even argued, drug his feet against God to not get him a king. They made him get a king. He got a king.

And just as he said, king screwed up. Big screw up. Horrible screw up. Didn’t do what God says. He’s constantly after Saul, yelling at him all the time. And Saul, Saul doesn’t even care. Saul less than cares. So imagine, if you will, he comes in, he goes da da da da da, and Saul basically says, “What’s the big deal? What’s the big deal?” When you’re a prophet, you like to be a big deal. And Saul’s saying, “God, get away from me. You bother me. I’m doing okay.” Saul. You think Saul was such a bad king, even God was sorry he made him king. That’s pretty bad.

Imagine how sad Samuel was at the way his life had turned out. He’s too old. He’s thrown out. Didn’t even get a decent retirement party, no severance, nothing like that. His sons are a disappointment or a scandal, and everybody knows it. The king, the one maybe thing that he had going for him, that he got the king going, he didn’t want to do. He thought it was a bad idea, and it turned out to be a bad idea. Did anybody come back and say, “Hey, Samuel, you were right, that was a really bad idea to do a King Saul. You were right. I should have listened to you?” No, nothing. They were too busy out partying.

He must have thought he was a failure. And not only that, he must have thought God’s plan was running toward ruin. And for that God comes to him and says, “Quit your bellyaching, quit your sadness, get out of the dumps, get out of bed, take a trip, go to Bethlehem. I’ve got things for you to do.” “What are we going to do? Just tell me.” “No, you’ve got to go do it. Go. You have to go find out. I’m doing more than you’re looking at. You have to see that there’s more than what is just the appearance.”

You have to see that, just because you look out and you see nothing that God has chosen, that somewhere out in the hills, tending sheep, is a shepherd boy that will be king, that will be the father of the savior, Jesus Christ. It’s here that the lineage shifts, where the kingdoms come in, where you pick up the line of David that eventually will get us to Jesus Christ of the House of David from Bethlehem. God was doing a great thing. Samuel couldn’t see it because he wasn’t looking in the right place.

Our scripture from Mark today talks about the kingdom of God like that. And when we think about kingdom, unfortunately we think about border guards and about places on the map and about drawing the boundaries. And we talk and we think more about political and economic subdivisions, and we talk more about the reign of God. Maybe a better translation of the kingdom of God is the reign of God. Remember the Lord’s Prayer. It says “Thy kingdom come,” and then right after, “Thy will be done.” Remember, Hebrew likes to be paralleled, say the same thing twice, different ways. Where’s God’s kingdom? Where is it? Can we go there? Can we take a vacation? Can we get a trip ticket to that? The kingdom of God is where God’s will is done.

So if you’re looking around, and you’re like Samuel, and you want to stay in bed? And you give up because no one’s listening to you, everything’s gone to pot, things have gone from bad to worse because they didn’t listen to you? If you’re in that and say, now, can nothing good be going on in the world, everything is horrible, shut it all down, start it over, you’re not seeing as God sees. You’re not looking in the right place. And if you think about David, too, he got anointed king. Would you want to be anointed king? Who wants to be anointed king? I can always ask questions with negative answers because no one raises their hand in congregation, so that’s good. No one wants to be king. You do not want to be king because Saul’s going to kill you.

And sure enough, there were a lot of problems before David gets to be king. He gets to be working too hard as an armor-bearer and as a musician. He’s employed below king. He doesn’t start out as king. He’s got to go fight Goliath. That’s not a good time. He is running away from Saul, who strikes out after him when he gets angry and jealous. He has to leave his friend Jonathan. He has to fight with those that he had formerly served with. He’s in exile. He’s running. He’s a refugee. He lives as an outcast. This is king?

So in the great scheme of things, what does our scripture tell us today? It tells us on one hand, yeah, David’s king. And you can say, you can assert it all down and say, hey, that King David, he was legit. He was the one chosen by God, as opposed to Saul that was chosen by the people and ratified by God. But God chose a King David. You can say that. But I think the more at least as important thing is how God brought Samuel along to that, and how God brings us along to tell us that what you’re looking at is not what I see. What is making you depressed and keeping you in bed and grieving over things that used to be, and how things have gone wrong, while true, while correct, while reality, is not the whole story. It’s not even the most important part. It’s not even the part that’s going to last. The part of the story is that what you can see as I see.

Remember that prayer from “Bruce Almighty,” that wonderful prayer after the Miss America prayer, where the actor, Jim Carrey, tells Morgan Freeman as God of his love of his life that he’s been trying through the whole movie to get. He goes, “Do you want her back?” And he says, “No, I want her to be happy. I want her to be loved as she’s deserved to be loved by me. I want someone to always see her as I see her now through your eyes.”

William Willimon tells a story on himself. Often his stories are about how he screwed up as pastor and what he learned from it. One time he went to visit a dying member, a saint in the church, and talked to him about the afterlife, about what is to come, and about his faith. And the man said, “I have no fear. I know I am going on to God’s love.” And Willimon said something that’s right out of the pastor book: “Yes, we all have a sure and certain hope in the kingdom of God and the future afterlife,” or something like that.

And the man said gently, “It’s not because of my hope that I have no fear.” “What do you mean? The promise of eternal life is not your hope?” “No, no. Oh, it’s nice. But my faith is based on my life that I’ve lived throughout. You see, no matter what has happened, no matter what screw-ups have gone on, no matter how far away I’ve run from God, no matter what has gone wrong in my life and in the culture and the church and in my house and all that, God has come and got me. God has found a way to me. God has redeemed me. God has reached out. I see, as I look back, I can see God’s working his purpose out. And I know that such a God, that works so hard to get through so much to get to me in my life here, will not let a thing like death stop him from loving me eternally.”

Strive to see how God sees. When things look hopeless, when there doesn’t seem to be anything, figure out the question and ask, “Are all your sons here? Are there any others?” Find out what hidden purpose God is working at, and know that God is working his purpose out, and look and see the works of God’s kingdom.

William Gibson says, “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” Same with God’s kingdom. There’s little pieces of it here and there and over here and over there. And if you just take a glance, you’ll miss it. You’ve got to see how God can see. Be that prayer. See people always. See the world always as God sees.

Amen.

Easy on the Eyes mp3

Tuesday
Jun122012

God and King

How To Escape Slavery

In this recorded sermon, from 1 Samuel 8:4-20, 11:14-15 I talk about how putting anyone or anything but God on the throne as your king leads to slavery.

God and King mp3