[Beyond Sunday] Washed by Grace 3

Right then, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land. Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed.

Just then Jesus spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.”

And Jesus said, “Come.”

Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!”

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” When they got into the boat, the wind settled down.

Then those in the boat worshipped Jesus and said, “You must be God’s Son!”

-Matthew 14:22-32

In the midst of our storms, God always shows up.  But sometimes we have trouble recognizing the Spirit at work.  We might be too focused on our own faith and feelings; or we might be looking for a bigger miracle than God has planned.  Yet if we reach out, Christ is still there, waiting to catch hold and bring us to safety.  [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Ponder your own baptism, or what being baptized could mean for your life.  Read and reflect on these scriptures and questions.

Texts to read:

  • 1 Kings 19: 11-13
  • Romans 8:26-39

Questions to ponder:

  • What storms are raging in your life right now?
  • How have you asked God to be present?
  • Taking a hard look, where might God have already shown up?

Do and share:

  • The news is full of weather related stories right now.  Share a story about God showing up in affected communities to our twitter: @dpumc.
  • Is God calling you to be present for someone else in turmoil?  Tell us about it on our Facebook page (dpumctx)

 

[Beyond Sunday] The Good Samaritan

But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He encountered thieves, who stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death. Now it just so happened that a priest was also going down the same road. When he saw the injured man, he crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. Likewise, a Levite came by that spot, saw the injured man, and crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came to where the man was. But when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine. Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day, he took two full days’ worth of wages and gave them to the innkeeper. He said, ‘Take care of him, and when I return, I will pay you back for any additional costs.’ What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”
Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

-Luke 10:29-37

This week we heard several versions of the parable of the Good Samaritan.  In God’s kingdom, “neighbor” is not defined proximity or by affinity but by the capacity to show mercy.  [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Talk with God about how this story challenges you to grow as a disciple.  Read and reflect on these scriptures and questions.

Texts to read:

  • John 13:31-35, 14:15-21
  • 1 Kings 178-24 (Elijah stays with a Phoenician widow)

Questions to ponder:

  • Who could be your modern day Samaritan?
  • What would it mean to accept their help?
  • Our country is currently wrestling with divisions over politics, race, and faith.  How do you read this story differently than in the past?

Do and share:

  • Go out of your way this week to offer mercy to someone you don’t know.  Do it without any recognition.
  • Check out this story of two Good Samaritans from the concert bombing in Manchester, England. Share another story from the news or your own life on our Facebook or to @dpumc on Twitter.  #jesusstory

 

[Beyond Sunday] The Workers in the Vineyard

image from Agnusday.org  check it out from more great comics from the lectionary.

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

-Matthew 20:1-16

This week we talked about the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Mercy is wonderful when we need it. But when it is extended to others, we, like Peter, can be tempted to resent God’s grace.  God does not withhold liberation to protect the privilege of a few.  Instead, all are met with love and an invitation to life. [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Talk with God about where you see yourself in this story.  Read and reflect on these scriptures and questions.

Texts to read:

  • Romans 15:1-6
  • Mark 10:17-31

Questions to ponder:

  • Compared to the first disciples, any believer today is coming late to the party.  How does the parable feel from this perspective?
  • Grace is not a zero sum resource.  Was there ever a time you were frustrated by forgiveness or opportunities extended to others?

Do and share:

  • Take a picture of grace in action.  Tag @dpumc on twitter.
  • Share a story of fairness that felt unfair on our Facebook 

 

[Beyond Sunday] The UnMerciful Servant

For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents[c] was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii;[d] and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister[e] from your heart.”

-Matthew 18:23-35

This week we talked about the parable of the Unmerciful Servant. Forgiveness is such a gift when it is offered to us.  But it can be a burden when it is required from us.  Yet as heirs of God, we are called to behave as God has behaved toward us. [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Talk with God about where you see yourself in this story.  Read and reflect on these scriptures and questions.

Texts to read:

  • Matthew 18:15-20
  • Matthew 7: 1-5, 21-23

Questions to ponder:

  • When have you needed forgiveness?  What was it like to ask for it?
  • When have you felt wronged by the choices of others?  How did you respond?
  • If having all the Father has, also means behaving as the Father would, how would it shape our interactions with others?

Do and share:

  • Write a note this week to someone you need to forgive, or with whom you need to be reconciled.  Share it with God, and if you feel led, send it to that person.
  • Share a story of forgiveness on our Facebook 

 

[Beyond Sunday] The Lost Son

Then Jesus[b] said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with[c] the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[d] 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father[e] said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

-Luke 15:11-32

This week we talked about the parable of the Lost Son, sometimes called the Prodigal Son.  It is part of a set of stories Jesus tells about things that are lost.  In the end, there is no one so far gone that they are lost to God.  Whether we are more like the younger son seeking a way home, or the older son trapped in our own judgments, still the father loves us and beckons us to the party. [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Reflect on what it means to be “lost” or “found” through these scriptures and questions.

Texts to read:

  • Luke 15: 1-10

Questions to ponder:

  • What does it mean to call someone “lost”?
  • For whom, if anyone, in your life do you use that label?
  • What do you think the Church’s response to “Lost” people should be?
  • How does this church engage with “lost” ones?

Do and share:

  • Tweet us a picture that means “Homecoming” for you. @dpumc #beyondsunday
  • Share a story about getting lost, or finding something on our Facebook 

 

[Beyond Sunday] The Great Banquet

 Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many.  At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.

-Luke 14:16-23

This week we talked about the parable of The Great Banquet.  Jesus proves to be a challenging dinner guest when he calls his host (and us) to invite all to the table, even those who cannot repay the favor. [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Spend some time in scripture and reflect on how inviting you are to others.

Texts to read:

  • Matthew 22:1-14
  • Luke 14:1-14

Questions to ponder:

  • When have you felt like an outsider and longed to be welcomed?
  • When you hesitate to welcome others, what stops you?

Do and share:

  • Share a meal with others.  Take a picture and tweet @dpumc with #beyondsunday
  • If you took a mana bag last week, share the story of giving that away on our Facebook 

 

[Beyond Sunday] Lip Service vs Life Service

“What do you think? A man had two sons. Now he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’
“‘No, I don’t want to,’ he replied. But later he changed his mind and went.
“The father said the same thing to the other son, who replied, ‘Yes, sir.’ But he didn’t go.
“Which one of these two did his father’s will?”
They said, “The first one.”
Jesus said to them, “I assure you that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering God’s kingdom ahead of you. For John came to you on the righteous road, and you didn’t believe him. But tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Yet even after you saw this, you didn’t change your hearts and lives and you didn’t believe him.”

-Matthew 21:28-32

This week we talked about the parable of the Two Brothers.  Neither brother is completely in the right.  Through the story, Jesus challenges the disciples and authorities of his day to be both proclaimers and doers of the will of God. [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Set aside some time to reflect on the will of God and how it is reflected in your own life.

Texts to read:

  • Philippians 4:4-9
  • Amos 5:23-24
  • Jeremiah 7:3-7

Questions to ponder:

  • When was a time that you made a commitment and then struggled to follow through?
  • When you look at the scriptures above, what about the will of God is exciting?  What is intimidating?
  • How wide is the gap in your life between lip service and life service?

Do and share:

  • Find another scripture about the will of God and tweet us @dpumc with #beyondsunday
  • Share a story of a time you went out of your way to do the will of God on our Facebook with the #jesusstory

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[Beyond Sunday] Finding Focus

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls;  on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

-Matthew 13:44-46

This week we talked about the parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price. These are stories of discoveries that disrupt normal daily life and priorities; they
require risk and sacrifice. [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Set aside some time to reflect and discern where your top priorities lie.

Texts to read:

  • Matthew 6: 19-21

Questions to ponder:

  • What takes up most of your waking time during the week?
  • What do you think about first thing in the morning?  Last in the evening?
  • How would your life change if you made God a higher priority?

Do and share:

  • Go through your weekly calendar.  If you have free time, reflect on how are you spending it.  Make a plan to offer 1 extra hour to God.
  • Go through your weekly budget.  If you have discretionary money, reflect on how are you spending it. Make a plan to offer an extra $7 dollars to God.
  • Take a picture during your devotion time and share it to our Facebook with the #jesusstory

 

[Beyond Sunday] How is it with your soil?

This week we talked about the parable of the Sower and the Soils.  Each of us goes through times when our faith is shallow; or when the distractions of life seem to squeeze God out; or when we’ve just been trod over so often we don’t want to let anyone in, not even God. But God never gives up on us.  God keeps casting out grace and inviting us to become good soil.

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Set aside some time to reflect and invite God to work in your soul.

Texts to read:

  • Luke 8:5-15

Questions to ponder:

  • What kind of soil are you this week?
  • If your roots feel shallow, how can you sink deeper into God’s word?
  • If things are rocky, what distractions do you need to hand over to God?
  • If you feel trod over, what friends can refresh you and soften your heart?
  • If you are good, what fruit is God trying to bring forth through you?

Do and share:

  • Find soil that reflects your soul this week.  Hold it in your hands and ask God to be at work in you.
  • Take a picture that represents where you are on your spiritual journey right now.  Share it to our Facebook with the #jesusstory

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Just Be Yourself: Part 3

This past Sunday I preached at Chapelwood (2nd time in a month, crazy).  Over the last several days I’ve posted parts of that sermon.  (So as not to be cruel to the readers attention span…trust me its more entertaining when I’m making facial expressions).  So far we’ve talked about not getting so wrapped up in yourself (even your own faith) that you miss the doing part of faith.  There is actually a great freedom in being yourself, and when Christians move out of the mirror and into the world, amazing things happen.

James says,” Forget the mirror stuff. It’s not real. It’s make up and hair gel. Look Underneath. Try to see yourself as God sees.”

You’ll find, before anything we make or build or craft, our lives are a gift. Born in flesh and word, you are good and perfect and loved.  You are first fruits, a holy offering. Strip everything else away and what you see is that you are Imago Dei, the Image of God.

You always have been. And that is all you ever have to be.

That is true freedom, Freedom to step away from the mirror and into the better part of life. You don’t have to focus on yourself, because you know God has that covered. You can listen more than you speak, because you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone. You can be humble and slow to anger because nothing Someone else says or does can ever threaten who You are. Don’t get stuck in the mirror, just be yourself. And when the people of God do that…

When Christians live as the people God created them to be, the world is changed.

When we are as God created us to be, children are cared for.

When we are as God created us, widows and the elderly are looked after.

When we are as we’re created the hungry are fed and the thirsty drink.

The sick are healed and the imprisoned comforted.

When we are as we’re created the homeless find shelter

the blind find sight

the dead find life

When we are as we’re created the powerful are brought down to listen and the powerless raised up to speak.

When Christians are as we’re created, the world is changed

And our calling is nothing less than to be the kingdom God created us to be.

Study, devotion, Self reflection are all important but they should play out in our lives. If faith makes us constantly fixate on ourselves, we risk missing the best part of Life.
We risk building a faith that is only a mirror image, too insubstantial to survive the real world. We risk teaching a faith that looks great on Sunday morning but is forgotten the moment we step away.

Don’t be only hearers, but also doers of the word–Don’t get stuck in the mirror, just be the Image of God you were created to be.

See the funny thing about the Image of God is, it works best when you don’t stare directly at it.  N.T. Wright, an Anglian theologian, uses a beautiful image in some of his lectures.  He says the Image of God is not such that you can stare directly at yourself in a mirror and find it. Rather it is as if the mirror is tilted so that our reflection is lifted up to God And God is reflected out into the world.

Don’t worry about who you’re going to be, or how others see you.  Just be who God created you to be because there are a lot of people out there who need to see God.
This is the full life of discipleship. Be doers of the Word. Check in with the mirror, but then more on to the other 6 days of faith. Carry it out to the world, because when the people of God live as they are created to be–day by day, moment by moment– that is how the world is changed for the glory of God.

Just be yourself… and dare to watch God do the rest.

Amen.