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Purifing the waters (Sermon September 20, 2015)

James 3:13–4:8 (NRSV) mountain stream

Two Kinds of Wisdom

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Friendship with the World

4 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,

“God opposes the proud,

but gives grace to the humble.”

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

 

The problem with biblical interpretation and understanding what scripture is saying is that often we do not understand the historical perspective. I say this because these words were written nearly 2000 years ago, and a few things have changed since then. To be a student of scripture we also need to be a student of history. This is even more important when we read the letters that the various apostle have written, because often the letters are referring to historical issues. If we do not read the scriptures though a historical context we can find ourselves misunderstanding what is written.

This historical context if often what causes the controversy surrounding the letter James wrote to the church. As we have contemplated the writings of James over the past few weeks I have highlighted some of the points that often are seen as being contradictory to writings of Paul, because of this James’ letter is not very popular among most in the western church, especially among the protestant variety. I also pointed out that James unlike Paul was primarily writing his letter to people of a more eastern mindset than that of Paul. The eastern cultures placed a higher value on the community over the individual, this community focus is seen in the writings of Paul but he was primarily writing to people who approached spirituality from an individualistic philosophy. The historical context is important because the church emerged from an oriental culture. Oriental because the Hebrew culture from which the first century Jewish community emerged from was remnant that returned to Israel from exile in Persia, and the Persian Empire was an empire that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to India.

The next historical issue we must consider is that Israel or Palestine as the Romans referred to the area, was an area that was disputed, It was at the cross roads of empires, Though Persia was pushed back by the Greeks centuries prior, as the Greek influence waned after the death of Alexander the Great, the Persian influence pushed back to the west. The Magi that we celebrate around Christmas were most likely priest from the Zoroastrian religion which was the dominate faith of Persia. Since Israel was a disputed borderland between the empires war was constantly on their minds. War within and war from without. The Gospels constantly point this out if we look at the historical context. The very fact that Magi from the east came to celebrate the birth of a king, which caused Herod to send troops to Bethlehem to slaughter the innocents shows us this, sure it was that he wanted to protect his kingdom, but his kingdom was under the lordship of Rome and if there was a king under the lordship of Persia living within the borders of Israel it would cause Rome to take a more aggressive stance.

A third historical perspective we must consider is the Jewish nationalism. They desired to be independent from their overlords, they wanted to live again under the theocracy of the priestly kingship of David. This was the source of much of their religious fervor, this nationalistic ideology dominated their spirituality to the point that it overshadowed the true message of the covenant religion that was established by Moses. Their politics controlled their theology, and their theology was based on their politics, leaving little room for the ideas that Jesus presented, and even less for what the apostles continued to preach after the ascension of Christ. This nationalistic theology of the first century Jewish people was not something that the empires of the world enjoyed, it was a threat to the power of the Emperors to the east and the west. And since Rome held control of the land it was a direct threat to them.

When James speaks of wisdom, he is speaking of religious zealotry. He is challenging the political based theology of the religious leaders that were popular around Jerusalem. He challenged them just as Jesus challenged them. As Jesus taught on the hillsides of Judea he would call out the teachings of the Pharisees, saying that they load the people down with laws that they do not hold themselves accountable to. These laws that they were trying to enforce would be laws that most religious leaders would support, because they were dedicated to making the nation a more righteous place. The problem with this sort of legislation is that if the law is not written on the hearts of the people it is an empty law one that does not produce spiritual health but only an illusion of piety.

James challenges these leaders, these leaders were inside and outside of the church. They had this idea that they were going to legislate a righteous nation, but the problem with this is that the people were not righteous. There were conflicting ideas of what was right and what was not causing great instability among the people which lead to the Jewish revolts that eventually lead to the total destruction of Jerusalem. With the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple of God being leveled just as Jesus predicted, all the work of the religious leaders that were working so hard to make a righteous nation was abruptly stopped. Who is wise?

James did not see the day that Jerusalem fell because the religious leaders that he challenged plotted for his destruction as they did Jesus’. This historical fact just highlights the very things that James taught. The religious leaders were not focused on the heart of their faith but were focused on something else entirely. They were focused on wealth, power, and influence over others. James wrote this letter before is demise saying to them, “who is wise among you?”

The wisdom of which James challenges us to seek is the wisdom of God. To be more specific it is the Spirit of God, or Holy Wisdom. The wise that James challenges us to bring forth are those people that live directed by the Spirit of God in all that they do. And James says that those that live by this wisdom will be revealed to us by their actions, just as the wisdom of the world is revealed.

James says, “If you have bitter envy or selfish ambition in your hearts…this is not wisdom from above but is earthly, unspiritual, and devilish.” I want us to stop right there for a bit, and remember who he is challenging. This bitter envy that he speaks if much deeper than we think. We can quickly move over this word and not really understand fully what he is talking about. The word that he uses is zeal. This is most often in reference to religious zeal, and this is why James makes so many well-meaning religious leaders mad. Bitter zeal…Selfish ambition…he is speaking about the intent of our religious activity, or more accurately the focus. Bitter zeal is imposing legalities upon others to manipulate control, and selfish ambition is to engage in religious activities for selfish gain. What can God do for me! This type of wisdom is not directed from God because the focus is on ourselves and our desires for control over others. God does not work that way.

James says, “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” Jesus taught that He is the living water, and those that drink of from him will never thirst again. This is the same idea that James is teaching wisdom from above is first pure like a spring of water bubbling up from the depths of the earth. Fresh, pure, cool and refreshing living water. This concept of living water is one that speaks of grace and blessing. Living water or flowing water a good sign of pure water in ancient times. As long as the water is moving the impurities are washed away. This is why John the Baptist, baptized in the Jordan, because the living water, the flowing water was carrying away your sins washing you and carrying your sins downstream. When the water stops flowing and becomes stagnant problems arise. Moss begins to grow and a stench is released into the air, when we damn the grace of God the same happens to our lives. The water is no longer sweet but bitter, no longer refreshing but putrid.

When we live our lives based on the wisdom of the world instead of seeking the wisdom of God, we damn up the flow of grace. We become bitter and our religious zeal leave those we meet seeking for something else. When we allow the wisdom of the Spirit of God to flow through us something else happens. Our attention is turned away from ourselves and it begins to flow downstream. And as the grace again flows it saturates into the dryness around us filling it with the living water of Christ, and when that is saturated fully it continues to flow.

The letter James wrote so long ago can teach us so much today. We live in a time where there is so much bitterness and selfish ambition all around that it is hard to discern what is right. We look out at the world around us and we have a perception that all is lost, but it is not. People are thirsting for the grace that Jesus has to offer, they yearn for it. But the waters are often tainted so they turn away. James urges us to go back to the very core of the gospel, the kingdom of God is here. It is all around us, just ready to spring forth. But are we letting it flow? This is why Jesus came to live among mankind. To provide the way for redemption and reconciliation, and to show us how to keep the grace flowing. Jesus showed us how to live a life directed by holy wisdom by making it his custom to worship, withdrawing often to pray in the isolated places, and then ministering to the needs of those around him in the community. Worship, prayer and ministry is the prescription to heal the brokenness in our world. Loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit and living the Love of Christ with other is the only way to allow the grace to flow again and to remove the bitterness so many see in religion. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

As we draw near to God in this time of open worship, let us consider with the assistance of God where our focus truly is. Are we a people that believe that the grace of God can overcome the world or are we being led by bitter zeal? Let us all cleanse our hands and purify our hearts so that the grace of God will flow from us and saturate the world around us.

Finish! (Sermon June 28, 2015)

2 Corinthians 8:7–15 (NRSV)leap-joy-medium

Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10 And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— 11 now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12 For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. 13 I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between 14 your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15 As it is written,

“The one who had much did not have too much,

and the one who had little did not have too little.”

Although I am sure everyone’s minds have pulled various directions this week due to the topics on the news, I would like us center down for a moment and focus on faith, truth, and the holy rhythm of life that Jesus taught us. I challenge each of us, including myself to center on this because if the holy lifestyle of Christ is not at the center of our lives every moment of every day we will look at current events, and every other aspect of life there skewed lenses of personal perception.

Paul wrote these words to a community that was saturated with icons of entertainment and luxury. A culture that was devoted to commerce, athletics, sensual pleasures, and religious devotion. I want us all to remember the last statement I mentioned the most. Corinth was a devout city. Their entire culture revolved around their religious devotion. It permiated every aspect of their lives and livelihoods. Their athletic games were religious celebrations, their commerce was a blessing of their deity, and they gained great pleasure at their places of worship. They in many ways were not unlike us. The main difference was the deity they honored.

They lived and breathed their faith, it was something that affected every aspect of their lives. And Paul visited them and shared the Gospel of Christ. When he spoke to them, he spoke to them in terms that they would understand. He likened the holy lifestyle of Christ to the training an athlete would engage in while preparing for the games, a life of discipline and devotion. Not one that is easy but requires sacrifice and work. He then went deeper letting them know that this holy lifestyle we know as being a disciple of Christ focuses on loving God, embracing the Spirit’s leading and gifts, and living the love of Christ with others. He begins to speak with a language that they understand and then he goes deeper and deeper until the rhythm of God has so saturated their being that it begins to flow out of them to others.

Our mission in this Meeting is similar to that of Jesus and Paul, of all the apostles and the Church throughout the world. Our mission is to completely saturate individuals in the love and devotion to Christ to the point that that love will ooze out of us and flow to others within our community. This is why we considered our mission statement with careful consideration and discernment. Our mission statement, the statement we declare each week is, that we are a people loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others. It was not something that came out of worldly leadership manuals, but it emerged among us as a group through prayer, careful consideration, and discernment. And that mission is constantly being supported though scripture.

I declare to you that our mission has not changed, and it will not change. I will continue to encourage everyone I meet to love God, embrace the Holy Spirit, and to live the love of Christ with other where ever I am and with whomever I am with. It is a mission centered on building the relational kingdom community that Jesus began centuries ago and pass on to those that follow him, first in Jerusalem, then to Judea, and to the ends of the Earth.

I say that this is our mission statement, but it really is not ours alone. It is the vision of Christ, it was the mission of Christ, with the foundations that go down to the very beginning of time. It has always been God’s mission to bring mankind back into relationship with him, to restore and redeem the world that was once launched into chaos by our first parents, when they sought to be gods instead of living life with God.

I say all of this because Corinth was a devoted city. Paul introduced the gospel of Christ to them and many embraced the Holy lifestyle that Paul showed them through his life and ministry. Yet they veered off course. They allowed the things to distract them. They once lived with a holy rhythm but they allowed that rhythm to get out of sync, and the beatings of their hearts stopped mimicking that of Christ and began instead to reflect something else entirely. Their heart beat with rhythms of commerce, games, and pleasure once more yet they still held to religious devotion.

Paul tells them, “[You] excel in everything – in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you – so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.” These people were amazing people. Ancient myths speak about great kings that could turn everything they touch into gold, well these people could do this. They excelled in everything. If they had a goal set before them they could make it happen. That is what built their city, and their culture, if they decided to do something they did not just do it, they did it in such a way that it was great! Paul tells them this because he knows and they know that it is true. But with that statement he challenges them too.” [We] want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.” The undertaking he is challenging them with is to devote all of that excellence into supporting the continued ministry of Christ.

In many ways Corinth pulled away from the larger church, they pulled away from engaging the culture in which they lived, and their message began to suffer because of it. They pulled away from the church because they had issues that they needed to deal with at home. In the first letter Paul sent to them he called them out on many areas of their individual and communal lives that had strayed from the rhythm of Christ. Because of this they tightened their belts and used their excellence to become a more devote church. They focused on making themselves better, exceling in speech, in knowledge and eagerness live correctly. Paul and the Church as a whole loved them for their devotion, but through this excellence they neglected a very important aspect of devotion to Christ, they neglected living the love of Christ with others. We might see that as being a minor thing. They had excellent worship services, they had excellent theology, excellent dedication to right living we might say they turned themselves into the model church after being the example of what not to do. But in all that excellence they dammed up the flow of grace to the world.

When we neglect living the love of Christ with others we cause the grace of God to become stagnat and the church fails. We fail because the church is not about perfect worship, it is not about perfect theology it is about His will being done on Earth as it is in Heaven. His will is to redeem and restore all of creation back to harmony with each other and with God once again, uniting Heaven and Earth through the hearts of mankind. Paul is saying to them join with us in this generous undertaking. Join with us as we allow the grace to flow to the people God loves and gave his Son to redeem.

As I reflect on this passage my mind wonders to the Gospel of John and the third time Jesus, well the third time John records Jesus meeting with the disciples. Peter and the other fishermen decided that they were done with waiting around in the upper room and return to their fishing boats. They labored all night with no return and in the morning Jesus calls out to them from the shore and tells them to throw the net over the right side.  They were each struck with a case of Déjà vu, and they come to the shore to eat with him. After the meal Jesus talks with Peter, asking if he loves him and peter answers three times that he does. With each answer Jesus encourages Peter to feed his lambs, tend His sheep, and to feed His sheep. This story is the very passage that God used to call me into the ministry I have pursued for the past thirteen years. And it is the passage that often Jesus brings me back to when He again reassures me that I need to continue down this path. But as I reflect this week I am drawn to the encouragement that Jesus gives to Peter, feed the lambs, tend the sheep, and feed the sheep. This is a call to get involved personally, and generously with the people. Feed, tend, and feed some more. This is a calling to live the love of Christ with others.

Paul, like Jesus to Peter, is challenging the people of Corinth with the question “Do you Love me?” He is not commanding that they participate in the outreach ministry of Apostles, but he is challenging them to consider their faith, devotion, and love for Christ. If you were to read the verses prior to this section you would find that Paul mentions the ministry of the churches in Macidonia and the way they had greatly advanced the kingdom even though they were impoverished, and Paul then asks the people of Corinth if their faith and love for Christ compares to theirs. They had and still have nothing yet they gave it all. Is your love any less?

“Do you love me?”  Jesus asks his disciple. “Do you love Him?”  Paul asks the people of Corinth. Do we love him, do we trust and believe to such a degree that we would be willing to not only love God and embrace the Holy Spirit, but to live the love of Christ with others? Do we not only love but do we trust Him? Do we entrust into his care our very lives and livelihoods? Will we be willing to give all that we have to excel in this generous undertaking?

All have sinned, all have been distracted from God, and all including each of us have allowed things both righteous and unrighteous to disrupt the holy rhythm of our lives with God. Yet while we were still and in some cases are still sinners Christ died for us. He left his lofty thrones in heaven to dwell among mankind on earth. He lived among us showing us what life with God looks like, and he did it while living in poverty. He grew up living and working with a handy man, he entered ministry after an entire career in that line of work, and he did it to show us how to live. And then he took on our sin, our guilt, and our shame hanging them on a cross and then burying them within a tomb. The wages of sin are death, but Christ came so that they may have life and have it abundantly. We are dead in sin but in Christ we are alive, made new, and have the hope of heaven even when we are on earth. Paul asks us, “do we love him, is our love for him any less than theirs?” Paul then encourages them to finish what they started. Finish strong like an athlete that has been well trained and disciplined for the race. Finish it. Do not let the world distract us from our vision and our mission. Let our vision be centered on Christ, and let our mission continue driving us to be a people loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others. Let us finish what we started…what He started in us, let us join and finish with excellence the generous undertaking set before us, sacrificing everything so that the world might see life in Christ.

The Advocate (Sermon May 24, 2015)

John 15:26–27 (NRSV)

Cappella Palatina di Palermo Palermo, Italy

Cappella Palatina di Palermo
Palermo, Italy

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

John 16:4–15 (NRSV)

But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.

The Work of the Spirit

“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

For the past hundred years there has been a great deal of focus on the Spirit of God. At times there has been so much focus on the Spirit that we often lose sight of who the Spirit of God truly is. The Spirit is very important but if we do not keep the Spirit in context we can find ourselves chasing after something that has already left us far behind. Who is the Spirit of God and what is her purpose? I as this because there are probably as many definitions as there are denominations, and one of the very first schisms in the church largely dealt with the Spirit.

This week the purpose of the Spirit became clearer to me than it has ever before, mainly because of the term Advocate. Most of us have been taught that the term advocate was a legal term and for the most part it is, but probably not exactly how we would imagine. When we begin to imagine legal terms and positions most of us quickly visualize the courtroom scenes of a judge sitting in a high seat facing attorneys for the prosecution and the defense. When we look at this scene we often imagine ourselves sitting on the side of the defense with the accuser or Satan sitting on the prosecution side. So when we read terms like advocate we often begin to think that the advocate is sitting next to us defending our case before the judge. That is often the image that I saw, but that began to change this week. This week I was called as a witness to court, which happens often in my line of work, but something happened while there that has never happened before. I had an advocate appointed to me. The role of the advocate was to assist me with any question that I might have in preparation for the trial. He introduced me to the attorney, and assisted the attorney in helping me become as good of a witness as I could be. This opened my eyes to the role and responsibility of the Spirit of God.

The Spirit is the advocate, not the attorney. The Spirit is the liaison between, speaking for me if I am confused, translating things to me if I do not understand, and helping prepare me to face the trial set before me. The advocate works with us but we do not control the advocate. The advocate’s primary responsibility is to bring the people they are appointed to assist to the attorney and to assist the attorney to equip those involved to perform what is necessary. The Spirit is the advocate.

This opens my eyes in so many ways. Knowing this has changed my thinking and heightened my understanding. It has lifted the fog surrounding areas of confusion, because the spirit is the advocate. Who is the spirit and what is her role? Her role is to connect, interpret, help, advise, and to assist humanity to align with the needs of God.

How many of us have had skewed images of the Spirit? How often do we misunderstand the role the Spirit of God plays in relation to our faith? How often do we misalign our faith to where we end up walking in a direction contrary to the desires of God? This can all be a result of misunderstanding the role and responsibility of the Spirit.

The image of the advocate something unique to the writings of John. I think this is important to note because so much of theology or our understanding of God gains the most support by the writings of John. John, the disciple Jesus loved, writes from a perspective that differs from the other gospel writers because he focuses primarily on the relational aspects of our faith. The various roles that the personalities of God play are largely derived from the writings of John, and that is why the term advocate is so important.

From the beginning of the Friends movement we have been very aware of the role of the Spirit in our faith. Our meetings for worship are centered on listening to the Spirit and following where the Spirit leads us. In many ways the Friends movement paved the way for much of the Pentecostal movement that followed over a century after, because we were very aware that there was an active divine interaction between mankind and God. But there is a danger in focusing too closely to the Spirit.

This almost seems like a heretical thing to say but I believe it is true, and this is why the term advocate is so important. If all we do is focus on the Spirit where is our faith grounded? Jesus describes the Spirit as wind blowing, we know it is there but we do not know where it comes from or where it is going. The Irish monks would describe the spirit as the wild goose, something that could be chased but very hard if not impossible to catch. The Spirit is fluid, formless, and something that cannot be defined. Just when we think we have caught it, the Spirit flies just out of our reach. But the Spirit is important, because the Spirit is the advocate.

Let us go back to the image of the courtroom. For most of us we are on the defense side, we are accused and stand before the judge hoping for grace. We have an image that is engrained in our minds, we are sinners in the hands of an angry God, we are worms, and a host of other ideas. Consider for a moment that image you have in your mind. Jesus said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.  And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment…” Jesus goes away, it is Jesus that stands before the judge in this image, and the advocate is with us in the world. The advocate is working with us directing us away from the world’s understandings and pointing us to the truth. But this is the part that flips things on end, “[Prove the world wrong] about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.” Who is condemned? Who is the one on defense? It is not us on trial, but the ruler of the world.

This really changes everything that we thought we knew for so many years, in our individualistic world view we believe that it is us on trial, that we are front and center, but we are not the ones on trial. The ruler of the world is, the accuser, or Satan. It is the job of the defense to shift blame off of the accused and place that accusation onto another, the accused become the accuser. The condemned tries to distract those around them from the truth, convincing those around them that it is not them that are guilty but someone else. They wish to confuse us about sin, righteousness, and judgment. But the advocate will guide us in truth.

This is where theology comes into play. Jesus is in the center of theology and must be. Sin is anything that distracts us from the truth of Christ. The truth of Christ is that He is fully man and fully God. He is the fulfillment of humanity, the perfect example and expression of what humanity should be. Anything that keeps us from living the life that Christ showed us is sin. And the life that Jesus showed us was a life that had a rhythm of prayer, worship, and service to others. A life dedicated to building, maintaining, and repairing relationships between God and humankind. The accused accuser wishes to distract us from that, he wishes to divide us and separate us from the truth getting us look away from Christ. He wants us to withdraw from the big picture and focus on the little things. This is sin or that is sin, when in reality sin is the broken relationship.

The accused accuser then proceeds to redefine righteousness. But what is righteousness? This is a bit foggy in the passage but Jesus says, “I am going to the Father.” That one statement does give us some direction in defining righteousness. Righteousness is heading in the right direction, toward the Father. So often we want to define righteousness as being right or living right, but this does not necessarily mean we are heading in the correct direction. Jesus gave many examples in his ministry where the religious were doing everything right according to the law and were far from righteousness. The rich young ruler was a prime example. He came to Jesus asking what he must do to gain the kingdom. Jesus listed off all the legal obligations for righteousness and the young man said I have done all of this. Then Jesus said you lack one thing, sell all your possessions, give it to the poor and follow me. There is something about that that just does not sit well with us, he did everything right yet he was not on the right path. He lacked one thing and it was that his life was not directed toward the things of the Father. He was not following in the footsteps of Jesus. He could not give up his image of righteousness for the truth of righteousness. The accused accuser wants to cause us to focus on the images of righteousness instead of the path of righteousness. He will do whatever he can to get us to step off the path, following Jesus to the Father.

This brings us to judgement. Who is being judged and why? The ability to place blame somewhere else has plagued humanity since the fall, but even that was an action of redirected blame. We judge others to redirect the attention off of our own short comings. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, and the serpent blamed God. And we are each caught in the middle of the blame game. This is the method of ruler of the world, casting blame on others, providing to the masses a scape goat to direct our anger and hate. Claiming that our problems are not our own but caused by someone or something else, and all would be perfect if we just abolished the one that is blamed. The world is full of this, just scroll through Facebook for a minute and you will see a number of postings casting blame and demanding action to rid the world of the scapegoat. Big oil is the problem, Wal-Mart is the problem, ISIS is the problem, the Church is the problem, environmentalists are the problem, Obama is the problem, homosexuals are the problem, police are the problem, unions are the problem, or government is the problem. Each and every one of those issues are a problem but they are the problem because they distract us from the underlying reality that we want to refocus blame because we have been influenced by the ruler of the world, we have join in the accusations of the accused accuser.

But the Spirit is the advocate. The advocate works as the liaison guiding us in the direction we need to go to fulfill the task set before us. The Spirit is like the wind, we know it is there but we do not know where it comes from or where it is going. But we can lift our sail and let it carry us the direction we should go. The Spirit leads us down the right path, it teaches us the holy rhythms of life, and directs us to Christ who is going to the Father.  The spirit gives gifts that assist us in doing the work set before us, and that work is to guide everyone around us into truth, the truth about sin, righteousness, and judgment. And that truth is revealed to us through the life, ministry, death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

Who is the Spirit, what is the Spirit’s role? The Spirit is the advocate, the one that brings us to the one that stands before the judge. The Spirit is the one that guides us to the path of the teacher and encourages us to continue down that path toward the Father. The Spirit is the force that connects us to Christ who stands for us. The Spirit is the one that helps us become witnesses for the truth, in a world that is ruled by deception.

As we enter this time of open worship and communion as Friends, let us celebrate that we are connected to God through this powerful force he provided for us. And let us embrace the Spirit as our ever present advocate directing us down the pathway with Christ to the Father who loves us so much that he sent his only son not to condemn the world but to give us life.

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Meeting Times

816-942-4321
Wednesday:
Meal at 6pm
Bible Study at 7pm
Sunday:
Bible Study at 10am
Meeting for Worship 11am
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