The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

1.29.06 worship gathering

with 2 comments

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
January 29, 2006
Deut. 18:15-20; Psalm 111; I Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28

That’s Why We Praise Him
Blessed Be the Lord God Almighty
Be the Centre

Prayer
Welcome

Pastor Sharon reads: Psalm 111
1Hallelujah! I give thanks to GOD with everything I’ve got–
Wherever good people gather, and in the congregation.
2GOD’s works are so great, worth
A lifetime of study–endless enjoyment!
3Splendor and beauty mark his craft;
His generosity never gives out.
4His miracles are his memorial–
This GOD of Grace, this GOD of Love.
5He gave food to those who fear him,
He remembered to keep his ancient promise.
6He proved to his people that he could do what he said:
Hand them the nations on a platter–a gift!
7He manufactures truth and justice;
All his products are guaranteed to last–
8Never out–of-date, never obsolete, rust-proof.
All that he makes and does is honest and true:
9He paid the ransom for his people,
He ordered his Covenant kept forever.
He’s so personal and holy, worthy of our respect.
10The good life begins in the fear of GOD-
Do that and you’ll know the blessing of GOD.
His Hallelujah lasts forever!

video – You Are, You Were, You Will Always Be

Monte: God’s plan from the days of Moses was to create preachers in every generation whose task was to tell us the truth.

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
READER: 15GOD, your God, is going to raise up a prophet for you. GOD will raise him up from among your kinsmen, a prophet like me. Listen obediently to him. 16This is what you asked GOD, your God, for at Horeb on the day you were all gathered at the mountain and said, “We can’t hear any more from GOD, our God; we can’t stand seeing any more fire. We’ll die!”

17And GOD said to me, “They’re right; they’ve spoken the truth. 18I’ll raise up for them a prophet like you from their kinsmen. I’ll tell him what to say and he will pass on to them everything I command him. 19And anyone who won’t listen to my words spoken by him, I will personally hold responsible.

20″But any prophet who fakes it, who claims to speak in my name something I haven’t commanded him to say, or speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die.”

-How’s that for a job description?
The greatest truth-teller who ever lived, of course, was Jesus. Here he is in Mark, early in his ministry, out in the country, and here’s what he does on the weekends.

Mark 1:21-28
21Then they entered Capernaum. When the Sabbath arrived, Jesus lost no time in getting to the meeting place. He spent the day there teaching. 22They were surprised at his teaching–so forthright, so confident–not quibbling and quoting like the religion scholars.

-Now the rabbis apparently taught mostly by quoting other rabbis. “Rabbi so and so said the Scriptures mean this.” “Oh, no, dear brother, have you forgotten that Rabbi so and so said the Scriptures teach this.” Jesus just brought truth.
And then one day, truth suddenly comes from an unexpected source:

23Suddenly, while still in the meeting place, he was interrupted by a man who was deeply disturbed and yelling out, 24″What business do you have here with us, Jesus? Nazarene! I know what you’re up to! You’re the Holy One of God, and you’ve come to destroy us!”

-True? Maybe you’d think Jesus would chuckle – “Aha, I wasn’t planning on saying it, but , well yes, it’s true. At least it’s on the table now.” Wouldn’t Jesus want everyone to know? But here’s what happens instead.

25Jesus shut him up: “Quiet! Get out of him!” 26The afflicting spirit threw the man into spasms, protesting loudly–and got out.
27Everyone there was incredulous, buzzing with curiosity. “What’s going on here? A new teaching that does what it says? He shuts up defiling, demonic spirits and sends them packing!” 28News of this traveled fast and was soon all over Galilee.

-Jesus shut him up. Apparently this happened commonly, for down in 34: “he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.” What possible reason could there be for him not wanting the news to get out about who he was? My Reflecting God Study Bible says it like this: “Jesus probably wanted to show by word and deed the kind of Messiah he was (in contrast to the popular notions) before he clearly declared himself.” Working under cover to avoid getting stereotyped. Like 1Peter 2:12: “Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. They they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” TM

-At any rate, the demons are blurting the truth and he doesn’t want them to. They’re spilling the beans, and neither he nor the people to whom he’s preaching are ready for that. And things get quite a bit more complicated because of these demons – Jesus gets get swamped with crowds, and he has to struggle to focus on the mission of calling the disciples, and getting alone with them, and teaching them really well, and being alone with the Father, so that all will be ready when he leaves.

-Truth is what sets us free. But every truth is not for every moment. How do you know how much to say? Paul will show you how, in 1 Cor. There, the church had an issue of truth that he uses for an example. Maybe you’ve been thinking about it, too:

1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Freedom with Responsibility
The question keeps coming up regarding meat that has been offered up to an idol: Should you attend meals where such meat is served, or not?
-Been on your mind, right? Question keeps coming up, right?
In what nation is Corinth? And when you think of Greek history, what comes to mind? Greek gods: Zeus, Poseidon, Apollo, Aphrodite, many more … temples in Corinth dedicated to these Gods. Sacrifices made there. Leftover meat given to priests, maybe sold in markets, sometimes offered to anyone in feasts in rooms at these temples. Some Christians had grown up in those pagan temples, then come to know Jesus – they had an opinion, you’ll see. Others in the church at Corinth didn’t have that lifelong connection, and they had a different opinion. Now I wonder if you see any issue shaping up here that’s about more than idol meat. See it?

-Here’s a clue:

We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds of questions– but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds.

-Hmm. Maybe this is about something other than idol meat. Like what? Maybe, humility? Ooh, listen to this one:

We never really know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all.

-OK, now back to idol meat. Here’s what one side says:

Some people say, quite rightly, that idols have no actual existence, that there’s nothing to them, that there is no God other than our one God, that no matter how many of these so-called gods are named and worshiped they still don’t add up to anything but a tall story.

They say–again, quite rightly–that there is only one God the Father, that everything comes from him, and that he wants us to live for him.

Also, they say that there is only one Master–Jesus the Messiah–and that everything is for his sake, including us. Yes. It’s true.

-So are the people who think these things going to be for going to the dinner or not? Yup. Here’s the summary so far:

In strict logic, then, nothing happened to the meat when it was offered up to an idol. It’s just like any other meat. I know that, and you know that.

-There you go – an open and shut case. Until he adds:

But knowing isn’t everything.

-What? Wait a minute – what else was this about? Aha, humility.

If it becomes everything, some people end up as know-it–alls who treat others as know-nothings. Real knowledge isn’t that insensitive.

-Wow – real knowledge is not just right, it is also sensitive. When I’m dead certain I’m right – and then I get insensitive about it – I’m wrong. Switch gears with me – remember the gospel story we read, about how Jesus was preaching, and the demon-possessed man called out the truth, but the truth pushed on everyone like that really caused Jesus quite a bit of trouble? Knowing isn’t everything. Not everything that is true is sensitive.

-Last week, I was preaching about the story of Jonah, remember – Jonah walking thru Nineveh and the Ninevites repented, and God changed his mind and didn’t destroy them? I added a spontaneous comment after that – anyone remember? I mentioned that there had been a letter to the editor in which the writer said God never changed his mind – and then I said, “He was wrong.”

-I remember feeling a chill when I said it – maybe you did. It just didn’t seem like the most helpful thing to say, for some reason. It was true, I believe – but was it kind? Was it sensitive? Did it show humility? See? It really didn’t need to be mentioned. It was just a hair like the demon who told the truth. And there was God, ready to meet me on Monday as I started working on this week’s sermon. “Good job, Monte. But would it be wise to be a little more careful about things like that?”

We need to be sensitive to the fact that we’re not all at the same level of understanding in this.

Some of you have spent your entire lives eating “idol meat,” and are sure that there’s something bad in the meat that then becomes something bad inside of you.

-Does it? Is there actually, really something bad about meat dedicated to idols? Nope – but …

An imagination and conscience shaped under those conditions isn’t going to change overnight.

-Some are going to believe there is something wrong there even if there isn’t. They are technically incorrect. Others know the truth. So is eating it right, or is not eating right? Come on God, lay it out for me, I want to know what you want – I want to know who’s getting the A here:

But fortunately God doesn’t grade us on our diet. We’re neither commended when we clean our plate nor reprimanded when we just can’t stomach it.

-Neither. The rule – the action – the outward part – is not the point. For in most things, there is no rule. Even for most things we have rules about, there really is no rule. We are amazingly, incredibly free. And here’s a new way of looking at it:

But God does care when you use your freedom carelessly in a way that leads a Christian still vulnerable to those old associations to be thrown off track.

For instance, say you flaunt your freedom by going to a banquet thrown in honor of idols, where the main course is meat sacrificed to idols.

Isn’t there great danger if someone still struggling over this issue, someone who looks up to you as knowledgeable and mature, sees you go into that banquet?

-What’s the problem with that, if there is no rule?

The danger is that he will become terribly confused- -maybe even to the point of getting mixed up himself in what his conscience tells him is wrong.

-Why not just straighten him out? Tell him what’s true and get on with it. Why not? If you tell him the truth, will his conscience change just because you say so? And what may become of him if he learns to ignore his conscience?

Christ gave up his life for that person. Wouldn’t you at least be willing to give up going to dinner for him–because, as you say, it doesn’t really make any difference?
But it does make a difference if you hurt your friend terribly, risking his eternal ruin! When you hurt your friend, you hurt Christ.

A free meal here and there isn’t worth it at the cost of even one of these “weak ones.”
So, never go to these idol-tainted meals if there’s any chance it will trip up one of your brothers or sisters.

-Oho, Paul made a rule: never go to an idol-tainted meal, right? Nope! It isn’t that easy! Never go if there’s a chance you’ll trip up a brother or a sister. I am completely free to go. But it wouldn’t be like Jesus to go if someone would be hurt by it. Love trumps every other card. Else I end up exercising my freedom in a way that just might set up roadblocks to what Jesus is trying to do. Like the demon who told the truth.

-How this came to me at just the time I need it. Been working for a couple months on a letter.
[to a brother who’s concerned about a rule] – shall I tell him how Paul uses the abstainers as the examples of immaturity? Probably not!
-The story of a man who rebuked a singer for singing things in worship he thought were inappropriate, and how he later humbly apologized and realized he’d been in the wrong.

Servant Song
Giving
I Am Loved

Scripture is from The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Written by Monte

February 4, 2006 at 2:27 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks, B! Sitting at home writing tonight, and it just wasn’t coming together, then your comment came along and lifted my spirits. You trumped the other cards, thanks!

    masbury

    February 4, 2006 at 11:21 pm

  2. Wow. This is so relevant. Just last night in our Bible Study the issue came up of watching R rated movies. One person in the group is known for a somewhat dogmatic faith– sees things in black and white and I was thinking I’m more spiritually mature because I can think on a deeper level, not simply saying “I don’t watch R movies” but instead saying I may or may not watch an R movie or a PG movie, depending on the over all message in the movie. But the line about how we are neither commended nor reprimanded humbled me as I saw that God is not concerned one way or the other. He is concerned that we love each other whatever our choice and that we not hurt each other in making our choice.

    Some Great “stand out” lines:
    “sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds.” What a great reminder. I might post that on my office wall for awhile!
    “some people end up as know-it–alls who treat others as know-nothings. Real knowledge isn’t that insensitive” Wow. I have known some know-it-alls who trample all over others and it hurts!
    And my over all favorite:
    “Love trumps every other card.” I am posting that one in my home office for sure!

    Thanks Monte for some great insights into scripture and the heart of Jesus.

    Brenda in So Cal

    February 4, 2006 at 11:00 pm


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