The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

2.5.06 worship gathering

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What a satisfying worship this was to me! Special thanks to:
worship team: how do you do it? I woke up with How Great Is Our God ringing in my mind today (Monday). Thanks for praying for me when I was struggling right before we began. God answered your prayers, and it turned “from fear into security, from quicksand to a rock.”
– Cindy: way to put the visuals right where they belonged!
– Those who shared: your words glorified God richly, and helped me. John H – brief, good, WTG!
– Pastor Sharon, whose email wasn’t working Sunday morning, and ably sight-read her roles.

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany‑ February 5, 2006
Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20c; I Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39

Open Our Eyes, Lord
Open the Eyes of My Heart
I Waited

Monte: Please be seated. Hallelujah means “Praise Jah!” What might Jah mean?

Sharon: Psalm 147:1-11, 20c
1Hallelujah! It’s a good thing to sing praise to our God;
praise is beautiful, praise is fitting.

2GOD’s the one who rebuilds Jerusalem,
who regathers Israel’s scattered exiles.
3He heals the heartbroken
and bandages their wounds.
4He counts the stars
and assigns each a name.
5Our Lord is great, with limitless strength;
we’ll never comprehend what he knows and does
6GOD puts the fallen on their feet again
and pushes the wicked into the ditch.

7Sing to GOD a thanksgiving hymn,
play music on your instruments to God,
8Who fills the sky with clouds,
preparing rain for the earth,
Then turning the mountains green with grass,
9feeding both cattle and crows.
10He’s not impressed with horsepower;
the size of our muscles means little to him.
11Those who fear GOD get GOD’s attention;
they can depend on his strength.
20c Hallelujah!
How Great Is Our God
Sharon: Prayer

Monte: Anna Liggett email: [I told her we’d pray today] Hello monte….thanks so much for the prayers….i’ve really been enjoying things here….very relaxed and just getting to know everybody so far. i’m excited to attend worship tomorrow morning at one of the local churches. i’ll definitely tell you about my experiences. …thank you agian for your prayers and moral support. in Christ, anna

then …
Anybody want to venture a guess as to what this giant place might be?
I’ll ask for these three one at a time:
[cue Scott at Ur 3]
It is the base of a ziggurat at Ur of the Chaldees, the ancestral home of Abraham – built, apparently, sometime after his family lived there. And you have a connection to it:
[cue Scott at Ur 1]
[cue Scott at Ur 71]
Prayer for Anna and Scott

[black slide]
[All lights off, even the lobby]
[Cue each of these slides as we come to them – I’ll wait for the slide before going on]
Monte: Isaiah 40:21-31
21Have you not been paying attention?
Have you not been listening?
Haven’t you heard these stories all your life?
Don’t you understand the foundation of all things?
[cue London Eye pan]
In London, beside the Thames, is the London Eye. You are high enough that you can see the curvature of the earth. People are ants.
[cue London Eye Monte]
I had a strange thought as we rode it: Many of the buildings were the same buildings that had been there a hundred – or even hundreds of years earlier. What had changed most about London – or even Washington – was that all those millions of people who had lived their lives there – in those buildings – had all been replaced by others, living and working in the same buildings, but who never even heard the names of most of those who walked the same hallways a century before. The buildings seem more real than the people. Now listen to more of Isaiah:
22God sits high above the round ball of earth.
The people look like mere ants.
He stretches out the skies like a canvas–
yes, like a tent canvas to live under.
[cue G8]
23He ignores what all the princes say and do.
The rulers of the earth count for nothing.
24Princes and rulers don’t amount to much.
[cue Scott at UR11] Like seeds barely rooted, just sprouted,
They shrivel when God blows on them.
Like flecks of chaff, they’re gone with the wind.

25″So–who is like me?
Who holds a candle to me?” says The Holy.
[cue summer Milky Way]
26Look at the night skies:
Who do you think made all this?
Who marches this army of stars out each night,
counts them off, calls each by name
-so magnificent! so powerful!-
and never overlooks a single one?
[cue Saturn]
27Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
or, whine, Israel, saying,
“GOD has lost track of me.
He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
28Don’t you know anything [Monte]? Haven’t you been listening?

[cue earth]
GOD doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.

[cue eagle wingspan]
29He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
[cue eagle gotcha]
30For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
31But those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength.
[cue eagle Call]
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind.

That’s you. That’s your future, weary one, if you keep tuning your heart to God.

[All lights on]
Sharon: Sharing

Monte: Here’s the context: last week we read Paul’s talk about personal convictions: in that day, it was whether or not to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols in the idol temples of Corinth. Can you remember which was wrong and which was right? He said we were free to do either – but that it was more important to consider the impact of our choices on our brothers and sisters in Christ. “Christ gave up his life for that person. Wouldn’t you be willing to give up going to dinner for him … it does make a difference if … there’s any chance it will trip up one of your brothers or sisters.”

And now he’s saying, “I’ve got a right to talk to like this, because when I was with you, I gave up my right of support and accommodations from you, so you wouldn’t be misled by thinking I was doing this for personal gain.”

[ask Sharon to read this] It didn’t occur to me to ask Pastor Sharon to read this until this morning – so it’s a surprise to her – but see if you can guess why I did.

1 Cor 9:16
16If I proclaim the Message, it’s not to get something out of it for myself. I’m compelled to do it, and doomed if I don’t! 17If this was my own idea of just another way to make a living, I’d expect some pay. But since it’s not my idea but something solemnly entrusted to me, why would I expect to get paid? 18So am I getting anything out of it? Yes, as a matter of fact: the pleasure of proclaiming the Message at no cost to you. You don’t even have to pay my expenses!

Paul normally received his living from the people he served, like I do. But sometimes he went without, and made his living at his craft of tent-making, when he thought he could serve better without the confusion money brings, like Pastor Sharon does. His point is something like this, then: “Listen, Christians – if I could pass on my right to be paid, in order to serve you without tripping you up – surely you can make your decisions, as you live the life together, on the basis of what will best serve those around you without tripping them up.

We are servants. We are here to serve.
But here’s a problem: many of us have had a codependent streak, and we’ve had times in our lives when all we did was what we thought others wanted us to do. We were slaves to the strokes we got from serving them. In other words, we weren’t really serving them, we were serving our own need for strokes, and expecting, hoping, slaving for others to give strokes to us in the hope that maybe we’d feel good about ourselves. Is that freedom? Here’s the irony: serving others and codependency may look a lot alike on the outside. But healthy serving starts in freedom. Codependency is serving in desperate slavery to the need for approval. Listen as Paul describes where it takes him:

19Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people:

Servanthood starts with freedom. Codependents, that’s why God’s been teaching us how to defend our freedom – because until we have it, we can’t serve in a truly voluntary way. And until we serve in a truly voluntary way, we’ll always be disappointed that we didn’t get what we were after out of serving.

This is the crux of the problem you hear so often among believers that goes by the name: I’m not being fed. What Paul wanted from the church was not to be fed, it was to serve.

Matter of fact, that’s what Paul looked for everywhere. He lists who he has served:

…any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: 20religious, nonreligious, 21meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, 22the defeated, the demoralized–whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ–but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. 23I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

I think God wants to change me into a person who asks only one thing of his church. I think God wants to change me into a person who asks only one thing of his world. That one thing is this: to serve.

We’ve got a right to insist on getting something out of it – but we could serve.
We’ve got a right to push political agendas that give us the kind of clean-cut nation that would be comfortable to us and our children: but I think Paul would serve those his disagreed with, rather than defeat them.
Paul instead is interested in entering their world and trying to experience things from their point of view.

And now the perfect example, Jesus. We left him, last week, in the synagogue, where he’d cast out a demon and insisted that the demon keep quiet about who Jesus really was.

Mark 1:29-39 29Directly on leaving the meeting place, they came to Simon and Andrew’s house, accompanied by James and John. 30Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed, burning up with fever. They told Jesus. 31He went to her, took her hand, and raised her up. No sooner had the fever left than she was up fixing dinner for them.
32That evening, after the sun was down, they brought sick and evil-afflicted people to him, 33the whole city lined up at his door! 34He cured their sick bodies and tormented spirits. Because the demons knew his true identity, he didn’t let them say a word.

35While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed. 36Simon and those with him went looking for him. 37They found him and said, “Everybody’s looking for you.” [Here’s the rub – lots of people have expectations about what Jesus should do for them. Will he serve from freedom, doing what he knows he is called to do – or will he yield to pressure? But he’s been praying, and here’s what he came away from prayer with:]
38Jesus said, “Let’s go to the rest of the villages so I can preach there also. This is why I’ve come.” 39He went to their meeting places all through Galilee, preaching and throwing out the demons.

Let’s go. The perfect example. Utterly uncontrolled, Jesus is free to choose how and when he will serve.

[cue Jesus, All For Jesus]
Sharon blessing

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

Written by Monte

February 6, 2006 at 12:35 am

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