The Least, First

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Archive for the ‘Loving’ Category

A New Year’s Prayer for Peace

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May 2009 be a year of peace-being and peace-making for you and all those you hold dear.


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The main thing [readings for Sunday, October 26]

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Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln famously said (or is famously said to have said) that if he could find a church whose credo was the golden rule, he’d join it.  He never found one.

Religious leaders confronted Jesus with a question of essence rather like that.  You’d think it would be the first thing Christians learn, and that for which they’re mostly known.

“Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”

Jesus said, “”Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ 38This is the most important, the first on any list. 39But there is a second to set alongside it: “Love others as well as you love yourself.’ 40These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” Read the rest of this entry »

Is Jesus MIA? (Readings for September 14, 2008)

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Jesus Christ is, of course, what’s missing from Christianity.

We have positions aplently—”Biblical” positions—or so we’re told by experts. Perhaps we should call our religion “Biblianity.” For Jesus Christ, incarnated again in his ever-new Body, the church, and lived out through the love and acceptance of his apprentices for each other and the whole world—well, Jesus Christ expressed that way is rarer than Nazarenes at a bingo hall.

Mohandas Gandhi

Mohandas Gandhi

It’s not a new problem.  And those who don’t call themselves Christians often see it more clearly than those who do. For example, consider these insights of that spiritual giant Mohandas Gandhi:

  • I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
  • If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.

Imagine. He’s not suggesting proselyting, but rather simply that Jesus Christ lived-out in public and private is mighty appealing.  Which is, of course, just what Jesus did.

So in this week’s readings, Jesus explains one element of what that would look like.  Then Paul brings it home, expecting a new kind of normal for we who follow Jesus together.  Let him take your breath away.

Hope you get to hear it preached somewhere this Sunday.

Proper 19 (24) A; September 14, 2008

Hebrew Bible: Exodus 14:19-31 [Moses parts the sea]
or Genesis 50:15-21 [Joseph forgives his brothers]
Psalm: Psalm 114 [after Israel left Egypt]
or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 [Moses’ song of victory]
or Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13 [God is sheer mercy and grace, slow to anger]
Epistle: Romans 14:1-12 [Welcome the weaker brother]
Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35 [How many times shall I forgive? Parable of unmerciful servant]

A Story About Forgiveness

21At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Read the rest of this entry »

Love others as you love yourself (Bible readings for Sunday, Sep. 7, 2008)

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Abraham Lincoln

A. Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln once promised (so I am told) that if he found a church whose creed was the Golden Rule, he’d join it.  He never found one.

Maybe he’d read what St. Paul recommended:

“Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code--don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of--finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.”

Seems like every time religion goes bad it’s because someone’s persuaded others that something—a doctrine, a tradition, a cause, a nation—is more important than loving others.  Paul and Jesus have no such illusion.

Just below are the rest of the Scriptures I’ll be preaching from this Sunday.  Oops, I’m not preaching this Sunday.  My old friend Jolean Rice, prayer-traveler of Romania and China, will be here telling her story.

Thanks for coming by!

Proper 18 (23) September 7, 2008
Ezekiel 33:7-11; Psalm 119:33-40; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20 Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

September 3, 2008 at 2:24 pm

On freedom roads

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“On What Freedom Roads Do You Walk?”

Proper 5 A: Genesis 12:1-9, Psalm 33:1-12, Romans 4:13-25, Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26
June 6, 2005, at New Oaks Church of the Nazarene, Washington, IA

Night rotation of starsMonte: In Genesis: Last week Noah, today, Abraham. Father of three great religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Read you a bit, then we’ll sing.

Abraham – or Abram, was born, we think, in 2166 B.C. Farther before the birth of Jesus than we are after the birth of Jesus. He lives in Haran – not too far from the city in modern N. Iraq called Mosul. It’ll help you to know a couple things about life there.

1. Abram knows, as far as we know, nothing about God as we know him at the beginning of his story. He’s never heard of Jahweh. He’s never been to a synagogue or church – none exist.

2. Abram is a pagan man in a pagan culture. As much as any headhunter in Borneo ever was. As much as any ancient European ancestor of yours or mine ever was. He’d have household gods set up. The worship he’d participated in might have involved child sacrifice. It probably involved temple prostitutes. Your ancestors’ worship may have, too.

3. Abram’s home culture is sophisticated. It values stability and wealth and probably business over agriculture. It values staying put and getting rich.

And then God starts talking to him. Read the rest of this entry »

Funnier than it seems (sermon for May 4, 2008)

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Seventh Sunday of Easter; May 4, 2008

Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10,32-35; 1 Peter 4:12-14; 1 Peter 5:6-11; John 17:1-11

Holy Is the Lord
There is a Louder Shout to Come
He Who Began a Good Work in You
Knowing You
Emmanuel
In His Time

Acts 1:6-14
6When they were together for the last time they asked, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?”

7-8He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”

9-11These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared-in white robes! They said, “You Galileans!-why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly-and mysteriously-as he left.”

Returning to Jerusalem

12-13So they left the mountain called Olives and returned to Jerusalem. It was a little over half a mile. They went to the upper room they had been using as a meeting place:

Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James, son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas, son of James. 14They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer, the women included. Also Jesus’ mother, Mary, and his brothers.

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

This is funnier than it seems.

Jesus has been with them for 3 1/2 years. He’s taught them every day. He’s lived the perfect example of what God is like, and right in front of them. What lessons they’ve had! What amazing moments they’ve seen! Read the rest of this entry »

Drink deep of God’s pure kindness (sermon for April 21, 2008)

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05.04.24 Easter A5
Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5,15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14

Blessed Be Your Name
Indescribable
Shout to the North
In Christ Alone

Sermon: While I read, get ready to tell me about the tone of these words. Read the rest of this entry »