The Least, First

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Archive for the ‘Ministry’ Category

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 »

Jeremiah Wright on Bill Moyers Friday, April 25

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Now here’s television serving the public: Bill Moyers will interview Rev. Jeremiah Wright, long-time pastor of Barack Obama, on April 25. What a marvelous chance to hear Wright tell his own story, rather than hearing it sliced and diced by sound-biters.

clipped from www.ucc.org

Jeremiah Wright to be interviewed by Bill Moyers

In what will be his first interview since snippets of his preaching became a central issue in the U.S. presidential campaign, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. will speak publicly to veteran journalist and fellow UCC member Bill Moyers.

The interview will be broadcast on Friday evening, April 25, on Bill Moyers Journal, a PBS news series that airs nationally. Check local listings at www.pbs.org/moyers.

Wright retired in March after 36 years as senior pastor of the 8,000-member Trinity UCC in Chicago, where U.S. Sen. Barack Obama has been a member for more than 20 years. Trinity UCC is the largest congregation among the UCC’s 5,700 churches. […]

Following his appearance on Bill Moyers Journal, Wright is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the NAACP Detroit Branch on Sunday, April 27. He is also slated to speak on Monday, April 28, to a breakfast gathering at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

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Join me, screen-side!


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Written by Monte

April 19, 2008 at 12:46 am

You know the Voice [sermon for April 13, 2008]

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His Masters VoiceFourth Sunday of Easter

April 13, 2008—Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

Let’s say you breed beautiful, valuable hunting dogs. You have new puppies. You keep them in your fenced yard.

One afternoon, you come home early, walk into the house, look out the kitchen window. You’re watch the puppies play – when a stranger pops his head up beyond the fence, looks around, throws one leg over, and rolls over into the yard. Read the rest of this entry »

Listen to Jeremiah Wright for yourself

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This is daring, but excellent preaching, and way different from what I’d been led to expect. Way different. I so hope you’ll watch it. Here are some things that surprised me:

  • I heard he quoted Malcolm X; not so. He quotes retired U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck, a veteran diplomat, who said in a TV interview that what Malcolm X had said (“the chickens are coming home to roost”) was true of what was happening to the U.S.A.
  • I heard that he singled out the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; not so. The references to those cities were part of a long list of incidents he mentions to demonstrate a point.
  • I heard that he was anti-American, that he preached hate, that he was anti-white; not so. He’s preaching here as an American (he’s an ex-Marine, by the way). He is preaching in opposition to hatred and revenge! He calls America to carefully consider its path. I found it a tender-hearted, thought-provoking message, well worth hearing.

This is a preacher challenging the morality of a nation of violence, and he’s got a point. If all the criticisms against him are as far from his meaning as the reports on this sermon have been, he’s been sorely slandered, and we’ve been badly misled.


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March 27, 2008 at 10:35 pm

Jesus: Tragedy isn’t judgment (readings for Sunday, March 2)

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God’s judgment sure gets blamed for a lot. Which is strange, when you consider how resoundingly Jesus thumps such thinking. Consider these examples:

  • [Israeli Member of Parliament] Shlomo Benizri blamed gays Wednesday for the earthquakes that have shaken the region in recent months . . . —Haaretz
  • As emergency teams fight to reach survivors of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, a conservative group in the US has claimed that the hurricane was an ‘act of God’ in judgement [sic] on the city. —Ekklesia
  • “All hurricanes are acts of God because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that.” —Rev. John Hagee (right), as quoted in Wikipedia Read the rest of this entry »

White evangelical voters: poverty no. 1 moral issue

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The Great AwakeningI had always been a skeptic of the church of personal peace and prosperity … of righteous people standing in a holy huddle while the world rages outside the stained glass. But I’ve learned that there are many people of the cloth who are also in the world, and from debt cancellation to the fight against AIDS and for human rights, they are on the march. – Bono

Change is indeed in the air. As voters head to the polls (I write this on Super Tuesday, 2-5-08, in the USA), the main moral issue on the minds of white evangelicals is now poverty! That homecoming is nothing short of astonishing.

clipped from blog.beliefnet.com
[New York Times] columnist Nicholas Kristof quotes The Great Awakening, where Jim Wallis says, “Evangelicals are going to vote this year in part on climate change, on Darfur, on poverty.” Kristof then adds that, according to a CBS News poll, this year white evangelicals consider the fight against poverty to be the top moral issue, displacing abortion to a distant second.
Kristoff quotes CARE’s Helene Gayle about evangelicals’ work against global poverty: they “have made some incredible contributions … We don’t give them credit for the changes they’ve made.” Similarly, Environmental Defense president Fred Krupp said, “Many evangelical leaders have been key to taking the climate issue across the cultural divide.”
Kristof concludes, “In parts of Africa where bandits and warlords shoot or rape anything that moves, you often find that the only groups still operating are Doctors Without Borders and religious aid workers: crazy doctors and crazy Christians.”
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More of Rick Warren’s story:

I could see this shift in action a few weeks ago in Davos at the World Economic Forum. I got to see Rick Warren in action, motivating business and political leaders to put poverty, disease, and peace-making higher on their agenda. Kristof tells a story about Warren, who for many years didn’t pay much attention to these issues of social justice and compassion. Then, during a 2003 visit to Africa, Rick came into a ramshackle tent where a little church was caring for 25 AIDS orphans.

Rick said, “I realized they were doing more for the poor than my entire megachurch. … It was like a knife in the heart.” Kristof recounts how Rick turned this heartbreak into action: mobilizing his church to constructive action in 68 countries, recruiting 7,500 members to pay their own way to serve poor people around the world – experiencing a transformation in their own values and priorities in the process.

Mm-mm. That’s renewal: hearts moved toward the priorities of Jesus.

OK, God:  Show me my place in it!


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Written by Monte

February 5, 2008 at 2:19 pm

John the Baptist: Something’s not right about Jesus (readings for Dec. 16, 07)

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John the Baptist - DonatelloAh, John the Baptistnow there’s a prophet a guy can believe in. He’s everything you’d expect a prophet to be. Lives in the desert, forages food, wears homespun, cries “Repent!” and shouts down hypocrites. Exactly right.

And when Jesus shows up, John instantly recognizes “the one.”

But then Jesus doesn’t act like a prophet. John’s been half-fasting on what he can find in the desert; Jesus enjoys the feasts in town. John’s message is “Repent!” while Jesus’ message is “I will give you rest.” John faces-off with sinners; Jesus heals lepers and befriends prostitutes.

And John begins to wonder if he’s made a mistake. Jesus just doesn’t walk the “narrow way” like a prophet should. So John sends the question to Jesus: Are you the one?

And Jesus, without rebuke, reminds John of some Scripture he’d forgotten, gently shifting John’s expectations away from wrath and onto grace as the test of God’s presence from then on.

I wonder: Isn’t this something that still gets mixed-up? Don’t we who follow Jesus sometimes sound more like John, not understanding that those days are past?

That story is part of what I’ll be studying for Sunday. You’ll find the rest, just below.

P.S.: (I heartily recommend Lawrence Moore’s outstanding discussion of John the Baptist and Jesus—and law and grace—at Disclosing New Worlds)

Third Sunday of Advent

December 16, 2007
Matthew 11:2-11; James 5:7-10;Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 146:5-10

Matthew 11:2-11
2-3John, meanwhile, had been locked up in prison. When he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples to ask, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?” 4-6Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what’s going on:
The blind see,
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side.
“Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!”

7-10When John’s disciples left to report, Jesus started talking to the crowd about John. “What did you expect when you went out to see him in the wild? A weekend camper? Hardly. What then? A sheik in silk pajamas? Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot. What then? A prophet? That’s right, a prophet! Probably the best prophet you’ll ever hear. He is the prophet that Malachi announced when he wrote, ‘I’m sending my prophet ahead of you, to make the road smooth for you.’

11-14″Let me tell you what’s going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer; but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him. For a long time now people have tried to force themselves into God’s kingdom. But if you read the books of the Prophets and God’s Law closely, you will see them culminate in John, teaming up with him in preparing the way for the Messiah of the kingdom. Looked at in this way, John is the ‘Elijah’ you’ve all been expecting to arrive and introduce the Messiah.

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

James 5:7-10
7-8Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time.

9Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know. The Judge is standing just around the corner.

10-11Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.

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

Isaiah 35
The Voiceless Break into Song
1-2 Wilderness and desert will sing joyously, the badlands will celebrate and flower—
Like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom,
a symphony of song and color.
Mountain glories of Lebanon—a gift.
Awesome Carmel, stunning Sharon—gifts.
God’s resplendent glory, fully on display.
God awesome, God majestic.

3-4Energize the limp hands,
strengthen the rubbery knees.
Tell fearful souls,
“Courage! Take heart!
God is here, right here,
on his way to put things right
And redress all wrongs.
He’s on his way! He’ll save you!”

5-7Blind eyes will be opened,
deaf ears unstopped,
Lame men and women will leap like deer,
the voiceless break into song.
Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness,
streams flow in the desert.
Hot sands will become a cool oasis,
thirsty ground a splashing fountain.
Even lowly jackals will have water to drink,
and barren grasslands flourish richly.

8-10There will be a highway
called the Holy Road.
No one rude or rebellious
is permitted on this road.
It’s for God’s people exclusively—
impossible to get lost on this road.
Not even fools can get lost on it.
No lions on this road,
no dangerous wild animals—
Nothing and no one dangerous or threatening.
Only the redeemed will walk on it.
The people God has ransomed
will come back on this road.
They’ll sing as they make their way home to Zion,
unfading halos of joy encircling their heads,
Welcomed home with gifts of joy and gladness
as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night.

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

Psalm 146:5-10
…get help from the God of Jacob,
put your hope in God and know real blessing!
God made sky and soil,
sea and all the fish in it.
He always does what he says—
he defends the wronged,
he feeds the hungry.
God frees prisoners—
he gives sight to the blind,
he lifts up the fallen.
God loves good people, protects strangers,
takes the side of orphans and widows,
but makes short work of the wicked.

10 God’s in charge—always.
Zion’s God is God for good!
Hallelujah!

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


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Written by Monte

December 10, 2007 at 5:37 pm