The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Archive for the ‘Worry’ Category

The baptism of Jesus

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[This sermon was first posted in January of 2007. Rick Reilly’s comment reminded me that many may be working on something similar, so it seemed good to update and re-post it.  Best wishes!  – Monte]
I have often thought of Jesus as pretty uncertainty-free: so totally God that humanity is just a minor irritation. So certain, so unsurprise-able, so un-swayed by what’s up.

For instance, I might think of his baptism like so: I imagine he becomes off-to-on aware that it’s time (click!), appears on the banks of the Jordan (click!), where the crowds part and everybody understands the obvious (click!), and he all but comes up out of the water with one finger extended for the dove’s perch. Of course he knows it all before it happens.

Doesn’t he?

We’ve been talking about the three audiences to the events of the Bible, especially regarding the gospel of Luke. Remember them?
1. The A.D. 30 Jews, who see it all first-hand.
2. The A.D. 80 or so Jews and Gentiles who first read Luke’s gospel.
3. And us. Now. Read the rest of this entry »

What if we already have what we need?

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Sermon of June 12, 2005 – Proper 6A

Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7); Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)

Worship order summary:Sarah laughed

Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7);
Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19;
Come, Now is the Time to Worship
I Waited
Healing Grace
Ben and Monte: Romans 5:1-8
Sharon: Sharing
Give Thanks
Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)
I Want to Know You

Worship order working copy:

10:42 flash lights
10:45 cue worship opener
when it’s done, lights 100% except spots off

Monte intro
Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7)

[Remember the promise from last week’s Genesis reading first, and mention the times they gave up on it]

[cue Sarah laughs]

GOD appeared to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. It was the hottest part of the day. 2He looked up and saw three men standing. He ran from his tent to greet them and bowed before them. Read the rest of this entry »

While packing

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suitcases.jpgI hate to pack. Hate it badly enough that I get the jitters when packing time comes around.

So we’re on vacation in Minnesota. After a week at the cabin, it’s time to go home. Pack-up and clean-up day. Jitters day.

Perhaps I’m jittery because I’ve often done poorly at interacting with the people I love while packing. And perhaps I’ve often done poorly at loving them then because I’m overwhelmed by the task. (I’m supposed to figure out what to wear next week? You want to get home with even numbers of shoes? Honestly, now, isn’t this a little perfectionistic?) Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

July 31, 2006 at 6:26 pm

Do no great thing

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Adela's post – the one I recommended yesterday here – reminded me in the night of something.

Mother TeresaMy wife, Lori, gave me this small stone a year or two ago.  I was learning how profoundly my concepts of greatness had taken their cue from this world's values:  getting big, being influential, doing much.  But when I opened my Bible, there was Jesus, walking around doing good.  Content.  Serving.  Loving well.  Using whatever came his way to love the Father and people around him.  And these words of Mother Teresa rang so true:   Do no great things, only small things with great love.
I often envision heroism as something done in one final famous act:  the cross, for instance.  But in my life – as in most of Jesus's – discipleship does not call for "do-or-die" actions.  It's more like "Do.  Do this small thing.  Do it with tenderness and enjoy it if you can.  Use it to let Me teach you.  And then get some rest and we'll do something else tomorrow and the next day." 

Could it be that by these small mustard-seeds the Kingdom of God gets planted on the earth?   Could it be that heroism is more often about loving care given to others than fearless showdowns? 

Could it be that the character I need to face heroic confrontations – should they ever come – is built in daily tenderness?

Could it be that the daily, difficult tendernesses are the essence of heroism for me?

Written by Monte

June 9, 2006 at 9:21 am

Posted in Discipleship, Jesus, Worry

Getting nothing done

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Get "nothing" done today? And you're … worthless? Hopeless? Useless?

You'll like what Adela McKay's blog is serving up. Here's an appetizer:

KALONA, May 5 (UPI) — Crud. I didn't do one thing on my list yesterday. … I have nothing to show for myself! …

I'd like to write, "So what? Life isn't about getting things done. It's about loving God and the ones you're with. …"

My hands may type it, but my heart doesn't believe it. [editorial comment from Monte: "HAHAHAHA … Oh wait – me, too."]

This inability to be content without checking to see how I'm doing is partly due to my formative years as a follower of Jesus. …

Hmm, think of that: Discipleship that breeds an inability to be content.
I get what she's talking about, don't you? In my case, it's also due to the as-if-there-were-no-God-but-accomplishment worldliness I ignorantly grow along with my faith. Spiritual Creeping Charlie.

See where she goes with this – it's good. Click here.
Unless you're too busy.

Written by Monte

June 8, 2006 at 8:54 pm

Posted in Hope, Worry

The DaVinci Code

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I think I'll go see The DaVinci Code. Too many people are telling me I mustn't.

The debate brings to mind author Donald Miller, who (in his useful book Blue Like Jazz) tells of hearing a "blowhard preacher" railing on how TV reduces our brains to inactivity resembling sleep. Finding that inviting – and maybe feeling a bit suffocated by the authoritarianism of those who tell us what to do – Miller bought one.

In an excellent piece carried by Sojonet, Ryan McCarl writes that some of the issues raised by the film are, in fact, real issues (see the article here). Our faith does share many symbols with pagan religions, for instance. And the books of the Bible were selected over time by a wide array of people. And the abuse of power by our ancestors in the faith is atrocious.

Shall we pretend it isn't so? Wouldn't that make those we disciple more vulnerable?
Shall we boycott and censor and picket? Boy howdy (as Georgann says), that will love our enemies and satisfy our souls.

Look, we believe we serve the God Jahweh,
who has been on his throne since time began,
who sent his son Jesus to die for us,
who fills us with his Holy Spirit,
who reigns forever and ever,
who promised us that nothing could separate us from his love,
and that he who began a good work in us will faithfully complete it,
and that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.
And a movie is going to cast us up on the rocks.

I think not.

Watch God use it.

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Written by Monte

May 26, 2006 at 8:02 pm

Posted in Art, Worry

God’s plans not our plans!

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As if it were news.

Georgann H., administrative assistant at the church I pastor, and a trusted colleague in Christ, was recently laid off.  The number of people who attend worship gatherings has diminished, and the money just wasn't there.

The fruit God has given her on staff here is simply enormous.  Losing her staff position is a big loss to all of us.  And yet … the sense does remain that God is up to something none of us have seen yet.  It doesn't feel like losing.

Georgann is a gifted writer, and she shared these words last Sunday to describe how God is active in the upset:

Dear New Oaks,
    I want to say “Thank you!” for the opportunity to have been your employee. It has been an amazing journey. I have learned SO MUCH!!
    When I first began, Monte and your church board wanted to make this the “perfect” place to work, and I always felt like it was; certainly the best place I’ve ever worked! One of the very best parts, from the beginning, was that they encouraged me to dedicate part of my day to spending time alone with God, and so I did. I must admit, with the challenges (as well as the blessings) this job brought, I needed to have that time!
    I want to say “thank you” to our church board and to Monte for caring for me so well in these years. When there was money, I received raises and gifts. When money was short, I received time off. You were generous with me always, in every way. Whatever support I needed, I received. Whatever I asked for, you did your best to supply. Often, you supplied for me out of your generous spirits, when I had not thought to ask. Reflective of God in you, for sure! New Oaks, I hope you understand what godly people you have serving you as board members and pastor! I have been richly blessed by my time here.
    Many of you have asked how I am doing. Well, praise be to God, I am doing well. Oh, I have my moments. I am disappointed and so very sad that things did not work out like we had expected.  I expected to retire from this job I loved so much. But I am also filled with hope. God has other plans. They are still and always “plans for good and not for evil, to give me a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
    About 10 years ago, God started me on a journey to learn not to worry. Then a couple of years ago, He invited to come in deeper, and learn to trust. See, He knows what is coming and has been preparing me. I am amazed at how far He’s brought me to this point, that I can accept this change without fear and worry. It is still a temptation, but I am not falling often, and when I do, I get back up quickly.
    Recently, as the deadline has loomed, He has asked me to memorize some Scripture verses to help me in my trust journey. First was this, Proverbs 16:3, Amplified: Roll your works upon the Lord. Trust and commit them wholly to Him. He will make your thoughts agreeable to His will, and so shall your plans be established and succeed. He has used this to challenge me to give my future Him to do with as He sees fit. I had some ideas of my own of what I thought it should look like. He asked me to give that all over to Him. “Trust Me,” He said. “Let Me be the planner.” And so I gave up the plans that I had, what I thought was the desire of my heart, and determined to wait on Him.
    Second was this: I will bless the Lord who guides me, even at night my heart will instruct me. I know He is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me. No wonder my heart is filled with joy and my mouth shouts His praises! (Psalm 16:7-9, NLT, emphasis mine) “See,” he said, “You do not need to worry about any of this. Not even at night. Trust me. See how close I am. I will guide you.”
    Third, and most recent is: Show me the path where I should walk, O Lord; point out the right road for me to follow. Lead me by Your truth and teach me, for You are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. (Psalm 25:4-5 NLT) Again, it’s about trust. Plus, in the New Testament, I am currently working my way through 1 Peter. Peter speaks much about suffering for doing right and suffering if it is God’s will. I don’t consider this suffering, but it does speak to me about this truth: I may be doing my best to walk the path which He has showed me, to follow the right road He has pointed out, and sometimes, that path leads to suffering. The truth is, I can be going exactly where He’s asked me to go and end up in the valley of the shadow of death. In addition to teaching me to trust Him, no matter what, He is also teaching me to trust myself, that I know I can hear Him even though, or maybe especially when, things don’t work out as I thought they would, should, or ought to. I do not have to doubt Him or myself.
    And do you know what? New Oaks, the same is true for us: this church, this body of believers. I know these people who lead us. We have not been led astray. Our leaders have been following the path for us as a church the best they have understood it, and it has led us to here and now. Certainly not what we expected or hoped for, but with all my heart, I believe that Jesus has led us and is leading us even now. It’s going to be OK. Things will work out just as they should. “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (1 Peter 4:19 NIV)
    So, I am waiting. Really, I am good. I love what The Message says in Romans 8:15. “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, ‘What’s next, Papa?’” That’s what I feel. God will show me the way. God will show us the way. He is good. We can trust Him completely, whole-heartedly, unreservedly. Thanks for loving me.

 Once again, what's happening isn't in the way, it is the way.  In all things he works.

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Written by Monte

May 24, 2006 at 8:06 pm