The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Archive for the ‘Worship music’ Category

In it but not of it (sermon for May 24)

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An older version

An older version - with the same problem!

My first regular job was in a small jewelry store in Burlington, Iowa. I was about 15, and I worked for the princely sum of $.65 per hour.  I’ll tell you about it in a moment.

First, listen to Jesus as he prays for his followers, just hours before the mob comes to take him to his death.

John 17:6-19 (NIV)
Jesus Prays for His Disciples
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them.

They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you.

That must have driven them crazy.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Jesus, ooey-gooey, and The Onion (Sermon of Nov 23)

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Jesus paints the end of time over and over in the runup to Matthew’s version of passion week.  But, whew! The implications of these stories are startlingly controversial.

He tells of a great sorting of people (Matthew 25:31-46).  Goyim —gentiles—people, perhaps, like me.  The method of his sort, though, I never heard in Sunday School.

He's an Author and Homeless i...

He explains his choice to the group invited into his “kingdom:”

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.

“Say what?” they respond.  “We never saw you like that.”

His answer?

Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me-you did it to me.

Huh.  Wonder what that means.  To him?

Don Jail

Now the second group, whom he says are “good for nothing but the fires of hell.” And why?

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

“Say what?” they respond.  “We never saw you like that.”

His answer?

Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me-you failed to do it to me.

The “goats” go off to their doom, the sheep to their reward.  The end.

But wait, this is going to get very strange. Read the rest of this entry »

O Come, Emmanuel

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A four minute video—with the haunting medieval melody, O Come O Come Emmanuel, in the background— in celebration of the beginning of the Christian season of Advent. H/T Godspace and Sanctifying Worship.

May your patience find its reward!


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Out from bigotry (sermon for August 17, 08)

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And a bit about white privilege …

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

1 This is what the LORD says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.[…]

Something’s about to happen – what is it [a revelation of God], and so what do we do? Maintain justice,” Isaiah has God saying, “and do what is right.”

6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant-
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.

Who’s this about now? Foreigners. And those who will follow God from any land (though following God is described here in Jewish terms, of course), gain a rich welcome to the presence of God.  Watch:

Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

I love it!  “A house of prayer for all nations.”  Is this just about white middle-class Americans like me?  Nope. Read the rest of this entry »

Small is what big is made of (a sermon)

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Birth of Jacob and Esau [www.ratnermuseum.com]In one artist’s sculpture, Jacob and Esau burst upon the world.

Remember the story?  They’re born as twins, Esau first.  When Jacob follows, his hand on his brother’s heel.  It’s predicted that “the older will serve the younger,” which was odd in an order-of-birth culture.  Esau should get the privileges.  And the hand on the heel, we said, was representative of something like sneakiness.

Years later, they’re young men, Esau-the-hunter comes in starving, and Jacob-the-chef extorts the family birthright out of him in exchange for food.

Then Jacob gave him some of the soup (Valloton)

Then Jacob gave him some of the soup (Valloton)

Later, Esau is furious, and threatens murder – and remember, he’s a tough guy. So, scheming Jacob’s scheming mother Rebecca told his father Isaac that it was time for Jacob to go find a wife, and that back in Haran, where they came from, her brother’s place would be a good place to start. Isaac says “Sure,” and Jacob runs for his life.

On the way, he sacks out on the bare ground, meets God in a dream, and is terrified. Esau was a threat – but God, uh-oh! To Jacob’s astonishment, God comes not with judgment, but with a promise – a renewing of the promise that he’d made to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham. In the morning, Jacob is amazed at his good fortune, and worships there.

As he approaches Haran, he meets and promptly falls in love with Rachel, his cousin. He moves into Uncle Laban’s home – yes, he’d like to have a wife, but of course, he can’t really go home anyway, thanks to the trick he pulled on his brother. But now, Jacob’s inherited sneakiness is going to come back on him through his mother’s family – and on some others, too. Read the rest of this entry »

A little hope (Pagan Abraham, part 2)

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Milky Way in summer/Jens Hackman


Last week, I opened with these words. See if they mean something a little different to you now: “[God] brought [Abram] outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.”

Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Genesis 15 NRSV

Rich Mullins sang: “Sometime I think of Abraham – how one star he saw was there for me. He was a stranger in that land; and I am that, no less than he.”  A star for me?

And we climbed Sumerian temple steps and glimpsed the worship there. Then we went around the world, and saw that 4,000 year old religions on every continent labored to please fertility gods patterned after sun and moon. That was Abram’s world.

In 2005, I realized a personal connection to all this. Lucas [my son] and I were in England, and we went to a little village called Avebury. We had heard it was like Stonehenge but not fenced-off, and older. So we took a train and a bus, and were dropped off beside a field like the one you see at the right.

Our first glimpse

Our first glimpse of Avebury stones

Lucas climbs out of Avebury's massive trench

At first we saw these stones – and a couple other small ones, and were disappointed. But somehow we got the hunch something bigger was happening, crossed the highway, and began to see more, and then came upon this:

Turned out the little thatched – roof village of Avebury adjoined a giant curve of stones bordered by this immense smooth ditch, maybe 25 feet deep. You can just see Lucas on the far slope.  The ditch was originally much deeper – perhaps 200,000 tons of chalk were dug with antler picks and oxbone shovels, and hauled away.

And then we realized that we were on the edge of a huge stone circle, nearly half a mile across.

Turns out it is the largest stone circle in the world. Some of the stones weighed as much as 40 tons.

No one knows who put these stones here or how they moved them. But we know a few things: there are gates lined up on the points of the compass, there is some sexual symbolism, and we know when: they were put up about the same time as the Sumerians began to build temples for the same purpose. In fact, they were probably built within a few hundred years of Abram’s birth in Sumerian city of Ur.

Avebury: The world's largest stone circle

As far as we know, all of us had ancestors who worshiped fertility gods. Just a few miles from these stones is a village called Ashbury. Perhaps my ancestors worshiped here. It is our world, too.

Last week, I ended with these words: “Why does Abram go journeying with this strange new God? Perhaps its because he’s heard a voice that’s so different, so attractive. Think of it: Unlike the unknowable gods, this God has pursued him. Unlike the gods who see humans as their slaves, this God cares about Abram. Unlike the gods of the endless wheel of life, this God offers Abram a future. Unlike the gods whose rages are only contained by ritual sex and murder, this God invites Abram to become his friend. Unlike the gods that care nothing about human life, this God promises to bless all peoples everywhere through Abram.

Get the context, then: What would you say is God doing with Abram? 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
Prayer
Welcome
Ben and Monte: Romans 5:1-8
Sharon: Sharing
Give Thanks
Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)
Prayer
Giving
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 »