Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hopes and Dreams Sermon given at United Church of Beloit Nov 30, 2014

Old Testament Lesson Isaiah 64:1-4 (ESV)
Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains might quake at your presence―
2 as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil―
to make your name known to your adversaries,
and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
3 When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
4 From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him.

New Testament Lesson 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 (ESV)
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Came across some interesting quotes from experts–
            "Everything that can be invented has been invented." 
        --Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899. 

    "Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." 
         --Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929. 

    "The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible."  --A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp. 

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."  -Western Union internal memo, 1876. 

"So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or, we' ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And, they said, 'No.' So then, we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.'"  --Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and HP interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer. 

  "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." 
            --Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962. 

So much for listening to the 'experts” right? I think they perhaps just didn't have the whole “Big Picture' in mind!

Advent―time of waiting, expectation, ...yearning! It is also a time when we repent, (that's why purple is the color, same as lent!) so that we can properly behold the Newborn King!

The first candle is traditionally the candle of Hope (or in some traditions, Prophecy). There are a few different traditions for the meaning of the advent candles. The most familiar is Hope, Joy, Love, Peace. There is also Prophecy, Shepherds, Bethlehem, and Angel. You see how each is an aspect of the Christmas story :D

fortunately, the prophet Isaiah did NOT turn out to be like that Decca Records executive!

Isaiah prophet during, some of the hardest times the Hebrew people endured. There were two eras in their history that they commemorate in worship on a regular basis. One is the Exodus, led by Moses, (including the Passover meal, which we commemorate with Communion) and the other is the Babylonian Exile. This was a time of about 70 years, that began nearly 600 years before the time of Jesus. Their homeland was embattled, their Temple destroyed, the temple dedicated by King David and constructed by his son Solomon. The belief was that God resides in the Temple in the Ark of the Covenant, and so with it's destruction, God had no home, they were exiled and had no home and so were completely lost without even God!

Isaiah is praying, prophesying that God would come in PERSON! To right the wrongs. To free those in exile, under the thumb of an oppressive foreign government.

Hard for us in US to imagine this...but I think in some ways we are a culture of advertising, of wanting more and giving less, by a culture that tells us over & over! that the wants of an individual...that “MY' wants are more important than the needs of those around me. And it's pervasive, it's hard to resist this! People want to be liked, to be popular, to have nice things, to go to fun places. But truly I believe that the commercialism of our times is a 'false prophet”.

Isaiah's reminder that God did “Awesome things that we did not look for..” what a message of hope this is. God does things that we don't even expect! “no one has seen a God like you..” We are reminded through these words that God is never absent, has never abandoned god's people, even when everything seems hopeless. That God will come down, to be with God's own people.. Isaiah's writings contain many prophecies of Jesus, including those of the virgin birth, as well as visions of the 'suffering servant'. All of these were recorded hundreds of years before Jesus' time.

Our new testament lesson comes from the Apostle Paul. This is from his letter to the church in Corinth.


God is faithful....and will come back again!

If Paul viewed his churches as his children, Corinth was 'the wild child'. It was a seaport with lots of diversity of peoples and activities, most of those activities were not exactly wholesome!
And within this church were lots of opinions, many of which were NOT in line with good Christian teachings! Paul later in this letter rebukes folks especially for their 'puffed up” attitudes, it would seem there was quite a bit of 'holier than thou”. (some of those 'experts” again!) But he is starting off by recounting their blessings, and they did have many!

In this passage Paul is speaking to the church as a whole..the pronoun “you” in the original language is plural pronoun. So Paul is writing to them as a community. Later on he will address issues that some individuals have, but he is speaking to them as a whole, about what they have and what they do that is good and right! Because they are better together than they are as individuals. The prophecies OT and New are given to people IN community. Because God created us to be together with God and with each other.
Because we each have different gifts and skills and when we put them together we can accomplish some amazing things!

Last week our church hosted a Community-Wide service. We had folks here from a total of 7 churches, including at least 2 African-American churches. We had good worship time together and most everyone had some snacks after, and best of all, folks lingered downstairs, getting to know one another. There was a real effort to promote Christian community and there were some great ideas for ways to continue and grow this kind of activity. By finding common ground, we can celebrate our diversity while intentionally spend time to get to know each other. We can then look past the outward differences and see what's important to us! We can therefore work together to help break some of the divisions in our city and beyond.

Of course this week the news has been full of the racial problems. I do not want to start any debates, all of us together could not solve this problem! But maybe, together we can do some good!
But I came across a statement posted online by a young man named Benjamin Watson. He is an NFL player in New Orleans, and I want to share what he said,.
At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

I'M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I'M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

I'M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I'm a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a "threat" to those who don't know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I'M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I'M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

I'M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn't there so I don't know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I'M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I've seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I'M CONFUSED, because I don't know why it's so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don't know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I'M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take "our" side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it's us against them. Sometimes I'm just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that's not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That's not right.

I'M HOPELESS, because I've lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I'm not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I'M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it's a beautiful thing.

I'M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I'M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that's capable of looking past the outward and seeing what's truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It's the Gospel. So, finally, I'M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.”

Benjamin Watson reminds all of us of the hope we have this season. He said later on CNN, and I believe his lessons, his wisdom pertains to many situations;

He said the key is to get past that first level of emotion. You have to understand why you are angry, he said.

And then take it a step further.
We need to understand the other side brings his own experiences to each situation.
"It's really important that we take a step back sometimes and think about the other side before we make accusations and assumptions," he said.

We need to step back and think about the other side. We all want things neat and tidy and to OUR expectations. We want the world to turn according to our own direction. But if we step back and think about the other side, that we have a variety of peoples and experiences. Not all are what WE would live, but maybe if we listen to each other's stories we will better understand. And when we strive to understand, we are better people, and better followers of Christ.

thru Advent and Christmas, we look at prophecies of God, we hear the words of the prophets, who wrote of the One in whom we Hope, the one who brings joy, love, peace, Emmanuel, God within. Yes God within, we each have Jesus inside of us, and Jesus is in others, too! can we see Jesus in each other? God created all kinds of people...and God came to live with and within God's own creation. And even us....Let us love and live better today as we wait in hope for the coming Christ Child!

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