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Archive for November, 2012

Monday Morning Leftovers

A few weeks ago I offered the leftovers from my Sunday sermon preparation and people seemed to enjoy it. So, here we go again!

The Disclaimer: Every sermon is a series of small and large choices. Once a theme and direction are chosen many good/great things are left on the cutting room floor. Otherwise you’d get a 75 minutes sermon OR  a hodgepodge of ideas that would leave you wondering, “What was that all about?” So, below you’ll find a random assortment of notes and quotes; images and ideas; stories and thoughts. Enjoy. (also: if you want to listen to yesterday’s sermon you can find it here.)

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The news came via text message in the middle of staff meeting on Monday: AUNT JOAN DIED. My father likes to text in all caps so when the message flashed on my phone I immediately knew who sent it.

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For the past few days, I’ve been following the news out of Israel closely. Rockets from Gaza (a Palestinian controlled area) striking Israeli areas have garnered a brutal response from Israel that has necessitated more rockets from Gaza and more bombs from Israel. Innocent civilians on both sides have been injured. Children have been killed.

When people wring their hands about the middle east and ask “When will they ever learn?” I quietly wonder, “When will we ever learn?” You see, what the nations do is only reflective of what we do individually. They do on a grand scale what we do to one another.

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Preaching a sermon is an exercise of choice. After studying and preparing to share thoughts on a particular scripture passage, some things make the cut and are included. Other stories, thoughts, ideas, points, and quotes end up on the cutting room floor. For years, I’ve thought, “I should do something with all those leftovers.” Usually, they just get put in the recycle bin. But today (and maybe occasionally in the months ahead), I’m going to share a few of the leftovers for you to chew on today.

This week’s sermon, “As Long as I Live,” is based on Psalm 146–an amazing Psalm of praise. Instead of closing with a story or a set of “to-do’s” I closed with an interview of Che Helfrich who has lived this Psalm over the last 6 weeks. You can find the sermon here (or go to iTunes and search for “Parkway Heights”). Che’s interview is about 13 minutes in.

So, what go left out? You’ll find it below. Dig through. Take what you want. Leave the rest. Here we go:

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A few days ago, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. I asked her how she was doing. She responded, “Busy. And you?” My immediate, response was, “We’ve been busy, too.” As soon as it came out of my mouth, I wanted to take it back. Though I have been busy, busy doesn’t really describe how I’ve been. Lately, I’ve felt blessed, happy, content, and joyful. Busy describes my level of activity, yes. But not how I am.

Yet, for all of us our conditioned response when asked how we’re doing is usually, “busy.” That’s become the cultural expectation for us. We prove our value through an expression of over-commitment and non-stop action.

And then we wonder why we burn out, freak out, or wear out. Now, I’m not an advocate of lazy or sloth. Being busy (as long as it’s productive busy) is very good. But maybe we need to define our lives in a way beyond “busy.”

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On Tuesday, November 6, Americans will head to the polls to vote. This has been a particularly nasty election cycle. Candidates, supporters, and the media have all played to our worst fears and have pushed the level of dialogue in our country to its lowest point in a generation or more. With facebook, twitter, email and texting, we have exponentially more ways to voice our opinion in 2012—and more ways to denigrate the thoughts and opinions of others.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard statements like this one far too often in the last few months: “If you vote for ______, then you don’t love America.” Or, “A vote for ______, means you want America to fail.” Statements like these are damaging to our democracy (which is based on the ability of people to freely vote for the candidate of their choice, in case you’ve forgotten), and damaging to our witness as Christians and to the Body of Christ as a whole.

300 years ago, John Wesley wrote this in his journal:

“I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them, 1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy: 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against: And, 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”
John Wesley, October 6, 1774

What if we took Wesley’s words to heart over the next few days? What if you, because of the conviction in your heart and the judgment of your mind made a firm decision who to vote for and then made the commitment to not speak evil of “the other guy” or even speak evil of supporters of “the other guy.” Remember, if you want a one party system there are places you can go for that: North Korea, China, Cuba, and Russia to name just a few.

Or, if John Wesley words aren’t convicting enough, think about what Paul says in Galatians 5:

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: . . .  enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions . . . and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Strong words from Paul about how we speak of and treat those we disagree with on any topic. For Christians, this is a matter of whether or not we’re willing to step up and actually live what we believe in every arena of life–even in our political discussions and disagreements.

So, join me in prayer these last few days before the election arrives that people will faithfully discern their vote, that they will vote, and that even in the midst of a contentious election we will do what we’re all called to do: love God and love people.

And if you’re looking for a third-party candidate, I strongly endorse this guy:

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