Thank You Live Oaks!

This morning I enjoyed my nearly annual meeting with Live Oaks Community Church. Their Pastor, Kelley Landenberger, is an old friend of mine who invites me to share with his congregation each summer when he is on vacation. It is always an honor to share with Live Oaks!

Today’s Scripture came from Luke 7:1-10, the healing of the centurion’s servant. As we worked our way through today’s study we recognized that the centurion was an example of God’s Kingdom in action. His lack of judgment or condemnation both for the Jews, his dying servant and the radical Jewish teacher named Jesus won him not only Jesus’ admiration but a reference in Scripture as an icon of faith.

At the end of the service at Live Oaks I  prayed the “Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian.” This is prayer that Wheatland has prayed and meditated upon. Here it is, yet again (this prayer has made its way into many posts), in its entirety:

“O Lord and Master of my life!

Take from me the spirit of sloth,
faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother,
for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.”


Continuing the Conversation … June 21

This weekend we talked about the connection between anxiety and consumerism. We are anxious because we don’t have while we remain anxious preserving what we do. The real danger of consumerism is that it serves as an idol. Without us knowing it our desire for money and/or the stuff money provides can become an object of worship. I call this worship because we end up organizing our lives around it and responding to the anxiety it provokes instead of living in God’s Kingdom and with an awareness of his presence.

Here is one story of consumerism from Matt C. My Cross of Consumption

To a greater or lesser extent Matt’s story is our story. We often cope with our anxiety through purchasing power, through consumption, through consumerism. Jesus’ words below remind us that we cannot consume our way to discipleship.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We begin to break free from the trap of consumerism by entering a life of discipleship to Jesus. We begin to live a life of discipleship by listening to a different story.

But there are other results of giving in to consumerism. Can you think of any examples?

Continuing the Conversation … from May 31

We continued our time in the Sermon on the Mount this week by exploring Jesus’ words in Mt. 5:17. Jesus says that he didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. What could such a thing mean?

Our lectionary reading clued us into part of the meaning of the passage. Mark 2:27-28 says:

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man isLord even of the Sabbath.”

In one brief passage Jesus reminds us that God’s law, and everything that God brings into our lives, serves a positive purpose. In this instance the Sabbath, which had been used by people in Jesus day (and ours) as a legalistic club to beat up on others, is put in its proper perspective. It is not an end in itself but a means for growth in Christlikeness.

Jesus goes one further and takes what some considered a blasphemous step as he asserts authority over the Sabbath itself. Jesus takes one of the most important commands of the Hebrew Scriptures and qualifies its meaning! The Sabbath’s purpose, its intent was for the benefit of mankind.

This takes us back to the passage in Mt. 2 when Jesus talks about “fulfilling” the Law and Prophets. It seems that the righteousness of the Christ follower can only exceed that of the Pharisees when that righteousness is born from within. Like Ezekiel prophesied, God will “put a new heart in them (us)”. This is the Kingdom Heart which is the subject of the Sermon on the Mount.

Question(s) 1: How do you respond to God when he calls you to do things that are out of the ordinary or out of your comfort zone? Do you recognize his purpose behind it? (For example, Jesus qualified and clarified the purpose of the Sabbath. Has he clarified the purpose of some things in your own life?)

Question 2: Do you feel that he is doing something for your benefit? Do you believe that God is, “not trying to rob you but trying to help you?”

Continuing the Conversation … from May 24

This past weekend we returned to the Sermon on the Mount. For a message that is only three chapters long the Sermon on the Mount really requires a lot of unpacking and rethinking. We started last October, worked through it for almost two months, and only completed the equivalent of one chapter. Something like this sermon, profoundly simple, requires a lot of extra time to sink in.

…no one puts new wine in old wineskins… Mark 2:24

Reminded by Jesus’ words above, that he is doing a new thing through the in-breaking Kingdom of God, we recognize that the Sermon on the Mount is not just a rehash nor rejection of old ideas. Instead, building on the old, Jesus creates something completely new. It something beyond human ability to create or conceive.

The Sermon on the Mount is proof that God is rebuilding the human heart. And, the human heart is part of the battleground that will be won as God’s Kingdom, the New Creation, advances.

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness — how deep is that darkness! Matthew 6:22-23

When Jesus preached these words he was speaking to people whose morality would have far exceeded our own. They were basically good people and their conduct displayed their goodness. However, Jesus went deeper and introduced a radical idea. Doing the right thing is good. Having a right heart, while doing the good thing, is best

As we return to our reflections upon the Sermon on the Mount let us be reminded that obedience to the sermon takes place not merely when we “do” all of the commands within it but when our hearts are remade by it. The sermon is a study in the “the rightness of the Kingdom heart” (Dallas Willard’s phrase).

Finally, we must use the Sermon on the Mount as our means of perceiving the world rightly. God’s Kingdom is both here and yet to arrive. We must learn to “read” God’s Kingdom in the midst of a dark and difficult world.

If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. Matthew 6:23

The Sermon can serve as a kind of binocular lens that allows us, through one side, to view God’s Kingdom and the myriad of ways in which God is at work in our world. The other lens is directed toward our hearts. With one eye on God and his Kingdom and the other monitoring our hearts the transformation of hearts, and the world, is worked out as part of God’s plan.