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Dawning Light from Resurrection to Pentecost

Acts 2:1-4; 32-33; Luke 24:1-10

Celebrating Pentecost
One day of the year that Paul especially honored was Pentecost, the 50th day after Passover, the Feast of Weeks. Something happened that changed the world. 
The result and power of all that had happened in Jesus began to be poured out for humans in everyday life: God fulfilled his promises from creation and throughout Israel’s long history and opened that history wide for all the rest of the world to participate. 
In the incarnation in Jesus, God united God and human. God’s self-giving love embodied in creation and covenant he gave in new form by taking to himself human suffering, brokenness, sin and death. He defeated death by the creation of new life in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. On Pentecost all of this was poured out for all people, beginning with the Jews. God and human were united in a new way by the gift of God’s own self, God’s life, God’s power in the Holy Spirit given to those who trusted in all that Jesus had done. God filled broken human life with love, joy, and hope by beginning the process that will finally defeat death and unite all reality in resurrection, new creation.

Age of Enlightenment

Ephesians 5:6-17

Light of the World in Our Modern Age
We live in a world that has a powerful vision/myth/story of its development. Humans were long in the darkness of superstition and religion, believing things without reason, constrained by threatening myths of judgment, reaching its depths in the “dark ages” and “middle ages,” the age of faith. But then the “Renaissance” brought the rebirth of classical pagan thought and the “Enlightenment” ushered in the “Age of Reason.” Humans attained maturity and autonomy. We realized that there is no God to judge or constrain us, that we are tiny in a vast, mindless universe. We are radically free to choose anything or nothing. We create ourselves. We die, and that’s the end! 
The development of this “back-story” of the modern world grew from reaction to the misuse and abuse of “Christendom” to which the Reformation also reacted – both Protestant and Catholic. But this “Enlightenment” has become the foundation of our secular world and has itself come under deep challenge in post-modern “criticism.” 
It began in a period when Christian scholars such as Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Leibniz, et al. were using new instruments, new mathematics, and laying the foundations of the development of the modern scientific method. The Enlightenment story claimed science as a quest for deliverance from darkness, and some Christians reacted by rejecting science. Secular orthodoxy and religious fundamentalism battle to this day. 
The Latest Technology and the Depths of Existence 

This Little Light of Mine

Matthew 5:13-16

What is Jesus Saying?
In talking about resurrection through the phrase, “Light of the World,” we have talked about Jesus. He says, “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8:12). He illumines ever person. God shines in our hearts to show his glory in the face of Jesus in his amazing self-giving love in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. We are changed by the encounter.
Jesus brings that change to a sharp point in the Sermon on the Mount: Galilee crowds, sick and suffering, Jesus’ new disciples. He begins with Beatitudes: “Blessed are they...,” but at the end turns it to “Blessed are you...,” insulted, persecuted, slandered. What?
It’s then that he says “You are the salt...the light of the world!” Who me? I’m just one more burdened disciple, needing healing, scared of insults. But Jesus states it as fact. True?
Think of Jesus’ options for the Kingdom of God: Miraculous intervention; political takeover as messiah king, “mass communication” (J.C.Superstar) many others. Why is he on a hillside with crowds seeking help? Challenging these poor folks with the “Sermon.”

Resurrection and the Life of the Church

Ephesians 1:13-23

This sermon explores the concept of power set forth in Ephesians.
According to Ephesians God's power--true power!--is working in the world and in our lives.  It is this power that was 'put to work' at the resurrection of the Messiah.  And it is this power that is now at work in the life of the church, which is the Messiah's body.  Paul, himself in chains for preaching the gospel, is able to trust that this revelatory power tells the truth about the world, even in difficult circumstances.  Can we see the world Paul sees? The world revealed by the 'gospel of our salvation'?  Can we trust this power, over against all the little powers that compete for our allegiance?  Ephesians exhorts us to embrace this calling.

Light that Carries a Shadow

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2 Corinthians 4:1-15

The Light and Darkness of Resurrection Life
We’re focusing on the light of Resurrection life. John tells of the Logos, creator of life, light shining in darkness, showing God’s glory, full of grace and truth. It all sounds very good, but he leads us through all that Jesus endured into crucifixion and then resurrection.
Resurrection is a challenge to believe as an event – like Thomas. But that’s just the start. Once I know it’s real, then comes the challenge of seeing everything through its lens. Resurrection life is new, in Jesus: the union of human physical life with God’s life. But it is life on the other side of death, incorporating death, conquering death. But God brings it into our world, our history in Jesus so that it shapes our life, values, and purposes, now.
In incarnation, Jesus brings God’s life into ours, takes our limitations – humble, suffering, all the signs of mortality we experience – dies with us. In resurrection, he takes our life into God’s life, shows how great God’s love is, builds hope and meaning into our life. Our lives now are shaped by the love embodied in his cross and the vibrant hope of his Life.

Light of the World

John 1:1-4

Jesus told his disciples and crowds, “You are the light of the world!” Amazing! How? Shine the light in beautiful/excellent works that show God’s glory: live the Sermon on the Mount. 
John sets that process within the great event that God has accomplished in Jesus. Last week we looked at the Foolish Cross/Resurrection as God’s Wisdom/Power that unites physical and spiritual, heaven and earth. Human life and work matters (‘not vain’) toward new creation. 
John’s intro overviews the grand event all the way back to the Beginning (Gen 1). The Logos (Word, Reason, Wisdom), the depth of God: “with God” relationship, “was God” identity. From “being” to “becoming.” Creation through Logos. “In him,” life comes to be as the place where Logos is shared. For humans that life becomes illumination, Light : a physical image for a life of purpose, relationship, meaning. That’s the event: Light is shining... bringing the “being” of God/Logos into the “becoming” created world. Not stopped. 

The Joy of a King without an Army

Matthew 21:1-14

A Week of Joy and awful Foolishness
Palm Sunday leads to Easter – two celebrations bracketing startling, awful events: conflict, betrayal, abandonment, injustice, torture, crucifixion. This year Easter is April 1 –April Fool’s. It’s there from the start: It’s a fool’s tale: “The word of the cross is foolishness...” (1Cor 1:18). 
And for many of the wise of our day it still is. Actually, for everyone! The foolishness is built in. In this series of events God intends to challenge all our assumptions of how things are: What it means to be strong, to make a real difference, to show glory and power, even God’s. We all, even much of the church, think we know better what’s smart, powerful, glorious, wise. 
And then there’s that young man! Astride a little donkey, riding down the hill toward the brilliant marble and gold of Herod’s vast temple, with the fortress of Rome’s soldiers, toward death. 

Discerning Gifts for Spiritual Growth

1 Peter 5:1-7

A Community Process of Discernment
We’ve come to an important time in the process of adding to our leadership. A church is a part of the body of Christ. We exist to help each other and the people around us know the God of the universe who shows himself in Jesus and lives in us in his Holy Spirit. That affects every aspect of life, but its priority is important. We want to discern, participate in God’s work. 
We know from our world how cynically leadership is manipulated. Across history, the church is often no different, just another broken human institution. The process of discernment matters for those who believe/trust in God with renewed minds (Rm 12:1-2). There’s no set method or failsafe technique. We do our best. God works. The Holy Spirit acts among us. Always the challenge of Jesus shows us God’s reality turning our world’s values upside down. We must go back again and again to the scriptures as learners, looking at Jesus, growing. 
Maturity, Task, Responsibility
 

Inclusive Leadership in a Challenging Culture

Romans 16:1-13

A Community that Broke Barriers
Last week we talked about how 1 Tim. 3 showed how Paul urged Timothy to discern leaders that fit the distinct situation, life, and needs of the congregation. Remarkably, in its first cent. the Jesus movement struggled to be inclusive on every level. Success was real but limited. There were no patterns of associations with women or slaves as leaders. It was hard in that society for them even to speak, much less serve as prophet-teachers or leaders.
But they were pushed by the Spirit giving gifts, by theology/baptism, by Jesus’ example. Jesus treated every person as honored, valuable (paradigm of Samaritan woman // Nicodemus). The Spirit came to all (Act 2) and gave gifts as he willed (1Cor 12:11), not staying in lines. The deep reality expressed by baptism broke down the most fundamental barriers to make believers one in Christ. How could they live that truth in such a divided, hierarchical society?
Calling and Service

Leadership among New Testament Christians

Romans 12:4-8, 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Cf. Titus 1:5-9

Developing Leadership in Early Christian Communities
The NT has a range of descriptions for leadership in the early communities of believers. There is an interplay between everyday and church language(episkopos= supervisor, overseer, into “bishop”) (presbyteros= elder, later transmuted into priest) (diakonos = servant, deacon).
Jerusalem: apostles, elders, presided over by James, Jesus’ brother. Antioch: prophets and teachers. Paul appointed new converts as “elders” (Act 14:23). Philippi used the language of supervisors/overseers and servants (bishops and deacons). Many assemblies were evidently led by those in whose house they met (Mary, Lydia, Priscilla and Aquila, Titius Justus, Chloe). Paul usually describes leadership in terms of gifts of grace (charisma) with a range of functions (Rm 12). He never speaks of elders till 1 Timothy and Titus, near the end of his life.
Paul’s Instructions to Timothy and Titus.
In our own tradition, the descriptions of elders in 1Tim and Titus have often been the law, a kind of checklist, discussed and debated but controlling. We looked for a binding pattern and these texts were explicit enough to override descriptions of leadership in other letters.
It is important to ask what Paul intends in these texts. They’re very important as they show Paul dealing very explicitly with situations in Ephesus and Crete. What are we to learn?

Gifts for Spiritual Leadership

Ephesians 4:1-16

Leadership by Community Discernment
We’re starting a process to expand the group of “elders” who lead this congregation. MCOC is within the Churches of Christ, part of the “Stone-Campbell” movement of “restoration” that became distinct early in the 19th cent. (About when the Church of Christ began in NYC in 1810.) Our identity as a church centers in a commitment to the NT and all of Scripture: the church will be healthiest when it stays closest to NT teaching. No hierarchy. Independent congregations. In practice, the CoC developed a pattern of local “elders,” “deacons,” and “ministers,” with variations. Always within a deep commitment to being guided by scripture.
The leadership of this congregation has been stable for many years. It was about 15 yrs ago, (2003) when we last went through this process: Elders: Paul Stelzer (26 yrs), TR (25), Angel Reyes (15), Lark Mason (15). All the deacons (15+), Ministry staff (17+). The community is always evolving, diverse, learning, maturing. We have quite a number of men and women who are able to bring important spiritual gifts into leading this community. On March 11 we’ll ask for our best discernment of those who could best serve as leaders.

Following Jesus in an Age of Many Faiths

John 14:1-10

Nearness – The Challenge and Mystery of other Faiths
As a child, I grew up in a sectarian world. We joked about being the only ones going to heaven, but thought it likely true. A small heaven. The religious “others” were Baptist, Methodist. The Nat. Geographic still explored unknown regions of earth. Now we’re all next door.
I’ve learned a lot by study and relationships: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, vast cultures and literatures. I’ve learned the vast variety in Christianity. There’s so much I’ll never grasp because I don’t live inside the world of Vishnu or Pure Land Buddhism or Greek Orthodoxy. We can’t escape human limitation. A continuing journey, drawing on resources of faith.
We live in a secular world that deals with faiths by saying none/all are “true.” I partly share in that. I put little trust in “religion” as a general phenomenon in human culture. It’s both good and bad. My faith stakes all of life on Jesus, on the God of Israel known in Jesus, on the God who as creator is the source of all existence, the lover of all, giver of life and hope.
Modesty – Learning from other Faiths

A Living Faith in a Secular Age

Colossians 1:9-23

From Christendom to a Secular Age
We’re part of a society and world that is “Secular” – “God” may be important personally, but God in himself is not part of public discourse in government, culture, science, economics, technology, academics, education, social sciences, psychology, etc. It’s a radical change from 500 yrs ago – the demise of “Christendom” in Europe. [Charles Taylor, A Secular Age.]
Many Christians feel a loss– defeat, a desire to regain cultural and political power. But few want to undo the development of today’s world– Modernity. Renaissance, Enlightenment, end of feudal/clerical dominance, science, medicine(!), technological rationalism, political rights for individuals, human rights, diverse nation-states, innovative economies, freedom, democracy. But each word is complex, with a dark side. Materialism, loss of meaning.
 

A Loving God in a Scientific World

Genesis 1:1 - 2:3

Living in the World of Science and Faith
We breathe the air of science and technology: a smartphone is a powerful computer connected to a vast network. We share in a stream of discoveries in medicine, genetics, microbiology, physics, chemistry, geology, cosmology, archeology, paleontology, various fields of biology, etc.
We also live in a world of Biblical faith, the reality of Jesus, which reveals the deep meaning and purpose of human life, its freedom and brokenness, its hope and destiny. This event and story was firmly in place before modern technology. We embody the interplay of modern and ancient, both part of us, both flowing into the future. We feel the tension. Who are we? What is right? Does our life have purpose? We’re thinking, conscious beings, and our every thought has intention, is about something. Do we live in a world without mind, intention, purpose?
Learning to Read the Book of Scripture
Often tensions grow from not letting the scriptures be themselves. They were given to us long before modern science, which grew up based on the Biblical view of a world created by a wise, consistent God. Scriptures don’t speak in scientific terms even for their own day. In telling of creation, Genesis uses an everyday view of the world to teach about God and humans: vault, lamps, no planets, two different narratives. Not the scientific “Ptolemaic system.”
Modern Christians decided God could not use such a non-factual story to teach anything. Gen was re-conceived as scientific fact, distorting what God gave us into what moderns desired.