Matthew 5:1-12 NRSV When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
We receive your blessings and pray for the Holy Spirit to make them real in our lives.
Renew a right spirit within us, a poor spirit, a spirit which knows our deep need of your grace and deliverance. Free us from trying to save ourselves. Free us for the fullness of your kingdom.
Soften our hard hearts with the gift of tears. Help us mourn our brokenness and the brokenness of our world. Help us feel it fully. Help us welcome the refreshment of your comfort and share it well with others.
Generous Savior, you fill each person with gifts, talents, and strength. Open us to meekness, that we may gladly surrender them to your authority and discipline. In our hands, they are often weapons. With you, they are refined for your glory and the common good.
Bread of Life, sour every false and destructive appetite, that we may hunger and thirst for righteousness alone- a right relationship with you, a right relationship with others, a right relationship with ourselves, a right relationship with your creation.
We bless you and honor you for your unending mercy, a flood of grace, pouring out and spilling over. Make us mercy-full. May all people know you like this.
Suffering One, break our hearts as yours is broken. In the breaking, create in us clean hearts, pure hearts, undivided hearts. Our deepest desire is to see you at work in us and all around us and to one day see you face to face.
In your grace, please don’t stop with our hearts. Re-Birth us fully in the breaking and creating. Named your beloved, your children, forever.
One with you and each other
One in your great work of peace
One in your words and ways
One in commitment to reconciliation and righteousness
One in the face of falsehood
One in the bloody bonds of persecution
One in your joy
One in your promises
One on earth and one in heaven
Meaning, purpose, to be part of something greater than ourselves
The same was true for the earliest followers of Jesus
This is what it looks like when the people of God are on Fire, Full of the Holy Spirit, faith-full in word and deed
V 12 Many signs and wonders- People are experiencing transformation, healing, deliverance on such a scale it must be God. The city was different because of the love and good works of the faith-full.
V 12 All together- working together as Body of Christ
V 13 Held in high esteem- known in the community, reputation for love and good works both in Jerusalem and the surrounding towns
V 14 More than ever believers were added to the Lord. The first followers were making disciples of Jesus Christ. They were fulfilling the great commission. (Matthew 28:16-20)
When you come to Jesus are you looking for adventure? Are you reading to join Jesus in healing the sick, bringing good news to the poor, releasing the captives, battling evil, and changing the world?
In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Lord’s prayer also includes “Deliver us from evil.” There is a cost to fully following Jesus. When you battle evil, it’s going to fight back.
A story of the brave Christians in Cuba
Verse 13 says, “None of the rest dared to join them.” Even though the Christians were doing great things by the power of the Holy Spirit. Even though they were respected by the people, it was still dangerous to publically associate with the Christians.
17 Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, 18 arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.
There’s an old question to check your commitment to Jesus. “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” There was no doubt Peter and the Apostles were followers- preaching, teaching, healing, caring for the poor. They were loud and proud. They were battling evil and evil is going to make them pay, first by imprisonment.
God provided for their escape. Did they run, no! Even though they were just arrested, they kept preaching and teaching publically.
Reading Acts 5:19- 28
Jewish leadership is jealous of so many people coming to faith and the Christian’s high regard of the people. The Jewish leadership is scared. They fear the crowd will believe Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, that they killed him, and the crowd will now stone them for it.
In verse 28, the apostles are accused of filling Jerusalem with their teaching. What would it be like if Sarasota were filled with the teaching of Jesus? Siesta Key?
What kind of effort would that take? Every single one of us equipped to share the gospel, testify, pray with people, invite people. Every single one of us, and all the other Christians in town wanting to do it, brave, courageous. Every single one saying, “This is the most important thing I do because this has eternal consequences.”
Reading Acts 5:29-39
They take a stand for Jesus then they start sharing the Gospel with the Jewish leadership! The leaders’ main mission is to protect the word of God, the temple, the worship of God from false Messiahs. Gamaliel reminds them that if Jesus is the Messiah, what the apostles are doing cannot be stopped. You could actually be fighting against God. If not, it will fail and fade.
Here we are over 2000 years later still following Jesus. The Gospel did not fail or fade. This gives us the courage to share it. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
39b They were convinced by him, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. 42 And every day in the temple and at home, they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.
Why do we come to Jesus? What are we looking for?
Come to Jesus for the adventure
Come to Jesus. Take up your cross. Suit up, warrior. Get in the game.
Come to Jesus. Battle evil. Change the world.
Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it’s risky. There is a cost, but it’s of God. If it’s of God- nothing will be able to stop it.
Renewing our Commitment to Christ, His Mission, and Church 1. Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
2. Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
3. Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?
4. According to the grace given you, will you remain faithful members of Christ’s holy Church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world?
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.
Love your enemies
Pray for those who persecute you
How, oh Lord?
Love your family
Your friends, co-workers, classmates
Your leaders, your neighbors, your competitors…
How, oh Lord?
Love yourself, the Enemy Within
The inner critic, the wounded
The addict, the success, the sinner…
How, oh Lord?
It is beyond me, but nothing is beyond you
In forgiving I reconnect with your forgiveness
In blessing I dive into the deep pool of your provision
In laying down arms I find the war already ended
My heart of peace is your heart beating within me
Jesus, your salvation is wholeness
Make me complete as you are that I may hold and be held
Make me a person of integrity
Molded from my sharp, shattered self
by your everlasting mercy and grace
This prayer could be offered by a single voice, a group praying in unison, or as indicated with a single voice on the regular print and all voices on the bold print.
Yes, we are merely clay jars
But within us is treasure
The extraordinary resurrection power of Jesus Hallelujah! Glory to God!
Yes, we are afflicted
Yes we are confused
But within us is treasure
The extraordinary resurrection power of Jesus We are not crushed We do not give in to despair Hallelujah! Glory to God!
Yes, we are persecuted
Yes, we are knocked down
But within us is treasure
The extraordinary resurrection power of Jesus We are not abandoned We are not destroyed Hallelujah! Glory to God!
Yes, death is constantly at work in us
Yes, we are chipped and cracked, frail and mortal
But it is nothing compared to the brutal death and suffering of Jesus
It is nothing compared to his victorious resurrection
His extraordinary and endless life is at work in us We are his treasure We wield his power Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Glory to God!
Ten 20th Century Martyrs remembered over the great west door of Westminster Abbey, London. Photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
The thought behind the photo:
Prophets speak God’s truth to power, giving voice to people and situations without a voice. Their sacrificing perseverance makes way for awareness, compassion, justice and peace.
These representative ten are drawn from every continent and many Christian denominations. They stand for all who have died and continue to die suffering from and/or working to end oppression and persecution. Unveiled July 9, 1998.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 23:29-37 NRSV
Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
The December 21, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 11:7-11, The Message
When John’s disciples left to report, Jesus started talking to the crowd about John. “What did you expect when you went out to see him in the wild? A weekend camper? Hardly. What then? A sheik in silk pajamas? Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot. What then? A prophet? That’s right, a prophet! Probably the best prophet you’ll ever hear. He is the prophet that Malachi announced when he wrote, ‘I’m sending my prophet ahead of you, to make the road smooth for you.’ Let me tell you what’s going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer; but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him.”
Earlier in this chapter, we read that John the Baptist, upon hearing what Jesus had been doing [The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised,] sent his own disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?”
Whatever this Jesus had been doing didn’t quite match up in John’s mind to what he had envisioned the messiah would do. Jesus, this man of God and prophet mighty in deed and word left John scratching his head, wondering if Jesus was the real deal.
Jesus, on the other hand, told the crowds that John was “Probably the best prophet you’ll ever hear.”
What would you expect from a prophet?
Thank you Rethink Church for a great way to make preparing for Christmas more meaningful. Join me and thousands more in setting aside time to reflect, focus, and literally picture the deep themes of Jesus’ birth.
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