Oh No! Girls in the Boy Scouts. Is this the End of the World?

Several of my Facebook friends have been stirred up over the news that the Boy Scouts of America would now be accepting girls into the Cub Scouts and allow girls to earn the Eagle award.  Relax folks.

You need to know the facts.

First, this isn’t new.  Remember that The Boy Scouts of America, is the United States branch of an organization that exists in over 190 countries.  The BSA itself consists of several organizations: Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturing, Explorers, Sea Scouts and also the STEM Scout pilot program.  All of these, except Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts have admitted girls as young as eleven years old, since around 1971.

Second, as an international organization, the Boy Scouts have allowed girls in both Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts in nearly every country on the planet except for the United States and a few other countries, most of which are predominantly Muslim.  That’s why international events like the Scout Jamboree and the World Jamboree have had female participants for decades and the camps they use are already fully equipped, and staffed, to support them.

That bring us up to date as we consider the recent announcement and change to BSA policy.  Let’s take a look at what the announcement actually says:

  • Hispanic and Asian communities prefer to participate in activities as a family. Recent surveys of parents not involved with scouting showed high interest in getting their daughters signed up for programs like Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.

That’s a significant motivation to be racially inclusive and, frankly to be good citizens, as well as a good idea for an organization that has been shrinking as busy families have less time to join any kind of club.  The same struggle is seen in music, sports, and theater programs at schools as well as all sorts of community groups and clubs.

  • Starting in 2018, families can choose to sign up their sons and daughters for Cub Scouts. Existing packs may choose to establish a new girl pack, establish a pack that consists of girl dens and boy dens or remain an all-boy pack. Cub Scout dens will be single-gender — all boys or all girls.

The control of implementing this is completely local.  If your pack doesn’t want females, or if you simply don’t have the female volunteers to properly supervise the addition of girls, then don’t.  But even if you do, the girls and the boys will belong to separate dens and will only be together at Pack meeting when all of the leaders, male and female,  are present.  And remember, Cub Scouts don’t have camp-outs unless their parents are with them, and scouts never share a tent with an adult, unless that adult is a parent.

  • BSA will also deliver a program for older girls, which is projected to be available in 2019, that will enable them to earn the Eagle Scout rank. This unique approach allows the organization to maintain the integrity of the single gender model while also meeting the needs of today’s families.

Read that again.  They did not say that girls will join the Boy Scouts.  What they said was that they are developing a program that will make the Eagle rank, and presumably, merit badges, etc., available to girls.  That does not say that girls will be integrated with the boys, but instead emphases that they want to “maintain the integrity of the single gender model.”  How they intend to accomplish that has yet to be explained, but there’s nothing here that seems worth getting upset about.

So relax.

I’m a pretty conservative parent of boys and a girl.  I was involved in scouting as a boy and I have been active in scouting since my boys were in grade school and joined Cub Scouts.  I attended this year’s Boy Scout Jamboree, and I saw plenty of female Venturers, as well as female international scouts.  As a chaplain, I was pretty plugged-in to the news of what was happening across the camp.  And as far as I know, there were zero problems that arose because both genders were present.

Honestly, I think that this is a good step.  It makes a premier program of leadership development available to girls who will hold important positions of responsibility in our industry, our culture and our society.  And, as described, it will take nothing away from the boys.  Why would we rob half of our children, and ourselves, of this opportunity?

I don’t see a downside here.

 

 

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Dedication Determines Destination

“Dedication Determines Destination”

July 02, 2017

By John Partridge*

 

Genesis 22:1-14                      Romans 6:12-23

 

 

On July 4th, 1776, fifty-six men from 13 colonies signed the American Declaration of Independence.  Of these, nine were immigrants, two were brothers, two were cousins, and one was an orphan. The average age of a signer was 45. Benjamin Franklin was the oldest delegate at 70. The youngest was Thomas Lynch Jr. of South Carolina at 27.

 

They were merchants, businessmen, farmers, doctors, lawyers, judges, legislators, one a clergyman, and while most all were Protestant, only one was Catholic.

 

What they signed was a list of grievances against the King of England that had not been resolved and, having complained, had been made worse.  At the end of this declaration was an oath in which they swore their “support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

 

And they did.  And the cost, for many of them, was steep.

 

Seventeen signers fought in the American Revolution and the British captured five of them during the war. Richard Stockton never recovered from his incarceration at the hands of British Loyalists. He died in 1781.  Thomas McKean wrote to John Adams and said that he was “hunted like a fox by the enemy – compelled to remove my family five times in a few months.” Abraham Clark had two of his sons captured by the British during the war.  Eleven signers had their homes and property destroyed. Francis Lewis’s home was razed and his wife taken prisoner. John Hart’s farm and mills were destroyed when the British invaded New Jersey, and he died while fleeing capture. Carter Braxton and Thomas Nelson lent large sums of their personal fortunes to support the war effort but were never repaid.1 Thomas Lynch contracted swamp fever while fighting with the South Carolina militia and his illness left him sickly for the rest of his life. Seeking relief from his illness he and his wife sailed for the south of France and were lost at sea.  Joseph Hewes worked night and day and spent himself creating the new United States Navy.  His health failed and he died from overexertion.2

 

These men knew that signing the Declaration of Independence would mark them as an enemy of the king and all of England.  They didn’t make their choice of allegiance lightly.  They knew that the American colonies had chosen a destination that would carry them away from England, her king, and their empire.  But they also knew that reaching that destination would take incredible courage and dedication.  Without their dedication and sacrifice, our freedom would have been impossible.

 

This is the theme that we also see in today’s scripture readings.  We begin in Genesis 22:1-14, as we continue with the story of Abraham and Sarah.

 

22:1Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

 

God, knowing full well that Abraham and Sarah had sent Ishmael and his mother out into the desert to die, or at the very least, knowing that they would never return, God asks Abraham, to take Isaac, his only son, his most prized, most loved, the son through whom God had promised to produce nations and people more numerous than the stars, and the one thing Abraham held to be more valuable than any other, even more than his own life, and to sacrifice him as a burnt offering on the top of a mountain.  This was God’s test.  God knew that Abraham loved him.  God knew that Abraham trusted him, but God still wondered if Abraham was “All in.”  To be fair, Abraham also knew what God had promised.  He knew that God had promised that Isaac would be blessed and that God would make his family into a great nation.  Abraham knew that Isaac was only the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise to make Abraham’s children as numberless as the stars in the sky.  But now God wanted Abraham to take that promise to the top of a mountain and put a knife to Isaac’s neck.  We don’t know what Abraham was thinking.  Maybe he was thinking that God would relent and change his mind.  Maybe he was thinking that God would raise Isaac from the dead.  We don’t know.

 

What we know is, that in the end, Abraham did everything that God asked.  Abraham was fully prepared to end Isaac’s life if that was truly what God wanted.  Now God knew, without a shadow of a doubt that Abraham was “All in.”  There was nothing, not even this most prized, most loved, most cherished son, as well as the love of his wife (because I just don’t see Sarah being the same if Abraham had come home without Isaac), not even that would Abraham keep from God if that was what God desired.  This is the most extreme example, but this is what it looks like to give everything to God.  Especially after last week’s lesson, we know that Abraham was far from perfect.  But he was willing to give God everything that had any value to him.  God blessed Abraham, and Isaac, and their family and still does so today.

 

Abraham’s dedication determined his destination.

 

In Romans 6:12-23, Paul explains it this way:

 

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

 

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Paul’s first argument is that we are each like an instrument offered to God.  Every part of us needs to be equally dedicated to God.  To withhold a part of our lives, and to offer God less than all of ourselves, produced a gift like a guitar with missing strings, or a trumpet with one valve stuck, or a piano with some of the keys missing.

 

Next, Paul again confronts what must have been a common argument to excuse sin.  The argument was that since the sacrifice of Jesus and the grace offered by God now supersedes the Law of the Old Testament, then sin is therefore permissible.  But Paul destroys that argument by saying that human beings, by nature, will enslave themselves to something.  We are enslaved by our desires, our lusts, our passions; we are enslaved by greed, sex, power, and a host of other things.  But the gift of Jesus Christ and the grace of God allows us a choice.  We can continue to be enslaved by our sin, or we can choose to give ourselves instead to a good, just, and merciful master who will set us free from sin and make us slaves to doing right.  What’s more, when we are enslaved by our desires, the direction of our lives will lead to death but if we are enslaved to righteousness, our lives lead to eternal life.

 

Our dedication determines our destination.

 

The signers of the American Declaration of Independence knew with absolute certainty that what they were doing was an act of treason and would make them enemies of the King, of England, and the empire.  They understood that liberty and freedom for the new American colonies would come at a price and they were prepared to dedicate their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor in pursuit of that goal.

 

And it was their dedication that determined the destination of our nation.

 

Abraham and Sarah spent their entire lives praying and waiting for God to fulfill his promise to give them a son, and when God gave them Isaac, he became the most treasured thing in their lives.  But when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to demonstrate his devotion and dedication Abraham was prepared to hold nothing back and give everything, even his most precious son, back to God.

 

And his dedication determined his destination.

 

That same choice falls to each one of us in our spiritual life.  Just as you cannot make beautiful music on a guitar that is missing strings, or a piano with broken keys, neither can we withhold parts of ourselves from God.  We will, by nature, drift into slavery to something but the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the grace of God allow us to choose whether we want to be slaves to our own desires, or slaves to God and slaves to doing what’s right.  When God asks us if we are “All in” he isn’t just asking if we are his fans, he is asking if we, like Abraham, are willing to give God absolutely everything that has value to us.  Your willingness to be “sold out” to God is literally a choice between life and death.

 

Your dedication, determines your destination.

 

Are you… “All in?”

 

 

 

 

 

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1Note: Information from Larry James • CelebrateLove.com These are his sources: Robert Lincoln, Lives of the Presidents of the United States, with Biographical Notices of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence(Brattleboro Typographical Company, 1839); John and Katherine Bakeless, Signers of the Declaration (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969); Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989).
2 http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com/declaration-of-independence-signatures.html
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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org.  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn.   These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

 

The Value of an Invitation

Invitation

We get four or five things in the mail everyday.

Most of our mail is junk.

Almost all of the rest is bills.

Of course, we get letters from my mom who still writes on paper and uses stamps, but the rest of our friends and family communicate electronically.

But one in a blue moon we receive an invitation.  Just a handful of envelopes arrive during the course of a year to invite us to baby showers, birthday parties, weddings, etc.  Many of those are migrating to electronic media as well, but even so, the number of invitations that we receive is relatively small.  I say this because in a mailbox, physical or electronic, that is filled with junk every single day, invitations are not only not junk, they are welcome, valuable, and often become the thing that gets opened first.

We like to be invited to things.

Even if we can’t attend, the invitation makes us feel valuable.  Someone thought of us, appreciated us, and took the time, effort, and expense to ask us to share a moment of time with them.  An invitation is a sign that tells the world that we are wanted.

Our church is no different.

Many of the people at Trinity came to church, sometimes decades ago, because someone invited them to come.  So why is it that we seem reluctant to invite others?

We shouldn’t be.

Thom Rainer spent four years researching unchurched people.  One of the things that surprised him as they compiled the results was that ninety six percent of unchurched people in the United States are at least “somewhat likely” to attend church if they are invited.  Think about that.  More than nine out of ten people would be interested in attending church, of only someone would take the time to ask them and make them feel wanted.

[Note: Thom Rainer’s entire article on http://www.ChurchCentral.com, “Survey finds many unchurched would come to church if invited”  is worth reading.]

What’s more, the people of Trinity Church are proving this to themselves and the results are increasingly obvious.  In the last few weeks, I’ve heard from several people (some of whom have recently become members) that they are here because they were invited.  I have been hearing this more and more often and I want to make sure that others notice.

Recently, one family said that they came because of an invitation, from me, that I don’t even remember.  Another came a couple winters ago when I gave them one of those little business card invitations and invited them to our Christmas Eve service.  Another family was invited by Ruth and Gary Sturgill, another by Brett and Beth Huntsman, several by Ronnie and Cheryl Wendell, and another after our Easter invitation postcards were delivered to the surrounding neighborhoods were combined with personal invitations to many of our friends from Perry Helping Perry.  Just this week, Chris Jukich greeted someone at the door that she met, and invited, at our community breakfast on Saturday.  There are more examples that I know about, and even more that I am forgetting.

So here’s my point:

People tell me that they want Trinity Church to grow.  It can, and it is.  We are growing because the people at Trinity are reaching out and inviting their neighbors, friends, and family to join us.  Some, like Marla Armstrong and Jan Gash, are inviting people all the time.  In fact, many of you are doing it.  I apologize if I didn’t mention you by name.

Thank you.

Trinity Church is a special place.  The people here aren’t perfect, but we are generous and friendly and have made this into a place where people can experience community, mercy, grace, and love.

We have something to offer.  You are probably here because someone invited you and you found something that you liked.  I hope that you have been blessed because you belong here.  I believe that you have, because many of you have told me so.

I encourage you to do the same for someone else.

We are already growing because the people of Trinity Church understand the value and the importance of a simple invitation.

You can make a difference.

Help someone else to feel wanted and valued.

Help others to find a home where they can experience community, mercy, grace, and love.

Join us in being “invitational.” Tell your neighbors, family, and friends about Trinity Church.

People need a place to belong.

Invite them.

There’s more than a 9 out of 10 chance that they’ll consider it.

 

 

 

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Building for Builders that Build

blueprint hardhat“Building for Builders that Build”

May 21, 2017

By John Partridge*

 

Acts 7:55-60

John 14:1-14

1 Peter 2:2-10

 

 

Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  But then what?

 

What has be been doing since then?

 

Have you ever planned a major event?

 

It could be anything from a backyard neighborhood barbeque, a wedding, a family vacation trip, or a great many other things.  If you have, you might begin to appreciate how much planning and preparation are required from the time you have an idea until you finish cleaning up after your big event.  Weeks, months, sometimes years of planning are required depending on the size of the event.  For example, the invasion of Europe on D-Day was anticipated much earlier than many of us appreciate.  Long before the invasion in 1944, the wheels had been set in motion to bring everything that was needed to that place and time so that it was ready when it was needed.  Consider for a moment how much planning went into the human beings that were there that day, how many months and years of recruiting, training, purchasing uniforms and other equipment went into preparing the soldiers, marines, sailors, aircrews, glider crews, and so on.

 

But let’s also take a moment to consider how they all got across the English Channel.  The ships that would be needed to invade Europe were conceived and designed as early as 1930, almost a decade and a half earlier, and construction began soon after.  By 1940 landing craft of various types were being manufactured in several countries.  In the United States alone these ships were being produced at a rate of over 1,000 ships per month.  At one point, very near the time of the invasion, the entire effort was postponed by a month or more because there were not yet enough landing craft to carry the troops needed for the invasion.

 

The planning and preparation for this one day began at least fourteen years in advance in order for all the needed people, skills, equipment, and supplies would be where they needed to be, when they needed to be there.  In that time, countless hours and untold billions of dollars were spent in factories, mines, office buildings, highways, and aboard ship by people around the world.  All that, planned and coordinated by only a handful of people and a truly global chain of command.  All that, to prepare for one war, on one continent, and especially for one day, June 6, 1944.

 

But as we consider all the planning and preparation that went into D-Day, what does that tell us about events that are even bigger?  How much did it take to build the Suez Canal?  We know that the construction of the Panama Canal was attempted at least once before the United States finally pulled it off and it still took fourteen years, in addition to the fourteen years that the French had worked on the project before that.  Between the French and the Americans, the Panama Canal cost in the neighborhood of $700 million, which if spent today, would be in the neighborhood of $17 billion.

 

So what’s the point of all this?

 

As we consider the planning and preparation of such historic endeavors, imagine for a moment what must go into preparing for the return of Jesus Christ, the judgement of the entire world, the arrival of the new Jerusalem, and the coordination and housing of billions of believers in the city of God.

 

But before we get to all of that, let’s lay out some background from Acts 7:55-60.

 

55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

 

After the resurrection of Jesus, Stephen is given a vision in which he sees Jesus, in heaven, standing beside the throne of God.  The announcement of this vision, as well as the speech that he had given immediately prior, so enraged the members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, that they dragged him outside and stoned him to death.  But from this, we confirm that after his departure from earth that Jesus is in heaven, and rules alongside Almighty God.

 

We also know, from his words recorded in John 14:1-14, that Jesus has work to do while he is there.

 

14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

 

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

 

In the time of Jesus, homes were often built by the patriarch of the family and then, as children arrived, rooms were added onto the side of the house.  When the sons were old enough to get married, they too would build a room for themselves and their new wives, attached to the family house.  And then their sons did the same.  When we hear the story about the bride lighting a lamp as she awaited her bridegroom, this is the picture that people would have had in their minds.  The bridegroom had left, returned to his father’s house, and was building a room for his future family.  When he had completed the new room, the groom would return to collect his bride and the wedding went forward.  And so, when Jesus says that he is returning to his father’s house to prepare a place for us, this is almost certainly the mental picture that people would have had.

 

Now imagine the difficulty found in that simple statement.

 

Jesus has gone to prepare rooms, in his father’s house, for the untold millions of believers throughout history.  Granted, this is the creator of the universe, but also consider the preparation that is required here on earth.  It took thousands of years to prepare people, nations, and cultures for the moment of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, and the events surrounding his life, death, and resurrection.  So I can easily imagine that the same preparations for the end of the world and the second coming are no easy task that can be arranged in an instant of time.

 

But also note that Jesus says, “12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

 

God empowered Jesus to do the work of building his Kingdom.  But as Jesus returns to heaven he assigns that work to each one of us.  Think about that.  Our assignment, our task, our job, is nothing less than the job that was given to Jesus.  Our job is to reach the wanderer, rescue the perishing, feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, preach the Good News, make disciples of all nations, and build God’s kingdom.

 

Before we finish, I want to reinforce that point one more time.  In 1 Peter 2:2-10, Peter explains who we are and why we do what we do, one more time.

 

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

 

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”and,

“A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

 

Peter says that believers are like newborn babies that need to be fed so that they can grow.  In order to grow, they need to eat.  In order to eat, they need to be fed.  All of that seems simple, but it reminds us of several important truths.  First, we all start somewhere and where we start, we are like babies.  We’re immature, we get things wrong, we do things wrong even when we’re trying hard, and there are a lot of things that we can’t do for ourselves.  But those babies need to be fed and more mature believers are expected to help feed them while also taking responsibility to feed themselves.  A high school kid who still wants to sit on his momma’s lap and be fed with a bottle would be ridiculous, and the same is true of Christians.  Mature believers should be expected to make an effort to feed themselves and not need everything spoon-fed to them.  Each of us becomes responsible for our own maturity, and so each of us likewise becomes responsible for studying the scriptures, being fed spiritually, and continuing to grow.  Peter says that the expectation is that we would all grow up in our salvation.

 

As we come to Jesus, he takes us, as if we were living stones, and he is building us into a spiritual house.  He desires for us to be, and is building us into, a holy priesthood that can offer spiritual sacrifices to God.  Peter says that we “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” but he doesn’t stop there.  Peter says that we “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possessionso thatyou may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  We have been called to serve God and to declare to the world the praises of what he has done for us.  We are called to be witnesses, disciples, evangelists, so that we can build God’s kingdom.

 

So let’s review:

Let’s review.

 

Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

 

He learned a trade from his father Joseph and became a carpenter or a stonemason.

 

Jesus was a builder.

 

He was sent to earth by God to build God’s kingdom.

 

He ascended into heaven where he is, even now, building a place for each one of us.

 

He has called each of us to take up the task on earth that he left behind.

 

We have become the builders.

 

We are now responsible for building God’s kingdom.

 

And so Jesus is a builder, who is building buildings for builders who build.

 

Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

 

And so, as we leave this place today I want us all to remember the task that Jesus has given to us.

 

Go out into the world, and build people, build them up, build up families, build up communities, help them to grow, help them to become mature spiritually and not just physically.  Tell people what God has done for you.  Tell people about the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

 

Go.

 

Build God’s kingdom.

 

 

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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org.  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn.   These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

 

As IF

“As IF”

February 05, 2017

By John Partridge*

 

Isaiah 58:1-12                              Matthew 5:13-20                      1 Corinthians 2:1-12

 Are you familiar with sarcasm?

By definition, sarcasm is a form of humor or wit that relies upon the use of irony or satire.  The Merriam Webster online dictionary uses this sentence from the weekly column “It Beats Working” in the Charleston Post and Courier as an example: “The best part of being single,” Bryce Donovan jokes, “is being able to choose any woman I want to shoot me down.”   In the 1970’s we often heard sarcasm expressed using the phrase “Yeah, right” and during the 1980’s we would end a sentence with the word “not” to express a form of sarcasm, as in “I am the smartest kid in school… not.”  And then in 1995, the movie “Clueless” with Alicia Silverstone popularized the expression “As if” to do much the same thing.  The Urban Dictionary uses this example: “If a guy tells me he knows I’m in love with him (but I think he’s a total loser), then I say to him “AS IF!””

Curiously, as modern as these sentiments are, we find a very similar message this morning in today’s scripture passage from Isaiah 58:1-12 where we hear God use words that sound very much like sarcasm…

58:1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

As we listen to these words, we realize that this is God’s criticism of his own followers.  God says that people come to the temple every day and genuinely seem to desire the ways of God.  They ask for justice, and they seem eager for God to be close to them.  They fast, and they humble themselves before God, but they wonder why God doesn’t notice them.

But God did notice.

God noticed all those things, but he also noticed that on the same day that these people fasted before God, they also abused their employees.  When they are done acting penitent before God they yell and scream and get into fistfights with one another.  And God says that he simply doesn’t work this way.  You can’t behave that way and expect God to bless you for being faithful.  Instead, God says that the kind of faithfulness that God chooses to bless is the kind that fights against injustice, that frees people from slavery and abuse, that feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, and welcomes the stranger.  When we do that, is when we will experience healing and feel God’s protection.  God’s blessing doesn’t come when our faith is only words.  Blessing comes when we act to bring about God’s kingdom on earth and when we do the things that God has commanded us to do.  We will be blessed, and the church rebuilt and restored to its former glory, when we fight against oppression, stop pointing fingers at one another and stop talking smack about each other.  We will be blessed when we spend our time, our strength, and our energy caring for the hungry, marginalized, outcasts, vagrants, refugees, the oppressed, and the abused.

And just in case we go off on some mistaken assumption that this is limited to some sort of an Old Testament thing, we find almost exactly the same idea in Matthew 5:13-20 where we hear Jesus say…

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

What Jesus is saying, is that each one of us has been put on earth in order to accomplish some purpose.  Salt is supposed to be salty.  When it is, it does what it’s supposed to do, but when salt loses its saltiness, it becomes nothing better than just a bunch of rocks.  Salt that isn’t salty might be good for gravel in your driveway, but not for much else.  Likewise, and I realize that this sounds redundant, lights are made to shed light.  No one lights a lamp and then hides it.  If they did, then why bother lighting the lamp, or turning on the light, in the first place?  Lights are only useful when they do what they were intended to do, to drive back the darkness and to provide illumination.

Jesus gives these two incredibly obvious illustrations to make his larger point about the people who were listening to him, and that includes each one of us.  Jesus says that you are the salt of the earth.  You are the light of the world.  You have been created and put on earth for a purpose intended by God.  God intends for you, for us, to obey his commands, to do the things that Jesus taught, and to teach others so that God’s kingdom can grow and continue on into the future.  Jesus says when his people fail to do these things it’s like salt losing its saltiness, or a light being hidden under a bowl.  It’s ridiculous, it’s silly, and it transforms something valuable, into something useless.

And finally, in 1 Corinthians 2:1-12, Paul explains our work, mission, and purpose this way…

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—

10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.

Just as we mentioned a few weeks ago, Paul again reminds us that the power of the message of Jesus Christ isn’t anything that depends on us.  It isn’t our strength, or our eloquence in using big words or flowery phrases, it isn’t our courage, or much of anything else that we can take credit for.  Paul says that he came in weakness and fear and trembling but was successful, not because of anything that he did, but because of the power of God.  We can never know the thoughts, fears, motivations, or much of anything else about the people we meet and the people we talk to, but God does and it is God’s Spirit that is at work whenever we have those spiritual conversations about the person and message of Jesus.

Jesus says that you are the salt of the earth.  You are the light of the world.  You have been created and put on earth for a purpose intended by God.  God intends for you, for us, to obey his commands, to do the things that Jesus taught, and to teach others so that God’s kingdom can grow and continue on into the future.

What we cannot do is to be un-salty salt, or hidden lights, or people who appear to act as if they want God, but who never do the things that God has asks us to do.

We have been created by God and deliberately placed on earth for a purpose.

Let’s get busy.

 We have work to do.

 

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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org.  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn.   These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

 

Called to Be More

swan-and-ducksBeing a “follower” of Jesus isn’t enough.

Sunday, we begin another new year.  It is the season of making resolutions, where people promise themselves that they’ll do something different than what they’ve usually done.  Resolutions are built on hope.  We hope that we’ll do better than we usually do, but in reality, by the end of January most resolutions are already dead and buried.

People who are regulars at the gym know that the parking lots will be jammed in January but by February things are back to normal.  Running seems to be even worse.  There is a core group of dedicated walkers in our neighborhood but not a lot of runners.  Since I was often out running at the same time of day I knew which people were regulars.  There were a handful of folks who were always out, rain, shine, snow, ice, or brutal heat.  It didn’t matter, they were there.  But in the spring, there was a surge of folks just enjoying the nice weather, and then a similar jump in the fall, but once it was too hot, or too cold, these folks all disappeared.

But blogger Michael Hyatt has noted that there is big difference between a resolution and a goal.  While a resolution is built on hope, something that we hope to do better, a goal is built on an intended destination, a target that we intend to reach.  And so, when things get difficult, some vague desire to “do better” just isn’t enough to carry us through.  But a sincere goal of running a race, losing five pounds in time for beach weather, or other reasonable and attainable targets are enough of an emotional and psychological motivation to push us a little harder.

But how does any of this make a difference in our spiritual lives?

It makes a difference in the language that we use and in the language that Jesus intended for us to use.  You see, we have gotten into the habit of calling ourselves followers of Jesus and, while that’s not wrong, it doesn’t go far enough.  Jesus called Peter, James, John, and all of us, to follow him, but he also called us to become more than that.

Jesus called people to follow him so that they could become his disciples.

While some dictionaries use these two words as synonyms, scripturally, as well as in practice, they are quite different.  A follower is a person who likes what the leader does and follows them from place to place to watch them and see what happens next.  But a disciple is a learner who follows so that they can become more like the person that they re following.   A disciple’s goal is to learn so much from the teacher that they begin to live and act like the teacher in everything they do.  The ultimate goal is for the learner to become so much like the teacher, that they themselves are sent out to teach and to make more disciples.

Here’s an example: for years the rock band, The Grateful Dead, had a loyal following of people called “dead heads” who knew everything the band played and who followed them from place to place all over the country.  But even though they were dedicated, and had all the songs committed to memory, they were still just followers.  In contrast, many of you have heard Buddy Rich, the drummer who played for Frank Sinatra and who led his own band.  Buddy Rich was one of the most talented drummers in history.  I am certain that he had a great many followers, but he also had a handful of disciples.  As busy as he was, Buddy Rich taught drum lessons, but as skilled as he was, he only taught the best of the best.  Buddy Rich taught just a few people who were both highly skilled and professionally driven to become the best drummers in the world.  Although most of them aren’t household names, nearly every one of them played in bands that you’ve heard of or led bands of their own.  Likewise, there’s a big difference between being a fan of a famous sports team, and working hard to become good enough to try out and play for that team.

That’s the difference between following and becoming a disciple.

We often call ourselves followers, but we can’t stop there.

We are called to something bigger, something more demanding, and much more important.

Our language makes a difference.

It makes a difference if we make resolutions or set goals.

We sell ourselves short when we think of ourselves as followers.

We are called to be more.

 

 

 

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Season Meets Reason

cow

“Season Meets Reason”

November 27, 2016

By John Partridge*

 

 

Scripture: Isaiah 2:1-5                        Romans 13:11-14                               Matthew 24:36-44

The other day, Patti and I were traveling along the freeway when traffic suddenly came to a complete stop.  We immediately wondered what had happened because normally, even in the worst of construction zones, traffic keeps moving at least a little.  But this time we stopped dead and we were there long enough that I put the car in park.  As we sat there, we guessed that it might have been an accident and, sure enough, once we started moving again we saw two cars, a tractor trailer, and a police car all blocking the right lane.  Thankfully, even though there was a baby seat in one of the cars, everyone seemed to be okay.

As simple as it was, this common experience reminds us of the ripple effects of human events.  Traffic backs up because there was an accident.  Railroad gates drop because there is, somewhere down the line, an oncoming train.  One event causes another, and sometimes those ripples cascade far into the future.  We live here in North America because men like Amerigo Vespucci, Leif Erikson, Christopher Columbus, Henry Hudson, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, Jacques Cartier, Hernando de Soto, John Cabot, and many others dared to cross the Atlantic and explore the New World.  What they did changed the world, and the ripples caused by their actions continue to impact our lives today.

And so, as we celebrate Advent, and begin the season of Christmas, we often talk about Jesus being the “reason for the season.”  We recognize that a huge part of our entire world has set aside time, religious or not, to celebrate this particular season of the year and we know that a ripple that enduring has to have had a cause.  But what we often miss, is that the reason for Christmas started long before the birth of Jesus, and the ripples caused by those events continue into the future, and impact our lives, far more than we appreciate.

We begin this morning by reading the words of the prophet Isaiah who lived nearly eight hundred years before the birth of Jesus. (Isaiah 2:1-5)

2:1 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

Come, descendants of Jacob,
let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Generations before Jesus’ birth, Isaiah proclaims that a day will come when God himself will live in Jerusalem, rule over the earth, and judge disputes between nations.  In those days, weapons of war will be reshaped into instruments of agriculture, and the world will finally know peace.

Isaiah not only saw the coming of the Messiah that we celebrate at Christmas, but also the messiah’s ultimate rule and reign to which we still look forward.  The ripple in time that we celebrate at Christmas did not begin with Jesus, and in fact did not begin with Isaiah.  What we remember when we read Isaiah is that the birth of the Messiah was God’s plan from the beginning of time itself.  All of creation was leading up to that moment, and continues to look forward to the ultimate conclusion of God’s story.

We all know the Christmas story.  We will spend plenty of time in the coming weeks remembering the stories about angels and shepherds, Mary and Joseph, and wise men from the East.  But while remembering the characters is important, we must also take time to remember that such a pivotal event in human history didn’t happen by accident.  The birth of Jesus, God’s Messiah, Savior, and rescuer of all humanity, happened for a reason.

In Matthew 24:36-44, Jesus tells the disciples about the day of his return.

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Jesus reminds his followers, that his birth, life, death and resurrection were just the beginning.  Just as God’s people had looked forward to the arrival of the Messiah for thousands of years, we now look forward to his ultimate return.  And as we look forward, Jesus warns us to be prepared, to “be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Jesus’ warning is two-fold.  First, we must keep watch for his coming and second, that we must be prepared for his arrival at all times because he will come when we do not expect him.  But what does it mean to “be prepared” for his arrival?  Honestly, it’s the same message that God has been telling his people since the very beginning.  In Romans 13:11-14, Paul puts it this way:


11 
And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Paul reminds us that “being ready” is all about the way that we live our lives every day.  If we believe that Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem, and we believe that his purpose for coming to earth was to live, die, and rise from the grave to pay the debt for our forgiveness, then our belief must not just be an abstract idea that we carry around in our heads, but a belief that is lived out every minute of every day.

The coming of Jesus was an event that sent ripples through time and that event was a part of God’s plan that began with creation itself.  While we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas, we love to decorate our houses, our churches, shopping centers, and office cubicles, but if we fail to decorate our lives by living the way that Jesus taught, then all the trees, all the presents, all the worship services, and all the other trappings of Christmas are no better than wrapping tinsel around a cow pie.

At Christmas, it is vital for us to remember the reason for our celebration.

Jesus did not come to earth so that we could buy presents and decorate trees.

Jesus came to earth to transform lives.

Jesus came to transform my life.

Jesus came to transform your life.

And so, the best way that we can “decorate” for Christmas is to live every day of the year as if Jesus was real, as if we knew for certain that he was coming back tomorrow.

The best gift of Christmas is for each of us to actually do the things that Jesus taught us to do.

God’s gift to the world at Christmas wasn’t just a baby in a manger.

God’s gift to the world is a world full of followers who live like Jesus everyday.

 

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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org.  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn.   These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.