Belmont Heights United Methodist Church
Worship April 26, 2020 Forever!
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  • He Lives
      • Psalm 116MESSAGE

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  • Forever
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      • Acts 2:36–41MESSAGE

      • 1 Peter 1:13–25MESSAGE

      • Luke 24:13–35MESSAGE

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  • How were we supposed to prepare for THIS?

    2 weeks, has turned into 6 weeks, and now looks like it will turn into 3 to 4 months or more. Is there an end in site? How are we supposed to prepare for this? How were we supposed to know what to do, what to buy, what to prepare, when we only had 24 hours before lockdown and didn’t know how long it was going to last.
    Maybe like this… (insert Costco meme) Describe for those who are audio only.
    And now that we are in the midst of it, how are we supposed to keep our focus, keep our wits, keep our sanity when we don’t even know when it will end?
    Will this go on FOREVER? or does it just seem like that?
    If you are on Social media, you may have seen these. I don’t know about you all, but I can relate>>
    (Insert other 2 memes here) - make sure you read outloud for those who are audio only
    Our scripture passage continues in 1 Peter. If you were with us last week, you know that this was written to people in exile, isolated and alone from the larger body of believers in Rome. I imagine they were asking some of the same questions - just maybe not with Will Smith and Facebook to vent their frustrations.
    Our passage here gives us more than a roadmap to navigate such a time as this. Our passage today gives us a way of living - a way of BEING through this time, and for all times to come.
    What is the first thing we are to do?

    Prepare your mind for action!

    Maybe you did manage to get to Costco and get those mega packs of toilet paper. Maybe you have been a “prepper” all your life. But God is saying something here that is far more important than making sure our cupboards are stocked and our gas tank is full. God is telling the people - and telling us
    Roll up your sleeves, Pull up your skirts, set your mind right, and conduct yourselves as a holy people!
    You see that is literally what this phrase “gird your loins” means - pull up your robe, tuck it in your belt, and GET READY TO MOVE. This phrase translated in the NRSV as “Prepare your minds for action” is literally “Gird the loins of your mind to move into action”.
    It is similar to our phrase, “roll up your shirtsleeves and get to work”, except here what Peter is wanting to “work” is the hearts and minds of the people!
    I was having a conversation with someone the other day. They were upset because someone, who they adored and who they thought highly of, said something extremely upsetting, racist, and homophobic. The person who said it did so out of deflection and insensitivity.He was anxious, being out of work and being idle. It was an ignorant statement. I told her the good news was that while stupidity is often a fatal disease, ignorance is curable disease. To choose to turn away from ignorance, however must be a choice, for the treatment is to learn and grow.
    I think this is what the writer is trying to tell us and the Holy Spirit is placing upon us. Prepare YOUR MIND in this time of isolation and exile! If we are to be holy - a people set apart - we must be willing to recognize our own ignorance and as my dear friend used to say - Child, get your MIND RIGHT! For it is only in this willingness to grow in mind and spirit that we can overcome our mindless ways and

    Be Holy as God is Holy.

    Wait. What? That is a pretty tall order. But before we get too scared.. First let’s look at this word “Holy”. Remember - we are learning here. It is not such a scary word, for it simply means, “to be set apart”. To be set apart. - Apart from the world that would have us put profit over people. Apart from a society that believes an individual’s wants are more important than the marginalized needs. Apart from mindless consumerism that destroys our planet. Apart from injustice, greed, racism, classism, hatred, and ignorance - and bring us to the perfect, incorruptible, presence of the Eternal and Living God. Child, get your mind RIGHT!
    This scripture is one of the best examples of the Wesleyan understanding of Sanctification. More on that later, but this is how John Wesley understood it - as a journey, as an intentional move continually toward God and our perfection in Love. The further we move toward God - the further we set ourselves apart from the world, or become holy.
    I think one of the reasons some of us feel so lost during this time of isolation and stay at home orders, is we can’t see that as our objective. I would posit that now, and at the time of the writing of our passage, that the objective is the same - holiness. If we keep our mind prepared for action toward God, that our decision we make, our conduct, our actions toward one another - if we keep these things focused on pleasing God, then even if we are sitting on our couch, we are on our journey to our objective - Holiness. A people set apart for and with God.
    O.K. so we get our mind focused on God and our holiness objective before us - now what? How do we know we are making progress?
    We recognize that

    Our old habits are futile.

    The word used here in the original Greek is a word that we would describe as “vacuous”. So beyond our Western understanding of futile - as something that leads to nothing, the writer cautions against reverting to old habits that are void, absent, or even vacuous of God. So some of us have old habits that are easily identifiable as futile. Perhaps we are spending too much time on idle pastimes instead of productive prayer. Maybe we are wasting time, money, resources, even family and relationships. Others of us have readily identifiable habits that are clearly void of God, such as hatred, greed, jealousy, addiction, gossip. But this passage alludes to something even harder to identify in these new and isolated converts to Christianity that the Epistle is writing to. The writer is not just referring to easily identified bad habits, but specifically the “habits of your forbearers” as one translation says - in other words, religious habits, done routinely, yet void of God.
    1000 Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching Where Does God Fit In?

    A schoolteacher in England tells a charming story. At Christmastime she supervised the construction of a manger scene in a corner of the classroom. The children participated happily in the project. They also enjoyed casting characters for the drama depicting the Nativity.

    The teacher noticed one boy was particularly enamored by it all and was forever going back and forth to the scene. At last she asked him if there was anything bothering him. He said, “No.” She said, “Are there any questions you would like to ask?” “Yes,” he said, “what I’d like to know is—where does God fit in?”

    This passage specifically cautions against the old habits of just “going through the motions”. Coming to church simply because that is what we do at 10:00 on Sunday, instead of coming with the expectation of meeting the very Living and Eternal God, as made known in Jesus, and coming before the altar of mercy and grace - emptying ourselves out - to be filled with the holiness of the Holy Spirit living in us!
    It is breaking the old habit of complacent, consumer Christianity and replacing it with a living, loving, Spirit filled journey with Christ! It is not the “what can I get out of this” religion, but “What can I bring before the Throne?” that resides in our very souls and moves us to live holy as God is holy.
    It is remembering the great price that Jesus paid to ransom us, to redeem us from of all things— Ourselves! And living into that remembrance each and every day, with each and every action, in profound gratitude and awe!
    And it requires us now to

    Live in complete and mutual love with one another.

    You might have heard of the 3 kinds of love described in Greek writing - Eros - or romantic love, Agape - unconditional and universal love, and Philos or Philadelphia - a love like family or a brotherly love. This passage calls us to live with our fellow believers in complete, “unhypocritical” is the literal translation, mutual Love that is BOTH Agape and Philadelphia in nature. In other words, a love so deep and wide that no one is excluded and recognizes that everyone is related. This is a love that transcends time, space, and circumstance. It is a love felt across tables and across miles. It is a love that recognizes that the Human family is ONE; and that we are to care as deeply for those we have not seen, as we do for those we see each day.
    Now that we have prepared our minds, given up our old ways, acknowledged God’s sacrifice and committed to loving one another.. What’s next?

    We Live in Holiness

    There is no real theological context for the past tense - Sanctified, unless one among us can declare we have reached perfection in love. We just say it because it rhymes so well with Justified and Glorified! Sanctification is the journey. Holiness is our objective. Butt off of it is impossible without God. For it is through the Justifying Grace of our Redemption through Christ, that we experience the continually Sanctifying Grace of our holiness journey. We are holy. We are to be holy. Set apart. Now. Forever.
    And

    We live in holiness by living in complete Love

    In love with God, shown by loving one another.

    We live in holiness now and forever

    Bought, redeemed from our old ways, by a price more precious than gold and imperishable, eternal. We live INTO our holiness every day. Whether in a sanctuary, or on our couch -making sure we do all we can in love to do no harm. We live INTO our holiness whether surrounded by all the saints of heaven and earth, or in exile and isolation..
    and

    We live in the Holy Word of God

    The Word - the good news, the eternal, forever reign of the Risen Christ! The Word of God, made flesh, who was set apart for us, who redeemed us, who lived, died, and rose again for US! So that we might live in holiness with God now and

    Forever!

    Amen

  • Agnus Dei
  • Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow!
  • When Our Confidence Is Shaken
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