Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Sermon I Didn't Give (Snow Storm)

“Formed in Christ”

March 21, 2010

Philippians 3:4-14 (New International Version)

If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

It sounds like Paul is bragging here, doesn’t it? But then he goes on to say:

7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more; I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

This scripture has a couple of lessons. The primary lesson is “do not look back”. God has initiated a change in our lives or we wouldn’t be here and we are challenged to be “formed in Christ”. Our Isaiah passage which I did not read is a challenge to the people of Israel to “not look back” but to move forward into new life.

Here Paul enumerates all his accomplishments but he doesn’t look back on them…he is challenged to instead look forward, losing what he considered his “righteousness of the past”. What Paul barely mentions here is his steadfast persecution of the Christians…those he caused to be persecuted and sometimes even put to death. It’s no wonder Paul does not want to look back.

And neither should we. All of us, at some time in our lives have done things for which we are now deeply ashamed. But this instruction here “to not look back” is wise. Nothing can be done about our past sins and looking back can hold us back from any growth and make us self absorbed and keep us from seeing the need all around us. Looking to the future and being aware of God’s Spirit, can lead us into a happier and more fulfilled life. Feelings of guilt are a terrible thing.

I will always remember my mom, who was a recovering alcoholic, saying she had wasted her life. She was 64 years old when she came to herself and decided not to drink anymore. She had been drinking for almost thirty years. Her health was ruined. But with God’s help, she was able to do something few are able to do. She stopped drinking completely on her own, without the help of a treatment center or any medication. Her only help was the support she received from her family and God. Furthermore she recognized that and she came back to church every time the doors were open and she brought her sister, Mildred, who had not come to church in years. Then she became an inspiration to another friend who had tried several times but couldn’t quit drinking. So, no, her life was not wasted. But the important thing was that since the past could not be changed, she did not look back.

And if we look back on the past sins of our loved ones, that will keep us from appreciating what they have managed to overcome.

As Paul says, we should not put our trust in ourselves but instead have confidence that God’s Spirit will attempt to lead us into right ways…ways that will make us happy and open to spiritual growth. We should now be “formed in Christ”.

As an international faith community we will continually engage in extended conversation with one another and, most especially, with the Holy Spirit to figure out just what God is calling us to be and do. There are many choices, many seemingly “right” answers. The key question, as posed in paragraph 10b, of Section 163 is to “discern and pursue what matters most for the journey ahead.”

This challenge of discovering or discerning what God wants rather than what we want for the church as well as ourselves is a real dilemma for us.

Our situation is daunting. We are trying to be an international church in increasingly pluralistic societies and cultures. We are called to be accepting, diverse, multilingual, and generous. We have begun to be more comfortable with our name, but we do not yet fully understand what a blessing it can be and what God has in store for us. To top all this off, we still do not fit easily in any other religious tradition. We face what Rich Brown calls a collection of “yets”:

• We are called to proclaim the “peace of Jesus Christ,” yet we are not a traditional peace church like the Quakers or Brethren.

• We are a deeply sacramental people who celebrate eight holy sacraments, yet we are not within the traditions of other Christian churches (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican) that also observe so many.

• We value the outward characteristics of a spiritual life, yet we are not within the broad stream of traditional holiness churches (such as those within historic Wesleyan movements).

• We have deep, lasting roots in the Latter Day Saint tradition, yet we do not self-identify as a “Mormon” church—and cringe when others make that connection.

• We uphold the congregation as the primary unit of the church, yet we are not a Congregationalist church.

• We can agree in principle with many of our Protestant sisters and brothers on the “priesthood of all believers,” yet at the same time we affirm our system of governance as a theocratic democracy led by the Holy Spirit through priesthood.

• We see ourselves as a Spirit-led community, yet we are not a Pentecostal church like the Assembly of God.

Most of us in the Community of Christ try our best to balance multiple roles and responsibilities. We have God, family, church, career, and community all mixed up in our identities.

Recently the Community Elementary School here in Coffeyville contacted me about a fire that wiped out a home and all the belongings of a family of six. Perhaps they knew I had a huge database of contacts from the days of the flood. Anyhow, I put out the word and the donations flooded in. That family is now settled into another rental house with lots of donated furniture and clothing. But I did nothing really to get in touch with them and check their progress.

Section 163 called us to stop, to listen to “the Voice,” and engage in an extended conversation about the future church God beckons us to become. We will not know until we engage honestly, prayerfully, and humbly in this conversation. I am so glad paragraph one ends with the counsel: Do not be afraid.

The more recent Words of Council are an even larger challenge for us. We ask your prayerful support as the upcoming conference decides issues like conditions of membership and the issues surrounding equality and justice for homosexuals in the church.

Since we are called to make and be signal communities, we should renounce, like Paul, excessive nationalism, exaggerated flag loyalty and imperialism, unjustified oppression and domination of others, and all privileges that keep us from accepting the gifts that are offered to us by God. We renounce those privileges, like Paul, not because they are wrong in themselves, but because they are rooted in the old life and have now been replaced by something far better – a new relationship with God, freely offered to all and not confined to those who were able to claim to be righteous according to the old law.

As Paul so aptly said:
12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

We are challenged to recognize God’s presence in the past but not to live in the past. We are challenged not to pride ourselves on our accomplishments or to measure ourselves by how much we have attained, but instead to strive to be better Christians who see and serve the needs of others less fortunate. We share with others what God has done in our life.

Have we moved on from our past? We are “formed in Christ” and as such, we look forward to a new life. One thing we know or sense is that Jesus followers are called to be in community. Let's pray about how to go about building a robust, life giving community that encourages us to serve our churches, the people in our community and all of God's creation. In order to do that, we ask ourselves, “What has God done in my life?” What are the goals we are trying to attain in our life? Here we have a vision of a faith filled community that is vital, living and dynamic. We invite each of you to join with us as we look toward the future and build on the past. Let us be “formed in Christ”.

Snow Again

It's unbelievable! Yesterday Bob mowed and today it is snowing like mad. It was over 60 degrees yesterday and is 29 now. This is truly Kansas. I imagine we'll have to cancel church tomorrow since we are in the country and we get snowed in our own parking lot. Plus this snow is supposed to continue tomorrow and accumulate 7 to 12 inches. I hope this is the last hurrah.

It's good that I got my groceries yesterday because we're not getting out today. This will give me a chance to clean a little deeper and do up my bedroom curtains.

Slinky is in the kitchen and does not want to go out even to do his duty. He hates snow too.

We went to Independence yesterday afternoon to see our new great grandchild. I learned that her name is Maia and is pronounced "Mya" instead of Mia. She is as cute as she can be. (as any newborn is) Marlene let me hold her and she slept through the entire visit.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday is Here Again

Today..after/if it warms up, we will try to finish our yard work. Tonight we will go visit our new great grandchild, Maia Sky. I think we will eat out this evening.

Otherwise, I have nothing on my menu today. It is forecast for snow tomorrow but it's supposed to be 36 degrees so I doubt it will stick.

I need to finish the raking and Bob is going to mow and mulch those leaves. I bagged two bags yesterday but will use the rest for mulch.

The clematis is up an inch and a half and I see buds on most of the shrubs. The lilies are coming up, the peonies are showing a good two inches and the daffodils are blooming. I see new buds on everything. The honeysuckle is green again and climbing on the chain link fence on the east.

We will go out to the new Wal Mart store today and buy groceries for next week.

I got the flower bed dug up and the old clay John took out of the post holes put in the wheelbarrow. Bob took it to some low places in the alley. I don't have a clue yet what I will plant in the bed there but whatever it is will have to be mulched.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gorgeous Thursday!

It is really lovely today. The sun is shining and it is nearly 60 degrees. I went to the dollar store this morning and got wrapping paper and ribbon and wrapped the two gifts we have for the baby. My grandson, his wife and baby are coming home today. Tomorrow evening we will go over to see the baby and I will take the gifts then.

After I got home, I started working in the yard, cleaning out the flower beds. There were lots of leaves to be scooped up. I also did some raking. This afternoon, I need to get my apple brown betty baked for the dessert this evening. So I will leave off working in the yard. Our son-in-law will come after he gets off work and set our Christmas gift trellis in cement. Then I can clean out the area where we are going to make a flower bed. Here he is after he got it all set. Isn't it nice? I am going to dig out all the dirt behind it and plant clematis.

The yard is full of weeds. I did quite a lot of weeding but there's not a lot we can do as long as we have animals. When the animals are gone someday, we will use some weed killer and some pre-emergent weed killer and try to clean up this yard.

The peonies are coming up and so is the hosta. The clematis is up about an inch. Spring is surely right around the corner even if they are forecasting snow for Saturday. It better not!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Neat Wednesday

This has been kind of a neat Wednesday. I went to Independence for my hair appointment this morning but came straight home because Juanita is still suffering from her cold.

I did some housework afterward and then at 11:30 Bob and I went to the Lenten Luncheon. We had a great time. We saw all kinds of folks we've known all our lives.

Afterward we went out to the new Wal Mart store here. It's really spectacular. It's as large as the Bartlesville Wal Mart...maybe even larger. The place was really busy. We didn't buy anything...just went out to check it out.

Later this afternoon, I warmed up some leftovers for our dinner. Our friend, Cyndi brought us some pizza casserole yesterday and it was really good. That's what we had with garlic toast and salad and applesauce.

Tomorrow, our son-in-law is supposed to come and put up the trellis he made us for Christmas. He will set it in three feet of concrete. Then I will dig out the grass behind it, line the bed with brick, and plant something that will crawl on it...maybe some more clematis....or honeysuckle.

I will fix dinner for the three of us. Thursday evenings Leslie stays late until 7:00 and works out at her gym. The least I can do is fix him some center cut pork chops, salad, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and I will fix an apple brown betty in the morning. It should be good.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


It's been a kind of quiet Tuesday. I read news from the computer all morning and then we went to Independence to take our daughter to lunch. After lunch, I went to the hospital to visit a friend who had pneumonia. She has had so many visitors that I just left my card with a nurse. She was sleeping and exhausted.

Tonight we have no plans. That feels good. Sometimes we have way too much going.

We will attend the Lenten Luncheon tomorrow and then Thursday our son-in-law is coming to put our new trellis in the ground for us. He made it as a Christmas gift for us but we have had to wait for warmer weather to have him put it in the ground for us. I will take a photo after it's finished. Hopefully he will pose in front of it for us.

I have ordered a new book by Michael Lewis called "The Big Short". It is about the Wall Street meltdown and a man who made a fortune legally by realizing what was happening when no one else did. He was Michael Burry, a physician. There is an article in Vanity Fair about his experience by Michael Lewis. It is called "Betting on the Blind Side". It is very interesting!

"Michael Burry always saw the world differently—due, he believed, to the childhood loss of one eye. So when the 32-year-old investor spotted the huge bubble in the subprime-mortgage bond market, in 2004, then created a way to bet against it, he wasn’t surprised that no one understood what he was doing. In an excerpt from his new book, The Big Short, the author charts Burry’s oddball maneuvers, his almost comical dealings with Goldman Sachs and other banks as the market collapsed, and the true reason for his visionary obsession."

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Beginnings of Spring

I looked out my window today and saw something that let me know that spring was just around the corner. My daffodils are just beginning to bloom. I was so excited that I ran out to the back yard and took a few photos of them. As you can see, they are nothing spectacular yet. But it's a beginning!

New Great Grandchild

Our daughter called about 8:00 last night to say the baby had to be taken by C-section. Thank God she was in the hospital and her midwife was busy delivering another baby, The cord was wrapped around the baby's neck and she would not come out. Her name is Maia Sky and she was 6 pounds 9 ounces and 19 inches long. She was born around 4:53 yesterday afternoon.

The man is our grandson, Jeromy, and that is his wife, Marlene, and their baby.

The baby was due on the 6th so I am glad it is over for them. I am now dying to see the baby.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Scary Sunday

I got up early and fixed my Parmesan Chicken. I also took peaches for the dinner after church. We got out there at 9:00 so I could print off the bulletins. By 9:30, no one had come. By 10:00 one man came. By 10:30, two more came. And we had a guest minister coming. Boy was I sweating. Suddenly, just before 11:00 here they came. And half stayed for lunch.

The guest minister had a good message. The dinner was all very good and we had a good visit.

Now I came home to do my letters.

Our latest great grandchild is now on the way. Our daughter called this morning to say she would not be at church. She was heading for Topeka where the baby was to be born. The child's name will be Maia. What is funny is that we already have a great grandchild named Mia. That might be confusing if we all get together as a family.