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Treasure in Clay Jars

2 Corinthians 4:5-15, NRSV
Matthew 5:13, NRSV

Reflections

Whenever we deny that we’re wounded, we prepare the perfect breeding ground for bitterness, anger, cynicism, coldness, and rage. When we don’t recognize and accept our wounds and frustrations, we easily grow cold, grow hard, and toughen our skins, minds, and hearts. We turn away in bitterness from what’s soft and life giving to what’s hard so as to put a protective shell over our wounded pride. It seems the only way to preserve ourselves.
But there’s another option — grieving, mourning, tears. We can mourn our losses and cry the kind of tears that rip open our feelings of security and safety and bring us face to face with the painful truth that we are broken, not whole, disappointed, and unable to actualize our dreams. When we grieve, we soften, rather than harden, our hearts in the face of loss and humiliation.

— Ronald Rolheiser

  • Life of Intentionality
  • v5-6: Face of Christ is face of victim from violence
  • Standing along side with the victims, in solidarity
  • Living in life of generosity to others
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  • Life of Honesty and Humility
  • Clay jars – never perfect in shape
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  • Life of Trust in God’s Bigger Story
  • v13-15: because of resurrection, that death is not the final word

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The Gift of Life Together

2 Corinthians 2:1-17, NRSV

Reflections

People take time. But in our haste, we size them up or cut them down to what we take to be a more manageable size, labeling people instead of trying to hear, understand or welcome them. And we love our labels as ourselves even as they don’t — and can’t — do justice to the complexity of our own lived lives or anyone else’s. It’s as if we’ll do anything to avoid the burden of having to think twice.”

— David Dark

  • We all have God-size hole in our hearts
  • We also have man-size hole in our hearts
  • Paul knows the challenge of life together, but also the gift of life together
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  • The Challenge
  • The moment we think we have figured out someone, relationship with that person tends to go downhill
  • Relationship of any kind is work
  • Tears as attachment behavior
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  • To Paul, pain is part of gift
  • Pain/sorrow, forgiveness, deeper form of pain
  • Old New Yorker article by Richard O. Boyer, on Duke Ellington and his band in working out a collective arrangement, with sound sometimes clashing in the process

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The God of All Consolation

2 Corinthians 1:1-11, NRSV

Reflections

It is not that suffering or failure might happen, or that i will only happen to you if you are bad (which is what religious people often think), or that it will happen to the unfortunate, or to a few in other places, or that you can somehow by cleverness or righteousness avoid it. No, it will happen, and to you!
… Because the rational mind cannot process love or suffering, it tends to either avoid them, deny them, or blame somebody for them, when in fact they are the greatest spiritual teachers of all, if we but allow them.

— Richard Rohr, Falling Upward

  • Consolation
  • Comfort
  • Strengthening
  • One person being with another
  • God is the source of all blessings
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  • Don’t practice suffering alone
  • Case of being in Community:
  • C.S. Lewis laments about in losing a friend, he also loses a side of another friend because of the effect
  • In the same way, we see more of Jesus when we are in community, so others can be tool of consolation

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Sermon Series: Welcome of Resurrection
Strugglers Welcome

Luke 24:13-35, NRSV

Reflections

Emmaus is whatever we do or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that the world holds nothing sacred… where we spend much of our lives, you and I, the place that we go to in order to escape — a bar, a movie, wherever it is that we throw up our hands and say, “Let the whole damned thing go hang. It makes no difference anyway.” But there are some things that even in Emmaus we cannot escape. We can escape our troubles, at least for a while. We can escape the job we did not get or the friend we hurt. We can even escape for a while the awful suspicion that life makes no sense and that the religion of Jesus is just a lot of wishful thinking. But the one thing we cannot escape is life itself… Emmaus is where we go when we think the world ends with crucifixion.

— Frederick Buechner,
The Magnificent Defeat

  • How we miss Jesus
  • v21 – “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel”
  • We caught up in despair and sadness, and not recognize Jesus
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  • How we find Jesus
  • To retell the greater story that is big enough to hold our expectations as well as our disappointments
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  • How we follow Jesus
  • First by listening to that story, in the midst of pain and confusion
  • Then retell the stories
  • Be in community, share meal together

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Sermon Series: Welcome of Resurrection
Enemies Welcome

Acts 9:1-19, NRSV

Reflections

The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.

— G.K. Chesterton

  • It is our experience, good or bad, of our lives that teaches us
  • Paul’s transformation from violence to breakdown to being welcomed by his enemies
  • v16 – By God’s command, Ananias went to Saul, extending the welcome of resurrection with compassion
  • God sends us to be Ananias to those who are blind, so that they may open their eyes and see, and be filled with the Holy Spirit

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Sermon Series: Welcome of Resurrection
Failures Welcome

John 20: 1-19, NRSV
Psalm 32:1-2, NRSV

Reflections

We must always be ready to be surprised by God. They were, that spring morning, the third time they saw him after his resurrection… They were surprised by the huge catch… They were surprised by Jesus himself. And they were surprised, we may suppose, at themselves. Who were they? What were they doing? What was to happen next? When God ceases to surprise us, that may be the moment we have ceased to do business with him.

— Tom Wright
John For Everyone Part II

  • In facing failure, we need:
  • Community
  • Compassion
  • Commission
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  • Community
  • Let God’s love and grace come through others
  • We want community of very different people, to let God’s love and grace come from many different ways
  • Disciples were gathering in secret, to support one another, reflecting together, after crucifixion of Jesus
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  • Compassion
  • v7 – although Peter was brought down by shame and guilt, Jesus welcomed him with compassion and called him to himself, showing God is full of grace and mercy
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  • Commission
  • Jesus addressed Peter’s specific failure, giving him exactly three times to reclaim his denial into love
  • Jesus pushed Peter toward a new commission
  • God is inviting us to love by following him in action

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Sermon Series: Welcome of Resurrection
Doubters Welcome

John 20: 19-31, NRSV
Psalm 56:1-4; 8-11, NRSV

Reflections

I’m grateful to be a practicing Christian. I’m always amazed when people say, “I’m a Christian.” I think, “Already?” It’s an ongoing process. You know, you keep trying. And blowing it and trying and blowing it.

— Maya Angelou

  • Disciples are more known for their failures
  • We are often pegged to certain identity, based on what happen to us
  • We often reduce our identity to our failures
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  • Thomas’ Failure – Doubt
  • Jesus reacted to Thomas by paying attention to his specific pain and invited him to behold his own wounds with his hands
  • God meets us with peace and comfort in our pain
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  • v29 – Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe
  • Jesus turned Thomas’s own pain and doubt to face outward to others and their pain and doubts in mission

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Sermon Series: Welcome of Resurrection
Weepers Welcome

John 20: 10-18, NRSV
Psalm 56:8, NRSV

Reflections

Tears are a biological gift of God. They are a physical means for expressing emotional and spiritual experience. But it is hard to know what to do with them. If we indulge our tears, we cultivate self-pity. If we suppress our tears, we lose touch with our feelings. But if we pray our tears we enter into sadnesses that integrate our sorrows with our Lord’s sorrows and discover both the source of and the relief from our sadness.

— Eugene H. Peterson
Psalms: Prayers of the Heart

  • Pain
  • Mary in deep sorrow, deep pain
  • How you deal with loss sets course of direction of your life
  • With loss, we change at the fork: if we don’t transform the pain, we transmit the pain to others
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  • Grace
  • To know that you are known by God and loved by God
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  • Mission
  • When we have seen and experienced God’s grace, we become conduits of that grace to others

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Ambition through the Lens of the Cross

Mark 11: 7-11, NRSV
Philippians 2: 3-11, NRSV

Reflections

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.

— Attributed to C.S. Lewis

  • Don’t be overly ambitious, especially coming from pride
  • Selfish ambition
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  • Enemy of Ambition
  • Selfish – always sizing others and compare
  • Vain and glories – Do I matter? Starving for glory
  • Are we fishing for compliment?
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  • In Humility – see your true worth
  • V5 – Let the same mind be in you that was in christ Jesus

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Identity Through the Lens of the Cross

Mark 15:21, NRSV
Galatians 2:20, NRSV

Reflections

If the cross points us to a God whose most essential characteristic is love, then our new identities are bound up in that same God — we are to be re-made around love, re-defined as those called to a life of love and self-giving…
 
Christian identity is not found by turning within, to find my true self, as if it lies hidden within waiting to be discovered, but instead it is found by looking outside myself to Christ — becoming Christ-like, capable of self-sacrificial love, in my own distinctive way…
 
That is the invitation we are given from the cross of Christ: to start to live out this new identity we have in Christ: redeemed, forgiven, loved, blessed and called to give ourselves for the sake of those God has placed around us in often small and mundane, but occasionally large and painful ways. It is to live out who we truly are in Christ…

— Graham Tomlin, Looking Through the Cross

  • Answering machine greetings:
  • Who are you?
  • What do you want?
  • Fear, disengagement, yearning for more courage
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  • Question: Who are you?
  • Based on geographical location, class, career?
  • Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton – what we are really looking for is love
  • Brené Brown: what we are really looking for is connection
  • What if we just strive for what is right? It’s good if you are right in your mind, but what if you know you’ve been wrong?
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  • Answer: You’re beloved
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  • Invitation
  • Life of faith is to die, to let go of control
  • Invitation to give yourself to Him
  • Invitation to humanity

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