Archive for April, 2013

Modern Parables from Rwanda

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Dr. Diana S. Perdue

April 21, 2013

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Biblical Testimony: Heb 11:1  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (KJV)

Matthew 18:21-22  Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” (ESV)

Col. 3:15  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (NIV)

Contemporary Testimony: From Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, & Live Intentionally, by Patti Digh

Instead of a book, what if we’re actually writing (or not writing) in the margins of our lives? What if our lives are books? Are we pressing into the margins our interpretations and questions? Are we circling offending verbs and drawing furious arrows to the margin where we scrawl “frustration,” “voiceless,” “unfair!” Or do we simply turn the pages, passively receiving what’s given, furiously disagreeing but remaining silent about it?

As British author Hester Thrale Piozzi put it in 1790, “I have a trick of writing in the margins of my books, it is not a good trick, but one longs to say something.”

One longs to say something.

We make sense of our lives through story. Writer Flannery O’Conner said, “A story is a way to say something that can’t be said in any other way.  You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate.”

Modern Parables from Rwanda

Let’s pray.

“God, may my words bring your message this morning and may we all hear what you have to say. Amen”

April is the month of remembrance of the genocide in Rwanda.  2013 marks 19 years since it happened.  I had the opportunity to see the film, “As We Forgive” while I was in Rwanda and asked Melanie about showing it here and maybe having a discussion afterwards.  Knowing this congregation like I do, I thought it was something you would be very interested in.  Melanie, our dear pastor, in either a stroke of divine inspiration or evil genius, said, “Well, I think you should preach on that Sunday as well.”

So, here I am.

Let my presence here this morning be an object lesson to all of you as to what happens when you suggest an event at this church.  You have been warned!

Now for the interactive portion of the service:

Raise your hand if you’ve watched an episode of “The Bible” on The History Channel.

For those of you who don’t know, The Bible is new again thanks to the combined effort of Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett.  Yes, you heard correctly, the woman who played the angel Monica on “Touched by an Angel” and the man who brought us “Survivor”, “The Celebrity Apprentice”, and “Shark Tank” are married(!) and they created a docudrama of the Bible!  This 5-part series has taken the country by storm.  The first episode garnered over 13 million viewers, that’s the highest-rated cable TV show in 2013 (of course, the finale of American Idol hasn’t aired yet so it might be short lived).  Regardless, it’s a huge hit. As further proof, I offer this fascinating tidbit: the hashtag #hotJesus is trending worldwide on Twitter.  It’s true, the Portuguese actor, Diogo Morgado, who plays Jesus IS hot (and I’m gay, so that tells you something!).  But there are lots of hot actors and actresses on TV nowadays so that doesn’t tell the whole story about why this series is so insanely popular.

In an ABC news article, Downey stated that she believes the miniseries has resonated so well because it’s a “fresh visual retelling of the greatest story that was ever written.”  It’s modern. New. Fresh.  I get that, don’t you?  I mean it’s hard to get hyped about the same old stories: Noah and the flood (check); David & Goliath (I know who won); Samson and Delilah (*starts singing* and when we kiss…. Fire!).  Oh… sorry!  But you know what I mean, right, it’s a tough sell.

Trust me, I know about tough sells and old stories.  Math is even older than Jesus so I am familiar with how hard it is to sell an audience on old stuff.  The advantage math has over the Bible is that it’s still being invented and written; whereas most people think the Bible is “finished”, the last page has been written.  The story’s over.

But I don’t think so.  Do you?

I think that new parables are being written every day as God continues to speak and regular, everyday people like us are compelled to listen.

Today I’m going to tell you two stories, modern-day parables if you will, that happened to me during my time in Rwanda.  These parables relay what I think are two big messages of the Bible:  faith and forgiveness.

The first parable is about faith.

Recall the definition from our Biblical reading, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.  A quick Google search tells us faith is “confident belief that does not rely on proof”, not quite as poetic as Hebrews 11, but certainly clear; and, I think, especially hard for those of us from the United States.  We are nothing if not a nation that relies on proof, and one of the things I learned about myself while I lived in Rwanda is that I am 100% American.

I admit, before I left, I thought myself as atypical since my Dad is military, my Mom is German, and I have had a lot of multicultural experiences.  However, once I landed in Kigali, I very quickly realized that I am indeed a product of my culture and my country:

The Rector tells me my housing has been “organized”, but I need to see the place with my own eyes to be convinced.

  • My colleague tells me my students will “just know” that class has been cancelled due to rain, but I want to contact them myself to be sure.
  • The man behind the desk at the Visa & Permits office tells me all is taken care of with my resident visa, but I have to get a written statement to that effect.

In Rwanda, it really hit me how bad I am at living by faith alone.  I wanted proof of everything!

If you are a muzungu (foreigner) and you arrive in Rwanda, you are granted a 30-day visa with minimal effort, basically just show your passport and fill out a short form and voila, it’s done.  However, to stay longer requires a resident visa and THAT requires many things, faith being the greatest of these.

I had to go to the Visa & Permits office and wait to see a clerk.  Envision a hotter and slower version of the worst day you can imagine at the DMV and you’ve got a pretty good mental picture.  Once I got to the clerk, I had to pay a fee (in cash).  Side note here: I always felt like a drug dealer in Rwanda because everything required cash.  Since the highest denomination of bill is roughly equivalent to our $10, I was always walking around at any given time with a stack of bills about two inches thick.  In exchange for the fee, I got a paper, which I had to transfer to the other side of the building and show to another clerk (in a different department).  In addition to that paper, I had to show the clerk my paperwork, which included “certified” versions of my transcripts and police background check, and then … I just had to wait… and go on faith that all would be well.

The clerk said to me, “We will contact you when it’s ready.”  Incredulous, I asked, “How?”  Looking at me with eyes full of pity at my ignorance he said simply, “SMS”.  I thought to myself, “Here I am in a country where only about 4% of the entire population has electricity but I’m going to know the government has my visa ready for me to pick it up by them TEXTING me? Yeah, right!”

I saw the way records were kept – using carbon copy paper – and doubted.

I saw the careless way my precious certified documents were added to the pile of other waiting souls’ paperwork and doubted.

I heard the horror stories of other ex-pats who’d gone before me and doubted.

But you know what happened?

I got a text, and I got my visa, and all was well; just like they told me.

My students in Rwanda taught me more about faith than I taught them about mathematics or teaching.  In stark contrast to how I operated, they seemed capable of taking everything and everyone on faith, especially me.  They believed, without proof, that I could make a “field trip” happen even though one had never happened before.  They had faith that I could “organize” it so that our whole class could go visit one of the Teacher Training College’s that they’d heard about but had never seen.

And you know what happened?

We went on the field trip.  It was amazing.  They all told me they knew it would happen.  By faith.

The second parable is about forgiveness.

Rwanda is a beautiful country; every one of the 10,000 hills it’s known for are covered with lush greenery. The beauty is not without scars though – there are bullet holes in buildings, broken bottles mounted on the tops of the walls the surround housing compounds, and evidence everywhere of the effects of the genocide in 1994.  Since we’re going to be watching the film “As We Forgive” later today and having a discussion afterwards, I won’t go into much detail here about the genocide itself except to tell you some of the math.  Approximately one million people were killed in 100 days.  That works out to about 7 people being murdered every minute for over 14 weeks straight.

Killing 7 people in 60 seconds can be accomplished easily if you’ve got a gun or a bomb, but the weapons used in the Rwandan genocide were machetes and clubs.  In fact, I stood on what used to be the training ground for the Rwandan killing squads where they practiced killing as quickly as possible – the training goal was to kill 100 Tutsi’s in 10 minutes.  That ground is now the site of the Kigali Institute for Science & Technology, the University where I served as Director of E-Learning – talk about taking back the land and consecrating it to a new purpose!  In my opinion, the nation of Rwanda can teach the “master class” on forgiveness to the rest of us.

I will admit to being largely unaware of Rwanda before I received my Fulbright to go there.  As a result, I did a lot of preparation in an effort to not be the stereotypical ignorant American when I arrived in country.  What I learned before I left home helped me tremendously, but it is no comparison to what I learned once I got there and started talking with people.

Rwandans don’t refer to the genocide the way US media or government does; they simply call it “the war”.  Generally speaking, I didn’t bring up the war or quiz anyone directly about what they experienced.  However, it did come up.  As I got to know people and become friends, they would share things with me.  This story is one example.

I met Andrew when he arrived in his boat to take me across Lake Kivu to the other hotel.  The one I was NOT staying at.  The one that had a restaurant that served dinner.  He was so friendly and I enjoyed him so much that, the next day when I had some more free time, I called him about taking me on an afternoon tour of the lake.  He’d mentioned that he offered this service and it sounded great:  visiting Napoleon Island (so named because it is the shape of his hat) to witness the “millions of birds” Andrew said lived there and, if I was lucky, maybe seeing the famous swimming cattle (they swim from one island to another around the lake).  He arrived and the day couldn’t have been more perfect.

We spent the whole day touring the lake, and he told me many stories.  He’d gotten his boat from his father and continued the family business.  Andrew also told me about his brother Jackson … did you catch that?  Andrew and his brother Jackson?  I laughingly asked him if he had other brothers named Thomas and Jefferson but I don’t think he got the joke.  I found out that Jackson is famous.  He’s an Olympic swimmer who represented Rwanda in the 2008 Olympics in China as well as the 2012 Olympics in London. Jackson is Rwanda’s ONLY Olympic swimmer, and his training ground is Lake Kivu.

While on Napoleon Island, I discovered that the “birds” Andrew kept talking about were really fruit bats!  There are over 5 million of them that live on that island!  He was very proud to tell me that he was the only boat operator on the lake that knew about the birds.  Intrigued, I asked him how he found them.  I wasn’t prepared for the story.

As it turns out, he and Jackson had hidden on Napoleon Island during the war as they were trying to escape Rwanda and make it to Zaire (what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo).  They paddled the 40 miles across Lake Kivu, only at night, with no engines and no lights, in a terrifying journey that took almost a week, in order to reach the safety of the border.  Every new dawn brought danger that they could be caught and killed.  It was during their day-time hiding on the island that they discovered the bats.

Later that afternoon as we sat on Amahoro Island – “amahoro” means “peace” in Kinyarwandan – Andrew shared that he and Jackson and one sister were the only ones of his family to live through the genocide.  They had to stay in the Congo for over a month before they could come back home and when they did, they learned about how many loved ones they lost.  “It was madness”, Andrew told me.

I just shook my head in disbelief and wondered aloud how he got through it then and how he continues to deal with it now, he simply smiled and said, “Look around, God is good and the world is beautiful.”

Honestly, after hearing just a few of the stories people in Rwanda told me, I realized I have never had to forgive anything that compares to what they have experienced.  I have not had my entire family murdered by my neighbors.  I’ve not had to hide in the woods for months, afraid that people I grew up with and went to church with, would kill me.  I’ve not had to go back home after surviving and come face to face with the people who had killed my family and friends.  I’ve not been asked to forgive those murderers and to let them back into my community, to live with them day in and day out, to truly forgive.  But almost every single person in the country of Rwanda has had to do just that.  Andrew has.  Jackson has.  Every one of my students has.

Hearing their stories, being so close to it, I can’t help but think I reacted much the same way the Disciples did.  Like Peter asking Jesus, “How many times must I forgive?  As much as 7 times?”  I asked Andrew, “How did you get through it?”

Look around, God is good, and the world is beautiful.

References:

Wiki overview of “The Bible”:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bible_(TV_series)

ABC news article about #hotJesus:

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/entertainment/2013/03/the-bible-hot-jesus-embarrassed-by-twitter-tag/

CIA fact sheet on Rwanda:

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/rw.html

My blog:

http://www.tinyurl.com/RwandaReflections

 

 

Feeding Time

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

April 14, 2013

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Contemporary Testimony: “Mining for Love” by Debra Dean Murphy from Intersections:  Thoughts on Religion, Culture and Politics

The embodied love that Jesus is speaking of in this breakfast-on-the-beach scene is the love-as-doing that got him killed. …this is a love that irritates and inconveniences; that calls state power – indeed all principalities and powers – into question; that defies the status quo; that makes trouble and learns to expect trouble (but never courts trouble for its own sake).

What would it mean, I wonder, to understand the naming of corporate greed and irresponsibility as an act of enemy-love? Or to say that confronting and resisting the powers that for decades have harmed the earth and those who toil deep within it is cruciform love in action? [Or] to embody the kind of risk-taking love that thwarts business as usual, confounds the status quo, and which may lead those who dare practice it to places, as Jesus warned Peter, they “do not wish to go.”

Biblical Testimony:    John 21:1-7a, 13-19

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by theSeaofTiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana inGalilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”

Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Taking Jesus’ Hand

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

April 7, 2013

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Contemporary Testimony:  from “The Adventurous Lectionary: Second Sunday of Easter,” by Bruce Epperly

Thomas’ encounter with Jesus joins right and left brain, judging and perceiving, and sensate and intuition, as the neuroscientists and Jungians affirm. Frankly, we need more Thomases, people who don’t settle for half-baked doctrines, knee jerk theological positions, dangerous doctrines, and unexamined spiritual claims. There are too many Christian spokespersons, peddling best sellers, filled with half-baked, inch deep, and superficial theological nostrums. We need to test the spirits to discover the Spirit.

Biblical Testimony:                                John 20:14-29

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Love Wins

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

Easter 2013

Contemporary Testimony:   From Sojourners Magazine, April 2010, “The Power of Suffering Love” by Walter Brueggemann

The news of Easter is that, in the resurrection of Jesus, God has broken all the vicious cycles of deathliness in which the world finds itself…that weary old heaven, jaded old earth, and conflicted old Jerusalem all will be broken open by the power of God to new, healthy possibility. Easter invites us to imagine, embrace, and live in a world that is without fear of death or guilt. It is no wonder that the authorities recognized the Easter proclamation to be dangerously subversive of the world organized around death and guilt.

Biblical Testimony:                                 Luke 24:1-12

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still inGalilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

 

We gather on this Easter morning to proclaim that love wins.   Death cannot overcome life.  Darkness cannot overcome the light.  Evil cannot conquer good.   Hate cannot overpower love.  The stone is rolled away and truth and justice cannot be stopped.  Joy and love cannot be contained.  If you’ve ever been stuck in the tomb you know that this is a powerful, powerful story.

God is broken all the vicious cycles of deathliness in which the world finds itself…that weary old heaven, jaded old earth, and conflicted old Jerusalem all will be broken open by the power of God to new, healthy possibility. Easter invites us to imagine, embrace, and live in a world that is without fear of death or guilt.

This morning I want to share with you a story of the cycles of deathliness begin broken.  It’s a story of conversion, a story of hope, a story of courage, it is an Easter story. From NPR This American Life.

“Carlton Pearson, was a rising evangelical megastar. A Republican activist who prayed in the Bush Sr. White House, a guest on The 700 Club, host of a national TV show, he traveled all over the world in chartered jets lecturing to fundamentalist gatherings. But at the height of his popularity, he became involved in a scandal, though not the kind of scandal that you usually think of when you hear the word scandal. He didn’t have an affair. He didn’t embezzle money. He didn’t admit an addiction to prescription painkillers. No, no, none of that. He stopped believing in Hell. And what happened to him next was the kind of thing that happens from time to time here in America, even now. He became a heretic, a very prominent heretic in the middle of a religious community, in the middle of our country.

“He hosted a show on TBN, Trinity Broadcasting Network, a Christian cable channel. He was appointed to the Board of Regents at Oral Roberts University and made Bishop in 1995 by the International Communion of Charismatic Churches. And attendance at Carlton’s own church continued to grow. Higher Dimensions added new seats, a balcony, and bought state-of-the-art audio and video-recording equipment.

“Carlton Pearson: “I used to worry that it would ever be filled. We could seat about 1,200, and it was full. Then we put the balconies in, another 800 seats. We’re running about 2,200 per service, 5,000 on a Sunday.

“So here he is at the top of his game. It’s the late 1990s, but something didn’t feel right. Carlton had always preached a pretty conventional evangelical theology. Hell was a horrible place, weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth for eternity, and the only way to avoid it was to accept Jesus. But he was always reading and studying the Bible’s origins, boning up on the original Hebrew and Greek, and he’d begun to doubt some of the stuff he’d been preaching. And it all came to a head one evening in front of the television.

“Carlton Pearson: “Well, my little girl, who will be nine next month, was an infant. I was watching the evening news. The Hutus and Tutus were returning from Rwanda to Uganda, and Peter Jennings was doing a piece on it. Now, Majeste was in my lap, my little girl. I’m eating the meal, and I’m watching these little kids with swollen bellies. And it looks like their skin is stretched across their little skeletal remains. Their hair is kind of red from malnutrition. The babies, they’ve got flies in the corners of their eyes and of their mouths. And they reach for their mother’s breast, and the mother’s breast looks like a little pencil hanging there. I mean, the baby’s reaching for the breast, there’s no milk.

“And I, with my little fat-faced baby, and a plate of food and a big-screen television. And I said God, I don’t know how you can call yourself a loving, sovereign God and allow these people to suffer this way and just suck them right into Hell, which is what was my assumption. And I heard a voice say within me, “So that’s what you think we’re doing?” And I remember I didn’t say yes or no. I said, “That’s what I’ve been taught.” “We’re sucking them into Hell?” I said, “Yes.” “And what would change that?” “Well, they need to get saved.” “And how would that happen?” “Well, somebody needs to preach the Gospel to them and get them saved.” “So if you think that’s the only way they’re going to get saved is for somebody to preach the Gospel to them and that we’re sucking them into Hell, why don’t you put your little baby down, turn your big-screen television off, push your plate away, get on the first thing smoking, and go get them saved?”

“And I remember I broke into tears. I was very upset. I remember thinking, God, don’t put that guilt on me. You know I’ve given you the best 40 years of my life. Besides, I can’t save the whole world. I’m doing the best I can. I can’t save this whole world. And that’s where I remember, and I believe it was God saying, “Precisely. You can’t save this world. That’s what we did. Do you think we’re sucking them into Hell? Can’t you see they’re already there? That’s Hell. You keep creating and inventing that for yourselves. I’m taking them into My presence.”

“And I thought, well, I’ll be. That’s weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. That’s where the pain comes from. We do that to each other, and we do it to ourselves. Then I saw emergency rooms. I saw divorce court. I saw jails and prisons. I saw how we create Hell on this planet for each other. And for the first time in my life, I did not see God as the inventor of Hell.”

God is broking all the vicious cycles of deathliness in which the world finds itself…that weary old heaven, jaded old earth, and conflicted old Jerusalem all will be broken open by the power of God to new, healthy possibility. Easter invites us to imagine, embrace, and live in a world that is without fear of death or guilt.

“Carlton Pearson started formalizing his thinking into an actual doctrine, what he calls the Gospel of Inclusion. Everyone’s going to heaven. Atheists, Muslims, Jesus died for them all.

“A series of negative articles came out in Charisma Magazine, an evangelical monthly, headlines like When Heresy Goes Unchecked. “In the case of Carlton Pearson’s Universalist doctrines, we can’t soft-pedal. We must confront.” Evangelicals from all over the country piled on, denouncing him, saying he was mistaken or even possessed by the devil. Even people whose careers he’d launched attacked. T.D. Jakes was quoted as saying, “I believe his theology is wrong, false, misleading, and an incorrect interpretation of the Bible.”

“Finally, in 2004, in an official ceremony, The Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops formally named him a heretic. Carlton’s congregation, once 5,000-strong, dropped to around 200 people with some very worldly consequences.

“Carlton Pearson says, “My friend, Bishop Yvette Flunder of Fellowship International in San Francisco, is a same-gender-loving female who’s been with the same partner for about 18 years. I spoke for one of her conferences two or three years ago.

“When I finished speaking, and this has never happened to me in the history of my life, when I finished preaching, they stood and applauded me. I preached the Gospel of Inclusion. They stood. And she asked me to walk down through the center aisle and let the people hug me because she knew I had been bruised from my other people that had kicked me out of the charismatic world.

“So these people start hugging me, and holding me, and loving me, and shaking my hand, and where everybody was crying and stuff. And when I turned around, she had come off from where she was. And they had a little vat, a little something, a container with warm water in it. And they asked me to sit down and take my shoes off, and they washed my feet. She washed my feet. That’s one of the holiest moments of my life.”

And so on this Easter Sunday, God says, I will break all the vicious cycles of deathliness in which the world finds itself…that weary old heaven, jaded old earth, and conflicted old Jerusalem all will be broken open by the power of God to new, healthy possibility. I’m taking them into My presence.

Another Ending This Year

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

Palm Sunday, 2013

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Contemporary Testimony:  But everyone who lined the streets had a different reason for waving those palms. Some were political activists; they’d heard Jesus had supernatural power, and they wanted him to use it to freeIsrael from Roman rule. Others had loved ones who were sick or dying. They waved branches, hoping for physical healing. Some were onlookers merely looking for something to do, while others were genuine followers who wished Jesus would establish himself as an earthly king. Jesus was the only one in the parade who knew why he was going toJerusalem—to die. He had a mission, while everyone else had an agenda.   – Bill Hybels,WillowCreekCommunityChurch

Biblical Testimony:                                Luke 19:28-40

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up toJerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage andBethany, at the place called theMount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from theMount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

The Prophet Mary

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

March 17, 2013

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Contemporary Testimony:  excerpt from “Six Recognitions of the Lord” by Mary Oliver

Every summer the lilies rise
and open their white hands until they almost cover the black waters of the pond. And I give
thanks but it does not seem like adequate thanks,
it doesn’t seem
festive enough or constant enough, nor does the name of the Lord or the words of thanksgiving come
into it often enough Everywhere I go I am
treated like royalty, which I am not. I thirst and
am given water. My eyes thirst and I am given
the white lilies on the black water. My heart
sings but the apparatus of singing doesn’t convey
half what it feels and means. In spring there’s hope,
in fall the exquisite, necessary diminishing, in
winter I am as sleepy as any beast in its
leafy cave, but in summer there is
everywhere the luminous sprawl of gifts,
the hospitality of the Lord and my
inadequate answers as I row my beautiful, temporary body
through this water-lily world.

Biblical Testimony:                                  John 12:1-8

Six days before the Passover Jesus came toBethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said,“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

Time Will Tell

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

February 17, 2013

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Contemporary Testimony:  an excerpt from Race Matters by Cornel West

In these downbeat times, we need as much hope and courage as we do vision and analysis; we must accent the best of each other even as we point out the vicious effects of our racial divide and pernicious consequences of our maldistribution of wealth and power. We simply cannot enter the twenty-first century at each other’s throats, even as we acknowledge the weighty forces of racism, patriarchy, economic inequality, homophobia, and ecological abuse on our necks. We are at a crucial crossroad in the history of this nation – and we either hang together by combating these forces that divide and degrade us or we hang separately. Do we have the intelligence, humor, imagination, courage, tolerance, love, respect, and will to meet the challenge? Time will tell. None of us alone can save the nation or world. But each of us can make a positive difference if we commit ourselves to do so.

Biblical Testimony:                          Deuteronomy 26:4-11

When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of YHWH your God, you shall make this response before YHWH your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down intoEgyptand lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to YHWH, the God of our ancestors; YHWH heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. YHWH brought us out ofEgyptwith a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders;and God brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, YHWH, have given me.” You shall set it down before YHWH your God and bow down before YHWH your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that YHWH your God has given to you and to your house.

Dazzling

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

February 10, 2013

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Contemporary Testimony:  an excerpt from Frederick Buechner’s book, Whistling in the Dark

It was Jesus of Nazareth all right, the man they’d tramped many a dusty mile with, whose mother and brothers they knew, the one they’d seen as hungry, tired, and footsore as the rest of them. But it was also the Messiah, the Christ, in his glory. It was the holiness of the man shining through his humanness, his face so afire with it they were almost blinded.

Even with us something like that happens once in a while. The face of a man walking with his child in the park, of a woman baking bread, of sometimes even the unlikeliest person listening to a concert, say, or standing barefoot in the sand watching the waves roll in, or just having a beer at a Saturday baseball game in July. Every once and so often, something so touching, so incandescent, so alive transfigures the human face that it’s almost beyond bearing.

Biblical Testimony:                                 Luke 9:28-43

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish atJerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, myChosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

Hometown Homily

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

February 3, 2013

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Contemporary Testimony: “Until,” B.D. Prewer, 2000
And all spoke well of him
and of his gracious words
until he called their bluff
and demanded much more
for the outcaste and poor;
then they got rough.

And all spoke well of him,
“A nice bloke, Joseph’s son”;
until he stepped outside
their polite comfort zone
where brave souls walk alone;
then they deride.

And all spoke well of him,
an honour to their town;
until he made it clear
that those of alien race
also received God’s grace;
then they showed fear.

And all speak well of him,
from Broome to Airlie Beach,
until he invites the sad
pros and junkies to share
in his house of prayer;
then they get mad.

Biblical Testimony: Luke 4:21-30
Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.