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  • Blind Bartimaeus | Anne Robertson
    says and Bartimaeus jumps to his feet Bartimaeus throws off his cloak probably his only warm clothing his blanket and his coat tosses it aside in a place where it will be stolen in a moment He doesn t care Jesus has stopped for him He comes to Jesus groping his way through the crowd At last he reaches Jesus Jesus sees him A blind man a beggar standing before him His need is as obvious as the summer sun But Jesus still asks him What do you want me to do for you Rabbi I want to see Just a simple exchange asking for the miraculous as though he were asking for the time of day and Jesus gives a simple reply Go your faith has made you well Before my experience in the nursing home this passage of Scripture was a problem for me Not because Jesus healed Baritmaeus but because it seemed to focus on the need for asking If Bartimaeus had not called out there is every indication that Jesus would have kept on going and Bartimaeus would have remained blind What does this mean Why not help those who don t ask That bothered me What about those with some dignity who don t make a spectacle of themselves but suffer in silence What about the pain of the silent masses Don t they matter Why does Jesus seem to insist that we have to grovel to be helped He knows what we need the Bible says so Then why make us ask One response is that in asking we are constantly reminded of the source of all good things When we must pray every day even for our daily bread we never forget the source of our daily bread But there is another point in the asking that comes out more clearly as we consider Bartimaeus or the woman in the nursing home The correct question may not be What about the people with too much dignity to make a spectacle of themselves but rather What about the people who are too proud to ask for help I think this particular healing story is meant to convey a message about pride And I think that not so much because of what is in the story itself but because of the story that comes immediately before it When you study scripture never look at one passage by itself See where it sits If you look back a few paragraphs before James and John two of the three disciples who were closest to Jesus came forward and asked a rather presumptive question of Jesus Teacher we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you Jesus responds What is it you want me to do for you The exact same words that he asks Bartimaeus And they reply that they want to sit on his right hand and on his left the places of honor when Jesus is glorified Jesus denies their request it

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/blind-bartimaeus (2016-02-16)
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  • Clearing the Temple | Anne Robertson
    converted into Temple currency for another day s wage On almost every page of the Hebrew Scriptures you can hear God s voice insisting on justice and caring for the poor the widows the orphans the disadvantaged The prophets tell us that the terrible destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah came about precisely because they had neglected justice and care for the widows and orphans And here it was again this time within the very House of God It pushed Jesus over the edge But that was not all that Jesus took issue with The place where all of this was set up was in a part of the Temple precincts known as the Court of the Gentiles While the Temple proper was reserved only for Jewish males there were two other places that were set apart on Temple grounds for others to worship the Court of the Women and the Court of the Gentiles Way back when God had called Abraham to be the father of a nation God s intent was that the nation of Abraham s descendants should be a blessing to all the nations of the earth That intention was embodied by making a place on the Temple grounds for Gentiles to come and pray It was this area the Court of the Gentiles that was filled with the agents of dishonesty greed and injustice the moneychangers and those who sold the certified perfect sacrifices Listen to what Jesus says when he has finished knocking everything over He says Is it not written My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations But you have made it a den of thieves This is a quote from the Hebrew Scriptures from the prophet Isaiah chapter 56 which we read earlier In clearing the Temple Jesus is making a statement about the two things closest to the heart of God God s desire to be in loving relationship with ALL people and the demand that God s people live in ways that proclaim God s love and justice Make no mistake God cares about those issues and whether it is God raining down fire on cities that ignore it or Jesus making whips and disrupting a dishonest marketplace we can expect that God s patience with our greed and injustice will last only so long So what does this have to do with us today Everything In clearing the Temple Jesus is making a critical statement about the purpose of the House of God and the calling of God s people We have a financial audit of the church every year I think it might be helpful to have a ministry audit each year as well Are we as a church faithfully carrying out God s mission Does the United Methodist Church of Westford care about the things that God cares about This action of Jesus invites us to ask of ourselves if our church truly has room for all people or

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/clearing-the-temple (2016-02-16)
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  • Eating With Sinners | Anne Robertson
    calling of Levi and the subsequent dinner at his house What does that show us about Jesus and what does that mean for us now This story is an example of what we in the church call grace It is why we talk about amazing grace Grace is not what you would expect It amazes us just as it amazed the religious leaders the Pharisees of Jesus day Eating with someone makes an important statement as does going to someone s home Eating with someone in their home is a sign of acceptance even in our relaxed culture and it was even more so in Jesus time When we talk about grace we mean that God is willing to bridge the gap between our sin and God s righteousness When our sin is keeping us from going to God God will come to us instead It s not that God ignores sin Jesus was not pleased or even indifferent to the fact that tax collectors were stealing from their own people But Jesus actions show us that God s approach to sin is not to remain separate and condemn it from afar but to come and dwell with the sinner in love and let that light show the sinner what needs cleaning up Grace means that God accepts us as we are before repentance before we even know that we ve done anything wrong We are loved as we are and it is in the strength of receiving unconditional love from the God of the universe that we have the courage to change our lives Jesus makes this same point in another famous Sunday School story the story of Zacchaeus That story is found in Luke chapter 19 Zacchaeus is also a tax collector and has become rich at the expense of his own people He is short so he has a tough time seeing when there is a crowd Jesus comes to town and Zacchaeus wants to see so he climbs up a sycamore tree to see better Jesus goes right by that tree and when he does he stops calls to Zacchaeus and says Come down immediately I must stay at your house today In this story it is not just the religious leaders but all of the crowds that are upset that Jesus picked a tax collector to go home with Anybody would have been glad to have him in their home and he picked this scum But before Jesus has a chance to talk to him about anything at all Zacchaeus turns around and gives half of everything he owns to the poor and promises to repay anybody he has cheated four times over Jesus responds Today salvation has come to this house Zacchaeus didn t have to say certain magic words Jesus didn t sit him down and tell him what his sins were and explain that he needed to repent Jesus simply showed unconditional love to a man who was despised by everyone and

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/eating-with-sinners (2016-02-16)
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  • I Believe (Apostles' Creed, Pt. 1) | Anne Robertson
    Pentecost composed the creed with each of the twelve contributing a portion As historians have worked with document recovery they have found that it didn t come about in exactly that way but still it is an ancient document detailing what those Christians who trace their heritage to the church in Rome have believed is essential Churches have been arguing with each other about doctrine pretty much since the Church began and the very earliest split in the church was between the Eastern Christians based in Constantinople and the Western Christians based in Rome The Roman church became the Roman Catholic Church and then all the various Protestant denominations of the West ours included came out of that In the East the Church in Constantinople gave rise to all those churches with the name orthodox in their title Greek Orthodox Russian Orthodox and the like You can hear the bitter split even in their names The Roman church called itself catholic Catholic means universal and it was Rome s way of saying we are the true church we are the universally accepted one Back in Constantinople they adopted Orthodox as their way of saying you may be universal but we are right Some things never change In any case both East and West had a very early version of the Creed which was recited at baptism In the more mystical East the earliest Creed went like this I believe in one God the Father the Almighty of whom everything is and in one Lord Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God through whom everything is and in the Holy Ghost In Rome it went a bit differently There they recited I believe in God the Father the Almighty And in Jesus Christ his only begotten Son Our Lord and in the Holy Ghost the holy church the resurrection of the flesh Over time in response to various teachings that didn t sit well with the Church hierarchy the baptismal Creed grew to include new pronouncements of what the official beliefs of the church were eventually bringing us to two longer Creeds with much more detail Ours of course is the one from the West the one from Rome and by the middle ages the Creed was second only to Scripture in its importance To question it was to be tossed out of the Church or burned at the stake as a heretic so it hasn t changed a whole lot since In the early days if the Creed was not sufficient to represent what the Church believed they adapted it and added to it But once it began to be used as a weapon traditions that wanted to emphasize other things simply wrote their own rather than trying to keep the Apostles Creed as a living document If you look in the back of our hymnal you will see a variety of Creeds from different places and traditions The Apostles Creed however is not just to be tossed aside

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/i-believe (2016-02-16)
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  • The Living Christ | Anne Robertson
    earthly king who would overthrow the Romans Any Jewish scholar could tell you that the Messiah would not and could not be crucified and even the simplest child could tell you that dead bodies sealed in tombs don t get up and go anywhere Sure Jesus raised a few but they had done it only with the assistance of Jesus who was alive at the time They were raised by an outside power Even in death Jesus stubbornly refused to do what all convention and protocol said he should do namely to stay dead He had been that way in life and death was no different Imagine raising Jesus not from the dead but as a child I m sure that Mary must have had gray hair very early on As we sit here on this Easter morning some 2 000 years later I would like us to think about the ways that we are like those women who came to the tomb or for that matter like any of the people who found themselves puzzled offended scandalized and frightened by the unexpected Jesus Scripture tells us that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God A dead God is not a problem A dead God is predictable and we can come to reverence the memory and anoint the body without having anything disrupt our plans But a LIVING God That is something else entirely The women were afraid So often are we One of the primary ways that we fall into sin is by trying to mold God into a God that will meet our expectations We seek to mold God into an image we are comfortable with and put God in a tomb like box where God can be examined controlled and contained We tend to feel much more at ease when we are sure we know exactly what God thinks about every issue when we know exactly how God will act in every circum stance and when we can find the absolute boundary for who is going to get into heaven and who is going to hell We are often most comfortable when we can keep our religion in the church go there when we want to pay our respects and be reasonably sure that God is not going to leave that place and go intruding in our day to day lives We can come to the Cross weep at the feet of Jesus and feel righteous but before we leave we do want to be sure he is nailed up there isn t he I mean he won t be getting down again will he I can just put this behind me and get on with my life can t I Most of us if we are honest with ourselves are very uncomfortable with a Jesus who is missing from the tomb a Jesus who is not where he is supposed to be And yet it is the job of

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/the-living-christ (2016-02-16)
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  • Whatever It Takes | Anne Robertson
    again I came back home to New England because God hit me with a 2x4 and said Get up there People in New England don t know me Go bring them to me I argued for awhile which is another sermon but then I came My number one concern is for people to come to know God in a personal and loving way And I am ready to do whatever it takes for that to happen My belief is that God put me at St John s because this church has the gifts and graces to bring the message of God s love to the Seacoast That s not to say other churches and pastors don t It s going to take more than one church But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt why God booted me back to my New England roots and I don t think it was an accident that I was sent to St John s This church has resources and potential of all types We have great diversity in our perspectives Some see that as a problem I see it as a gift The world has great diversity People of all political and religious leanings can find company here I hope we will come to have more ethnic diversity as well As the church across the country struggles to find a way that diverse thinking and color and lifestyle can live and worship together my dream is that they could simply look to St John s and say Oh that s how it s done You simply keep the main thing the main thing and let God deal with the rest We are simply to listen for God s calling on each of our lives to see what paralyzed friend of ours needs to get to Jesus and to decide for ourselves how to get that person there If every single one of us was simply willing to do whatever it takes to get the people we know to know God we d be too busy dismantling the roof to worry about anything else I m going to climb way out on a limb here but I don t think the church has any business being divided about homosexuality abortion or any of the other hot topics that currently get people shouting at each other and taking God s name in vain Those things are not the main thing They may be the main thing of other organizations But the main thing of the church is to go into all the world and make disciples Jesus didn t say Go decide what is sinful and condemn it Jesus said Go make disciples And the people who took that commission seriously were willing to do whatever it took to make that happen Any sin in our lives is something that God will deal with at the point in our lives when we are ready once we get to know God and realize that God

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/whatever-it-takes (2016-02-16)
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  • Luke | Anne Robertson
    These Bones Live The Repentance of Believers Where Are The Shepherds Jonah A Big Fish Story Apostles Creed Sermons Matthew Booking Passage By Their Fruit Don t Go Back the Way You Came Epiphany Get Out of the Boat Guard Your Heart Is God Fair Jesus The Son Mount of Olives Sealed in the Tomb Temptations The Canaanite Woman Mark Blind Bartimaeus Clearing the Temple Eating With Sinners I Believe The Living Christ Whatever It Takes Luke Conceived By the Spirit Counting the Cost Going Out of Your Mind Mother of God Mt of Transfiguration Revealed Rock Concert The Duty of Constant Communion The Shepherd Channel The Shepherd Channel Transformation in Whoville Ups and Downs Who s In Charge John Immigration This Must Be the Place Wade in the Water Water Into Wine Lazarus Come Out Stay in the Machine Where are the Shepherds While It Was Still Dark Acts God s Cleansing Love Holy Spirit Sharing the Load Singing In Prison Romans Apart From the Law Maker of Heaven and Earth Tower of Love Who s the Judge 1 Corinthians Here I Stand Resurrection of the Body The More Excellent Way What s It All About Ephesians Holy Catholic

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/luke (2016-02-16)
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  • Conceived By the Holy Spirit (Apostles' Creed, Pt. 4) | Anne Robertson
    show up at Jesus baptism according to the Church It was involved in Jesus procreation Conceived by the Holy Spirit The Holy Spirit was with him at conception and then he was born of a woman through a birth canal with the same blood water and mess that slides every other human baby into the world Born of the Virgin Mary The other kind of controversy surrounding these lines is the virgin part of the Virgin Mary It needs to be said that this became much more of an issue for the Western Church based in Rome than it was for the Eastern Christians in Constantinople There are many who believe that the Western insistence on making people assent to the Virgin Birth has much more to do with negative attitudes about sexuality and women than it does adherence to Scripture This seems especially likely given the Roman Catholic insistence that Mary remained a virgin all of her life and their claim that the people the Bible plainly calls Jesus brothers and sisters were Joseph s from a prior marriage or really cousins or other such things The plain Biblical meaning has to apply for Mary s virginity but apparently can t apply for Jesus siblings making me wonder if there isn t something else going on That doesn t mean however that I disagree with the statement that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary To some of you that may seem like a no brainer while to others it may just sound like I m adopting a quaint doctrine to avoid a call from the Bishop but think about it for a bit If you buy into at least the first line of the Creed I believe in God the Father Almighty maker of heaven and earth you ve set yourself up to the possibility for all sorts of crazy things If God is those things is intimate and personal like a good father is more powerful than anything human beings can imagine and is capable of creating everything on earth and in the heavens then it s hard to say that any particular incident couldn t have happened God made the human prototypes God can certainly manage a zygote in a real woman s womb There are some species that require no cross fertilization at all ever If you agree that God made the heavens and the earth a virgin birth is not going to be difficult to pull off The narrative in Luke is clear that Mary has done nothing to make ordinary conception possible and in the realm of things that God can do it is completely possible for that scenario to be correct Just because our human scientists don t see how it could happen doesn t mean that God can t do it Being able to transcend human knowledge and experience is part of God s job description But I think we can get all tangled up

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/conceived-by-the-holy-spirit (2016-02-16)
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