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  • Counting the Cost | Anne Robertson
    for others to navigate the tight turns safely to provide a cool breeze on a hot day and to bring people safely and happily along the road of life to their final destination Christian faith is not about what we get it is about oiling and tuning and so ordering our lives that we can make life better for others The crowds following Jesus were beginning to forget this In another place after the miraculous feeding of the five thousand Jesus blasts the crowds for only following him because he gave them bread to eat Jesus isn t desperate for numbers and when a disciple quits he doesn t run after them What concerns him most is that the ones who follow him understand that the calling of God is not an ad for special blessing but an enlistment to special service Jesus words to His followers both then and now is that saying you want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is not a pronouncement to be made lightly It is not a decision to sign up for certain benefits It is a decision to make a conscious effort to live your life in a certain way a way that is so contrary to the culture of the world around you that even your family could come to regard you as an enemy if they are not also disciples a way that so challenges the foundations on which society is built that remaining true to your calling could mean a cross tortuous death as an outsider and a criminal Giving up money and possessions is relatively easy compared to some of the other costs When we see the life of Jesus it seems strange that it was so hard Those of us who were the flower children of the 60 s can t quite comprehend why a message of love and compassion peace and welcome for the outcast should be such a dangerous mission Well ask Ghandi about it Ask Martin Luther King Jr Ask Jesus on Good Friday All murdered because there are those in the world who recognize that messages of peace equality and love for everyone threaten all the foundations of power and wealth in our world Those of us who think those qualities are just nice warm fuzzies in Hallmark cards will be in for a rude awakening if we truly try to live out those principles They are counter cultural and they can get you killed Next week we will see an example of that here at St John s As a congregation we are not of one mind regarding the practice of homosexuality But as your reception of Brett last Spring showed I believe that we are of one mind in realizing that the issue will never be resolved until we can listen to all the voices and welcome each other into the fellowship of God s love Hate has no place in the Kingdom of God If God is love as

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/counting-the-cost (2016-02-16)
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  • Going Out of Your Mind | Anne Robertson
    all that way with the Son of God opening the Scriptures to them and they haven t got a clue who their traveling companion is When are their eyes opened When do they see Jesus When Jesus DOES something when he breaks the bread It is only AFTER they encounter Jesus in the action of breaking bread the ritual action that preceded every Jewish meal that they remember what he SAID earlier on the road Don t miss this For a long time we Christians have tried to talk people into faith We quote Scripture to them we explain about the Cross and only after they tell us they believe these things do we invite them to the actions Believer s baptism or the ritual meal of Communion where God has promised to meet us Well suppose the road to Emmaus is telling us that this is backwards Suppose we need to encounter Jesus in the waters of baptism and the breaking of the bread BEFORE we can even begin to understand Scripture or doctrine This notion is a part of our Methodist heritage Wesley fought hard to retain infant baptism and promoted what is called open communion anyone could come to the table He believed that part of the purpose of the Supper was conversion and thus it was open to everyone He did not restrict it to those who could recite correct doctrine or could explain what was happening And he did not restrict Communion to those who had no sin on the contrary it was precisely FOR sinners who did not understand Why Because Wesley could see that it was in the DOING and not in the thinking that Christ was to be encountered Jesus did not go around explaining the doctrine of grace to sinners Jesus said Come out of that sycamore tree Zacchaeus I m going to have dinner with you tonight Jesus was always getting in trouble for eating with the riffraff And it changed their lives Jesus didn t talk grace he lived grace As the sinner was accepted at the table of Jesus and invited to share in a common meal the sinner could understand the message of God s grace in a way that was impossible for those who refused to come until they were worthy It is only AFTER an unworthy sinner is invited to eat with Jesus Christ that Scripture comes alive While we were yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly Let s go out of our minds and come to the table not BECAUSE we understand but in order that we MIGHT understand by meeting Jesus Christ in the breaking of the bread And now that we re out of our minds that far other parts of Communion begin to look a little different too Jesus said Do this in remembrance of me What does it mean to remember Most of us immediately think of what else thinking To remember is to go into our minds and

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/going-out-of-your-mind (2016-02-16)
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  • Mother of God | Anne Robertson
    that she is told that her job is to raise the savior of the world Gee no pressure or anything Even without the whole virgin birth thing that s a heck of a message to get on some Wednesday afternoon But in Mary s response we see the nature of this remarkable young woman which can give us some clues about what God values and about what God wanted passed on to Jesus as Mary taught her child Remember Jesus is not some sort of sub deity Jesus is God or at least as much of God as can be contained in a human body So God is about to do a wild thing to become human to become limited in both body and mind And God isn t starting as an adult God is going to have to forget who he is wipe the brain clean and become a newborn baby dependent on those around him to rediscover his own identity and purpose So God looks around to see who has a true picture of who God is and what God wants to do in the world so that God as a baby can be truly taught God picks Mary As the angel makes this incredible announcement Mary s response is acceptance Let it be with me according to your word It is the first thing we see in Mary and it is one of the first things she would have to teach her special baby Let it be Even when God asks you to do something that might get you killed let it be As she begins her famous words to Elizabeth that we have since come to call The Magnificat she shows that this news is a blessing to her It is scary it is dangerous but it comes from God and God s call is always a blessing What an important lesson for a mother to teach her children However odd and impossible the calling may seem accept it You have been blessed you have been chosen and there is nothing else worth doing in the world As Mary goes on to praise the God who has chosen her we see some of her theology what she believes about the nature of God She talks about God s mercy from generation to generation and about God s strength But God s strength is directed in a particular way He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty That s what Mary believes about how God behaves and God chose Mary to teach Jesus about God through her example So I think it s a safe bet that what Mary says here is accurate The things that are important to most people are not the things that are important to God It s not about power and

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/mother-of-god (2016-02-16)
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  • Mountain of Transfiguration | Anne Robertson
    who were there with him they were given a sign from God Just like at Jesus baptism the voice of God declares Jesus to be God s son God s chosen one They have seen the glory with their eyes and heard the declaration with their ears They will need to remember the strength of that affirmation as the events of the next weeks unfold Mountaintop experiences are the times and places where we get clarity about things It is the place where we work out our allegiance and decide just who we will serve It is the place we go when we get overworked and discouraged where God comes and brings us nourishment and strength It is the place where God teaches the Sermon on the Mount the Ten Commandments and it is the place where God answers our prayers in ways that are clear to us Mountaintop experiences are places where God and God s way become clear to us and where we make the choice of how we will respond For those of us who have made a sincere commitment to follow Christ we can point to some such experiences in our lives For some it is the moment of conversion They can tell you exactly how it was when they came to realize who God really was and what it felt like as the love of God washed over them Others of us come to know God more gradually and people like me who have been raised in a Christian home and didn t have a dramatic conversion experience point to different experiences There have been a number of such times across my life so far One was the day when at fourteen years of age I preached my first sermon for youth Sunday at the church where I grew up Standing in that pulpit and telling my church family about my faith God called me to preach By the time I had finished my little five minute sermon I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God wanted me to spend the rest of my life telling others of the love of God It was scary but it was clear and sure The twists turns and curve balls of my life kept me from that calling until I was 33 years old but when illness and divorce stripped everything else from me the call of God to ministry was still there Another time was the night of my father s death back in 1980 He died suddenly of a heart attack in his sleep He was 47 years old Two amazing things happened on that terrible mountaintop I awoke to the sounds of my mother screaming to emergency personnel on the phone I ran from where she was to where my father was in their bedroom and I saw the look of death I knew he was dead and I knew I served a God who could raise the dead So as my mother

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/mount-of-transfiguration (2016-02-16)
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  • Revealed | Anne Robertson
    knowing that his disciples might think that following the Messiah was going to bring accolades and honor Jesus goes on to squash that too If any want to become my followers Jesus tells them let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me For those who want to save their life will lose it and those who lose their life for my sake will save it The disciples brains must have been spinning but Jesus gives them a week to digest it all Then just before they all head to Jerusalem for the last time Jesus takes his three closest buddies Peter James and John and they go up a mountain to pray If you remember from the stories of Moses when Moses had been with God his face glowed so brightly that he had to wear a veil so he wouldn t frighten the people We see up here on the mountain how that might have happened While Jesus is praying he starts to glow the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became dazzling white We call it the transfiguration The Greek word is the one that gives us the English word metamorphosis Jesus is changed transformed He morphs into a glorified form Not only that but he is not alone The disciples see the changes in Jesus but they also see that Jesus is joined by the figures of both Moses and Elijah and the three of them are engaging in conversation For heavens sake why didn t someone have a pen and some paper I would love to know what those three were saying But Peter left his laptop at the bottom of the mountain and Jesus probably told them not to tell anybody anyway So we don t know But the transformation of Jesus there on the mountain helped to enforce visually what Peter had guessed verbally And in case they were auditory rather than visual learners God shows up in a cloud and verbally confirms This is my Son my Chosen listen to him There certainly was no questioning Jesus identity now They had seen the transformation They had seen two types of Messiah figures standing with Jesus Elijah and Moses God s words listen to him would bring listeners back to the passage in Deuteronomy 18 read earlier where it was predicted that another prophet like Moses would come With Moses representing the Law and Elijah representing the prophets Jesus in that moment is seen as the fulfillment of both Then after dallying with the idea of hanging out on top of the mountain forever and never leaving the experience of glory they get real and head back down to the others And it is back down there in the valley that we see why Jesus wanted his identity a secret and why he held off telling even his closest disciples for so long The very next day Jesus is confronted with a frustrated father His son has

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/revealed (2016-02-16)
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  • Rock Concert | Anne Robertson
    they asked Jesus to shut them up His response to me is fascinating He doesn t tell them to take a hike He doesn t tell them they are wrong He certainly doesn t do what they say He simply tells them that it is pointless What the disciples are crying out is the truth and the truth cannot be silenced Even if every one of the disciples did as they wished and ceased their praise the rocks on the ground would pick up the cry On the one hand it is a figure of speech The proclamation of the disciples that Jesus is the king who comes in God s name is so fundamentally true that even a rock would know it and say so But on the other hand we don t want to sell short the place of Creation in God s Kingdom The Psalms are full of imagery of trees and fields praising God The Bible tells us that in God s new earth the lion and the lamb will lie down together the animals knowing and living the Spirit of God so closely that even the natural bloodshed of the food chain disappears Even if the rocks don t get a chance to speak in this passage there is already a non human miracle You just try pulling what Jesus does here on a colt that has never been ridden People shouting coats on the road a person on its back for the very first time Anybody but Jesus would probably have been bumped off before the first step But the donkey colt also knew who was on its back just as the rocks beneath its feet knew When Jesus is born the heavens get involved and a bright star shines in just the right place to alert astrologers to something special At Jesus death these same rocks split open in an earthquake and the sun goes into an eclipse Scorn the nature religions if you want but I believe they are proclaiming at least one truth that Christians often forget Paul tells us in Romans 8 that not just people but all of Creation groans for its redemption And right at the outset of Romans in the passage I read earlier Paul says that the natural world displays the truth about God Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature invisible though they are have been understood and seen through the things he has made The existence of God and the nature of God are truths written in your backyard If the church completely failed and all of the people of God everywhere were silent Paul thinks people would still have no excuse for not knowing God because God is obvious just from walking outside In the Church we have largely fallen silent about the role of Creation and the nature religions I believe are the rocks that cry out in our silence about the Earth In fact I

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/rock-concert (2016-02-16)
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  • The Duty of Constant Communion | Anne Robertson
    sinners we leave forgiven as a gift from Jesus the host of the meal And because we find that we are always welcome at the table of Jesus we are strengthened to go out and be better people The love we find there refreshes us washes us gives us strength We might have thought we would be met with punishment or a lecture or at least disappointment when we came into God s presence Instead we are welcomed and fed and loved That s enough to pick up anybody s spirit Communion is a time of joy for Wesley which is why it is just as acceptable to take it during the praise music before first service as it is during the more reflective bell music before second service Some people have questioned taking communion while people are singing and clapping before first service Joy is always an acceptable attitude before God While part of our remembrance in Communion is the night on which Jesus was betrayed that is not all of it At the same time that we look back we also look forward to the time as it says in the liturgy When Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet I don t at all imagine that the heavenly banquet is going to be a solemn and somber affair How could it be In the two different moods before the two different services we remember two important aspects of what communion means And at both of them we remember that communion is also about our present life together one with each other one with Jesus one with God Some people in Wesley s time objected that they couldn t take communion that often because they didn t have time for prayer and reflection ahead of time Wesley says that such time is good but not necessary He implies that to be ready to take Communion is the same as being ready for salvation and we ought to have regular practices of devotion that would keep us in that state anyway Besides he goes back to the fact that Jesus commanded it and says To obey is better than self examination 508 Any resistance to Communion puzzles Wesley Here is Jesus commanding us to take part in something that brings peace and forgiveness and joy For Wesley to refuse it is either being disobedient by refusing to obey Jesus command or dumb for refusing to do something that brings such benefit 505 He does spend some time trying to help those who have been tripped up by the passage in 1 Corinthians 11 that condemns people who take of the Lord s supper in an unworthy manner In response he points people to the earlier part of that chapter to see what Paul is talking about The early church had Communion every time they gathered and they had it in the context of a regular meal just like Jesus did at the last supper

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/constant-communion (2016-02-16)
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  • The Shepherd Channel | Anne Robertson
    to be a very different Messiah than anyone was expecting The people were quite ready for a Messiah a king that would come and free them from Roman oppression Palestine in the first century is an occupied country and the people of Israel live under oppressive conditions They want to be self governing They remember that Moses freed the people from the Egyptians and the Messiah the new Moses they expected would free them from the Romans in the same way But that was not what Jesus came to do My kingdom is not of this world he would later explain to Roman authorities Jesus came to free people from spiritual bondage to sin and death to bring a freedom that could not be taken away no matter what foreign nation might technically rule the place But inner freedom wasn t what most people wanted except for maybe people like shepherds You see it didn t really matter to shepherds who ruled the country Rome or Israel Bush or Clinton or whoever might come along They weren t going to count no matter who was in charge Shepherds knew that political freedom is a thing of privilege Political freedom simply means that the attitudes and values of the culture are allowed to flourish If you have a job that the culture values if you have a physical appearance or lifestyle that people admire if you have the money to buy your way through the obstacles then you have an interest in political freedom But if you fall into certain categories if your own people don t find you valuable you don t get freedom from a change in government What difference did the American Revolution make to slaves Shepherds knew that real freedom had to spring from someplace else and any savior that shows up as a baby in a feeding trough would understand that So they hurried to see and came away rejoicing I think God gave the message to shepherds because shepherds were some of the only ones able to both understand and appreciate what Jesus was coming to do I also think God gave the message to shepherds because in this upside down Kingdom of God where the first are last and the last first shepherds are some of the most valuable and admired people around The major figures of the Hebrew Scriptures Abraham Moses David all were shepherds Remember that the work of a shepherd is grueling and dangerous The Christmas story talks about shepherds abiding in the fields That means they lived there They didn t lay around in fields all day and then go home and get cleaned up for bed They lived outdoors day and night with the sheep And they were required to protect that sheep at all costs even at the cost of their own lives The young David reminds King Saul that as a shepherd he has killed both lions and bears If a wild animal got a sheep the

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/shepherd-channel (2016-02-16)
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