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  • Lazarus, Come Out! | Anne Robertson
    Eternal life abundant life is now I think that is the point that Jesus makes when he raises his friend Lazarus from the dead When Jesus calls Lazarus out from his tomb he doesn t come floating out as a glorious spirit and ascend into heaven That is part of the resurrection message and Lazarus will get that later But at this point Jesus calls Lazarus back to the life on earth he had been living He is still Lazarus he still has two sisters and actually his life on earth is now much more complicated because he has become a celebrity the proof of a miracle of Jesus and the Pharisees now want to kill him We talk about this aspect of resurrection less often We sing of the amazing miracle of the resurrection of Jesus We are grateful at every funeral for the assurance that even when our physical bodies give out we are still very much alive and we are able to continue that life in all its complexity and richness if we will accept God s love and move into the Light of God s grace But the story of Lazarus shows there is more to it even than that We don t have to wait until our bodies disintegrate to know what resurrection life is all about Just as Jesus called to Lazarus to continue his earthly life in a new way so he calls to all of us to be transformed and renewed to come out of our tombs and truly live The worst of times the age of foolishness the epoch of incredulity the season of Darkness the winter of despair nothing before us that is the view from the spiritual tomb You become wrapped up in it like graveclothes and feel like a rock has sealed you in The world must be dark because dark is all you can see You despair you lie down on your bed and give your hearts over to the darkness because there seems to be no other answer Ah but there are people gathering outside of your tomb Your friends and family have gathered they cry for you because you are sealed up in the darkness and they too feel helpless They rail at God for the injustice of it all There is someone else who has joined the crowd outside your tomb It is Jesus As it turns out there is something your friends and family can do Jesus instructs them Roll away the stone They think he s crazy It s impossible Jesus he s too far gone She has been in the tomb too long He s dead Jesus She s beyond hope We re sorry but there s nothing we can do Take away the stone he says Stop being mad at God and do your part They gather together it is a large heavy stone They roll it away They watch and wonder Now there is daylight flooding the tomb You

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/lazarus-come-out (2016-02-16)
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  • Stay in the Machine | Anne Robertson
    what it means to be a United Methodist They learned about John Wesley and they traveled to other churches and the synagogue to see what worship is like in those places They talked with their parents and they met with their mentors all as part of a process to help them decide whether or not they wanted to claim the name Christian for themselves and whether or not they were comfortable enough with United Methodist tradition and belief to join this local church They have said yes to both of those questions and we celebrate this milestone in the Christian walk that they began at baptism While parents and mentors and all members of this congregation still are responsible to help the confirmands on their faith journey as of this morning they also bear some responsibility themselves They will need to consciously keep up the daily practices of faith in order to stay on the path they have chosen They will need to make hard choices when friends want to them to join in something that goes against the will of God or when it seems hard to keep up with prayer and Bible reading This day they have chosen God and God will never drop them but whether they walk away from God or continue walking with God is now up to them An artist named Kent Nerburn tells about going to a monastery in British Columbia in a little book called Small Graces He writes I had gone there to create a sculpture for the monks and in order to invest the work with a spiritual presence that would resonate with their hearts I had chosen to live by the rules and dictates of their lives The abbot in charge of the monastery was a harsh man disinclined toward compassion and the human touch He watched me struggle with the austere rigor of monastic life and the constraints within which the monks conducted their daily affairs One day he came over to me and said with no explanation Stay in the machine It will clean you out At first I did not know what he meant The comment was so flip so casual and so out of character that I almost thought he was teasing or chiding me But day by day I began to understand I rose with the monks chanted with them worked when they worked prayed when they prayed Gradually the simple rituals of their daily life the gentle repetition with which they lived their days began to focus my being and fill me with peace By the time I had finished the sculpture six months later my spirit had deepened my heart had cleared my eyes had opened I was by no means a monk but I was a believer in the power of their ways By following their appointed rituals I had become a deeper and wiser person I had stayed in the machine It had begun to clean me out The truth

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/stay-in-the-machine (2016-02-16)
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  • While It Was Still Dark | Anne Robertson
    disciples the days have been dark indeed She was there at the darkest of them She watched him die horribly brutally as a criminal That s about as dark as it gets in a soul And when she comes to the tomb on that first day of the week it is still dark She is still deep in the grief and horror and disbelief of what has happened The sun could have been shining brightly doesn t matter For her it is dark dark dark But John wants to say more than indicating that Mary hasn t had a very good weekend His theme from the beginning is that Jesus is the light of the world and no amount of darkness can snuff that out What he is showing I think is how Mary lives out that hope and what happens as a result What s interesting to me is that not one of the Gospels tells us of the actual resurrection Nobody records blinding flashes of light earthquakes visions glowing rocks nothing What they report is the discovery of an empty tomb nobody tells about the event itself Here is this huge central event and nobody but nobody sees it Even though Jesus birth was ignored by the masses there were still angels singing to shepherds signs in the night sky that foreign astrologers could read and a king mad enough about a possible usurper to the throne that he orders a massacre of children But nobody at all gets tipped off about the resurrection in any of the stories It happened sometime in the night while it was still dark and nobody knew until Mary went and looked Spiritually this is our hope I don t know about you but I ve had some very dark times in my life And when it s dark and you can t see what s going on around you because there s too much grief and pain and doubt that s the time we re tempted to ditch God and maybe even our own God given lives believing that God s not ever going to do anything or help us believing that God doesn t give a flip about what happens to us It s easy to just pull the covers over our heads and give up But Mary has something to teach us in those times She went to the tomb while it was still dark Despite her terrible grief and probable fear Mary got up and did something She went to the last place she knew Jesus was Even though it was his tomb and she knew darn well he was dead she had watched it she went As useless as it was she needed to be where Jesus was to give her comfort in the dark Mary shows us what faithfulness in the dark looks like When our prayers just seem to hit the ceiling and fall back down on our heads we go to pray anyway When

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/while-it-was-still-dark (2016-02-16)
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  • Acts | Anne Robertson
    David The King Repents Kings Job Why Be Good Psalms Become Thanksgiving Lamentations Where is the Hope Ezekiel Can 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

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/acts (2016-02-16)
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  • God's Cleansing Love | Anne Robertson
    Peter is a proper Jew and I m guessing he didn t really get what Jesus was saying or doing at least not until Acts 10 where Peter has the strange vision and subsequent experience that he describes to others in Acts 11 The vision as you hear earlier revolves around those categories of clean and unclean He sees a sheet come down from heaven filled with all the kinds of food a Jew is not supposed to eat the unclean foods God tells Peter to eat it Peter figures this is some sort of test of his adherence to the law and refuses as any good Jew would have But apparently that wasn t the right answer because the test comes again Peter refuses again It comes a third time maybe recalling the three times Peter denied Jesus or the three times Jesus later asks him Do you love me but still Peter refuses sticking with the laws in Leviticus even though God keeps basically saying Hey if I say it s clean then it s clean Don t go quoting Scripture at me The vision is then interrupted by a very real version of the same thing It isn t food but some Gentiles are knocking on Peter s door on behalf of a Gentile Centurion named Cornelius Cornelius would like a visit from Peter Well that s a no no Gentiles were unclean always and all the time and to go into the house of a Gentile was strictly forbidden But the Holy Spirit has begun to work in Peter and suddenly he gets the vision Like the day Peter took the great risk of getting out of the boat in a storm and walking on water to Jesus he takes the risk of being unclean invites the messengers in to spend the night and then leaves with them the next morning for the home of Cornelius That step out the door is the beginning of the Church as we know it today It began the seismic shift away from a literal interpretation of Scriptural law and into the much more fluid exciting and risky world of listening to the voice of God as it speaks in the moment and watching for what the Spirit is actually doing in the world Not that the church ever blocked the ways that God had spoken to or partnered with the faithful of past millennia but those who came to believe that Jesus was not dead but alive and very much at work in the world through the Holy Spirit could no longer rule out the possibility that God might do a new thing and even shift the rules to adapt to new circumstances in a new age Sounds like heresy until you see that it happened in Scripture itself Peter s step out that door led as you might imagine to a huge battle in the early church over the literal adherence to the law Finally the showdown comes

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/gods-cleansing-love (2016-02-16)
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  • The Holy Spirit (Apostles' Creed, Pt. 8) | Anne Robertson
    that God is at work everywhere with everyone at all times God in the Holy Spirit gives life to every human being and according to the Psalms every living thing on the planet We are saying we believe that God blows in with every storm and gentles us with summer breeze As the psalmist puts it The trees of the field clap their hands When we take a deep breath we draw in the life of God It has nothing to do with our merit God is not punishing us when our house is blown away in a hurricane and God is not praising our goodness when we are allowed to take another breath It is simply the way that God is present everywhere and with all things And lest you be concerned for the fish remember your chemistry Even water is part oxygen When we really realize that God s spirit moves in and through all living things we can better appreciate how much God cares about the way we treat the environment But that is not all While one part of the Holy Spirit tradition reminds us that God is there for everyone another part reminds us that the Holy Spirit isn t there for nothing The breath we all are given is given for a purpose first for the general purpose of glorifying God and secondly for purposes as individual as the creatures who breathe it in The Holy Spirit is known by other words and other names in both the Old and New Testaments There is a strong Jewish tradition of the Holy Spirit as wisdom or sophia most often portrayed as a woman Earlier in the Gospel of John Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as both a counselor of truth which ties into the wisdom tradition and a comforter In both the Old and New Testaments the Holy Spirit enables people to prophesy and to perform miracles such as the way those in the passage from Acts are able to speak in languages that they have not learned So when we say I believe in the Holy Spirit we not only affirm that God s Spirit is the force behind and within all life but we also state our belief that the calling that God s Spirit brings to each life differs We say this in other ways when we talk about Spiritual gifts which the Bible lists in a couple of places Spiritual gifts are gifts of the Holy Spirit given for the work of God in the world Everybody and everything has at least one of them if not more because the Spirit of God can t show up without them and the Spirit of God is in the breath and the wind The animals and the trees and plants have their own set of gifts from the Spirit of God Takes the trees Some of them are gifted to produce fruit others are gifted to show God s beauty to provide

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/holy-spirit (2016-02-16)
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  • Sharing the Load | Anne Robertson
    earliest stages of formation It had been a group of disciples who lived and traveled with Jesus Now Jesus was physically gone from their midst and the focus was on spreading the Good News of his resurrection and the coming of the Kingdom of God That meant organization There was a task to complete a mission to fulfill and the disciples were trying to sort out the best way to get it accomplished As the organization grew there were more things that needed tending including the care of the new converts They could hardly represent Christ if they were neglecting the poor and the widows and orphans But the twelve disciples were trying to do it all themselves and the job was too big Before long they found that their whole purpose and mission was being undermined They were so busy caring for the people who had already been converted that they were no longer fulfilling Jesus direct command to them to go and make disciples of all nations There was no time left to preach and teach because there were so many needs to tend to In this case the Disciples can see the problem themselves They call the congregation together and say It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables Therefore friends select from among yourselves seven men of good standing full of the Spirit and of wisdom whom we may appoint to this task while we for our part will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word They are not saying that the task of caring for others is beneath them They are not saying they don t care about the plight of widows and orphans They are saying that they have been sent to do a particular task and other people with different gifts need to be recruited to do the other necessary work The thing I find the most amazing about this passage is the next sentence which reads What they said pleased the whole community I can tell you that in the vast majority of churches in America today if the pastor groaning under the weight of trying to care for the sick recruit volunteers help the poor counsel the distressed administer an organization preach every Sunday and teach during the week if the pastor got up on a Sunday morning and said It is not right that I should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables those words would not please the whole community The higher ups would get letters the pastor s popularity would drop and people would leave in a huff deciding that the pastor was an uncaring snobbish person who should probably find another job But we have a calling a mission some very particular way that we are to contribute to the Body of Christ in the particular place where we are It is not the pastor s job to do all the

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/sharing-the-load (2016-02-16)
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  • Singing In Prison | Anne Robertson
    them singing at incredibly difficult times As Jesus is about to leave the gathering of his closest disciples for the last time after they have shared a last supper together and he has taught them all he can teach with his words they sing a hymn together Then Jesus heads to the Garden of Gethsemane where he prays an anguished prayer before his arrest And in the story from Acts we find Paul and Silas singing while they are actually in prison They have just been stripped and severely beaten and they are thrown in prison with their feet in stocks And in that condition they sing to God I don t know that Paul and Silas had ever had voice lessons I don t know if the songs they sang were proper songs by good composers or if they were just making songs up as they went I don t know if it sounded like Pavarotti or like a dog in pain but I do know that the other prisoners listened and that God responded with an earthquake that set them free Sometimes I think we have confused the point of Christian singing with the expectations of the entertainment world It isn t about the quality of the performance it is about the sincerity of the heart and the need of a soul to connect with its creator in the deep way that music provides When I think of singing I remember a funeral I did in Dover for the wife of a long time member of the church The couple had been married many years and were inseparable until now We gathered in the church and the family wanted the congregation to join them in song So we stood up to sing a favorite of many of that generation How Great Thou Art Her husband was in the family pew right in front of the pulpit and I will never forget the way he sang that hymn It wasn t coming from his lips that song was coming from his soul His whole body sang it as if it were the last thing keeping him alive He became that song he was one with it and I cried as I watched him sing for the sake of all the love he had known begging the greatness of God to hold him when his own strength was not enough I know many musicians who hate that song who think it isn t good music and who sigh deep sighs when a pastor picks it But that s not what Christian singing is about It s about what is needed in the soul It s about connecting with God When I think of singing I also think of my mother Like me she s an alto and I remember as a child wondering why she was always singing the wrong notes in church It was just the alto line But I also remember that her favorite Bible passage is a

    Original URL path: http://annerobertson.org/singing-in-prison (2016-02-16)
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