Will Jesus die as a fool or a lover?

John 12:20-33

Will we die as a fool or a lover? As we are traveling through Lent, we are hoping to see our faith in Christ to grow. We know by this point in time that Jesus is not a fool. Hopefully we are seeing Jesus as a lover. As we follow Jesus, we carry our cross. Since Jesus died on the cross, if we are carrying our cross, then we too will die. Will our arms be open like Jesus’ arms were open on the cross?

We find a Merriam-Webster definition of “fool” is a person who is lacking in judgment or prudence. This would like the person who walks around with a “Kick Me” sign on April 1st. We find a Merriam-Webster definition of “lover” is an affectionate or benevolent person. This would be like a person who buys the homeless guy a meal. Let’s catch what is going on with Jesus.

A. The Greeks are coming! (12:20-23)
+++1. Philip & Andrew had been called by Jesus to “Come & see” (John 1:35-46)
+++2. Now they hear some Greeks who want to see Jesus
+++3. So they tell Jesus about the Greeks
+++4. What a great opportunity for Philip and Andrew! They get to take people to see Jesus. When they tell Jesus about the Greeks, they don’t get the response they are expecting. Jesus recognizes what time it is.

B. What are we doing with our life? (12:24-28)
+++1. Jesus prepares his disciples for his coming death
+++2. Jesus has to die (the seed being buried) in order for the church to grow (the seed bearing fruit)
Augustine wrote in his Commentary on John: “He called Himself the grain of wheat that must be mortified by the unbelief of the Jews, multiplied by the faith of the nations.”
+++3. Curious saying: If we love our life, then we lose it; if we hate our life, then we keep it for eternal life
++===+a. If we love the life of sin has brought us, then we lose our life for the rest of time
++===+b. If we hate the life that is offered us to in Jesus, then we keep the life we have that does not include Jesus
++===+c. We end up denying ourselves so that we may have life
+++4. John Wesley lived & encouraged the Methodist people to live lives of self-denial & stewardship
++===+a.”Self-denial is, quite simply, ‘the denying or refusing to follow our own will, from a conviction that the will of God is the only rule of action to us.'” Wesley considered self-denial the “grand doctrine of Christianity.”1
++===+b. Stewardship – all we possess is not our own, but “properly belongs to God.”
+===++c. Methodists practice self-denial & stewardship so that we may serve, “in order to be a suitable instrument which can be used by God to shower his blessings on humanity.”
+++5. So, we have to figure out how we serve Jesus
++===+a. Our society does not know how to serve anyone
++===+b. We think we “deserve” much from society
+===++c. “Deserve” means that we are worthy of merit
++===+d. “Deserve” used to mean (Middle English) to devote oneself to, to serve
++===+e. It turns out that we can deserve Jesus, that is we can devote ourselves to Jesus, to serve only him
+++7. Jesus was going to die. He knew it. If we are going to follow Jesus, then we are going to have to die. We die to our sins. We die to our attitudes. We die to our over-inflated egos. Since Jesus went to the cross, we go to the cross. Jesus says we must follow him. We can serve Jesus. For all that love that God has for us, we can serve Jesus. This is how the church grows, by serving Jesus. That is why Jesus came, so we could be his fruit.
+++8. Jesus’ Father will glorify his name by Jesus’ death
+++9. The crowd heard God through the thunder, or the angel’s voice (it depends how the hearers understood God’s voice)
+++10. God is praised for Jesus’ death. Why? For by Jesus’ death, God is able to restore all people to himself. That is if we want to be restored to God. Will we be fools or lovers? This is the question we have as we follow Jesus or don’t follow Jesus. We know what Jesus desires for us.

C. Jesus will draw all things to himself (12:29-33)
+++1. The judgment is this – we choose if we follow Jesus
++===+a. Choose Jesus – we live
++===+b. Don’t choose Jesus – we don’t live
++===+2. It is by Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension that we are drawn to him
+===++3. God has good for us, if we choose to follow and serve Jesus. What love there is from God! He allowed his Son to die for us, so that we may have life. We get to choose to have life. This life is lived in the light. We can choose to get out of the darkness.

Will we die as a fool or a lover? It is our choice. If we are going to follow Jesus, then let us be the fruit from his death. As we die to sin, our attitude, and in faith, may there be fruit from our death. May many come to know Jesus through our death.

***** I am indebted to Kenneth Collin’s book, A Faithful Witness: John Wesley’s Homiletical Theology, (Wesley Heritage Press; Wilmore, KY 40390; 1993) for information about Self-Denial and Stewardship.


Which has God shown us, how to be a fool or a lover?

John 3:14-21

In John’s Gospel, there are two ways of looking at things. There is the way God looks at this world. There is the way people look at the world. We get to choose which way we look at the world. Here are how the two ways of looking at things turn out.

This is how God looks at this world. God created this universe. God provides the breath which we breathe. God made every man, woman, and child on this planet. Each new day we discover God has mercies for us. God gave his only Son so we may have eternal life, even right now.

This is how people look at the world. Tennessee ranks 10th highest of the 50 United States in divorce. In 2016, there were 542,968 “Group A” crimes in Tennessee. Crimes in this group include arson, assault, rape, homicide, embezzlement, robbery, and kidnapping. It is estimated that 1 in 10 adults over the age of 60 will suffer abuse in the United States. The elder abuse could be sexual abuse, neglect, willful deprivation, and financial exploitation. These are the crimes that have been reported.

The sermon title can be used to ask the question of God and of the world. Which has God shown us, how to be a fool or a lover? Which has the world shown us, how to be a fool or a lover? By answering these questions, we have information for us to know how to live, as a fool or as a lover. We get to choose which way we look at the world. We get to choose which way we live, as a fool or as a lover.

A. How do we get eternal life? (3:14-15)
+++1. Moses lifted up a serpent in the wilderness?
+++2. The Son of Man must be lifted up?
+++3. When the bronze serpent was lifted up, all the Israelites bitten by the poisonous serpents were healed, received a new life
+++4. When the Son of Man was lifted up, all who are bitten by sin are healed, receive eternal life
+++5. Yes, we know that not all of the Israelites were bitten by the poisonous serpents. But all of us have sinned. Up to the point we decide to believe in Jesus, we are dying. We all have been fools with our lives. For we have allowed anger, gossip, lust, and pride to rule our lives. We can have a new life, a life that is healthy, even free from sin. This eternal life will be spent with God. We can believe in the Son of Man. We can believe in Jesus. Then we get eternal life.

B. What does this eternal life look like? (3:16-21)
+++1. God loves the world – even though the world rejects him!
+++2. God still sent his only Son – so that we can have eternal life!
+++3. This world can be saved – delivered – through belief in Jesus
+++4. Yet, there will be people in this world who won’t believe – condemning themselves!
+++5. We judge ourselves – because we love darkness rather than the light
+++6. Something awakens us to know there is more than evil deeds
+++7. Yet, people will keep on doing their evil deeds
+++8. It is by believing in Jesus that we are able to live God’s way – our deeds are done in God
+++9. Yes, eternal life looks like we live God’s way. We are free from condemnation. We love living in the light. Our deeds are down in God. It is our choice. God is not going to condemn us for eternity. We perish because we don’t believe in Jesus, we don’t live in the light.

God shows us his love. The world shows us how to be fools. If we want to continue in this world only, then we continue to live like the world. But if we want to have life with God for the rest of time and beyond time, then we believe in Jesus Christ.

Which has God shown us, how to be a fool or a lover?

Which has the world shown us, how to be a fool or a lover?

Which way will we live, as a fool or lover? We answer that question by either believing in Jesus or not believing in Jesus. Our life will display our decision. Which way will we live?

To which type of Christian theology do I subscribe?

Yes, the name of my blog is “John the United Methodist.” To be precise about my theological leanings, I will initially say I am more Wesleyan in my theology and doctrine than strictly being “United Methodist.” If that sounds like I am splitting hairs, then allow me to clarify. In this post-post-modern world, or whatever we are calling this epoch, there is a difference in being Wesleyan and being United Methodist in theological perspective.

What does it matter in this life I am living, being Wesleyan or being United Methodist? Yes, at the heart of being United Methodist we would think that being Wesleyan would be at the center. Sometimes as we are living our United Methodist theology there is the appearance that being Wesleyan only counts for those seeking ordination as Elders and Deacons. Then once that ten year process is complete there is like an open door to teach and live any theology the Elder or Deacon desires. It then looks like the only connection between the United Methodist clergy is the process of becoming ordained!

As an aside, I would like to express my appreciation for all of the Local Pastors and Associate Members of the United Methodist Church. They are required to endure a five-year Course of Study, and the Advanced Course of Study for Associate Membership. They are doing a marvelous job of teaching the faith, even using and living a Wesleyan theology and doctrine. Though at some point I would like to express my hope that the system would encourage and train the Local Pastors more thoroughly to continue to grow in their understanding of Holy Communion and Baptism. I’ll save that for another post!

With the uncertainty of the future of the United Methodist Church, I think an understanding of who we are from a theological and doctrinal perspective is helpful. The denominational split that may occur after the February 2019 General Conference may not be the time to discover who we are as Christians. Between now and then I hope to clarify who I am as a Christian, who happens to be United Methodist, who happens to be Wesleyan in theology and doctrine, who happens to be an Elder in the United Methodist Church. Some of this can already be discerned through my sermons titled, “What do United Methodists believe?” and “I believe.”

Sit back, hang on, and feel free to examine your own belief in United Methodist theology and doctrine as the United Methodist Church prepares for whatever happens in 2019 and after!

My Father’s House

John 2:13-22

We have a system for that. Yes, there is a program for that. This is the way we do things around here.

There is a pattern for driving in a parking lot. There is a routine for the week. There are daily habits performed every day. When we get out of our routine, we get frustrated.

For many of us, our routines and habits keep us cruising along in life. It is nice to not have to think too much about a routine or habit. This process leaves extra energy for more spectacular choices in life – like where to go on vacation, which SUV to buy, and how we are going to surprise a friend or loved one on their birthday.

Yet, sometimes our system for an activity misses the point of the activity. When we don’t have Mom’s dinner rolls for Thanksgiving, it sometimes doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving anymore. Yet, Mom is not able to make dinner rolls anymore. Her health won’t allow it. In a sense, we grieve for what won’t be happening anymore as we give Mom extra love because she can’t make the dinner rolls for Thanksgiving.

A. What do we do at Passover?(2:13-17)
+++1. The system was set up (Leviticus 1 and 3)
+++2. There were likely abuses of the system
+++3. Jesus was against the system
+++4. The animals were being sold in the Temple! – was this foolish?
+++5. The money was being exchanged in the Temple! – was this foolish?
+++6. God’s House is not to be a marketplace
+++7. Only later did the disciples realize this quote from Psalm 69:9 applied to Jesus
+++8. I remember growing up selling light bulbs for a church youth group fundraiser. We were allowed to ask the church people to buy the light bulbs. But, we couldn’t ask them in the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary was for more than our own personal business, even if it was for the youth group. If we are to meet the Father at His house, then even the system of sacrifice need not keep us away. Now that the Temple in Jerusalem is destroyed, where do we meet the Father?

B. Where is the Temple? (2:18-22)
+++1. The Jews wanted to know why Jesus drove out the animals & the money changers
+++2. “Destroy this temple, and in 3 days I will raise it up”
+++3. The Jews were confused, it had taken 46 years for Herod to build the temple
+++4. Jesus was not speaking of the temple of rock, but the temple of his flesh
+++5. The disciples even remembered Jesus saying this statement
+++6. Where do we meet the Father? It is through Jesus that we meet the Father! God is with us in the person of Jesus. We realize that God loves us. When Jesus was sent to earth, he was sent to show us God the Father. When we believe in Jesus, then we get to have life with the Father. Even through Jesus’ death and resurrection we find how passionate Jesus is. We get to know the Father through the Son.

Yes, the Temple was a sacred space. It was sacred because the Jews met God in the Temple. Yet, even the system of becoming obedient to God clogged up the means of knowing God. It was foolish to sell the animals and exchange the money in the Temple. It is the life of a lover to meet God.

We become lovers of Jesus when we believe what Jesus said. Jesus’ Father’s house is not just the place called the Temple. We gain wisdom when we have awe of God. For it is in the household of God that God wants us to live. This house Jesus is speaking of is not only the location. This house of Jesus’ Father is the way we live. This house of Jesus’ Father is how we treat one another. This house of Jesus’ Father is making sure we don’t make a stumbling block for others to know God.

The temple of Jesus’ body was raised up. We raise Jesus’ body each time we receive the Lord’s Supper. We live as Jesus’ body as we receive Jesus’ body. So, I guess we can say it is foolish to allow the system to make the church a marketplace. For Jesus has zeal for us to part of the Father’s house. Will we allow Jesus to make us lovers, to make us part of the Father’s house?

Hospitals and Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities

Over the past several years, we’ve seen Ben in several hospitals and psychiatric residential treatment facilities. The very first hospitalization was a dramatic event. We even had a phone call with a doctor with the University of Washington’s FASD program! She had some pointers for us and made a recommendation or two concerning books for us to read as parents of a child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

This first stay in the hospital and the other hospitalizations were learning experiences for us. There were certain visitation times on certain days. Over time we had team meetings with the hospital staff, a community case manager, and our son. There were different medicines prescribed over the series of hospital stays. Some of the medicines we had heard the name before our son started them. Some of the prescriptions were new to us.

Then there were the stays in the psychiatric residential treatment facilities. A couple of the facilities were open campuses. This means the safety of the residents was secured by adapt and fit staff. We have witnessed on one occasion a “runner.” A client in the facility got an itch and started to run. Then from several buildings, thanks to radio communication, a swarm of staff went after and caught up with the running client. It was quite a sight to see these adults chasing after an adolescent, hoping to protect this youth from bringing harm to self. Our son was a “runner” like this at one time.

Other facilities were secure facilities. With ample acreage, these facilities did not seem like prisons. Yet, the ten-foot tall fences were quite imposing. The adult staff were quick to respond to a runner. It just didn’t take as many members of the staff to corral a runner. We might have even heard about one runner being thin enough to slide through the security fence. Though, it seems quite a tale to believe! Ben did get outside of a building on a campus like these secured facilities. He did not get far in his escape.

Besides the obvious assistance our son received in these facilities, my wife and I have found some good for us as well. With the assurance our son was in a safe location, our hearts and minds could be at ease. This was the best good we could know during these times. As these hospitals and facilities were located in various parts of the different states in which we have resided, my wife and I were able to experience different venues in those particular states. Yes, our exposure to great scenery and locales was part and parcel of driving hours to see our son.

Our son is in a safe location. He is getting the care he needs. We get to see him. He is getting an education. Plus, we get to see the sights. Maybe all three of us are learning something new.

Playing with Demons

A good word from a friend, I think many can gain insight from RuthAnne.

Walking Beside the Boat

Timothy Treadwell lived and studied among the grizzlies in the deep north for thirteen years. He moved among them recklessly, and advocated for them among his fellow humans. Although he claimed that he spent most of his time among the grizzlies alone, he was frequently accompanied by women who reported being afraid because of the casual and unprotected way Treadwell moved among the massive creatures.

grizzly Grizzly Bear crossing the road

On 6 October 2003, Willy Fulton, the air taxi pilot who was to pick up Treadwell and his girlfriend from their extended stay near a salmon stream in Katmai National Park, found their campsite quiet and abandoned except for a large male grizzly who was standing guard. He called in the park rangers, who took control of the scene and quickly found the mangled remains of Treadwell and his female companion, Amie Huguenard. The two had spoken with friends the…

View original post 641 more words

Am I a fool or a lover?

Mark 8:31-39

It is marvelous to be part of a funny family. You know you can have fun with each other. April Fool’s Day is a good time to see how much fun you can have with your family! One way to satisfy your family’s sweet tooth this April 1st is to give them fake candied applies. That’s right, get some yellow onions, dip them in caramel, and presto, fake candied apples. Do make sure you have real candied apples on hand!

There are times we can be foolish, like having fun with our families. There are times we cannot be foolish. When it comes to living our faith in Jesus, we are to be aware of how we are. This world has too many foolish Christians. This world needs Christians who are lovers.

Remember, this is the definition of fool. The Merriam-Webster definition of “fool” is a person who is lacking in judgment or prudence. This would like the person who walks around with a “Kick Me” sign on April 1st.

Remember, this is the definition of lover. The Merriam-Webster definition of “lover” is an affectionate or benevolent person. This would be like a person who buys the homeless guy a meal.

We followers of Jesus have been fools and lovers. Sometimes this happens in rapid succession! In Mark 8:27-30, Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They went on about Elijah, John the Baptist, or a prophet. Jesus then asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered: “You are the Messiah.”

A. That can’t be! (8:31-33)
+++1. Jesus told them what is going to happen
++===+a. The Son of Man would have great suffering
++===+b. The Son of Man would be rejected by the religious leaders
+===++c. The Son of Man would be killed
++===+d. The Son of Man would rise again after three days
+++2. Peter was going to correct Jesus!
+++3. Jesus rapped Peter’s knuckles – he corrected Peter!
+++4. Peter was being foolish. He had only moments before spoke about Jesus being the Messiah, the Christ. Now he is correcting Jesus? As we read through the Old Testament we realize that Jesus had to suffer, be killed, and rise again. Did Peter have that knowledge? Like news agencies today will produce a story from a certain point of view, the common belief in that time was the Messiah would free Israel from its oppressors. The idea that the Messiah would suffer didn’t occur to them. Yet, it was right there in the prophecy of Isaiah. How foolish we followers of Jesus can be! Then, Jesus goes on to remind the crowd and the disciples what it means follow him.

B. How are we going to follow Jesus? (8:34-39)
+++1. The crowd can become disciples – be lovers of Jesus
+++2. The disciples can become the crowd – be fools
+++3. What are the requirements?
++===+a. Deny ourselves – we aren’t the most important thing in our life
++===+b. Take up our cross – Jesus carried his cross to Calvary, so will we
+===++c. Follow Jesus – Live like Jesus, not live like our neighbors
+++4. How does this work out for us?
++===+a. Save your life? Then lose your life
++===+b. Lose your life? It will be saved
+===++c. We choose – gain the whole world or forfeit our life
++===+d. What can we give in return for our life?
+++5. How will we be toward Jesus and his words in this adulterous and sinful generation?
+++6. Yes, we Christians can be fools. When we complain about our way not being done within the congregation, then we are being fools. When we tell people glib comments at a funeral, like God has another angel, we are being fools. When we protect our traditions at the expense of the gospel, then we are being fools. Thankfully, Jesus shows us how to be lovers. When we place Jesus before ourselves, then we are being lovers. When we suffer ridicule, then we are being lovers. When we follow Jesus to Calvary and beyond, then we are being lovers.

It is not easy being a follower of Jesus. We are constantly faced with a choice. Do we do what we want or do we do what Jesus wants us to do? Even lifelong Christians have been known to confuse the choice. For sometimes we think we are doing best for ourselves, but all we are doing is saving our own lives.

Jesus is the Messiah. Being the Son of Man, God’s son in the flesh, he leads us to live a life full of divine things. This world didn’t accept him. As we follow Jesus, we find the world won’t accept us. Regardless of what the world does, we follow Jesus.

Have we been living as fools? Then let us take up our cross and follow Jesus.

Have we been living as lovers? Then let us continue to take up our cross and follow Jesus.