Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15, 1 Corinthians 14:26-33, Luke 19-31
A few years ago one of my friends came back from visiting our sister church in Kaoma Zambia with this worship story. Worship there involves hours of singing and scripture, of sharing what God's word is saying. When it came time to recieve the offering, people danced up to a large winnowing basket set before the altar. The singing and dancing went on and on, sometimes people came to the basket more than once with something to offer: a little money, some vegetables or handmade item, whatever God had given them to share. When they came with empty hands, the woman would step into the basket themself.
I thought of that story recently when I heard someone say that worship is the offering plate into which we put our gifts, ourselves.
We are God’s offering plate, gathering our collectively gifted lives for God’s purposes.
Are you ready for more?
Well, can we stand a little more Jesus?
Cultural observers tell us that people today are hungry for two things:
1) Significant relationship
2) meaningful responsibility.
How many of us are longing to come to a 2 hour meeting this week? Go ahead, put up your hands. (OK, so there may be a few meeting junkies among us).
How many of us long to do something meaningful this week than what we think we'll experience at the average meeting?
We are creatures with limited lifespans who are coming to appreciate the value of every minute, every hour, as increasing demands squeeze them out of us. And the knowledge that our life is time limited frees us up to do what is most important .
We need to be a community that brings out the flavor of salt, an environment for the yeast to rise.
John Wesley wasn't afraid of very much, he was quite confident in the work Christ put before him. But he worried that the people can be quickly converted by enthusiastic preaching and just just as quickly fall away if they were not committed to daily practices and accountability groups.
Are you ready for more? Are you ready for the kind of church that will help your faith grow and flourish instead of frazzle and fade?
Paul wrote to his friend and student Timothy as they traveled through the wealthy trade towns of the Roman empire. A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God....Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:6-19 The Message (MSG)
The NRSV reads: They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.
Are you ready for more than chasing after money and building your reputation?
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians carreis a glimpse into the earliest believers’ worship
What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. (1 Corinthians 14:26, New Revised Standard Version)
Eugene Petersen’s translation reads: When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight.
God gives each member of the body distinct and valuable work to be woven into our offering basket.
Paul goes on, Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to someone else sitting nearby, let the first person be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged. And the spirits of prophets are subject to the prophets, 33 for God is a God not of disorder but of peace. (As in all the churches of the saints….1 Corinthians 14:26-33, NRSV
Petersen translates this as: When we worship the right way, God doesn’t stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony. This goes for all the churches—no exceptions.
God's order is peace full, creating Christ centered order in place of compentitive chaos. God’s prophets see more where most only see less.
Take Jeremiah. In the middle of a war zone, this holy fool makes a major land investment. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.
This past Tuesday, up in Orono, Mike Slaughter told a bunch of his Mehtodist Clergy collegues that, “the problem with ministers is that we’re used to doing things “right” in a time when the need is to risk being wrong.”
Its not a new problem. Charles Wesley was his brother John's partner in ministry and the creator of many of our greatest hymns. Do you know which one is printed first in our hymnals? (Its ok to look!). “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” is as familiar to a life long Methodist as church suppahs and Sunday School. (sing first verse).
There, you've just made one of our church founders roll over in his grave. Becuase Charles Wesley famously declared that "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing" should never be sung in church worship. Never. It was set to a vile secular tune suitable only for evangelistic purposes, with the men truding out of the caol mines at the end of their shift. With the woman walking wearily out of mills and the children from factories hoping they had something to put on the table for supper.
In the Christian Church, historically, real exponential growth has always been with people on the wrong side of the tracks, from the margins.
Are you ready for more? Or are we settling for less?
God’s grace is always seeking to break through, to crack open the places that are squeezing the life out of us.
As outside forces bear down on the Holy Land, Jeremiah buys land and declares hope.
Generations later, in that same land, God sends a beggar to rich Lazarus' door to remind him what his wealth is for.
In Bethelehem, as crowds overflow the hospices of the city, one inn makes room for a young mother, who got pregnant too soon and too strangely, so that she can birth her child in the clean hay of a animal’s home.
In Brunswick, a child given a second chance home snuggles next to the woman who opened her heart to him and says, “I love you, Mom.” Who is the gift, who is the giver?
Are you ready for more?
In lives where it feels like we already have too much, too much to manage, too much to juggle, too much on our plates (can you hear me, Lazarus?)
In a world that tries to squeeze more and more out of us, are you ready to be filled up with the overflowing goodness of God until is spills out of your life?
God invites, and expects, us to makes that choice now, in our living, not later, after our dying. Poor Lazarus, if he’d only known in time. Why didn’t he? He was so full of what he thought were good things, so sated, so bloated with what he mistook for the good things in life, that he missed it. He missed what God offered as more valuable than all his time, than all his money, he missed the purpose of living.
You don't need to miss it. Are you ready for more?
Prayer: God, I'm ready for more you in my life. Help me recognize whatever stands in the way and put it in its proper perspective. Take me hand. Help me into the basket of your people where I"ll find support to grow my gifts. Bless us as we become your offering. Amen
Karen L Munson
United Methodist Pastor & Liturgical Artist