Tag Archives: Matthew

Dramatic Reading for Matthew 28

Dramatic Reading for Matthew 28

Needs four readers, one off-stage, three on.  One has luggage, one has a hammer, and one has a camera.

Voice off stage:                                As you Go-

Reader 1:                             “Yes!  We’re going on a trip!  I wonder where God is sending us.  I can’t wait!”

Reader 2:                             “I hope it’s exotic!  I’ve always wanted to travel overseas!”

Reader 3:                             “I’ll bring my camera and some dough, you know souvenirs will be so cheap there!”

Voice:                                   <Clears throat until they listen>  As you are going, Make-

R2:                                          “YES!  It’s a construction trip!  I wonder what God will have us build!

R1:                                          “I bet it’s a church or a school or maybe even a hospital!”

R3:                                          “I’ll bring my old shirts from college!  We can hand them out to the poor children!  We can even get the kids in church to collect happy meal toys to hand out!  Those kids will be so blessed by our presence!”

Voice:                                   <Clears throat again>  As you are going, make Disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow everything I’ve taught you.

R3:                                          “What’s that mean?”

R2:                                          “Disciples?  How do you build those?”

R1:                                          “All nations… including this one?  Does that mean we’re not going anywhere?”

Voice:                                   As you go about your life where ever you happen to be, share what you have been given.  Invite people to see my love in you.  Bring them to me to experience my love in the baptismal waters.  Teach them to follow the my path of peace.

R1:                                          “This isn’t going to be easy.”

R2:                                          “Yeah, I mean, folks around here already know me.”

R3:                                          “But they don’t all know Jesus.”

R1:                                          “Do you think we can share Christ here, in our homes and at our jobs?

R2:                                          “Do you think they will see Jesus in me?”

R3:                                          “Do you think I can still get a souvenir?”

Voice:                                   You don’t have to go anywhere to share the Gospel.  God has already placed you where you are an expert on the culture, language, and people.

Make disciples, immerse them in Christ’s love, and teach them the way of peace.  Amen.

The First Christians were Who?

“It is Difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.”
– Robert H. Schuller

 

“Who were the first Christians?”  I remember Dr. Richard Vinson asking this in the middle of class one day.  I was thinking, how silly.  This isn’t profound.  That should be an easy answer, but it’s not.

At first some of us raised our hands and said “Jesus” as if we were in Sunday School.  The teacher politely told us good try and reminded us that Jesus lived and died as a follower of the Jewish faith.  Others got creative and began talking about Mary and Joseph and the Christmas story.  Still others went after Fishermen and Tax Collectors – Peter, Andrew, Matthew.  One person even brought Doubting Thomas into the conversation, while another felt that maybe Judas Iscariot was the first one to really understand Jesus and the plan.

Eventually an debate began about what exactly would be the definition of a Christian.  That’s when the teacher brought us all back together and congratulated us for finally getting to the point.  While he never answered the question, he gave us a short list of characteristics for the first Christians.

 

They are a people who follow the teachings of Jesus.

They saw or believe in the empty tomb.

They shared this good news of resurrection and salvation with others.

 

We follow the teachings of Jesus.  Yes, Christians care called to do weird stuff.  Instead of being all about revenge and “my individual rights,” we turn the other cheek.  When someone asks us to walk a mile with them, we go two.  We love our God and everyone we encounter in our lives – even those we can’t stand and consider enemies.  We forgive even when it isn’t deserved.  To be a Christian is to follow Jesus.

We saw or believe in the empty tomb.  One of the things I love about taking our confirmation class up to the Greek Orthodox church in Richmond is that they get to see a replica of the empty tomb.  As Christians, we believe that God did the impossible.  God brought a man back from the dead.  No, Jesus wasn’t sleeping.  No, Jesus wasn’t half-dead.  Jesus was dead-dead and rose from the grave as someone who had the answers to life’s problems, brokenness, and hurts.  To be a Christian is to believe in an empty grave.

We share this good news of resurrection and salvation with others.  I think this is the hardest part for us in the United States.  We’ve become so scared of rejection, of offending, and ashamed.  It’s easy to see Christians in places like Iraq because they are being beheaded, but here in the comfortable USA, we are hard to find because we don’t let folks know we are doing what we do because of Jesus.  To be a Christian is to share that you do something good because of what Jesus has done for you.  To be a Christian is to share the good life of resurrection and hope.

So, have you figured out who were the first Christians?  It might surprise you.  Like my professor, I’m not going to tell you the answer, but the verse below will point you in the right direction.

 

“When they found the tomb empty, they returned and reported all these things to the eleven and all the others.”

Luke 24:9

Spiritual Disciplines – Fasting

Spiritual Disciplines – Fasting from Matthew 6:16-25

 

A husband and wife were in bed one night.   The husband was a business leader in the community – 500 employees.  That night was particularly difficult as he had a lot on his mind.  He was tossing and turning, stealing the covers from his wife, getting up and down to go to the bathroom, mumbling to himself.  Finally, his wife got up out of bed, grabbed her pillow and blanket, and left.

“What’s wrong?  Where are you going?”

“This bed’s not big enough for 502 people, I’ll be on the couch.”

 

Ever feel like life is too full?  We work – 40 hours a week for 30-40 years then we retire and things really get busy!  We have kids/grandkids – the back of our car has this random collection of balls (soccer, baseball, basketball) and let’s not forget the bags (for gymnastics, ballet, dance, scouting) and perhaps a musical instrument or two.  We try to make time for recreation and leisure – gardening, watching the game, reading a book, going to the movies, Facebooking.  And at the end of the day if there is anytime left – sleep.  Oh, and church – somewhere we’ll fit God into all that.

 

Fasting is limiting.  In ancient times as well as today, some folks choose to give up food to provide space for spiritual reflection.  They gave up the time where they would set at table and instead set at the table with the Lord.  It is the concept of limitation as a method of honing in on what is important.  Focusing our effort.

 

I want to be the Best Dad I can be, but something has to give.  There are days that I have to make a decision between work and play.  Yes, sometimes I get to sit in the stands a yell praises to my children on the basketball court or on the baseball field, but there are also nights when I don’t get to tuck them in because I’m away at meeting that’s related to work.  It’s frustrating, but choices have to be made and priorities have to be set.

The Spiritual Discipline of Fasting is about setting a priority and setting aside space for God moments.  I could buy that coffee from Starbucks or I could give that money toward Stop Hunger Now.  I could stay at home and spend time with my family watching a 2 hour movie or I could spend some ten minutes in prayer for the church to find renewal.  I could tuck my children into bed and simply tell them good-night, or we could read a Bible story together as a way of passing on the faith and calming them down for sleep.

 

A lot of us miss out on God moments simply because there is no sacred space in our lives for God to come fill.  As a people of God we need to limit the agendas in our meetings to one or two items so that we have time for God.  As a people of God we need to limit all the stuff we feel we have to do so that we can focus on what God wants us to do.  In a culture of more, bigger, super-sized, fasting teaches us that less is more.  Jesus says, “Isn’t life more than just your needs?”

 

Fasting is sacrificing.  There is a difference between bringing your best to God and bringing leftovers.  Recently I attended Ettrick UMC where a new worship service is being held by the students and campus ministry of VSU.  It was an exciting service.  There was poetry, dance, song, and most of all, Passion.  These ‘kids’ gave intentional time to God to create and to give what they had to offer.  It was their very best.

 

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart also be.”  In Fasting, by saying no to commercialism and consumerism, we say yes to allow the Spirit to flow through us creatively.  In the series 7th Heaven, the family doesn’t buy Christmas gifts to give to one another.  Instead, they have to give something you already have or something you’ve made.  What if worship was like this?  What if I told you today that you weren’t allowed to put money in the offering plate but instead had to provide an offering of your time, your service, your prayers, and your witness?

 

I saw this kind of worship at a Church in Cambodia.  I watched as the community came together.  One man had some batteries he brought from home.  A woman carried an old 1980’s style mini radio.  Still another man brought a coil of wire. Finally, the youngest among them climbed up on the roof to attach the wire to the peak of the old ‘barn shaped’ building as an antennae.  They gave what they had and what they could create so that they could hear music, prayers, preaching, and news that wasn’t controlled by the government.  They gave what they had and what they could create.

 

Jesus said, “If your eye is healthy, the whole body will be full of light.”  When we follow Christ, we take up our cross.  When we follow Christ, we follow the only one who can see life and our journey clearly.  When we follow Christ, we walk as a people with vision.  We walk as children, full of light.

 

Fasting is giving up to get real.  How many masters do we have?  In “The Devil Wears Prada” a woman tries to serve her demanding boss while at the same time having a life, satisfying a boyfriend, and getting a better job somewhere else.  I watched the movie and got lost by the number of people who keep telling her what she should do and how she should do it.

 

“No one can serve two masters.”  Jesus says.  By Fasting, we give up earthly pursuits and desires to get real with the Holy Spirit – the one true God who knows our deepest essence.  D. Bonhoeffer wrote in the Cost of Discipleship, “It is only because Christ became like us that we can become like him.”  Fasting offers us an opportunity to be like Christ.

 

Lent is a season in the church’s life when we often focus on Fasting.  Fasting is limiting how much to provide sacred space.  Fasting is sacrificing to receive true life.  Fasting is giving up the earthly masters to serve the Heavenly Lord and be more like Christ.  In a culture that often asks us, “What do you want to get out of life?” I challenge you today with “What will you give out of life to receive a glimpse at true life?”

Love (Call to Worship from Matthew 22:34-40)

Love.

A small word, should be easy to be and do.

Love God.

Oh, that’s easy.  I’ll pray to you to ask you what I need.

I may even show up once in a while in Church to worship you.

Love.

You keep saying that, am I getting it wrong?

Love Neighbor.

I love all my neighbors. 

We get along great as long as we all stay within our property lines.

Love.

I don’t think that is such a small word.

Not easy to be.  Not easy to do.

Love God.

I’m trying Lord, forgive my distractions and idols.

Love Neighbor.

Help me see the invisible, those in pain, those in need.

Love.

Love with all our Heart and Soul and Mind.

Love.

Love.  Amen.

-©2014 Nathan Decker, www.worshipswake.wordpress.com

Compelling Invitation (Call to Worship August 2009)

The Lord sits at his table and awaits his invited guests,

Yet they do not come, filled with excuses.

            Christ invite us, let us come even when our excuse is

“I don’t feel like it today.”

Christ invite us, let us come even when our excuse is

“We’re doing this too often, didn’t we do this once already this month.”

Christ invite us, let us come even when our excuse is

“I just don’t feel worthy to be with God today.

Christ invite us, let us come as the Lord at his table says

“Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town,

bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.

Compel people to come in so that my house may be filled.”