Pastor Anne – An Abundant Catch

Luke 5:1-11Youth Sunday – An Abundant Catch
Spumc 9-30-12

By the lake, people are pressing in to hear the word of God from Jesus. Fishermen are out of their boats and washing up. Jesus gets in Simon’s boat and asks him to go out from shore.

When Jesus finishes teaching, he tells Simon to put out in deep water and let down the nets. He answers Jesus with “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Simon has fished all his life and come from generations of fishermen. He has done what he knew and still follows Jesus guidance though it did not make any sense. He did not know what would happen though he had a good guess.
We read that Simon did it out of obedience, following Jesus’ instructions. He caught so many fish that it was too much for his nets and they began to break. He called out to others to help, filling both boats full of fish.

This was not the first time Simon met Jesus. Simon had known and sees Jesus before. If we go back to Luke 4:38-41, Jesus was teaching at the synagogue and healed a man with an unclean spirit. The news spreads to the region. We read that Jesus goes to Simon’s house which is nearby and his mother in law has a high fever.
Jesus stood over her, rebuked the fever and it left. She got up and served them. I wonder that she wanted to do something! All kinds of sick people and those with demons came to Jesus who was still at Simon’s house. He laid on hands and healed them. Simon had seen all that in his house! It is not clear how much later before Jesus is in his boat at the lake.

Back at the boat, Simon sees all this, is humbled and falling at the feet of Jesus. Go away from me, I am a sinful man. He and others are amazed and afraid. Maybe they were thinking, “Who is this guy? What is he doing in my boat talking to me?”
This is a true response when we meet Jesus. Simon knows the abundance of the catch is not his skill or ability. He was just obedient. God is at work in the world and inviting him to be part of it. That is amazing!

I heard this passage taught at a Youth conference that I went to last year with the Youth leaders. I felt that it describes what is happening in our St Paul Youth SPY ministry.
At times it has felt like so much is going, more than we can imagine. We have asked many others to help. In the last few years, many have volunteered their time Friday nights and in support. Like Simon, people have felt called and just been obedient. Some have come and gone to other callings and others have been added. We began with 20 youth, and it grew to 30 and 40 and even at times 50! It has been lot of work, learning, faith and delight. We have tried lots of things, some things were great and others not so much.
While people served faithfully, it was humbling and clear that it is God’s spirit at work in ways that are far more than us.

We would like to share a few testimonies to give you a glimpse of ways that God has been at work among the Youth and leaders. When we serve God often grows us in faith.
I would like to invite Justin Yalung, Joseph Molina and Clare Bautista forward.
(in Nov 2012 newsletter)

We also have a slideshow of SPY activities to give you a taste for the ministry.

I praise God for this blessing and the faithfulness of those who have and are presently serving. We will take a special offering today to send youth to the Christmas Institute youth retreat. Please use the envelopes in your bulletin and prayerfully consider gift to support our youth who are growing in faith.

Archbishop Oscar Romero said in his last homily,
“Beautiful is the moment in which we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God…”

Many of us have seen the power of Jesus at work around us and in us.
When will we like Simon’s mother in law just start doing and serving Jesus?
When will we like Simon, fall on our knees in amazement and fear?
When will we follow Jesus to catch people for abundant life of Kingdom of God?
If the Spirit is nudging and you are not sure what to do, talk to me or Pastor SunHee, Vi Bautista our lay leader or small group leaders to help you discern.

God is doing amazing things!

Pastor Anne – Worship Is Prayer

Worship is PrayerPsalm 145
Spumc 9-23-12

Last week as we celebrated Children’s Sabbath, I talked about how busy people are. It is hard to stay focused on what is important. Jesus was very busy teaching, healing, feeding and dealing with people who tried to trick him and kill him. In the midst of it, Jesus taught the disciples and crowds that babies are important to him and God’s kingdom.
I hope you took time to read the insert about propositions that affect our public schools, appreciate teachers and maybe help some teacher. It is not too late.
As we talked about being busy, some of us nodded and looked quite tired. Being too busy leads to tired bodies and minds, poor choices, frustration, short tempers, poor health and reacting instead of choosing wisely, being calm, being present, listening deeply and caring.
Some of you know Pastor Elmar deOcera at South Hayward. He shared a story about going to the store. In the parking lot a woman in a fancy car parked next to him. When he got out of his car and opened the door, it made a little noise (tick). Just a little touch. The woman went off and started yelling and screaming at him using choose words. She went on and on to the point that it really seemed like too much for just her car.
When we lack margins, we need space to center, rest, refresh and remember who we are and what is important to us and God.

Our theme for this year has been prayer. Prayer is our foundation as we build God’s kingdom. Prayer nurtures the Holy Spirit in us. We need prayer to be unified in Christ and with Christ, to be open to and guided by God and to keep our focus on Jesus.
We have had preaching series, classes, workshops and small groups have studied and practiced together. Prayer is not just something we do as another task for God. Prayer is a way that God refreshes us when we enter His presence.
Do you have friends who you can just be yourself with? Whether you are happy or sad, feeling a mess or doing well, you leave them feeling not just happy but better. That is the kind of relationship God invites us to with Him.

There are many kinds of prayer, conversations or ways to be with God.
Prayers of Confession – saying I am sorry
Thanksgiving – being grateful
Intercession- asking for help
Faith or Trust – believing

All worship is prayer, we come in adoration entering God’s house. We see three elements from Psalm 145.
1) First, we make a decision of our will to worship God v1-2
Many things are shouting for our attention – sleep, coffee, news, game, work, friends, family, recreation. We must continue to make a choice to follow Jesus and worship God every week, day and moment. A choice today is good for today and not for next week. We will need to make another choice then.
Some worship songs are from our point of view – “I will Worship, Hail You as King”. We are declaring what we will do. It is a decision of will to worship God.

2) Second, God is worthy to be honored and praised
In verses 3-7, the person is praying about God’s goodness, meditating on him, telling the next generation. In verses 8-9, he is just telling of God’s greatness.
The reality of God’s greatness is to be honored. Some of our songs express who God is like “Our God” or “Great is thy faithfulness”.
Worship is choosing to focus on God because of who God is. It is not about my feelings or circumstances. There is nothing said about feeling happy or having a good day so I will worship. There is nothing about the kind of music, that it is loud or soft, hands raised or meditative or what the person next to me is doing. Because sometimes what they are doing is uplifting or distracting and annoying!
Years ago I heard Tony Campolo, a Baptist professor and speaker. He didn’t like praise music. He found it too loud, didn’t like the drums and electric guitars. He wanted some old style hymns! But he saw how the students experienced Jesus through the music and he gave thanks to God.
Can we and will we choose to focus on God wherever and whatever is happening in us and around us? Some like to raise their hands out of joy and exalting God and others like to worship in the quiet of their hearts. Can we worship freely together?
Recently our worship team met. This included not just our praise team but also communion stewards, graphics, sound crew, acolyte coordinator. A lot of people are involved in making our weekly worship happen. I told them that a while back the song after the sermon was so moving me that I felt prodded to kneel, but I did not. Because I am up front and I was too embarrassed. I have to admit that it happened another time and I still did not do it.
After the second time I thought about it and began to wonder if I was resisting the Holy Spirit. Was I limiting spirit of worship here and not trusting God? I did not want to do that and so you may have seen me kneel since then.
Worship is changing and dynamic. It is personal and corporate. Will we still choose to worship God who is worthy of our praise? The Holy Spirit invites us to worship freely, focusing on our great God who invites us into relationship!

3) Thirdly, Worship leads to all creation knowing and worshiping God.
In verses 10-12, our worship leads to our telling others of God with our words and our lives. We proclaim the good news of Jesus and spread God’s Holy Spirit through all creation.

Worship and praise of God is the foundation of all prayer
If we don’t know this presence of God, then prayer is like going to the store with money. It is just a transaction or exchange of services, not a relationship.
If God is not powerful or good or loving or worthy to be praised, we might as well go somewhere else.
We may have the mindset of coming to church to check attendance and say “I am here God!” Maybe to see family and friends, they are pretty great! Or it is just a habit of coming.
Instead I hope that you would come to meet the King of kings, to honor, praise and love him!

We will have a bit more singing today. Let’s join and sing “ I will worship”.

Let our worship take us to some more praying.
Let us enter into prayers of thanksgiving and gratefulness. There is space on the sermon notes to list a few things that you are grateful for today. Turn where you are in groups of twos and threes and share a few things that you give thanks for.

Let’s continue in our singing with “Give thanks”.

Let’s consider prayers of faith. It is not only when we come to accept Jesus as savior. There are so many times when we do not understand what is happening or where God is. Those are the times we need to return to God’s promises and listen for him.
1Peter 2:6 “For this is contained in scripture: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.’”
Jesus is our cornerstone and when we believe in Him, we will not be disappointed.
God’s promises are true even when they don’t look like it in the present. We all go through situations that challenge us. Those promises are not for cars, material things or our wishes, wants and plans. There are times when we are certain God has led us to a place or situation, we trust God that God will fulfill it.
Like the opportunity to choose to worship again and again, it is also true for trusting God. Here is a prayer to use for those times.
Lord, in this situation ___________, I choose to trust you.

We will need to pray this over and over, choosing with our will and believing in the one who loves us and is for us.

We will have another song of worship. Come with hearts and will to worship and give thanks. Whether in meditation or loud voice and raised hands, let us join our hearts together to worship God freely. You are invited to come forward as part of worship, offering yourself to God. We will close together in prayer at the end of the song.

Pastor Anne: Lessons on Forgiveness, part 4

Forgiveness and Reconciliation, part 4Luke 19:1-10, 2Corinthians 2:5-11
St Paul UMC 8-26-12

We have been talking about the simple and complicated work of forgiveness. Forgiveness takes a lot of practice and can take a lot of time. It is not easy but heavy, deep and tender work that goes to the heart of who we are and our egos, our life in the world and with Christ.

Years ago a woman at a church I served at asked me to speak to her son, a young man, who had joined with his friends to start a business. They were doing well. At some point, the others outvoted him to sell against his wishes. They then reformed and started a new business without him. He felt betrayed, hurt, stunned and disrespected. Later they asked him for his forgiveness. He refused. He felt they were not truly repentant but just wanted to get off the hook. They were all Christians. They badgered him that as a good Christian, he should forgive. He started his own business by himself. Speaking to him years later, he still seemed very unfree.

Humans are so creative. We can even use forgiveness to batter each other.

We began this series on Forgiveness with the Power of forgiveness. We looked at the parable of the unmerciful servant who was forgiven an impossible debt to repay by an incredibly generous and merciful king. Next we looked at Steps to forgiveness using the parable of the prodigal son also known as the parable of the two sons or the lost son. We need to face our pain, grow in compassion and know our own need for forgiveness.

Last week we considered Myths and barriers to forgiveness with the story of King David and Bathseba. Forgive and forget is not in the bible but Shakespeare. Jesus’ wounds stayed with him as scars that he had overcome and not been overcome by. Forgiving does not excuse consequences of actions. Forgiving is not a magic reset button that returns relationships to as they were before. Whether we offer or receive forgiveness, sometimes we think this.

Cheap grace is forgiveness without requiring repentance. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship or the cross. We often talk about the grace of God is free but it is not cheap. It came at the cost of the life and suffering of Jesus Christ. The grace of JC is costly because it calls us to follow Jesus. We are to give our whole life to him.

We often offer cheap grace because we want to move on quickly without the hard work of a new relationship and transformation. We deny the reality of suffering and pain. We deny our participation intentionally or unintentionally. It is uncomfortable to confront and challenge. We are confused when things are same and disappointed thinking that forgiveness did not work.

Scott Peck, the author, wrote about false community when we fake being pleasant and avoid disagreement for a while. This false sense of harmony never lasts.

That brings us today to Forgiveness and Reconciliation. We look to the story of Zaccheus, the chief tax collector of Jericho. Let me tell you about tax collectors of that time. Zaccheus and any of his tax collectors could stop someone and assess fees for their cart, wheels, the animal pulling it and things in it. He would then send in what he owed to the Roman government, the occupying government, since they were not an independent country. Whatever he had collected extra, he could keep. You can see how easy it was for them to cheat. Probably everyone in the crowd had been cheated or had a friend who had been cheated by them.

The story begins with Zaccheus wanting to see who Jesus was. He did not expect to talk to or be recognized by him. He just wanted to see him. Now Jericho was not a small village with a few families but a trade town with lots of people. Scripture says that because of the crowd, he could not see. So he climbs a tree. Can you imagine a richly dressed man with expensive robes climbing into a tree? I can imagine others seeing him and laughing, making fun of him and certainly not helping!

Then we here that Jesus looks up, seeing him and says “Zaccheus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” It is urgent and immediate. Zaccheus hurries and is happy to welcome him. But remember that there is a crowd and we are told that all who saw grumbled. Have you ever been in a crowd when the whole crowd grumbles? It is quite a sound! And it is a scary sound if you are the one being grumbled at. Today it would be like Jesus going to be a guest of mafia members, gang leaders or maybe crooks like Bernie Madoff.

Zaccheus is publicly humiliated before this crowd. He could have run away and hid or said never mind, forget about it. What he does is that he does not deny that he is a sinner. First he says he will give half of his possession to the poor. And if he has defrauded anyone, (surely people were muttering and laughing then because of course he defrauded people) that he would pay them back four times the amount.

In the Old Testament it was required that if you had robbed or wronged someone, you were to pay them back the amount plus 20%. If you had stolen sheep, you were to repay them with 4 sheep. If you had stolen an ox, you must repay with 5 oxen.

Zaccheus offered to give half of all he had to the poor and pay back those he cheated 4 times as much. Did he give all he had? Before this story, was the story of the rich young ruler who Jesus asked to give all he had to the poor and ends up going away sad. And the Pharisee and tax collector who pray and the tax collector is found to be more faithful. We find the unexpected faithful and unfaithful. In verse 9 Jesus says of Zaccheus, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

Signs of repentance are when we reorder perspectives and priorities, fruit of the Spirit is evident. We know that salvation is not by works. We also know that when people meet Jesus, our life radically changes.

JC loves it when the lost come back. We saw that with the parable of the two sons. The father celebrates at return of his son. Do we celebrate with God?

Just before this story people praise God for the blind beggar who is healed as Jesus comes into town. They are not cheering for Zaccheus. Imagine if you have lived with this crook for much of your life. It would be hard to believe he had really changed. You would want to wait to see if it really lasts.

Here is a challenging question. What criticisms would people make of you as to why Jesus should not go to your house? What would be your response?

Would we like Zaccheus, want to make whatever changes necessary and more to have Jesus come to our house? Something changed in his heart and life to give away most of his possessions.

Worldly sorrow means feeling sad because you were caught doing something wrong or because you must suffer the unpleasant consequences of your actions. But Godly sorrow means feeling bad because you offended God. It involves a change of heart, thinking, and behavior.

We have the perfect example of this these past weeks with our local baseball players. Two caught taking drugs and put on suspension. Bartolo Colon with the A’s and Melky Cabrera with the Giants. The crazy part is that Melky Cabrera even tried to get out of it by having a fake website that made it seem like he had accidentally taken the drugs. That of course was traced back to him and he finally gave in. I thought what was interesting too was that people would say they were some of the best players and would be a loss. Of course, they were on drugs!

2Corinthians 2:5-11 follows a situation where the Apostle Paul has been publicly insulted and humiliated. The person has been punished. Paul is saying the damage is more to the community than to him personally. The man has been punished enough, it is time to forgive, comfort and love the one who has repented. Paul says do not overwhelm him with guilt. He is repentant. The instruction was about making the community take responsibility for the health of the church. Do not give Satan an opening to trick and divide. If he had not been corrected or they continued to pour on the guilt, it would have given Satan entry to build walls between the people and with God.

We look today at Steps to Reconciliation. It is the mutual rebuilding of a relationship

• We have been talking a lot about Forgiving or Releasing someone for a fault or offense, renounce your anger or resentment. It means we choose not to hold onto their debt to us.
• Repenting is Genuine sadness for past actions or sin and turning away from it. Zaccheus has begun and others will be watching for his ongoing change.
• Reconciling is choosing and risking to relate again. It will be hard work and what will happen is unknown. But we choose to be open to the other and a possible relationship again.
• Trusting is growing Confidence in someone’s integrity, character and truthfulness. We are not to keep beating them up with guilt but grow in extending love and forgiveness and being forgiven.
• Finally Restoring is building a new relationship different from before. It may be similar but will probably not be exactly the same.
We may go back and forth and up and down. We may stop anywhere along the way. The reality is people and relationships can change over time. A relationship may not last for a lifetime.

Author Bryant H. McGill said, “There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.” When we forgive, we love God and we extend love to them, whether you like them or not.

Journalist Robert Quillen wrote, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” Reconciliation is risky, hard work that takes time and commitment. When Lance and I got married one of the pastors who presided at our wedding talked about the marathon work of marriage. I was not sure I liked it then and have found that it is a good description of the ongoing work that goes into a good relationship.

Let’s go back to where we began in the power of forgiveness. There are two realities in the world. First is the reality of sin in the world and in us. This is our tendency to choose words, actions and inaction that separates us from each other and God. Those divisions, walls and bricks are just collecting.

The second reality is the Power of God’s love and forgiveness to restore and mend separation. It is God’s love and mercy that makes us able to go beyond our own limited ability to love others.
I spoke a few weeks ago of Nene’s father. At his funeral each of his grandchildren got up to speak of him and said I am Grandpa’s favorite. It said something about him and who each of these grandchildren were to him.

Turn to your neighbor and say, “You are God’s favorite!” Now turn to your other neighbor and say, “I am God’s favorite!” We are God’s favorites, abundantly loved by our generous God!
Earlier I challenged us that even in the midst of an argument where we have a lot to lose, the most important thing we can do is to bring glory to God through our conduct. I find that challenging each time I read it or think about it. At that moment of challenge, instead of thinking about being right or vindicated or my pride, can I bring glory to God through my conduct? Maybe not at the moment, but prodded later by the Spirit. With God’s help.

Rev. James Forbes, a nationally known preacher says we get better at forgiving and being forgiven when we come to understand that we “have had to make withdrawals from the bank of grace many, many times.” I just imagine God’s big atm machine and making those withdrawals.

This is the fourth and final week of this series as I bring your attention to your sermon notes and the space on it at the bottom for the name of the “Person I am forgiving” and also to write, “I am forgiving them for”. This may be burned on your minds and heart by now. I hope this has been an opportunity for you to move deeper in your awareness of yourself, God and others.

Let me add one other question to that today. Can we be reconciled? Reconciliation takes forgiveness, repentance and mutual risk towards something new. Maybe they are not repentant or you are not. Maybe there has been forgiveness but unwillingness to risk and work on it. Maybe it is just not the time.

Last week I shared a great quote from Mother Teresa. I will end with just a few lines of it again.

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway….
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.”
― Mother Teresa