Sermon Archives

Giving the Holy Spirit Space ~ Philippians 3:4b-16, John 12:1-8

Rev. Dean Myers was our guest preacher this morning.

Thank you for inviting me to preach this morning. Maxine and have been worshiping with you fairly regularly (as my retirement life allows) and appreciate Forest Hill’s gracious welcome to us.

The Scriptures

A. Today’s passages invite us to consider questions of value, of worth…as in, “What is Jesus Christ worth to me? What is his value for the world?”

1. How do we show the value of Jesus to us in our lives? How do we know for sure that we are not fooling ourselves by thinking what is of worth to us is automatically of worth to him?

2. In Philippians 3 Paul makes it very personal: everything he used to count as having value to him is nothing more than “rubbish” compared to “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

Philippians 3:4b-16

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.

3. John 12:1-8 invites us to ponder Jesus’ worth to the world in the very different actions and expressions of Mary and Judas, and in a oblique way invites us to be attentive to the Holy Spirit:

John 12:1-8

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’

I

A. A poem by Judy Brown, entitled Fire asks what we hold so tight that we leave no room for the breath, no space for the Spirit, of God:

What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.
So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.
When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.
We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
A fire
grows
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.
In Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner (eds.), Teaching With Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2003; page 89.

II

A. How tightly bound and bundled are our lives!

1. We don’t have a minute for one more thing.

2. It’s as if all the “conveniences” of modernity have ganged up on us to shrink-wrap us into impermeable packages of frantic stress.

3. For years we’ve known that “labor-saving devices” are more likely to turn us from one kind of labor to another; now we know that the multitude of electronic communications tend to make us talk more about less and see more that matters less.

B. Saul, before he became the apostle Paul, was tightly bound and bundled, too; but his chains were his pride and self-satisfaction in his personal and religious heritage and practices.

1. “Confident in the flesh” – that is, sure of himself physically and genetically – Paul bragged about how he’d been initiated into the faith of his parents, a good Jew from a good family who always did the right thing with passion and no sense of fault or guilt.

2. And he wound his life tight around all that busy, important, worthwhile, status-y stuff until Jesus Christ met him on the road to Damascus and took over his life and its status.

C. We might guess that Judas was also tightly wrapped, in ways he thought were good.

1. You can’t fault Judas’ concern for “the poor,” unless you believe John’s comment that he was actually a thief, which apparently Jesus didn’t take seriously enough to notice.

2. Mary’s extravagant “waste” of enough perfume to pay a working man for nearly a year makes no practical, bottom-line sense.

3. Until Jesus himself points out that he is only with them for a short time, while they will have many opportunities to take care of “the poor.”

4. Jesus is certainly not suggesting that being poor is God’s plan for some folks all the time!

5. And Jesus doesn’t say Mary’s use of the ointment was preferable to what Judas the thief might have done with it…but that Mary had a far better sense of the moment than did Judas.

6. Sometimes, reaching out to “the poor” is the demand of our moment…but the requirement of that moment was preparing for Jesus’ death and burial.

D. Neither Judas at that time nor the Saul Paul had been left space in their lives or relationships for the Spirit of God. The logs of life they packed close on their faiths’ fires allowed no room for the fresh air that could truly enlighten them to God’s will for them or others…

1. Logs of dogma that leave no room for the power and mystery of God.

2. The kinds of logs that think our job to force different and differing people into our single idea or ideal of what humanity is, leaving no room for diversity or difference.

3. The bundle of sticks of people we love whom we hold so tight that we squeeze the very life and individuality out of them.

4. The kind of wooden weight that keeps relationships static and social barriers high.

5. The heavy timbers of constant domination by worthless priorities and obligations that cause us to us miss the glory of living itself.

III

A. Now the word “spirit” or the phrase “Holy Spirit” do not appear in the first eight verses of John 12, but I hear the Spirit in John’s comment concerning Mary’s wastefully generous – yes, prodigal – act.

1. In the tension between what Judas says he thought Mary should have done with that ointment and what Mary actually did with it, we find time not only to draw closer to Jesus himself but also the space to serve him in the world. It’s all a matter of the Spirit.

2. I’ve hinted at this already, and I am sure many of you have long known: the biblical word for “wind or breath” is the same as the biblical word for “spirit.”

3. There are many places, in both Testaments, were translators have to decide between “wind or breath” and “spirit.”

B. So notice that John writes that Mary’s act toward Jesus “filled [the house] with the fragrance of the perfume.”

1. This is a not a Martha Stewart note on domestic manners, but a sign that the sweetness Mary has lavished on Jesus will one day perfume the whole world.

2. A sweet fragrance that can only fill a house (or the world) on the currents of air, that is, wind and breath, and – as I hear it, on the current of God, the Spirit.

3. A sweet Spirit that can spontaneously acknowledges Jesus in the moment, sometimes without apparent consideration of right or wrong or good or bad or truth or error, and carries us away by one whose generous love can be neither confined nor quantified.

4. A generous Spirit that sets us free of the kinds of strictures that build lives of self-righteousness on the sins of others, a la Saul and Judas.

C. And this Spirit infusing us is not just about us: it also opens us to serving Jesus’ gospel mission of salvation and freedom for all.

1. The Holy Spirit both draws us close to Jesus and also pushes us out into the world of hurt to say and do good news for others, beginning with “the poor.”

2. Remember that Jesus’ first sermon in Luke’s gospel begins (4:18ff) with his quoting Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news (that is, gospel) to the poor…”

3. When Matthew tells a very similar story of a woman anointing Jesus (26:13), he puts these words in Jesus’ mouth regarding her crazy act: “Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

D. Jesus’ mission, ironically and shockingly blessed by Mary’s generous act, and given to us on the fragrant winds of the Holy Spirit, is the basis for our best choices and decisions and values in our lives and in the church.

1. That mission, infused by that Spirit, makes it possible for us to find time, space and energy to serve him faithfully in the church and in the world.

IV

A. As we have been worshiping here with you I have often been inspired – “in-spirited” – by the statement you print wherever you can: “Forest Hill Church: Discovering God’s call, Celebrating the Spirit’s presence, Witnessing to Christ’s transformative power!”

1. I assume it is your “mission statement,” and if you tell me after the service you are about the change it into something else, then you’ve got a lot of explaining to do to me! (Which, at this point, several people did, so I cut out three points and landed on the next…)

2. When we do what we do thoughtfully and faithfully, but freed of any need to answer all the questions or fill in all the blanks, the Holy Spirit of God offers all the space in creation to accomplish what God wills in and through us. We do what we can…and the mere zephyr of God does the rest.

B. What makes a fire burn/is space between the logs,/a breathing space…and therefore we dare to trust that…

We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
A fire
grows
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

Amen.

Save

Play

free winzip

free winzip

winzip free download

winzip free download

winzip free download full version

winzip free download full version

winrar free download

winrar free download

free winrar download

free winrar download

windows 7 crack

windows 7 crack

free winrar

free winrar

windows 7 key generator

windows 7 key generator

winrar download free

winrar download free

windows 7 product key

windows 7 product key

winzip activation code

winzip activation code

windows 7 activation crack

windows7 activation crack
\n