God has place this wonderful creation in our hands. As U2 sings, "It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away." We have this one life to live on this beautiful planet so enjoy these reflections on God, faith, life, and music. "After the flood all of the colors came out. It's a beautiful day."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Think Boldly

The Believers Pray for Boldness After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, ‘Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant:
“Why did the Gentiles rage,
   and the peoples imagine vain things?
The kings of the earth took their stand,
   and the rulers have gathered together
     against the Lord and against his Messiah.”
For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.
The Believers Share Their Possessions Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Acts 4:23-37

Every summer in the heat of August my father’s family gathers and sings:
We limit not the truth of God
  To our poor reach of mind,
By notions of our day and sect,
  Crude, partial and confined.
Now let a new and better hope
  Within our hearts be stirred:
The Lord hath yet more light and truth
  To break forth from His Word.

We have been singing this song for over a hundred years.   For our ancestor, great grandpa, John Robinson sent us his ancestors to America with the charge to let yet more light and truth to break forth from God’s Holy Word.  A charge and a promise my family remembers and sings. 

George Raw­son, in the Leeds Hymn Book, 1835,  in the description of how this hymn came about writes:
He charged us be­fore God, and His bless­ed an­gels, if God should re­veal an­y­thing to us by any other in­stru­ment of His, to be as rea­dy to re­ceive it as any truth by his min­is­try; for he was ve­ry con­fi­dent the Lord had more light and truth yet to break forth out of His ho­ly word.
Nar­ra­tive of Pas­tor Rob­in­son’s Ad­dress to the Pil­grim Fa­thers [1620]

The apocryphal story is that our branch of the family was true religious zealots that we were kicked out of or left the Massachusetts Bay Colony to settle in Connecticut in order to practice religious freedom.  Among our ancestors you find Roger Williams who left the Massachusetts Bay Colony to found Rhode Island so that there could be a place where laws were passed to ensure jury trials, to end class discrimination, and to extend universal suffrage and religious tolerance. 

I like to imagine that these ancestors were part of the Group that followed Thomas Hooker to Connecticut.  Hooker was disenchanted with the Boston hierarchy and led followers to Hartford in 1636.  He was inspired by his religious convictions and liberating ideas of democracy.  Hooker had been with the dissenters in Holland.  He differed from the Puritans in terms of politics.  He saw no justice in disenfranchising 9/10ths of the population that included women, children, servants, and apprentices, and the unchurched.   Hooker made the vote in Connecticut untied to religious membership (gender and ages still issues), but it was still not easy to vote a man had to be able to hold an honest conversation and believe in Trinitarian theology.    He is considered the father of American Democracy.

Now I can’t say how bold the rest of the family has been since our first ancestors sought religious freedom and democratic politics, but it inspires many of us descendants to struggle and hope for more.  To think about what it means to let more truth and light to shine forth. 

But before my ancestors of almost 400 years ago sought to think and live boldly we have the early gathered church of the disciples struggling with what it means to speak and live boldly through the power of the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Jesus.  In the scripture we read this evening, some of the disciples had been brought before the religious council of elders for healing a crippled beggar outside of the temple in the name of Jesus.  The council released them because they could not come up with a charge that would work to get rid of the disciples.  The Disciples head back to their friends where they pray to God for guidance, the power of the Holy Spirit and for boldness.  A boldness that infuses them with Spirit guided speech and the creations of a community that holds all things in common, that prays together, shares resources, and teaches each other the Gospel. 

The original Greek word here for boldness means to take up courage, to receive courage.  To be bold according to the dictionary is to be “fearless and daring; courageous.”  Can you imagine us here around Lake Geneva, as the bold church, the fearless and daring church, the courageous church?
Our Faith is 2000 years old, Our Thinking is not.  As the United Church of Christ we proclaim this message that we believe in a God of continuing testament.  We believe as my great grandfather said that there is yet more light and truth to come from God’s word.  The ancient story that we hear becomes fresh and alive in our practice.  We want to be a church where you are able to engage both your head and your heart.  Because God is still speaking we don’t want to look at a world full of periods.  We never want to place a period where God has placed a comma.  We want to experience a world of Comma’s where we know that we are called to think boldly, to think outside the box.  We are not a perfect church.  We often disagree about just what the comma means or have people who have placed a period and will not listen to those of us with commas.

 But we have hope that we can continue to be the bold church. We want to be known as the people who arrive early on issues of inclusivity and justice.  
            Think about Our Firsts:
1.       The Pilgrims Sought spiritual freedom in 1620
2.      In the 1700s we took an early stand against slavery
3.      In 1773 our building and people led the Boston Tea Party
4.      In 1785 we ordained the first African American Pastor Lemuel Haynes
5.      In the 1800s we fight slavery before the war
6.      In 1853 we ordain the first woman pastor Antoinette Brown
7.      In 1957 we bring together 4 different stream of Christianity to form a stronger whole
8.      In 1959 we fight to keep the airwaves free and open
9.      In 1972 we ordained the first openly gay pastor William Johnson
10.  In the 1980 we publish the first work that shows the connection between the placement of polluting sites and race.
11.  In the eighties we become open and affirming, just peace, and disability accepting
So when we pray to think and speak boldly today,
How will we continue to be the people and church out front in the fight for inclusivity and justice?
How will we continue to allow people to explore their doubts and think outside the box?
How will we allow people to continue to be intellectual honest and not have to leave their intelligence at the door of the church? 
How will we continue to do what is right and just even when it is hard?
How will we continue to preserve freedom?
Will you pray for boldness, to be part of the Still Speaking Church where there is yet more light and truth to break forth from God’s word?  

Sermon delivered at our Lenten Services for the Geneva Lake UCC church's.

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