First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Neil H. Wilson, Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720
231-547-9122


Prophetic Reflection

Prophetic Reflection 9/9/18 by Pastor Greg Briggs

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. ”
    2. Sermon Title “Prophetic Reflection”
    3. Brief note about sermons. From my point of view they aren’t a lecture, they are a flow between the preacher, the congregation, and God. Sermons are meant to stir something in each of us. So, if you hear something that amuses you, feel free to chuckle or laugh. If you hear something you agree with, nod your head or say amen. Sometimes when I preach, I ask questions. I might ask if something makes sense, or if you can identify with feeling a certain way, or in being in a similar situation.
  2. Syro-Phonecian Woman, or the Prophet from Syro-Phonecia
    1. A Remarkable, brief, and often overlooked Gospel story
      1. The woman who out debated Jesus
    2. Contextual reminders
      1. Woman, was not supposed to speak to a man
      2. Not Jewish, neither religiously or ethnically
    3. Yet, she sought out Jesus, when he wanted to be alone
  3. What is Jesus like in today’s stories?
    1. He desires privacy, or at least keeping things low key
      1. He didn’t want anyone to know he was in Tyre, yet the woman sought him out
      2. In the second story, he healed the deaf man in private, and told them to tell no one
    2. He’s focused on his own people
    3. These stories show Jesus’ humanity, as well as his divinity
      1. Divinity is seen in the healings and the excellent things he does
      2. Humanity is seen as well
        1. Wil Gafney, PhD, says “Jesus is fully human, but not generically so.” He is a product of his time, A Palestinian Jew, male.
      3. Some people find this story of Jesus comforting, others find it threatening
        1. Was he proven wrong?
        2. Or Was this [only] a teaching strategy?
  • How we interpret this story gives us an insight into our selves.
  1. Regardless of how you understand it, Jesus changed his actions, indeed the course of his ministry, based on his interactions with this woman.
  1. Embodying of Jesus’ teaching
    1. Previous week’s scripture in the lectionary was Jesus speaking to Jewish elders, and
      1. He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7:7 in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ 7:8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” (Mark 7, 6-8)
    2. Today’s readings, which come immediately after, are an illustration of the commandments of God superseding human tradition. Our ethnic and national boundaries don’t matter to God, nor do our societal expectations.
    3. “It is what comes out of a person that defiles.” (Mark 7:20)
  2. What came out of the Syro Phonecian woman?
    1. Faith, Perseverance, Standing up to authority, expecting more out of them
    2. Putting the commandments of God over human traditions
    3. What if she’d just meekly taken no for an answer, or not come to Jesus at all?
  3. Prophetic Challenge
    1. This is something we as Christians sometimes lose sight of – that we are tasked to uphold what God has taught us, sometimes even to God.
    2. Don’t believe me?
      1. Abraham – talks God down from destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, if there are 50 righteous people? Then 40, then 30, then 20, then 10.
      2. Moses – when God saw the Golden calf, God was going to destroy the Israelites and start a new people. Moses talked God down
  • Jacob Wrestled with God. Indeed Israel means “wrestles with God”
  1. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the prophets, challenging the people and leaders of Israel
  2. Jesus doing the same, again as illustrated in the scripture from last week “You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
    1. And yet, Jesus is also guilty of the same sin
    2. A true intersection of humanity with the divine
  3. So too does the Syro-Phonecian Woman struggle with God – and wins what she came for
  1. Holding Up a Mirror to see your reflection
    1. It isn’t that these prophets and patriarch know better than God, it is that they’ve learned from God, and are reflecting it back
    2. You can hear each of them asking, “Is this really who you are?”
      1. How do you see yourselves, and how are you seen?
    3. Interim Process as a time of reflection
      1. This is also what this interim time, this in-between time is – a time of reflection. A time for the congregation to look at itself, in all its beauty, in all its flaws.
      2. It is a time for spiritual reflection
    4. My offering for the journey
      1. Whenever I start the interim process with a new church, I place this mirror on the altar. It says, “There are two ways of spreading light – Be the candle, or be the mirror that reflects it”
      2. As Christians, we are called upon to be both. We are the light of the world, and we are the reflection of Jesus Christ in the world.
      3. Maybe there are some smudges that need to be wiped off. Maybe the mirror is in need of a good polish.  Maybe it needs to be repositioned a bit to better reflect the light. And maybe, it is here to show you how beautiful you really are. To help look beyond the individual imperfections to see the beauty of the whole
    5. Finding Your Reflection in Three questions
      1. The interim process, is a transitional, flexible, inherently hard to grasp time, as it evolves differently in response to the strengths and needs of each community.
      2. Yet at the core, it is seeking the answers to three questions:
        1. Who are we?
        2. Who is our neighbor?
  • What is God calling us to become?
  1. No matter how many times a congregation has gone through the interim process, it goes through it again, because the answers to these questions continue to change and grow.
    1. You are not the same people that founded this church in 1880s. Yet you have inherited much from them, and from those who have come after. Yet you are also the newest of your members, your recent confirmands, seeking God in the 21st century.
    2. Who you see as your neighbors is both universal and specific
  • And what God is calling you to become changes as you try and live it out, and as you have lived into this calling with each successive pastor.
  1. The Three Questions in today’s scripture readings
    1. Proverbs
      1. Who are we?
        1. “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”
      2. Who is our neighbor?
        1. “The rich and the poor have this in common: the Lord is the maker of them all”
  • Who is God calling us to become?
    1. “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail.
    2. 9 Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor.
    3. 22 Do not rob the poor because they are poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate;
    4. 23 for the Lord pleads their cause and despoils of life those who despoil them.”
  1. Syro-Phonecian Woman
    1. Who are you, Jesus?
      1. The one that has come to heal
    2. Who is your neighbor?
      1. Not just your fellow Israelites, but the wider world
  • What is God calling you to be?
    1. The teacher and savior of the world
  1. Starting Again to live into the calling of God
    1. There is work to be done, but do not overlook the healing and saying goodbye that is a part of reflecting
    2. For now, continue to look for the reflections of the light of God, in your past, in your present, and in your future.
    3. Continue to question if we are living out God’s purpose as best we can – as individuals, as a faith community, as a government, as a nation, as a world.
    4. And hopefully, we can be like Jesus was in today’s reading, open to being questioned, gracious in seeing his own limitations, and pushed to live out what he taught.

 

Proverbs 22: 1-2, 8-9, 22-23

 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,

    and favor is better than silver or gold.

2 The rich and the poor have this in common:

    the Lord is the maker of them all.

8 Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,

    and the rod of anger will fail.

9 Those who are generous are blessed,

    for they share their bread with the poor.

22  Do not rob the poor because they are poor,

    or crush the afflicted at the gate;

23 for the Lord pleads their cause

    and despoils of life those who despoil them.

 

THE GOSPEL READING Mark 7: 24-27

24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

 

Proverbs 22: 1-2, 8-9, 22-23

 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,

    and favor is better than silver or gold.

2 The rich and the poor have this in common:

    the Lord is the maker of them all.

8 Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,

    and the rod of anger will fail.

9 Those who are generous are blessed,

    for they share their bread with the poor.

22  Do not rob the poor because they are poor,

    or crush the afflicted at the gate;

23 for the Lord pleads their cause

    and despoils of life those who despoil them.

 

THE GOSPEL READING Mark 7: 24-27

24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

 

Below is the Audio version of this week’s sermon.  Our apologies, there were technical difficulties.  It may be hard to hear at times.  We assure you, next week’s audio should be corrected.

Interim Pastor Greg Briggs

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