First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Rev. Toby Jones, Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

Sermon & Weekly Bulletin~ August 18, 2019

08-18-2019 Bulletin PDF

  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. Amen”
    2. Conflating and Separating
  2. Conflation – the merging of two or more ideas into one, often in error
    1. Combining and confusing
      1. “Well, look who’s calling the kettle black?”
        1. “look who’s talking” and “the pot calling the kettle black“.
      2. Not usually malicious, but can still cause trouble
        1. My sister and I share the same birthday, but were born 4 years apart. I conflated the stories of me finding out about her birth and when I choked on a hamburger into the story when I choked on a hamburger when I found out she was born.
        2. My sister does not like the conflation of that story
      3. Christian conflations – often when two characters share the same name
        1. Lazarus – a beggar with sores in Luke, brother to Mary and Martha and raised from the dead by Jesus
        2. Mary –Mary of Bethany with Mary Magdalene, who also suffers from a conflation of people thinking she’s the woman who is being stoned for adultery
  • The conflation of Biblical characters has also caused some ongoing confusion to this day
  1. conflation without exposition or conflation with assumed exposition “we all know what they mean” when we don’t
  1. “Fix Our Eyes on Jesus” –
    1. Conflation of different ideas –
      1. Extremely important, and by itself a largely useless phrase
      2. “yes, but what does that mean?”
        1. I drove the transition team nuts pushing to go deeper
      3. From today’s passage from Hebrews, it is to remind us to not be focused on ourselves, what we want, or what might happen to us.
      4. Sometimes the concern to not be focused on ourselves is conflated with the idea that we shouldn’t focus on or even care about what goes on in this world, but only focus on heaven
      5. Yet, this reading reminds us that through faith, our spiritual ancestors:
        1. Crossed the red sea \ Tore down walls \ Protected from tragedy \ Conquered kingdoms, \ Brought about justice, \ Realized promises \ Shut the mouth of lions \ Put out raging fires \ Found strength in weakness
      6. All very much concerned with this world. Just not their place in it
    2. Conflation of Jesus
      1. Today’s gospel passage is one that often makes people uncomfortable, because it can highlight where different ideas have become conflated
      2. The peace of Christ – yet
        1. Speaks of servants who knew their master’s wills and didn’t prepare would be beaten severely
          1. Then reminds us that much will be demanded from everyone who has been given much (spiderman version, with great power comes great responsibility)
        2. Came to cast fire to the earth
  • Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth, no I have come to bring division
    1. Then speaks of it within families, where our modern ears has conflated family with Christianity
  1. Jesus brings separation from conflation –
    1. Jesus’ harshest words and actions are reserved for the religiously pious and powerful
    2. WWJD – whipping and chasing bankers out of the temple
  • Peace without righteousness\justice isn’t peace
  1. Afflict the comfortable, comfort the afflicted.
    1. Help see afflictions and comforts more clearly
  2. Jesus invites us to read the signs of what is coming
    1. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret conditions on earth and in the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret the present time?
    2. Not End Times, but may be the end of this kingdom times
      1. Only one big A apocalypse, but many small a apocalypses.
      2. Example, Jerusalem, since 1000BCE there were 31 different empires in control in the last 3000 years, 22 since life of Jesus Christ –
    3. Big things are going on now, perhaps the end of the American ideals,
      1. But that isn’t the end of our Christian faith
    4. Isaiah and the garden – sign of the times
      1. Was a song and a parable inviting audience response
      2. What would you do if you planted a garden, did everything you could to make it flourish, but instead of it producing good grapes you got rotten ones?
        1. Good conditions and nurturing does not guarantee good fruits
        2. So, what would you do if you couldn’t get the land to grow good fruits?
          1. Abandon it, Tear everything down
        3. Parable – this is the story of the kingdom of Israel,
          1. The plants were the people, but they grew up rotten
        4. Wordplay in Hebrew the words for justice and bloodshed are very similar, as are righteousness and cry of distress
          1. Modern parallel “God calls for justice and the people respond “just us!” “God expected righteousness, but saw self-righteousness”
        5. Biblical Political commentary – this was during one of the conquering of Jerusalem and Israel, the Babylonian exile. Isaiah was interpreting the present time
      3. Called upon to interpret the present time
        1. Current US policies and social discourse is falling further away from the ideals of Jesus Christ
          1. “no justice, no peace.” “know justice, know peace”
          2. Thoughts and prayers has become a joke, because they’ve become conflated with tolerating death and inaction
  • The love of neighbor is being eroded away, both nationally and internationally in increasingly obvious racist ways
  1. Rules of law and assumptions of fair play are falling to the wayside in the interests of consolidating power
  2. Did I just talk about politics? Some would say yes.
  1. Politics is an extremely conflated term that can encompass just about everything.
    1. the total complex of relations between people living in society
    2. use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control, as in business, university, etc.
  • the ways that power is shared in an organization
  1. Robert Jones, in his book The End of White Christian America says one of the sins of the White American church is the “willingness to compromise faith or theological integrity for partisan ends”
  2. As people of faith, we must beware conflating our welcome and respect of different beliefs or opinions with a tolerance for injustice or an expectation of silence about what we find important
    1. Jesus loves everyone, and expects us to, as well
    2. Not just in belief, but in action
  • that may include bringing division – because the servants know what the master’s will is, but are not preparing for it or acting on it.
  1. Lending support to one another by letting us know that we are not alone
  1. Clearing up conflations through conversations, even if they are contentious
    1. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter
    2. Call to separating what has been conflated
    3. Throw off the baggage of not being able to discuss important, but difficult, things
      1. A gift the church can give the wider society
    4. Conflict transformation skills
      1. Separate conflict from the negative attributes that surround it
      2. Valuing relationship and perspective
        1. Avoidance does neither
        2. No path to renewal in church or in country without developing these skills
      3. Caring Enough to Confront by David Augsburger
        1. Conflict is “natural, normal, neutral”
        2. Caring, confronting merged into carefronting – not a conflation
          1. Speaking truth in love
  • Concern about relationship and goals
  1. Conflict Transformation Skills for Churches – Lombard Mennonite Peace Center
    1. Finding renewal in conflict using New Testament Examples
    2. Individual Self assessment
  • Interpersonal peacemaking skills
  1. Parker Palmer
  2. Can be done, as shown in the great cloud of witnesses
    1. Letters in NT deal over and over with disagreements, conflicts
    2. United in one body through Christ
  3. Starts with building trust, willingness to grow together, and mutual love
  • Conclusion
    1. So often, when two people think they are talking about the same thing, but get to different places, there’s probably some conflations there
    2. Jesus came to separate and purify removing non-essentials and breaking these unhelpful conflations
    3. A great cloud of witnesses has also done this work
    4. We can too. We need to. And we will be able to, together.


Isaiah 5:1-7 is a song \ poem that In the original Hebrew has multiple plays on words that don’t translate well.  It was written to solicit the hearer’s engagement, so we will pause between verses 4 and 5 to give you a moment to answer the question that is asked.


Let me sing for my loved one

    a love song for his vineyard.

My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside.

2 He dug it,

    cleared away its stones,

    planted it with excellent vines,

    built a tower inside it,

    and dug out a wine vat in it.

He expected it to grow good grapes—

    but it grew rotten grapes.

3 So now, you who live in Jerusalem, you people of Judah,

    judge between me and my vineyard:

4 What more was there to do for my vineyard

    that I haven’t done for it?

When I expected it to grow good grapes,

    why did it grow rotten grapes?

5 Now let me tell you what I’m doing to my vineyard.

I’m removing its hedge,    so it will be destroyed.

I’m breaking down its walls,    so it will be trampled.

6 I’ll turn it into a ruin;

    it won’t be pruned or hoed,

    and thorns and thistles will grow up.

I will command the clouds not to rain on it.

7 The vineyard of the Lord of heavenly forces is the house of Israel,

    and the people of Judah are the plantings in which God delighted.

God expected justice, but there was bloodshed;

    righteousness, but there was a cry of distress!


Hebrews 11:29-12:2 continues the reading from last week.


29 By faith they crossed the Red Sea as if they were on dry land, but when the Egyptians tried it, they were drowned.

30 By faith Jericho’s walls fell after the people marched around them for seven days.

31 By faith Rahab the prostitute wasn’t killed with the disobedient because she welcomed the spies in peace.

32 What more can I say? I would run out of time if I told you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. 33 Through faith they conquered kingdoms, brought about justice, realized promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 put out raging fires, escaped from the edge of the sword, found strength in weakness, were mighty in war, and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured and refused to be released so they could gain a better resurrection.

36 But others experienced public shame by being taunted and whipped; they were even put in chains and in prison. 37 They were stoned to death, they were cut in two, and they died by being murdered with swords. They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. 38 The world didn’t deserve them. They wandered around in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground.

39 All these people didn’t receive what was promised, though they were given approval for their faith. 40 God provided something better for us so they wouldn’t be made perfect without us.

12:1 So then, with endurance, let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, 2 and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne.

Luke 12:45-56

Today’s reading continues from last week’s reading, when Jesus said “You also must be ready, because the Human One is coming at a time when you don’t expect him.”

“But suppose that these servants should say to themselves, My master is taking his time about coming. And suppose they began to beat the servants, both men and women, and to eat, drink, and get drunk. 46 The master of those servants would come on a day when they weren’t expecting him, at a time they couldn’t predict. The master will cut them into pieces and assign them a place with the unfaithful. 47 That servant who knew his master’s will but didn’t prepare for it or act on it will be beaten severely. 48 The one who didn’t know the master’s will but who did things deserving punishment will be beaten only a little. Much will be demanded from everyone who has been given much, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked.

49 “I came to cast fire upon the earth. How I wish that it was already ablaze! 50 I have a baptism I must experience. How I am distressed until it’s completed! 51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, I have come instead to bring division. 52 From now on, a household of five will be divided—three against two and two against three. 53 Father will square off against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

54 Jesus also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud forming in the west, you immediately say, ‘It’s going to rain.’ And indeed it does. 55 And when a south wind blows, you say, ‘A heat wave is coming.’ And it does. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret conditions on earth and in the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret the present time?


The word of God, for the People of God

Thanks be to God