First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

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


Sermon & Weekly Bulletin- February 02, 2020

02-02-20 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. Getting out of the way of the Scriptures
      1. Need to hear them more than me. Will give a couple of points to think about, then re-read the scriptures – with space for reflections
    3. Scriptures of Popular memory and unpopular application
      1. Beatitudes & Micah 6:8
      2. Beatitudes often cited more by skeptical agnostics than fervent Xians
        1. For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. ‘Blessed are the merciful’ in a courtroom? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country
      3. Too often overlooked, or spiritualized away, or considered nostalgic
        1. Richard Swanson “Whenever I hear of “religious virtues” I worry that they might be like a “classic book,” which Mark Twain defined as “A book which people praise and don’t read.”” (in Following the Equator, 1897).
          1. Want a teaching that can easily be put back on the shelf
        2. Interpret the beatitudes as the promise after death – not the here and now
      4. Scriptures aren’t always stoic, literal, and monotoned
        1. Today’s readings in particular are meant to be paradoxical, satirical, and literal, to disturb us, shake us out of the norm
        2. Happy are the _supposedly undesirable thing_
        3. Paul mocks the wise, and human wisdom
          1. But God chose what the world considers foolish to shame the wise. God chose what the world considers weak to shame the strong.”
          2. Micah 6:1-8 and Psalm 15 – reversal of expectations as well
            1. not ritual cleanliness, but in behavior towards other
          3. These scriptures were written in hard times
            1. The cynic might say “it’s easy to say these things when times were good. But they don’t know what it’s like in hard times”
            2. Micah experienced the invasion of Judea
            3. Paul is a Jewish citizen of Rome, knows full well the tensions there
            4. Jesus isn’t even a citizen of Rome – conquered people
          4. Covenantal Accountability – how God measures
            1. Follow God’s ordering, not the world’s.
              1. Care from the bottom up, not top down
              2. “Greatness without goodness is tyranny” Matthew Frizzell
  • “If you aren’t hungering for justice, it is because you are full on privilege”
  1. Psalm 15
  2. Micah 6:1-8
  1. God’s foolishness – satire and so much more
    1. Foolishness to those who are dying
    2. But it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved.
  2. Beatitudes \ the Vision Beautiful \ Godlike in their happiness
    1. Reframing, or re-translating, so we still hear the depths today
    2. Matthew gets a bad rap, for changing poor, to poor in spirit, or hunger to hunger for righteousness
      1. Also can be understood to underline the depths of those who suffer from these things
    3. Breath knocked out of them, and witness of the mourners
      1. “Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
        1. Godlike in their happiness, the poor in breath, theirs is the dominion of the heavens.
        2. The kingdom of heaven is for those who’ve had the breath knocked out of them
      2. “Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.
        1. Godlike in their happiness, the mourners, they shall be called as witnesses. (paraclete, holy spirit, comforter and advocate)
        2. What witness would mourners provide?
        3. Listening to those that are dispossessed -seeking out their voices
          1. African American History Month
          2. Native American voices
          3. Remember, these history months were born out of a need to celebrate survival in the face of oppression
        4. Re hearing and re-flecting on the scriptures
          1. Starting with Corinthians, then Psalm 15, which was used as our call to worship
          2. Will pause after each scripture, to hear your thoughts
            1. “What did you hear?”
            2. “What stands out?”
  • “What do you want to remember?”
  1. Get your Bibles ready
  1. You apply the readings to today
    1. No matter if everyone else agrees, for we are all United in Christ, and will share at his table today

Readings

Micah 6:1-8                         Page 1447                 

Micah was a prophet in the time when the Assyrians destroyed Samaria, the northern Jewish kingdom, and were threatening Judea as well. Micah’s home town was likely destroyed as well, bringing him to Jerusalem to prophesy.

6 Hear what the Lord is saying:
Arise, lay out the lawsuit before the mountains;
        let the hills hear your voice!
Hear, mountains, the lawsuit of the Lord!
        Hear, eternal foundations of the earth!
The Lord has a lawsuit against his people;
        with Israel he will argue.
“My people, what did I ever do to you?
        How have I wearied you? Answer me!
I brought you up out of the land of Egypt;
        I redeemed you from the house of slavery.
        I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam before you.
My people, remember what Moab’s King Balak had planned,
        and how Balaam, Beor’s son, answered him!
        Remember everything from Shittim to Gilgal,
        that you might learn to recognize the righteous acts of the Lord!”

With what should I approach the Lord
        and bow down before God on high?
Should I come before him with entirely burned offerings,
        with year-old calves?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
        with many torrents of oil?
Should I give my oldest child for my crime;
        the fruit of my body for the sin of my spirit?
He has told you, human one, what is good and
        what the Lord requires from you:
            to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.

 

1 Corinthians 1:18-31                              Page     1772

Today’s reading continues where last week’s reading ended, with Paul reminding the Jesus followers in Corinth to not be divided, but unified in Christ. Hear the satirical and sarcastic nature in Paul’s voice as he speaks of the worldly wise.

18 The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed. But it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved. 19 It is written in scripture: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will reject the intelligence of the intelligent. 20 Where are the wise? Where are the legal experts? Where are today’s debaters? Hasn’t God made the wisdom of the world foolish? 21 In God’s wisdom, he determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching. 22 The overly pious ask for signs, and the overly intellectual look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to the Pious and foolishness to the Intellectuals. 24 But to those who are called—both Pious and Intellectuals —Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom. 25 This is because the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

26 Look at your situation when you were called, brothers and sisters! By ordinary human standards not many were wise, not many were powerful, not many were from the upper class.

27 But God chose what the world considers foolish to shame the wise. God chose what the world considers weak to shame the strong. 28 And God chose what the world considers low-class and low-life—what is considered to be nothing—to reduce what is considered to be something to nothing. 29 So no human being can brag in God’s presence. 30 It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus. He became wisdom from God for us. This means that he made us righteous and holy, and he delivered us. 31 This is consistent with what was written: The one who brags should brag in the Lord!

 

Matthew 5:1-12                            Page     1501

 We continue in the Gospel of Matthew, with Jesus first great sermon, now called the Sermon on the Mount. The gospel readings for the next 3 Sundays will be from this sermon. Hear Jesus as he also uses satire to outline the foolishness of the world, but does it in such a way that those who brought low are lifted up.

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up a mountain. He sat down and his disciples came to him. He taught them, saying:

 “Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

“Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.

“Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.

“Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.

“Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.

“Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.

“Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.

10 “Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

11 “Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. 12 Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.

Psalm 15                  Page 853 or look at the call to worship

15 Who can live in your tent, Lord? Who can dwell on your holy mountain?
The person who lives free of blame, does what is right, and speaks the truth sincerely;
who does no damage with their talk, does no harm to a friend, doesn’t insult a neighbor;
 someone who despises those who act wickedly, but who honors those who honor the Lord;
someone who keeps their promise even when it hurts;
someone who doesn’t lend money with interest, who won’t accept a bribe against any innocent person.
Whoever does these things will never stumble.

Matthew 5:1-12  Based on Richard Swanson’s translation

Godlike in their happiness, the poor in breath, theirs is the dominion of the heavens.

4  Godlike in their happiness, the mourners, they shall be called as witnesses. (paraclete, comforter and witness)

 Godlike in their happiness, the people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.

 Godlike in their happiness, the people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.

 Godlike in their happiness, the people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.

 Godlike in their happiness, the people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.

 Godlike in their happiness, the people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.

10  Godlike in their happiness, the people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

11  Godlike in their happiness, are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. 12 Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.