Month: March 2012

Our Failure In Storms

… “Why are you afraid?  Have you no faith?” Mark 4:40

I want to thank Dr. James Harris of the Samuel D. Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University for reminding me of the need for discipline in crafting sermons.  It is way too easy for bi-vocational pastors like me to get slack about preparing the message.  I also want to thank God that I had sense enough to create A Lenten Journal:  A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ.  The consistency is providing me with a body of work I can refer to for my sermons, lessons, and personal worship.  In his Preaching With Transformation in Mind class at the school’s Church Leadership Conference yesterday, we used Luke 8:21-25 as a practice text as he taught and refreshed us on sermon construction.  This text is a parallel to Mark 4:35-41 from which I used for my Second Monday post.  With this said, here is an outline of what I will preach today.

Dr. James Harris (© John Gresham)

Mark 4:40

OUR FAILURE IN STORMS

(Introduction)  Jesus does not fail to overcome the storms in our lives

(Antithesis)  The power of Jesus should have never been questioned in the first place

(Thesis)  The real problem is that we fail to have faith in him in the midst of our storms as we follow him

(Relevant Question)  What should we remember about Jesus so that we can maintain faith and courage in our difficult situations?

(Points)     1.  Jesus sends and goes with us as we do his will (v.35)

2.  Jesus does not send us alone nor in unfamiliar territory (v.36)

3.  Jesus sleeps during storms that we are equipped to handle (v.37)

(Conclusion)  Keep the faith because Jesus will bring us to greater challenges and victories

Clergy and laity are more than welcome to chime in on this.  May you be blessed today and every day.

Your Brother In Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Third Saturday)

… “How many loaves have you?  Go and see.” …   Mark 6:38

It was supposed to be a time of retreat and relaxation for Jesus and the twelve.  Yet, the shepherd-less sheep recognized them and gathered to see the Teacher.  He lovingly shared words with them as long as they were willing to stay.  As the time drew late, the disciples did think of the needs of such a gathering.  “Send them away so they can go to the farms and markets nearby to buy themselves something to eat.”  They also understood the limitations of human provision.  “Are we to spend 200 denarii on bread for them to eat?”

Alix B. James Chapel at VA Union University (© John Gresham)

God’s mercy for the faithful is greater than human practicality.  God’s compassion feeds both the spiritual and physical needs of the faithful.  Though he needed and planned time alone with the twelve, Jesus did not turn away those who were willing to walk the distance to see him.  Nor does he leave those who listen to him to provide by their own abilities.  Instead, he takes the little that we have, blesses it, and makes it more than satisfying.  The simple necessities of protein and fiber.  Jesus gives them in abundance what humanity sees as a deficit.

Those who rely on human ability and agency alone are prone to disappointment and disillusions.  Anyone who will diligently seek and attentively listen to the saviour will have more than enough of what they need in life.

Your Brother in Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Third Friday)

And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey …    Mark 6:8

The more stuff we carry, the more difficult it is to reach the summit.  Last year, I hiked Cold Mountain by the Appalachian and Old Hotel Trails with a very heavy backpack.  A camper I met along the way tried it on and asked me if I were in the military.  Only one with much mental discipline and physical strength could bear such a heavy load for any distance.  I considered the question a compliment and took pride that I made the loop solo with such a load.  But, I also learned that for the spiritual journey of life, we are more effective when we are not overburdened in the first place.

A Weary Self Portrait (© John Gresham)

The more things the disciples carried, the more they would be distracted by the things they had to lose.  Food, shelter, and clothing are necessary.  But, when we tie these things on to our faith, we damage our ability to effectively minister to the world.  Where is the repentance in our possessions?  Can a devil be driven out by homes and cars?  And what if we are called to pay the ultimate dues for our belief in Jesus, aren’t we tempted to use our wealth to bribe our way out of lesser cost?  How much more would we try to use it not to die for the cross?

John the Baptist preached with mercy and power that a wicked king would listen reverently even if he didn’t repent.  Herod had him killed only because he made an oath based on momentary lust.  John wore a camel’s-hair garment and ate locust and wild honey.  He had nothing to corrupt him and preached the incorruptible Christ.  Avoid the corruption of possessions by having only what you need to do the will of Christ.  By this, our witness of the Gospel becomes so evident and true that even our enemies will be reluctant to kill us.  Make sure your backpack isn’t too heavy.  You may not be able to go the distance and reach the summit.

Yours in Christ,

Brother Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Third Thursday)

… “Where did the man get all this? …   Mark 6:2

Who does he think he is?  Oh, she forgot where she came from.  I remember when he was doing this.  She’s acting brand new.  He can’t tell me nothing.  She can’t say a thing to me.

If Nazareth was my modern home town,  this is what the people would say.  The townsfolk have a habit of putting people in a box after gaining familiarity with the one who grew up in their midst.  When the boundaries of familiarity are pushed, there is resistance because people prefer the narrow definitions of where one came from, who one is kin to, and what one did rather than the outward power of what is possible.  Those outside of Nazareth did not know him.  They had faith in what they heard and saw.  Thus, great things were done among them.  The townsfolk knew what was in their boxes were indignant that he had something good outside of them.

Power of Flight (© John Gresham)

Let us avoid trying to enclose the divine in boxes of homeland, relations, and reputation.  Jesus is far greater than such narrow confines.  When we try to narrowly define him in these terms, his power in our lives is greatly limited.  This makes us no better than the religious professionals who denied him and the crowds who had a fickle faith.  Boxes are for shoes, not for the Spirit.

Your Brother in Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Third Wednesday)

… and he gave them strict orders not to let anyone know about it, …   Mark 5:43

So many had an opportunity to be healed.  Others had the chance to witness a miracle.  Only those who were bold and faithful were blessed.  For the president of the synagogue to humble himself and believe a Nazareth street preacher had the power and compassion to heal his daughter was no small feat.  Nor was it insignificant that a woman who was unclean for much of her life to think she could be healed by touching his clothes.  How many in the crowd had some illness among their kin but didn’t hold the office that Jarius did?  How many others touched Jesus with far less lengthy of illnesses?  All of the others in these stories were in the crowd, made incidental touches, had lost hope, and finally ridiculed the one who was able to bring redemption.  Only a few of his disciples and the true believers could bear to witness his resurrecting power.  The crowds and mourners didn’t have faith and courage.  So, why should they be blessed to know what their weak spirits would not allow them to see and experience?

Growth on the Summit (© John Gresham)

Faith and courage are what separates those who walk in spirit from those who walk in flesh.  Those who walk in flesh only follow the crowd and think according to the hopelessness around them.  The spiritual know there is something beyond their limitations and the doomsayers around them.  It takes spirit to be humble, ever seeking, and believing beyond the odds.  May we develop these two qualities so that we may be blessed with what the crowds are denied.

Yours in Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Second Tuesday)

They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there-the man who had the legion in him-properly dressed and in his full senses, and they were afraid.  Mark 5:15

Jesus is with the one whom he restored.  A community could not restrain him, much less get him to think correctly.  He lived among the dead torturing his body and voice.  His many demons kept him from the fullness of life and company of others.  But, as long as he was isolated in the graveyard, no one was very concerned.  It is only after Jesus sent the legion of demons out of the man and into the pigs causing them to drown themselves did the people become fearful.  Only when they saw the same man who was once an isolated menace now in a state to rejoin society did the people become fearful.  The order they were used to and the sustenance they were accustomed to were radically changed.  Can it be said that the Gadarenes prefered the order of a suffering man than the confusion of his freedom?

Driftwood (© John Gresham)

And do we not see the same fear in our societies throughout the pages of human history and today’s newspapers?  As long as our pigs are feeding in the field, we could care less about those who suffer in isolation that we couldn’t help.  But, if we they are cured beyond our ability and our convenience taken in the process, we are afraid rather than faithful.  A faithful people would have rejoiced in the miracle and had faith that the one who made it possible would give them a greater substitute for their pigs.  The faithless Gadarenes had a unhealty fear of the Holy and attachment to their possessions.

Sometimes when Jesus delivers someone, we have to lose something.  We must decide if the Holy making people whole is more important than our hogs.

Yours in Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Second Monday)

… “Why are you so frightened?  Have you still no faith?”  Mark 4:40

He has healed people of a variety of diseases and driven out demons.  He taught crowds and rebuked critics.  Fame about him spread through those he healed even as he ordered them and demons to keep silent about who he was.  So, as they were crossing the sea, Jesus shows his humanity by taking a nap on a cushion in the back of the boat.  Nevermind the strong winds and large waves, he needed time to rest.  So, he did.

It was strange that the disciples took such fear of the storm.  At least four of them were fishermen and knew how to handle the conditions.  There were other boats on the water with them and could aid theirs if needed.  And the Sea of Galilee was not that large of a body of water.  A storm couldn’t last but for so long.

Wave Crash (© John Gresham)

And even more than these, the disciples should have considered the one on board with them.  If this man who commanded demons, reproved scholars, and restored the ill and infirm could rest in the midst of the storm, who were they to panic?  He said, “Let us cross over to the other side.”  Would he lead them to die in a storm?  Had they had faith, the disciples would have calmly employed their boating skills and crossed the sea without awakening Jesus from his rest.  They lacked faith and woke him up.  Yes, the Lord was merciful.  But, in his mercy, he called them to look at themselves.

Why are you frightened?  Are the conditions that you face unfamiliar to mankind?  Have you still no faith?  Isn’t the power and grace of Christ with you?  There is no question that he is all-powerful and greatly merciful.  The question is if we are faithful.

Your Brother in Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

What Clothes Are You Wearing?

… “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?”  For many are called, but few are chosen. Matthew 22:12, 14

The garments of our lives are stained by the sins we are guilty of.  Our thoughts, words, and deeds that are not of God’s will taint us from holiness and purity.  Thus, none of us are worthy to attend the eternal celebration of the Lamb and his bride.  Yet, through grace and mercy, the blood of Jesus is there for us to wash our life garments making us worthy to be counted among the number of saints.  The blood makes us pure through repentance to live in holiness today and forever in the world beyond.

Garments of Joy (© John Gresham)

Like the unfortunate guest in the text, we try to enter into the great feast wearing something else.  We try to wear substitutes for being genuine and repentant.  At our fanciest, we may parade our abilities or wealth to hide the double lives we lead.  We practice ritual and good deeds without living the personal good that make these things complete.  We even walk in our filthy clothing as if they are clean because no one challenges us to live better and we take no heed when someone does.  None of these are substitutes for spiritual living.  The Kingdom of God calls all to come in.  But, God (not man) does judge us and has every right and power not to let us in.

Let us be careful to live in repentance and spirit.  Casting aside all sins that hinder us from reaching the place of glory.  Making no provisions for the lust of our flesh.  Diligently seeking his will for our lives.  A great celebration awaits all who are properly clothed in his righteousness.

Your Brother in Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Second Saturday)

… “To you is granted the secret of the kingdom of God, but to those who are outside everything comes in parables, so that they may ‘look and look, but never perceive; listen and listen, but never understand; to avoid changing their ways and being healed.'”  Mark 4:11,12

Why wouldn’t Jesus openly reveal the secrets to the kingdom of God openly?  In previous verses, he healed many of illnesses, deficiencies, and even drove out demons.  It seems a bit selfish that he would keep the wonderful knowledge of eternity away from the crowds who come to hear him and see his miracles.  Indeed, it is as if Jesus wants some people to suffer an eternal punishment by withholding truth that could save them.

Purple Bloom (© John Gresham)

Who should be gifted with secrets; a mere passer-by, the curious, the one who wants only relief of satisfaction, or the one who is devoted and dedicated?  Jesus does not limit himself to any one people or persuasion.  Canaanites, Gentiles, and Samaritans are among those whom he has taught and healed.  He never prevented Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes from being among the crowd.  But, the twelve disciples and the others who were part of his company, they are the ones who dropped their nets, left their boats, walked away from their tables, and separated themselves from friends and family.  They are the ones who devoted and dedicated themselves to the Gospel as they heard the Lord say, “Follow me.”  The curious and passer-by can easily be dissuaded from the Gospel.  Even those who receive it as a good and precious thing will profit only temporarily from it if they have not cultivated a willing and humble spirit to receive God’s truth.  But, to those who follow, Christ gives spiritual insight and understanding that goes beyond that of the crowd.  Thier hearts have been tilled and minds relieved of stones and thorns.  These are they who will bear a harvest according to what he has sown into them.

Don’t just come to him ready to defend preconceived notions or to hear something cheerful.  Neither should one come to him for a healing without a heart of gratitude.  Jesus invites us to follow him.  Those who follow are the good ground that receives the seed and bears the fruit.

Yours in Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Second Friday)

… “Who are my mother and my brothers?”  Mark 3:33

We have a very narrow definition of who we are related to.  For people who live on this great sphere of earth, the circle of those whom we care about is limited to the circumference of a dime.  If one is not of our household, ideology, nationality, race, denomination, or religion; we consider such as unworthy of not only care and compassion (except in times of ritual or emergency charity).  We don’t count them among our equals though God also created them in his likeness and breathed his breath in them and made them living souls as well.

Song in Fellowship (© John Gresham)

One’s bloodline has nothing to do with belonging to the family of Jesus Christ.  There was a crowd sitting around him.  Mostly Jews like himself.  But, in other stories, we see him interacting with Romans, Canaanites, and Samaritans.  And none of the Jews seemed to clam him as a relative.  Doing the will of God, Jesus says, is the standard of our relationship to one another.

This is why Gandhi told the Christian who sought to convert to Hinduism to go back home and learn to be a good Christian and then come and learn to be a good Hindu.  This is why Malcolm X no longer taught Nation of Islam bigotry after sharing the great pilgrimage with Muslims from around the world.  This is why Dr. Martin Luther King bemoaned the fact that eleven o’clock Sunday morning was (and remains today) the most segregated hour in America.  These men of faith recognized and accepted all who sought true faith and betterment for all humanity as the thread that binds us all together.  God is the final judge of all who will dwell eternity.  Thus, let us be cautious about closing our circles of the holy family too closely.  We may find we are shutting ourselves out of it.

Yours in Christ,

Brother Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene