Sunday, May 31, 2015

GOD DELIGHTS IN GIVING US GOOD THINGS: SCS No. 50


Sunday, May 31, 2015, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 50

(This is a series of sermonettes on The Gospel According To Mark. )

(Ed Cooper is an ordained Elder and minister in the Christian Church/Churches of Christ which are a part of the Restoration Movement started in Appalachia in the early 1800’s.  Ed started preaching as a teenager in the village churches around Mashoko Mission, Zimbabwe, Africa when he was there with his parents in the early 1960’s.)

SCRIPTURE for Today: Mark 11:20-26 King James Version (KJV)
20 And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.
21 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.
22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.


SERMON for Today:
Jesus’ response must have surprised the disciples. They must have wondered what faith had to do with the cursing of the fig tree?  His point was that they should trust God to remove whatever hinders them from bearing fruit for God. Those who believe in God can have confidence that He will accomplish even the impossible, according to his sovereign will.

God delights to “give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11) and is capable of granting any prayer, though we must ask with the right motives and according to God’s will. Those who trust God for the right things in the right way can have confidence that God will “supply every need … according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19). Some have misused this verse by telling people that if they pray for physical healing (or for some other specific request) and if they just have enough faith, then they can have confidence that God has already done (or will do) whatever they ask. But we must always have the same perspective that Jesus had—that is, confidence in God’s power but also submission to his will: “Father, all things are possible for you. … Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

PRAYER for Today: Matthew 6:9-13 King James Version (KJV)
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.


© Ed Cooper, May 31, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
   All rights reserved

Monday, May 25, 2015

JESUS ENTERS JERUSALEM: SCS No. 49


Sunday, May 24, 2015, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 49

(This is a series of sermonettes on The Gospel According To Mark. )

(Ed Cooper is an ordained Elder and minister in the Christian Church/Churches of Christ which are a part of the Restoration Movement started in Appalachia in the early 1800’s.  Ed started preaching as a teenager in the village churches around Mashoko Mission, Zimbabwe, Africa when he was there with his parents in the early 1960’s.)

SCRIPTURE for Today: Mark 11:1-19 King James Version (KJV)
11 And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples,
2 And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him.
3 And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither.
4 And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him.
5 And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt?
6 And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.
7 And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.
8 And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.
9 And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:
10 Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.
11 And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.
12 And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:
13 And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.
14 And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.
15 And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;
16 And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.
17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.
18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.
19 And when even was come, he went out of the city.

SERMON for Today:
The triumphal entry takes place at the beginning of Passover week, which recalls the Jewish people’s liberation from Egyptian slavery. The people now anticipate the messianic liberation from Rome’s oppression. The claims of the disciples are ultimately true, but it will not be Rome that is defeated now but Satan, sin, and death. All enemies of righteousness will one day see the authority of the Messiah. This is the only time in Mark where there is no evident tension between Jesus’ messianic identity, the messianic expectations of his disciples, and those of the people. Jesus tolerates this brief period of celebration in fulfillment of prophecy, but with the certainty that nothing will obstruct His divinely ordained death.

Jesus came into Jerusalem a hero and he will leave a victor over Satan, sin and death, but before He does he will undergo much the same fate as the fig tree in our Scripture lesson.  He will be cursed by His own people.

Again, we see what Jesus thinks of people with money taking advantage of those without as much. Tables were set up to enable pilgrims to change their respective currencies into coins for the annual temple tax as well as to purchase pigeons, lambs, oil, salt, etc., for various sin and thanksgiving sacrifices . The money making activity turns the house of prayer into a “den of thieves.” Gentiles in particular were hindered by the temple commerce in the outer court. The goal of Jesus’ action was to restore the temple to its function to serve as a house of prayer for all the nations.

The way in which Mark organizes his material in these verses (fig tree/cleansing of temple/ cursing of the fig tree) suggests a connection between the cleansing of the temple and the cursing of the fig tree. Since the fruit of the fig tree begins to appear about the same time as the leaves (or a little after), the appearance of leaves in full bloom should have indicated that fruit (in the form of green figs) was already growing. Jesus’ actions here have symbolic importance, signifying the hypocrisy of all who have the appearance that they are bearing fruit, but in fact are not.

We must be careful that we are doing and not just having the appearance of doing.  Our actions on behalf of our Lord must produce fruit and not for ourselves, but produce results for the Kingdom of God.  


PRAYER for Today: Matthew 6:9-13 King James Version (KJV)
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.


© Ed Cooper, May 24, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
   All rights reserved

Thursday, May 21, 2015

CHAPTER FIFTEEN “DREAMING AGAIN”

[Revised Version of Chapter Fifteen from the book
When Even The Devil Deserts You
©1992
A Dream Again Book
Published by Dream Again Press
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number  92-097008]
The memories of Mashoko Mission are fading.  My childhood on the mission station in southern Africa seems at times little more than a dream.  Someday I hope to be able to journey there again.  This time with my wife.  I know the country will be vastly different.  When I lived there it was called Southern Rhodesia and was ruled by the whites.  It is now Zimbabwe and is ruled by the Shona people.

    There is one place in Zimbabwe that is vivid in my memory.  It is an old walled city called the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.  The Acropolis, Temple, and valley of ruins stand out against a backdrop of the veld land and small kopjes and clumps of bush that make up much of Mashonaland, the home of the Shona people.  It is one of the major mysteries of the history of this land.  Who were the people who built these massive structures that some say are the most remarkable drywalling architecture in the world?

    Theories about the builders of Great Zimbabwe abound.  During the time I lived in the country most of them excluded the possibility of it being built by the Shona people.  White Rhodesians would point to the small pole-and-mud huts with their grass roofs that the Shona people then lived in and declare it was absurd to think they had built such grand structures.  I am certain that the Shona people of today do claim them as theirs.  When they got their independence, they named their country Zimbabwe.   

    One day on my way to visit the Ruins I picked up an old man walking along the road.  I had driven the hundred miles into town to pick up supplies for the mission.  After dropping off the orders to be filled, I took my usual trip out to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.  I was curious about the old man.  He was the first white person I had ever seen walking along the road in that country. It was common to see black men and women walking, but this was the first white person I had ever seen.
    
    He got in the Land Rover and we continued on toward the Ruins.  I rented a cabin there and asked him to spend the night with me.  I had planned on staying over before making the drive back to the mission and thought it would be nice to have some company.  I could tell you I was just being nice, but that would not be entirely true.  The old man was fascinating.  He had passports with the pages stamped full of visas.  He had traveled the world, working his way from place to place.  We talked the entire night.
    
    When I asked him who he thought built the Great Zimbabwe ruins, he said it was the Shona people.  I took the white view that they could not have done it.  His reply was very simple.  He said, never look at the present condition of any peoples or at any individual and assume you know their history.  Can you look at Rome today and know it once ruled the world?  Can you look at America today and know how recent that nation was born?  Does the Egypt of today tell you how great it once was?
    
    Feeling very much put in my place, I asked him about his dreams.  I thought he would tell me about the places he still wanted to see.  I was surprised again.  He told me he was on his way to the Nile to die.  He was almost at the bottom of Africa.  He was headed to the top of Africa. He was on foot, yet he had every confidence he would die on the banks of the Nile River.

    I learned a lot that night.  Among other things I learned not to judge a person by his or her present circumstances.  I learned not to guess about the dreams of others, but to ask them them what their dreams are.

    It took a dream and a lot of sweat to build what is now the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.  The old man had a dream, and if he made it to the Nile before he died it took a lot of work.

    I have a dream.  I dream of the day when every mentally ill person is dreaming again.  When we all see a bleak future turning into a bright beginning.  When we are all embraced by a community of caring folks.  When we all have a place to belong.  When none of us feel like we are living through the days “when even the devil deserts you.”  This is my dream and my prayer.

    My illness dashed all the dreams and expectations my mother and father held for me.  They died with little hope of seeing me better.  I will never be well (recovered), but I still dream.  It is those dreams that enable me to battle the voices in my head when they scream at me to kill myself.  It was my dreams that kept me writing this book.  It is my dreams that quiet my shattered soul.  My Nile is when more of us begin to dream again.

Will you
    help some shattered soul
         to start dreaming again?

Will you
    become the hands and feet
         of Jesus and walk beside someone today?

Will you
    warmly embrace us
          and show us God’s enduring Grace now?

© Ed Cooper, May 21, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved

Sunday, May 17, 2015

“Followed Jesus in the Way”:SCS No. 48


Sunday, May 17, 2015, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 48

(This is a series of sermonettes on The Gospel According To Mark. )

(Ed Cooper is an ordained Elder and minister in the Christian Church/Churches of Christ which are a part of the Restoration Movement started in Appalachia in the early 1800’s.  Ed started preaching as a teenager in the village churches around Mashoko Mission, Zimbabwe, Africa when he was there with his parents in the early 1960’s.)

SCRIPTURE for Today: Mark 10:35-52 King James Version (KJV)

35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.
36 And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?
37 They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.
38 But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?
39 And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:
40 But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.
41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John.
42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.
47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.
48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.
49 And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.
50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.
51 And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.
52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

SERMON for Today:
In today’s lesson we find the contrast of two of the disciples asking Jesus to make them special and a blind man asking Jesus for his sight.  There could not be two situations further from each other and the outcomes are equally far apart.

The other disciples were very upset with James and John for asking Jesus to ”do for us whatsoever we shall desire.”  Their desire was to have a special seat beside Jesus. One on the right and the other on the left.  Jesus explained the true meaning of being his disciple.  He said “But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.”  Being a disciple of Jesus meant being a servant and it still means the same thing today.

The blind man was healed because of his faith and it says he “followed Jesus in the way.”  Wondered what that meant?  Some would have you believe the five words simply mean he followed Jesus in the crowd that was always following Jesus, but I think it means that he followed Jesus in the ways of Jesus.  He had faith in Jesus and that is the reason Jesus gave for healing him.  He followed Jesus because of his faith in Jesus.  The man was not just walking with the crowd.  The blind man who could now see became a servant in the Kingdom of God and went to Jerusalem as a believer.

Today when we get a prayer answered do we stay a faithful servant or do we go about our normal business until we need another favor from God?  Our blindness to our servant role in the Kingdom of God is the single biggest impediment to our growing closer to our Father and being able to live a fulfilling and healing Christian life.  We need to be like the blind man who “followed Jesus in the way.”    
 

 
PRAYER for Today: Matthew 6:9-13 King James Version (KJV)
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.


© Ed Cooper, May 17, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
   All rights reserved

Thursday, May 14, 2015

FOLK PSYCHOLOGY and PARTICIPATORY RESEARCH vs ACADEMIA


I have had recent occasions to make the case that all wisdom and what can be known as truth does not all come from the halls of academia.   Ordinary folks have a lot to contribute to the body of knowledge and should be studied by anyone trying to understand the human condition.  The trouble is that even when people say they are doing participatory research it turns out that they pick who is going to participate.  Folk psychology is widely debunked as not having any use in the scientific endeavor of understanding the human condition.  This is partly true because it has been given so many definitions.

Let me try this on you.  If by a true participatory research project, we studied what ordinary folks thought and had experienced about mind being more than just a function of their brain would it contribute anything to our understanding of the human condition?  Yes, is my answer.  The first reason it would is because we would not be starting with the prejudice of academia against the idea of the ages that there is something beyond our beings.

Breaking the linear mold of conventional research, participatory research focuses on a process of sequential reflection and action, carried out with and by local people rather than on them. Folk knowledge and perspectives are not only acknowledged but form the basis for research and planning. The key difference between participatory and conventional methodologies lies in the location of power in the research process. Participatory research raises personal, professional and political challenges which go beyond the bounds of the production of information.  To get to where we would want to be we would need to do the participatory research in several locations around the world in different cultures and among persons with varying economic statuses.

It is important to get what ordinary people know into the discussion rather than just take for gospel what is being said by academia.  Some would have you believe that “folk wisdom” is just a bunch of old sayings.  I want you to consider the possibility that folk psychologists doing pure participatory research could uncover real truths in the laboratory of real life from ordinary people living it under many different circumstances.   It would give better information than polls or interviews or therapy sessions where people have all sorts of agendas.  We should try folk psychology and participatory research.

© Ed Cooper, May 14, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
   All rights reserved

Sunday, May 10, 2015

LIVE LIKE JESUS TODAY: SCS No. 47


Sunday, May 10, 2015, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 47

(This is a series of sermonettes on The Gospel According To Mark. )

(Ed Cooper is an ordained Elder and minister in the Christian Church/Churches of Christ which are a part of the Restoration Movement started in Appalachia in the early 1800’s.  Ed started preaching as a teenager in the village churches around Mashoko Mission, Zimbabwe, Africa when he was there with his parents in the early 1960’s.)

SCRIPTURE for Today: Mark 10:32-34 King James Version (KJV)
32 And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him,
33 Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles:
34 And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.
SERMON for Today:
The people following Jesus were amazed because they had already been told by him what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem yet he kept right on going towards the city where he faced the death he foretold.  They seemed to believe all the bad things that he said would happen, but I am not sure they heard a word about his resurrection.  To the people following him he was traveling to his death not to his new resurrected life.  

We seem to have some of the same problems understanding God’s plan today.  We see the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as a fire insurance policy to keep us out of hell rather than God’s plan to introduce Himself to all humankind so we might have a personal relationship with Him and walk with Him now.

Jesus said 25I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:25-30 ESV
Jesus is saying I came so your souls can have rest now.  Not in the bye and bye in the sky, but now in the hell we call living on earth.  Living with Jesus and like Jesus was and is the point of his coming and his sacrifice.  That is the Good news.  We can live with Him now and then for eternity too.

 
NEXT WEEK: The subject will be Jesus responds to the request made by two of His disciples.   Mark 10: 35-45

 
PRAYER for Today: Matthew 6:9-13 King James Version (KJV)
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.


© Ed Cooper, May 10, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
   All rights reserved