Sunday, June 28, 2015

ARE We CRUSADING for HIM or CRUCIFYING HIM ANEW?: SCS No. 52



Sunday, June 28, 2015, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 52


PRAYER for Today:
Father, we know You are able to heal the sick and to heal the hearts of a broken nation.  All we ask is that Your will be done and whatever that is to give us the strength and wisdom to live Your will till Your Son comes back.  It is in His name we pray. Amen.


SCRIPTURE for Today: Mark 12:1-12  New International Version (NIV)


12 Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.
6 “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
7 “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
9 “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone;
11 the Lord has done this,
   and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12 Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.


SERMON for Today:


There have been and still are tenant farmers.  Books have been written about them.  John Steinbeck may be one of the most famous authors writing about the lives of tenant farmers, but one must remember it is not just fiction or parables. Real people have lived and still do live the lives brought alive in these books, stories, poems and parables.  


However, this parable is not about tenant farmers even though that is the title most modern translations give this parable.  They call it the Parable of the Tenants.   It should be called the Parable of the Plot.


If you look at verse 12, you see that the chief priests and elders knew that Jesus was talking about them.  They wanted to kill him on the spot.  Only his popularity with the people prevented them from doing so.


The idea of being a Christian or a Jesus person is more popular today than living what he taught.  The families in Charleston brought forgiveness to the attention of the world by following the example of Jesus when he said “34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 KJV)  I do not find it as easy as it seemed Jesus did or the families in Charleston.


Hebrews 6:6 New International Version (NIV)
6" and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace."


This verse in Hebrews reminds us not to get too smug.  We may be crucifying Jesus all over again by the way we live our lives.  We may think we are better than the ones who plotted against him in the parable and who eventually got him put to death, but Hebrews 6:6 should make us all think. Are we crusading for Him or crucifying Him anew?


© Ed Cooper, June 28, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
  All rights reserved


(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.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

IT IS NOT THE TIME


Every time there is a mass killing in our country the President, the media and special interest groups say we need a national conversation/dialogue on race or guns or mental illness or economic justice or some other subject they want brought to our attention.  Instead, it is the time the nation should be focused on the victims and those who loved them.  A time of grieving and mourning.  As the families in Charleston, SC showed the nation, it is also a time for forgiveness.  It is not the time to raise your favorite issue or to defend your social issues.

People have been calling for a national conversation on race for as long as I can remember and I was born soon after World War II ended.  There has been a national conversation.  The conversation just has not been what some people wanted and most of it has been confined to one race blaming the other race for all the problems.  

I am a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant male, but I have a couple of flaws which keep me from really being in the club.  I do not have a college degree from any college much less an Ivy league university and I have a psychiatric label that I have come out of the closet about having.  So I am fair game for being a WASP.  For being mentally ill.  For being under-educated.  I am a race that can be talked about without penalty and have a disability that can be talked about without penalty even if the person doing the talking knows nothing about the subject.  However, I am the under- educated, uncouth Appalachian redneck.

My point here is that you can not start a dialogue if some groups are already ruled inferior.  The problem in America is that every group has some group they feel superior to.  African Americans have legitimate longstanding severe issues that have never been addressed, but so do people with psychiatric labels who live on Indian Reservations or live in Appalachia.  Most of us do not have enough humility to think of all of our fellow humans as equals and having the same rights as we believe we have.  There is always some group we believe is not worthy even if it is reserved for people who commit mass murders.  Remember the example set by the families in Charleston, SC.

We should not be looking for a national conversation on race, but rather a national conversation on humility, forgiveness, restorative justice, peace, and community.

© Ed Cooper, June 23, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
   All rights reserved  

 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

THE AUTHORITY of JESUS QUESTIONED: SCS No. 51

Buffalo Creek, Magoffin County, Kentucky where my Father grew up.

Sunday, June 21, 2015, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 51
My father Lester J. Cooper with my mom

(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 11:27-33 King James Version (KJV)
27 And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders,
28 And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things?
29 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.
30 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.
31 And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him?
32 But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.
33 And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.



SERMON for Today:

It has been a few weeks since we have been together here on this blog for our Sunday time together.  We have been gathering here for over a year now and have brothers and sisters around the world joining us each week.  I do not consider the reason to be because I am such a great writer, but rather that Jesus is such a magnificent friend.

The Scripture lesson is about Jesus being questioned about where his authority came from.  This being the day we celebrate Father’s Day it is appropriate to look at this question.  Without getting into an argument about the nature of the Trinity, we can say Jesus got his authority from his Father, God Almighty.  The folks who asked would not answer the question he asked them so Jesus did not answer their question.

The question they asked him related to the cleansing of the temple and also to his healing and teaching in the temple. To avoid the dilemma posed by the question Jesus asked them, Jesus’ opponents said that they did not know, because they feared the consequences of speaking against John the Baptist, whose divinely authorized ministry was also carried out apart from the official Jewish authority. Their confession of ignorance, however, demonstrated that they had no basis on which to assess Jesus’ ministry.

Many of us today have no way to assess Jesus’ ministry.  We either ignore him or listen to explanations of him created down through the years by theologians and church leaders with agendas and with the hunger for power and control.  To get a true picture of Jesus one must study his life with an open mind and heart.  Also, one must be willing to learn from Hebrew Scriptures a fuller picture of Jesus’ Father if they are to understand the Gospels and the story of the Creator’s son on earth among us.  I pray that our journey to learn of Him and His Father never stops.

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, June 21, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
  All rights reserved

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

SOUTHEAST GEORGIA’S LOWER COASTAL PLAIN

Jekyll Island, GA 

Southeast Georgia's Lower Coastal Plain gets you ready for the Florida Keys.  There are other ways to go south to the Keys from my home in  Eastern Tennessee, but missing the beauty one finds driving I-95 from Darien to the Florida line would be a sin.

CoastalBirdingTrailMap.jpg


One of my favorite people lived in the town of Darien.  My wife and I would stop to see her from time to time on our way from our home in Florida when going to see my wife’s children in North Carolina.  If we had time, she liked to go eat at a seafood restaurant in town.  I recently passed by Darien and my thoughts quickly turned to the times I had enjoyed the company of my aunt.  She is one of the few people in this world who never said a thing to me about being mentally ill and I never heard from anyone that she ever talked ill of me about being sick to anyone.  I can well imagine that when she was no longer able to live in her house in Darien she wondered why she did not see me again.  Maybe one day I will get to tell her how sorry I am that I did not keep up my end of our friendship.

Southeast Georgia's Lower Coastal Plain is a subregion that encompasses the lowest lying areas of the Atlantic coastal plain in the state, containing barrier islands, marshes, and swampy lowlands, as well as flat plains and low terraces.  It differs from Georgia's Upper Coastal Plain in that it is lower in elevation with less relief and wetter soils. The total population of the eighteen-county subregion is 726,132 (286,271 south of, and 439,861 north of, the Altamaha River), as of the 2010 U.S. census.

The fact is that the area is good for your mental health.  My wife loves the area and so do I.  I still have family living there and I consider them lucky.  There are many beautiful places in the world, but few as diverse as the miles along this coast.  If your soul needs a lift, maybe you should try the lower coastal plain of Georgia and see if it does not bring you to a higher plain.

© Ed Cooper, June 16, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
   All rights reserved

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

THE QUEST FOR MENTAL HEALTH


The quest for mental health is not just feeling like your symptoms are being managed by medications or that you have become functional enough to be accepted into most of society.  The standards or goals of much of the mental health system has little to do with a journey/quest for mental health, but rather for a way to get people out of their system by saying they have recovered.  Time limits on services means in and of themselves that the system does not believe in people finding mental health, but rather the system and its resources are more important than the people it serves.

Mental health can only start to be found if one can find the starting point.  The starting point is self.  Self in this blog entry is used to mean that part of a being that is inner and is able to entertain first-person thoughts, feelings, experiences and actions.  Self is the real person minus the exterior veneer so many people spend so much time worrying about.  When I reached 65 and passed it and looked in the mirror, I realized more than I ever had before that my blue eyes and dark hair were not as important as I thought.  The hair was white and thinner.  The eyes not as blue.  The face was drawn.  The question to be answered was simple.  Had my interior improved over the years?

The following appears in the latest issue (June 2015) of Christianity Today about Simone Weil’s book Waiting for God. It was written by Gregory Wolfe who was recommending it as one of five books that can save your life.  “Written by a brilliant French Jew who became something of a Christian mystic, these scattered essays and letters don’t make for easy reading.  And yet Weil’s meditations on attention as a form of prayer and the nature and meaning of suffering (which she calls ‘affliction’) offer illuminating insights.  Weil died young, so her theology was a work in progress. But that doesn’t mean her wisdom can’t aid one’s pilgrimage through life.”

The quest for mental health is a pilgrimage.  A seeking of the restoration of self.  It is not a process to be measured in blocks of billable medicaid time.  It is not a one size fits all exercise.  It can not be done by applying a set timetable or model.  It is a very personal and individualized journey and one can only help if they are willing to first become a friend to the person they are trying to walk beside.  To walk beside and listen to the person tell you were they are going is very different from deciding where they should go and trying to push and pull them there by a timetable.

Mental health is about healing and having good health and not about concentrating on illness.  It can only be done among friends in community.  Rooted in a home one feels welcome in.  You know when you are at home.

© Ed Cooper, June 2, 2015, Stoney Creek, TN
   All rights reserved