Sunday, April 24, 2016

WHY CAN WE NOT STOP HATING EACH OTHER?: SCS 81

Johns River, Burke County, NC

Sunday, April 24, 2016, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 81

PRAYER for Today:
Heavenly Father,
We know we are all broken and in need of your grace. Only You are able to heal the hearts and souls of all of us who are full of sin and bring light to the darkness in our lives. Help us Father to accept your freely given gift of grace that we might be reconciled to You. We ask that Your will be done in our lives and that we may act lovingly towards our fellow sojourners who around the world are hurting so that they might see a little of You in our daily lives.  
It is in Your Resurrected Living Son’s name we pray. Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSON for Today:  

Mark 12:28-31 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

1 Corinthians 13 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)


13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.



SERMON for Today:

Why can we not stop hating each other?  Because we do not love ourselves or our Creator.  If we loved God in the way Jesus spoke of in our Scripture lesson then we would not have time to hate ourselves or others.  If we loved ourselves we would not need to find someone we could look down on or hate.

Corinthians 13 is known as the love chapter.  I have put it here to show that people can look Christian, but if they do not have love they are the lost sheep wandering in the wilderness.

Why are these two pieces of Scripture so important to me this morning.  Because my heart is burdened by all of the hatred shown by one group of people to another.  From one gender to another.  From one race to another.  From one religion to another.  From one region of this country to another.  From liberals to conservatives and conservatives to liberals.  It seems we need to hate someone.

People have a strong reaction to me.  People either seem to really like me or really dislike me.  The folks I seem to have the least trouble with are those that know who they are and do not feel threatened by my strong loud persona.  That is why I say if we had the Holy Spirit living within and had learned to love ourselves because Jesus first loved us, we would not need to find others to hate.

Why can we not stop hating each other?  Because we do not want to.  It takes surrendering ourselves to Christ and we would rather keep on sinning as long as we can.

May The Spirit of God Be With You This Week and For Evermore. Amen.

© Ed Cooper, April 24, 2016, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
  All rights reserved
(Ed Cooper is a retired minister and mental health advocate. He lives with his wife Patty in the mountains of East Tennessee.)

Friday, April 22, 2016

WE ARE NOT DRINKING GLASSES

(kate spade new york® Two of a Kind - Yours & Mine DOF Set)

You have heard the old arguments about whether the glass is half full or half empty when the water level is mid-way of the drinking glass.  Trying to determine whether a person is an optimist or pessimist?  People have even said a half filled glass is really a full glass because the rest of the glass is filled with air.  By that reasoning a glass with no water would be a full glass, but I am afraid if you handed it to a thirsty person they would not think it was a full glass.


One twist to this ongoing saga about the glass is that it can be filled.   One person has become famous on Oprah by saying the glass has a pitcher near it and you can fill the glass.


Another person has brought up a question concerning what if the other half of the glass was a vacuum.  Of course this person has left the original metaphor and gone far off course.


Here are some examples of other takes on the original metaphor from business balls
The project manager says the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.
The realist says the glass contains half the required amount of liquid for it to overflow.
And the cynic... wonders who drank the other half.
The school teacher says it's not about whether the glass is half empty or half full, it's whether there is something in the glass at all.
The worrier frets that the remaining half will evaporate by next morning.
The fanatic thinks the glass is completely full, even though it isn't.
The entrepreneur sees the glass as undervalued by half its potential.
The computer specialist says that next year the glass capacity will double, be half the price, but cost you 50% more for me to give you the answer.
The first engineer says the glass is over-designed for the quantity of water.
The second engineer says (when the half is tainted) he's glad he put the other half in a redundant glass. (Based on a Dilbert cartoon by Scott Adams)
The computer programmer says the glass is full-empty.
The Buddhist says don't worry, remember the glass is already broken.


The only problem with this is we are not drinking glasses.  No matter how amusing we make it or how spiritual sounding we make it the truth is the metaphor is worthless as an explanation for anything other than maybe trying to explain one’s general worldview.  Frankly that is not terribly helpful when trying to live a life or be helpful to someone else.  You cannot simply fix me or fill my glass for me and make everything better.  This pop-bs needs to go along with most of the mental health jargon so that we can begin to see each other.  I mean see and hear each other.  If we did, then maybe we might just get past the race, gender, religious and economic wars and begin to build a community where we all could live without worrying about how much was in the damn glass and what it was.


© Ed Cooper, April 22, 2016, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
   All rights reserved     

Sunday, April 17, 2016

WITH the UTMOST PATIENCE: SCS 80

MY PARENT's BURIAL SITE
Sunday, April 17, 2016, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 80

PRAYER for Today:
Heavenly Father,
We know we are all broken and in need of your grace. Only You are able to heal the hearts and souls of all of us who are full of sin and bring light to the darkness in our lives. Help us Father to accept your freely given gift of grace that we might be reconciled to You. We ask that Your will be done in our lives and that we may act lovingly towards our fellow sojourners who around the world are hurting so that they might see a little of You in our daily lives.  
It is in Your Resurrected Living Son’s name we pray. Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSON for Today:  

2 Timothy 4:1-8 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

4 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: 2 proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. 5 As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
6 As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.


SERMON for Today:

Today’s Scripture lesson is not just for those who think of themselves as ministers or evangelists.  You do not have to be making your living as a professional pastor for these words to be speaking to you.  We who have heard the Good News and believed it and were baptized are evangelists of that Good News whether or not we want the job or not.  Ephesians the fourth chapter spells out that we are all called  “to the one hope of your calling.” (Ephesians 4:4)

We must do our jobs with the “utmost patience.” That is not just because it makes it easier for you to be heard than when you are pushy and rude, but because folks are looking for every excuse not to listen to the truth.

Think about how quick folks follow preachers who preach a gospel that promises great prosperity.  If I tell you God will make you rich, coming to God sounds like a good idea.  If I say Jesus told the rich young man, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  then you might do as he did and simply walk away.

The Pope was more popular before he started talking about how corporations and capitalism were hurting the poor.  Jesus was more popular before He started saying hard things.  You will be more popular if you never bring up the issue of everlasting life to any of those you love or anybody you meet, but you will not be doing what Jesus expects of those who have taken on His name.

Our Scripture lesson tells us what we must do and how.  It tells us Jesus is coming back.  To me it says it is way past time we stopped listening to false teachers, preachers and politicians and started praying for understanding the will of God for our lives.   


May The Spirit of God Be With You This Week and For Evermore. Amen.

  
© Ed Cooper, April 17, 2016, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
  All rights reserved

(Ed Cooper is a retired minister and mental health advocate. He lives with his wife Patty in the mountains of East Tennessee.)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

HAVE I EVER BEEN SEEN OR HEARD BY A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL?


When the psychiatrist you have been seeing for over a decade says she will no longer see you, then you begin to wonder not only what is wrong with you, but if you have ever been seen or heard in a so called therapeutic setting.  I am not going to address in this blog the question of if I have ever been seen or heard by anyone at anytime.  


Being heard, seen or recognized as a person all fall under a similar umbrella.  There have been a lot of words written about active listening, positive regard and other terms addressing the issue I am speaking about.  It is my experience that all the words written seem to have had little influence on the real world interactions between mental health professions and the folks like me who they are attempting to provide care for.


You, the reader, can accuse me of being bitter and angry and seeing through a glass darkly at the moment, but those of you who have received services over a long period of time from the public mental health system will have to admit it is as rare as hen’s teeth to be served by someone who sees you as a person who is fully human and who has all their civil and human rights and who has the right to make their own decisions without being fixed against their will by the system.  That is if you have been seen at all when you wanted to be seen.


Next week I will see a new psychiatrist and I am being required to go through a full intake process at the Veterans Administration Mental Health Outpatient Clinic at the hospital even though I was seeing the head of the clinic when she fired me as her patient and have been going there for over a decade.  My take on that is that they do not want me coming there anymore.


My crime?  I turned down the kind offer to continue seeing the psychologist my psychiatrist wanted me to see after about three visits.  I was under the mistaken impression I had the right to decide.  I really thought I could decide the course of my treatment and with whom I shared my secrets, thoughts and feelings.  No. No.  Ed you must share them with whom we tell you to share them with.  The hell I do.


To answer the question have I ever been seen or heard by a mental health professional?  The answer is no.  Nothing more than mere surface sightings have they ever bothered to take the time to do.


© Ed Cooper, April 14, 2016, Stoney Creek, TN
  All rights reserved  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

WHOSE SLAVE ARE YOU?: SCS 79

Sunday, April 10, 2016, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 79

PRAYER for Today:
Heavenly Father,
We know we are all broken and in need of your grace. Only You are able to heal the hearts and souls of all of us who are full of sin and bring light to the darkness in our lives. Help us Father to accept your freely given gift of grace that we might be reconciled to You. We ask that Your will be done in our lives and that we may act lovingly towards our fellow sojourners who around the world are hurting so that they might see a little of You in our daily lives.  
It is in Your Resurrected Living Son’s name we pray. Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSON for Today:  

Romans 6:15-23 New International Version (NIV)

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


SERMON for Today:


The link above is to a poem I wrote which has these words in it.
Even if they are right
I am not ready to start
living a right life
because I have lots
of sinning left to do
before I even consider
the life those folks
talk about us living.

We all have thought at one time or the other that there would be no real harm in doing just one more little wrong thing.  Paul says that is not the way it works.  In our Scripture lesson for today he says we are to be “slaves to righteousness.”  The problem is that most of us do not want to be a slave to anything or anyone.  We want to only do what makes us feel good at the moment.

Last night my wife Patty and I watch the movie Lucy. In it Morgan Freeman delivers this great line. “We humans are more concerned with having than with being.”  We are slaves to consuming not striving to be saints in the kingdom Jesus started while He was on earth.

Paul is urging us to strive towards holiness.  What would that look like?  Start by looking at the life of Jesus and what He taught.  He said to not judge other people.  To leave the ninety-nine and go find the one lost sheep.   To forgive those who do you wrong.  To tell everyone you meet the wonderful  Good News of the Gospel even to the ends of the earth.

The question is simple.  Whose slave are you?  Where is your heart?  What or who gets most of your attention?  You may be able to fool your employer into believing you are doing your job.  You may be able to make your spouse believe you are committed to your relationship.  You may be able to fool the community into believing you are something you are not.  You may be able even to fool yourself.  The one person you cannot fool is God.  You are either a slave to sin or to righteousness.  This one I nor you cannot just pretend and get by.  This one is for real and is everlasting.

May God Richly Bless Your Life This Week and For Evermore. Amen.

  
© Ed Cooper, April 10, 2016, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
  All rights reserved

(Ed Cooper is a retired minister and mental health advocate. He lives with his wife Patty in the mountains of East Tennessee.)

Sunday, April 03, 2016

WHAT COLOR WAS JESUS WHEN HE ASCENDED?: SCS 78

Sunday, April 3, 2016, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 78

PRAYER for Today:

Heavenly Father,
We know we are all broken and in need of your grace. Only You are able to heal the hearts and souls of all of us who are full of sin and bring light to the darkness in our lives.
Help us Father to accept your freely given gift of grace that we might be reconciled to You.
We ask that Your will be done in our lives and that we may act lovingly towards our fellow sojourners who around the world are hurting so that they might see a little of You in our daily lives.  
It is in Your Resurrected Living Son’s name we pray. Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSON for Today:  

Luke 24: 36-53 (NIV)

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

The Ascension of Jesus

50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Acts 1:1-11 (NIV)

Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven

1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”



SERMON for Today:

It is a matter of much discussion in some circles as to what color of skin Jesus had when He was on earth.  The theories are numerous basically depending on the skin color of the person proposing the theory.  I call all the speculations theories because of course there are no photographs of Jesus.

The important thing is not the color of His skin while He was on this earth, but rather the fact that He is not still buried in the tomb.  He overcame death that we might have a chance at life with a relationship with Him and the Father.  He is coming back the same way He left.

Jesus is the one who said, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  That means we were included because Jesus included us.  It was not a decision made by someone after the church got started.  It was a command by Jesus before He ascended.  What color was Jesus when He ascended? Neutral.  A neutral tone will make any small splash of color stand out.  Jesus’ ascension was so we could stand out and be seen by the Father and be blessed beyond our wildest dreams by our Creator.

We should not be worried about His skin color while He was on earth.  We should be concerned with carrying out the task He gave us.  He told us to take the light to the “ends of the earth.”  That might mean some far off place or it might mean to your very different neighbor to whom you have never spoken or even looked at.

May God Richly Bless Your Life This Week and For Evermore. Amen.

  
© Ed Cooper, April 3, 2016, 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 a teenager there with his parents in the early 1960’s. Ed recognizes he is a flawed sinner needing God’s grace and your prayers.)