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Jan 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 14, 2018 -Exodus Chapter 1

Thorns In the Nest

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.”
So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel. Exodus 1:8-12

Intro: Recently, an idea has been nagging at me

Namely, that I should be taking you through the Old Testament (maybe not the whole thing)
– the New Testament (NT) presents itself as a continuation of the Old Testament (OT)
• there are parts of NT we cannot understand with out OT (e.g., the Book of Hebrews)
• besides that, there is the explicit statement of Jesus

. . . all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled (Lk. 24:44)

– one meaning of fulfilled is that predictions regarding the Messiah found fulfillment in him
• but there is another meaning: to bring something to fullness, to completion
◦ to actualize its latent potential

As Jonathan Pennington observes, the gospels “explicitly connect the events of Jesus’s life to the ‘fulfillment’ of the Scriptures. This at times refers to ‘fulfillment’ in the sense of prophecy completed but more often means rather that Jesus deepens, explains, fills out, and reveals the true intent.”

• there is an orientation and richness we lose in the NT without the OT

When it comes to the OT, Most of us have been exposed to wrong ideas or poor teaching

A wrong idea: God is presented differently in OT than NT
• for example: the angry deity of the OT through Jesus became a loving Father
Poor teaching: This usually results from a lack of appreciation for what the OT is in itself
• some Bible teachers try to find Jesus in every verse of OT
◦ so they read him into the OT or make superficial connections between the old and new
◦ what they produce adds nothing to our understanding of OT or NT

How does the NT identify itself with the OT? In 3 primary ways:

  1. With texts – direct quotations
    This was to fulfill what was spoken . . . (Mt. 4:14)
    Abraham believed God, and it was credited . . . (Ro. 4:3)
  2. With types – Gal. 4:24, “allegory”; He. 11:19, “type”
  3. With copies and shadows and symbols
    – the physical sanctuary and its worship were modeled according to a spiritual pattern
    . . . who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things (He. 8:5; 9:9, 23, 24; 10:1)

– we can draw straight line from these examples to the OT
• but there is also an indirect relationship between the New and Old Testaments
◦ this is easy to understand if you think of a road in relation to a destination
• the OT is the road that takes us to our destination in Jesus

The Bible tells a story

The Bible is not (as many assume) a book of religious rules and doctrines
– its setting is always in real life and involves real people
• so what is the grand story of scripture about?”
• theologians tell us, “Redemption,” that it is a record of “salvation history”
◦ although this became popular in the 20th century,
◦ 300 years earlier, someone else had discerned the same overarching story

read more…

Jan 11 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 7, 2018 – 1 Corinthians 11:23-31

First Supper of the New Year

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 1 Corinthians 11:23-31

Intro: I had a hard time pulling myself together this morning

I’ll just say, yesterday was tough – lingering emotional residue from yesterday
– stumbling around in the dark, my first thought was that I did not want to be here
• that I’d rather find a quiet spot near the ocean
• and just sit with Jesus for awhile
◦ that I could really use his company and his strength and wisdom
– but when my brain started waking up,
• I knew this was exactly where I wanted to be and needed to be

Paul was not with Jesus and his disciples for that last supper
– he heard the story from the apostles who were there
• so he observed Communion the same way we do
• as a ritual re-enactment of that hour in the upper room
– Paul fully understood (and felt) the sacredness of Communion
• and he gave specific instructions to treat it with reverence
• as strong as his words sound to us, this is not a warning to back away
◦ it is an invitation to come, to eat and to drink
◦ but to do it with full awareness and receive its full value

To observe Communion with reverence is to discern the embodied presence of Jesus
– the Lord’s Supper celebrates our union with God
• a (common)union we enjoy with undying gratitude

Let me remind you of the Bible story that defines Reflexion

The Sunday following Jesus’ crucifixion,
– two disciples were on the road going away from Jerusalem
• however, they could not leave behind what happened there
◦ I imagine their feverish conversation as they tried to make sense of Jesus’ death
• as they walked together, another traveler approached them, perhaps from a side road
◦ it was Jesus who joined them, but they did not recognize him

Jesus: “Listening to your voices, it sounds like an intense conversation. What are you guys discussing?”
One of the disciples: “You must be only visitor to Jerusalem who knows nothing of the things that have happened there these last few days”
Jesus (innocently): “What things?”
They ran through the brief history they had with Jesus, describing him as a mighty prophet and the hope they had placed in him, but how it all collapsed when he was arrested, tried and crucified. They also mentioned the news brought to them by the women who were at the tomb early that morning, but it is apparent that they really did not know what to make of that.
Jesus: “ ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures’ ” (Lk. 24:25-27)
Arriving at their destination, it looked as though Jesus was going to continue his journey, but turning to him they begged him, “Please stay.”
When dinner was served, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight (Lk. 24:31)
Immediately they ran back to Jerusalem, where they reported their encounter with Jesus to the apostles and explained how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread (Lk. 24:35)

read more…

Jan 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 31, 2017 – Matthew 7:24-27

Now What?

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.
Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall 
 Matthew 7:24-27

Intro: We have some unfinished business before exiting 2017

We have come to the end of the Sermon On the Mount
– the question raised in this last lesson is, What will we do with the Sermon?
• Jesus says, “Build something on it. Construct a life”
• by the way, it’s never too late to do this
– Jesus presents two options, using a recognizable pattern
• namely, contrasting characters in the Old Testament wisdom writings

A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil,
But a fool is arrogant and careless (Pr. 14:16)

The pattern goes something like this:
1. Observe the behavior of the wise and foolish (or righteous and wicked, etc.)
2. Pay attention to how it turns out for each of them
3. Then decide which one of the the two paths you will take

• the pattern works, because it simplifies the nature of our choices
◦ the smart choice is to build our lives on this foundation

But here we run into a snag
– the pattern appears as simple logic – like working out a math problem
• typically, preachers and Bible teachers feel their work is done for them
• they merely reiterate what Jesus said and tell us,
“So lay your foundation on Jesus’ teaching!”
◦ and it would be just that easy–if we were calculators and not people
– what we are not told is how much work this takes,
• or how long it takes, or even how to do such a thing
• I hope to offer you some help with that part
◦ it is, in fact, what Jesus’ entire Sermon has been doing for us
◦ taking apart the old religious foundation and constructing a new one

24-25, Responding to the whole Sermon all at once

. . . these words of Mine
In this sentence, “Mine” is emphatic!
– the words are important because they are his
• it will be the authority of his teaching that amazes the crowd afterward (vv. 28-29)
• Jesus has given us a lot of information

read more…

Dec 25 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 24, 2017 – Luke 2:6-14

A Christmas Eve Meditation

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
 Luke 2:6-14

Intro: Something ordinary was going on in Bethlehem

A woman was giving birth to her first child – a son
– she is young, she has made a long journey, and she is far from home
• now she caresses and nurtures this new life
– I wonder if she is holding on to her awareness of the supernatural presence
• or is she preoccupied with exhaustion, busyness, and the ordinariness of it all?
• has she momentarily forgotten the angel and what he said?
◦ I wonder if she could use a reminder right about now?

Meanwhile, in the same region, something extraordinary was going on
– if you lived in that culture and at that time
• and you were responsible for making a big announcement,
◦ shepherds would be the least likely audience you would choose
◦ the are not the spokespersons in the Bible — not like priests or prophets
• but in the heart of God, they were the perfect candidates
– some biblical heroes were shepherds before becoming prophets, priests or kings
• what God loved about shepherds was their care for their flock
◦ God had little interest in leaders who used people to create armies, build empires and enrich themselves
◦ he loved the good shepherd who would willingly lay down his life for the sheep
• a poet-shepherd from Bethlehem wrote,

The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul . . . 
(Psa. 23:1-3)

◦ it was an analogy that God was pleased to adopt for himself

So the shepherds outside Bethlehem were graced with a revelation
– this is fitting, because Luke takes special interest in outcasts
• he emphasizes the way Jesus associated with the non-religious, diseased and sinners
– maybe, when shepherds barged in on Mary and Joseph with their story of angels,
• Mary was reminded of the miracle she was living
◦ maybe she was reawakened to the supernatural
• we know, at least, she recorded all these things in her heart’s journal

Now I will come to the point

There are four statements In verse 7 I want to emphasize:

  1. she gave birth
  2. her firstborn son
  3. wrapped Him in cloths
  4. laid him in a manger

– simple and straightforward, right?
• but now I will jump to the end of the story
◦ Joseph of Arimathea received permission to bury Jesus’ body
• in Luke 23:53 there are four statements I want to compare and contrast with Mary

  1. Mary gave birth, this Joseph took it down–i.e., Jesus’ corpse
  2. it (not a baby, not even a person, but a body)
  3. and wrapped it in a linen cloth 
  4. and laid Him, not in a manger, but in a tomb

– Luke has taken the same actions from the birth scene and applied them to the burial scene
• in fact, he is deliberate in tying the two ends of the story together
(notice also how his story begins in the temple in Jerusalem and ends there)

There is something else I want to show you
– the shepherd’s were frightened with a great fear when the angels appeared
• they were told about Jesus and that they could find him
– there are four statements in verse 12 I want to emphasize:

  1. you will find
  2. a baby
  3. wrapped in cloths
  4. lying in a manger

◦ a manger would be a familiar landmark for the shepherds
◦ in itself, it indicated to them where they should look

Again, I am going to jump to the end of the story (Lk. 24:1-9)

read more…

Dec 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 17, 2017 – Matthew 7:15-23


Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Matthew 7:15

Intro: Last week, Jesus left us at a crossroads

One road was broad and led through a wide gate to destruction
The other road was narrow and led through a small gate to life
– someone listening to Jesus might ask,
• “If the roads are that obviously different, how could we go wrong? How could there be only a few who find it?”
• that is the question Jesus answers in this passage
◦ some people out there are selling the broad road as the true road
– the problem of false prophets is addressed many times in the Old Testament

Thus says the LORD of hosts,
“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you.

They are leading you into futility;
They speak a vision of their own imagination;
Not from the mouth of the LORD” (Jer. 23:16)

• Jesus warns the crowd that this will continue to be a risk for them

“Beware of the false prophets”

Notice the animal metaphor that Jesus uses to illustrate the risk
– compare this with his warning to the disciples before deploying them:

Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men (10:16-17)

• this is a similar analogy with reference to animals
◦ but in spite of the potential danger of aggressive wolves,
◦ it’s men that pose the greatest threat
• Jesus is watching out for his followers; he is warning them
– in the 1960’s and 70’s, many Christians wanted to learn about biblical prophecy
• they wanted to know how the world was going to end
◦ and if they could fulfillment of Bible predictions in the daily newspaper
• the disciples were curious too about when the end would come and what signs would precede it
◦ when Jesus answered their questions, the first words out of his mouth were:

See to it that no one misleads you (Mt. 24:4)

• isn’t that interesting?
◦ his first concern was that their fascination over fulfilled prophesy would be used to deceive them
◦ this is an ongoing danger that Jesus saw as a serious threat

Sheep appear harmless, vulnerable, fragile
– a perfect disguise for deadly religious predators

To conservative Christians, the danger is false doctrine
– but that is not always the case — the person who brings the message can be false
• false prophets can talk about God while promoting themselves

Many popular teachers make bold promises when selling people on their books, seminars, conferences, and recorded messages. They advertise their literature and lectures as providing buyers with the biblical principles necessary to divorce-proof their marriages; drug-proof their children; make rapid and pain-free progress in their spiritual journey; or attain all the material wealth every Christian should enjoy. Their spiel is so authoritative and promising, it is difficult to resist the broad path they promise the Christian consumer.

• more than once, prophets and people conspired substitute easy bromides for hard truth

An appalling and horrible thing
Has happened in the land:
The prophets prophesy falsely . . .
And My people love it so! (Jer. 5:30-31)

You must not prophesy to us what is right,
Speak to us pleasant words,
Prophesy illusions (Isa. 30:10)

– the truth about the false prophets: inwardly they are ravenous wolves
• “inwardly” has been one of Jesus’ main points in the Sermon
◦ he has been continuously probing our hearts
◦ and he will carry this on through the remainder of his ministry
• we have to look inward to find the real person

Jesus changes the metaphors to plants and trees

You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
So then, you will know them by their fruits Matthew 7: 16-20

The question now is, How can we recognize the false prophet?

read more…

Dec 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 10, 2017 – Matthew 7:7-14

We Can Do this the Easy Way or . . .

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8

Intro: Working our way through a passage like this,

We have to occasionally step back to see the whole canvas
– otherwise we lose perspective
• a couple of verses in today’s reading are familiar–even famous
• but they are usually quoted in isolation from their setting
◦ because their perspective is lost, we lose some of their meaning
– so stepping back to what we’ve seen over last few weeks:

  1. The first half of chapter 6: we do not need to be hypocrites
    ◦ because our heavenly Father knows our devotion to him
    ◦ and that alone is what matters
  2. The second half of chapter 6: we do not need to be anxious
    ◦ because our Father, who cares for birds and flowers, knows our needs
  3. In first six verse of chapter 7: we do not need to judge others
    ◦ today we learn why

We can go to God with every need or concern

What motivates someone to critique and condemn another person?
– many do it to feel better about themselves
• perhaps because they feel:
◦ deeply insecure
◦ socially awkward, unable to connect face-to-face
◦ unimportant and overlooked
• perhaps they assume that exposing the flaws of others:
◦ improves their social status
◦ gives them power or influence
– I’ve know judgmental people who are trying to prove something
• not just they are right (e.g., doctrinally) and others are wrong
◦ but to prove that they are experts and therefore important
◦ they create the impression that people should listen to them
• then there are those with an inflated ego
• narcissists really believe they are better than everyone else

Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant [“puffs up” in KJV], but love edifies (1 Cor. 8:1)

We do not need to equalize social imbalances by judging others
– or build ourselves up by putting others down

read more…

Dec 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 3, 2017 – Matthew 7:1-6

It Really Is That Simple

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2

Intro: At first, it seems like Jesus jumps to an entirely different subject

In fact, he is continuing to develop his theme of superior righteousness (Mt. 5:20)
– he is still concerned with the spirit of God’s law and our inner lives
• what he moves to in this passage is another way this applies to our lives
• Jesus covered two issues in chapter 6:
hypocrisy: a potential problem we may have with God
anxiety: a potential problem we may have with “things”
– now he covers a new issue
judging: a potential problem we may have with other people

The Greek word translated “judge” is krino and has lots of meanings
– separate, evaluate, discern, condemn
• knowing how to interpret it depends a lot on the context
• in this instance Jesus says, “Don’t do this,” which indicates something that is always wrong
◦ so perhaps he is saying, “Do not condemn others”
◦ it is not our job to separate sheep from goats
◦ or decide whether a person stands or falls before God (Ro. 14:4)
– we can immediately dismiss the idea Jesus forbids making any kind of judgment
• such as the judicial system, discerning whether a person is safe or someone is telling the truth
◦ these types of judgments have the support of scripture
• if we keep in mind the whole sermon, the Lord’s concerns include:

  • Not evaluating or forming opinions of others without compassion for them
    ◦ we have been instructed to love even our enemies
    ◦ certainly we are not to identify someone’s error or wrong doing without love
  • Whatever we discover about others, we must be ready to show them mercy
    ◦ we are to be peacemakers
    ◦ the goal of confronting someone is to be reconciled to him or her (cf. Mt. 18:15)

A couple of interesting facets of this chapter’s text:

  1. We will find echoes of the beatitudes in it
    • for example: “Blessed are merciful … the pure in heart … the peacemakers”
    • what we have learned already is elaborated and reinforced
  2. We will find it is filled with metaphors
    • balance scales, a speck and a log, animals, a gate, a vine, etc.
    • metaphors add artistry to a speech
    ◦ and they assists our understanding through analogies
    ◦ but metaphors also create challenges for interpretation

1-2, The flip-side of “Blessed are the merciful . . .” (5:7)

read more…

Nov 28 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 26, 2017 – Matthew 6:31-34

All These “Things”

Do not worry then, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear for clothing?” Matthew 6:31

Intro: We are wrapping up this section of Jesus’ Sermon

As we do, I want us to be asking ourselves a question:
– Why does Jesus devote so much of his sermon to worry?
• he had far less to say regartding anger, lust, broken promises, revenge
• what makes worry so dangerous?

31, He repeats what he said at beginning with a slight rewording

This time he puts these worries into our mouths: “saying, ‘What shall we eat?’”
– worry is what we feel, saying is what we do
• or to put it another way, worries are thoughts we say to ourselves
• we feel anxiety before we have any thoughts about it
– think of an animal in the wild — it hears a sound, sees movement, catches a scent
• it will immediately freeze and become hyper-alert
◦ our nervous system functions the same way

An outside event (loud noise, erratic motorist, etc.) or internal sensation reaches the brain stem (the lowest part of the brain that connects it to the spinal cord) that triggers a warning. Immediately the brain stem takes action, causing the release of chemicals into the blood stream to put the body on alert. A message is delivered to the rational brain, “Something’s wrong!” There it is analyzed and processed in order to identify the threat and determine its severity. In doing this, it translates the signal into thoughts and words.

• if the cause of alarm is vague or unknown, the brain invents its own
◦ that is when we start “saying” things to ourselves
◦ “What about this?” “What about that?”

Jesus wants us to work on developing a different response
– one that kicks in before we even form thoughts and words
• thoughts and words are interpretations of our experience
• how we interpret events is determined by our perspective
– if I begin every morning with the same anxious feelings,
• it is because I’m looking at each day through the same eyes
• that is where Jesus wants to work the changes
◦ in our perspective — how we look at and interpret everything

32, Two related factors that are relevant to the change

For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. Matthew 6:32

“For” and “for” — “For the Gentiles” and “for your heavenly Father”
– the first “for” explains why we worry
– the second “for” explains why we don’t have to worry

read more…

Nov 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Guest Speaker – Elyse Snipes

Listening to God and Acoustic Resonance

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (The beginning of the Shema, a fixed daily prayer in Judaism)

Good morning, thank you for having me. I am so deeply grateful to be here this morning with all of you.

When I originally sat down to prepare this sermon my mind went to 100 different places in regards to what to share.
This morning we are going to figure out what fishing, echolocation, the Shema and 1 Corinthians have in common.
I want you to journey with me through this process . . . we are going to hear how all these things have to do with you and God and Christianity and changing the world we live in with the noise we make.

Listening and Sound

My usual process of preparing for a sermon begins with listening.

I try to find a space where I can let my mind run. Like when you go fishing and you keep letting the line out until something catches and then there is this dance between fisher and fish, a tension and an art in how you pull it in. A little at a time, let it run again, reel in hard, give it some line, pull back in.
That is what the exchange feels like when settling on a concept or idea and everything that one idea is attached to.

Sometimes when I prepare for a sermon, I ask myself a question, and the answer is right there, ready to be served up. Other times, it is like that elusive fish, where I know I have something on the line, but it isn’t close enough for me to know what it is, so all I can do is keep the tension on the line and lure it towards me.

Preparing for this morning, I responded to Chuck by telling him I would pay attention to what was reverberating within me. Because this is exactly what it feels like, like there is something banging around in there, clanging off all my walls, attempting to come forth.
I kept toying with that idea of reverberating, of noise, and sound and listening.
I thought about how we first learn sounds, and how those sounds become familiar to us, and eventually become language and safety, healing and tribe.
I thought about how we not only become familiar with the sound itself but the sound associated with a specific person.
Which got me thinking about attachment, imprinting and moms.

I thought about nursery songs and cadence, acoustic resonance and tuning forks. My mind ran to things I remembered learning about in grade school, echolocation and circadian rhythms.
I thought about cultures and people before there was writing and how their tradition was based on language and sound and symbol. Like how the Jewish people used the Shema – as a call and response, as identity, as religion and connection and remembering. As a way to shape culture and inform the next generation.
I thought about their obedience and their listening to God, about how that passage in Deuteronomy is instructive and how now, thousands of years later you can see young men in front of the wailing wall still literally obeying this scripture with their phylacteries and fringes.

I thought about how the original sound of the Shema reverberated through their culture and manifested in a physical way that we can now see. And how sound and language tend to do that, become shape and figure, artifact and culture.

When I was down one of these particular rabbit holes of thought, I got distracted by the noise of my children and shot back up to the surface of now and after taking care of whatever they needed, I felt like I needed to reset in order to get back into the stream of thought. Like when you try to get back into a dream, maybe the right position will help you pick up where you left off. Which reminded me of how our bodies naturally tend to pair themselves with the noise in our environments, constantly seeking homeostasis.
If we feel stressed or anxious in here, we act stressed and anxious out here. If our external environment doesn’t match our internal environment we feel disconnected, out of alignment, off. Sometimes we try to regulate our insides by seeking a soothing external environment to bring our inside down.
Like listening to classical music. Which reduces our heart rate and our breathing. We are physiologically affected as we match the sound around us.
We seek sound on purpose.

Are you with me?
I thought about your group here that meets and what you represent in the community, your specific sound, if you will. I thought about Chuck, and how much I have missed the sound of his voice. But not just the sound, it’s the way he says what he says and how he has shaped me as a follower of Christ. How the sound of his voice reminds me of all the times and places I have listened to him.
Which made me think about object permanence and memory and how the brain holds these different components that allow us to pull up our past in real time. And how music does this really well, listening to a song can transport us back to when we first heard it.

I then thought about a David Crowder version of an old song, where he sings about “tuning our hearts to sing His grace.”
I thought about instruments and how they produce sound, but more than sound; they make music.
And that passage from 1 Corinthians, “if I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal”.

Which, brought me to love, because that is what it’s all about always. Like that song the Beatles wrote, “All you need is — love.” And what our world so desperately needs. From us.

Aren’t you glad you don’t live in my mind? We would never get anything done.
Can you see what happens when you let your mind wander? When it goes to all these places and back again and off track and down the rabbit hole and through thousands of years and ancient texts and modern day music.

Now you have a general map of all the concepts connected to our time together today, to this idea of sound. I want to spend some more time hovering over some of these specific trails to see what may connect to your particular experience and hopefully initiate your own mental wanderings.

Our first landmark:

How do you listen? To God. What does this look like? How do you discern His voice from the milieu? Christians can get hung up on this. Either overly afraid they are making up God’s voice or sure they have never heard from him or mistake a shameful, harsh voice as God’s because of their projected idea of father. Sound familiar? How do we know when it’s really God?

Sometimes I think of it like this, before caller ID, you answered the phone and you could tell who it was by the sound of their voice. If you heard your mom’s voice anywhere, you would recognize it. That is what recognizing the voice of God is like, or a voice of wisdom. It is familiar, you feel it, you know when it lines up with all the other times you talked together. You know it as sure as you know your mother when she calls. It is more than the noise she makes, it is in the connection you have. You know if your mom called you and told you something crazy that didn’t align with her character, you would notice. And you would investigate what was going on. You know – experientially. You know the voice of God, it is the life-giving, gracious, lavish voice. If what you hear doesn’t line up with what scripture says, with who you know God to be, then it probably isn’t God.

I have to tell you a story about a “silent” retreat I did in Thailand. This was my greatest attempt at listening to God.
I spent a semester abroad in Thailand when I was in college. And during Spring Break I decided to go to a monastery for eight days to do a silent retreat. Because that is what all college students do on spring break, right? I was looking forward to this opportunity. I was in a little stone monastery, tucked in the mountains of a remote village in the middle of nowhere. The saffron robes of the monks was almost shocking compared to the dark green of the jungle around us. There was a walking maze in the garden, a stream with a little bench, little nooks for quiet meditation. A gong that would call us to meals was the only sound besides what nature provided us with. The idea was eight days of silence. Quiet contemplation. A deep searching. But quiet, that was the whole point.
Well, it was anything but that. As soon as I took my vow of silence and turned off my mouth, my mind went a million miles an hour. It was loud. And I couldn’t escape it. I couldn’t turn it off by engaging in conversation or distracting myself with TV or work or anything for that matter. It was uncomfortable. All the chatter and noise. The memories and thoughts and scatteredness. Not at all what I anticipated on a silent retreat. Because of all the pent up noise inside me.
I had not incorporated any time in my regular life for silence, so all my noise came rushing forward. I walked that maze all day and imagined my thoughts and experiences unraveling behind me as I walked, becoming un-mummified. I just let it all run out behind me until I got to the end of myself and I could just sit and breathe and accept and hold. One of the most intense mental experiences of my life.

Are you making time in your life to listen? How can you avoid that not so silent experience and let it out more often, so as not to be overwhelmed by the silence when you actually do come to stop and listen? Like the time of silent prayer we started with today.
One of my favorite descriptions of prayer is by Theophan the Recluse: “To pray, is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all seeing within you.” He didn’t mention a single thing about speaking. Just standing. Like when St. Francis of Assissi, said, “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” They are on to something … we will come back to that at the end. The power of opposite action and living a lovely life.

What do you listen to?

Literally, what music do you listen to? What podcasts? What teachings?
How do these affect you? Inform you? Change you? Elevate you?
Do you notice how you feel when you are listening to these different mediums? What it produces within you? How sound changes you?

Lets take that even deeper… What does it sound like within you?
If we were to listen in to your inner voice, your thought process, what would it feel like? Positive and encouraging? Inspiring and hopeful? Or shaming, impoverished and small?
Do you notice how what you listen to here (point to head) affects how you feel here (heart) and what you do out here?
The sound of our thoughts, positive or negative, influence our direct experience of ourselves. Our perception of others. Our world view. The noise in our head can keep us from stepping out, doing something great, or engaging vulnerably with others.


when the sound in our head is gracious, we settle in to our skin a little differently. We embrace all the parts of ourselves. This directly influences others experience of us.

Like this question for instance: what do you sound like to others when they are listening to you? When you engage in dialogue with others, what do you sound like? This is an important and difficult question to hold. Sometimes we don’t like the way we sound, in here or out here. And we can get into a cycle of cacophony.

Spend some time considering your sound.

Lets move to another rabbit hole—language

We learn by practicing and making sense of these random collections of noises by repetition and trying. I have three young kiddos, so we are right in the middle of speech and probably speech therapy. We do all sorts of crazy things when our kids are little. “Say, ‘Dada,’ ‘Mama,’ ‘ball’.” We simplify sounds and language to make it more possible for them to learn. We mimic and mirror the language sounds to show our children or grandchildren we hear them and to induce a back and forth pattern. Relationship gets easier when we can identify what it is they want and communicate it. There is a deeper connection when they look at you and say, “Mama”. They gain more mastery over their environment which results in less melt downs and emotional regulation. We learn by practicing, by repeating.

For us, it might sound like this, “Our Father, who art in heaven” … or memorizing scripture.

We practice the language of scripture to connect to our heavenly Father and to have mastery over our earthly environment.

Are you starting to see how listening and sound and language are an integrated part of our experience in Christ? Let’s keep going.

Association –
We begin to associate specific people with specific sounds, and certain feelings to those sounds. And people also begin to associate us with a certain sound or feeling as well. That physical reaction when we hear someone sing, or hear someone we don’t particularly care for, we actually have a physiological response (example of posture or looking away or closing our eyes, or moving away) it actually changes our frequency. We feel negatively and then we can create a wave of that negative frequency that reverberates in others.
A frustrating day at work, we come home and are short with our spouse, who gets impatient with the kids, who act out and kick the dog. Unrelated but directly connected. And in reverse, we come together and have this collective, elevated experience, we have attuned ourselves to the heavenly’s and something spiritual reverberates within us and we carry it with us and we see things more positively, more graciously, we are friendly to the stranger, who in turn goes home and is kind to his partner who is then moved in compassion for their kids, who bask in their parents affection and they weren’t even here this morning.

Do you hear it?

This is how the world changes. This is how we make a difference. How we make some noise. How we start a symphony.

Tuning Fork Example

There is this video on Youtube and you can look it up later. Just search “tuning fork acoustic resonance.” What happens is there are two identical tuning forks, which make the same frequency, and they are placed right next to each other, but only one is struck. When the one is struck and is making it’s sound, the other one starts to reverberate in the identical sound wave or frequency, producing the same noise.
They were tuning to each other, just by being next to each other.
Pretty influential.
Maybe kind of like what we are doing here. Maybe something will be struck in you and then you might cause that sound in someone else. Acoustic resonance. I love that concept, especially as it related to the church. I love thinking about our collective sound and what we sound like to our heavenly father.

Naturally, when talking about sound we need to talk about Echolocation.
Echolocation, is the biological sonar used by several kinds of animals. Echolocating animals emit calls out to the environment and listen to the echoes of those calls that return from various objects near them. They use these echoes to locate and identify the objects.

I had a client in my office a couple weeks ago, she is ten, and she came in with a cast because she was trying to use echolocation to move around the house and fell and broke her arm.

Making a sound helps us to know where we are and where others are. It helps us to navigate through life, to perceive our position in relation to something else. We don’t literally do this, like that young girl, but we do it like this: How are you? A check to see if we need to reposition ourselves. How are we? A sounding to gauge where we are. “I am thinking about …. what do you think?” Feedback, brainstorming, conversation.

We sound off of each other. Process aloud, ask for others’ opinions and perspectives, “Do you think this looks nice?” We offer words of encouragement, we use language to remind each other of who we are.

I have a friend who when growing up and when she would leave her house, her parents would say, “Remember who you are and who’s you are.”
I love this. And now she says this to her children.

Repetitious language that gives identity, comfort, strength and position.

Like a call and response – a known and expected pattern of communication that only exists when the two come together.

The Shema

For the Jewish people, who when the high priest would invoke the Divine Name, the people would respond with, “Hear, O Israel, The Lord is our God, the Lord is one”. The Shema was used in worship and in their gathering together.
This back and forth was a declaration that not only defined who they were in relationship to each other but also whose they were as a collective people in relationship to their neighbors who were polytheistic. They belonged to the Lord, the one and only. This was distinguishing and holy. This was identity and imprinted into their minds and passed through generations. The Shema is the perfect example of how basic sounds become more than a repetition of collected syllables. This was their core. And it exists today because it was ingrained in who they were and passed through every generation. Before there was writing.

I do this thing with my daughter, she is one, and I will ask her, “Who’s my girl?” And she will look up at me and smile and say, “Eden.” This is equally a reminder of who she is as well as a moment of connection, our way of saying there is something special between you and me. Our own shema. Using language for connection, intimacy, identity and presence.

Let’s talk about Distraction + Pairing. We can set an intention, much like in silent prayer, and we can get distracted, a phone ringing, remembering all the things we need to do, hunger, boredom, rushed thoughts, anxious feeling in our chest, difficulty slowing down, unhealthy rhythms of work that lack balance. Distraction from our calling in Christ, how we want to be joyful always and patient in affliction, but become distracted by pain, pulled out of the flow of grace by doubt, anger, deep suffering.
We can know so much about who we are and what His word says about our firm identity in Christ and the noise of the Accuser can drown out the still, small voice within us.
When we fail, or blow it in relationship, or let someone down and all we can hear is, “You are a failure,” “You will never be enough,” “You always do this.”

Or what about when someone hurts you. What does it sound like within you then? Do you become accusatory and ruthless? Do you confirm their wrong-doing with sentiments like, “I knew it . . .,” “He always . . .,” or add fuel to fire with proof from the past, “. . . just like the last time,” “He did the same thing to me.”

Justifying the rejection or pain with statements that make them less.

We can get distracted by the sound of the dialogue within us. A tug o war between love and vitriol. And then we remember, and we want to pair ourselves again to something holy. To something good. We might turn on a worship song, recite scripture, call a friend, speak a positive affirmation, silence ourselves and descend into our hearts to worship our creator. We might look at the waves and pair our breathing to those great rollers. Or go for a walk and notice the way the branches sway in the breeze and consider how nature seems to be aware of something we’re not.

We use our surrounding, or we can, to ground us, to turn our hearts heavenwards, to slow down, to enter in.

Memory + Sound. One of the components of memory is sound. Beyond our conscious effort, the brain holds memories made up of the components: images, thoughts, emotions and sensations like sounds, smells and bodily feelings. We may have memories that are already paired with sound or a song for instance. There was a song played at my brother’s memorial service that I cannot escape and every time I hear it I am transported back there. Not necessarily in a sad way, but in a very real way, in a way that makes me wonder if this is some message from beyond, some reaching out from behind the veil? Who knows?
But this sound can produce an experience. Do you know what I am talking about? When you hear it and it strikes a chord and you may feel choked up, or nostalgic or giddy?

That song I mentioned earlier, the one David Crowder sings, is called “Come Thou Fount” and talks about tuning our hearts to sing His grace. I mean, come on! The word picture there is so rich. To think that just like those tuning forks, we could strike our hearts against His word and sing His grace to this broken, needy world.

His grace

Not condemnation or judgment or hate or superiority or exclusivity or ignorance. No. If that is what is resounding within us, we are a clanging cymbal.

Which takes us to 1 Corinthians – Paul was writing this letter to a church plant in Corinth, one of the most wicked cities in ancient times and as a new church with lots of recent converts from heathenism, there were more than a few issues he needed to provide instruction on. Let me read this commentary to you about the specific passage about love:

The more excellent way is “Love.” Without it all moral and intellectual gifts are valueless. If there be love—the love of God, and the love of our brethren—in our hearts, all will be well. This hymn of praise in honor of love is remarkable. That this passage should be found in the middle of a protracted argument suggests the idea that what we have here is the result of a sudden and direct inspiration. The Apostle had always been conscious of a mighty power working in him, mastering him, bringing him into captivity to Christ. There suddenly flashes upon him the realization of what that power is, and he cannot but at once give utterance, in language of surpassing loftiness and glowing with emotion, to the new and profound conviction which has set his whole soul aflame. This chapter is the Baptismal Service of Love. Here it receives its new Christian name. The word (agapè) which is used here for love is peculiar to the New Testament (and a few passages in the LXX.). It is not to be found in any heathen writing.

Beautiful. To think of Paul, this strong, authoritative figure who wrote most of the New Testament, is being moved by love and it flows right through his pen into the paper, into Corinth, into us. Reminds me of how the prophet Jeremiah explains it,

“But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

To be powerfully, powerless to the movement of love.

Corinth was positioned on an isthmus, the chief city in Greece and a leader in commerce. Read, “all different types of people and languages.” Being able to speak multiple languages was extremely valuable to a Corinthian because it would allow you to do business with anyone. “If I speak in the tongues of men,” Paul wrote,
“or of angels” — that heavenly language, direct access to God, eloquent, superior, beyond human. Also a coveted gift.

“But do not have LOVE,” I am a noise. A worthless sound. It doesn’t have value in the kingdom of God. In the heavenly trade. Because love is the currency of the kingdom. And without it, we are just a bunch of clamoring brass. You guys, the world does not need more good, anyone can do good. The world needs agape. It needs spontaneous combustion. It needs us to make a sound that tunes all our hearts to the resounding frequency of grace.

You know the difference. You know what it feels like when you feel something within you connect to something bigger than yourself, let’s call that the prompting of love, and then from out of that vertical connection, you act, you do something for someone else, you apply that horizontally. You love, you agape love.
I imagine a heavenly chorus sounding. I picture the most talented musicians earth has known who are now on the other side, responding to our acts of love with the most incredible sound. Like they are in this great arena watching us, like an inverse symphony where the band is all around us and we are in the center. And there is this beautiful call and response that happens… we love, because he first loved us. An “I love you” and an “I love you too.” A “Do you love me Peter?” “Yes, Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.” “Then feed my sheep.”

A call, a response, a directive, a lifetime of service and action. A sound of love that was recorded thousands of years ago and we can still hear today.

Our world, our country, our community, our families, need us now more than ever. Need love, now, more than ever. How many mass shootings have we endured in the last few months? How many more will we have before the year is over? Something is so seriously broken in our country, in our world.
On a smaller scale, how many families are hurting and entering into the holiday season with dread? Our communities are in need.

So let me ask you this:

What sound do Christians make? What noise are they/we known for? Is it a crowd of naysayers and judgment?

Or could we be a great cloud of witnesses, cheering others on as we all seek to run this great race?

How can we reverberate differently into our communities so that the noise we make isn’t hurtful to others? So that we aren’t cloaking spirituality around shame and contingencies.

The world needs the church. And we are the church.

How are we going to respond to this need, to this calling?

Let’s do it, with a symphony. Let’s start a wave of change so that people have more experiences of Christians being considerate, aware, intelligent and generous. You are already that. You have been affected by His great love and you are already tuned to resonate this back into the world. You have gathered here today, and most Sundays to strike that tuning fork and to get back into the frequency of grace. So, don’t let that sound stop when you walk out of the room. Carry that with you, into your marriage, into your work, into your communities and into the world. Let’s make some noise.

The sound the world needs is LOVE. Agape love. Heavenly love. If we take all our good intentions and things we think we know about God and the Bible and faith and clang around out there, people are going to plug their ears. They aren’t going to be able to hear the music.

So, how? How do we do this? How do we embody this love you?

Like this –

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Let’s sound like that. Let’s tune our heart to sing a melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above.

Nov 14 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 12, 2017 – Matthew 6:25-30

What Have Your Worries Done for You Recently?

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?
An why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Matthew 6:25-30

Intro: Last week, Jesus put us in between God and Mammon

Mammon is an Aramaic word that Matthew did not translate Mammon
– it has to do with pursuit of wealth and possessions
• perhaps Jesus was putting a name to this
◦ personified materialism to indicate how it can be like a god
• Jesus had also said our treasures are stored in heaven or on earth (therefore, with God or Mammon)
◦ he drew a line in sand when he said, You cannot serve God and Mammon
◦ they are two competing loyalties–and winner takes all
– by the way, a person does not need to be rich to be materialistic
• we can still be obsessed with money – think about it, desire it, place our hope in it
• that brings us to Jesus’ next subject

Where this conflict shows up in our everyday lives

“For this reason” connects what Jesus just said and what he’s about to say
– how do people serve Mammon?
• we learn it is possible to do this without making a conscious decision
◦ it has to do with one of the ways Mammon is served:
. . . do not worry about your life
◦ worry is an expression of our devotion

For example, parents who love and care for their children cannot help but worry about their development as well as their health and safety. And this is true regardless of the child’s age, from infancy to adulthood. This natural tendency to worry can escalate into an unhealthy obsession.  Also, it is one thing to worry over those we love and another thing to worry over every material and eventful thing.

• we show our devotion to God through worship
◦ we show devotion to Mammon through worry
– either we ask our Father for daily bread or we worry about it
• it seems to me that worry is our nervous system’s default setting
◦ worriers are often concerned, meticulous and religious people
◦ in fact, Religion, Inc. tends to create lots of worries
• those who serve Mammon–for example, by piling up money and hoarding it–
◦ are not relieved of worry, but loaded with more worries
◦ and their eternal prospect is not bliss, but worry, worry, worry world without end

The Greek New Testament uses three different words for life
bios: embodied life; zoe: life itself (an organism vs a nonliving thing)
• and here, where the Greek word for soul is used
◦ soul can be seen as synonymous with life
• the soul is the life force of the body; the inner life
◦ everyday issues of sustaining its existence–e.g., food and clothing
– worry is also a soul issue, in regard to mood, outlook, emotions
• Jesus’ target in throughout his sermon is the soul, the inner life
Is not life is more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Three observations:

  1. Food and clothes do not exhaust all possible sources of anxiety
    – food and clothes are simply examples of typical daily worries
  2. Anxiety throws our minds into an imagined future
    – in this case, a future in which food and clothing are uncertain
  3. “more than” was a favorite form of logic among rabbis
    – “If something true of this, then how much more that!
    – what is more difficult to produce or replace, clothes or body?
    – another way of reading this is, “There’s more to body than how you cover it”

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