Monday, December 10, 2007

Sermon 12-9-07

Dead Wood: Roscoe, Texas a farm town with a population of just 1,300, is about to become Wind City U.S.A. — the locus of one of the biggest wind farms in the nation and the world. It's a striking development in a state better known as the U.S. leader in emissions of global warming gases.
The wind project is largely due to the vision of a one-armed, 65-year-old cotton farmer named Cliff Etheredge.
"We used to cuss the wind," he says. "Killed our crops, carried our moisture away, dried out our land. But because of the advent of the wind farms, we've had a complete 180-degree attitude change. Now, we love the wind."
A few years ago, Etheredge noticed wind towers sprouting up near his cotton farm and wondered if Roscoe could cash in on the great West Texas wind boom. He hit the jackpot. A company called Airtricity, out of Dublin, Ireland, is spending more than $1 billion installing as many as 640 huge windmills around Roscoe. Together, they'll generate 800 megawatts, enough to power 265,000 homes. That once-cursed wind that blows across the Big Country may ultimately pay royalties to as many as 400 property owners.
"No one could've imagined this three years ago," says Etheredge. "It's absolutely unbelievable."
He says the income from a windmill is more dependable than dry-land cotton farming, where drought and hail are constant threats. Depending on the size of the turbine, a landowner can earn between $5,000 and $15,000 per windmill per year.
A "lot of the farmers around here are getting 10 to 20 towers, so it's going to make living in Roscoe a lot easier for those of us that are farmers here," Althof says.
All of this came just in time for Roscoe, where the trains don't stop anymore. Worse, the Dairy Queen closed three years ago. Cliff Etheredge says that in West Texas, that means your town is really in trouble.
"When I was a kid, all the traffic from Fort Worth to El Paso came right through town," he says. "Well the interstate bypassed town, and that's when it began to just dry up. All these stores began to close and no one reopened them. And no one came back home from college or school, none of the young people did, or very few of them. So mainly we've got a lot of old folks in this town. That's about it."
Now, there are new signs of life. Walking along Broadway Street, Etheredge points with his good arm — he lost the other one to a cotton harvester — to the cafe that's just expanded and the new Mexican restaurant.
"Hopefully, we'll see Roscoe reborn here," he says.(NPR/Environment).
This is one example of how wind can make a difference in the lives of people who were feeling despair about their future.
Today’s scripture talks about the God’s Spirit, which Isaiah pronounces is life giving, future creating, world forming, despair ending power. The tree stump has had its very life ripped off from its roots. There was no trunk, no branches, no leaves, no fruit. But yet, life is still possible, a shoot, barely noticeable sprouts up, is nurtured and once again bears fruit. Isaiah and John the Baptist talk about the reality of such a leader being born into the world so we too can feel the power of God, in the midst of our lives.
A king with spirit
First , this king will have wisdom which is equals practical and FAIR leadership. The story of the wind farms is one of ordinary people who need to find a way of reversing the downward spiral of their economic reality. Cliff Etheridge used practical wisdom to research and then pursue the vision of using the wind, which had brought destruction and applying a practical solution to bring people hope. This project brought a town on the edge of poverty, a new beginning. So too for us the King will bring us a new vision for what is possible even in the times we feel despair and resignation.
The new king will be able to combine counsel and might which equals diplomatic and military SKILL. The New king would know how to make the possibilities become reality. Of course in the prophet and in the preaching of John, both anticipated a military leader who would lead a rebel uprising, ala Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, but as it turns out it is not a military Messiah that is born, but one that advocates for peace, and for people to learn how to get along. The non-violent resistance advocated by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., and many others has its roots in the teachings of Jesus. And as I learned in class at Boston University, Martin’s alma mater, non-violent resistance is still resisting the forces of evil, it is an active not a passive strategy to bring about peace in the world.
Lastly a King with Spirit will have a FEAR of the Lord which equals piety. Fear is used here to denote respect, honor, a giving away of ones own personal agenda to listen to the voice of God, to be in harmony with the deeply rooted values woven into life. This past week the presidential campaign coverage was focused on the speech given by Mitt Romney who addressed a fear that many evangelical Christians have voiced: He said his faith would shape his moral values, but he promised that his church would not dictate his policies.
"Let me assure you," Romney said, "that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin."
This speech echoed the words of John F. Kennedy who had to address the fears raised about his Roman Catholic Faith. Political leaders are not religious leaders, and our system of separation of church and state is a hallmark feature of our government. Yes our political views need to be shaped by the universal morals of our life together, yet we do not need a preacher in the white house, we need someone who fears God but who has the wisdom and skill to lead us a country.
A true Leader that Isaiah points to has several qualities
JUDGES with Righteousness. This kind of leader is not open to bribes, or subject to propaganda, this kind of leader is concerned not with his own needs, but with the needs of the meek and the powerless. The messiah judges us according to how we tended to the needs of these forgotten ones.
A true leader: Believes in the power of GOD. It is a proven fact that leaders who are given too much power, will abuse it. Kings often would get in positions of authority and use it to their advantage, forgetting their pledge to serve God, and the people. A true King would never forget to be humble, and give all the glory to God.
A true leader Rules with Justice: there are far too many acts of injustice in the world, women who are sold as slaves, children who starve, men who are lost in the web of mental illness. Our world is hurting, just as much as it was in the times of Isaiah. We need leaders who will right the ship, who will help our world to function in a healthy fruitful way.
Advent is a time when we anticipate this new King to arrive into the midst of our lives. Isaiah calls us to trust in this new king, the new wind that moves over us, threw us, within us, and give up the ways of the past that have led to destruction. As we move to John the Baptist we go from hearing about the new king and what the king will do, to what our role is in this new kingdom.
We need to anticipate the king and John
Calls us to change FOCUS. This week I was talking to one of the staff people working at my wife Linda’s church. We were talking about her background, and her experience in the church. She said, “you know I really love when worship is for God, and instead of singing about God, we sing to God.” Her words did not really sink in until yesterday when our choir was rehersing for next weeks cantata. As I was singing, I tried changing my focus on my preperation for the cantata concentrating on singing to God. My whole attitude changed, and I had a much more joyful experience in singing. Instead of feeling badly about the mistakes I made, the missed notes, counting wrong, I realized this was all so I could sing of my love to God! Now as we prepare for Christmas, I wonder if there if we could all shift our focus, from having to buy the right presents, make the right food, seeing all the right people, to making things right with God, and making sure our focus is on praising God for the gift of a lifetime, Jesus our Lord and Saviour.
John states that once we repent of our sins, honestly desire to turn our lives around we will bear fruit. John Wesley said, “The fruit of faith whereby we are born of God is power over sin, power over outward sin of every kind; over every evil word and work”. To repent means to be a child of God, to believe in God, through Christ, and not to commit sin and to enjoy at all times and in all places, that “peace of God which passeth all understanding”. Lastly, we are to make our whole life a labor of love. When we honestly repent, we yearn to live a life worthy of God, and all we do worthy to God.
JESUS in redefined: As I mentioned earlier Jesus was thought of as one who would be a military leader. However, Jesus does not take on that role, rather he calls us to love one another, our neighbors, ourselves, the world. Again, Wesley emphasized for us to repent of anything that was contrary to the love of our neighbor: “Find jealousies, any evil surmisings, any groundless or unreasonable suspicions, malice, hatred, bitterness, envy, resentment, revenge, all which do not spring form brotherly love, all which does not agree with that golden rule, ‘What ye would that should do to you, even so do unto them’.
So What? What are we to do in this Advent time to anticipate, and to prepare for Christmas?
I repeat the three actions we can take that I mentioned last week
PRAY attention; By taking more time to pray we can then be open to how God’s spirit is moving in our lives,and in the life of the world. We can lift up all our confessions, all our needs, and refocus on God in prayer. It is free, easy and there are no right ways to pray, we can be formal or informal, as long as we are talking to God, and this is key, wait for an answer.
Prepare and be READY: It is a good time to take moments in the middle of the business of the season, to take account, of all things
WORK FOR PEACE: You and I are working together for peace. We does this in small ways, like studying the Bible together, serving the homeless, worshiping God.
This how we anticipate the messiah, in small ways guided by the wind of God, who turns desperate situations into opportunities for practicing peace.

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