My Senior Sermon: “Finding The Light”

Senior Sermon: April 15, 2014

Sermon Title: Finding the Light

Scriptural Text: John 12:20-36

 

 

God give us clear minds, open spirits, and loving hearts. Amen.

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At one point in our lives we are going to stop and think, Do I really believe in Jesus? Do I doubt his existence? Is there really something to experience in a walk with God? I think we have all struggled with these questions at some point or time in our lives.

I know I struggle with it now having yet losing another family member.
My great grandfather was a courageous human being, he was a World War II veteran, he gave up land so a high school could be built on what little land he received from the government.

Thirty-five percent of his land did belong to the government so they were able to sell off part of his land to oil companies. This has been an on-going struggle between the Utah Navajo and the Resolute oil company who own the oil fields that are scattered on part of my great grandfather’s land in the town of Montezuma Creek Utah. The Utah Navajo to this day have only received 35% of the oil royalties that are profited from this land.

My great- grandfather also initiated the production of a gas station on his land. I do not know the full story about this gas station but it had been a successful business for my great grandfather for a few years, it did thrive as a business at one point, but still it was never entirely his and it was never enough for his huge family to live off of. The point is…. my great grandfather cared enough for the community of Montezuma Creek that he gave away pieces of his handed down property so that others could benefit from it.
In our text this morning, Jesus gives us the key to living above the normal human experience. He not only tells us what it is, he also shows us by example the path that leads to life as it was meant to be experienced.

I. The events in Jesus’ life are moving rapidly toward the cross.

1. It is the time of the Passover feast in Jerusalem. It is a matter of days before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.

2. And as you often see in pictures of the Palm Sunday narrative, Jesus is often depicted riding in on a young donkey.

It was a declaration of his messiahship. He arrives as King of the Jews. We know from the other gospels that Jesus had arranged for this entry.

It is a fulfillment that we find in chapter 9 verse 9 in Zechariah “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” NIV

That was a powerful sign because kings do not normally ride into the city on the colt of a donkey. They normally come riding in on a prancing stallion. But Jesus’ manner of entry was also a revelation of the nature of his kingdom. “See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey…”
Everyone is excited shouting “hosanna!” they lay down their palm branches before him as he makes his way among them some have even laid garments, as if a red carpet, were being laid out.
It is said that Jesus made such a spectacle of himself that rumors were being spread that rulers were seeking him out to arrest him, it is easy to see how the Greeks had soon found out about him. The Greeks had come to Phillip asking to speak to Jesus.
These Greeks were Gentiles who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Feast. The Greek word John uses lets us know they were Gentiles not Hellenistic Jews. It is significant that these were Gentiles because Jesus’ earthly ministry had been directed to the Jews. We are not told much about Jesus’ interaction with these Greeks. What we are told is something more important.

II. We are told about Jesus’ response to their coming.

John 12:23 says, “Jesus replied. ‘The hour has come…’” “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Up until this time we have heard Jesus say, “My hour has not yet come.” He said that to his mother, Mary, at the wedding in Cana when he began his public ministry. In Chapter 7 he said it to his brothers when they wanted him to go to the
Feast of Tabernacles with them. Jesus lived with not only a sense of destiny and purpose but also a keen awareness of the Father’s timing. His hour refers to the culmination of his earthly ministry, the cross. The time for him to lay down his life as a sacrifice for sin has come.

Returning back to the life of my great grandfather or rather my story of struggling to understand his death as well as the death of my spiritual director this past Thursday, I struggle with the question, why? Why do I continue to believe in Jesus? Why do I choose to see that he does exist? The answer is simple, because through my love of Jesus he has given me the chance to witness the life of my great grandfather, and the life of my white grandfather who was also my spiritual director. Jesus’ life and ministry was what connected us in wisdom and growth. My great grandfather was a Christian road man for many years. A road man could be understood as a priest or a presider in the Native American Church. My great grandfather had prayers he preached at these N.A.C gatherings that included the life of Jesus. On the other hand, my white grandfather who is also my spiritual director, taught me how to meditate on the words Jesus spoke to those who wanted to learn from him. Much like I wanted to learn as much as I could about Father Fowler’s ministry.

Jesus’ whole life was a movement toward the cross, toward the ultimate obedience to the Father.

III. Look closely at what is motivating him. Verse 28, “Father, glorify your name.” We could go to other passages and talk about His love for us as a motive as well. But ponder with me this morning the significance of those words, “Father, glorify your name.”

The word “name” is being used more broadly than we normally use it. Jesus is saying, “Father, what matters to me is that you are honored, you are exalted.” The cross was about our redemption but it was also about the integrity and honor of Almighty God. I think that has to be said emphatically from the pulpit because we live in a society that would elevate man and ignore the significance of God’s honor and glory.

This is extremely important because you and I are called to live for the honor of God as well. We are to follow Jesus’ example in this. In fact, our dignity is found in seeking the glory of our Creator and Redeemer. When we live for the honor of God we ourselves become something honorable.

That motive becomes a reason not to sin, not to compromise. It is not a self-righteous, self-exaltation. It is a passion to exalt God by the way we live for Him.
God was saying something to that crowd about Jesus that day. The crowd did not have enough spiritual perception to discern all that was going on. Some thought it was the voice of an angel speaking. Everyone knew something significant was happening. They heard the supernatural thunder of the Father’s response to the Son.

Here is what we must learn from this. Life is to be lived for the glory of God. Life is not to be a pursuit of my own exaltation and glory.
My Great grandfather is an example to this teaching, he was never glorified or exalted for his generosity, but yet he drew hundreds to him whether it was through N.A.C meetings or talking to young adult men about becoming a warrior. I knew he loved Christ and believed in Jesus, so what reason do I have to question it anymore?

The only way to seeing Jesus you must stay in his light John 12: 35-36 reminds us that you cannot see anything in the dark; you must have the light of the world shining on you through you and onto others.

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Trying to Impress God

Cathlena Plummer

Sermond Date: October 27, 2013

Sermon Title: Trying to Impress God

Scriptural Text: Luke 18: 9-14

 

                God give us clear minds, open spirits, and loving hearts. Amen.

Have you ever tried testing God? Is it wrong to try to test God? These readings today have made me think a lot about this.

What would happen now if I spoke to God? To ask God to give me a sign… to let me know if I am doing the right thing?

I think the problem with thinking any of this is that there are too many “I’s” and “Me’s” in those questions.

This is what I think today’s parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is conveying to us.  We need to stop focusing on ourselves when it comes to prayer and start focusing on who’s praying beside us OR WITH US.

Let’s take a look at the passage in LUKE 18.

Now Luke makes it plain who Jesus told this parable to. In VERSE 9, it says,

“Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” 

Now if you want to know whether or not you are being addressed in this parable, let me ask you some questions: 

· Do you ever look at people who don’t go to church, and think you are better than they are because you do go to church? If so, Jesus is talking to you.

· Do you ever look at people in prison, and think you are better than they are because you are not? If so, Jesus is talking to you.

· Do you ever look at people who are divorced, and think that you are better than they are because you are not? If so, then Jesus is talking to you.

· Do you ever look down your nose at anyone for any reason, and think you might be better than them? If so, Jesus is talking to you.

I promise you, every one of you will find yourself somewhere in this story, because at one time or another, all of us are guilty of trying to impress God.

Today, we are going to find out what impresses God and what doesn’t.

1. YOU IMPRESS GOD WHEN YOU DON’T TRY TO

In VERSES 10-12, we read,

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ’God, I thank You that I am not like other men–extortionists, un-just, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’” 

I know immediately you are ready to jump all over the Pharisee because he was, to say the least, a bit arrogant. Quite frankly, he really was an Eagle Scout. He dotted every religious “i” and he crossed every theological “t.” He went strictly by the book. He had a heart for religion; the problem was his religion had no heart. 

He was standing in the center of the inner court right in the heart of the temple. The reason he stood there was because it was where he could be heard the clearest and seen the best. He let everybody know just how wonderful he was. First of all, we read that he fasted twice a week. Now the Old Testament only required a Jew to fast once a year on the Day of Atonement. But this man fasted a 103 times a year more than he was required. 

Then we read that he tithed everything that he possessed. Now the Old Testament only required that you tithe your income. But this man tithed everything that he earned and everything that he bought. In other words, he was a double thither. Now there is nothing wrong with fasting more than once a week, and there certainly is nothing wrong with giving more than a tithe.

But the problem was, this man thought back then what a lot of people keep thinking today–he thought his goodness gained him brownie points with God. He thought God accepts a person based on what they do for Him, or in other words, he thought he could get to heaven by his good works. He was religious and proud of it.

If you put your trust in anything–church membership, church attendance, baptism, religion, good works—anything at all other than Jesus Christ, to make God accept you, you are fooling yourself. The Pharisee thought that God would be impressed with all that he was doing. So now we learn the first clue on what impresses God. 

What impresses God is when you don’t try to impress God.

Five times you will read the little pronoun “I” in these two verses. He suffered from two problems: inflation and deflation. He had an inflated view of who he was, and a deflated view of who God was. He couldn’t see the truth because his “I’s” were too close together. His pride had made him too big for his spiritual britches. 

C. S. Lewis once said, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and of course, as long as you are looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you.”

This Pharisee had fooled himself about himself. He says, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men.” But he was like other men, because “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” 
VERSE 11 says,

“he stood and prayed thus with himself.” 

The original Greek manuscript actually says, “he stood and prayed to himself.” 

When you approach God with pride, you wind up talking to yourself. Someone said, “The only person God sends away empty is the person full of himself.” Prideful prayer is nothing more than an echo in your own ears.

The contrast Jesus gives would have been easily recognized to those hearing this parable. A tax collector was as different from a Pharisee as the Pope is from a Postal Worker.

Tax collectors were the scum of Jewish society. They were the IRS of the Roman government. They charged exorbitant rates, they skimmed extra money off the top, they would steal candy from a baby, and a welfare check from their own mother. They were considered traitors to the nation of Israel.

They were so despised they could not hold public office or even give testimony in Jewish court because their word was considered worthless. The tax collector was to the Pharisee what an outlaw is to the sheriff. This man no doubt was a liar and a cheat.

But now the story takes a strange twist. The Pharisee tried to impress God, but wasn’t able to. The tax collector was not trying to impress at all, he was just being humble of heart, and that impressed God immensely.

Humility impresses God. This tax collector was as humble as the Pharisee was proud. You could see it in his feet. 

VERSE 13 tells us, 

“And the tax collector, standing afar off,” 

The Pharisee went to the center of the court and stood in the sunshine where he would be noticed by the most people; the tax collector stood on the outer edges of the court of the Gentiles in the shadows, not carrying to let people see him pray. He just wanted to have a dialogue with the Lord God.

You could see his humility in his eyes. The passage goes on to say that he “would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven.” 

The Pharisee was too proud to look up; the tax collector was too ashamed to look up.

You could hear the sincerity in his voice. For he says, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” 

Well, God heard his prayer, for in VERSE 14, Jesus said, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.” 

A highway to heaven is paved with humility. Now on the outside you would have thought the Pharisee was much closer to God, but on the inside it was the tax collector who was close to God. We find out why in the following verse.

PSALM 34:18 says,

“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” 

What impressed God so much was this man was simply willing to humble himself before God. 

It hit me as I was thinking about this, that there is only one thing worse than being a sinner. The only thing worse than being a sinner is not admitting that you are one! 

3. LET ME OFFER YOU SOME CLOSING REMARKS.

In VERSE 14, listen to what Jesus said about the man who impressed God. “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 

The Lord Jesus draws a conclusion from this story that shocked his listeners. Remember the Pharisees wore the white hats, the tax collectors wore the black hats.

If you had taken a vote in that crowd as to which man God accepted, and which man was safely in his kingdom, the Pharisee would have won by a unanimous landslide. But there’s only one vote that counts, and that is God’s vote.

The first thing we should all learn from this is that it isn’t important how we see ourselves, but only how God sees us.

The second thing we need to learn is that mercy is something we cannot earn or pay for. It is given freely by God, but only to those who have admitted that we need His mercy. 
When you finally realize that you have absolutely nothing in your life aside from Christ, you have finally impressed God.

If only I had the nerve to send this. Tell me what you Think!

September 24, 2012

Dear Utah Navajo Royalties Holding Fund,

                I am sending these documents to you in hopes of receiving funding for my seminary education here in Berkeley California. Navajo Nation Scholarship has been giving me the run around on the processes of their scholarship applications. I deem them unfair and would like to address my own home scholarship office for any assistance they might be able to give me.

                I am a second year Master’s of Divinity student here at the Church Divinity School of the Pacfic in Berkeley California. This is the nearest academic seminary for the Episcopal Church tradition. It is the only nearest seminary to the Utah reservation. My courses involve subjects in theology, Christian education, pastoral education, ministry field education, History of Christianity beginning with the ancient history of Christianity and ending with the reformation and contemporary church life. Most of the theology courses here include ecofeminist theology, liberation theology, and what is most familiar to us Navajo Christians, creation theology. I am currently in the process of developing a Navajo Christian theology that entails certain aspects of Navajo spirituality practices and rituals and coinciding these beliefs with Christian theology and history. I am also working on an Episcopal liturgy that will engage these two beliefs into a Eucharistic worship service.

                I am doing real work out here I am not an average graduate student that aims to take a laid back ride in their academic career. My work is real and benefits our Navajo People with developed knowledge in social work, as well as psychology. This is very much needed on the Navajo reservation. Attaining spirituality is a gift I aim to inspire among our younger generations.   

                All I ask is that you please consider my name and application documents in your next round of scholarship award recipients. As a Native American living among Anglo individuals you tend to lose your self or your Dineh self but I am striving to balance mine with constant stories of our creation emergence narratives. I also recite ritually the early dawn prayers with an offering of cedar smoke and corn pollen.  I am a strong Navajo Christian Episcopal Woman and I will see this bump in the road of financial debt as a hopeful obstacle on my continued journey to Christ.

 

With many Respects,

 

Cathlena A. Plummer

Graduations, Convocation, and Ordination

Receiving my C.A.S

Well I graduated with my C.A.S certificate it was a memorable event for me and am now excited to be able to graduate in two years with my fellow M. Div classmates.


My mother, brother, and I were fortunate enough to attend the graduation of my neice Kelli’s graduation, not only was she an honorary member of her R.O.T.C squad but she also received an award for permanent honor roll in her senior year. We are so very proud of her and I know she has a good head on her shoulders, she will go on to do many great things.

Next on the summer agenda is the Ordination of my Mother Catherine B. Plummer on June 9th 2012 at 4:00PM .

Here is the order of events for Convocation in the meantime:

Navajoland Area Mission

36th Annual Convocation

June 8-10, 2012

St. Christopher’s Mission

Schedule

Friday, June 8, 2012

9 a.m.Site Blessing Ceremony

11 a.m.Ministry Developers Meeting with Steve Kelsey

4-6 p.m. Registration (Courtyard)

6 p.m.Dinner (Common Room)

7 p.m.Healing Service

Saturday, June 9, 2012

7:30 – 8:30 a.m.Breakfast (Common Room) &  Registration

8:30 a.m.Morning Prayer/ Reflection

9 a.m. – 12 p.m.Business Session

12- 1 p.m. Lunch (Picnic Area)

Deputies meet with Bonnie Anderson

1 – 2:30 p.m.Rev. Harold Eagle Bull—Responding to Suicide and its Prevention as Native People

2:30-3:30Bishop Dave Bailey—ECN Visioning

3:30-4 p.m.Break

4 p.m.Ordination of Catherine Plummer

6 p.m.Banquet

  Sunday, June 10, 2012

7:30- 8:30 a.m.Breakfast (Common Room)

9 a.m.Business Session (if needed)

10 a.m.Holy Eucharist

12 p.m.Lunch

Departures

Coming to a Close

Keep forgetting to include the Beauty that Surrounds Me.
Beauty All Around Me.
St. Mark Agape Feast
St. Mark Agape Feast

A Lot has happened this semester. I am not only compeleting the Certificate of Anglican Studies program, I have also applied for Master’s of Divinity degree program and am glad to announce that I have been accepted for the 2012-2013 Academic Year. Yay! I am graduating with the 2012 M. Div Class along with one other C.A.S recipient. Commencement is May 18th 2012 at 10:30 AM. Lots of papers due but I am slowly getting them done. Working on a liturgical word quiz not going as fast as I would like but I am trying.

First Experimental Liturgy at CDSP
Molly Bryant Indigenous Liturgy

I was also fortunate enough to be thought of for a “Indigineous Experimental Liturgy” which I not only took part in but also help with readings and a hymn. I am currently in the process of developing another liturgy for my Intro to worship class which we will conduct at tuesday morning’s class on the 8th of May. So much work to do! I better get back to it.

Back into the Groove of things

Its been a crazy past few weeks this spring semester begins. So many things to do and I made my studies suffer because of a conference in San Diego that I had to attend, for scholarship purposes.

A lot of work seemed to be accomplished there in San Diego though. So that is good. We have a resolution for General Convention just pray that everything will go well. We had dialogues about what Native Spirituality means to us and Native Americans, and also learned to include Indigenous Studies in the curriculum for our future clergy in our Church. We still have to resolute this to General convention but I believe we have a good standpoint.

Classes have been brutal I do not have anymore downtime for myself anymore.  I can barely keep up with these blog postings. I am managing however.

My First Day without Soda
The Burning of the Palms

Ash Wednesday has come and gone, the start of lent has also snuck up on me as well. I have decided to give up Diet Coke mostly all sodas as my lenten discipline for the year. I am trying not to complain but overall today marks my third day and I finally feel out of the sluggish state I was feeling the first two days. No more headaches as well. So this is good.

I have a lot to read this weekend but what I’m most worried about is my  Introduction to Pastoral Theology class assignment, in which a book report is due. I also will have to attend a worship service on sunday that exemplifies an Ehtnic assembly. This will be an observance report for my Introduction to Worship class.

And after I finish these two, four-page papers I still have readings that I need to get caught up with. Whew! I finally feel overwhelmed…I should probably pray about these things. Maybe that will help a few things.

On top of all that I also have to be worried about taking my GRE and finish two essays for my M. Div application here at CDSP. The good news about that though is that I will be finishing out my M. Div degree all 3 years here at CDSP. So excited! So happy! I will also receive my C.A.S degree at graduation in May not sure on the date but I just signed a form saying that I was graduating so that will be fun. I just hope my family at home can make it. We will see. My neice is suppose to be graduating from high school as well but that isn’t until June and she’s in Texas so hopefully our family will make it to that celebration!

I should probably get to reading so I will end things here. Welcome 2012 and Welcome to Spring. Hope all your endeavors are prosperous this year as mine already seems to be, well on its way to being!