"Earn All You Can" by Pastor Leah Rosso

"Earn All You Can" by Pastor Leah Rosso

What does a 1st Century carpenter living in Jerusalem and an 18th Century priest from England have in common? Well, they both loved God deeply and they both talked a LOT about money. I'm talking about Jesus and John Wesley. Jesus, you've probably heard of, but maybe not John Wesley. Wesley was a man who wanted to transform his church; he wanted to reach people outside of the walls of the church and give people practical heartfelt ways to follow Jesus. He wasn't very interested in propping up the institution, and because of that he annoyed a lot of his colleagues. But he also annoyed them because he dared to talk about money.

Jesus, of course, had quite a few things to say about money, including this story we read this morning. It is a strange parable in which manager cooks his books in order to gain favor of his customers so that when his boss throws him out of his job, his customers will help him out. And then the wealthy man commends the manager for his shrewdness. Now I will tell you that I’ve never met a pastor who liked this parable. It’s strange! We can get all muddled up in the dishonesty of the manager’s actions. But the main point, is what Jesus says next— that that we who are followers of Jesus need to be just as smart about how we use our resources as those who are not followers of Jesus.

John Wesley loved this parable. He preached on this specific story at least 27 times between 1741 and 1758. And why did he love it? Because Wesley understood that money is an important part of our lives and that God calls us to be street smart with what we do with all of our resources.

Launching into Discipleship by Pastor Leah Rosso

Jesus calls, and James, John, Simon, and Andrew follow. This is one of those moments when I wish the Gospel writer had been a bit more descriptive. What would that conversation sound like? Had Jesus been praying for years about who his disciples would be, had talked to them all about it so that they would be prepped for this day? Was it more of a "Hey guys, today's the day. I'm starting my ministry. Come along!" Or did they know much about Jesus at all? Presumably the area they live in is small enough that they would've known of each other, but how big of a leap is it for these young men to follow Jesus? And how did they know they wanted to follow him? We're in the first chapter of Mark. So far all Jesus has done is get baptized and live in the wilderness fasting for 40 days. Doesn't seem super compelling, does it? You'd think they would at least want to see what he can do.

Unless they're ready for a change. I don't mean really ready. How many of us are ever really ready? But something about this spoke to them. They're looking at the world around them and they want to see it change. They're looking at the politics that seem overbearing and depressing; at the people in power in their own town who were mostly corrupt religious leaders; maybe even at the divisiveness of the people trying to decide how to make it day by day, and they are longing for something else. So when Jesus calls, they decide to say yes.

Finding Common Ground by Pastor Leah Rosso

Daryl Davis is an African American man who play piano professionally and has been around long enough to have met Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Fats Domino. Back when he was in his early 20’s and just starting out, he found that he needed to start playing country music to get a gig in the towns near his home, so he joined a country band. One night a white man came up and told him he’d never heard a black man play that way. He said he sounded like Jerry Lee Lewis. Daryl smiled and asked the man how he thought Lewis learned to play, since Jerry Lee Lewis learned from blues players. The man looked surprised and invited Daryl to have a drink with him. The white man sat down in a booth with his friend and invited Daryl to sit across from them. His friend kept looking at Daryl and then back at his friend, smiling a funny smile. The man said it was the first time he’d had a drink with a black man, and Daryl asked him why. His friend kept jabbing him in the ribs saying, “Tell him. Tell him.” That’s when the first man looked at Daryl and told him that he was in the KKK. They talked for quite awhile that night, and the man gave Daryl his card and told him to call him anytime he was playing at that bar so he could bring his friends to see him. That got Daryl thinking about how it was that he might play a part in changing the minds of people who are in the KKK and other white supremacy groups.

Over the past forty years, Daryl has made it a point to befriend people who are in hate groups so that they can see that he is human. He says that he began because he wanted to know why people can hate him without even knowing him.

God's Heroes: The Canaanite Woman "Challenging the Status Quo" by Rev. Randy L. Johnson

God's Heroes: The Canaanite Woman "Challenging the Status Quo" by Rev. Randy L. Johnson

This past week we have become aware of a war being waged in the streets of America. The news of what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia awakened us to a dark reality which has emerged after many years of working its way into the mainstream.  White nationalists, those who now call themselves the Alt-Right, remind us that extremist, hateful ideas and angry, violent actions are part of the on-going history of bigotry and terrorism within our own United States. 

Against this backdrop of hatred and violent racism there are stories of faith and courage to be told.  For example, in the summer of 2015, ten days after nine African Americans were brutally murdered while praying during bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, a black woman by the name of Brittany Newsome scaled the 30-foot flagpole at the South Carolina Statehouse and grabbed the Confederate flag and took it down.  The mass murderer in Charleston, Dylann Root, had been inspired by the Confederate flag, had posed with it and had it displayed on his license plate.  Eleven days after Newsome removed the flag, South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill to remove all Confederate flags from statehouse grounds.

Newsome’s courageous act arose out of her faith; as she put it, “I mean, it took a great deal of faith.  My faith is a large part of my activism.  Faith is something we practice, so even in that moment just praying and staying focused and calling out to God was very important.”  It was noted that Newsome was reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 27 as she was taking the Confederate flag down.

Along with the inspiration of her faith, Newsome’s courageous act also arose out of a sense of urgency.  There was no more waiting.  She had to do something.  As described by Lottie Joiner, editor of The Crisis magazine, Newsome was “following in the footsteps of those brave souls who came before her, women like Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, and Rosa Parks who refused to accept the status quo.”