Sunday, October 27, 2019

Jr., JoJo and God's Hopeful Heart; Message on 1 Kings 12:1-17

Rev. George Miller
Oct 27, 2019
1 Kings 12:1-17

(Today’s message is character-based.)

We are at an interesting time in our nation’s history. For the past 200 years we’ve been divided and now it seems as if either we are going to stay that way or something good is ‘bout to happen.

My name is Simon, from the tribe of Simeon. My people have been living here in the North for as long as we can remember.

It is here that our ancestor Abraham heard the call from God to get up and go. It is here that the bones of Joseph are buried.

Our nation has a rich and complex history; a soap opera some will say.

We are a people of the promise, who were originally brought together by our Impossibly Possible God…but somehow, we have been torn apart, led astray, repeat breakers of God’s heart.

Let me tell you our story-

300 years ago everything seemed just right. After a troubling time, God gave us a new king named David.

It was a glorious day.

The north and the south came together. The elders acted as ONE. There was no “You” or “I” but instead there was “we” and “us”, bone and flesh.

Before God, before one another, we entered into a covenant with our King in which he was called to be our shepherd-

to care and protect, feed and comfort,
follow God’s commandments, and walk in God’s ways.

Everything seemed possible; we were certain all wrongs would be made right.

And King David was a great King… except when he wasn’t.

He coveted, he lied, he committed adultery; some say rape.

He was followed by his son Solomon, who led with God’s wisdom. He built the holy temple in Jerusalem.

He spent tons of money, employed tons of workers, used up tons of resources, and the results were magnificent-

a gleaming, golden House of the Lord in which everyone from the north and south could go to worship.

How beautiful upon the hill it looked, becoming a beacon of hope to all.

Like any nation, there were those who liked our leaders, there were those who did not.

Those in the south enjoyed the prestige of having the Temple in their vicinity. But those of us in the north? Not so much.

We felt that King David and Solomon played favorites. We noticed how there were certain parts of the nation they taxed more than others; that certain people were more likely to be forced into labor than others.

Often times it was us in the north who paid the most and worked the hardest while King Solomon and his crew were off having fun or making more money.

Then there was the issue of Solomon’s wandering eye. Just like his dad, one woman was not enough. Solomon had a thing for exotic women who worshipped other gods, so to please them he built them shrines and temples and worshipped their false idols.

Imagine- the same man who built the Holy Temple was the same man who worshipped Astarte and Milcom all for the sake of a pretty face.

Imagine how this broke God’s heart…

Then 200 years ago something happened that we still talk about today- Solomon’s son was crowned. His name was Rehoboam, but I call him Jr.

The people from the north came to Jr. and said “We loved your dad, but he worked us really hard. If you show us respect and give us some rest, we will serve you forever.”

Jr. went to his father’s council of elders for advice and they said “Do what they ask. If you serve the people, speaking to them with kindness and compassion, they will be your biggest fans.”

Then Jr. went to his drinking buddies, the ones who worked on Wall Street, and asked the same question.

They said “Heck no! Tell them your little finger is bigger than your father’s you-know-what! Tell them that since they’re complaining about how hard they work, they will now have to work harder and be punished greater.”

Can you guess whose advice Jr. took?

And just like that!, the nation split. The men who came to Jr. simply seeking kindness from their leader, waved goodbye, and 10 of the 12 tribes went with them.

This left Jr. with a country torn in two. Sure, he still had the Temple, but now he was King of only 1 tribe.

God’s heart broke even more.

Sadly, the soap opera doesn’t stop there. The north called their own king, Jeroboam. I call him JoJo.

JoJo is given a great opportunity. God told him that if listens to God’s voice and walks humbly in God’s ways, then he’ll have everything his soul desires.

God tells JoJo “Do what I ask and I will build you the same thing I built David and the nation will be yours!”

Guess what JoJo does: somehow he gets it into his head that if people go down south to worship God at the Temple, they’ll end up liking Jr. more.

So he builds two golden calves, tells everyone to stop going south to praise God, and to worship these idols instead, claiming they were the ones who set us free from slavery.

And like that!, over a thousand years of faith in the Lord is flushed away and we were expected to turn our back on our Impossibly Possible God.

And God’s heart broke even more.

That was 200 years ago, and here we are, in a nation town in two. In the south is the Temple and the tribe of Judah.

In the north we don’t really know what we are. We’re Jew but not Jew, Gentile but not Gentile. Outsiders, yet insiders.

We see those in the south as all uppity. Those in the south see us as robbers and rapists.

How it must hurt God’s heart to see the beloved nation of Israel torn into two.

Yet, there is hope. I can’t help but to feel there is a change coming in the air,
That God is getting ready to do something new.

There’s a prophet in town called Isaiah. Most folk think he’s out there, but I like what he says.

Isaiah seems to have finger on the pulse of the nation and he’s been busy warning us that if things continue as is, something bad is bound to happen.

Yet, he also offers hints of hope.

He speaks about someone we have yet to meet, someone we don’t know, named Immanuel.

That God will take what remains and bring forth new life.

That God will bring forth a new kind of leader, someone who will truly be filled with wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, who is filled with knowledge and delight in the Lord.

Isaiah talks of this new leader as someone who will care for the poor, decide what’s right for the helpless, who will be righteous and faithful.

A new kind of leader in which even the wolf will rest with the lamb, cows and bears will eat side by side, and children shall be safe from harm.

A leader in which kindness, care and love for the Lord will cover the earth just as the waters of creation did.

Imagine such a day! Imagine what sort of peace that will create!

Imagine getting to the place in which wrongs are made right, the north is reunified with the south, and God’s heart is truly made glad!

I don’t know who this Immanuel is. I don’t know when he’s set to arrive. It could be in my lifetime; it could be in the next.

But it does not matter. I am willing to wait; for the love of the Lord, I wait.

Who can this Immanuel be? Just what, exactly, will this Immanuel do?

What does our Impossibly Possible God have in store for us all?

And can we, will we, this time, do what needs to be done so God’s heart will no longer be broken?


Sunday, October 20, 2019

God's Love Story; "The King and We" Edition; Sermon on 2 Samuel 5:1-5

Rev. George Miller
Oct 20, 2019
2 Samuel 5:1-5

There are many ways that you can read the Bible. You may view the Bible as a guide to salvation and how to save your soul. You may think of the Bible as a set of instructions on how to live your most heavenly life while on earth.

I see the Bible as a love story. A love story in which God creates us, frees us, leads us, and blesses us.

A love story in which God does the impossibly possible and gives us family when there is none, parts the sea when there is no way out, and cares for us when we are in the desert.

A love story in which God makes sure our jars of flour never run out, miraculous healings take place, and we are invited to sit and eat together- bread and wine, loaves and fishes.

A love story in which God makes it so simple- don’t turn God into a thing, say “Yes Ma’am” to your Momma, don’t spread false lies about others, and take time each week to relax, rest, and to humbly be one with your Creator.

But ever so sadly, the Bible is a love story in which God is constantly getting God’s heart broken.

No matter what miraculous things God does, we soon forget.

No matter what gifts God gives, we aren’t content.

No matter how simple God makes things, we find a way to muck it up.

In Genesis, God creates us so we can walk together in the cool breeze of the afternoon, only to find us hiding in the undergrowth, afraid.

In Numbers 13 God leads the people right to the Promised Land in the height of spring, when the grapes are growing and butterflies are flying, they spread lies, act in fear and refuse to step forward, which causes them to wander the wilderness for 40 more years.

In 1 Samuel 8 we see one of God’s biggest heartbreaks. The people have been living in the Promised Land for years. God’s love for them has continued even with all their missteps.

God wants to be their King, guiding them through priests and judges, visions and prophecy, through patience and miracles, and an unstoppable, unshakeable love for them.

God assures them that if they do the simple things God has asked, God will continue to provide and care for them.

But sadly, this is not enough for the people of Israel.

They look around at the other nations and see that they all have Kings, so they want the same thing to.

They feel the God who set them free, parted the sea, and gave them rest is no longer good enough.

“Give us a king to govern us!” they demand.

Their rejection breaks God’s heart. God tries to warn them “If you have a king, bad things will happen. A king will take your sons and turn them into soldiers. A king will take your daughters and turn them into servants.”

“A King will take the best of your land and the best of your crops and give them to his cronies.”

“A King will take your possessions and use them for his own satisfaction.”

“A King will wage wars, see everyone as expendable, and turn you into slaves. You will cry out and regret your choice.”

“Please, whatever you do- don’t do this.”

But the people, not caring about what God has done, what God has given, respond by saying “We know best, we want a king over us, we want to be like everybody else.”

The people had forgotten that what made them so special was that they were not like everybody else, they were not supposed to be like everybody else.

So God, broken hearted, and totally rejected, gives the people what they want- a King.

And at first the King seemed to do everything right. He won battles. He conquered enemies. He kept the people safe…but soon things fall apart.

In a moment of distress, the King makes an unlawful sacrifice, followed by decisions to starve his soldiers, disobey God, not follow the commandments, and getting caught up in things like flocks and gold, opulence and unwarranted opportunity.

Once again God’s heart is broken, yet God does not give up. A second king is anointed to take the 1st Kings place.

This 2nd King is David. And in typical God-Style, God does it in God’s own unique, unexpected way.

David is not from a big city. He’s not from the best family. He is not the 1st born. He is not the best looking or well educated.

David is the 8th born son of a farming family living in a small southern town, considered so inconsequential that his own father forgets about him.

David is ruddy and rough around the edges, but he plays a mean harp, can cast a sharp stone, and knows how to protect his father’s flock.

It is David who becomes Israel’s second king, an event has twists and turns, invokes great controversy, and more drama than a weekly soap opera such as “Dynasty” or “Empire”.

But here we are, 2 Samuel, to witness the anointing of David. It is an event that unifies the entire country, bringing the northern and southern towns together.

It is an event that involves both God, the people and the King.

And look at the words that are used in this story: we, shepherd, covenant.

So simple, yet so powerful.

This event becomes one in which it seems possible as if all the wrongs will be made right, as if all the lessons have been learned from their mistakes, as if this time God’s heart will be made happy.


The elders realize it is not just about “I”, it is not just about “you”, it is not just about “Everybody else” but it is about “us”; it is about “we.”

“We are your bone and flesh,” they say to their new king. Meaning we are not alone, we are not apart, we are not separated, but we are all in this, together, untied.

And not just us, doing it alone, but with the Lord, beside us, guiding us.


The people and King David make a covenant with one another. It is not just a business deal. It is not just a worldly transaction.

It is a holy agreement they chose to make before the Lord, a heavenly promise they enter into, in which they trust David to be their leader on the ground while God will be their leader from the cosmic control room.


Such a simple world, yet revolutionary.

Whereas all the other kings ruled by fear and domination, this new king was expected to rule via care and compassion.

Whereas the kings of the world forced their people into back breaking work, crushed their spirits and filled them with fear, King David was expected to guide the people into prosperity, calm their souls, and use his strength as a source of comfort.

While other kings preferred to starve their citizens, twist justice into punishment, and rule with hateful anger, King David was expected to make sure the bellies of God’s people were full, kindness and mercy prevailed, and decisions were based on righteousness and care.

In other words, as a shepherd, King David was being called upon to lead the people through green pastures, comfort them in times of distress, and try his best to remove whatever metaphoric briars and brambles, thieves and bears may come their way.

How awesome that this is the model of leadership that God desires for the people. That what God wants is what’s best for all.

With this model of covenant, using words like “we” and “shepherd”, and including the Lord, it seems as if things are off to a good start, and perhaps now God’s heart will no longer be broken, and the people can be happy.

Will it work? Will kindness and compassion prevail?

Will the people God created, delivered, and blessed finally learn how to trust and obey, work as partners, and believe?

Like any good love story, like any good television soap opera….

…you’ll have to tune in next week to see what happens. Amen.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Sabbath Rest; Oct 6, 2019 Sermon on Deuteronomy 5:1-21

Rev. George Miller
Oct 6, 2019
Deuteronomy 5:1-21

Today we continue our journey through the Old Testament with our Impossibly Possible God.

We were right there to witness how God created us out of earth and breath.

We were there to hear Sarah laugh, to watch Jacob wrestle, and to see Shiphrah and Puah bravely stand before the king.

Now, we join the Israelites as they listen to a sermon from Moses, being reminded once more of just how much we are connected.

Thanks to his trickster mother, Moses is one of the Hebrew boys who survived the pharaoh’s holocaust.

He has risen to be an unlikely liberator, leading God’s people to freedom, crossing the Red Sea, and surviving the sands of time.

We are now just a step away from entering the Promised Land. Before that happens, Moses wants us to be prepared.

His sermon reminds the people of who they were, who they are now, and all that God has done.

His sermon gives instructions on how to live their best life possible and how to stay connected to God, to the land, and to one another.

How to be a community that flourishes.

The instructions are so simple so clear: don’t tell lies, don’t kill, don’t steal.

Don’t use God’s name as a curse, don’t turn God into a thing.

But there is one commandment that seems to be the simplest and yet the most possibly impossible of all- take one day a week to rest, to not work, and to just….be.


I have a deep fondness for the Sabbath. Back in seminary I wrote a paper on the sabbath, and as part of my “research” I took every Saturday off for a month.

It was exquisite.

I began each Sabbath by preparing a crock pot with pot-roast and putting it on a timer, cleaning the apartment, and setting aside my assignments.

To welcome the sabbath on Friday night, I’d go to the local synagogue with friends for worship and prayer.

Saturday morning came and I didn’t study, didn’t wash dishes, didn’t go to the library stressed out over the never-ending class work.

Instead I did things like go outside, play frisbee, sit in the sun, watch Gone With the Wind from start to finish.

It was an enlightening experience, learning how to let go, to trust God, to believe that no matter how busy I was, no matter how fast the world seemed to be going, that life would continue with one day off.

This gift of Sabbath has transcended time to my current life situation.

As many of you know, my Mom in AZ has been facing major health problems. The past 4 weeks time has been the most wibbly-wobbly of things.

Literally, I’ve been dealing with 3 different times zones, communicating with people in 8 different states, all working together to do what is best for Mom.

Time takes on a whole new essence when your 9 am is someone else’s 6, and someone else’s 8 pm is your midnight.

So, I’ve been ever so grateful for today’s reading, because this scripture has been my sanctuary and calm in the storm.

Why? Because today’s reading is a reminder that we all need a time of rest.

Because of this reading, I have found a way, each day, to create my own sabbath, be it shutting off the phone for an hour, escaping with a tv show, sitting with a friend, being in the yard, or having a true heart-2-heart with God.


It is such a valuable expression of faith.

By why? Why would God invite us, to take one day off and to just….be?

If you recall, this commandment was given to the Israelites, who were once slaves. For centuries they had worked under the oppressive rule of the Pharaoh, told what to do, when to do it.

All they had known was hard oppressive work.

That may have been the way of Earth’s King, but the Lord of Heaven wants them to experience something new- the chance to enjoy the beauty of the earth, to enjoy one another, and to enjoy being with God.

Sabbath is a way for the people to rediscover the connectedness they were meant to have when created.

But there is something perhaps most beautiful, most elemental about the Sabbath…and it’s about time.

Time is one thing that belongs to all people, everywhere.

Time is not like space; it cannot be owned, it cannot be bought and sold, it can’t be built upon, which also means it can be torn down.

Right now you are each inhabiting your very own space in this sanctuary. You are there, and no one else. Where you sit belongs to you and only you, exclusively.

But time…time is not exclusive.

We are all sharing this same time, this same moment no matter who we are, no matter if we are old or older, black or white, founding member or 1st time visitor.

We are all sharing this same moment of time as everyone who is here, everyone who is outside our walls, and everyone around the globe.

We can not purchase time, prevent time, or rewind time.

It is the great equalizer; but scripturally it is more than that.

When we study scripture, we discover that it is time through which God acts.

Whereas other gods were believed to be attached to idols or statues, things or individuals, the Israelites viewed God through the lense of time and events.

That’s why Genesis begins with “In the beginning” and not something like “In the garden.”

Time belong to God, and time is a gift from God.

According to today’s reading, if we wish to honor God, we will set aside time each week in which we will let go.

We will let go of the very human need to have and to own, to possess and control, to subdue and figure out.

To just spend time with God; to allow time to be a sanctuary in which we can breathe and be, rest and restore, to listen and to hear what our Creator may be trying to say.

This notion of experiencing God through rest and time set aside is so beautiful and so holy.

And it does something so wonderful.

Think of the things we often associate with faith. We have preachers, we have buildings, we have books, we have tables, we have candles, we have bulletins.

But preachers are just people and they can disappoint, buildings can be blown away, books can become mildewed, and candles can burn down.

But time continues doesn’t it?

Think of the all realities of life. People move, people age, people get hospitalized, go to war, get imprisoned.

Spaces, places and faces can all change in a moment due to an act of nature, an act of the enemy, an act of the economy.

But time? Time continues. No matter what, time continues.

In that notion there is to be comfort in the Sabbath.

Observing the Sabbath means that no matter who we are, no matter where we are on life’s journey, no matter what we face, no matter what we endure, God has established a way in which we can always be connected with God.

And it’s not through a person, place, or a thing. But it is through time.

Which means that no matter what, we have the ability to connect with God. No matter where, we have a way to connect with God.

We do so by setting aside time to just be present with the Lord.

To put away things, to put away the lawnmower, to put away the bills.

To set aside time to just be with God, to connect.

And as long as there is time, it means the people can always experience God.

You can be in jail, you can be in war, you can be in a hospital bed, but if you set aside a moment, that moment can be filled with God.

Today’s reading not only helps us with how to be better neighbors and stewards of the earth but how to keep that connection with God.

This is God, saying to us “It doesn’t matter where you are or what you are going through, if you are wandering across a wilderness, or wrestling with the unknown, or if you have found your Promised Land surrounded by milk and honey…if you can find time to just be…I am there.”

“From Back Bay to Highlands County, from your home here or your home up north, if you can find time to just rest…I am there.”

“You don’t have to possess or own, build or control…You simply just have to be in the moment and allow the moment to be in you, and I AM there.”

This notion creates a great freedom, another way to be connected, and I hope it creates a great sense of comfort for you, as it has for me.