12 February 2017
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
West Walworth: Zion and East Rochester United Methodist Churches
“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
Our tour guide this past week was a gentleman named Mike.
He was born in Jerusalem.
His mother died in childbirth.
He was raised in a Greek orphanage
And he attended school in Crete.
Instead of pursuing his college passion for biology,
He was called to return to Jerusalem
And lead pilgrims on tours of the Holy Lands ever since.
He is a faithful Greek Orthodox, a deep person of faith, and a true inspiration.
Mike wrote a book
Which I read on the flight home,
Titled, “Be Galilee”.
His book is encouragement for all Christians to
Be the House of God,
And to Be Home.
I deeply appreciate his spiritual insight
And his connection with our Gospel lesson from the Beatitudes.
It will serve as an outline for my message today.
1. “Be Galilee is a way of life to enjoy the gift God gave to all of us the love and our humanity to share and never close our hearts but keep our souls giving as a natural running spring.” – Michael J. Abu Libdeh, from Be Galilee
Water is a big deal.
Without water, people die.
In Israel, every drop is as precious as life itself.
Water serves as a vital metaphor for a life of faith.
From the heights of snow covered Mt. Hermon in the north,
Springs gush from the rock to form the northern Jordan river,
Where it nourishes the fertile Hula Valley
And flows into the vibrant Sea of Galilee,
Eight miles wide by thirteen miles long.
Springs represent Creation and birth.
Galilee represents life.
The river is our journey.
Galilee has provided a living for locals for millennia.
Travel, Trade, and Tourism.
Even a place of contemplation
Quietly on the water
Or high up overlooking the Sea from one of the surrounding peaks or ridges.
This is where Jesus slipped away to pray,
Where loaves and fishes were multiplied to feed the people,
And possibly where beatitudes were taught and sermons were preached.
Being Galilee today
Our friend Mike suggests,
Is about being living life to its fullest,
Serving, sharing, loving
As a natural vibrant spring
And as a disciple of Christ.
How can you be Galilee
In your world,
Within your circle of friends,
Within your family?
Can you be Galilee?
2. “Be Attitudes is to believe and practice on daily basis in our life the sermon Jesus preached on the mount, as rules of love as way of life and as blessings to all.” – Michael J. Abu Libdeh, from Be Galilee
High above the Sea of Galilee
Ancient cities are perched,
Where even one little light could shine
And be seen on the other side.
On these hills
Jesus healed multitudes,
Fed the crowds,
Taught his disciples,
And as some suggest,
Delivered the Beatitudes.
The view from above is a visual reminder
Of life, love, vibrancy, and blessings.
Daily, celebrate life.
Life springs eternal.
All life is sacred and a gift from God.
Live the life that God has given
To be God’s love in a parched and barren land.
Live with energy and with a positive attitude.
With God, the view reminds us, that all things are possible.
Five loaves and two fish can easily feed five thousand,
With multiple baskets of left overs.
Be God’s blessings in the world,
Especially to those whose lives are parched
And in need of Galilee’s life-giving waters.
3. “Be the House of God, if each one of us tries his best to be the house of God then our world will be filled with peace as you will always try to purify your soul through your acts and your relation with God and with others around you.” – Michael J. Abu Libdeh, from Be Galilee
The Jordan River spills forth from the southern end of the Sea of Galilee
On it’s ninety mile serpentine journey to the Dead Sea.
The lower Jordan Valley
Is like life,
Filled with faming and industry,
Work and recreation,
Cities and towns,
Communities of families and neighbors.
As the Jordan flows,
So do the computer controlled irrigation lines
Such that, near the end of its life,
The Jordan is barely a trickle emptying into the Dead Sea.
It is still chilly and cold
When one stops to remember their baptism
At, or about, the place where John Baptized Jesus.
It nourishes the soul.
It cleanses the soul.
The life giving water of the lower Jordan
Encourages us to live life in community with others and with God.
Love your neighbors.
We’re on life’s journey together.
Unlike those who want to budge ahead of the line,
Be the House of God
And live according to God’s will and ways
Every moment of every day,
Down the beautiful Jordan.
4. “Be Home as someone around you needs you to be his or her home. Warm home is in us in our hearts and souls where others will never feel homeless in their connections with you. As long we try our best to be home for others we will find someone to be home for us in which you find your peace and love and stability.” – Michael J. Abu Libdeh, from Be Galilee
Homes around the world vary greatly.
Some are painted green, yellow, and orange.
Others are made of stone,
Built upon the ruins of other homes
That have become archeological layers over the ages.
Still others are made of wood
And wrapped in warm insulation
To keep the wet and cold out,
And the warmth and love in.
Homes incorporate many languages,
And a diversity of faiths.
Just listen to the conversations on the streets and in the coffee shops.
Listen to the voices in the marketplace,
To the peal of church bells,
The call to prayers from the faithful.
The common nature of every home
Are the hearts and souls who dwell within;
Hearts and souls
Who are open,
And who value hospitality.
Peace, love, and stability
Is found in the home, as Mike our tour guide observes.
Is it possible to be the Home for God in our lives?
Are we able to be the host
Where God takes up residence?
Where Jesus resides and is at work?
Where the Spirit is alive and life giving?
Is it possible to locate our home
More up north, in the Galilee,
Rather than in the south, in the Dead Sea?
Where there are no living fish or organisms?
Where Jordan’s life-giving water evaporates unto God,
Leaving behind nothing but salt and slime?
Life is possible because of him who loves us.
Life is possible to be full of peace, love, and stability
For all who live in communion,
On Jordan’s life giving journey.
Be the Galilee, Mike encourages.
Be the Galilee, I agree.
Go forth this day,
And be the Galilee.