Archive for the ‘Sermons’ Category
Readings from Joshua 24:14-15 and John 3:16
Today is Father’s Day.
Now the idea for creating a day to honor fathers began in Spokane, Washington.
Yes, a woman by the name of Sonora Smart Dodd thought of the idea for Father’s Day while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. Having been raised by her father, after her mother died, Sonora wanted her father to know how special he was to her.
Her father was born in June, so she chose to hold the first Father’s Day celebration in June.
Later in 1924 President Calvin Coolidge officially proclaimed the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.
Friends, I believe that Christian fathers are the most upraised, unnoticed, and unappreciated heroes of our times.
In fact one little boy defined Father’s Day when he said that Father’s Day was just like Mother’s Day, the only difference is that you don’t have to spend money on the gift.
I read a statistic that the greatest numbers of long distance phone calls are made on Mother’s Day; but the largest numbers of collect calls were made on Father’s Day.
Maybe this all has to do with these humorous words entitled “The World According to Dad.”
These are words that most dads have said at some time or another to their children.
- This is going to hurt me — more that it is going to hurt you.
- What do you think I’m made of, money?
- When I was your age I walked five miles to and from school and it was uphill both ways.
- Just wait until you have some kids of your own
- And last but not least — shut up before I give you something to cry about
I’m sure most of you have heard of the peanut butter commercial where its caption says, “Choosy Mothers Chose Jiff”.
Well I want to talk to you this morning about “Choosy Fathers.”
Why? Because Choosy Fathers Chose Jesus. And when they do they become a Godly Father.
And one such father without a doubt is Joshua who we heard from in our first scripture lesson.
I thank God today — for Christian Fathers who follow the example of Joshua.
Joshua was a father who decided that in spite of what everybody else was doing — that he was going to fear, serve and chose the Lord.
There are two qualities that Joshua possessed that I want you to see and practice.
The first quality is that he was the spiritual leader of the home.
I remember a story of a little fellow, frightened by lightning and thunder, who called out one dark night, “Daddy, come. I’m scared.”
“Son,” the father said, “God loves you and he’ll take care of you.”
“I know God loves me,” the boy replied. “But right now I want somebody who has skin on.”
If I could start over as a dad I would want to be above all else – God’s love with skin on.
Friends, Joshua was close to God,
Spent time with. . .Talked with. . .built a relationship with God.
Friends, Joshua could not show God to his family if he did not know God.
Friends, your kids need to see God with skin on.
Dads, you are to be spiritual leaders in your family.
The second quality that Joshua possessed is that he had a plan for his family.
When Joshua spoke “as for me and my house” he was setting up what they, the family was going to do.
Joshua said: we will serve the Lord!!!!
That’s a plan!!
Dads, what is your plan for the spiritual formation of your family?
In a small farming community in the 1930’s, a woman had a difficult time delivering her sixth child.
Before she died she said to her husband: “Charlie, make sure you get our babies to heaven.”
Friends, the most important place you take your children isn’t on vacation or sporting events, or shopping and out to eat …the most important place you take your children will be to heaven.
What’s your plan?
Joshua said “…we will serve the Lord.”
You see — when Joshua spoke his faith was genuine, authentic and as a result his family said, in essence, “We are with you Dad!”
When the family is united, it can endure the trials that come its way.
That’s why Christian Fathers are so important.
We need more Joshua Men – men who not only know how to bring babies into the world but know how to bear their responsibility to them.
Other people will be their friends, their mentors, and their coaches.
But they need the physical, spiritual and emotional provisions that God has instructed you to impart to them.
Yes — That’s your responsibility, but it is not just your duty … it is your joy!
No matter how difficult the challenges, a Christian Father knows that: the darkest nights are always followed by the brightest days.
No matter how difficult the challenges, a Christian Father knows that the heaviest burdens are always followed by the greatest blessings.
So let me ask you this morning, are you living your life with a commitment that is pleasing to God?
Are you sharing your faith, studying the Word, praying, being faithful to the church?
When Greg Swindell pitched for the Cleveland Indians, he was also the proud father of Sydney, born January 21, 1991.
On the back of his baseball cap he had her name inscribed in tiny little white letters and her birth date was written out on the underside of his cap’s bill.
Commenting on this Swindell said: “When things are going badly or when I’m getting shelled, I can take it off and look at it and know what I have to look forward to when I get home.”
Greg knew that family is more important than anything else.
Joshua’s most important life achievement was being a godly father.
Godly fathers are choosy fathers who choose Jesus.
We’ve looked at two qualities that Joshua had:
He was the spiritual leader.
He parented with a plan to lead his house to serve God.
Friends, God will not do what He desires in your life until you become fully committed to Him.
If all of us here this morning would really commit ourselves to serve the Lord, there’s no telling what this church could be.
But until we do, we can only dream about it instead of experiencing it.
There’s no excuse we can make that will cover up our lack of commitment and service to God.
Let us all honestly say, Lord, I’ve been putting my self first instead of you.
I haven’t really been serving you whole-heartedly like I should, and I want things to begin to change today.
The Lord knows there is going to be some struggles and some issues that we will have to deal with.
But God will help us through them all.
So let us make a renewed commitment to God, by acting clearly so our household will serve the Lord.”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Reading from Psalm 146 and Galatians 1:11-24
A woman bought a piece of needlework at a craft fair.
On it was stitched these words, “Prayer Changes Things.”
Proud of the handiwork, she hung it up above the fireplace in the family room.
Several days later she noticed that it was missing.
She asked her husband if he knew what had happened to it.
“I removed it,” he replied.
“Don’t you believe that prayer changes things?” she asked, mystified.
He responded, “Yes, I do. I believe in prayer. In fact, I believe that it changes things. I just don’t happen to like change, and so I took it down.”
Some people don’t like change. And the principle thing most people don’t like to change is themselves.
How many people caught in a troubled marriage refuse to seek counseling?
They would rather lose a good marriage than change.
How many people caught in the cycle of chemical abuse feel desperate about their lives?
Still, they won’t seek help because it might require change.
CHANGE IS DIFFICULT. Most of us resist change even when it is in our best interest.
The standard typewriter keyboard is a good example of that. Have you ever noticed where the most frequently used keys are located?
They’re placed as far apart as possible.
“The original purpose of this arrangement was to slow down typing speed.
Keys on the machines of the 1800s used to jam if the typist went too fast.
About 40 years ago, a new keyboard was developed.
On this keyboard, tests show that typists can greatly increase their speeds (up to five times) with no increase in errors.
Still, we labor on with a keyboard designed to be inefficient. Why? We don’t like to change.
In fact, some people are so rigid they cannot change even when the facts are in total opposition.
There was an experiment people were shown a set of two-inch and five-inch squares.
Then the two-inch square became a three-inch square and the five-inch square became a seven-inch square, then ten inches, and then larger.
The subjects were not told the squares were increasing in size.
When asked about the size of the squares, some subjects simply couldn’t change their original statements.
Even though the size of the squares increased, they kept close to their original estimate.
If they told themselves it was two inches square, then that’s what they kept telling themselves, even as the square grew much larger.
Some people simply can’t change the original message they give themselves; it remains the same even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
CHANGE IS DIFFICULT, BUT IT IS POSSIBLE.
St. Paul is the best evidence of that. He had been a fierce persecutor of the Christian community.
Suddenly, he became its most eloquent spokesperson. His story has been repeated millions of times throughout history.
People can and do change. However, there is usually a progression.
FIRST OF ALL, WE MUST WANT TO CHANGE. We change when it is too painful to remain as we are.
But you have to want to change. Few people even attempt change unless staying like they are is more painful.
WE CAN ALSO CHANGE IF WE HAVE A VISION OF SOMETHING BETTER THAT WE MAY ASPIRE TO.
People who study human behavior tell us that visualization is a powerful tool for people who want to change.
If you can see yourself as being slender, then you can probably become slender.
If you can see yourself as successful, that picture will guide you to making better choices.
Of course there are limits to this. Visualizing yourself six-feet tall will not make it so.
Still, seeing ourselves as we might be ” as God created us to be ” can motivate us to change.
That’s why every follower of Jesus ought to have in mind a picture of Him.
I don’t mean his appearance, but the kind of man he was.
His gentleness, his patience and acceptance, but also his willingness to stand for his convictions.
His willingness to lay down his life for others. It is this picture of the Master that has caused millions of people to rise to new levels of humanity.
“Lord, I want to be like Jesus,” says the old spiritual, and that is a key to a changed life.
We can change if we want to. We can change if we have a mental image of the kind of person God created us to be.
MOST OF ALL, THOUGH, CHANCE COMES WHEN WE SURRENDER OUR WILL TO GOD.
The important thing about St. Paul’s life is that he was totally surrendered to the will of God.
His conversion was complete.
It wasn’t simply a product of a New Year’s resolution, or a naive desire to somehow live a better life.
It was unconditional surrender to God. And that’s the way complete change occurs.
Bishop Jones once said he had seen missionaries leave loved ones, friends, home, business, prospects, and come to other lands and find that they had given up everything except self.
Self was still there, assertive and jealous of its place and honor. The greatest battle any of us undertake is the battle with self.
There is no other way except surrender ” complete surrender to the will of God.
Such surrender requires a life-long journey.
A young woman wrote a poem after a late-night struggle with a high school English assignment.
The poem went like this: Although three hours it cost, I’m still not Robert Frost.
Change generally doesn’t come in three hours. It can. But generally it doesn’t.
Change usually is the product of a life-long commitment. But it is worth the price.
Particularly the change involved in moving from the world of darkness to light, from despair to hope, from death to life.
It is said that when Earl Weaver was manager of the Baltimore Orioles he would charge at umpires shouting, “Are you gonna get any better, or is this it?”
Maybe God is asking us the same question. Maybe we’re asking ourselves. Are you going to change or is this it?
We can change if we really want to. We can change if we fix our eyes on Jesus. We can change if we are willing to surrender our lives completely to God.
Rev. Joseph Curtis
Reading from 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
In our Conference Advocate newspaper and in other denominational publications there are often many ads for church employment opportunities.
Descriptions will often say stuff like looking for “dynamic, energy-filled, imaginative, innovative, enthusiastic, people to work in rapidly growing church, in beautiful communities, with excellent facilities, etc”
Recently I read of an ad that read like this: “Imperfect church, imperfect pastor, seeks imperfect staff members, in order that grace may abound.”
Maybe we should put an ad in our local newspaper that would read as follows: “Imperfect church, imperfect pastor, imperfect members, invites imperfect visitors that grace may abound — Worship @ 9 (or 11) a.m.”
You know Paul tells us that the people in the church at Corinth, are imperfect people, even like you and I are. Nevertheless, Paul says these same people are rich in what God has given them and he charges them at the outset — exercise your spiritual gifts.
Paul begins by asserting that he is one “sent forth” by Christ Jesus to do the will of God. It is important to note that Paul calls them “the church of God” in Corinth. He is always aware of the divine origin of the church. The Corinthians are more than a voluntary organization in a local setting; they are part of the larger universal church.
The church in Corinth had been founded by Paul when he spent 18 months in the city on his second missionary journey to the city of Corinth which was well-known as a city where vice and immorality flourished.
Reading Paul’s letter in its entirety, we are shocked by the jealousy, division, and lax moral conduct of the Corinthian believers, and yet Paul had the audacity to call these people “saints,” that is those who have been set apart or consecrated in the name of Jesus Christ.
The introduction closes with Paul’s familiar greeting: “Grace to you and peace …” Grace represents the unmerited favor with which God loves them, and peace symbolizes the quality of life they now have through their relationship with Jesus Christ.
Our main focus is upon Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving. Though the Corinthian Christian may appear to be insignificant in the eyes of the overall community, Paul informs them that they are gifted people. In brief, if they exercise spiritual gifts they will have the strength they need for the present and for the great Day of the Lord which is to come. Most important of all, they can depend upon the faithfulness of God.
Implied in this biblical passage are several Pauline convictions that are appropriate for us to recall today. The first conviction is that we are God’s gifted people.
Roberto Clemente, one of the greatest baseball players ever to wear a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform, showed great promise even in his rookie year. Once when he was playing in New York, a reporter interviewed him and began comparing him with Willie Mays, a recognized superstar. Any rookie would have been flattered with such a comparison and undoubtedly this young Pirate outfielder was, too. But when the reporter finished speaking the rookie said to him: “Nonetheless, I play like Roberto Clemente.”
God has given each one of us a special gift that sets us apart from others. Like snowflakes, no two of us are alike. There is only one of you. Each one of us is different, and each one of us has something special to share with others. We play contribute out of who we are!
All too often we look upon the Christian life in terms of duty and obligation. How much better it would be if we saw our faith in Christ as a gift to be received with gratitude and expressed with joy.
Then our attitude in approaching each day would not be to anticipate what is required of us but rather what opportunities will open up for us to use the gifts God has given us.
Another conviction implied in the biblical passage is that the spiritual gifts God provides are rich in their variety.
Unfortunately, rather than band together to use our various gifts to build up the church, we invariably look to one person, a superman, to accomplish our mission for us.
The superman mentality is deeply embedded in our American culture. The original superman did not come from Krypton as some think, but he was created in 1934 by two imaginative Cleveland high school students, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
Superman survived the Great Depression and has been with us ever since in one form or another. To be sure, we have had such spin-offs as Superwoman, Superboy, Supergirl, even Superdog, and now coming soon the newest flick “Man of Steele”
How we may wish that we had a superperson here in this congregation to lead the way and to solve our knotty problems. Let us not yearn, however, for such a person.
What we do have is something better. God has given a variety of gifts to the church.
Paul lists only two in his prayer of thanksgiving: “speech and knowledge of every kind.” “Speech” might simply refer to the natural ability to proclaim our faith.
“Knowledge” might be the knowledge of the scriptures or sound teaching about God and Jesus Christ.
Of course, there are many more spiritual gifts than these two. Paul in the twelfth chapter of this letter expands the list.
Just think of the rich variety of spiritual gifts God has given us in this congregation: those who know how to work with their hands, caring for the building, good at repair work and construction; those who prepare food, know how to organize and how to be hospitable; those who assist in worship or teach in a small group; those who have the gift of visitation, bringing cheer to neglected persons; those who have the gift of stewardship, who have sound business minds and know how to invest in the name of the Lord; those who have the gift of being lighthearted, who smile easily, who remind us we need to play more. We do not need Superman when we have such a rich variety of spiritual gifts in our own midst.
And not only has God gifted each one of us and not only do we have a variety of spiritual gifts, but also if these gifts are exercised with vigor the whole church’s life and mission will be strengthened.
Bud Wilkinson, onetime coach of the fabulously-successful University of Oklahoma football team in the 1940s, once described the game of football as “50,000 people who desperately need exercise watching 22 people who desperately need rest.”
Wilkinson’s description of a football game might be aptly applied to the way not a few congregations operate.
Is it not true that frequently a few dedicated people exhaust themselves trying to do the work of the church while many others sit in the stands wondering why more is not being done?
How much better if all the people of God who are able, not just a few, exercised their particular gifts so that the whole body of faith would be built up, strengthened and enriched.
Someone once said: “Every person called by Jesus Christ into his Body is given a gift, and he is to employ it on behalf of the whole body, thus making it to function smoothly and know richness and power.”
May we all exercise our gifts to that end and study and learn what our particular gift is and then use it for the upbuilding of this church.
Good stewardship is not just about money but the use of our talents for the whole body.
I have found out that most people’s gift is already being used in some capacity outside the church.
Often one needs to only see what it is they like to do to discover their gift.
For example if you sing in the shower why not sing in the choir?
If you are good with your hands why not put them to use here?
If you like to be around children why are you spending all your time around adults?
Every gift is important but put them together and they become divinely appointed to build up Christ’s holy church.
Rev. Joseph Curtis
Reading from Proverbs 8: 22-31
Our Scripture lesson today comes from the book of Wisdom we call Proverbs.
The Scripture describes wisdom as one of God’s first works.
Scripture reports that the source of all wisdom is found in God, and this wisdom was perfectly demonstrated in the word made flesh Jesus Christ.
It is therefore appropriate on this Trinity Sunday to speak of wisdom.
So as we begin to look toward our second year together I want to share with you a few nuggets of wisdom about church life.
Having served several churches around the Conference I think I have some wisdom to share concerning our life together as clergy and laity.
First let me share with you the 80-20 rule.
It applies in this sermon and especially in church life and probably life in general.
The 80-20 rule states that “the greater part of any activity draws upon but a small fraction of the whole resources.”
In other words 80 percent of all that gets done is done by about 20 percent of the people.
And about 80 percent of our brain power is never used even though some of us think otherwise.
And 80 percent of what I know about living the life of faith has never been shared because I only get to talk about it a few hours each week.
And 80 percent of what I was going to tell you today I will probably leave out.
In other words whether we like it or not we only get around to about 20 percent of what we want to do in any given enterprise.
Now that is not necessarily bad it just is the way things work out.
But I don’t worry about this so much because even when only 20 percent of my brain is working I know that God’s is not limited by my human frailties.
God’s wisdom works at 100 percent, day in day out, God is on duty 24/ 7.
And I thank him for that and I know you do too.
And God can use our meager offering to work much good.
So in other words these nuggets of wisdom are just that a few nuggets and God will, I am sure, guide us further in the days ahead.
But here they are for what they are worth before I forget them.
First, pray for your minister daily.
This is a big job.
It has big expectations and big stresses.
Whatever strengths a minister has they still need power from beyond themselves.
Pray for me your minister daily.
I need it as much as anyone.
Second, remember that ministry is a team concept.
Uphold me your minister with service not just suggestions.
With solutions not just problems.
A minister can not do all that needs to be done in any parish, ministers need your help.
Three, be positive.
When I your minister do something right or the church does something right tell me and others about it.
For believe me there will be plenty who will talk about all that the minister or the church does that is wrong.
Four, make sure your minister knows if you need a prayer or any pastoral care.
Pastors are not mind readers.
And remember member care is everyone’s responsibility not just the pastor.
Time and time again I have heard people say they were hurt because their pew mates had not checked on them when they were absent.
Five, remember that the minister has a life apart from the congregation.
Respect their need for privacy and time away.
Ministers need time to get their spiritual and physical batteries charged too.
Six, let your minister express his or her uniqueness and experience.
Be open to the new ideas and new eyes that see things differently.
Remember we are all different with different gifts God has given us to share.
One of the strengths of the United Methodist Church’s itinerant system is that the average layperson will come to know a rich variety of people that God has called into the ministry.
Remember God must have had a reason for the minister standing before you even if you can’t figure it out right away.
In other words give God the benefit of the doubt.
Seven, is remember to whom you owe your loyalty.
Your loyalty belongs not to the last minister or the current minister or to the building or to a particular ministry or mission project or anything else for that matter, your loyalty belongs to Jesus Christ and his holy Church.
If you are clear on that everything else will work out.
Finally, operate from a standpoint of love.
Love your pastor in good times as well as bad.
Remember the call of a pastor is a covenant not a contract.
A contract is when we hire someone.
A covenant is like when we marry someone, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.
If you pray for your minister and let them be who they are warts and all.
If you let them bring the gifts that God has given them to share with you.
If you open your hearts to them and work together, together we can do great things for the kingdom of God.
On a personal note I thank you all for your love to Brenda and I during the past year and we look forward to another year together.
And I thank you for your continued prayers and faithful service to Christ’ church.
As we begin our trek soon to Annual Conference, I pray that you will always be a part of God’s perfect wisdom. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Readings from Acts 2:1-4 and John 14: 25-27
On this Pentecost Sunday, the day in which we celebrate the birthday of the universal Christian Church, I want to suggest that the mission of any particular church is very simple.
The mission is to reach people with the message of Jesus Christ.
That’s why we people of God have been called into existence.
But it’s easy to get sidetracked, isn’t it?
To start thinking that our mission is something other than what it really is.
So with that in mind, I want us to consider the
reason, the resource, and finally, the responsibility of our mission.
First of all – the reason for the mission.
The reason for our mission is Jesus.
Now there are a lot of people today saying that it really doesn’t matter what you believe.
Well I disagree with that, because what we believe affects the way we act.
So what do we believe about Jesus?
Well, let me tell you some of what I believe.
I believe that Jesus is God in the flesh.
I believe that He performed real miracles.
I believe that we will never find a better system of ethics than that presented in the Sermon on the Mount.
And if we want to do away with prejudice, or end war and see people live together in peace, we must go back to the Sermon on the Mount, and learn those basic lessons.
I believe that Jesus left heaven, and experienced all the things we experience in this world – hatred, ridicule, rejection, and death.
I believe when He died, He paid the debt for our sins.
I also believe that Jesus arose from the dead.
I believe that He ascended into heaven.
And I believe that He’s coming back soon.
And because we’re compelled by the love of
God found in Jesus Christ the reason for our mission is Jesus.
Secondly, consider the resource for our mission. There is a principle in Scripture that says: “God never asks us to do something but what He enables us to do it.”
Before the Lord ascended to heaven he gave his commission to the church to go into all the world and to preach and baptizing people in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
That is not an impossible task because Jesus said, “I’ll never leave you alone. I will always be with you.”
So the Holy Spirit is the resource to do the job that is before us.
In Acts 3 is a wonderful example of this in a story of Peter and John going into the temple.
As they enter they hear a lame man crying for money.
Peter and John walk up to him and Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have
I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
Suddenly, the man is leaping and jumping around, and a crowd is gathering because of
The religious leaders hearing of this summon Peter and John.
There is a wonderful question in Acts 4:7: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
Listen to the answer in vs. 8.
It says, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy
Spirit, said to them: “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead that this man stands before you completely healed.
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Now listen to vs. 13, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
Here’s the point, ordinary people filled with the Holy Spirit of Jesus, can do extraordinary things.
Nothing is impossible with God when we recognize that our resource is the power of God.
Christian author Tony Campolo tells of being invited to speak at a ladies meeting.
Before he spoke the president of the organization read a letter from a missionary.
In the letter the missionary expressed a need for $4,000 to take care of an emergency that had cropped up.
So the president of the organization said, “We
need to pray that God will provide the resources to meet the need of this missionary.
Rev. Campolo will you please pray for us?”
Tony Campolo, who is very outspoken said, “No.” Startled, she said, “I beg your pardon.”
He said, “No, I won’t pray for that.”
He said, “I believe that God has already
provided the resources and that all we need to do is give.
Tell you what I’m going to do.
I’m going to step up to this table and give every bit of cash I have in my pocket.
And if all of you will do the same thing, I think God has already provided the resources.”
The president of the organization chuckled a little bit and said, “Well, I guess we get the point.
He is trying to teach us that we all need to give
He said, “No, that is not what I am trying to teach you at all. I’m trying to teach you that God has already provided for this missionary.
So he put down the $15 he had in his pocket and then looked at the president of the organization.
Reluctantly, she opened her purse and took out all of her money, which was about $40, and put it on the table.
One by one the rest of the ladies filed by and put
their money on the table, too. When the money was counted they had collected
to the penny the amount that was needed.
Tony Campolo said, “Now, here’s the lesson. God always supplies for our needs, and he supplied for this missionary, too. The only problem was we were keeping it for ourselves. Now let’s pray & thank God for His provision.”
Friends, our resource is the Holy Spirit.
And I believe with all my heart that God has given everything this church needs to accomplish the mission that God has placed before us.
He has given us spiritual gifts, and talents.
He has given us financial resources.
He has given us everything we need to do the work that God has called us to do.
If we will take seriously our responsibility and that is my last point.
As Christians we are responsible.
We are called to be in servant ministries along side of our Lord.
In 2 Kings, chapters 6 & 7, there is a story. The King of Aramea is besieging the city of Samaria, and the people there are starving. It’s a terrible situation.
Chapter 7 tells us that there are 4 lepers at the city gates discussing what to do.
Finally, they decide to surrender, “The enemy might kill us,” they reasoned, “but we would die anyway. Maybe we will get something to eat, and then we’ll be better off than we are now.”
So they go into the camp of the Aramean army to surrender.
But in the meantime, the Bible tells us that God had caused the King and all of his army to hear the
sound of hoof beats and the rolling chariots of a mighty army coming.
Frightened, fleeing for their lives, they leave behind tables full of food, plenty of food.
These 4 lepers walk into the enemy camp to surrender, and nobody is there. They go into the tents of the enemy and see tables full of food.
They are starving, so they begin to gorge themselves.
Then they find silver and gold and fine clothing and start carrying it away and hiding it.
Then suddenly, there is this wonderful verse in chapter 7, vs. 9. It says, “Then they said to each other, ‘We’re not doing right. This is a day of good
news and we are keeping it to ourselves.’”
So they run back to the city and tell the people the good news. So the starving people come and they’re fed & they’re satisfied.
That is a picture of our world, isn’t it? We come to God’s house and we’re fed.
But isn’t it sad that you and I are eating so much and the rest of the world is going hungry?
It’s the day of Good News and it’s wrong for us to keep it to ourselves. The mission of the church is to take it to the world.
As we celebrate the birth of the Church, remember the mission has not changed, our resource is still present with us, and it is our responsibility to carry it out. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Readings from Psalm 47; John 13:31-35
Anybody here this morning remember what it used to be like to drive a car . . . before power steering? before automatic transmission? before air conditioning? before seat belts?
Let’s stop there for a moment. Before seat belts, parents could pack eight kids into a family car, ages one week to 18 years, with no restraining thoughts or devices.
Automobile safety is much more regulated than it used to be.
Today we have laws requiring children under four years and forty pounds to be buckled into some sort of child car seat.
You can’t even bring your newborn home from the hospital until they make sure a child car seat is in your car.
For slightly older kids there are booster seats.
With the mandatory installation of airbags, no kids under the age of 12 are supposed to be allowed in the front seat at all – for fear of the force of the exploding air bag causing them more injury than any crash.
Before all these mechanical safety devices, however, some of us no doubt grew up with a different kind of child-restraint system.
Judith Viorst reminded me of this when she wrote: “This year I received a Mother’s Day card that pictured a mother driving a car, her son in the passenger seat and her outstretched arm protectively flung across his chest. I’ve heard a great deal from my sons about my overprotective tendencies but I think that this card’s message said it best. The message said, ‘To Mom, the original seat belt.’ “
A mom’s protective reach has always been the saving seat belt for her family. But this seat belt takes different forms in different families.
· For some mom offered the seat belt of continuous presence.
· At the door when they trudged off to school.
· Welcoming them back when they flew in the door.
· Putting every meal on the table.
· Shouting encouragement at every game.
For some mom offered the seat belt of role model.
· A mom who always worked incredibly hard at her job, her church, her tennis, her family.
· A mom who put everything she had into all the things she did, regardless how important, or how trivial.
For some mom offered the seat belt of stability.
· New schools, · new homes, · new challenges,
· new ideas, · new lifestyles . . . but always mom.
A “no fear” mom raising “no fear” kids.
For some mom offered a seat belt of gentleness. A spirit of love, forgiveness, tenderness, always accessible, always welcoming. Arms that wrapped around to provide a time-out, decompression space.
Whether your mom was a “rock of Gibralter”-type, or a “Balm in Gilead”-type, or the worst possible one, she still helped create who you are and how you respond to the world.
Author Hester Mundis noted, “There’s no such thing as a nonworking mother.”
As Michelangelo sculpted with such heart-breaking poignancy, even Jesus ended where he began: in the arms of his mother.
Have you noticed Mother’s Day trounces poor Father’s Day by a longshot.
Hallmark estimates that 150 million Mother’s Day cards will be sent this year (but only 95 million Father’s Day cards), making Mother’s Day the third largest greeting card holiday of the year.
U.S. Americans spend an average of $105 on Mother’s Day gifts, $90 on Father’s Day gifts.
The phone rings more often on Mother’s day than Father’s day.
The busiest day of the year at car washes? The Saturday before Mother’s Day. What mom thinks still matters.
Even if it is a fallacy, we do like to think of Mother’s Day as “Mom’s day off.” Usually this takes the form of dining out for one of the three meals.
Making her breakfast in bed. Maybe doing some of the chores.
In our Scripture, Jesus, Messiah, Son of Man, Son of God, didn’t ask much–just that we be as open and accepting in our love as was the Divine, the Creator, the Lord God.
Okay, maybe for some of us this IS a tall order. But Jesus made a way.
When we participate in Christ’s death and resurrection in baptism we invite Christ to be born into the depth and breadth, the width and height of our soul.
This risen Christ-within fills us with Christ-love, fills us with love that is, indeed, as Jesus himself loved us.
Christ-love is the seat belt on our spirit.
The gentle binding on our heart and soul that lets us venture into dangerous territory, unknown challenges, and unfriendly circumstances without losing our love.
The greatest love we can express is not mother’s love or father’s love, not romantic love or humanitarian love.
The greatest love, which we are called by Christ to be filled with to overflowing, is “disciple love.”
· The most successful and adored mothers have raised their children with disciple love.
· The most honored and revered fathers have extended unbounded disciple love.
· The most venerated and beatified servants of God have embodied disciple love.
On Mother’s Day, on any day, disciple love doesn’t take a day off.
It rejoices every day to have yet another chance to show itself to everyone.
I offer these words to encourage you, amen.
Readings from Acts 1: 6-11 and 1 Samuel 17: 32-49
Today is the Sunday that we recognize as Ascension of the Lord.
After all this time the resurrected Christ has been making appearances and finally we have as described in the Acts passage his return to heaven.
The next big event is the gift of the Holy Spirit and the revelation of God is then complete as Holy Trinity.
Because of the power of the resurrected Christ we can move into the future with confidence God is with us.
This coming Saturday morning the leadership of this church will be coming together to begin a new time of visioning and planning.
In the recent survey we found our strongest area to be our small groups that meet and our weakest area was in our evangelistic efforts.
We also received our demographic report from the Conference Office of Congregational Development in which we found out that within a 5 mile radius of Memorial is 109,489 people.
Our future is bright if we slay our twin fears; fear of the future and fear of the task ahead.
This is the same fear that caused the armies of Israel to be immobile in their response to Goliath.
These fears often cause a lack of a clear focus.
Congregations that focus inward are not fulfilling Christ’s command to go and make new disciples.
Congregations that are thriving are those who have embraced God’s call to go into the world.
The Church exists to glorify God in worship and in service to the world.
Or as a recent church sign stated: “The church is a gift to the world but assembly is required.”
“Go” –evangelism, “and make.” –discipleship training; this is Jesus’ command to his followers.
1 Peter 2:5 says: “God’s people are a holy priesthood chosen for a purpose.”
But sometimes we lay on so many conditions we get stuck in place.
Look at our Scripture again.
After David had offered to go and face Goliath, Saul in effect says: Well if you persist David in going and doing this foolish thing you need a tunic and a coat of armor and a bronze helmet and don’t forget this sword.
After David had put on all these suggestions from Saul on how to complete the mission the Lord had called him to do why David could hardly walk much less defeat Goliath.
I can’t go fight this way, David says and he puts these hindrances aside.
You see when God fires up someone to go and defeat a Goliath, God doesn’t need anyone not even a king second guessing him and telling him how to do it.
If the Lord has fired you up to go and invite your neighborhood to come to Memorial then take some like minded friends with you and just do it.
If God has fired you up to begin a new ministry or mission then take some like minded friends with you and just do it.
The Lord said go and all David took was what he had always taken when he had faced the bears and the lions, his slingshot and a few smooth stones and the faith that God was with him.
In other words not much which is the point,
David was counting more on the Lord’s help than on his own understanding.
His faithful response can be heard in the Scripture where it reads: “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
In other words, David is saying: “I believe that God is calling me to this mission. I know that what I need to accomplish it is not so much what I bring as it is my willingness to go and do, and if we will put away our fear, and start having a little faith in the God of Israel, we will slay this big headed, loud mouth, Goliath in front of us.”
Listen to me church: A Church should always operate with permission as a given, it should be the rule not the exception.
God already has all the authority he needs and God will provide the power if we will let loose the Spirit.
We must not let fear of the future and the task ahead cause us a lack of focus; for the biblical refrain is Be Not Afraid!
For example if we need more of our members to start participating in the things we already are doing, don’t be afraid to reach out and touch someone with a text, an email, or phone call.
Remember one of our surveyed strengths was our small groups. Each group should have a goal to multiply and grow stronger.
And friends we need to make new disciples for Jesus so don’t be afraid to go out of your way to meet someone new at work or play, and certainly get to know those already visiting here.
Don’t be afraid to invite people to an event, for the number one proven method for bringing people to Christ’s church is to simply build relationships with them.
If you only speak to people you know how will you ever get to know someone new and introduce them to Memorial?
Today people everywhere are hungry for spiritual growth and are looking for guides to help them on their journeys.
Back to the Scripture.
Remember it was the youngest man who was willing to change the status quo and to use unconventional means.
We need to be bold in our utilization of all our members in leadership roles and we should be open to their ideas and innovations.
When we meet in our visioning time we should approach every idea without limitations.
Friends if it takes us doing something outside our comfort zone to get people in touch with us what is wrong with that?
Our new Bishop likes to tell the story of scouting Sunday when he first arrived at his last church. It was attended by about a dozen scouts. He thought surely this could be more effective.
So they moved from a scouting Sunday to a scouting weekend. They held a mini scouting jamboree with tents pitched all over the church yard—and that year they had a standing room only scouting Sunday.
Friends the world needs to hear the good news and it will respond when the people of God are willing to reach out in innovative ways.
Friends the future is now we need not be afraid of it.
New ideas prompted by the Holy Spirit must be allowed to grow even when we can not fully understand them.
Gone are the days when church means the same thing to all people, that is why small groups are so important.
Authentic faith is confidence that God is with us, that we are not alone, that we should be bold in our decisions, and that we should allow God’s will to be done in the Church not our own.
Listen to the Scripture again:
“David said to the Philistine: You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel.
This day the Lord will hand you over to me.”
My friends sleigh that dragon of fear, in the church and in your individual lives, move forward in courage and in hope for our strength is in the name of the Lord Almighty. Amen.
Readings from Psalm 148: 1-14 and Revelations 21:1-4
Hymns 61,407 and 369
Just the words put moisture in your mouth.
Almost every fancy restaurant seems to offer their own version of this extra rich, extra decadent, extra delight they dub Death by Chocolate.
For committed chocoholics this dessert offers the ultimate attempt to sweeten a bitter reality: we can’t escape death.
Have you ever noticed how often we try to laugh in the face of death with our comments?
Like I hope to die with my boots on or I want to die in the arms of a beautiful woman (hopefully we are talking about our wives when we say that)
These comments really come out of our nervousness about facing the reality of death.
Everybody in this room will one day walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
No one gets a free pass through this valley.
It doesn’t matter if you spend two hours a day sweating at the gym . . . It doesn’t matter if you take every vitamin found in a drug store . . .It doesn’t matter what you do to prolong it one day you and I will die.
It is the one sure event in our lives the one experience, without question, which we all have in common.
But thinking about death has confounded the greatest minds.
As he lay dying, the great writer Tolstoy said “I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do.”
The fact is many of us deny the reality of death and certainly many of us are not sure how to face death.
It is as though, if we refuse to acknowledge death, it will lose its ability to catch us in its grip.
There is an old story about three friends one afternoon who posed the following question to themselves: “When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning you, what would you like to hear them say about you?”
The first guy said, “I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor and a great family man.”
The second guy said, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher who made a huge difference.”
The last guy replied, “I would like to hear them say: ‘LOOK!!! HE’S MOVING!!!’”
In today’s Scripture lesson the writer accepts the reality of death but reminds us as did our Scripture last week that the Resurrected Jesus has the last word over death.
By willingly participating in the death that awaits all human beings, Jesus experienced the totality of human frailty and stands in solidarity with the suffering we must go through in this life as we make it to the next.
What an astounding thought. Each of us will ultimately have death in common with Jesus Christ.
In fact, it was not until that final moment when Jesus confidently let go, saying, “It is finished,” that the world took possession of its greatest treasure and our greatest hope.
Jesus’ death and resurrection forever altered the meaning of death. Jesus transformed human death from something to be feared or manipulated by human will into a new beginning, into a triumphant new life, an eternal existence in Christ.
And even though it brings tears, one day there will be no more crying and no more death as our old enemy will be finally be put to death himself.
As the Apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians, “These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon us forever and ever! So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
If we have confidence in Christ, in the once-and-for-all nature of Jesus’ death, then our lives become an extension of Christ’s death.
And therefore our death need not be feared nor manipulated because we trust Jesus Christ to carry us on God’s providential timing through the valley of the shadow of death.
It is a shadow of itself because it has lost its power over us.
For Christians our living takes its power and persistence, its commitment and compassion, from our death-to-come. Christ’s sacrifice gave life to our death.
Norman Vincent Peale once related a story comparing the birth of a child into the world with the passage of a person through death and their rebirth if you will into the heavenly realms.
He imagined an unborn child might be thinking: I don’t want to be born. I like it here. All my needs are met. It’s warm and comfortable here. Don’t talk to me about birth!”
Likewise we hear our heavenly Father tell us: “I’ve made provision for you beyond this life. I know life is awesome, but it’s only a passageway into my presence.”
The old argument goes on the same way: “I don’t understand what you’re talking about. I like it here. I don’t want to die. I have a hard time believing that it would be any better!”
The bottom line is we all have trouble trusting that something is better we have not seen or experienced.
Are you; am I, like a child in the womb of this earthly life?
Are we resisting God or are we prepared to claim God promises?
Will we trust God? Or have we succumbed to fear or human desire to manipulate our existence beyond the parameters God created?
My friends our death must never be feared nor manipulated by selfish human will.
I pray that you will live until the word of your life is fully spoken and then you will accept God’s good and perfect will for your next journey.
“May you live until the word of your life is fully spoken.”
Readings from Revelation 7: 9-12 and Acts 9: 36-43
Our lesson today comes from the Book of Acts.
Acts is the record of the remarkable growth and spread of Christianity throughout the first century after Jesus returns to heaven.
In this passage we are reminded of the power that Jesus promised his church through the Holy Spirit.
We are also reminded what happens when disciples move from fishing to Ministry.
The story concerns a woman named Tabitha, which is Aramaic for gazelle.
The Greek word for gazelle is Dorcas and that is why you see both names mentioned.
It is also important to note that this woman is identified with the same word for disciple that is used to refer to the original twelve.
This has caused some Biblical scholars to speculate that she may have been one of the many women who followed Jesus.
Or it may simply refer to the work that she did.
In other words her actions demonstrate one of the things a disciple should be doing, helping the poor and dispossessed.
Now Tabitha lived in the town of Joppa, which is the modern port city of Jaffa, Israel on the Mediterranean Sea.
In Joppa, Tabitha headed a kind of welfare program for the city that was especially important to the widows of the city.
Widows in that time were often very poor, many at the bottom of society having lost the income of their husbands.
Tabitha had given her life’s work to helping others and so when she dies and her life work dies with her it is a tragedy in more ways than one.
At about the same time the community of believers in Joppa hear that the apostle Peter is nearby preaching and teaching,
And so they send word to him about Tabitha.
Maybe they thought Peter could bring a word of comfort to them concerning their loss.
And so Peter traveled from Lydda to Joppa.
Now at this time Peter was the unofficial if not the official head of the church.
Even though the apostle Paul was the missionary and evangelist to the gentiles, in Israel, the birthplace of our faith, Peter was kind of like the head bishop.
In other words Peter visiting would have been a big deal to the followers of Jesus.
And for Peter to come and see about the death of Tabitha certainly points to her importance in the early Christian community.
Now if the story ended here it would be by itself still very interesting, for it speaks to us about the importance of the church’s role in society and a bishop’s role as shepherd.
But as important as all that is what I want to focus on today is what happened when Peter arrived.
For what happens is very important for us to hear again and to faithfully believe.
Remember Tabitha is dead.
Dead as any human can be.
But death will not have the last word.
Here in this struggling new community of believers,
Here in this new world where the church of Jesus Christ is dawning,
Here the name of Jesus is not some word that is casually tossed about,
No, here the name of Jesus bears the same life and death giving power as if the Creator was present.
My friends the Holy Spirit power demonstrated through Peter is the same Holy Spirit that Jesus promised to us.
We might not acknowledge it but that does not mean it is not present.
It is present and active and available and in our lesson we see it manifested in a fishermen turned priest.
Yes, Peter’s actions indicate once again to a disbelieving world that prayer, faith, and Jesus can overcome any obstacle.
All the boundaries of life, the very breath of life itself, obey the name of Jesus.
Each miraculous sign is proof that God’s promise to change the established order of things is moving forward into a glorious future.
Jesus said in Luke 11:20 “The kingdom of God has come upon you.”
And my friends when the Kingdom comes things can never be the same and miracles will happen.
Every time stories like these are remembered.
Every time they are faithfully told by the church,
the evil system of sin and death is stamped once again with the sign of the cross,
and the words null and void.
Yes, there was Tabitha,
body laid out,
waiting for burial.
The widows were crying,
The gravediggers were making ready the tomb,
but Saint Peter got down on his knees,
and Tabitha got up.
Peter called out the name of Jesus,
And death went packing.
When the present,
Holy Spirit filled church,
speaks, and acts with the power of Jesus name,
Well the spirits shudder behind the gates of hell.
Remember, Jesus promised that his followers would do greater things than he ever did,
and like so many of Jesus’ prophetic words these too have come true.
Whether they occur from miracle drugs or skilled surgeon’s hands,
or whether they are totally unexplained,
Whenever we acknowledge that the Risen Christ is present there is a new power,
one that can overcome the handicaps of human existence.
Miracles do happen whether we want to give God any of the credit or not.
They happened then and they happen now.
But they happen on God’s timetable not our own because they are not for our glory but for God’s.
The gift of healing is a gift of the spirit,
and it is a gift to the church and it could manifest itself at any time, at any place and in any age.
It is the result of resurrection power that came into the world through Jesus.
You know Peter was simply responding to Jesus’ call on his life as we heard last week.
He did not make a big fanfare,
He didn’t rent a big tent,
slap some people in the forehead and start passing the collection plate,
He simply went to his knees and prayed in faith,
Just like he had seen Jesus do on many occasions.
God working through Peter brought Tabitha back to life and many around Joppa believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank you Lord Jesus for showing forth your glory through Peter and Tabitha and so many others since.
Thank you for reminding us that you can still heal us and make us whole.
Thank you for all those who were faithful to your call on their lives so that we too have come to believe.
Help us to get on our knees so that those dead in the faith might rise up and live again.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Reading from John 21:1-19
Gracious God, May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight. O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen
After the Resurrection on Easter Morning and before the Ascension of our Lord into heaven, the Risen Christ appears several times.
Today’s Scripture records one such meeting.
It is important to note that the text says this was not the first time these disciples had seen the Risen Lord.
This appearance happened according to John’s gospel like this: Peter and some of the disciples go out fishing.
But after fishing all night they were on the way back to shore empty handed.
This story sounds very familiar doesn’t it?
I can’t help but believe that the risen Christ must have felt a certain feeling of deja vue too.
Yes, they were fishing whether we like it or not.
They had been beside Jesus night and day for nearly three years.
They had received the blessing of his teachings and had heard of God’s promises.
They had been called to high service.
They had witnessed the death and experienced the resurrection.
They were witnesses to the greatest story ever told and yet there they were back to their old ways and their old life.
In fact they were already so caught up in their own immediate problem, namely the lack of a catch of fish, that they did not even recognize Jesus at first.
And so as we begin to read and understand this passage,
As we watch the boat bobbing once again in the troubled water of the past,
We wonder will there be a future?
Will there be an active and vibrant church, catching the spirit, alive and on fire for the kingdom of God?
I wonder how precarious did the future of the Christian church hang in the balance at this crossroads?
I can’t help but wonder about what might have gone through the mind of the Risen Christ before he spoke a single word?
I wonder if there was a tinge of disappointment?
I wonder if grace was the first thing on his mind?
We of course cannot know for sure, all we know is what He did next.
He called out to them. He called out to those whom He had called out to before.
Oh how very thankful I am that Jesus issues more than one call in our lives.
How thankful I am that the Church does not wholly depend upon our limited attention.
Yes, Jesus called out, not in judgment, nor condemnation, He called out with gracious concern.
“Have you caught any fish?”
“No,” the reply came.
And we are not surprised are we?
“Then throw your net on the right side and you will.”
How very thankful I am that Jesus is willing to guide all of us poor and empty handed disciples in knowing what the right thing is to do, in every situation.
How wonderful it is when we listen to and obey his voice.
Following Jesus’ command the disciples found their nets full and overflowing.
And in this newfound success they recognize that standing there is the Risen Lord.
The text says Peter in his excitement jumps into the water and begins to swim ashore.
The others drag the now full nets and soon follow.
What a celebration, what a homecoming there will be when we break bread together once again with the Risen Lord.
You know as we contemplate this crossroads in our ministry together, yours with Joseph, mine with Emma Gray Memorial; as we start winding down one conference year and start up another,
I can’t help but have some of those feelings of deja vue too.
I can’t help but wonder about the future.
Some have told me that they are worried.
Worry often causes us to yearn for the past.
So the question in our text for us is this: will we, will our church go fishing,
Or will we, our church, continue to move forward in mission and ministry.
The text says that after the disciples and Jesus had broken bread together, Jesus began to speak to them very specifically.
And as we look at this part of the Scripture record we need to remember that Jesus’ questions are asked in the context of failure,
The failure of Peter to acknowledge Jesus on the night of his arrest,
And the failure now of going back to business as usual instead of moving forward in mission and ministry for the kingdom of God.
To me there is a lesson here for all who love the Lord Jesus Christ,
And it is an important lesson for all would be leaders of Christ’s church.
The Lord’s nature is to offer forgiveness.
That says to me that if we will return to our first love, the Lord Jesus, and we remain focused upon the Lord and our mission to share the Good News,
Jesus will equip us with what we need to get the job done.
In other words fishing is fine for an occasional rest period; but loving the Lord by taking care of his sheep must always be the first priority of those who call themselves disciples.
My friends, Jesus is willing to forgive us as individuals, and as a church,
But for us to remain His kingdom builders,
We must take very seriously his questions to the disciples that day:
Do we love the Lord enough to feed and take care of the sheep?
Regardless of what else might occur, if we are caring for and feeding the sheep we will be in God’s will.
Christ has risen!
Christ has conquered sin and death.
Christ has turned his precious light into this dark world and it will never be the same again and neither can you or I.
But the job is not finished.
If it was finished then the risen Christ would have jumped into the boat and grabbed a fishing pole.
But He didn’t.
Jesus called them a second time to be true to their better nature.
Jesus reminded them that the love of God is proved in our actions and our love of all people: the lambs and the sheep.
As disciples we must feed, take care of, love all people, and share with them the good news of the Risen Christ.
We must take seriously the Lord’s commands as stated in our membership vows.
You can be assured that if we are true to our vows God will do the rest.
Don’t worry if some of those lambs and sheep turn out to be goats, remember, the Lord has a plan.
Lord, Bless these words to our understanding as they are offered in your name. Amen.