August 27th 2017
Let us pray: Dear God we thank you for all the gifts you give into our lives. Help us to see you and ourselves as unimportant and put our focus on you. Allow us as your servants to be a living sacrifice forgiving others as you have forgiven us. I imploring you to make me your servant allow me to deliver your word to those so desperately in need. This I pray in Jesus holy and precious name. Amen
Today we are going to explore many gifts. To do this we first need to ask what is a gift? A gift is a thing willingly given, a present. Gifts can also refer to natural talents or abilities.
This morning I see God as the presenter of our gifts. So what kind of gift is he presenting well that would be our natural talents or abilities. So today I would like to look at the many gifts that each one of us may possess.
We will do this by delving into the words of Paul to see his advice for us.
He begins by urging us, yes that is right he is urging us, brothers and sisters in the view of God’s mercy to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. So what is a living sacrifice? It is the right reaction to God’s boundless grace that allows us to consecrate ourselves for God’s service. We will cease to live to ourselves in order that we might live for God. So how do we become living sacrifices? We need to stop trying to do things that help or benefit us. Instead we need to live in such a way as to give glory to God.
Why, should we do this? Why should we live this way? Simple by living like this and becoming like this we will perform true and proper worship.
Worship takes place here. We come together to share in the corporate worship of God. Yet it is so much more than this sanctuary.
Worship begins here in the heart.
Worship begins when we wake and give thanks to God, it continues when we make plans to come together to worship Him. Just walking into this room is not worshiping, nor is it sitting with our friends, and our spiritual family. Only by turning our lives over to the Lord are we truly able to worship God.
The world will tell you that by Worship God you are giving up self-control and turning yourself into His puppet. Instead what they do not realize is sometimes it is the things that control us that set us free. In the eight step of Alcoholics Anonymous it talks about the bit in the mouth. What many don’t understand is what the bit really is. It is a way to keep a horse in control and through the bit guidance can be given by an outside source. To us a spiritual bit is held by God holding the reins and gently guiding us. This will help keep us in control.
Instead we will find out that by doing what God wants us to do we will not be conformed to the world but be freed from it. We will be transformed by our minds being renewed through God. Then we will be able to know and approve what God’s will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will.
Paul next step is to takes his listeners as well as us down a very different path. He shares that by the grace given to him he is saying to all of them, do not think of ourselves more highly than we should. Rather we need to think of ourselves with sober judgement. Once again we are stymied by a definition, sober judgement? This means one who is not given to excessive indulgence in drink or any other activity, to be able to think sensibly and rationally, to be free from exaggeration or speculation.
So how many of us when it comes to faith think about holding back about focusing on what we should do and how we should give the glory to the one who deserves it not take credit for ourselves. We are not the message but only the messengers. We need to do this by living lives of faith using the gifts God gives to each of us.
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. So I want us to think about each of these gifts and how we can see them reflected in our society today.
Paul begins “if you are called to Prophecy then prophecy”. This was a concept that I struggled with the most. After all we have prophecies that have been fulfilled in both the Old and New Testaments. Over the years we have had people who made earthly predictions about future events and been dead wrong. The Millerites following Baptist Pastor William Miller sold all their earthly possessions because he prophesied the day that Jesus would return. Based on his Bible Study and research it was to be October 22, 1843. So how do I explain prophesy without stepping into the realm of mysticism?
Simple we have modern day prophets in our society today. They are called meteorologists, they give us prophecies about what the temp will be what kind of storms we are expecting unfortunately they run about 50 / 50 in their predictions.
How about SU Basketball when the rankings come out SU will be listed nationally but what is this ranking but a prophecy on who will do the best. This is based on past performance, as well as new acquisitions to the team. Then during the year they alter their prophecy based on factors like injuries and teamwork. The ultimate prophecy for SU basketball is when people fill out their final four brackets. So if a person is called to prophesying prophesy.
If we are called to serve than serve! Now where there are many ways to serve in this country these include military, police, fire, medical, doctors, nurses, EMT’s and how about waiters and waitresses? One of the greatest ways we can be of service to our nation is by honoring summons and doing our civic duty. I am not sure how many here have served on jury duty, I also am not sure how many of you have been called or have served if you have please raise your Hand. Thank you for your service. So if you are called to serve than serve.
If you are called to teach then teach, now what can we learn from this? We have all had experiences that we learn from and grow from. Sometimes the worst events in our lives have the most to teach not just us but those who are to come. We can by sharing what we have suffered help other to not have to suffer in the same way. I also believe teachers and those working in education also have a higher calling.
If it is to encourage, then give encouragement, A young pastor right out of seminary returned home to his Church and was introduced to the congregation as the newest pastor in the church. As such he was asked to deliver a message to the body. He joyfully jumped up ran to the front of the sanctuary to preach. He trips on the riser and proceeded to drop his note cards. His fifty note cards his fifty unnumbered note cards. In a panic starting to sweat he tried to pull his notes together and failing to do so climbed into the pulpit shaking and pale. He hummed and stammered his way through his message. Then blissfully after what seemed to him like an eternity he was done and head between his knees sulked down off the riser. A kindly elder sought the boy out putting his hand around his shoulder said, “Son if you would have gone up there like you came down you would have come down like you went up.”
If it is giving, then give generously, giving is something Paul was particularly keen on. As he started churches across the known world he did not just start and leave but was constantly checking up on them and making sure they had help and support. He would take up offerings and send the funds to churches to make sure they had a healthy foundation.
If it is to lead, do it diligently; Leadership it is key to both our private lives as well as leadership in the Church. A CEO of a fortune five hundred company announced his upcoming retirement. His plan was to select his successor but wanted to do it in an unusual way. He gave all the companies VP’s a seed. Then asked them to take them home and grow the plant that came from them and the one who was most successful would step into the CEO’s job. They all took their seeds and for several months the most unusual race took place. The VP’s all talked about how their plants were doing and how they were a shoe in for the job.
One man was silent. His seed did not grow. He gave it water sunlight fertilizer did everything right but it would not grow. His wife encouraged him to grow a second plant and substitute it for the first. He just could not do it.
The time finally came and all the VP’s gathered some with veritable trees other fine flowing plants. The one man sat all by himself with his empty pot. The CEO arrived and examined each plant oohing and ahhing over each beauty. Then at last he came to the man with an empty pot. He looked at the pot and asked what happened. The man said he did not know. He took the seed did everything right but was ashamed to say he could not get it to grow. So he brought in the pot to show he tried. The CEO beamed and welcomed the man as the new CEO of the company. Then he looked at all the other VP’s and said the seed he sent out were all irradiated they were dead and nothing could be grown from them.
All the others had switched their seeds and brought in plants to amaze the boss but instead found out their duplicity was their failing. He wanted an example of leadership by seeing who would be honest.
Paul’s last teaching, if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully, all of us are sinners.
All are in need of Jesus blood for our salvation.
Yet also we are called to forgive others as we wish to be forgiven.
We are not God and cannot forgive the way God can, yet it is up to us to show mercy as God has shown it to us. When we are called to forgive others we must do it cheerfully, honestly letting go not using this as a hammer in the future. Then we can come back together in Christian fellowship.
Paul has shown us the gifts of God, now it is up to us to live as God would have us live. We must not focus on ourselves but squarely put our focus on God. We must use the gifts he has given us to forgive others and we too will be forgiven.
That my friend’s is what I call a true gift from God! Amen
August 13th 2017
Let us pray: Dear Lord this morning we come to you celebrating the good news you have for us. Lord help us to be a people who celebrate all the good things you intend for us. Lord make the words I share not my words, I truly pray you make me your messenger allowing me to share your words. Father this morning permit me to touch much more than the ear of the listener but their heart and set them on fire. Allow O God the Holy Spirit to move with in this place and that we receive the Spirit promised and given to us by your son Jesus. All this I pray in Jesus Holy and Precious name.
This morning we will be taking our que from your servant Paul. We begin with his words in Romans 10. Here Paul is talking about Moses the one who wrote about righteousness that is by the law. That is the Ten Commandments sent by God. Anyone who reads these and does them will live by them.
So our base is the Ten Commandments. Like Paul we can look back to the teaching of Moses. Fortunately we do not have to look back that far. We just need to look at our modern buildings. The United States Supreme Court has a copy of the Ten Commandments as the door you enter to go into the chamber. Also we see a copy of the Ten Commandments both over the place where the justice’s sit.
Commandments can be seen outside of most state capitol buildings.
This document has been seen and used through the years. My favorite has to be the cowboy Ten Commandments. These are posted on the wall at Cross Trails Church in Fairly, TX. (1) Just one God (2) Honor yer Ma & Pa (3) No telling tales or gossipin’ (4) Git yourself to Sunday meeting. (5) Put nothin’ before God (6) No foolin’ around with another fellow’s gal (7) No killin’ (8) Watch yer mouth (9) Don’t take what ain’t yers (10) Don’t be hankerin’ for yer buddy’s stuff.
Yet Paul ever an anomaly wanting us to establish a foundation based on the Ten Commandments. At the same time He wants us to exceed these growing in our faith by embracing the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Paul does this with a very confusing statement, our righteousness being by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down). So what does this mean?
It means that Jesus Christ is the one, the only one, who came down from heaven with God’s teaching. Not one of us, not even Moses who climbed the mountain to talk with God had to go up to heaven to get this teaching. Instead for all of us the teaching we received came from Jesus and was freely given to us all.
Yet Paul is not done instead he wants us to consider the other direction. “or ‘ Who will descend into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
Not one of us has been or will be called to go down into the depths in order to bring Jesus up from the dead.
This plan of God was so obscure that even Jesus closest friends while he was in the tomb had no idea what was going to happen. This being the case I ask how could anyone have been sent down to bring Jesus up from the grave?
Jesus came up from the depths only through the power of God.
Here Paul is referring to Matthew 27: 1 – 3 where upon Jesus death, at that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
This was so much more significant than people realize. First the vail as described was as thick as a man’s hand four inches think. When the curtain was first installed according to Alfred Edershime and various other rabbinic sources it took 300 priests just to carry the curtain to the temple.
This being the case can any of us imagine the weight and the strength of such a tapestry? A normal carpet like this would under most circumstances be impossible to rip or tear provided you were not some super human sumo wrestler.
Now consider that this curtain was torn from the top down a truly supernatural action.
Yet this was not the only event as Jesus rises from the depths.
As the earth shook the quake was felt through the land. A number of things occurred one of which was tombs splitting open and the bodies of many holy people who were dead were raised to life.
These individuals came out of the tombs after Jesus resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared too many people. After all do we not hear Jesus own words in Revelation 1:18, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Being the ones who held the keys when he came up he brought the prisoners with Him.
Then Paul teaching takes us back to, well, us.
His goal is to remind us that God’s word is near us; it is in our mouths and in our heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is LORD,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with our hearts that we believe and are justified, and it is with our mouths that we profess our faith and are saved.
As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in Jesus will never be put to shame.” Here Paul was referring to Isaiah 28: 16 So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.
The teaching may be seen in The Old Testament, the New Testament and today. These words are still true. No one who trusts in Jesus will ever be put to shame.
We may lose earthly battles. We may experience earthly loss but in the end when it comes down to the kingdom of heaven not one of us will be put to shame.
Then Paul once again begins building bridges. He uses an inclusive language that was all but unheard of during the first century. He drew a connection between Jew and Gentile – he shared that the same LORD is LORD of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” How does that feel to know that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
This brings us to the final advice Paul has for us all. It is a call to each of us advising us what we need to do for the world. He asks the same question that we need to ask today. So how can those who so desperately need Jesus call on Him if they do not believe in Him?
How can they believe in Jesus if they have not heard about Him? This does not matter if they are in deepest Darkest Africa, in small villages in China where opening God’s word can be punished with beatings or imprisonment. Or just those in our country who chose to live without God’s word, do not want any knowledge of what He has done, or is willing to do for them.
Yet to all of them God has appointed voices, ones to go to them and to speak with them sharing the good news. The way Paul shares it, how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
As we close I want us to consider one last thought. Each one of us is empowered to be those who bring the good news. Some are to go to family, some are to go to friends, some are to go to the world as missionaries. Yet each one of us bears the burden to bring His message to a world so desperately in need.
All of us will have opportunities to share and to minister but will we? Will we be bold ambassadors of Christ or will we shy away from helping those so desperately in need.
Consider one last thought if a new law was passed today banning Christianity and we were accused of being a Christian in our testimony and through our actions, would there be enough evidence to convict us?
If not then today is our wake up call. You know the good news what Christ has done in your life, now is the time to tell others, be beautiful and share the good news! AMEN
July 30th 2017
Let us pray: Dear Lord we give you thanks for the gift of salvation. For the knowledge of the truth that nothing can separate us from your love. Lord as we go through our lives we will encounter all the things that Paul shares in romans eight yet not one of these natural or supernatural can separate us from you. Lord help me to be your messenger to deliver a word that is not my word but is a teaching that comes from you. This I pray in Jesus holy and precious Name. Amen.
Today God is giving us the gift of journeying through the mind of Paul in the book of Romans. Believe it or not the first thing we are to rejoice in is the suffering we experience in this world. How can suffering be a blessing? The simple reason is because no matter what we suffer in the moment can ever compare with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Yet what Paul says in Romans is a far cry from Syracuse, NY today. So how can we see this lived out in our world today?
Well we see a living example through the life of a young airman named Cecil. Now before I begin this tale of woe I need all of us to know this is a true story. You need to know this or we might not believe what we are to hear. Cecil began his studies at SU getting a degree in Russian. He said this was not hard since his mother was Russian and once he toned down her rhetoric he could understand Russian well.
As a young man he fell in love with and became engaged to a young woman. He knew he needed to provide for her so took steps to do this. First he joined the United States Air Force and took college courses completing his degree. Then His plan was to attend Seminary and get married.
Now because of his dream of seminary and being a frugal man Cecil searched for and found a job working at a gas station, besides his duties in the Air Force. As a senior airman he moved off base and into an efficiency apartment in the back of the gas station to save money. Now being a trust but verify sort of a person he did not believe in banks but felt close meant secure so everything he could save went into his mattress. Some two-thousand dollars such a princely sum at that time would pay for his whole seminary.
Then one day after his duty shift he returned home to find his boss white as a sheet. He said the station was broken into too and they had stolen tires and equipment and for some reason the furniture from Cecil’s room. He went in and everything was gone including his bed and all the items he had collected for seminary.
Then his boss said it is not all bad news. You got a letter from your gal. As Cecil opened the letter he was drawn to the addressee it began Dear John. She shared that she had second thoughts about being a pastor’s wife and this was goodbye. So at this point we are seeing Paul’s words come to life and suffering coming during his daily life.
So how did Cecil handle all of this crashing down on him at once? He went back to the base and had a little talk with God. He wanted to be by himself so choose a place just off the flight line to scream and yell at God for the injustice of his trying to do the right things and suffering for it. He began to cry and beat the ground. This is when the sky opened up. Not just a little spring rain but Noah get the boat ready again.
So covered with mud, tears streaming down his face he made his way back to the flight line. He pulled apart two saplings and stepped out only to hear, “That’s him get him!
He found himself tackled handcuffed and thrown into the back of an MP’s Jeep. Laying there he asked what they thought he had done. They shared we know what you have done we found the body!
So in twenty-four hours, he lost his fiancée, his finances and now was charged with a murder he did not commit.
As I said if I had not shared that this was a true story no one would have believed me. Cecil was eventually cleared of the charge of murder but as he returned to his apartment had to face what was to come.
How did he do this? By acknowledging Romans 8 and knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
So he sat down and wrote out a list of all the things that had been taken from his room all the things he prepared to go to seminary. He came up with thirteen items that he needed as a basic level to go to school.
He did not shout this list from the top of the station he did not go on TV begging for items he simply quietly made this prayer to God.
About an hour later a person showed up and said I hear you are going to seminary and thought you could use some sheets and pillow cases and stuff. Cecil crossed item three off his list. The next twenty four hours eleven items were also crossed off his list all he had left was item number 13 $2,000 dollars. Now at this time that was the total cost of his seminary education.
While fueling a car at the station a woman looked at Cecil and said, I don’t know why but I feel I need to give you this and handed him a check for $2,000 dollars.
This young man who felt nothing could separate himself went on to be the Chief of Chaplains for the United States Air Force.
No truer words were spoken then when he said, I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
This promise applies to each one of us. Because we are predestined, we are called; we are also justified; and in the end will be glorify.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us…Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Or shall we say what can separate us?
Paul gives us the following options:
Shall trouble (that which we have in our daily lives)
or hardship (our day to day suffering)
or persecution (attacks from others related to our beliefs)
or famine (one of the greatest cause of loss of life over the centuries)
or nakedness (not having what we need for our physical needs)
or danger (This may be spiritual or physical in nature)
or the sword (attacks either from man or the evil one or war)?
Paul then refers back to Psalm 44:22, “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered
” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Just like Paul I am convinced that neither death nor life, (how we live or what happens after we die)
Neither angels nor demons, (not heavenly or demonic beings)
Neither the present nor the future, (not now or in the future)
Nor any powers, (Political or spiritual)
Neither height nor depth, (not the tallest mountain, not the deepest crevice, or the ocean depths)
Nor anything else in all creation, (stop and think the extent of these words. After all the examples we have Paul still feel he needs to put in a caveat that anything else in all of creation!)
Separate us from the Love of God.
As I draw to a close I want us all to know for certainty the meaning of these words. The best way I know is by giving one last example. Please imagine a pastor going into a doctor’s office. He is told that He has cancer. The pastor responds OK.
The Doctor thinking that he does not understand what is going on tries to explain you don’t understand you have cancer.
The pastor says, OK.
The Doctor thinking he is in shock or misunderstanding. So one last time shares “you don’t seem to understand you have cancer.”
The pastor just looks at the doctor and says I understand completely, what you don’t understand is who I am. This cancer will end in one of two ways. Either I will be miraculously healed and have a wonderful new ministry. Or I will die and go to heaven so OK!
Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen
July 16th 2017
Let us pray: Dear Lord we are the path your son is the sower and your word is the seed. Help us to not be left on the path in the rocks or among the thorns but instead to be a people in the good soil toiling for you and producing a crop thirty, sixty or a hundred fold. Lord make this message not my message but your message. Help me to touch not just the ears of those who have gathered but their very hearts and set them on fire. Amen
We will begin today by sharing a basic truth, remember, the ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic was built by professionals. The ark was what God planned to save the human race and the Titanic sunk on its maiden voyage.
Sometimes those who consider themselves to be experts prove they have no knowledge of what they are talking about. I heard a story this week about the New Jersey legislature and how in the past they wanted to curtail the growing of Tabaco on the Amish farms.
They sat on their lofty legislative perch and made a decision that each farm should be limited to only two quarts of Tabaco seed per year.
Just before passing the bill an Amish farmer stood in the gallery and asked if he could be heard.
He came forward and said that while he did not want to make fools out of anyone but needed to share some very basic agricultural facts with this most learned body.
He asked the first question of how long they thought two quarts of seed would last planting not just his fields but all the fields in the state. Then he told them that this would allow planting for four hundred years.
He then reached into his pocket and drew a little zip lock bag that has about a quarter full of seed.
He shared that tobacco seeds are very small and this amount was sufficient for him to plant all his fields that year.
The legislature quietly decided to not pass the bill limiting seed to only two quarts a year.
Matthew was a Jewish scholar trained by Jesus Christ with the one purpose of bringing the knowledge of the teaching he received from Jesus to His People.
Because of this you might think every thought he shares should have deep philosophical meaning.
Well the start of our text shows this to not be the case. That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.So his big theological philosophical statement is a man went out of his house and sat by the lake. Wow what are we supposed to do with this information? Well we need to put it together with His next line. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore.
So without being able to be there for all of them Jesus gets in a boat. From this lofty perch Jesus preaches one of the most memorable parables.
He begins by drawing them into the story. By sharing eight simple words that captured the imagination of all listening. “A farmer went out to sow his seed.
Now I ask how could these eight words so capture the imagination of his audience.
Well since this was an agrarian society being farmers was a key and crucial part of their society. So everyone Jesus was speaking to either was a farmer who went out to sow or a family member of one.
The mental picture he painted would have all of them caught up and transported into His narrative.
He shared that a farmer went into His shed and gathered his sack of seed. He would use this sack as a lifeline to produce the crops for the up coming year. The problem is farming in the first century was not the same as farming is today. As a matter of fact farming was pretty much a hit and miss affair.
So where was the first place our ardent Farmer met in his farming, His first handful was scattered into the wind and part of it fell along the path. This was hard ground that the seed fell onto and they were not able to get into the soil but instead laid on the hard ground. This left the seed vulnerable and birds of the air came and ate it up.
Our valiant agriculturist took a second handful of life represented in the seed. This time the miss-fire led to the rocky places where there was not much soil so the plants sprang up quickly. Then out came the sun and scorched and withered the plants because they had no roots.
Our gracious grower’s next endeavor caused seed to fall among thorns. These need less care and grow faster than the seedlings and choked off the little plants.
Our Righteous Rancher undaunted by his first three failures strikes out with one more handfuls of seed. This fell not in a misplaced area but on good soil finally producing what he has been desiring all along, a crop a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
Then Jesus dismisses his flock with the words, Whoever has ears, let them hear.
Now for the average listeners this was all they received, this was the message he set forth to give and they were to live with it and come to answers for themselves.
Fortunately for us the disciples were not willing to go through this process so they begged his to explain what the parable of the sower mean.
So Jesus explained that He was the Sower and what he is sowing is the word of God, and where He is sowing into the hearts of men. When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The word we need to hear today is that Satan is always ready to steal away our joy.
The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time.
When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
Many hear the word of God and receive it with joy but with no support system this faith will wither and die.
The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. This one is particularly relevant today. Many are able to hear God’s word thanks to radio and television many more hear God’s word thanks to the freedom we have in this country to worship God. Yet the hour we are in Church has to compete with the 167 hours we are not! During this time we are drowning in worries and the deceitfulness of wealth chokes off what we hear.
But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
Yet for some when they hear God’s word not only do they understand it but within them it produces a crop yielding thirty, sixty or one hundred times what was sown.
Friends pray for the planting of God’s word and for an abundant crop with in each one of us. Amen
July 9th 2017 – Elder Randy Karcher
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
‘Tired? Stressed? You’ll feel better with…’
I think most of us can complete that sentence after just an hour or so of watching TV most days. It’s the catch-phrase in the advertisements of the companies that sell vitamins and supplements we see all day and all night. Their products, we’re told, have premium quality ingredients and they’re all clinically tested. Regardless of the product, I imagine that a fair amount of research, and money, went into their marketing strategy. Just be sure that you don’t use the pause button on your remote so you carefully read the small print at the bottom of your TV. You know, the ones that say that it’s not been evaluated by the FDA. It will spoil any placebo effect you might have gotten.
The outcome of course though is that the company knows they are going to capture the attention of a fairly broad audience by posing those two words – tired and stressed. It seems to be an appropriate description of most of our lives at times. Lots of people are tired and stressed for all sorts of reasons. And although taking vitamins or supplements could I suppose improve your health, I’m not convinced that you’ll feel completely better by them. If they really could and would do what they claim wouldn’t the manufactures spend the resources getting the FDA to certify them as effective? Can’t you envision the investors beating down their door if they did? Maybe they wouldn’t need to run so many annoying commercials?
The tiredness and stress we suffer from is related more to the kind of lifestyle we lead. We seem to be so busy as we rush from here, there and everywhere. Our heads are down and our tails are up as we work morning, noon and night to get our jobs done until the next day begins and the cycle starts all over again. We no longer have the time to just stop and smell the roses – instead, we cut and dry them, crush them and shove the powder into a pill with some fish oil and hope this makes us feel better as we swallow a couple before we’re off to our next task.
In the Gospel reading for today from Matthew 11, we hear the words of Jesus: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’ (v28). Jesus said these words in a context where the people were weighed down by the obligations placed on them at that time, religious obligations I’m talking about. There were certain Jewish laws and rituals they were supposed to be observed in order to meet the expectations of that society. Our Revised Standard Edition Bibles don’t make that point clear.
A few years ago when Don Pangburn was with us he liked to use a version of the Bible called The Message which was written by Eugene Peterson. The Message for anyone unfamiliar with it is a contemporary language version that Peterson wrote after careful research of many of the original texts.
Verses 28-30 that I read earlier from the Revised Standard edition in The Message reads…
28 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
29 Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
30 Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Burned out on religion? Wait, what’s that about?
In the Mosaic law of the time, there were over 600 laws that Jews were “required” to follow. On top of these laws that were so numerous that hardly anyone could keep them straight, the Pharisees and Sadducees [Sad-you-sees] added extra little tid-bits to the law that made them even harder to follow. The ironic thing was that not even the Pharisees and Sadducees could keep up with all of them and they were the religious professionals of the day. They couldn’t fulfill all of the duties and “extra-curricular” things that were lined out, yet they required the average Jew to be held to a standard way above their own. When a person could not meet the criteria for something, the Pharisees came down on them.
One example is the Passover. Families would travel for miles and days to come to the temple for Passover. Depending on the distance they had to travel, some would bring their sacrifice with them is they could. While others would look for a sacrificial animal once they arrived in Jerusalem. This is where we come to Jesus telling the Pharisees that they were making His Father’s house a den of thieves. You see, after carrying their animal with them through their travels, they would be told it was “unacceptable,” and they had to purchase one of their animals, at an expensive rate. Or if a person was getting one from there once they arrived, they had to pay a steep prices. Naturally this didn’t sit too well with Jesus since he proceeded to flip over tables, and drive them out with whips. But, that’s another story for another time.
Nowadays we might not necessarily feel the same religious obligations as they did back then. But I do suggest that much of our time is spent trying to live up to the expectations of our society. And I’m not convinced that we can even vocalize what those expectations are. Why do we lead the frantic pace that we do which only leaves us feeling tired and stressed, wearied and burdened?
Is it because we think we need to achieve a certain level of wealth or knowledge or ability in order to be happy? Is it that we don’t want to let anyone down? Do we feel obligated to perform in certain ways so that we are accepted by others? Are we are own worse critics?
Regardless of what it is, I think these words of Jesus should strike a chord with us: ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’.
The word ‘rest’ is an appealing one. You might be longing for a break from the normal routines of your work and your life. You might want an end to a conflict you have been having. Or perhaps you just want to be released from the expectations you are trying to live up to, if only for a while. The invitation to rest is a hard one to refuse.
We probably all have our own ideas as to what that rest would look like. Maybe it’s having time to read a novel. Maybe it’s just being able to sleep in a little latter or being able to just sit on the porch with a cup of coffee or tea and the let time and the clouds pass by.
But what kind of rest is Jesus offering? He clarifies it for us a little by continuing: ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me’ (11:29). Well that comes as a bit of a surprise.
Jesus is offering us rest and in order to experience it we need to take his yoke upon us. If Jesus is trying to sell his concept of rest then he might want to consider a different marketing strategy than the yoke angle.
The yoke was an instrument associated with work, not rest. Traditionally in agriculture you would yoke two animals together, maybe oxen or horses. They would then be linked to a plow in order to till the ground or to a wagon to carry things. The animals would wear this yoke around their necks and across their shoulders and backs. It would mean that the load was borne evenly, but it was a burden to be borne just the same.
One of the animals typically was more experienced than the other and the second animal would learn the ropes from the other. The two animals worked together to accomplish the task. Since the more experienced animal knew the commands of the master it could provide the leadership and direction and both animals could work together to pull the load.
But the word ‘yoke’ also has some negative connotations. The ‘yoke of slavery’ was something God’s people had been subjected to personally in the course of their history, such as what they endured under the Egyptians. God’s promise to his people was that he would remove this yoke from them. In the book of Isaiah you’ll find the prophet declaring ‘For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor’ (9:4).
But Jesus says: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me’.
Now obviously the yoke Jesus was referring to was not one of slavery. He went on to explain ‘my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (11:30). Jesus was in the business of releasing people from their burdens – from the burden of sin, sickness, oppression, expectations and loneliness, amongst other things. In fact, Jesus offered people release from all of their physical, emotional and spiritual burdens.
And we know how Jesus ultimately did this. He took the burden upon himself, bearing our sin and shame and brokenness. He bound himself to us by taking the yoke of the cross on his shoulders and carrying it to Golgotha. He has granted us rest by humbling himself and becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
But the need to have these burdens released isn’t just a “once of” occurrence in our lives. Our struggle with sin isn’t something that’s here today and gone tomorrow. And just because we might have one emotional need fulfilled one day does not mean that we won’t have other more complex ones to deal with down the road.
We have things that weary and burden us and many of them are related to the lifestyles that we find ourselves leading. Jesus does not offer us a quick-fix remedy to these issues before he goes on his way to his next appointment. Jesus invites us to take his yoke upon us – which means he is offering to link himself to us and the burdens that we bear. He is also offering to take our lives in a new direction and to teach us as it happens.
For it is Jesus’ yoke that we are being asked to take on, not the other way around. We do not link ourselves to Jesus and ask him to come with us on our journey. We do not allow him to tag along with us as we go on our merry way so that he can help us out of trouble when we get into it. We are taking his yoke upon us and want to learn from him his way, because his is the better way.
As we learn from Jesus we discover that he has a different lifestyle for us to lead. There will be challenges and trials that come from walking his way. The rest he provides is not one that comes from inactivity. It is the peace that comes from knowing that your life has meaning and purpose when guided by Jesus.
You don’t have to go around in circles as you try and live up to the expectations of others. Instead, through being joined to Jesus and following his direction you learn from him how to lead a life that fulfils God’s purposes for it.
So if you are tired and stressed and overwhelmed by life or underwhelmed by it, then hear this day the invitation of Jesus: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me’.
There is no one else better to be yoked to than Jesus. There is no one better to learn from than him. He knows what you need to do in life and where you need to go and he wants you to go there and do it together with him. Amen.
Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen
July 2nd 2017
Let us pray, Dear Lord this morning we come as people who as part of the world have faced death. Now we are a people who strive to find you and seek eternal life. Help us Lord to know that when others see an end, you show us a beginning. Help us to be a people who listen to your servant Paul, to break with the world and find eternal life in not only your Son but in You O God! Dear Father thank you for the promise and the gift of eternal life that you give to us. Lord allow me to be your witness today and to share words that are not my words but your words. This I pray in Jesus Holy and Precious name. Amen
This morning we need to consider what it means to move from Death to Life? That is our theme today. I pray we will be able to go from focusing on an earthly death to the glorious prospect of a heavenly eternal life.
Today our text will take us on a journey into the mind of Paul. As Saul he was a person who began his life focusing on the worldly the earthly and the concept that the ultimate victory comes through the power of death.
When Saul became Paul His whole world view was altered no longer was his focus on the world but on the heavenly life we will have with God. So let’s turn to our text and try to understand what Paul is trying to explain.
He begins with a warning, about our not letting sin reign in our mortal bodies so that we will obey their evil desires.
We need to constantly be on watch so we do not offer any part of ourselves to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of ourselves to him as an instrument of righteousness.
What it comes down to is each one of us has a choice for our lives. We can give into the world and live as an instrument of wickedness or we can offer our lives to God and as an instrument of righteousness be a benefit not just to the world but to God.
We are no longer mastered by the world or by sin. This is because we are not under the law, but under grace. So since we are free from the law are we free to sin? By no means, instead since we are living not by the laws and regulation of the world but by God we need to not be seeking affirmation from the world but live a life that is conscientious and doing the right thing beforehand not seeking to be forgiven when we trespass.
If we offer ourselves to someone as obedient servants we are slaves to the one we obey. We may be salves to sin which will lead ultimately to death. Or we may be slaves to obedience, which leads to righteousness.
Here we need to give thanks and glory to God, for even though we used to be servants to sin, we have come to obey from our hearts the pattern of teaching that has now claimed our allegiance.
Each one of us have been set free from sin and become servants of righteousness.
Paul goes on to share that he is using an example from everyday life because of our very limited human experience. Just as in our folly we offered ourselves as servants to impurity and to ever increasing wickedness. Now through the power God gives into our lives. God allows us to offer ourselves as servants to righteousness leading to holiness.
As we look back at our pasts we know that when we were living in sin when we were servants of a sinful life. We were free from the control of righteousness.
Yet what does this benefit us? What do we reap as we look back at and are now ashamed of? All of these things result in death! If we were the world we would acknowledge that this is the best we can hope for. Yet through God we have the truth and full story.
But now that we have been set free from sin and have become servants of God, the benefit we will reap, will lead us to holiness, and the result is eternal life!
At the beginning of our sermon I shared that our time would be how we can come from death to life.
There are so many stories that could help us to understand what Paul was trying to explain. Yet I feel one of the best is the life of John Wesley was one of Britain’s greatest evangelists. He founded the concept of outdoor preaching, led thousands upon thousands to Christ, and even started a movement that eventually became the United Methodist Church.
And to think, he almost never made it out of childhood. On the fateful night of February 9, 1709, fire swept through the Epworth rectory that housed the Wesley family. Around midnight, Rev. Samuel Wesley was awakened by a shout from the street, “Fire!” He flung open his bedroom door and found his home filling with smoke. He woke Susanna, his wife, and his two eldest daughters. The pastor then raced for the nursery where the family maid was sleeping with five younger children.
The abrupt entrance of Mr. Wesley and the smoke greatly startled the maid. She quickly gained presence of mind, grabbed the youngest child, Charles, and hastily urged the others to follow her lead out of the house. Three older children did. But John remained sound asleep.
The family gathered outside the rapidly burning parsonage. A few children had climbed through windows, while other children escaped through a small door that led to the garden. Meanwhile, John remained asleep inside his upstairs bedroom.
Thinking it was morning because the light from the blaze was growing ever larger and hotter, John finally awoke and called out for the maid. His cries were heard from the street, and Samuel darted back into the house and attempted to mount the burning stairs. They quickly gave way under his weight. Fearing John was lost, Samuel knelt down in the burning hall and commended his soul to God.
With the flames licking the ceiling of his room, John attempted to run through a doorway, but found it impossible. He then climbed onto a chest near the window and was spotted by those in the yard downstairs.
While a ladder was called for, one man stood on top of the shoulders of another and reached for the terrified child. At the exact moment John Wesley was in his rescuer’s arms, the roof came crashing down and fell inward, sending debris, smoke, and flames into the night sky.
Seeing all that had happened in just a matter of moments, Rev. Samuel cried out with a sense of relief, “Come, neighbors, let us kneel down. Let us give thanks to God! He has given me all my eight children. Let the house go, I am rich enough.” Reflecting on the life-and-death situation years later, John wrote that he was “a brand plucked from the burning.” Just like the rest of us, God had a mighty purpose for young John. (A Real Christian: The Life of John Wesley by Kenneth J. Collins. Abingdon Press, 1999, Page 13-14.)
For John Wesley it was the threat of death from a fire as a young man that led him as a man to receive the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The questions is what will it be for us? What will make us ultimately realize that we are freed from the threat that encompasses most of the world and granted in God’s Name and in God’s Grace the gift of life eternal.
Whatever it is, I call us to live not for self, not for sin, but for God and enjoy the gift of eternal life! Amen
June 3rd 2017
Let us pray: Dear Lord this morning we join you in celebrating the birthday of our Church. Father this morning we celebrate 1984 years since the original day of Pentecost. Help us to know the fire that came down that day still burns in the hearts of all believers. Allow me Father to be a voice like Peter calling out and clarifying the miracle of Pentecost. This morning Lord make us your servants and allow our hearts to burn with the knowledge that like the original disciples we also are filled with the Holy Spirit. Allow our testimony to reach the ears of others and through the miracle of your power let them understand in their hearts our message. This I pray in Jesus Holy Name. Amen
This morning we are exhausted and tired after another Fowler Fair. While we do not have the full account, of the outcome what we do have is the fellowship of the Church. This could be seen in the unloading of our treasure rooms. Hours spent putting out all our treasures followed by days and days of pricing. We experienced fellowship of collecting furniture from all over North Syracuse, Cicero, Baldwinsville, and Mattydale. Then on Saturday setting up tents moving all the furniture out on the lawn. Then after all of this came the actual sale! We saw cashiers, runners, clothes sales, boutiques, electronics, toys, household goods and art. Then we had the bake sale and hot dog sales, all playing a part in making our endeavor a tremendous success!
I want to expect thanks to all our Women and Men of Pitcher Hill. Then there is the energy of youth our young members who have been so beneficial and crucial. Let’s not forget Boy Scouts of Troop 157, as well as 204 and their parents and siblings. The last but not least is the donations. Pitcher Hill is like Blanche Dubach constantly relying on the kindness of strangers. If not for their willingness and donations we would have difficulty paying for our kids camps.
Without all of these things from start to finish coming together we could not have a success.
So let’s stop looking at yesterday and see today. Today is the day of Pentecost?
So how do we get to the Birthday of the Church? Have you wondered what steps we have to take to get ourselves to Pentecost? What steps to create a Church like where we are worshiping today!
This may seem like a strange question but in reality we do not just one day wake up and say it is the birthday of our Church. No like so much in our church we need to build to the event.
Let’s take a step back and look at other parts of our Church year to better understand what it takes to get to them helping us better understand Pentecost.
What does it take to get to Christmas? First we have all of the prophecies, the birth, and the trip to Bethlehem, Jesus being born in the night, all of these leading to Christmas Day.
Next what about Easter? We have to start at lent, working through forty days of what Jesus suffered in the desert. Then we have the Triumphant Entry Holy Week with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday until at long last we reach Easter.
So with this as a knowledge platform how do we get to Pentecost? After the resurrection Jesus had a few last minuet lessons for His disciple’s. Now normally you can’t say after His death He had to teach them a few things normally death ends all lessons. Not so with Jesus. He had things that previously He could not or that His disciples were not able to understand until this time. So we have to go through Good Friday, and Easter literally through the death and resurrection of our Lord to get to Pentecost. Then after forty days Jesus led His disciples out into the desert and looking up into heaven ascends until He is lost in the clouds.
So all of this has to happen before we can get too today. You see it was not until Jesus had ascended that the promise He gave them of the Holy Spirit could take place. So all of this has to take place before we could come this morning and celebrate the birth of the Church at Pentecost
One Thousand nine hundred eighty four years ago all the disciples were gathered together in one place. Then suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven. Tongues of fire separated and came to rest on each of them. All of the followers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard the rushing of the wind they formed a crowd and were very confused that those speaking were all talking in their own languages.
You can understand the confusion after all Jesus disciples were simple men who He gathered from around Galilee. Now if they were all Galileans you would expect that they would speak the common tongue from the region.
Yet what did the people hear? They heard them speaking in their own tounges. Parthians, Medes, Elamites; residents from Mesopotamia Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in their own tongues!”
Can you imagine if a group of people all from the same region. Suddenly speaking and preaching extoling the wonders of God in each of their language.
Common folks who do not have advanced degrees, men suddenly so filled with the Holy Spirit that they present God’s message.
Let’s put it like this, can you imagine if one person said Hello, but what the crowd heard was, Ola, Ciao, YEIA, Namaste, Ahoi, Bonjour, Aloha, Salam, Hallo Governor. Each hearing the salutation proclaimed in their own language and their own tongue.
Now you can imagine that this caused confusion. They were at first amazed then when they started thinking about it were perplexed, asking what does it mean?
Others were less kind they began to make fun of the disciples saying they had too much wine.
Now I don’t know about you but I have never heard of a person drinking too much and then suddenly gaining the ability to talk in foreign languages.
Peter was not going to let these accusations go unanswered. “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!
I will leave out the joke here that if the Spirit would have come in the evening they may have been drunk. Now Peter was making the point that what was happening here was a fulfillment off the prophecy given by the Prophet Joel. In Chapter 2: verse 28.
“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Now notice He says on all people. Not the just not the righteous not this denomination or religion or another but on all People. What will happen?
When this occurs changes will come over people. Young people will prophesy and share visions for the future. While older members of our society with dream dreams meaning they will live in the memories of the past while encouraging the work of the future. They will be the collection of memories that will help the young move forward while hopefully avoiding the mistakes of the past.
Then it goes another step further and I wish that all the Churches that say the proclaiming of God’s word is only in the purvey of men would pay attention to Joel and Acts. Because God will pour out His spirit on all His servants Men and Women and they not He will prophecy. Then Peter shares what God will do, He will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below. We will experience fire and billows of smoke.
Then the Sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
So when God comes, we will experience terror and fear right?
Well no, today we have the last verse the last part the last promise of the day of Pentecost.
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!
So as the day of fear and trembling comes to pass, any who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Today is Pentecost Sunday, Today is the birthday of the Church. Today we celebrate with out 2.18 billion sisters and brothers the one thousand nine hundred and eighty forth birthday of the Christian Church.
Today we sang happy birthday to all those born in June, today we sang happy anniversary to all those married in June. Yet how many of us thought about how many generations of Christian Worshipers have come and gone since the very first day of Pentecost.
Well if we average a generation at 70 years more than 28 generations since that very first day. That brings us today. We need to know that we are the present, as well as the future of God’s Church. As we celebrate our past we need to know one thing the future we have before us with the help of God will be glorious!
The promise of Pentecost did not end with Peter, James and John. It did not end with the seventy two Jesus sent out. This did not end with one gender or one race but this sprit is burning within us today. As we celebrate Pentecost for the 1984th let the spirit reign down and fill our hearts just like it did on that first day. Amen
May 28th 2017
Let us pray: Dear Lord this morning we come to you to seeking to glorify you through your Son. As He shows us your glory we see if reflected in Him as the moon reflects the Sun. Help us to be believers that come to know you and through us can help the world to know. Lord make this message start with me. Make me your messenger delivering words that are not my words but your words. Help me to reach out to all who are gathered here touching not only their ears but their hearts and setting them on fire. This I pray. Amen
People ask me if Jesus knew what was to come. If He knew what he was to suffer? Well if you ask me the prayer He lifts up is proof that Jesus knew what was to come.
Just before this text Jesus spent time talking to His disciples. He told them that He came from the Father and now He is going back to the Father. He told them this in plain language so they would understand. What was the purpose? He told them these things so they might have peace. In this world we have trouble but He has overcome the world.
After he gave this reassurance Jesus looked up toward heaven and prayed.
Now prayers are often raised between us and God. But at times we need to pray out loud. This was one of those times. So aloud He said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.
What He was letting His disciples know was that through His willingness to follow God’s plan even to the point of death He would give glory to God. Just as God would give Glory to Him. They may not have understood but we know that the Glory was given to Jesus in His rebirth and resurrection.
For God granted Jesus authority over all people for the purpose that Jesus might give eternal life to all His followers.
Then Jesus went on to explain, what Eternal life was, that all who follow Him will Know God, the only true God and Jesus who God sent into the world.
Jesus brought God glory on earth by finishing the work the God gave Him to do. Finishing His work on Earth after going to the cross after dying Jesus was restored to the glory that He left to come to earth and be our teacher. He returned to the Glory that He had in the beginning. As Paul shares He was the word and the word was with God in the beginning. Stop and think about this line.
Jesus was in His glory and for the likes of us He left heaven and took on our form to experience what it is like for us, to suffer as we suffer and to show God’s greatest power through His victory over death.
Truly after His death through the resurrection He showed the power of God and after the Ascension returned to the glory He knew before the world began.
Jesus shares that He revealed God to all the ones God gave Him.
Jesus in His prayer shares that He revealed God to all the ones God gave Him out of this world. All of these were God’s before He gave them to Jesus and they have obeyed God’s word.
Through His actions and words each of His followers were informed that everything Jesus had was given to Him by God. The words that God gave Jesus He gave His followers who through all the years gave to us. They like us were called to accept the words.
Through these teachings Jesus followers were certain that He came from God and believe that God sent Him!
Then Jesus drops a spiritual bomb shell. He declares that for His followers He prayed. Can you imagine that the Son of God prayed for Peter James John and Saul?
How about expanding our imagination and considering that the Son of Man prays for each one of us? Yet even though the whole world is in His hands His prayer life is a little more selective.
Jesus tells us that He is not praying for the whole world, but for those souls God has given Him for they are God’s.
Then he reminds all His listeners that all I have is yours, and all you have is mine.
Jesus then goes on to share that glory has come to Him through those who follow Him. Through each one of us.
Then draws to a close sharing that He will remain in the world no longer, but Peter, James, John the other disciples, the seventy two he sent out, and all of the nameless faceless followers of Christ that would come through the years.
Will still be there in the world. Their presence would give us hope that even as He has left us He will return to us.
Then He closes with this prayer, Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name He was given so that we can all be one.
In the same way that we look at the suffering, Joy and loss of the disciples. We also have suffering loss in our world today.
Today is Memorial Day weekend.
Tonight the Scouts joined men and women past and present in the military with their families at the watchfire.
The watchfire and accompanying ceremony makes Memorial Day more meaningful for everyone in the community. Veterans and non-veterans are invited to gather at the watchfire to honor those who have so faithfully served the nation. The watchfire comes from the military tradition that following a battle or long march, a large fire would be started so those missing or lost could locate and rejoin their comrades. The watchfire also provides the community with an opportunity to respectfully and properly retire unserviceable American Flags. As we were encouraged to bring tattered, worn or faded American Flags for respectful burning on the pyre.
Pitcher Hill Donated six flags to the watchfire this year.
As I close I would like to share my admiration for troop 157 helping to build the pyre and prepare the ceremony used on Sunday night. I honor them for their help in remembering and honoring those military members who died in the service of their country.
Their loss is deeply felt and to close, I would like to share and anonymous quote found on an Irish Headstone. “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, Love leaves a memory no one can steal!
Remember our fallen and give glory to God. Amen
May 21st 2017
Let us pray: Dear Lord this morning we come before you seeking to know about your Love for us. Father your love can be explained best by looking to your Son. Help us to know the truth behind His words and the Holy Spirit not just from without but within each one of us. Dear God let us find your love not in the world but eternally in you. Lord Help me to be your messenger to deliver a word that is not my word but your word. Lord grant me the gift of your spirit to reach those gathered here touching not the ear but the heart and setting them on fire. This Lord I pray in the Holy Name of your Son and our Savior Jesus. Amen
This morning we will be talking about love. As we do I want us to consider this little word that is so much more than we can understand.
Love can be used in many ways it depends on honesty of the act God’s love for us is so pure that it has its own name, AGAPE’
Yet people in our society have taken love to so many places that they even say I love Pizza, or Candy, or just fill in the blank. They use the word to mean they like something. So what do I want to look at today? Love the pure love that can be found in the wisdom of little children as well as the teaching of Jesus.
I cannot think of a purer form of love than is expressed by little children writing to their Pastor to ask God for something. So during this Sermon at periodic times I will be sharing from Bill Adlers Book “Dear Pastor”, little insights of love from children.
Dear Pastor, I know God loves me but I wish He would give me an “A” on my report card so I could be sure. Love, Theresa Age 8
So, how do we live in love? Well according to Jesus all we need is listen to His words in John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commands. So if we Love Him If we truly Love Jesus we need to keep His commands. We need to do what we need to do, what we are called to do. Now please know that I am not talking about works righteousness instead I am talking about doing what is right because it is right is that not the simplest thing?
Dear Pastor, Could you say a special blessing for my Aunt Beatrice? She has been looking for a husband for 12 years and still hasn’t found one. Yours sincerely, Debbie Age 9
Now we do not do right to get a reward, but we will be rewarded anyway. Our reward will come from Jesus. Who will ask the Father, and God will give us another advocate a Holy Spirit to help us and be with us forever.
This brings us to our second bit of wisdom this time from Wesley age 9. Who wants to know; Dear Pastor, Do I have to say grace before every meal? Even when I am only having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Wesley.
So what is this Spirit of truth? Well first and foremost this is the Spirit that dwells within us. Second this is something that the world cannot see, know, understand or accept.
But we know Him He lives within us and will be in us and not leave us orphans because Jesus will come to us and with the Holy Spirit be with us forever
This concept of having someone with us to help us understand brings us to our next
Dear Pastor, Thank you for your sermon on Sunday. I will write more when my mother explains to me what you said. Yours truly, Justin
Then Jesus shares that in a short time the world, will not See Him, but we will continue to see Him and because He lives we will live also. It is hope and promise that we have from Him that allows us to move daily.
This comes through in Laurie’s words of Dear Pastor, Please pray for all the airline pilots. I am flying to California tomorrow. Laurie Age 10
When we come to truly know the love of God, we will know that on that day we will realize that Jesus is in the Father, and each one of us is in Jesus so He is in each one of us.
If He is in us and we in Him then Julie age 9 of Buffalo is justified in asking the following Dear Pastor, I say my prayer before I eat my supper but my mother still makes me finish my spinach and drink my milk.
In the end it comes back to the opening whoever keep the commands Jesus gives is the one who loves not just Jesus but God as well. Not only this but God will love each of us and will show Himself to us.
Not because we earned it or we deserve it but because of the love He has for us. We are not the reason but the recipient, it is not our language, our abilities, or what we wear but the Love that comes from Him that is important.
Randy Spencer a pastor at Falls Creek, Pennsylvania sent the following observations: My daughter, like the typical American girl, has had her share of dolls and stuffed animals. Today, through modern technology, a little girl need not be content with dull, lifeless dolls, but can experience the thrill of owning a life-like, real-looking replica of a baby that can walk and talk, drink and wink, slurp and burp, cry, sigh and laugh, almost anything a real baby does, including going to the bathroom and getting diaper rash.
After ten years of buying these mechanical marvels I thought, I wonder which of these wonders is my daughter’s favorite.
To my surprise, I found her favorite was a small rag doll she had received on her third birthday.
We are too often, like the high-tech dolls of my daughter. We try to impress others with skills, talent, education, speech, or mannerisms when what they want is someone just being themselves.
Within everyone lies the innate desire to be loved and accepted.
Don’t try to be something or someone that you are not. Just be yourself. Love is not won – it is not a reward for performance or achievement.
We don’t have to sing, teach, preach, or pray well to be loved.
People will not love us for what we do but rather for what we are.
We all need to be reminded of this from time to time. I encourage us to share this with those we care about and remind them that they are loved just the way they are. Amen
Mother’s Day – May 14th 2017
Dear Lord Today is the day that we are able to say thank you to your servants our Mothers. They are for many of us the first teachers of what it means to know and love you. Help me this morning Father to give praise and honor to the women who you have given to us and who mean so much to us all. Lord some of our Mothers are in already in your care and for them we give you thanks. For some we are still blessed to have our mom’s still with us and are able to give them thanks personally. Lord Make me your messenger and help me to bring to light the wisdom of not just your Son but of our mother’s. Lord touch our hearts and kindle a fire that will not go out. In Jesus Name Amen
I have one question that I want to address today. What kind of good news would we like today? How about a promise that each and every one of us have from God! Is it not amazing that each and every one of us can say we have a promise from God. Now before we get to the text of our sermon I would like to share that God is not limited to just one promise. I personally believe we get a plethora of promises from God.
The first promise I would like to share is a wonderful one that we celebrate today. Mother’s I would like to start with a quote from John Killinger’s Lost in Wonder, Love and Praise. I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the loving God, who was born of the promise to a virgin named Mary. I believe in the love Mary gave her son, that caused her to follow him in his ministry and stand by his cross as he died. I believe in the love of all mothers, and its importance in the lives of the children, they bear. It is stronger than steel, softer than down, and more resilient than a green sapling on the hillside. It closes wounds, melts disappointments, and enables the weakest child to stand tall and straight in the fields of adversity. I believe that this love, even at its best, is only a shadow of the love of God, a dark reflection of all that we can expect of him, both in this life and the next. And I believe that one of the most beautiful sights in the world is a mother who lets this greater love flow through her to her child, blessing the world with the tenderness of her touch and the tears of her joy. An Affirmation from John Killinger’s, Lost in Wonder, Love, and Praise.
So God gives us mother’s as the earthly promise of His heavenly love. Now I have to confess that I have a ghost writer for my sermon today. Shirley Schauer shared, in a past newsletter, “Somethings my Mother taught me”. During this sermon I would like to scatter a few tidbits from that great work so we all can remember the gifts we receive from our mother’s. My mother taught me to APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE, by saying. “If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside…I just finished cleaning up.”
The next promise was not directly from God through His Son. This was one that may have been spoken to a few but is one that is for each and every one of us. This promise you may have heard dozens if not hundreds of times. But today this morning I implore us to hear it for the very first time. Our message begins with words of comfort. Do not let your hearts be troubled no matter how afraid we are because when it comes to earthly mattes we have a promise from one who is beyond and we need to believe in God and also in Jesus. Then he shares the actual promise. In our father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would Jesus have gone to prepare a place for us.
If Jesus does go and prepare a place for us we know beyond all human thought or understanding He will come back and take each one of us to where He is.
Our Second lesson from what our Mothers Taught Me was about RELIGION “You’d better pray that will come out of the carpet.”
Jesus offers this puzzle. First beginning with the apostles then to the disciples and dawn through the ages until this morning Jesus Christ is presenting this puzzle to us today. We know the way to the place where Jesus is going.
The problem is even though in our minds we know this others still do not. As a matter of fact Thomas raised a question that may have been in the minds of many, “LORD, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Then Jesus gives us a response that is not only a promise but takes away fear and doubt. He answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. Wow one sentence we receive the way to heaven, the truth of God and the gift of eternal life.
This brings us our third pearl of wisdom from my mother Taught me, this time it is about TIME TRAVEL. “If you don’t straighten up, I am going to knock you into the middle of next week!”
Jesus shares a teaching, the no one comes to the Father except through Him. This set up a challenge not just to His followers but to us today. If we really know Jesus, we will know our Father as well.
Knowing His Son as an intricate part of the triune God, as we watch Him address the disciples we know from now on, we do know him and we will see him.”
We have the blessing of looking back at the conversation Jesus had with His disciples. Conversations that will help answer our questions. Phillip proclaims, “LORD, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Then Jesus just shakes His head and asks Phillip and through him all of us, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?
We also have been with Jesus a long time. For some this relationship began when we were children, others as adults and still others are just getting to know Him. Yet when we do we will know one thing, anyone who knows Him will know he has seen the Father, so how can we now have a lapse of faith and ask Him to show us the father.
Before we get our answer we have another lessons from my mother taught me this time about GENETICS. “You’re just like your Father!” Now for some this may be a bad thing but think of it like this if God is our Father and we are just like our Father that is a pretty good thing.
So back to Jesus and His answers, Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.
Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
So we have the promise God gives us, that we have a room in His house. We have the promise Jesus gives us that anything we ask in His Name He will do it.
This brings me to our last bit of wisdom from our Mother’s a bit that also seems as unbelievable as many see Jesus words. MY mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM. “Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck!”
As a close we know one thing about Jesus and Mother’s, both are giving and care about us, both continue to defy explanation.
A teacher asked a boy this question: “Suppose your mother baked a pie and there were seven of you–your parents and five children. What part of the pie would you get?” “A sixth,” replied the boy. “I’m afraid you don’t know your fractions,” said the teacher. “Remember, there are seven of you.” “Yes, teacher,” said the boy, “but you don’t know my mother. Mother would say she didn’t want any pie.” Bits and Pieces, June, 1990, p. 10
I know that today is mother’s day but I hope you will celebrate Wisdom from our Father, from His Son and from all our Mothers who taught us so much. Amen
February 5th 2017
Let us pray: Dear Lord this morning we come to you as our source of Hope. From you are more real to us than anything we can see feel or know in this world. Thank you for all you give to us and for the hope we have in you. This morning allow us to be a people who look toward the future and eternal life with you. Father guide this message making it yours allowing me to be your messenger. Make these words I am about to share your words allow them to reach the heart of those gathered and set them on fire. This I ask in the precious name of Jesus Christ. Amen
So far we have studied faith and taken a first look at Hope last week. Now it is time to see it from another perspective. This time I would like us to narrow our perspective from our past overviews of a topic to one author and one book. The book of Romans is filled with some of the greatest verses of hope located in the Bible. The way I see it the book of Romans was literally written as an inspiration to all.
We will continue exploring the subject of Hope by looking at five verses. Romans 5: 2 – 5; Which helps us see gaining access through Hope 8: 24 – 25; where we are saved by hope 12:12; Which helps us see how we can rejoice in our hope 15:4; We will be informed by instruction, encouragement, endurance and hope 15:13; Finally by God’s Spirit how we are filled with Hope.
- Gaining Access Through Hope (Romans 5:2-5)
Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Paul begins not talking about himself, instead he is talking about the one through whom we have grace, Jesus Christ.
By His example, and his teachings Paul shows us how we can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Yet Paul is not done yet,
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
We must rejoice, not just in our joy but in our times of suffering. This is one of the reasons that each Sunday we call for prayers of joy and concern. In our time of joy we ask God and this congregation to rejoice together in good news, healings, and births. In our concerns we lay our sufferings at God’s feet, illness isolation, loss. We recount them so others can know and prayers can be lifted up. Yet what Paul is saying is confusing what about our suffering is grounds for rejoicing? This takes us deeper into his theological thought. We know that in suffering we will develop endurance. This will allow us to be able to bear up under the spiritual attacks against us. This strength will allow us to endure these hardships. This endurance in turn will allow us to build up internal spiritual character. So what good is this? The good of living as a people of character is what will produce hope!
Hope in itself might be a worthy goal. Yet not the most important thing that we need to know, this hope will not put us to shame. Why? Because God’s love pours directly into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, the Son delivers the Father directs and the Spirit confirms.
- Where we are saved by hope (Romans 8: 24 – 25)
So we know who our hope comes from and how we gain access. This still does not let us know why we need hope? Thankfully Paul also wrestled with this conundrum and shares for in this hope we were saved.
Sometimes concepts are very hard taking a theological degree to untie the knot. At other times they are so simple that the wise and learned cannot always grasp them.
This is one of those. We need to build up and trust in the Hope we find in our hearts because by this hope we are saved. This is not complicated it is just a simple mathematical equation. On one side is Hope then we see an = sign and on the other is saved. Hope = Saved!
While this is simple, concreate yet the larger picture of Hope is not.
We need to understand that hope is not something we can see. Because if we could see it if we could touch it if we could sit on it, it is not hope.
For who hopes for what he sees. Can I hope for a chair? Or can I just reach over take the chair set it in place and sit in it.
But as Paul reminds us; But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
So if we wait for God who we cannot physically see but know that He will come to us and that knowledge is deep in our heart this will produce patience. So we know from where and why but what about rejoicing?
- Which helps us see how we can rejoice in our hope (Romans 12:12)
Paul wants to reinforce his previous teaching and want us to know that by our rejoicing in hope, we will become patient in all the times of tribulation, and find ourselves constant in prayer.
The more we put our faith in the Hope, the more patience we will have during times of suffering and build a spiritual strength that will help us to be in constant prayer.
- Then we will be informed by instruction, encouragement, endurance and hope (Romans 15:4)
Paul’s next encouragement comes from not the ethereal but from the physical on that which we can see and touch. For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
So by looking at the scriptures by reading and understanding we will find a teaching for ourselves and through this not just the endurance but the encouragement that will lead to our hope!
This brings us to our final area this morning, the true source that not only gives us hope but fills us to overflowing.
- By God’s Spirit we are filled with Hope; (Romans 15:13)
It seems fitting to end our time this morning with a benediction from Paul. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit that we may abound in hope.
As Paul’s writing was first sent to the Church at Roman and the Roman’s sent this teaching to all of the early Christian Churches at Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossians and Thessalonica.
Paul’s purpose was clear to encourage all who not only heard but read his words.
His purpose was to implore God to fill them and us with all the joy and peace of believing so they and we can be filled with the Holy Spirit allowing us to abound in hope.
We are four weeks into our seven week series. We have spent two weeks on faith, two weeks on hope and next week we will be turning to the subject of love. How appropriate for us to begin this section on the week of Valentine’s Day.
So have faith, trust in hope, and let us live in love! Amen
January 29th 2017
Let us pray: Dear Lord this morning we are coming to you seeking a source for our eternal hope. Help us to be a people who have a vision for the future and hope in you. Give us the knowledge that we need to trust in you and the plan you have for our lives. This morning Lord, please allow me the ability to share with this body the truth that no matter what you are God! Give me the message you have placed on my heart and allow me to place it on all those gathered here today. Lord this I pray in the name of our true Hope your Son and our Savior Jesus. Amen
There are times in life that it feels like the future looks bleak. Thankfully when it does we have wonderful examples from both the Old and New Testament. These are passages on Hope that will lift us up and encourage us today.
This Hope comes from so many passages and so many writers but in the end it is the leadership we find in Jesus and encourages us to go on.
Today I want us to see Hope in the Old Testament; Hope in the New Testament; Our hope in the eternal (Jesus) versus the physical (world).
- Hope in the Old Testament
Let’s begin in the Old Testament Proverbs 24:20 for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out. We are first instructed that if we have no hope we have no future. I wonder have and on us heard of Flagstaff, Maine? It’s a ghost town now, submerged under the waters of Flagstaff Lake. A dam was constructed along the Dead River back in 1950, enlarging Flagstaff Lake and burying the town of Flagstaff. In his book “Unfinished Business,” Halford Luccock tells this story: One night at dinner a man, who had spent many summers in Maine, fascinated his companions by telling of his experiences in a little town named Flagstaff. The town was to be flooded, as part of a large lake for which a dam was being built. In the months before it was to be flooded, all improvements and repairs in the whole town were stopped. What was the use of painting a house if it were to be covered with water in six months? Why repair anything when the whole village was to be wiped out? So, week by week, the whole town became more and more bedraggled, more gone to seed, more woebegone. Then he added by way of explanation: “Where there is no hope in the future, there is no power in the present.”
More proof can be found in Proverbs 24:14 know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off. So be wise look to the future and work toward it.
Let’s not turn away from the Old Testament but read and understand the words of Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Our greatest hope as Christians is that of eternal life. This hope is based on Jesus Christ and our relationship with Him. So let’s now turn to the New Testament and see this solidified.
- Hope in the New Testament
This is what we need to understand hold on to and reflect on in times of need.
As we turn to the New Testament I want to begin with Paul’s instruction to Titus from Titus 1: 1 – 2 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies promised before the world began.
This passage is a gold mine with so many veins of truth going everywhere. First we have the confirmation on who is writing, Paul not just a servant of God but an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Next we have the truth of why he was writing. For our sake as God’s elect and to share not only the knowledge we see from Him but also His truth. This brings us knowledge through the hope of eternal life!
Finally Paul shares that the gift of eternal life comes from God and shares that He is the one who never lies but has given us this promise before the world began. Can you imagine this promise is so long and so strong that God made it before He made the world!
- Our hope in the eternal (Jesus) versus the physical (World)
Paul also shared with one of his early converts Titus in Titus 3:7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. So just like Paul shared I call on us to know, that we are justified cleansed and created we are new not by our actions but by His Grace. Through this we will become heirs, children of God according to the Hope we have in eternal life. You see as people of God we need to put our focus on what is to come. If not we are to be pitied as much as the people of Corinth when Paul was writing to them in 1st Corinthians 15:19. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. So if our whole hope is in the things of this world we truly are a people to be pitied.
Paul expands on this in his second letter to the Corinthians in 4: 16 – 18 when he talks about the earthly verses the eternal. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
So even though our skin and our bodies are fading away day by day, this is a time to turn to science. Paul might not have known how accurate he was. The average person loses between 30 and 40 thousand skin cells an hour. That means 720,000 – 960,000 cells a day, yet even with this tremendous change our inner self is being continuously renewed. This instruction makes it clear that we need to look not at our physical person but at our inner true self, our spiritual self. We have a member of our congregation who is more than nine decades old. One day while at a medical facility this member noted that on the chart the word terminal.
The person in question does not have cancer, or heart disease but since with advanced age comes a physical deterioration they determined this person did not have long to live and so the amount spent of care should be limited. This chart was seen by this person over a year ago. I ask who of us has an expiration date marked on our body. Who has a stamp that tells us how long we will be useful. Like Paul I say do not look at the outer shell but at the faith that lives inside and is renewed time and time again. This member of our church still has the fire of faith inside. Spiritually this person is just as vibrant as any of God’s Children.
Paul continues; for this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. The truth of these words will not diminish over time. We need to be a people who do not focus on the earthly things but on the eternal.
People tend to put belief in flesh and blood. We look to structures of wood and stone things which the world tells us are real. Yet in reality, what is unseen and in heaven is by far more substantial than anything we find in this world.
Paul brings his thought to a conclusion with one last bit of advice; For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. So this physical world that we put so much hope and trust in is transient and will pass away. Yet the things unseen in heaven will be eternal and they will never pass away.
To end our time today I would like to consider the writing of Peter. In His first letter He shares insight on hope, this comes from 1st Peter 1: 1 – 3. Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
So Paul begins by sharing not just his authorship, but who his audience is. I want us as we look at this text extending who Peter is addressing to include us. So what Peter should say is, to God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, Syracuse and to all the exiles, living in the United States, Great Britain, Russia, China and to the very ends of the earth. These are the ones who need to hear these words. So what are the words of Hope that they need to hear? Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. So surprise, surprise our hope is a living hope and where does it spring from, of all places our leader Jesus Christ. Through His death and resurrection we no longer have hope in a physical man but have hope in the risen eternal Lord not a dead hope but a living hope grant to us through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Now I don’t know about you but this is one game of follow the leader that I would like to play!
We need to leave the concept of the physical world and know the possibilities of our Father’s heavenly kingdom.
Hope is a real thing, hope can and will spring eternal. Hope is not just the reason that we are, but the reason for what we can and will be. We must trust in Him have hope in Jesus and follow where He wants us to be. Amen
January 15th 2017
Let us pray: Dear Lord we are a people of faith. This is so much more than it sounds. Thank you for all the examples we have of men and women of faith who have come before and you are models of the way we should live. Help us see the words of your son and of Paul and of Peter to try and understand what it means to live a life of faith. Help me to be the one to bring these words so that we can each live a life of faith worthy of the call you have for us. Lord make these words not my words but your words. Allow me to bring understanding and an increase in faith. This I pray in Jesus Holy name. Amen
Today we begin a seven week series that will take us from the period of Epiphany until the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of lent.
I want us to be thematic during a time of year that usually does not have a theme.
So this Sunday I will begin looking at Faith. Next Sunday we will conclude the subject of faith in a second sermon. We then will go two weeks looking at hope. Then we will conclude our series with three Sunday’s on Love. My hope through this is that by focusing on Faith, Hope and Love and we will determine the greatest of these is love.
Yet today is faith.
Why look at faith today? Well John Called out to Jesus that He was the lamb of God. This is a profession of faith! Jesus called His disciples and even changed Peters name to Cephas the rock because he knew in the end he would live a life of faith. In the same way each one of us has to hear God’s word to be changed. So let’s look at a faithful foundation; Our Confidence and Joy; Why we live a Faithful life; Strength verses Weakness in Faith living
- Faithful Foundation
As we begin I would like us to set the foundation that is the reason for our faith. We find this foundation in Ephesians 3: 16 – 17. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love.
None of us can fully understand that God gives us out of His glorious riches. These riches are spiritual in nature and infinite in supply. No matter how much we need God not only has it, but has it beyond any measure. He will supply these gifts into our inner being. This allows us knowledge of Christ to not in our heads but to fully live in our hearts. How is this accomplished? Through faith and the eternal belief of something felt spiritually with us but not seen in the physical world.
So we are asked what good does it do for us to live a life of faith. Well this life allows us to go to God asking Him for our needs we can do this by following the instruction we find in Mark 11:24 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
The belief that when we go to God and truly ask Him for what we need. Now one point that should be made very clear, is what we should ask for. We should not as God’s people go to him asking for a new Cadillac. We don’t go to Him asking for an end to our enemies. Instead we need to come to him and ask for help and support, knowing it and believe that you have received it and this will be yours. So what do we ask for? Well how about joining Solomon and asking for wisdom. How about asking for healing, confidence or joy?
The world would ridicule us, citing how many have asked for healing and had it end in death? Well to Christians believing in life eternal our ultimate healing will be when we are with the Lord in Heaven.
- Our Confidence and Joy
What might the world say about our confidence? They think our belief in God is misspent, thankfully we have additional guidance in Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. So even though the world cannot see, our belief in God will give us the confidence we need.
This leaves us with Joy? Once again the world does not understand our concept of joy because it is so beyond their comprehension. Our joy comes from our belief in God. One that is so foreign a concept to those who follow the world, they cannot conceive of receiving something from beyond this world. Yet in God we find our greatest Joy.
So what do we need to do when we go to God and ask for His help? Thankfully James 1:6 gives us understanding. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. So when we believe we must not doubt or we will be caught like a leaf on the wind or a ship on the sea tossed back and forth in an aimless fashion. Our faith is like the rudder of a ship guiding us, keeping us on course for where we are to go.
Now please know that so often we do not know where we are to go. God has a plan and it is one that includes us. We can better understand this by looking at 2nd Corinthians 5:7 for we live by faith, not by sight. This being the case we need to believe in God’s plan and allow it to carry us where He needs us to be.
- Why we live a life of faith?
This bring us to the question of why. Why should we care about faith and living a life of faith? To answer these questions I turn to the writings of Paul, in Hebrews 11:6. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
So we seek Him but for many in this world we are deluding ourselves. None of us has seen God. None of us has not seen Jesus face to face yet if we close our eyes and think of Him we can call up what we in our hearts know, this is thanks to Peter in 1st Peter 1: 8 – 9. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
In the end when we need to truly understand faith we need to go to the source.
In this case the source we should all go back to and stand upon is Jesus. In John 11 Jesus gives us two references that help us to define faith.
First Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40
So if we have faith if we believe we will see the glory of God.
Where best to see this glory than through Jesus. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” John 11:25-26
So in the end the final bit of wisdom Jesus gives us is that if we who do not see believe we will never die. This is not a referral to natural physical death. But through the death of resurrection of Jesus we know that we will go on to have an eternal life. This is the promise and the reward for faith.
Yet the world still looks at us and laughs at us James warns us that our spiritual lives will come under ridicule and scrutiny yet the good news is James in James 1:3 gives us the truth of how we should stand. Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. So let them test us, the more they do the more we are strengthened.
- Strength verses Weakness in faith!
The subject of strength verses weakness is our final area. In Roman’s 14: 1 Paul shares: Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. So we who are strong need to work at building up those who are struggling. We need to give them our strength as a resource to help them stand on their own spiritual feet.
Finally Paul sends us off with this note: Romans 15: 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what it comes down to. We have to allow God to fill us, all of us with Joy and peace as we trust him! This will allow us to overflow with faith in the hope given to us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Faith is not only our foundation, our confidence, hope and strength. This morning I call on all of us to have faith and trust in God. Amen
January 8th 2017
Let us pray: Dear Lord we are your children traveling on the journey of our lives. Help us dear Father to better understand all aspects of Jesus life. Not just the high lights that we so often look at but what it truly meant to be the man you Son and our savior was. Help us to us to understand the family dynamics, to understand what it took for Him to make the commitment to walk the path and serve you until the very end. Lord God this morning I pray that you would open all of our minds. Help me to bring a message in a new and different way. Allow me to be your messenger and bring a word that is not my word but your word. This I pray in Jesus Holy Name. Amen
This morning we join our Lord and Savior yes the one we saw being born only two weeks ago, we pick up thirty years later and Jesus mind was on one thing. He was set to get wet. This is so much more complicated than it may seem. In order for this one act to occur we need to see three journeys take place. Not one, or two but three.
Jesus was fixed on the mission that God called Him to and would not let anyone or anything deter Him. So one day while working in the carpenter shop that had been Joseph’s Jesus just stands up and says, I am going to leave.
Thus begun our first journey, now you can imagine the reaction from his mother was less than happy at receiving the message that He was leaving. After all with the loss of Joseph Jesus was the oldest son and would have taken on the role of helping to care for the family.
Now please take note, Jesus was not just up and leaving Mary in the lurch. The family of Joseph and Mary was quite extensive. If we total all the places in the Bible that talk about Mary and her children you find a total of Five sons (including Jesus) Simon, James, Joses and Judas, and at least two sisters one named Salome.
So when Jesus made the transition from staying at home to itinerant pastor He left with a clear conscious since his brothers and sisters would not only have been grown up but able to help look out for their mother.
So we see Jesus picking up, leaving one part of His family for another. In this case he left Mary for John, seeking out his cousin.
We often look at and make so much of the original journey of Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem when she was pregnant.
Yet why do we never stop to consider Jesus original journey. When He left Nazareth and began a trip to the Jordan River. We have to assume He was responding to an internal call from God.
So He left home and hearth and everything He knew. Jesus walked by himself the fifty one miles north and east from Galilee to the headwaters of the Jordan, just north of Capernaum.
We will never know for sure what was going through Jesus mind but it is wonderful to try and speculate.
He had plans, dreams of what He would do and how He could change the world. Maybe He had thoughts of who He would call to be His students how they would interact on the road.
Yet before any of this could be done He had a long lonely journey to seek out His cousin John.
This leads us to our second journey. This is one that was much more than fifty one miles. This was a journey undertaken by not one but three individuals. This was undertaken by Elizabeth, Zachariah and John. This was also a task or chore that took more than thirty years.
This journey began when the angel Gabriel came to Zachariah. Luke 1: 15 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. Now why are they given these instructions because of the tradition of the Nazarites found in Judges 13: 7 But he said to me, ‘You will become pregnant and have a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from the womb until the day of his death.’” Now this relates to Sampson but the words could fully apply to John as well.
Then as he grew, he studied and became a member of the Essenes. The Essenes were a colony of believers who studied various religions. They were known by most of the Jewish people as “The School of the Prophets” John was not only one of them but was a leader with disciples following him. This position did not keep him from conducting His everyday ministry so when Jesus made his way to the Jordan His cousin was there to greet Him.
We do not know what Jesus might have been doing to prepare for His earthly ministry. We do not know how God through the Holy Spirit shared a message with John.
After all the only documented meeting between the two was when Jesus and John were both waiting to be born. Yet for some reason John in His heart knew the power God had placed in His cousin. This is why he felt so insecure so apprehensive about Jesus request to be baptized. “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Yet Jesus knew God’s plan and how it was laid out and what He needed to do. Man would it not be nice to have this much incite and conviction. Jesus swallowed His pride, reassured His cousin by sharing, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”
Then and only then did John consent to performing the baptism of Jesus.
You see no matter how much John protested Jesus was set to get wet!
So we have looked at two of our three journeys but what or Who could possibly be the third one to journey, making the baptism of Jesus a success.
Well Baptism is normally an important family function. So it would make sense for family members to be on hand when Jesus was baptized. So who else is making the journey? Was it His brothers or sisters or Mary? No not any of these. The one making the journey to the Jordan started a lot farther away.
You might say it was a heavenly trip. That’s right Jesus’ Father cared so much about what was going on that he journeyed all the way from Heaven to the Jordon to give affirmation for Jesus As soon as Jesus was baptized came up out of the water.
Suddenly the heavens opened and John saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
This act may have taken only a few minutes to perform, yet it was an event that we are still feeling today. This is the event that took Jesus the son of Mary, the carpenter of Nazareth and propelled Him into founding a global ministry.
This global ministry is one that after thousands of years still continues to grow.
Who would have thought that one man getting wet would one day lead to 2.1 Billion souls turning their hearts to the Lord.
As we close my thought is this. We are constantly pounded by news that our religion is out of date no longer useful or needed, we are no longer relevant. Yet when you stop to consider the population of the world in 2016 we find that Christianity still makes up 33% of our world’s population.
What is so amazing is with all the attacks on the Church and yes in some parts of the world we are seeing declining numbers but in others we are seeing amazing growth. All of this started with only 1 man.
Now is the time to get set not to get wet, but to become the people God needs us to become and fulfill the ministry and mission He is calling each one of us to do.
Jesus left everything He knew, to begin a ministry. John spent his whole life preparing to be the man God wanted and needed him to be.
Today our question is this. If that was us coming up out of the water what will God say about us?
I call us to prepare for the journey that He has for us, so we will also hear, “I am well pleased. Amen
January 1st 2017
Let us pray: Dear Lord we your children are walking in darkness under the hope that we will see a great light. Lord we know that into a world of darkness your have sent your son to be a great light. Lord help us though Him to see you and know that You are the One who is our hope. Help us not every day of our lives to continue to learn about not just your Son but about You. Father this morning I am imploring you to allow me to be your messenger to bring a word that is not my word but your word. This I pray in Jesus Holy Name. Amen
This morning I would like to begin with a simple question. Have any of us ever sat in a dark room? Now I am not talking about shutting the lights off before going to bed. This world of ours is not conducive to complete darkness. Light tends to bleed in and no matter how dark it seems our eyes adjust and we can see.
No I am talking about complete and utter darkness.
Jan Nick and I took a tour at Howe Cavern. The time of year we did they were not very busy. We were the only tour in the cave. Because of this the guide was able to do something they normally cannot do. They shut off the lights. Imagine being in a boat rocking gently back and forth and suddenly you are in perfect darkness. This darkness was so complete that you cannot even see your hand in front of your face. Your eyes try to make out something but with no light to reflect you are in a pool of blackness. Then suddenly after a moment / eternity the lights came back on and our deprived sight was restored.
This is the darkness that I believe John 2writes about in the book of John. Our spiritual darkness is what was suddenly illuminated by the one who is the light.
We were a people in darkness so deep that we could not see anything. Then suddenly Jesus comes into the world and through Him the light of God pierces the darkness and allows us to spiritually see for the very first time.
Any of us who welcome the light, we will have life in abundance. Yet what is overwhelmingly obvious to some is by no means clear to all.
Many during His time did not understand who Jesus was and what His message entailed. They thought themselves under the protection of Moses, but what they did not know is the power of Jesus message.
Jesus message is about the grace God offers to us. Grace not earned though sacrifice but because of the love of God freely given to us. Yet some still see him as an angry and authorative father not as a loving parent.
‘On New Year’s Eve, the boss of a major company in New York City fired several of his employees. They thought he was a real hard-hearted villain, his defense was the firm would have gone broke if he hadn’t. This real life Ebenezer Scrooge had one saving grace, for weeks he secretly set about getting each of them jobs that would start in the New Year.’
The term saving grace are key words in the Bible. They present to us mercy and forgiveness. They are gifts that we receive although honestly we do not deserve them. God in his mercy graciously forgives us for all the sins we’ve committed, when we repent and ask His forgiveness.
Jesus through His life and His ministry presents one miraculous blessing after another. As believers we are giving Christ’s blessings. The thing we need to know is no matter how much we ask nothing can ever deplete His power – no matter how much we receive he will keep on giving. The blessings God gives through Christ can never be exhausted.
Grace is truly without cost; forgiveness can never be earned – none of us are able to do anything that will allow us to purchase God’s forgiveness. This is why grace is freely given as part of His love.
Philip Yancey in his book ‘What’s so amazing about grace’ says “it’s on tap for every person who comes through these doors. One who has been touched by grace will no longer look on those who stray as “those evil people” or “those poor people who need our help.” Nor must we search for signs of “love-worthiness.” Grace teaches us that God loves because of who God is, not because of who we are.
Grace depends not on our actions but on what God does for us. Ask people what they must do to get to heaven and most reply, “Be good.” The way Jesus’ lived His life against the usual convictions of the early Church and His ministry show this is not the case. What must we do is cry out to him to Help us!
If we were paid for all of our good deeds let’s say as a form of spiritual account. Then each of us needed to buy a plane ticket to heaven we would all be stuck right here because we are bankrupt
The story is shared about a man who dies and goes to heaven. Of course, Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates. Peter says, ‘Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I’ll give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.’
‘Ok’, the man says. ‘I was married to the same woman for fifty years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.’ ‘That’s wonderful,’ says St Peter. ‘That’s worth three points!’
‘Three points? he says.
‘Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.’ ‘Terrific! says St Peter. ‘That’s certainly worth a point.’
How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.’ ‘Fantastic that’s good for two more points.’
‘Two points?’ the man cries. ‘At this rate the only way I’ll get into heaven is by the grace of God!’
Peter just smiles and says ‘Come on in!’ Safe Am I. Com Website
Grace is something that Christians are good at raising up, but do we really take it to heart. Do we as Christian’s really know what it is like to call Jesus our Brother and to claim for ourselves the right to be called children of God.
We gain spiritual strength through God’s gracious love. This love is power, and as Christian’s we are often compared to light bulbs. A light bulb cannot shine on its own. The only way to make this work and to fulfill its potential is to connect it to a power source. In the same way Jesus is the socket that allows us to plug into God and through Him let our life shine.
God’s power is always available to us; we are the only limiting factor. God’s is waiting for us to ask, and He will gladly give us the strength of will and spiritual determination to do good deeds in His name. We must make the connection, we must pray regularly and passionately, and then God will give us spiritual strength, that only grace, can give that will allow us to do anything, absolutely anything that God wants us to do.
So what is grace? Grace is the loving relationship between God and us. This is the undeserved love that God pours out on us giving us the power that we need. What we need to remember are the words from 2nd Peter 3: 8 – 9. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Saving grace is so much more than two words. God wants to save each of us from fear, and from death, as well as from the guilt of power and sin.
There’s nothing we have to do, nothing we can do, to earn this saving grace; God makes is available to all believers of His own free will whenever we call upon Him. Grace is available for all people even those who lived a wicked life, as soon as we call on Him for forgiveness.
Jesus, God’s Son shared God’s glory with us.
He is as near to God as a child can be to His Father, and has given us instructions about God. These instructions are His most important teaching to come through Jesus for us.
These teachings are what show us that we are given the chance, are given the opportunity, as well as the gift from God of also being called His Children.
Let the knowledge and the joy of this teaching carry us not just into the New Year but into everyday of the rest of our lives! Amen
September 4th 2016
Editor’s Note: Randy Karcher led Children in Worship this Sunday. He set up a table and a chair and played the role of a modern day potter. He had a collection of pottery items communion chalice, a cast of a hand, items from his girls growing up and showed how they are all the gift of potters. Then he took play doe and showed how a potter could make an item like a circle then smashed it down and remade the circle. He used all of this to explain what I would be talking about in my sermon. I felt it was a powerful message and one that complemented my sermon and wanted to share it with you.
Let us pray: This morning Dear Lord we come to sit not just at your feet but at the wheel of the potter. We come to marvel at the skill you use in crafting your creation. We know that you Lord are the one who shaped everything and when your creation is not to your standard will reshape it. Father this morning I pray that as your messenger you will allow this to be a word of Hope for a brighter future that you have planned for our country. Make these words not my words but your words and help us all to see you Father to turn and be forgiven. This I pray in Jesus Holy and precious name. Amen
Today we are going to have a pottery lesson. Actually we already had one! Yet the lesson I am talking about is not a visitation from someone from the pottery barn but someone from the book of Jerimiah.
Now how do we know these words are from Jerimiah? Well it begins with a word that came to Jerimiah from the Lord.
Now I don’t know if Jerimiah knows how lucky he is. Most people can wait for a whole life time before receiving direction from the Lord. Here God is saying if you pick yourself up, get out of your chair, and make your way down to potter’s house and there I will give you my message.
Now a quick show of hands, who would not love to hear, truly hear from the Lord what we should or should not do. (Every hand in the congregation shot up)! So Jerimiah when he gets this message what does he do? Well if he was like the majority of those in the Old Testament He would ignore the call or run the opposite direction of where he was instructed to go. Instead he does just what God’s Spirit says and travels down to the Potter’s house.
Field trip wise this is not much, if you go to the house of the potter what do you expect to see? Well how about a potter? Would that not kind of make sense?
So Jerimiah went down to the potter’s house, and saw him working at the wheel.
Now I don’t know how many of us have ever had the chance to see a potter working at his wheel? Maybe we might have seen one at a renaissance fair, or if you or a family member who has it as a hobby. Besides this it is probable you have not seen one work. Today many pottery wheels are mechanical, but some will still use the time honored method of the Potter would have had to pump the wheel repeatedly to get it up to speed and then would plop the clay on the wheel and as it was spinning begin shaping it.
He is the creator, creates there is no drawing no sketch no plan. The only idea of what is to be created is in his mind. The artistic vision comes from his heart but is not always immediately transferred to his hands. As he was shaping the clay he realized his vision was not being fulfilled realizing that his creation was marred by the very hands that were creating it. So what does the potter do? He pounds the clay back down into a lump and spinning the wheel forming the clay into another pot shaping it as it seems best to him. This is all well and fascinating, but what does this have to do with Jerimiah or our sermon today?
Well the connection is in the next words that the Lord shared with Jerimiah. He asks the question can I not as the eternal potter do with you, Israel, as this potter does. In the same way I hear the Lord asking the same question 700 years after the time of Jerimiah. God is also asking can He not do with America what the potter does with the clay.
His creation may not be the way He wants it. God may have to break us down in order to remold, recreate and make the artistic creation He can see in His mind.
Like clay in the hand of the Potter, we also are in His Hands.
The most incredible thing about God is that while He is eternal, he sets right and wrong and placing warnings on where we should and should not go. As we choose to step over the line we know there will be consequences to pay.
Yet at the same time we praise God that He is not a God of wrath and judgment. Should he be, should he want us to all fail and die he could stand back and laugh at our misfortune. Instead He is the God of the second chance. Let’s face it folks if we are real He is the God of third, fourth and twenty-seventh chances.
As he told Jerimiah so he is also warning us. If at any time He announces that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation so warned repents of its evil, then God will relent and not inflict on it the disaster that He planned. So God if He announces that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down or destroyed and if that nation is warned and turns and repents it will be spared.
This happened time and time again. One example is that of Jonah and Nineveh. God’s intent was to destroy the city; Jonah’s mission was to warn them, Nineveh’s mission was to repent so God could spare them.
Today we have the exact same mission and please don’t see this as us versus them or one party verses another party. No instead I want this to be so much more. I don’t want us to get into a situation like the Pharisee’s and the Sadducees or our modern equivalent the Democrats and the Republicans.
No this is far more than just between all of us. This is between God and the whole of the United States of America. God’s role is as the eternal potter putting us on the right path even if it means breaking down what we have done and rebuilding our country anew. My role this morning is like that of Jerimiah calling out a warning to us. After all did not God already do this with our country once? When our country began we have laws establishing the legal status or property rights for slaves. This God saw as a clay pot that was not to his liking. So he used the civil war as a way to break down the country and rebuild it making slavery illegal. So just like Nineveh, our country has a role to play. Our mission as America is to repent so God would turn his calamity from us.
Yet at the same time If God shall announce His warning to a nation or kingdom that he is building up. If instead of hearing the message and accepting it they turn and do evil in His sight and do not obey, He will reconsider the good He had intended to do for it.
God had one last message to share through Jerimiah “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the Lord says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’
We also receive the same instruction as Israel. We need to begin by listening to Him and stop trying to mold God. Stop trying to say what is or is not right, and what we should or should not do but instead look to Him and believe, seeking what He wants us to do.
In Nineveh God relented, over and over through the history of Israel they disobey and God pulls His blessing from them until the time they get new leaders and a new call to follow and they turn back to Him and receive His blessing.
Our board outside has a simple message but one that applies today. It simply says God Bless Us Real Good! This morning we need to take heart and receive His blessing. Amen