Archive | February 2015

You Are Forgiven…

February 22, 2015
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
1st Sunday of Lent
Final Words Sermon Series
“Father Forgive Them”
Luke 23:26, 33-34a NIV
Adapted from Adam Hamilton’s book “Final Words From the Cross”

“You are forgiven…”

Let us pray…Pray for God’s word to be heard through me or in spite of me…

We live in such a fallen world. We see and hear so much anger, despair, hopelessness, and brokenness form and by humanity. We even sometimes wonder where God is in all this. We, as humanity, act in ways towards each other that just can be downright mean. We say things that we are sorry for after it is said. We have things said to us that can just rock our world. Words and actions have such an effect on us and on those around us.

I remember when I was growing up when people said something mean to us we would just say back “sticks and stones may hurt my bones but names will never hurt me.” It was a quick answer to give others but the trueness in it is that words can and do really hurt sometimes.

I remember a children’s sermon illustration that truly changed how I view the words I say. The pastor had a pan and a tube of toothpaste. Well the pastor asked the kids what he had and of course the kids said a pan and toothpaste. Well, he took the toothpaste and squirted it out on the pan. Well the kids thought that it was funny seeing all the toothpaste on the pan. Then the pastor said to them “Ok…now put it back in the tube.” Well the kids told him that there was no way to do that. The pastor then said “Words are much like this tube of toothpaste. Once they are out, you can’t put it back in…”

So…what are we o do when we or someone else has “emptied the tube of toothpaste all over us”? What are we to do when someone has hurt us right down to the core and we are angry and hurt? How are we to get past this point in our journey of life and faith? Is there some example or “illustration” that that we could follow because when we are in the midst of it all we want to do is to get even…to hurt that person back?

We have begun our Lenten journey to the Cross of Calvary. As we journey, we are going to be taking a look at the Final words…the seven last words or phrases…of Jesus from the cross. These were the last words of His ministry here on earth. You see…even from the cross, Jesus was still doing ministry. It was the leading up of the climax of His ministry and the reason He was sent from above. It is to this place that we will stop and ponder as we await the celebration of His victory.

So…the first of these momentous phrases is the one found in Luke 22:23 and 33-34a and they read…
26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.
33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Father, forgive them for they do not know that they are doing…

Forgiveness can be hard. Un-forgiveness has been around for a long time…An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Jesus’ prayer from the cross for them is one of the most powerful Illustrations of God’s love in all of the Gospels.

But there is someone else that is being forgiven from the cross…you and I…we are included in the them from the cross… The entire human race was there at the foot of Calvary. These words from the cross were ones that rang through all of eternity. He was praying for humanity as well as giving Himself as the sacrificial lamb. His prayer was for those who came before, those who were present and for those who would come after this moment in time. It was not just those who around the cross that needed forgiveness…all of humanity needed and needs forgiveness. This is about God’s grace and mercy…not about what we can do to be forgiven.

Father, forgive them for they do not know that they are doing…

Jesus was praying for God’s mercy and grace on all those who sin…all those who do and will do wrong. It was a prayer for us because God knew what we would do…how we would sin…before we were ever born. This forgiveness was towards you and me before we took our first breath…we were forgiven even before we sinned…

Father, forgive them for they do not know that they are doing…

Now…here is our example of what to do when we are wronged. Now just think about this for one moment…If Jesus, who was perfect and knew no wrong, can forgive those before, during and after this moment in time…how can we not forgive those who sin against us…?

Father, forgive them for they do not know that they are doing…

Forgiveness can be complicated at times. There are those who will never ask for forgiveness or repent of what they have done. This is where it is difficult to forgive. But in order to live a life free for resentment and anger…sometimes we have to just forgive them anyway… Think of what the alternative to forgiving is… It is in these times when we need to pray that model prayer of forgiving others that was modeled from the cross of Jesus…

Father, forgive them for they do not know that they are doing…

We have begun our Lenten pilgrimage to the cross. My prayer is that as we journey we will learn from the words of Jesus from the cross. My prayer is that we will come away changed. My prayer is that we would see the Cross of Calvary in a new and exciting way.

So…what are we to do with our unforgiveness of those who have wronged us? This is what I want you to do. Take a moment to think about people who have wronged you. Perhaps even write their names on the bulletin you have. Now here is the tough part, would you be willing now to join me in the prayer that Jesus prayed for those who crucified them?

A moment of silence to take the time to write down…think of…the people who may have wronged us…

Father, forgive them. Father you know their heart and you know my pain. I pray for those who hurt me. Forgive them, heal me…Amen

Now you may have to come back several times and pray this prayer of forgiveness. Every time you feel that anger or resentment coming sneaking back…just say Father forgive them. It may take time, but eventually you heart will be healed.

Father, forgive them for they do not know that they are doing…

Amen…

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The Math of Lent

February 18, 2015
Ash Wednesday
Joel 2:12-17a CEB
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 CEB
The Math of Lent
As we enter this time of Lent, we remember that it is a time of self-reflection, a time when our hearts turn towards the journey to the cross, a time when we ponder on the gift that God so freely gives to you and to me…the gift of redemption and forgiveness wrapped in a cross on top of a hill from so long ago. As I reflect on my life and walk with God I am reminded by the reading from Joel that it is not the outside that God is concerned with, it is not my outward appearance but the appearance of my heart…how is it really with my soul. God is waiting for the day when all of His creation turns back to Him as He had planned for it to be from the very beginning.
There is sort of a Math having to do with Lent. There is a letting go…a subtraction of the things that bind us and there is a picking up of…an addition of the things and practices that bring us closer to God. It’s like packing for a trip…you see sometimes we pack too much for the journey…we get a little carried away with the just in case stuff that there is either no room for the important or we are so waited down that we are too tired for the journey. So…we decide to let go of what we feel we need to let go of but that in itself can be a problem. Let me read to you about some subtraction and addition in scripture…listen to what can happen if we get too much of this addition and subtraction math…the scripture is found in Matthew 6:1-6 and 16-21…
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 New Living Translation (NLT)
“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
There is a danger of adding too much and we want to show how religious we are to those who are around us…all this addition and subtraction can make our heads explode…but then you have to add in the multiplying that we may feel we need to do…take on more projects, do more than our share of different new and improved things that will make us super Lenten warriors , and the like, only to wind up frustrated and overtired and not even sure what this whole Lent thing is about…It becomes all about us and what we do and less about what God did, has done and continues to do…
How fitting it is that we begin our Lenten journey in ashes…the thought brings us back to the reality it’s not about us…Titus tells us that it is not by what we do that we are saved but by God’s grace we are redeemed. There may be reasons why we need to unpack or add in our spiritual life and that’s OK…as long as we don’t lose sight of what the Lenten journey is…it’s our journey of reflection and hope…it’s the road…our means of access…we travel to the destination at the end of our 40 day journey. The place where God showed His greatest compassion and mercy…the place where He gave His Son to die in our stead so that we may have life renewed and redeemed…the foot of the Cross of Calvary. It is good that we begin in ashes for it is by ashes we were made and to ashes we will return. Wednesday’s ashes…God transformed into the beauty of the cross for me and for you.
Amen.

Authority Given

February 1, 2015
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Worship Theme: Authority through the Holy Spirit
Mark 1:21-28 God’s Word Bible

“Authority Given…”

Let us pray… pray for the Spirits leading as I bring the message to God’s people and that His word would be heard through me or in spite of me…

Have you ever heard someone speak and you just hang on to every word they say? You are just so fascinated with them and what they have to say. They kind of pull you in to the subject that they are talking about. What is it about this person that is speaking that is o mesmerizing? Is it charisma? Is it their voice? How about their appearance? Or is more that they speak with like one with authority? They speak with so much confidence and they know the subject they are speaking of so well that they could do it in their sleep.

I like it when we, as a church, do one of Adam Hamilton’s studies. He is such an awesome speaker. When he talks he speaks with such authority and wisdom. He draws you right into the scripture that he is talking about it is as if you are right there in the story itself.

In the scripture from this morning, we heard the story about a day when Jesus went to the synagogue in Capernaum. The people in the synagogue were amazed by the way in which Jesus taught. Now to top it all off Jesus also delivered a man of an impure demon that was within him. Now this type of teaching and this authority was never seen before. The people were so astounded that they went out and told many people what they saw that day. What authority this man had. Even spirits obeyed Him…

Now when we think of authority, what kind of images come to mind? Maybe it’s a boss who is over you at work. Maybe it is a person in your life that has some sort of hold over you somehow. Or maybe you might think of the police who have been given authority to keep the peace…no matter what the cost. The very definition of authority can be kind of scary…

1. the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine.
2. a power or right delegated or given; authorization :
3. a person or body of persons in whom authority is vested, as a governmental agency.
4. Usually, authorities. persons having the legal power to make and enforce the law; government:
5. an accepted source of information, advice, etc.
6. a quotation or citation from such a source.
7. an expert on a subject:

But when we talk about Jesus’ authority, we are talking about the Authority that comes with the Holy Spirit. Now Spiritual Authority is a mark all Christians should bear. It is the imprint of the Holy Spirit on our hearts. It is given…it is gained…through avenues that society in general has no clue about.
1. Spiritual Authority is not part of the worlds agenda – Jesus did not speak via the political structure of His day. The people were pretty much fed up with the whole “political structure” back then and maybe also today…just sayin. They were glad to hear the Good News that Jesus brought to them…this message of and to the heart. And even those Christians who are in the government structure didn’t and don’t receive this authority through their position but only through the fountain of God that pours out living waters for the soul. Well that makes me kind of happy because I don’t for see myself in some kind of political position in the world in which we live…
2. Spiritual Authority does no rest necessarily upon the powerful – When we look at the world around us it seems that the ones with the biggest and baddest guns and weapons are the ones who are in authority… But just because you have “power” and “authority” as the world sees it, it doesn’t mean you will have “spiritual authority”. Whew…well that makes me happy to know. Spiritual authority is given by and through God and you have to have that relationship with God in order to have it. Now don’t get me wrong. There are those who are in a “position of power and authority” that have that relationship with God and are doing awesome things for the kingdom but the key thought is have that “relationship” that givens them “Kingdom Authority”…
3. Spiritual Authority comes to the humble at heart – As I was saying in the last thought about spiritual authority…it is all about the relationship…it’s all about the heart of the person…not about what they have. In a society where many are about the me and not the thee… it is within the humble heart where the power and authority of God id shown.
4. Spiritual Authority is a liberating quality – You don’t have to pretend to be something you are not. God has given this authority and instead of being stuck…walled in…barred…by the many rules of the church…you are free to be as God would have you be…using His Kingdom Authority for the good of others and further His Kingdom here on earth. Having this authority you have no desire to enslave but the desire to produce a passion for righteousness and freedom through the Holy Spirit.
5. Spiritual Authority assumes responsibility – OK so we have been given Kingdom authority to do God’s work and not our own. We assume responsibility when we realize that it is God’s and not our own agenda that matters and are careful to not transfer our own vision and dream into the will of God. Now this is really hard. We want to do God’s will and we need to make sure we are hearing God and not our own “ideas…vision” in our own heads. The only way to do this is to be constantly in relationship with God, praying and listening for His direction in our lives and in the lives of others that we may have “authority” over.

Every congregation…our congregation…has been gifted by the Holy Spirit with leadership…with people…to do all that God wants to be done within His congregation…what that congregation is called to do. May God give us wisdom and insight to find and us the authority given to each of us through the Holy Spirit…

Let us pray…pray for the spirit’s guidance as we head into the new year…

Amen.