“I Will Choose Joy…”

December 13, 2015

Stetson Memorial UMC

Third Sunday of Advent

Inspired by Marcia McPhee

Sermon Series “Awed and Odd”

Joy in the Midst of Despair

Luke 1:46-55

Isaiah 61:1-3

(All Scripture is taken from the NIV Bible)

 

“I Will Choose Joy…”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

Read “Mary’s Song” found in Luke 1 verse 46-55…

 

In the world in which we live it is kind of hard finding joy in any off it. How many of you feel the same way? It seems where ever you look there is despair and suffering of some sort. We may even be here in the midst of Advent, when we should be joyful, wondering “why can’t I feel that feeling…you know that feeling that we get each and every other Advent? I know it’s there, I just can’t seem to find it…” It is hard to have joy in the midst of despair whether it be in our lives or in the lives of others.

 

This advent, we are journeying to the cross by another road than what we may usually travel. We have been traveling a road that at times may have made us squirm a little. We have been inspired by Marcia McPhee’s “Awed & Odd” Sermon series where she states:

“We Christians believe in “folly”–that there is peace, love, joy and hope in the midst of the good and difficult times. This makes us “odd”–according to those who proclaim the victory of decline and death all around. It is especially in this season of expectant hope that we can instead proclaim the awe-inspiring presence of God’s reign that continually makes all things new. This is a season of odd “union”–swords into plowshares, wolves and lambs resting peacefully together, and the “speechless” singing for joy!”

 

So here we are at the third Sunday of Advent…I don’t know about you but the past couple of weeks has inspired me to open my eyes, take off the blinders and see God in world still working even though broken. We have We talked about seeing peace in the midst of conflict and have decided that even though the world around us may be that God is always working out His plan even if I don’t perceive it. We know because we have seen the light of God working within situations that others might deem hopeless.

 

We also decided that we are a little “odd” because we are “awed” by God who even in the darkness is there creating order out of chaos. And we decided that we would rather be awed for God even though the world calls us odd.

 

Last week we talked about…were stretched a little further as we talked about “Love In the Midst Of Hate”. We decided that Jesus, our Risen Lord, is the One to show us the way by the example that He set. With all the despair He saw, He answered with love and healing giving hope to those around Him. We also decided that as Jesus judges and reigns there will be peace in the midst of conflict and no more hate because all there will be love.

 

 

So let’s stretch a little further…how about “Joy in the Midst of Despair?” Now I don’t know about you but I find it hard…extremely hard to find anything close to joy in the midst of despair. Now raise your hand if you like being in the midst of despair, either your own or someone else’s? Ok…not so much… This is the odd and awed thing about having joy. It is a choice. That’s right…joy is more of a choice than a feeling that we get. Don’t get me wrong, we do feel but we choose to feel it. Example… we have been waiting for that new job opening to happen and it does. Not only does it open but you are offered the job which means more money, more benefits and more time off…Pretty awesome huh? Now here’s the fun part…how do you react? Audience participation time…

 

Mary, the mother of Jesus, had a choice to make. She was now pregnant and unwed. Joseph didn’t even know at this point in time. This was not the thing a proper young woman would want. As a matter of fact…who the heck was going to believe that she was “divinely pregnant”? But let’s look at her song…break apart the song stanza by stanza…

 

We too have our own song for we are the children of God through the grafting that took place on the cross…you know, the cross that the baby we celebrate will climb 33 years later… It is found in Isaiah 61 verses 1-3. Listen to the joy we have because of the love came down from heaven.

Read the scripture…let the Spirit lead in words after.

 

We really do need eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart that is open to what God is doing in the world around us. Then we will be able to see the peace and love that is evident to all who seek love. We will have joy even though there is despair around us. But it begins here (touch chest) and here (touch eyes). As we have an open Heart and lead by the Spirit of God we will use eyes of love and grace as we seek the love of God in the world around us. We will know the joy of our salvation and share that joy with others so that they too will see the light of day at the end of the tunnel that is created by the world. We will help them…and ourselves…take off those blinders that keep us only looking forward and be open to the surprise of God around us. We will have that unspeakable joy in the midst of despair…

 

Let us pray…pray for us to awaken and experience and see the joy of the Lord in the midst of despair…

 

Amen

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“Seek Love…”

December 6, 2015

Stetson Memorial UMC

Second Sunday of Advent

Inspired by Marcia McPhee

Sermon Series “Awed and Odd”

Love In The Midst Of Hate

Isaiah 11:1-4a, 5-9

Romans 15:1-2, 5-7

(All Scripture is taken from the NIV Bible)

 

“Seek Love…”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

A reading from the book of Isaiah, chapter 11, verses 1-4a and 5-9. Listen to the word of God for you and me, the people of God.

 

How easy is it to love other people? I mean really love others? Even more so, how easy is it to see the love of God within the world? There are times in all of our lives when we are given the choice to love and accept others. So the real question is will you choose to love in spite of…Fill in the blank?

 

Remember last week and what Marcia McPhee “Awed & Odd” Sermon series that we are being inspired by this Advent season:

“We Christians believe in “folly”–that there is peace, love, joy and hope in the midst of the good and difficult times. This makes us “odd”–according to those who proclaim the victory of decline and death all around. It is especially in this season of expectant hope that we can instead proclaim the awe-inspiring presence of God’s reign that continually makes all things new. This is a season of odd “union”–swords into plowshares, wolves and lambs resting peacefully together, and the “speechless” singing for joy!”

 

So here we are at the second Sunday of Advent…Last week we had quite the conversation about seeing peace in the midst of conflict. With all that is going on in the world around us even at this moment, it can be hard to find peace…to see peace…to see God working out His plan…within conflict. The stories we shared were inspiring and reminded us…or at least myself…that God is always working out His plan even if I don’t perceive it. We saw the light of God working within situations that others might deem hopeless.

 

We also decided that we are a little “odd” because we are “awed” by God who even in the darkness is there creating order out of chaos. And we decided that we would rather be awed for God even though the world calls us odd.

 

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.

5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:1-2, 5-7)

 

This week we are being stretched a little more. How about “Love In the Midst Of Hate”? How many of you have been in a situation that you may have been involved in a situation that put you right smack down in the middle of this type of situation…this place of being? How did it feel?

OK now…remember the odd and awed-ness of the Isaiah I read this morning…Wolves and lambs, sheep and lions, bears and cows all getting along together…Gods love in the midst of hate. Life can be so hard if you can’t see any kind of good around you. All that you see is the chaos and despair. So my next question is one to help awaken us to love. Where have you seen love in the midst of hate?

 

The Isaiah scripture also gives us a glimpse of the one who will come and show us the way. He will not judge with the eyes. This shoot will judge fairly and in love. The example found in Jesus our Risen Lord is one who shows us the way. With all the despair He saw, He answered with love and healing giving hope to those around Him. As He judges and reigns there will be peace in the midst of conflict and no more hate because all there will be love.

 

We really do need eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart that is open to what God is doing in the world around us. Then we will be able to see the peace and love that is evident to all who seek love. But it begins here (touch chest) and here (touch eyes). As we have an open Heart and lead by the Spirit of God we will use eyes of love and grace as we seek the love of God in the world around us. We will bring that vision to those around us as we become the love of God in the world in which we live…

 

Let us pray…pray for us to awaken and see love with in hatred…

 

Amen

“Peace In the Valley…”

November 29, 2015

Stetson Memorial UMC

First Sunday of Advent

Sunday of Peace

Sermon Series “Awed and Odd”

Inspired by Marcia McPhee

Peace Within the Conflict

Isaiah 2:4; Psalm 122:6, 7;

Romans 13:11; Matthew 24:42, 44

 

 “Peace In the Valley…”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

“…they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” Isaiah 2:4

 

To me…it is very exciting to be here at another time of preparation for the new born child. Because love came down for all of humanity we can celebrate even in the world in which we live…even though it may look as if the “world has won.”…for we know the truth that our God is the only true God and will be victorious.

“Keep awake… you also must be ready…” Matthew 24:42, 44

 

Marcia McPhee states in her “Awed & Odd” Sermon series:

“We Christians believe in “folly”–that there is peace, love, joy and hope in the midst of the good and difficult times. This makes us “odd”–according to those who proclaim the victory of decline and death all around. It is especially in this season of expectant hope that we can instead proclaim the awe-inspiring presence of God’s reign that continually makes all things new. This is a season of odd “union”–swords into plowshares, wolves and lambs resting peacefully together, and the “speechless” singing for joy!”

 

So here we are at the First Sunday of Advent…the Sunday of peace. Now in the world in which we live we can see a lot of “non-peace” so to speak around us. Our eyes look to see “peace within the conflict”. (Speak from the Spirit). Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting: 3 killed; Our own UMC

 

Isis; Middle East

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem… peace be within your walls…” Psalm 122:6, 7

 

“…it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.” Romans 13:11

Where have you seen non-peace around you and what light of God have you seen in that situation. Remember…we are to now awaken from our slumber…

 

We are a little “odd” because we are “awed” by God who even in the darkness is there creating order out of chaos. We need to be awakened from our sleep to see and share that vision with those who still have the scales over their eyes.

 

Let us pray…pray for us to awaken and see peace within the chaos…

 

Amen

“A Thankful Heart…”

November 22, 2015

Stetson Memorial UMC

Psalm 118:1, 19-29 NIV Bible

Ephesians 5:18b-20 NIV Bible

Colossians 3:16-18 NIV Bible

Colossians 1:11-13 NIV Bible

 

 “A Thankful Heart…”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Well, here we are standing on the door step of new season of remembering when love came down for all of humanity. We are also getting ready to celebrate thanksgiving with our friends and family. We really do have a lot to be thankful for. The past few weeks kind of ushered us in to this time of thankfulness.

 

16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

We all received a piece of beach glass to remind us that through all the pressure and storms in our lives the sharp edges we have are being smooth out so that we will become who God intends us to be. We have come to realize, if we hadn’t already, that we are broken and may have been discarded by the world but God sees that thing of beauty in us and it is from there our reconstruction comes and we are created new. (Spirits leading)In this we can have a thankful heart…we are made new

 

We also talked about a safe place and the fact that we all NEED to have that place where we are safe from all the negatives in life and can be who we are… broken vessels that God uses for His glory…those imperfect perfect vessels for God…and it is within this brokenness that Jesus’ light shines through us. If we were perfectly made…there would be no cracks in which our light can shine through. (Spirits leading) Even in our brokenness we can have a thankful heart for Jesus’ illuminating power.

 

We now realize that this safe place is in community and it is within the community of the church… the body of Christ…that we should feel the safest…that there is change in how we think and how we see community as we strive to live together as the body of Christ. As each of us represents a piece of beach glass, when we are put together we create a beautiful mosaic of God grace. As we think of holy vessels as we have the past few weeks, I can’t help but think…imagine how we would look as we go our into the world as God’s vessels to be poured out onto the world around us. I am sure they would all look different as we all come from a different place but always beautifully created. (Spirits leading) We can have a thankful heart as we live and grow in community.

 

We have so much to be thankful for. As I read the Psalm this morning so many images came to mind. Images of God opening the gate for us through which we can enter in…that gate being our Risen Lord Jesus Christ…for He is the gate of the Lord through which all must enter in to be saved. The image of Jesus in the manger as God answered our plea for salvation…the very person that was rejected has become the way to freedom. The image of God shining His light on humanity as we comfort in song because of what He has done…He is our God whom I shall praise and exalt on High. There are many images in this scripture and I invite you to read these words and contemplate the season that we will be entering next Sunday…the season of Advent.

 

11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[a] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,

 

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever…

Amen

“A New You…”

November 15, 2015

Stetson Memorial UMC

John 4:7-15 The Message Bible

Acts 11:1-18 The Message Bible

 

 “A New You…”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

I have noticed that when people come together they are no longer just a person; they become something much larger than themselves. They become a community…they are no longer all alone. I have seen it happen in so many different ways. When teens get together they become extended family with on another. Even the parents get to become part of their community at times. I don’t know how many adopted children I have had that are my daughters friends.

 

We as adults seem to do the same thing. When we have friends that are close they become family members to us. When things go the way God plans them to go, we become members of Christ’s body…we become brothers and sisters in Christ. We were born into a community, our families, and we need community to thrive and become who we were created to be and to fulfill the purpose that only we can fulfill.

 

Last week we all received a piece of beach glass to remind us that through all the pressure and storms in our lives the sharp edges we have are being smooth out so that we will become who God intends us to be. We are broken and may have been discarded by the world but God sees that thing of beauty in us and it is from there our reconstruction comes and we are created new.

Last week we also talked about a safe place. Now some people unfortunately don’t have a safe place in their lives. But we all NEED to have that place where we are safe from all the negatives in life and can be who we are… broken vessels that God uses for His glory. You know…those imperfect perfect vessels for God… Now remember, it is in our brokenness that God’s light shines through the cracks. Remember also that there something amazing about our brokenness; it is within this brokenness that Jesus’ light shines through us. If we were perfectly made…there would be no cracks in which our light can shine through.

 

The safe place is in community and it is within the community of the church…the body of Christ…that we should feel the safest. The story of the Samaritan woman that we read this morning is a story of healing. Now Jesus spoke to this woman which alone was something liberating. Jews didn’t talk to Samaritans, let alone a woman. But Jesus reach out to her with the living water and it gave her the freedom to go and tell her whole family…her whole community about Jesus and this living water He offered and many were saved.

 

Like each piece of beach glass we may find, we too have a story about how we came to be who we are at a certain moment in time. It takes time to find out the story behind the old sea glass we encounter as it does with the people that are in our community, however that community may look. There is change in how we think and how we see community as we strive to live together as the body of Christ.

 

Sometimes it is our vision that needs to change. There is a story in the bible that changed how the church would look and include us…the gentiles of the world. It is found in Acts 11:1-18 read the scripture from the NIV.

 

A new way of thinking that includes all in the community …the family of God. As each of us represents a piece of beach glass, when we are put together we create a beautiful mosaic of God grace. But there are times when we let stereotypes and preconceptions that rob us of the image of God in others and we don’t see the holy vessel before us.

 

There is a wonderful song called “I will change Your name” from the Renew Hymnal. There are these words in it that should make us all stop and think about those who we may exclude but God doesn’t…there are times when we act very much like Peter did with “those” people…”

 

I will change your name,

you shall no longer be called

wounded, outcast, lonely and afraid

 

I will change your name,

your new name shall be

confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one,

faithfulness, friend of God,

one who seeks my face.

 

(End as the spirit leads with the friendship bracelets)

Amen

“A Safe Place…”

November 8, 2015

Stetson Memorial UMC

23rd Psalm NIV

1 John 5:1-5 NIV

Psalm 31:19-24

“A Safe Place…”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

Read 1John 5:1-5 NIV

1 John 5:1-5New International Version (NIV)

 

Faith in the Incarnate Son of God

5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

 

 

Have you ever been in a place that you felt completely unsafe? No matter where you turn it just gives you that frightened feeling. It is almost as if the evil of the world has converged in one place and your standing in it. We all want that place of safety in our lives….a place where we feel cared for and nothing can harm you.

 

Last week was All Saints Day and we talked about the saints past, present and future…we talked about how we owe so much if what we have today to those who have gone before us. They are the ones who made a path for us to follow instead of making our own. It is nice to travel that safe road at times but at other times we just want to venture out on our own to see what we can find.

 

In the 23rd Psalm that I read this morning, we hear about that place of safety. That place is right next to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. In keeping close to Jesus we may not miss all those scary, dangerous parts of life but we know that He will walk through it with us.

 

Last week I also talked about how we are the imperfect, perfect vessels God’s love. We are those cracked pots for God so to speak. Even in our brokenness we are useable and precious to God who picks us up and creates something new, something beautiful.

 

It is within our brokenness that He is able to reform us into a thing of beauty. He reclaims us for a far better purpose than what we can imagine on our own. We all have brokenness within us, it all began in a garden before we were ever born. But there something amazing about our brokenness, it is within this brokenness that Jesus’ light shines through us. If we were perfectly made…there would be no cracks in which our light can shine through.

 

 

 

Think about beach glass for a moment each of you should have received a piece when you came in this morning. It starts out as a discarded bottle or other glass. It is broken and just left where it is as if it had no use or beauty left. Through time, the discarded piece of glass is rolled over many times and has had the waves beat upon it. It loses it’s rough edges that it once had. Until one day it becomes a thing of beauty that we call “beach glass”. It is no longer a discarded broken bottle, it has now become something that people search up and down the beach for. It is something that is valued and treasured…it may be in a different form but it is still valuable. It is actually considered a mineral gem at this point.

 

Our lives can seem much like the life of beach glass. We can feel we have the perfect life and then something comes along to shatter or change that. As we give ourselves to God , He is able to create something new. When we accept Jesus our whole lives change from dirty to white as snow. 1 John 5:1-5 told us that as we become children of God we are changed and we love the children of God. We may go through much pressure and strife but we come out changed on the other side.

 

Now we may feel alone as we go through our time of change but we are never alone. Listen to Psalm 31 verses 19-24 and hear the good news…

Psalm 31:19-24New International Version (NIV)

 

19 How abundant are the good things

    that you have stored up for those who fear you,

that you bestow in the sight of all,

    on those who take refuge in you.

20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them

    from all human intrigues;

you keep them safe in your dwelling

    from accusing tongues.

21 Praise be to the Lord,

    for he showed me the wonders of his love

    when I was in a city under siege.

22 In my alarm I said,

    “I am cut off from your sight!”

Yet you heard my cry for mercy

    when I called to you for help.

23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people!

    The Lord preserves those who are true to him,

    but the proud he pays back in full.

24 Be strong and take heart,

    all you who hope in the Lord.

 

(End as the spirit Leads)

 

Amen

“Remember…”

November 1, 2015

All Saints Day

Stetson Memorial UMC

Hebrews 10:32-29 NIV

2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV

http://www.churchyear.net/allsaints.html

 

“Remember…”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

Hebrews 10:32-39

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,

“In just a little while,

    he who is coming will come

    and will not delay.”

38 And,

“But my righteous one will live by faith.

    And I take no pleasure

    in the one who shrinks back.”

39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Today we celebrate All Saints Day. It is a day that we celebrate those saints among us and those who have gone before us. Now let me give you a little history about All Saint Day.

“It is when the Catholic Church and some Protestant churches commemorate every saint, known and unknown. The concept of All Saints Day is connected to the doctrine of The Communion of Saints. This is the concept that all of God’s people, on heaven, earth, and in the state of purification (called Purgatory in the West), are spiritually connected and united. In other words, Catholic and Orthodox Christians (and some Protestants) believe that the saints of God are just as alive as you and I, and are constantly interceding on our behalf.

 

Remember, our connection with the saints in heaven is one grounded in a tight-knit communion. The saints are not divine, nor omnipresent or omniscient. However, because of our common communion with and through Jesus Christ, our prayers are joined with the heavenly community of Christians.

 

 

Remembering and honoring the saints are beneficial practices, because to remember the heroes of the faith and follow their examples are good things. Many Christians seem to strongly oppose remembering and celebrating the lives of great Christian men and women, yet have no problem celebrating the lives of secular heroes like George Washington. All Saints Day is kind of like a Christian Memorial Day or Presidents Day, a day to celebrate the lives of all the great heroes of the Christian faith, and to celebrate the deep communion we have with them. While celebrating secular heroes is admirable, how much more admirable is celebrating those who fully dedicated their lives to Christ!”

 

Remembering is good. These are the ones who forged the road before us. Without them where would the church be? These are the ones who are “upstream” for us. As we learn from them we become the faithful saints of God. At this time we are now the ones who are upstream for those who are downstream looking for help along the way. We have become the Saints for those who are not even born yet as were some of those who believed before us. The Scripture from Hebrews I read tells us that we must remember and hold onto that passion and zeal we have for the Gospel of Grace. It is all in the remembering that we can gather strength to move forward for the kingdom of God. We become the light upstream for those who are in the dark downstream…

 

As I think about the saints that have gone ahead of me there is one thing…one theme so to speak that keeps popping up…God reuses the things that are broken to achieve His plan. God is the ultimate recycler. There is nothing that He can’t use.

 

It is within our brokenness that He is able to reform us into a thing of beauty. He reclaims us for a far better purpose than what we can imagine on our own. We all have brokenness within us, it all began in a garden before we were ever born. But God…in His infinite wisdom…when the time was right He made a way for us to have that relationship with Him that brings us from brokenness to wholeness.

 

Now things that are broken need to be fixed right? This includes you and me. But how do we go from brokenness to wholeness? OK…this is how I see it…

Each of us is created a precious vessel of God’s love. But somewhere along the way each of us has experienced hurt in some way, bringing a sense of brokenness. Now in order to begin that “recovery” process we need to realize that moving toward healing is to offer the gift of life and wholeness, not only for ourselves but also for others as we come to see each person as a Holy Vessel and as we come to desire that wholeness for all of creation.

2 Corinthians 4:7 states:

“7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

 

We have that treasure within us…we are the jars of clay that God, even though we are broken, still uses to show His glory through. Remember, even the saints before us were broken. God still used them to bring us to where we are today…

 

Today we celebrate the saints past, present and future. Even though broken, God still uses us to continue to be His light in the world. It is within our brokenness that God repurposes us to be whom He would have us be. Maybe as we realize this we can begin the road to healing and wholeness. Perhaps if we just remember what we have forgotten we would again be strengthened for the journey. We all have cracks and chips but I would rather be a cracked pot for God than anything else in the world…

 

Amen

“Building A Life of Comfort…?”

October 25, 2015

Stetson Memorial UMC

Inspired by Marcia McPhee’s Series:

“Moving out of Scare City”

Philippians 4:6-7

Genesis 6:1-9

 

“Building A Life of Comfort…?”

 

Philippians 4:6-7New International Version (NIV)

 

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Let us pray:

Loving and Gracious God, we come before You as Your people who want to do Your will and trust in You alone. Speak to us we pray so that we would hear the word You have for us this day. May we leave Your house today with a renewed trust in You and Your goodness. May the meditations of our heart, mind and Spirit be pleasing to You our God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

 

I will come to you in the silence

I will lift you from all your fear

You will hear My voice

I claim you as My choice

Be still, and know I am here

 

Chorus:

Do not be afraid, I am with you

I have called you each by name

Come and follow Me

I will bring you home

I love you and you are mine

 

What are you afraid of? What makes you so afraid that you may even be unable to move? You know those things that we try to hide from but they always seem to find us any way. I think we all have some kind of fear within us. I believe that there is at least one thing that is we give into the fear our whole world could come apart.

 

Some of the things that we may fear are things that you can see. Things like someone breaking into your house and robbing you of the things you hold dear. How about things like flying…some of us are afraid to fly…or how about being afraid of our loved ones because they are far away and we are afraid that if we are not watching over them something may happen. We hold these fears within us and some are real fears but some are fears of what might happen.

 

Things that might happen…have you ever been afraid of something that might happen? Now these scenarios that we rehearse in our heads may or may not happen can really grab a hold of us and not let go. They are so real to us that we are even afraid of not being afraid because if we are not on our guard well it may happen…

 

What about the fear of scarcity? Have you ever been afraid of not having enough? Have you ever been afraid that though God has promised to be with us always and He will give us peace about all things that we bring to Him as the scripture I just read states? But you just can’t stop worrying about not having enough. We all the sudden realize we have moved from the town of Trusting God to a place called “Scare City”.

 

The sense that there is not enough drives greed, fear and exclusionary behavior. We begin to live in “Scare City” where it seems that death, starvation, feelings of being overwhelmed and swallowed up can lurk around every corner. The Good News is that this is an illusion. A spiritual journey into the truth of abundance of all that we need offers us an alternative vision of where to live our lives. This fall, we are going to be trying to rethink those fears we may have. This series will have us “Moving out of “Scare City” and traveling to the vast, open habitats of God’s grace.

 

So how do we react to living in Scare City? One way is found in Genesis 11 verses 1-9 which read:

Genesis 11:1-9New International Version (NIV)

 

The Tower of Babel

11 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

 

3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

 

5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

 

8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

 

The people had a nice place that they settled in. Then perhaps out of the feeling of scarcity…of not having enough…they decided that they would build a tower…not made of the usual stuff but made of stronger material so that it would last. They allowed their fear to take over and when that happens…well let’s just say that a lot of times…bad decision are made out of fear…out of greed… as we see the consequence that occurred in this situation…

 

More, more, more! Like skyscrapers that begin to loom over us casting a shadow below, our quest for “more” power, prestige, wealth, and  domination have created a culture of oppressive “not enough-ness.” We are overwhelmed, overworked and overstressed. Our perspective of how much we actually have is skewed by the immensity of images of what we “ought to have.” In order to have  a more Godly vision we must begin to confront the myth of scarcity and focus on abundance.

 

What does having enough truly mean to us? I know the answer is different for each of us but what causes you to have comfort in what you have? What is it that forms our feeling of being content? What are the messages that are running around in our head as we begin to think about the word “enough”?

 

God wants us, His Children, to have an abundant life, a life of blessings and contentment. He will meet our needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. We need not be afraid of what will come tomorrow because God has already been there, paving the way for us. But this wanting more and fear of scarcity seems to get in the way. But God still holds out His hand, offering us a life of abundance. But we need to change our thoughts from the world’s view of abundance, which never satisfied with what it has always wanting more and afraid to lose what it has already gotten, to God’s promise of abundance. Which would you rather have?

 

I would like to end my sermon with a prayer written by John van de Laar. I would like for us take in these words of confession and hope as we move out of Scar City into the world of abundance found in and through our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ:

 

Worry and stress are not hard for us, God,

we do them without thinking.

There is always the potential of threat

to our security,

our comfort,

our health,

our relationships,

our lives,

and we foolishly think that we could silence the fear

if we just had enough money,

enough insurance,

enough toys,

enough stored away for a rainy day.

It’s never enough, though;

the voice of our fear will not be dismissed so easily.

But, in the small, silent places within us is another voice;

one that beckons us into the foolishness of faith,

that points our gaze to the birds and the flowers,

that, in unguarded moments, lets our muscles relax,

and our hearts lean into loved ones;

In unexpected whispers we hear it,

calling us to remember your promises,

your grace,

your faithfulness;

And, suddenly, we discover

that it is enough.

Amen.

 

September 13, 2015

Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church

Summer Sermon Series:

“Revive Us Again O Lord!”

Adapted from “Revival” by Adam Hamilton

Theme: Works Of Mercy…

Ephesians 2:8-10

James 2:14-18

“Can I Help…?”

James 2:14-18Common English Bible (CEB)

Showing faith

14 My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? 15 Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. 16 What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? 17 In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.

18 Someone might claim, “You have faith and I have action.” But how can I see your faith apart from your actions? Instead, I’ll show you my faith by putting it into practice in faithful action.

Prayer for God’s Word to be heard through me…

“Put your money where your mouth is. Talk is cheap. Put up or shut up. The proof is in the pudding. They are “running of the mouth again.”” Have you ever heard any of these phrases that are used when someone is just talking and talking but you find it hard to believe what they are saying so you kind of challenge them to prove what they are saying… How about when Christians talk and talk? They talk the talk but are they walking the walk? They are a talking but are their feet a walking?

We are almost at the end of our summer of “Camp Meetings”. We are asking God to bring revival to our lives and to our communities…to the world. It has been an interesting journey so far. OK…you don’t have to raise your hand on these questions… This summer we have been trying to awaken that which may have fallen asleep. How many of you have felt that tugging of the Spirit? We have talked about some of those feelings that weighed us down and how we need to bring them to the cleansing water of God. How many have felt a little more filled with the Spirit as you made room by getting rid of some rocks that weighed you down? We have understood that we are saved by grace alone. How many have given room of God’s grace? We long for holiness for we want to be holy as God has called us to be. How many really have felt that more passion for God and His word as you have been intentional with our faith and with Him?

We want to do what God wants us to do but sometimes our motives get a little off course, so to speak. How many of you know someone who talks the talks but really doesn’t walk the walk? They talk about doing but never seem to do. It can get that way with faith at times. There are times when people of faith talk all about their faith but there is no works behind that faith. In the Epistle of James that I read it talks about living our faith and not just having faith. We may have faith but if there are no works behind it then our faith is as good as dead.

OK…here is where it may get confusing at times. We heard in the Ephesians letter from Paul that we are saved by grace and not works and this is true. The last part of the Ephesians 2 verses 8-10 states “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” What James is saying is that we saved by grace found in our faith in Jesus Christ and if there is no works our faith might as well be dead.

OK…let’s see if I can explain this better. We are saved by grace through our faith in Jesus Christ. We are so thankful to God for His grace in sending His Son to die for us that we can’t help but want to do outward things to show our inward change and gratefulness. We are so thankful that we want to show that same grace that we have received to others who are in need of grace. This is doing “Works of Mercy” as they are called. They are divided into two categories: Spiritual and Corporal:

  1. The Corporal Works of Mercy are these kind acts by which we help our neighbors with their material and physical needs.

feed the hungry

shelter the homeless

clothe the naked

visit the sick and imprisoned

bury the dead

give alms to the poor

  1. The Spiritual Works of Mercy are acts of compassion, as listed below, by which we help our neighbors with their emotional and spiritual needs.

instruct

advise

console

comfort

forgive

bear wrongs patiently

We as Christ’s church need to “revisit” some of these works. Some how we have forgotten what we are here for…

We long for revival in ourselves and in our church. But as I have always said…it begins with you and with me. It is a heart thing. It is from within that we begin this wondrous journey of grace.

Ray and I along with the girls watched a movie called “Do You Believe” and it has really made me stop and think not only about myself but have a burden for others. It has got me thinking about a true revival. We can read all we want and pray and do all kinds of works of mercy for others. But there is one question that must be answered if we are to have a true revival. It is a question that every follower of Christ needs to ask themselves. Do you … do I … do we … BELIEVE? Now I am not talking about some superficial belief…I am talking about a deep down belief…

Speak from the Spirit… ( See video of Sermon for this part of what was preached)

Amen…

In It For the Long Haul

September 20, 2015

Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church

Summer Sermon Series:

“Revive Us Again O Lord!”

Adapted from “Revival” by Adam Hamilton

Theme: Persevering To The End…

All Scriptures are from the NIV Bible

Romans 5:1-5

James 1:2-6

James 5:7-11

 

“In It For The Long Haul?”

 

Prayer for God’s Word to be heard through me…

 

When I answered “YES” to God’s call to be a pastor, I really never thought all that I needed to do to follow that call. First I had to go back to school. Now I hadn’t had the greatest experience with college in the past. But here I was, 20 some odd years later needing to go back to school. I now had, 3 daughters that were very young and needed mom, a new husband, and a feeling of not being good enough…thanks to my ex. So here I am on my first day of school and I thought to myself…what the heck am I doing here. I am too old to go back to school. There was many times I almost just quit school. But with the encouragement of my family…I persevered. I even graduated Suma Cum Luda. It was so hard but I persevered and came out the other side more than I thought I could be.

 

Here we are at the end of our summer of “Camp Meetings”. It has been an interesting journey to say the least as we have been intentional with God and our Spirit. We have asked God to bring revival to our lives and to our communities…to the world. We have trusted and implored Him to awaken that which may have fallen asleep. We have removed some of those rocks that weigh us down and separate us from the relationship God wants us to have with Him. We have understood that we are saved by grace alone. We long for holiness for we want to be holy as God has called us to be.

We know that the love and gratefulness we feel for God causes us to want to do the good works He has ordained for us…those “works of mercy” we talked about last week. But most of all, we have discovered that it all begins with the way we answer the question “Do You Believe”.

 

The last piece of revival is one that will probably be the hardest. We must persevere… But how are we supposed to persevere in the world in which we live? There are so many things that are against our spiritual selves that feed into our fleshly selves…

Let’s look at some scripture about perseverance and see what it tells us.

Romans 5:1-5 Peace and Joy

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

*Speak from the Spirit… ( See video of Sermon for this part of what was preached)

James 1:2-6 Trials and Temptations

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

*Speak from the Spirit… ( See video of Sermon for this part of what was preached)

James 5:7-11 Patience in Suffering

7 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! 10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

*Speak from the Spirit… ( See video of Sermon for this part of what was preached)

 

With all that we have talked about and learned over the past 6 weeks it should be easy to have revival…right? Not really. But maybe if we just begin…taking those baby steps…we will begin a movement within ourselves. As we begin that movement within ourselves, maybe…just maybe…our churches will begin to recapture the things they may have lost. And maybe if the church recaptures its vision…have restored eyesight…maybe it can go out into its communities with a renewed passion. And as this passion grows perhaps there will truly be a revival of God’s people and Christ’s church. But it begins with you and me. It really is that simple…

 

 

Amen…