Archive | January 2016

Brand Spanking New

January 3, 2016

Stetson Memorial UMC

First Sunday of 2016

New Year/New Things

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 MSG

Isaiah 43:18-19 MSG

Revelation 21:1-8NIV

 

“Brand Spanking New…!”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

Epiphany noun, plural epiphanies.

  1. (initial capital letter) a Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth-day.
  2. an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity.
  3. a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.
  4. a literary work or section of a work presenting, usually symbolically, such a moment of revelation and insight.

 

Good morning to all of you and Happy New Year. I can’t believe that we are at a new year already. Have you all made your New Year’s resolution yet? I have made a couple but we’ll see how that goes… I pray this New Year brings you blessings, hope and joy and that you have a renewed vision of Jesus and who He is in your lives.

 

In the Christian calendar the first Sunday of the year is known as “Epiphany Sunday”. “Epiphany” is a very interesting word to me…so much so that I decided to look up the definition which I just read. This definition kind of reminds me of those old V8 commercials… you know what I’m talking about, the ones that the person has just discovered that what they were drinking had no real nutritional value and they could have had a V8 instead that would have given them nutritional value. That sudden realization that there was something more out there than what you are living with or doing.

 

I think we all have epiphanies in some shape or form. We are looking for our car keys and then all of the sudden a thought comes to mind of where they are. We may be reading scripture and all of the sudden we have that “ah ha” moment and it all makes perfect sense. We may see or be in a situation and all of the sudden it is like “light dawning on the horizon” we understand why it is all happening…we see it through the eyes of God instead of our own eyes.

 

The bible is full of epiphanies…people who all of the sudden understood something about God and His promises. Many men and women turned their lives around because of their encounter with Yahweh. I think my favorite one is found in Revelations…although I think that the whole book of Revelation is one big epiphany in itself… It is found in chapter 21 verses 1-8. It reads:

Revelation 21:1-8New International Version (NIV)

A New Heaven and a New Earth

21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

God is creating…recreating something new…something that He intended from the beginning and He will dwell with His people. There is no more crying…or death…or anything that is against God…He will create everything brand spanking new. As we grasp this fact…this promise…what an epiphany we have as we realize who our God is and whom belongs to Him…you and I…we belong to Him who sits on the throne. Think about that for a moment. The Creator of all that we see…all that is good…is recreating…not only is He recreating the world in which we live but He is recreating us each day as we draw closer to Him.

 

So pastor Ruth…when can we expect this new world order? Good question. Well remember that reading from Ecclesiastes I read a little while ago? It will happen in God’s time. But we have that promise that it will happen. As children of God, I believe that nothing happens that isn’t Father filtered…nothing happens that God is not aware of…nothing happens for no reason. As we look around us the world doesn’t look all that appealing. There is so much evil around us that we can hardly look at it. We may be thinking “how can God let this happen? Where is God in this?” There a right time for everything on the earth… God is working out His plan. Each day He is creating and recreating. It’s His nature. As we look at the world with the eyes of God, we can see that promise beginning to take shape. But we must believe.

 

Maybe as we begin seeing through God’s eyes we can begin to see our part in the plan. Perhaps if we begin within ourselves we can begin a chain reaction that will affect the world around us and beyond. Isaiah 43:18-19 tells us:

“Forget about what’s happened;

    don’t keep going over old history.

Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.

    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?

There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,

    rivers in the badlands.

My prayer for us as individuals and as a church is that we all will have that epiphany that will bring us ever closer to our Lord Jesus Christ this year…That we will have a revelation of who Christ is to us and who we are to Him…That we will embark on new journeys that will lead us to a new and exciting place where we will encounter our Redeemer in new ways.

 

Happy New Year…happy new you…happy new world…Amen

Advertisements

How Is It With Your Soul

 

December 27, 2015

Stetson Memorial UMC

Last Sunday of The Year 2015

A Soul In Retrospect

Joel 2:28-29

Matthew 3:11

Isaiah 44:3

http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/selfexam.htm

(All Scripture is taken from the NIV Bible)

 

“How Is It With Your Soul…?”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

Read the Scriptures…

 

Here we are at the end of another year. We have almost finished the race of 2015 and the next race is looking at us from just beyond the horizon. We tend to look back in retrospect at what has happened over the year.There has been both good and bad. There have been victories and struggles. But we have made it almost to the end.

 

As we end I would like to throw in a question that you might not hear too much in the world in which we live. How is it with your soul? Have you ever wondered about that? How is it with your soul? This question is one that John Wesley would ask all who were part of the movement that he was ushering in. He expected that everyone would be part of “classes” as he called it. They were accountability groups that prayed for each other and studied the scriptures together. How is it with your soul?

 

I think that we as Christians may have gotten away from caring for the soul…others and our own. We are so busy with everyday life that we don’t have time to tend the garden of the soul. We have forgotten that sin is waiting right around the corner just waiting for us to put our guard down. As soon as that happens, sin just slowly creeps in until it can take of all that we do and say. How is it with your soul?

 

We have just traveled to the manger another way and we thought about…we talked about…things that go on in the world around us and how through the eyes of God we can still see God working. But how can we see Him working if we are not taking time to be with him each day as He whispers His promises to our hearts? How is it with your soul?

 

This morning…I am going to ask us some of these Wesleyan questions…yup I am including myself with these questions. The questions have their origin in the spiritual accountability group started by Wesley when he was a student at Oxford — a group that detractors called “The Holy Club.” The first list appeared about 1729 or 1730 in the preface to Wesley’s second Oxford Diary. OK…here we go…now these are just some of them. I didn’t want to scare us off…

 

Ask Questions…

 

We are beginning to get ready for a new year. My prayer is that as we venture into the New Year, we will continue to ask these questions of ourselves. As we venture out in God’s name may we go out knowing the One who has sent us. We are His hands and feet. Go forth in the Strength of God, the Hope of Jesus Christ and the Wisdom of the Spirit.

 

Amen

For Unto Us A Child Is Born

 

December 24, 2015

Stetson Memorial UMC

Christmas Eve

Inspired by Marcia McPhee

Sermon Series “Awed and Odd”

Praise In The Midst Of Suffering

psalm 150

(All Scripture is taken from the NIV Bible)

 

“For Unto Us A Child Is Born…”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

A Reading from the Psalms…the praise chapter I like to call it…so Psalm 150.

 

We gather here tonight to celebrate the birth of a King. We gather here tonight and sing songs. We gather here tonight to not only waiting expectantly but we are expectantly waiting for His return. We can see in the world around us that there is much strife and chaos. We live in a world of greed and despair. We pray for Christ’s return to usher in a new age… but we too get a feeling of despair at times as we see the world around falling deeper and deeper in to the abyss…but…but…there is a light that shines bright in the east. We have gathered here tonight to testify of the light that shines bright… There is hope to be found in Emmanuel, God with us.

 

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!”

 

Here we are at the eve of hope, love, joy and peace…we have taken off our blinders and have seen God in world and working even though broken. We have talked about seeing peace in the midst of conflict and have decided that even though the world around us may be broken 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.

 

Yes 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 have seen “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. 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. And we have decided that if we look with eternal eyes we can see and react to “Joy in the Midst of Despair?” We have also realized that no matter what the circumstance…Joy and Hope are choices that we make…

So here we are tonight to celebrate the birth of Emmanuel. Now some may say… ”How can you celebrate now? Can’t you see the world around you and all the suffering? Are you blind to the world?” Our response…our choice is to praise God in the midst of suffering.

 

We choose to praise God even in the storms of life. We, as did Job, understand that we praise God in good times, how can we not also praise Him in the times of suffering? He is still God. He still is Emmanuel. He still walks those roads with us helping us through.

 

On this night we celebrate the greatest gift to humankind. This gift, wrapped in swaddling clothes is the one gift that keeps on giving…giving hope, giving love, giving joy, giving peace…who would have thought a baby so small could be so large?

 

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7New International Version (NIV)

2 The people walking in darkness

    have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of deep darkness

    a light has dawned.

6 For to us a child is born,

    to us a son is given,

    and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the greatness of his government and peace

    there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne

    and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it

    with justice and righteousness

    from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty

    will accomplish this.

 

Let us use 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. We no longer have to feel hopeless and alone. We can and will have peace in the midst of chaos. We will have patience and understanding in the midst of hate. But most of all…we will truly feel Emmanuel…God with us. We will hear His gentle voice of encouragement, compassion and hope. 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 are no longer hopeless but hopeful because of loves work one early morning in a stable for we realize we are never alone.

 

Amen

“Why Do I Feel Hopeless…”

 

December 20, 2015

Stetson Memorial UMC

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Inspired by Marcia McPhee

Sermon Series “Awed and Odd”

Hope in the Midst of Hopelessness

Presence in the Midst of Loneliness

Matthew 1:20-23

Hebrews 6:19

Romans 15:13

Job 8:13-18

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7

(All Scripture is taken from the NIV Bible)

 

“Why Do I Feel Hopeless…”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

A reading from the book of Job…chapter eight…verses thirteen through eighteen…listen to the word of God for you and me…the children of God.

 

Each Sunday that we gather here together there is an air of hope all around this sanctuary. We share our hopes, our dreams, our pain and our joy with one another. We have heard answered pray and we have heard new prayer request. There is hope. But most of all, each Sunday I come here I get to see Nolan Howes. That little cherub is hope…hope for our church… and hope for the future…hope for the world.

 

Can you imagine a life without any hope at all? I think that we all have those days when we may feel a little hopeless…unending tasks we must do, trying to get the cross word puzzle done in ink, dishes to be done and dinner to prepare…needing to do…fill in the blank. I am talking about a hopelessness that brings you to your knees because you can’t stand…hopelessness that you just can’t shake and so you sit in sack cloth and ashes as Job did. Job lost everything even his best friends didn’t understand the depth of his sorrow. But Job did one thing that you and I can find strength in…Job never cursed God…he never really gave up the faith that he had in God. There is where his hope was found…the treasure of his heart…with Emmanuel, God with us.

 

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!”

 

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent…we have taken off our blinders and have seen God in world and working even though broken. We have 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.

 

One place we have gone is finding “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. 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. And we have decided that if we look with eternal eyes we can see and react to “Joy in the Midst of Despair?” We have also realized that no matter what the circumstance…Joy is a choice…

 

So,”hope in hopelessness”, how do we find…Ok…how can we even find hope in hopelessness? As I stated last week about joy…hope too is a choice. Now we can give up hope or turn to the One who gives all comfort and strength. I am not going to make it sound easy to have hope just exude out of us. That would be a lie. But maybe…just maybe, we can look at Job’s example.

 

Now Job had lost everything…lost his home, his family, his wealth…even though the mill is closed and I have lost all that I held dear I will hope in the God of Job who is the giver of all that is good…but Job chose not to curse the Lord and trust that God was working out his plan for his life…

Hebrews 6:19New International Version (NIV)

19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,

 

Last week we talked about Mary and how she found joy in the midst of despair. She really did trust in God her Savior because she could have had bad things happen to her because of this blessed condition. But what about Joseph, he could have divorced her quietly. Joseph could have divorced her publicly but he chose hope when he listened to the angel.

Matthew 1:20-23New International Version (NIV)

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Not only hope for himself but hope for all who would come after him. He chose hope for you and for me. We now have God within our midst all because of one man’s choice of hope…

 

Because of one man’s hope we can have the choice of feeling God’s presence in the midst of loneliness. We can say to ourselves “God is here with me through this…” or “God is far away from me and doesn’t fulfill His promise to walk with me.” Which would you rather choose?

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7New International Version (NIV)

2 The people walking in darkness

    have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of deep darkness

    a light has dawned.

6 For to us a child is born,

    to us a son is given,

    and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the greatness of his government and peace

    there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne

    and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it

    with justice and righteousness

    from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty

    will accomplish this.

 

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. We no longer have to feel hopeless and alone. 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 are no longer hopeless but hopeful because of loves work one early morning in a stable for we realize we are never alone.

 

Romans 15:13New International Version (NIV)

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.

 

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

 

Amen