Archive | January 2017

Cherished, Favored and Loved

 

January 8, 2017

Stetson Memorial UMC

Baptism of the Lord

Sermon Series:

“Becoming You…”

Adapted from Marcia McPhee’

“Who Are You?” Sermon Series

Isaiah 42:1-9 NOG Bible

Matthew 3:13-17 MSG Bible

Acts 10:34-43 The Living Bible

 

“Cherished, Favored, and Loved…”

 

Prayer that God’s Word is heard through me or in-spite of me…

 

Let us pray: Almighty God, the life you birthed in us by baptism into Jesus Christ will never die. Your justice never fails. Your mercy is everlasting.  Your healing river flows. Your Spirit blows where you will. We cannot stop you, God!

We are dry and thirsty, O God. Come, refresh us!

Come upon us, Holy Spirit!

Come upon these waters.

Let these waters be to us drops of your mercy.

Let these waters remind us of your righteousness and justice.

Let these waters renew in us the resurrection power of Jesus.

Let these waters make us long for your coming reign.

Most Holy God, Father! Full of Truth and Grace! Glory to you!

Jesus Christ, Savior, Lord! Glory to you!

 Spirit of fire, Spirit over the waters, Spirit of holiness! Glory to you!

Eternal God, One in Three and Three in One! All glory is yours, now and forever. Amen!

 

 

Have you ever just wanted to belong to something just the way you are? I mean there are so many conditions to being part of something. I like Planet Fitness’ slogan “A judgement free zone.” You can go there and not be ridiculed by what you look like, how much weight you can or can’t lift, or even how long you can walk on the treadmill. A place where you can feel comfortable as you take care of the temple God has given you.

 

Today is baptism of the Lord Sunday. Now we know that you receive the Holy Spirit at baptism and it is through the baptismal waters that we receive grace. In other words, in our baptism of water…our rebirth…we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit…the flame within us. God is the Master Creator…creating and recreating His creation. God created…the earth was birthed, out of the waters that covered the earth. Something new was created out of the water. But in our baptism there is yet another element that is added to the creation. Fire is added…the Holy Spirit…to complete the new creation… It is through this same Spirit that we are guided…it is a gift given to all who believe… We are accepted into…become part of…the family of believers at our baptism.

 

This truth, can be very hard to understand if we don’t realize who we are in Christ Jesus. Who are we really…how does God equip us…what are we supposed to do…? We have begun to look at who we are in Christ…we have begun a deep journey into these questions and more. Let’s see what transformation happens as we become who God says we are and not who the world thinks we are.

 

The first fact is this…you are God’s beloved. You are cherished, favored, and loved by God. Now this may be hard to grasp. We live in a world that we have a fear of rejection. You must have the right connections, wear the right clothes, do the right things to be “part of society” and not on the out skirts thereof. Love, for many, is conditional. We are loved if we…fill in the blank. Can you imagine what the world would be like without the human fear of rejection place that you are accepted for who you are and not who others want you to be.

 

Beloved this world does exist…there is a place where you and I are accepted, flaws and all. It is at the foot of the cross of Jesus… It is within our baptismal waters of Grace. Listen to what happened when Jesus came to the Jordan River where John, the baptizer, was baptizing the people for their sins…read Matthew 3:13-17…

 

 

 

Matthew 3:13-17 The Message (MSG)

13-14 Jesus then appeared, arriving at the Jordan River from Galilee. He wanted John to baptize him. John objected, “I’m the one who needs to be baptized, not you!”

15 But Jesus insisted. “Do it. God’s work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism.” So John did it.

16-17 The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up and he saw God’s Spirit—it looked like a dove—descending and landing on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.”

This is my son…this is my daughter…chosen and marked by my love…she is the delight of my life…he is the delight of my life… We too are beloved…we too hear these words of love…we also hear these words of affirmation not only who but whose we are.

 

We are chosen…by God…to be like Peter and the other apostles to share this good news that we continue to be witness of to this very day. Listen to what Peter had to say to those who were listening…listen to the promise of acceptance…read Acts 10:34-43:

 

Acts 10:34-43Living Bible (TLB)

34 Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that the Jews are not God’s only favorites! 35 In every nation he has those who worship him and do good deeds and are acceptable to him. 36-37 I’m sure you have heard about the Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus, the Messiah, who is Lord of all creation. This message has spread all through Judea, beginning with John the Baptist in Galilee. 38 And you no doubt know that Jesus of Nazareth was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and with power, and he went around doing good and healing all who were possessed by demons, for God was with him.

39 “And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Israel and in Jerusalem, where he was murdered on a cross. 40-41 But God brought him back to life again three days later and showed him to certain witnesses God had selected beforehand—not to the general public, but to us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he sent us to preach the Good News everywhere and to testify that Jesus is ordained of God to be the Judge of all—living and dead. 43 And all the prophets have written about him, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”

 

“We see very clearly that the Jews are not God’s only favorites! Everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.” This is the message…this is the Good News…therefore we ARE BELOVED. Nothing of our own doing. We are accepted…as we are…by grace and grace alone. I would like to propose this…I would like to challenge us. Let’s live in the abundance of grace and acceptance and just see what happens when we offer that to others.

 

Today is the Baptism of the Lord Sunday, the day when we remember not only his life changing baptism but ours as well. Through water we are saved. Through water we are redeemed. Through water we are given a new life. (Walk down the aisle with the Baptismal Bowl and sprinkle the congregation when saying remember your baptism) So when the waters of life seem as if they are about to overtake you…remember your baptism

You are my cherished child in whom I am well pleasedWhen you feel as if you have no one who really cares in your life…remember your baptism…you are the delight of my life. When you feel like an outcast in this journey of life…remember your baptism… You are chosen and marked by my love. When life has thrown you too many curves and you just can’t take one more…remember your baptism… the skies opened up and God’s Spirit—it looked like a dove—descending and landing on you. You have been sealed with love…you have been sealed with power…you have been sealed with grace…you have been sealed by the Spirit.  Remember your baptism!

Amen

 

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Let’s Do This

 

January 1, 2017

Stetson Memorial UMC

New Year’s Day

Sermon Series:

“Becoming You…”

Adapted from Marcia McPhee’

“Who Are You?” Sermon Series

Psalm 8 NKJV

Revelation 21:1-6 CEB

Ephesians 3:1-12 CEB

Matthew 2:9-10 NIV

“Let’s Do This…”

 

Prayer that God’s Word is heard through me or in-spite of me…

 

Good morning. Have you ever been so psyched to do something that you are all pumped up? You are so excited that you can’t even sleep. It is something that you have wanted to do or so long and now you have your opportunity to do so. I love the Home Depot commercials where people are going to Home Depot and getting the stuff they need to complete a project around the home. The phrase that catches my attention is when they say “Let’s do this.” I think that this year this will be my “mantra” … Let’s Do This!

 

Happy New Year! I pray that all of you had an awe-inspired Christmas and that you would have a God breathed New Year. It is nice though, having the holiday’s behind us. I can have a chance to slow down a little and breath in…well at least for the next 9 weeks before Lent begins.

 

Back to the let’s do this statement. In the Christian calendar, today is Epiphany Sunday. The day we celebrate the Magi coming to visit Jesus… I wonder how they must have felt? They were so excited to see His star and they traveled from a faraway distant land. They finally were able see the new born king that was foretold by the prophets. Listen to what Matthew 2:9-10 says about their emotions upon finding Jesus.

“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.”

Their “Let’s Do This” brought them to a place of awe and wonder…they followed God’s star and discovered and unimagined joy.

 

Each time we enter into a new year I always think of Revelation 21:1-6. It reminds me of God’s promise and gives me hope of “Maybe this year.” It reads:

New heaven and new earth

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will freely give water from the life-giving spring.

 

This piece of scripture makes we want to do something in the here and now… This piece of scripture makes me say “let’s do this”…Let’s make a difference in other’s lives…Let’s help those who are mourning, in pain, crying… Let’s bring them to God’s dwelling place so that god may dwell with them too.

 

Now you may say to yourself…well that’s all fine and good for you Pastor Ruth but I am not so sure this “Let’s do this” mantra is going to work for me…I’m just not cut out to “do it.” You know what…neither was I. But the grace of God came upon me and I stand here before you now because of it. But you still may not be convinced of the whole “Let’s do this thing” … Ok…let’s hear a word from Paul that kind of tells us that we all really do need to “Do This”… now as I read this scripture I want you to insert your name when I say Paul … I am reading Ephesians 3:1-12…

Paul, apostle to the Gentiles

3 This is why I, Paul, am a prisoner of Christ for you Gentiles.

2 You’ve heard, of course, about the responsibility to distribute God’s grace, which God gave to me for you, right? 3 God showed me his secret plan in a revelation, as I mentioned briefly before (4 when you read this, you’ll understand my insight into the secret plan about Christ). 5 Earlier generations didn’t know this hidden plan that God has now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets through the Spirit. 6 This plan is that the Gentiles would be coheirs and parts of the same body, and that they would share with the Jews in the promises of God in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 I became a servant of the gospel because of the grace that God showed me through the exercise of his power.

 

8 God gave his grace to me, the least of all God’s people, to preach the good news about the immeasurable riches of Christ to the Gentiles. 9 God sent me to reveal the secret plan that had been hidden since the beginning of time by God, who created everything. 10 God’s purpose is now to show the rulers and powers in the heavens the many different varieties of his wisdom through the church. 11 This was consistent with the plan he had from the beginning of time that he accomplished through Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In Christ we have bold and confident access to God through faith in him.”

 

“about the responsibility to distribute God’s grace, which God gave to me for you” We have a responsibility to distribute God’s grace…to share our stories of faith. We are given grace to share grace…

 

“This plan is that the Gentiles would be coheirs and parts of the same body, and that they would share with the Jews in the promises of God in Christ Jesus through the gospel” We are to share the fact that within God’s plan, through Jesus, we too have the same promises of old…

 

“God gave his grace to me, the least of all God’s people, to preach the good news about the immeasurable riches of Christ to the Gentiles. 9 God sent me to reveal the secret plan that had been hidden since the beginning of time by God, who created everything” We are to be the ambassadors of God to the world…from our homeland which is not of this world… We are to share the Good News…

 

This all can be very hard when we may not know who we are in Christ Jesus. Who are we really…how does God equip us…what are we supposed to do…? I propose this for us. Let’s look at who we are. Let’s take a deep journey into these questions and more. Let’s see what transformation happens as we become who God says we are and not who the world thinks we are.

 

In 2017 let’s do this…let’s have “More saving. More doing.” …as home depot states. This journey begins with its first steps today. Are you willing to become you? Well then “Let’s Do This” together. Let’s do this for the One who is the Messiah…the Savior…the child in a manger…our Risen Lord, Jesus Christs.

 

Amen

Beloved

 

December 25, 2016

Stetson Memorial UMC

Christmas Day

“A Sacred Moment”

Sermon Series

Psalm 98

Luke 2:1-20

John 1:1-14

 

 

“Beloved…”

 

A prayer of illumination so that God will speak through me or in-spite of me…

 

I would ask that you would stand as you are able for the reading of the Gospel according to the apostle Luke Chapter 2, verses 1-20. Listen to the word of God for His people…you and I… (Read the gospel from the NIV Bible)

 

Merry Christmas. I don’t know about you but I have been waiting all year to say those words. Those two words shatter what the world around us and bring the sacred near. These two words change our lives. These two words are words of love and redemption. With these two words God shatters the strong holds of the enemy. Without these two words, there is no happy Easter…no day of atonement. Without these two words, there is no hope or light in the darkness… Merry Christmas to you all.

 

Over the past few of weeks, we have been talking about the sacred. We have talked about the sacredness of the season we are in…the season of Advent when we expectantly wait to celebrate Jesus’ birth and wait expectantly for His return. But at times we can get so busy that we lose that sense of wonder we had and everything becomes a chore…a box to be checked off…

 

We have talked about the fact that if we don’t find a way to slow down, we are going to miss the best part of this season of giving that we call Advent. We are going to miss the best gift that we could ever receive. The gift of God’s own Son in the form of a baby on a cold and silent night. When we slow down, we will see the sacredness all around us.

 

We know that the sacredness of something should be revered and respected but awe and wonder of this season seems to get lost in the lights and glamor. If we want to see…to feel…to touch the sacred, we need to slow down our pace and just be for the moment…lest we miss the awe and wonder of the manger.

 

This Advent season, we have slowed down…even if for but a moment…to see what might be missed in the hustle and bustle of the season. I pray that you and I have been able to see this season through the kaleidoscope, the display of beauty within the sacred space of Advent…

 

 

I would ask that we again would stop for a moment and just breath in the sacredness of the space we are in right now…this sanctuary where God shows up to meet us each Sunday… I have asked that each of us would continue to spend some time each day…even just five minutes and focus on…meditate upon the Sacredness we talk about each week… Let each build upon each other until we embrace genuine purpose within this sacred moment…

 

We rediscovered that Advent is a sacred time. The time of heaven intersecting the time of the then and now. We have even talked about sacred people within the Christmas Adventure…remember…sacred people…set apart by and for God. We heard Mary and Joseph’s stories and discovered they were just ordinary people who “showed up” and God did the extraordinary in and through them…and we too have the same chance of the extraordinary…but we need to show up…that is when the extraordinary things happen…we heard the story of Mary and Elizabeth and how when they showed up hope was birthed within that sacred place.

 

And so here we are today…the day of Christmas…the day that we have waited for…the day that we celebrated the that Sacred Moment that love came down and the Sacred lived among us. What joy there was in heaven. Listen again to the angels greeting to the shepherds…

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

And what happened next…

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 

 

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,

    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

They knew that had happened to and for humanity and they celebrated. Now I am going out on a limb here but it seems to me that they were more over joy not so much about the birth of Christ but what that birth would mean to you and to me…

 

I think my favorite piece of scripture about Christ’s birth is found in John 1, verses 1-14. Let me read this account for you…

The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” This is Christmas…this is the meaning behind the sacred moments…this is the joy of season. Immanuel…God with us. This is the story we, as Christians, should be telling instead of Santa Clause and his 8-tiny reindeer. This is the hope beyond all hope. This is the reason for the season…This is the greatest gift of all that we sang about just a few minutes ago, love wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. The sacred among us…

 

I continue to challenge you and I to take a road far different than the highway that leads to the Bethlehem Stable and continue to go back as we begin a New Year. I continue to dare us…you and I…to allow God to make something sacred out of our ordinary lives. The Sacred still walks among us, living in you and in me. We need to take that light into a world in need of light in the darkness. We have much to tell for we are the beloved of God for He loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son and whoever believes in Him shall not die but have eternal life… You Are Loved! We are not loved because of something we can do or earn, we are simply beloved, first born of God. The proof…God took on flesh and lived among us…that’s all the proof we need…

 

I continue to challenge you and I to slow ourselves down and sit within the Sacredness of the manger where we can see and feel the sacredness of space not only in our sanctuary but as we take our “tent of the Meeting” out into a world that is in need of a “sacred, safe place” to be…to see the sacredness of the ordinary…and bring what we find there to the world through the sacredness of our lives, within the sacred space…the witness of what we find there…in and through the manger to the cross of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas…may you have a God-inspired New Year!