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An Invitation To Joy

December 17, 2017

Stetson Memorial UMC

3rd Sunday of Advent

Sermon Series: “The Invitation”

Psalm 126 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

Isaiah 61:1-2, 8-11 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

Luke 1:46-55Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/joy

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2015/05/21/what-is-the-biblical-definition-of-joy-how-does-the-bible-define-joy/

 

 

“An Invitation to Joy…”

 

The Lord Be with you

and also with you

Let us pray…Pray for the Spirit’s Leading…

 

Please stand, as you are able, for the reading from the Gospel according to Luke. We are reading chapter 1, verses 46-55. Listen to the Word of God, the Love Sonnet, for you and me, the children of God…

 

“Ok, so I am offered Hope that I can have a relationship with God because of the invitation that Jesus gives me. The Second part is that I am offered peace. Not the worlds peace, I don’t think this world really knows what that means, but God’s peace that is unshakable…right?”  She was really beginning to understand the manger. So, she thought. “Right. But, we are also offered even more than that,” Esther explained. “we are offered joy.” Now Hope had a hard time with this. With the world the way it is, how can one find joy in the midst of it?

 

“What do you mean joy?” Hope asked. “WE all go around singing Joy to the world and it seems, well kind of naive. This world is full of hate and despair. You just gotta suck it up and deal. There is no way of finding any lasting joy. We may find a little piece of it then WHAM, it’s gone.” Hope explained. “There is no way around it.” “You are right, we can’t find a way around it. But real joy has nothing to do with us…just like piece. It has nothing to do with our circumstances and everything to do with Jesus who came so that we could have hope, peace, and joy. It is only in Him we find it…” Esther tried to clarify for Hope. She could see that Hope felt joyless and wanted her to understand the truth. “I know Jesus cam to give us all this, but I really don’t see how it is possible” Hope wept as she thought of all those she knew who were in pain and suffering. Esther knew she had a hard road ahead with Hope. How was she going to help this girl find what she was missing, even though it was right in front of her face?

 

Joy:

1 a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight

b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety

2 : a state of happiness or felicity : bliss

3 : a source or cause of delight

Biblical Joy:

Joy is a permanent possession while happiness is fleeting. Joy stays, happiness comes and goes. Joy isn’t like happiness which is based upon happenings or whether things are going well or not. No, joy remains even amidst the suffering. Joy is one of the fruits or the results of having the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. You cannot fake joy…you either have it or you don’t.

 

Good morning and welcome to “The Invitation…”  The invitation of Advent. We have begun our “Advent”ure to the feeding tough the Bread of Life, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ was laid in. It is the moment that God sent the invitation to all of humanity to come and see the babe in the manger and return forever changed. Without this invitation there is no Hope, no Peace, no Joy, and no Love…there is no invitation to Christ. Without “The Invitation”, there is no Resurrection Sunday morning.

 

We have pondered the questions why is this invitation important to you and I? What does this invitation consist of…do we know what actually laid in that manger when love came down? We have even asked the hard question if we “Christians”, are even aware of the joyous gift we are given and if we even accept the whole gift not just part. This season, I ask that you join me on an “Advent”ure. Let’s really look at what we are invited to. My prayer is as we do this…we are going to be changed. My prayer is as we journey together and discover or rediscover the excitement of “The Invitation.”

 

Last week, I asked you…and I… to do something truly radical. Something I feel is necessary for our journey. To empty our baggage, we carry at the door of Advent and walk through the door with empty suitcases. Now I am asking we leave with an empty suitcase for this reason, to fill it with the invitation. Now some of us go on vacation with and empty bag or almost empty. Why? So that we can fill it with things we gather on the journey. I am inviting us to gather all that we can to be able to bring it on our new journey of the New Year in the end. Even as we enter the story of hope, peace, joy, and love, we find it hard to believe at times.

 

 

We began with the first invitation of the “The Invitation” which is “an invitation to Hope.” Now I am talking about the Hope of the invitation… it is a hope of restoration with and to God. We talked about how the Israelites were leading a double life, giving God “lip service” instead of “life service”. They talked a great talk about God but behind the scenes they were bowing down to idols of the culture. Sounds familiar to us…praise God for His restoration project that began in the manger…we now have hope in ad through Jesus Christ…

 

And as we came closer the Angels tell us “do not be afraid for I bring you good news.” Fear can keep us from some of the awesome things in life because we are afraid to take the first step. Fear of the unknown… But as we approach we are offered second invitation, “An Invitation to Peace”. This peace has nothing to do with our situation but has everything to do with the Peace Maker lying in the manger. As we trust and have peace within us, we don’t tend to worry and that peace we bring into our lives and we are able to live peaceably with our neighbors…kind of like a for-taste of the Peaceable Kingdom, we can have that glimpse of the “Peaceable Kingdom” that will happen with Christ’s return.

 

“The Invitation” does not stop there. There is much more that it offers. Now how many of you have joy in their lives?  What gives you that joy…how do you sustain that joy? Give time to answer. In life, we have our difficulties. It can be hard to find joy. We look at the world round us and world around and see we may feel despair and even anger for what humanity does to each other and what it does to itself. Where is the joy?

 

In “The Invitation” of the manger, within the invitation of Advent, we are offered Joy. This morning we heard a song of Joy from Mary. She had just been told that she would bare the Holy One of Israel. She was a humble girl. She was a girl from a priestly line, so she knew about the promised savior.

 

Now in her situation, I think I may have been a little scared…maybe unhappy. Here I am, an unwed teenager, and now I am being told I am going to be pregnant, and my betrothed was not going to be the father. I would have to try to explain I was not unfaithful and that the child was going to be God’s child. Well in that day and time it would not have gone well for me. I would be told I was a liar and maybe even stoned to death. Where is the joy in that? But Mary rose above all of this and fond the Joy in her savior. She sang what I believe one of the most trusting, joyous, beautiful songs to God. Mary’s joy was found in the manger…the Savior of the world. That is where true joy comes from…everything else is just icing on the cake…

 

As Mary, we too can find true joy that has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the Anointed One who one day bring about the “Peaceable Kingdom.”  Listen to these words from Isaiah and take hold of the Joy within it…It may sound very familiar to Mary’s song…

Isaiah 61:1-2Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

61 The Spirit of Adonai Elohim is upon me,

because Adonai has anointed me

to announce good news to the poor.

He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted;

to proclaim freedom to the captives,

to let out into light those bound in the dark;

2 to proclaim the year of the favor of Adonai

and the day of vengeance of our God;

to comfort all who mourn,

Isaiah 61:8-11Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

8 “For I, Adonai, love justice;

I hate robbery for burnt offerings.

So I will be faithful to reward them

and make an eternal covenant with them.”

9 Their descendants will be known among the nations,

their offspring among the peoples;

all who see them will acknowledge

that they are the seed Adonai has blessed.

10 I am so joyful in Adonai!

My soul rejoices in my God,

for he has clothed me in salvation,

dressed me with a robe of triumph,

like a bridegroom wearing a festive turban,

like a bride adorned with her jewels.

11 For just as the earth brings forth its plants,

or a garden makes its plants spring up,

so Adonai, God, will cause victory and glory

to spring up before all nations.

This is the cause for our joy…this lies within “The Invitation.” We are clothed in Salvation, we are given the robe of triumph…of righteousness, we are beautifully adorned…we are the seed of Adonai…Joy unspeakable.

 

Within “The Invitation” was and is “An Invitation to Hope…”. Within “The Invitation” of Advent, God worked out His plan of the restoration of humanity to Himself. Within “The Invitation” is “an invitation” to all the promises of long ago were offered to all of humanity. Within “The Invitation” we are set free to hope once more.

Found within “The Invitation” we have “An Invitation to Peace”, the peace beyond all understanding. This peace has nothing to do with you or I and how we are feeling but it has to do exclusively with the One who offers it. He is the One who says, “Come near the manger and be set free…Come and accept the offer of the invitation to come and see…Come and have life eternally…Come without fear and trust in Me. Come and feel the Joy uncontainable joy I have to offer.”

 

 

+Maybe…just maybe…we can have joy in a world full of despair. Perhaps as we focus on the manger and all that it stands for we will be able to understand and recieve what it has to offer. I would like to leave you with some something to consider…It is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24…

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

16 Always be joyful. 17 Pray regularly. 18 In everything give thanks, for this is what God wants from you who are united with the Messiah Yeshua.

19 Don’t quench the Spirit, 20 don’t despise inspired messages. 21 But do test everything — hold onto what is good, 22 but keep away from every form of evil.

23 May the God of shalom make you completely holy — may your entire spirit, soul and body be kept blameless for the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. 24 The one calling you is faithful, and he will do it.

 

“Joy to the World the Lord Has Come. Let Earth Receive Her King”

Shalom

Amen…

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A Christmas Letter

 

December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve

Sermon Series:

“The Invitation”

An Invitation to the Christ Child

 

A Christmas Letter…

 

Thank you for reading my letter.  Many now a day would not even bother. They are too busy with their own little worlds…Instagram, Facebook, and the like. Writing letters is a lost art. Maybe we should go back in time.

 

I am writing you this letter because I want you to know what it feels like from the outside looking in. I have sent a invitation to many of you and it seems as if it is being ignore. It breaks my heart. I want you to have a happy healthy life and I see you settling for so much less. It has been this way for centuries and I still tear up when I see the hurt and suffering in your face.

 

The world seems hopeless and in despair. There is addition and abuse everywhere. It seems as if you can’t turn on the television or pick up the paper where there is not some mention of it. It is not the way it should be. The world wasn’t created for that. But somewhere, it all went wrong. I had hoped for so much more and so you were given a choice and not forced into something you didn’t want. That’s not any way to live.

 

And then it all went wrong. Bad choices were made and because of that you suffer. I couldn’t stand to see it so I tried many ways to alleviate your suffering, but nothing seemed to work. Oh, sure things got better then it went right back to the way it was before. I wanted so much more than that. So, I thought up a plan.

 

What if I found someone or something that could substitute for you. Someone or something that would suffer for you and you could once again have a good relationship with me. It sounded good to me, so I put the plan in action. Instead of just throwing someone into the position, I decided to start small, with an infant. Now this infant would listen to me and as it grew it would talk about all that I have told them. They would even show all of you how I would like things done…since you would listen I figured I would show you instead. Then when the time was right, my image among you would take on all your hurt…all your pain…all your suffering…even all your sin.

 

Now this was really hard for me because the only way for this to work was for me to have an ultimate sacrifice. Just like Abraham, I had to give up my son as an offering. But unlike Abraham, there was no substitute. But I felt you were worth it, so my plan went off without a hitch. Now we can have a real relationship again.

 

So why am I telling you this? I want you to know that when I set my plan in motion I wanted you to accept the gift I was offering within. I invited and still invite you to have a life of hope, peace, joy and love. I want you to know that it is never too late, you are never too far, you have never been to bad to be part of my plan. It is for those like you that I thought this plan up for anyway.

 

So, as I am having this letter read to you I want you to know, you are loved with an unfathomable love, there is nothing I want more than to have you be part of my plan, you are of sacred worth to me…remember, I created you and I don’t create anything that is worthless. What would be the sense in that? There is only one thing you have to do, and I will do the rest. That one thing is to accept the gift…accept my invitation… It’s that simple. I want you to know I will wait for you. But tally too long, I really think you are to die for and can’t wait for us to be together again.

 

I love you my beloved daughter and my beloved son,

Madly, deeply, truly, with an unending love.

 

God…

An Invitation to Peace

December 10, 2017

Stetson Memorial UMC

2nd Sunday of Advent

Sermon Series: “The Invitation”

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13 (The Voice)

Isaiah 9:6-7 (The Voice)

Isaiah 11:1-9 (The Voice)

Romans 14:17-19 (The Voice)

 

“An Invitation to Peace…”

 

The Lord Be with you

and also with you

Let us pray…Pray for the Spirit’s Leading…

 

A reading from the Prophet Isaiah from chapter 9, verses 6-7. Listen and take heed the words spoken by the prophet, through the Spirit of God, to the children of Israel and to the children of God throughout the centuries…

 

“I think I understand the first part of what the manger offers. I am offered Hope that I can have a relationship with God because of the invitation that Jesus gives me…right?” Hope explained to her new friend Esther. “Right. But, we are also offered even more than that,” Esther explained. “we are offered peace.” Now Hope couldn’t remember having true peace in her life so this intrigued. I know all about not having peace. I don’t think I ever had it in my life. So, this peace. What do I need to do to get it? I really could use some in my life. I am tired of stressing everything.” Hope asked.

 

“Well first, you need to ask for it. Second, you need to trust Jesus for your peace. Third, give your worries to Jesus and He will take care of the rest. You see, this peace has nothing to do with your situation and everything to do with the One who is offering it.” Esther excitedly explained.  “Oh boy this is going to be hard” Hope lamented. “Well it really is very simple and once you decide you are going to accept the invitation to an invitation of peace, it gets much easier.” Esther explained. “I really wish someone had explained all this to me before. My life may have been different” Hope said. “But it can now be different beginning today” Ester said as she put her had on Hope’s shoulder.

Good morning and welcome to “The Invitation…”  The invitation of Advent. We have begun our “Advent”ure to the feeding tough the Bread of Life, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ was laid in. It is the moment that God sent the invitation to all of humanity to come and see the babe in the manger and return forever changed. Without this invitation there is no Hope, no Peace, no Joy, and no Love…there is no invitation to Christ. Without “The Invitation”, there is no Resurrection Sunday morning.

 

We have pondered the questions why is this invitation important to you and I? What does this invitation consist of…do we know what actually laid in that manger when love came down? We have even asked the hard question if we “Christians”, are even aware of the joyous gift we are given and if we even accept the whole gift not just part. This season, I ask that you join me on an “Advent”ure. Let’s really look at what we are invited to. My prayer is as we do this…we are going to be changed. My prayer is as we journey together and discover or rediscover the excitement of “The Invitation.”

 

Last week, I asked you…and I… to do something truly radical. Something I feel is necessary for our journey. To empty our baggage, we carry at the door of Advent and walk through the door with empty suitcases. Now I am asking we leave with an empty suitcase for this reason, to fill it with the invitation. Now some of us go on vacation with and empty bag or almost empty. Why? So that we can fill it with things we gather on the journey. I am inviting us to gather all that we can to be able to bring it on our new journey of the New Year in the end. Even as we enter the story of hope, peace, joy, and love, we find it hard to believe at times.

 

Last week we began with the first invitation of the “The Invitation” which is “an invitation to Hope.” Now I am talking about the Hope of the invitation… it is a hope of restoration with and to God. We talked about how the Israelites were leading a double life, giving God “lip service” instead of “life service”. They talked a great talk about God but behind the scenes they were bowing down to idols of the culture. Sounds familiar to us…praise God for His restoration project that began in the manger…we now have hope in ad through Jesus Christ…

 

So here we are a little closer to the manger, yet it can be unsettling. We know who Jesus is, but, we may be a little afraid because of who Jesus is. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. And as we come closer the Angels tell us “do not be afraid for I bring you good news.” Fear can keep us from some of the awesome things in life because we are afraid to take the first step. Fear of the unknown… But as we approach we are offered “An Invitation to Peace”.

 

Now some of us say we love a good piece of pie but I am talking about an0ther kind of piece…a piece of peace. The invitation is “An Invitation to Peace.”   The Isaiah scripture from this morning talks about who Jesus is… God’s promised child from the lineage of David. He will bring peace and it will not be shaken. This ‘living gift” is given to and for all who believe in Mary’s boy child.  My favorite piece of scripture about the “peace” f this boy child is found in Isaiah 11:1-9…The Peaceable Kingdom…

Isaiah 11:1-9The Voice (VOICE)

11 But on this humbled ground, a tiny shoot, hopeful and promising,
will sprout from Jesse’s stump;
A branch will emerge from his roots to bear fruit.
And on this child from David’s line, the Spirit of the Eternal One will alight and rest.
By the Spirit of wisdom and discernment
He will shine like the dew.
By the Spirit of counsel and strength
He will judge fairly and act courageously.
By the Spirit of knowledge and reverence of the Eternal One,
    He will take pleasure in honoring the Eternal.
He will determine fairness and equity;
He will consider more than what meets the eye,
And weigh in more than what he’s told.

So that even those who can’t afford a good defense
will nevertheless get a fair and equitable judgment.
With just a word, He will end wickedness and abolish oppression.
With nothing more than the breath of His mouth, He will destroy evil.
He will clothe himself with righteousness and truth;
the impulse to right wrongs will be in his blood.

With unwavering steps and integrity uncompromised, He will establish peace.

A day will come when the wolf will live peacefully beside the wobbly-kneed lamb,
and the leopard will lie down with the young goat;
The calf and yearling, newborn and slow, will rest secure with the lion;
and a little child will tend them all.
Bears will graze with the cows they used to attack;
even their young will rest together,
and the lion will eat hay, like gentle oxen.
8-9 Neither will a baby who plays next to a cobra’s hole
nor a toddler who sticks his hand into a nest of vipers suffer harm.
All my holy mountain will be free of anything hurtful or destructive,
for as the waters fill the sea,
The entire earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Eternal.

Now that’s real Peace that He will bring. That is an invitation from the invitation…to have real peace…not based on the world and our feelings but based on God’s unfailing love and the ability of the Prince of Peace to bring order out of chaos.

 

We are told not to worry in life and to have peace because of the Prince of Peace. God’s kingdom has nothing to do with our worry and everything to do with our trust and faith. Let me read what it tells us in Romans chapter 14, verses 17-19…

Romans 14:17-19The Voice (VOICE)

17 because the kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking. When God reigns, the order of the day is redeeming justice, true peace, and joy made possible by the Holy Spirit. 18 You see, those who serve the Anointed in this way will be welcomed into the whole acceptance of God and valued by all men. 19 Join us, and pursue a life that creates peace and builds up our brothers and sisters.

As we trust and have peace within us, we don’t tend to worry and that peace we bring into our lives and we are able to live peaceably with our neighbors…kind of like a for-taste of the Peaceable Kingdom.

 

Within “The Invitation” was and is “An Invitation to Hope…”. Within “The Invitation” of Advent, God worked out His plan of the restoration of humanity to Himself. Within “The Invitation” is “an invitation” to all the promises of long ago were offered to all of humanity. Within “The Invitation” we are set free to hope once more. Found within “The Invitation” we have “An Invitation to Peace”, the peace beyond all understanding. This peace has nothing to do with you or I and how we are feeling but it has to do exclusively with the One who offers it who says, “Come near the manger and be set free…Come and accept the offer of the invitation to come and see…Come and have life eternally…Come without fear and trust in Me.” Maybe…just maybe…as we cast the cares of or lives aside we truly can have the peace that goes beyond understanding… Maybe…just maybe we can give peace a chance and watch what happens… You never know…perhaps we may start a new trend that ushers God’s peace to the world in which we live.

You never know…

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!

 

Birthing Room

December 11, 2016

Stetson Memorial UMC

3rd Sunday of Advent

“A Sacred Moment”

Sermon Series

Psalm 146

Psalm 47:2a

Luke 1:39-56

 

 “Birthing Room…”

 

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 Luke Chapter 1, verses 39-56. Listen to the word of God for His people…you and I… (Read the gospel from the Common English Bible)

 

Have you ever been somewhere and just standing in the place just feels so holy…almost as if you reached out…you could touch the hand of God…?

  • Talk about Rolling Ridge and the sacredness of the it…

What makes a place sacred…and not so sacred? Is there some kind of formula that you can follow…like a bunch of boxes to be checked off…to know this is the genuine real deal…?

 

Over the past couple 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, as people, as Christians need to find a way to slow down, otherwise 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. As we slow down, we will see the sacredness all around us.

 

The word sacred itself means set apart and holy. The sacredness of something should be revered and respected but the time of reverence and awe of this season seems to get lost in the lights and glamor. In order for us 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 begun slowing down…even if for but a moment…to see what might be missed in the hustle and bustle of the season. I would challenge us…you and I…to take a spiritual journey to see all things through the kaleidoscope…the display of beauty within the sacred space of Advent…

 

Ok…so the places of Sacredness…the moments that can tend to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the season are:

  • Sacred Time
  • Sacred People
  • Sacred Space
  • Sacred Knowing
  • Sacred Being
  • Sacred Doing

 

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…And as I have said…in order to really enter into the Sacredness of Advent…we need to do it more than just on Sunday’s so I would ask 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. The time had come for a heart and life change. 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…

 

In today scripture we hear about two women who “showed up” for God, Mary, and Elizabeth. Their bodies became the sacred places where hope was birthed. This hope was going to move and transform the world. Both Mary and Elizabeth were filled with the Holy Spirit…in fact, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit as Mary…who made the space for the hope of the world as she was set apart to be sacred within that sacred moment in time spent with Elizabeth. Within that sacred space…within our sacred space new hope is birthed. As we go out into the world we can affect the ordinary with our extraordinary lives for God and joy is birthed, peace is birthed, hope is birthed. We should be vessels, set apart for Gods purposes and sent out to be pour out over a world without hope, without peace, without joy, without love, without a Savior. The world is one big “birthing room” but we need to choose to be midwifes of the Master Physician who heals all that is broken.

 

There was a sacred knowing within that moment that was shared. Elizabeth shouted glory to God…she knew that the child Mary was carrying was the Holy One of Israel. As deep calls out to deep (Psalm 47:2a) sacred calls out to sacred… And Mary sang a song of praise that is probably the most beautiful awe inspiring, glory to God song I have ever heard…in fact I have kind of adopted it for my own as I sing that you to God within and with my whole being.

 

Sacred place…I said earlier…the place we are sitting right now is a sacred place. We have set apart this place as a holy place, a place that is sacred because this is where we come to meet with God each Sunday. This is a place that we have set aside for God…much like the tabernacle in the wilderness that the Israelite’s had…where they met God. But here is where there is a difference. Their place to me God…sometimes called the Tent of the Meeting…was portable. When they moved…God moved with them…God went before them and they stopped where God stopped.

 

I want you to think about this fact for a moment. God went before them as they traveled with their tabernacle. What if…and I am going out on a limb here…what if we too took our tabernacle with us…? What if we too followed where God wanted us to go and brought our sacred place with us. That would mean that where ever we went it would be a sacred place…where sacred and set apart people would invite others to enter into the journey…as we enter into a sacred time with and for God…remember God is Immanuel…God with us… If this is so…If we believe this mind blowing fact…Every place we go is sacred…we are always sacred people set apart…and our lives would be spent in the awe and reverence of God…within the veil of time.

 

As I have asked before…how are we going to spend this “holiday season”? Are you and I going for the superficial…or is there something more…is there a better way? I continue to challenge you and I to take a road far different than the highway that leads to the Bethlehem Stable. I dare us…you and I…to allow God to make something sacred out of our ordinary lives. We can live within the veil of a scared space knowing the time has come to seek what really matters.

 

Perhaps as we contemplate of the sacredness of space this week that we would walk in our own call to be sacred as we usher in the presence of peace. You were all given a safety pin this morning. The symbolism is this. While we were creating this beautiful vision, we have in the sanctuary this morning, Sara Hill was wearing a safety pin. When I asked her about it she said “it was on Facebook. There are so many people who don’t feel safe anymore in the country they live. The pin is a symbol we wear to let them know they are safe with us.” I challenge you to wear it and be that sacred place others can run to.

 

I 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.

 

 

Amen.

In the Ordinary

December 4, 2016

Stetson Memorial UMC

2nd Sunday of Advent

“A Sacred Moment”

Sermon Series

Psalm 72:1-7; 18-19

Matthew 1:1-25

Luke 1:26-38

 

 

“In the Ordinary…”

 

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 Matthew and Luke. We will be reading chapter 1, verses 1-25 and from Luke Chapter 1, verses 26-38. Listen to the word of God for His people…you and I… (Read the gospel from the Message translation)

 

Good morning. Ok show of hands, how many of you think that you are ordinary? Why do you think that (give time for people to answer. Also, answer that question for myself)? We see and hear about these people who do these extraordinary things and we think that are so awesome and exceptional, we want to be just like them. Why can’t we just be special for even just a moment? You can be…I will tell you the secret later in my sermon and how to take your ordinary life and turn it into something that is extraordinary…it is going to blow your mind…

 

We started talking last week about how we, as people, as Christians need to find a way to slow down, otherwise 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. As we slow down, we will see the sacredness all around us.

 

This Advent time, is the season we expectantly await the celebration of His birth and wait expectantly for his return. Unfortunately, this time of sacredness, gets drowned out by the secular business. The word sacred itself means set apart and holy. This sacredness of something is to be revered and respected but this time of reverence and awe seems to get lost in the lights and glamor.

 

You see for us 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. How did it go this week with my challenge to take even just 5 minutes a day to just sit and be…contemplating on the sacredness of the time we are in at this very moment?

 

This Advent season, we have begun slowing down…even if for but a moment…to see what might be missed in the hustle and bustle of the season. I would challenge us…you and I…to take a spiritual journey to see all things through the kaleidoscope…the display of beauty within the sacred space of Advent…I would even suggest that we might even journal through this journey. It would be something that we could turn back to when the hustle of life gets in the way of the rustle of angel wings around us.

 

Ok…so the places of Sacredness…the moments that can tend to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the season are:

©     Sacred Time

©     Sacred People

©     Sacred Space

©     Sacred Knowing

©     Sacred Being

©     Sacred Doing

 

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…And as I have said…in order to really enter into the Sacredness of Advent…we need to do it more than just on Sunday’s so I would ask 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…

 

Last week we rediscovered that Advent is a sacred time and how John the Baptist spoke about time. The time of heaven intersecting the time of the then and now. The time had come for a heart and life change. The time had come…and continue today…to prepare the way of the Lord. We are that thunder in the desert. We are that message of sacredness. We are the voice calling out in the desert “make way for the kingdom of God…it is right before us…do you not perceive it?”

 

This week it is all about sacred people…set apart by and for God. We heard two stories of the ordinary becoming extraordinary… Mary and Joseph.

Come on Pastor Ruth…these were Jesus’ parents, of course they were and are Holy. Ok…you are right they were God incarnates parents but what is the definition of sacred we talked about? Sacred itself means set apart and holy. We too can lead the life of sacred as we set ourselves apart for God…we become holy as the Holy One of Israel uses us for His glory. What did Mary answer when called by God? “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” What did Joseph do after the dream? When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

 

Those people we talked about earlier…live ordinary lives…just as you and I live ordinary lives…but something is and was different about them. What made Mary and Joseph so special…even though ordinary like you and me? Here we go…here is the answer I promised you…it came to me when Rebecca Gallis was with us…I am forever grateful for her giving me this one extremely important insight to my life…the ordinary turned into something so much more…because they showed up…they said yes…God used them and continues to use them…use us. We sometimes forget those in the background and not think much of them…we too have been in the background. But those in the background humbling themselves are the ones that God will use for His glory…we too become…”sacred”, set apart for and by God… (do mind blown thing). Told yah it would blow your mind…

 

How are we going to spend this “holiday season”? Are you and I going for the superficial…or is there something more…is there a better way? I challenge you and I to take a road far different than the highway that leads to the Bethlehem Stable. I dare us…you and I…to allow God to make something sacred out of our ordinary lives.

 

Perhaps as we contemplate of the sacredness of people this week that we would walk in our own call to sacred as we usher in the presence of peace. You were all given a safety pin this morning. The symbolism is this. On Saturday, while we were creating this beautiful vision we have in the sanctuary this morning, Sara Hill was wearing a safety pin. When I asked her about it she said “it was on Facebook. There are so many people who don’t feel safe anymore in the country they live. The pin is a symbol we wear to let them know they are safe with us.” I challenge you to wear it and be that sacred place others can run to. I challenge you and I to slow ourselves down and sit within the Sacredness of the manger where we can see the sacredness of the time…the sacredness of the ordinary…and bring what we find there to the world through the sacredness of our lives…the witness of what we find there…in and through the manger to the cross of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

 

 

Amen.

In The Business

 

November 27, 2016

Stetson Memorial UMC

1st Sunday of Advent

“A Sacred Moment”

Sermon Series

Psalm 130

Matthew 3:1-12 MSG

Romans 13:11-12 NIV

 

 

“In The Business…”

 

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 Matthew. We will be reading chapter 3, verses 1-12. Listen to the word of God for His people…you and I… (Read the gospel from the Message translation)

 

Good morning. I can’t believe that next week is December. Where has the year gone? It seems that I have been so busy with life that time has just slipped away. Now here we are at the end and not quite sure how I got here. There have been so many things to do and see that I think that I feel as if I need a vacation from life. I need a time to just slow down and take a breath. But this is not the right time to be doing that either.

 

We have begun the Christmas season which I am the business. Even society is ramping up on the business. Last Friday was Black Friday…the busiest shopping day of the year. In fact, it is so busy that many places have started their Holiday season on Thanksgiving Thursday…even before the turkey is cold…

 

We, as people, as Christians need to find a way to slow down, otherwise we are going to miss the best part of this season of giving. 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. As we slow down, we will see the sacredness all around us.

 

Today we begin the season of Advent in the church calendar. It is the season we expectantly await the celebration of His birth and wait expectantly for his return. The Christmas season is a time where the sacredness of it all gets drowned out by the secular business. The word sacred itself means set apart and holy. The sacredness of something is revered and respected but this time of reverence and awe seems to get lost in the lights and glamor. In order 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 are going to do just that. We are going to slow down…even if for but a moment…to see what might be missed in the hustle and bustle of the season. I would invite us…you and I…on a spiritual journey to see all things through the kaleidoscope…the display of beauty within the sacred space of Advent…

©     Sacred Time

©     Sacred People

©     Sacred Space

©     Sacred Knowing

©     Sacred Being

©     Sacred Doing

 

I would ask that we 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…By the way…in order to really enter into the Sacredness of Advent…we need to do it more than just on Sunday’s so I would ask that each of us 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…

 

So, Advent is a sacred time. John the Baptist spoke about time. The time of heaven intersecting the time of the then and now. The time had come for a heart and life change. The time had come…and continue today…to prepare the way of the Lord. We are that thunder in the desert. We are that message of sacredness. We are the voice calling out in the desert “make way for the kingdom of God…it is right before us…do you not perceive it?”

 

We, at times, let the busy-ness of the holiday season overrun the sense of sacred. In fact, setting apart time for God…for the real reason for the season…God incarnate…gets set aside to create trappings of the holiday in which we celebrate the Holy.

 

We are given the gift of now from God. Within this gift of now…this sacred time of now…is given to God…to family…to friends…and those who need help. Within the sacred time, we are the gift given to others in which God can be seen within the mask that we, as society, have created to hide what is sacred beneath the “sensationalism” of the season.

 

The Word became flesh and lived among us…that is the message of the season. Speak through the Spirit of this one truth. How are you going to spend this “holiday season”? Are you and I going for the superficial…or is there something more…is there a better way? I challenge you and I to take a road far different than the highway that leads to the Bethlehem Stable. I challenge you and I to slow ourselves down and sit within the Sacredness of the manger.

 

“11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Romans 13:11-12 NIV)

 

Amen.