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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!

 

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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.

“I Will Choose Joy…”

December 13, 2015

Stetson Memorial UMC

Third Sunday of Advent

Inspired by Marcia McPhee

Sermon Series “Awed and Odd”

Joy in the Midst of Despair

Luke 1:46-55

Isaiah 61:1-3

(All Scripture is taken from the NIV Bible)

 

“I Will Choose Joy…”

 

Prayer for the Spirit’s leading…

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Amen

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