Archives

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…

Advertisements

What Is This Love

 

December 24, 2017

Stetson Memorial UMC

4th Sunday of Advent

Christmas Eve Morning

Sermon Series: “The Invitation”

“An Invitation To Love”

https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/290

https://www.gotquestions.org/agape-love.html

 

 

“What Is This Love…”

 

Lord may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, mind, and soul be pleasing to you. May your words be head through me or in spite of me. For you are my Rock, my Redeemer, My Anchor and Friend, my First Love…

 

Good morning and welcome to “The Invitation…”  The invitation of Advent. We are almost to the end of 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 emptied our bags, our life’s suitcase so to speak, at the door way of Advent and entered in with bags waiting to be filled. suitcases. We have filled it with the Hope that is found within the manger, an invitation of the Hope of a restored relationship with God. As we came closer the Angels tell us “do not be afraid for I bring you good news.” We gathered up and packed the clothing of Peace found in the manger, an invitation to the Peace that we are never alone, and we know that at life’s end we will be with the One who offers that peace. We have gathered the words of the song of Joy and packed them near the top so that we can sing them often, an invitation to sing for Joy because no matter what we face, the One in the manger is the One who gives real Joy, not our circumstances.

 

Today we light the candle of Love. What is this love? Love is more of an action than a feeling, true Love that is. True love, offers grace when someone has offended us, even though the offender may never ask for it. True love gives of one’s self, even when they don’t feel like it. True love doesn’t hold grudges or plans its revenge, but offers mercy in spite of the situation. True love looks for the good, even when there is no good in sight. True love always believes that good will triumph over evil. True love is patient and kind, even when others are acting unkindly. True love believes, even when all hope seems to be lost. True love conquers, even in the fiercest fight. True love always wins…

 

What is this love? What is “The Invitation” to “An Invitation” to?

  • It is an invitation to unconditional love.
  • It is an invitation to acceptance, right where we stand.
  • It is an invitation to learn to love…truly love.
  • It is an invitation to the most excellent way of living.
  • It is an invitation to a family of love.
  • It is an invitation to what is called “Agape Love”. The essence of agape love is goodwill, benevolence, and willful delight in the object of love. This love is far more than the romantic type of love we feel for our husband or wife. It is a love even far deeper than the love for a child. Agape love involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of the will. It is the love God offers from the manger. God loves because that is His nature and the expression of His being. He loves the unlovable and the unlovely, not because we deserve to be loved or because of any excellence we possess, but because it is His nature to love and He must be true to His nature. “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” 
  • This is the love of the manger. This is “The Invitation” of the Manger.

 

What is this love? It is the bring you to your knees in adoration because you are loved unconditionally. It is the make you weep every time you begin to realize that YOU ARE LOVED, and there is nothing you can do about it. It is what draws you near the stable. It is what brings you back to the manger… It is what God offered humanity over 2000 years ago. It what He still offers today.

 

“How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!”

 

“Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love to and for the World the Lord Has Come. Let Earth Receive Her King”

 

Amen…

 

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…

Whose In Charge Here…

https://youtu.be/74g7haOb66o

 

June 18, 2017

Stetson Memorial UMC

Father’s Day!

Sermon Series:

“Mending Fences-Healing the Heart…”

“Healing Power”

Adapted from Marcia McPhee’

“On the Mend” Sermon Series

Psalm 100

Mark 10:35-45 MSG

Mark 9:30; 10:13-16; 20:16

 

 

“Who’s In Charge Here Anyway…!”

 

The Lord be with you

And also with you

Let us pray (Prayer that God’s Word is heard through me or in-spite of me)

 

Please stand for the Gospel according to Mark, chapter 10, verses 35-45 Listen to the word of God from His love letter to His beloved, you and I…

 

(Read Scripture from the MSG Bible)

 

Hope was a little nervous about seeing her friends but there was something about nurse Faith that gave her a sense of ease. She knew that this was going to be hard…letting go the rock, but it was something she needed to do. She didn’t realize how much she was going to need this new found thought pattern. But it was going to be a turning point in her life that she never expected.

 

When she entered the room, she was shocked to see her friend Grace. She was all hooked up to tubes and the sound of the heart monitor shook her to her core. “How could this have happened? I was only trying to introduce Grace and Joy to my friends so that they could see that they were nice, just like me. Why God are you doing this to me? What did I ever do to deserve this? I only wanted friends and now you have taken that away from me too…” Hope thought. As if she could read Hope’s mind, nurse Faith put her arm around Hope and said “it looks worse than it really is. She is going to be OK. It is just going to take some time for her to heal.” With these words, Hope relaxed a little. She knew her friend was going to be ok.

 

“What do you want” Joy asked as she sat by graces bed side. “I just wanted to check to see how Grace was doing and to apologize again for what happened at the river front. I had no idea any of this was going to happen. I am so happy to have people care about me. And of course, I messed it all up. I hope you will forgive me one day.” Hope said through tear filled eyes. “We will see about that…maybe in time” Joy said. “I told you not to say that. We talked about what God would want us to do. And if I can forgive about what happened, so should you. Besides, I really don’t think she brought us there to hurt us…she too was in danger.” Grace said from her bed.

 

Hope almost fell to the floor when she heard Grace’s voice and what she had to say about forgiveness. “I am so sorry Grace. I will never forgive myself for this” Hope said. “Now hope…as I said to Joy…if I can forgive what has happened…” Grace said, “and another thing. Next time when someone tells you a situation looks bad…listen to them please…” Grace laughed.

 

“Ok…I think that is enough excitement for one day. Grace needs to get some rest. She has a long road to travel but with friends like you, it will be made easier” Faith said to the girls. “Ok…well I will see you tomorrow” Joy said to her friend “Me too” said Hope.

 

As the two girls left the room and walked down the hall together, Hope said to Joy, “How can she do that? How can she forgive and move on? I would never talk to me again if I was in her shoes.” “That’s why she is named Grace. She is the most Christ-like person I know. She showers people with the grace of Jesus even when they don’t deserve it. Just like we aren’t worthy of Jesus’ grace…we are offered it anyway because of His love. It is out of that same love that Grace can do what she does so well…let go and let God be the ruler and King of her life…to give God all the power that is due Him” Joy explained.” “wow…now that’s something I would love to be able to do.” Hope exclaimed. “So, would I” Joy agreed, “so would I. Hey…let’s go somewhere where we can talk.” “Yah…I think we really need to do that” Hope said “I think Grace would like that too…”

 

Good morning. Happy Father’s Day. We celebrate the fathers and like-fathers in our lives as we celebrate their ministry of parenthood within our lives. And yes…Parenthood is a ministry…not for the faint at heart…

For weeks now we have been talking about what ails us. We have had a lot of good conversation over our ailments as we have been interactive with one another during our sermon time…so, I need audience participation. In the story that I just shared with you, what stands out for you? Give time for answers. What stands out for me is

 

I truly believe that we as Christ church…followers of the Way…need to have conversation of what ails us. What is hurting inside of us. What hold us back from living the life, individually and collective, that we are offered through Jesus. We need to heal what ails us to be the relevant Christians. We need to let go and let God as we move forward as God’s people and take back our streets…the places where we are called to share the Gospel of Grace, Hope, Joy, and Faith. Without healing, what ails us we can’t call ourselves Christ followers because we can’t follow His example in the world. We want to be those Resurrected people. We can spend the tomb with our comfortable “death cloths” …not leaving those things behind that bind us… But we need to put on the robe of righteousness that we receive in and through Christ.

 

Today I want us to continue to talk about some of the things that ail us…that stop us from living that life in Christ, as we mend fences and heal the heart. Now, there may be no fences that need mending but we are all broken. What in us needs mending? My hope is that we will have that conversation that will lead to healing. Conversation is hard but it is vital if we want to be that vital congregation for Christ.

 

We have talked about intentions and the fact that, whether we like it or not, there are times when our intentions may be not so helpful. We talked about those times that our inhibitions keep us from being open to others. How there are many things that cause us to be closed off to the very ones that Jesus came to save…including ourselves.

 

Fear is one of the biggest things that keeps us from being who God would have us be. Fear immobilizes us and keeps us stuck in the mud…unable to move forward for Christ and the Good News. fear of the future, fear of finances, fear of those who may come through this door…Maybe even the fear of Hope as she is walking through our door…

 

There is also the sickness of “pride”. Pride can cause us to do a lot of crazy things… Now being proud is not really a bad thing…we should take pride in what we do. But there are times when our pride gets in the way of being that loving community that the “Hope’s” of the world need.

 

I think the most vicious and viral disease in and to the body of Christ is the disease of division. As we work together…and not just give up and leave…the most important thing to remember is we need to take our division to the Way Maker, our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, He will stand in gap for us as we work our way back to unity. As we bring our hurts and ailments to the Balm of Gilead, we are healed from the inside out.

 

Another thing that ails us as people and as a church is Miss-Trust. Lady Ms. Trust loves to come in and stir up a whole lot of nothing and sit back as we begin to come unglued together because we are suspicious and untrusting each other. And there are still others that are “holdouts”… holding on to things that should be released to God. They keep pushing the bolder up the hill and not letting the Creator of all make rubble out of it…

 

What about those who like to be in power…the ones who have a need to control? How many of you have been in a power struggle? How did that make you feel? Give time to answer. Did that struggle get you anywhere? Give time to answer. You know this whole power struggle thing, has always been in play. In the Garden of Eden…Adam and Eve felt that they wanted to be like God and the snake made Eve think that God was holding out on her. She wanted the power…to be like God. I imagine it was the same for Adam because he ate too… So…do you think there is a problem with power within Christ’s church? Give time to answer. What about our own little corner of the world…right here within our own walls? Give time to answer.

 

From the Mark scripture this morning, we hear how the disciples are continuing that road of not understanding. They still weren’t getting it. They had that whole power struggle thing right down to a science. They had heard what Jesus told the rich young ruler from Mark 10:17-22…to get rid of his wealth and follow Him. But this ruler had a lot of possessions and of course power probably came with that and he refused to give up the powerJesus was telling him to give it up and give Him the power. Nope couldn’t do it…To follow Jesus we must give up the power to Him…to be His hands and feet, we must give up our own in place of His… These men…these disciples of Christ…were complaining that others, who were not part of them…part of their power group, were casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Remember Mark 9:38 “John spoke up, “Teacher, we saw a man using your name to expel demons and we stopped him because he wasn’t in our group.” Pride rear’s it’s ugly head here as well. We are proud and we have the power…

 

Within this scripture from Mark 10:35-45, we hear about what Jesus says what real power looks like.

“Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.”

 

Jesus came to set the hostage free…not to Lord it over them…as He could have. He put on the stance of a servant in order to show humanity a more excellent way of life. It is this stance He is calling us to adopt as our own…not power our way into and for what we want but being humble as He was…thinking of others above ourselves and power as not something we want to ascertain for ourselves but to empower others in and through the Gospel of grace. Mark 10:13-16 tells us that we are to come with the trust and humility of a child in order to gain the Kingdom of God…

 

Beloved children of the Most High God. Jesus is calling us out of our tombs and in to His Glorious Light and be healed of our ailments. What is ailing us…as a church…as individuals…as one body? How can we be on the mend, of fences and our hearts? I know that there are things we just don’t want to talk about…there are things that we just don’t want to hear. But we cannot/will not let fear stop us from healing what ails us, personally and collectively.

 

So, who really is in charge here? Are we taking matters into our own hands, our own strength? Or is there a power far above us that we cling too? We live in a world where power and prestige are at the top of the list for living a “perfect life”. If you don’t have it you are weak. On the road to Damascus, the Apostille Paul had a “come to Jesus” meeting. He was had power and prestige as Saul. But in his encounter, he realized that it is when he was weak…he was stronger than he had ever been…his eyes were open to this truth. Are we ready…are you and I ready…to have our eyes and hearts open to the real power that is offered to us in and through Jesus Christ? Or will we grab all the power we think we can to live a life of leisure? The choice is ours to make.

 

Think about the Hope’s of this world. Would we over power her with our own strength or over power her with kindness, love and servitude? I ask that we prayerfully come together…as family…to heal what ails us. I passionately want us to be that church that Hope would hear about the goodness of God and feel the oneness of our church as we work through our faith journey together trusting in the One who knows us best.

 

Maybe…just maybe…Hope will come through our doors. What will she find here?

 

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.