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An Invitation To Joy

December 17, 2017

Stetson Memorial UMC

3rd Sunday of Advent

Sermon Series: “The Invitation”

Psalm 126 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

“An Invitation to Joy…”

 

The Lord Be with you

and also with you

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Joy:

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

b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety

2 : a state of happiness or felicity : bliss

3 : a source or cause of delight

Biblical Joy:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

61 The Spirit of Adonai Elohim is upon me,

because Adonai has anointed me

to announce good news to the poor.

He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted;

to proclaim freedom to the captives,

to let out into light those bound in the dark;

2 to proclaim the year of the favor of Adonai

and the day of vengeance of our God;

to comfort all who mourn,

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

8 “For I, Adonai, love justice;

I hate robbery for burnt offerings.

So I will be faithful to reward them

and make an eternal covenant with them.”

9 Their descendants will be known among the nations,

their offspring among the peoples;

all who see them will acknowledge

that they are the seed Adonai has blessed.

10 I am so joyful in Adonai!

My soul rejoices in my God,

for he has clothed me in salvation,

dressed me with a robe of triumph,

like a bridegroom wearing a festive turban,

like a bride adorned with her jewels.

11 For just as the earth brings forth its plants,

or a garden makes its plants spring up,

so Adonai, God, will cause victory and glory

to spring up before all nations.

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Shalom

Amen…

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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…

 

Step into the eye

 

Matthew 14:22-32New Living Translation (NLT)

Jesus Walks on Water

22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.

Jesus went away to pray. this was not something that was out of the ordinary. The scriptures give several instances that Jesus went away in seclusion to spend time with God alone.  It was within that time that He was strengthen for the path ahead of Him. He knew that the path ahead was going to be difficult and He would need the Fathers strength to endure all that was going to happen.

and so now we have the scene of the disciples in the boat. It was be tossed too and fro and they we more than likely afraid. Who wouldn’t be. When we are at the brink of our Red Sea…when we are in the fire storm we too are in need of strength…a place of calmness…a quiet place… But Jesus walked to the disciples within the storm that was raging all around them… Within their storm…within our storm Jesus is saying do not be afraid for I am here… We may not be able to recognize Him within the chaos but He is there (I will never leave you or forsake you…I will be with you until the end of age)

Jesus walked on the water at 3 am (there is a sacredness about this time during the night watch). We read how Peter did the same. But it all occurred in the midst of the storm… It wasn’t until they got back in the boat that the storm subsided. It was quieted by Jesus’ presence…

Jesus comes to us in the midst of the storm and  invites us to step out of the boat being tossed to and fro…out of our fear…out of our chaos…out of our doubt…and walk with Him above it all. When we focus on Him, we enter the eye of the storm.,,where we find peace in the midst of the storms raging in our lives…in the midst of the fire storm…

Take that leap and fall into the arms of the One who can calm even the strongest tempest…

There Is Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

 

May 14, 2017

Stetson Memorial UMC

Sermon Series:

“Mending Fences-Healing the Heart…”

“Healing Fear”

Adapted from Marcia McPhee’

“On the Mend” Sermon Series

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

Mark 8:27-38

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

 

“There Is Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself! …”

 

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 8, verses 27-38. Listen to the word of God from His love letter to His beloved, you and I…

 

(Read Scripture from the NIV Bible)

 

As Hope and Joy walked down to the diner together Hope thought ”maybe this one is different.” Joy thought “maybe this one is different”… Neither knew how much they really needed each other…

 

As they entered the diner a hush came to the room. There was a sign that said “please wait to be seated.” They waited to be seated but no one came to seat them. “Maybe we should just go” Hope thought, “I have been in this situation before”. Joy flagged over a waitress that was walking by. “Read the sign…someone will be right with you” the waitress said. “But we have been waiting for a while and no one has even acknowledged that we are standing here waiting”, Joy said, “is there some kind of problem?” “No problem for you…” the waitress answered “but your friend…well let’s say we don’t serve her kind.” “What do you mean “her kind” asked Joy…she was beginning to see this was not really a good pace for them to have a bite to eat…not the right place at all.

 

“Look…I don’t make the rules here, I just follow them” she said, “We have dealt with her kind before, those pierced, tattooed, head banging, thugs. We don’t want any trouble here. Besides, have you noticed she has a “year-round tan. Those dirty people need to go back to where they came from.” Joy was appalled… “I have been coming here for a long time and now you want to tell me who I can and who I cannot bring for a bite to eat?”

 

Hope stood there waiting for what to come next…it always came next…it is why she had been afraid of trying to make friends…trying to be a part of something great than herself…. rejection! Everyone was afraid of her. She was different. She lived her life different, looked different, talked different. She knew that people were afraid of her. This truth made Hope feel hopeless. But what happened next almost made her crumble to the ground…”You know what,” Joy said “I don’t think I will be coming here anymore…and guess what, all those people that have been coming here with me won’t be coming either. Hope began to weep, “and another thing…if you think there is something wrong with my friend Hope, you need to look in the mirror to see the real ugly, repulsive thing in your life…yourself”.

 

At this point, Hope was sitting on the floor, “why would she do that for me? Why would Joy tell them that they were the one with the issue and not her? What is going on here? Is this really happening? Has my prayers really been heard and answered? Thank you, God, even for this one moment of being accepted.” Hope thought and prayed to herself. Joy helped Hope to her feet, “Come on Hope,” she said, “we know when we are not wanted…” Hope stood and clung to Joy… “could this really be happening” she thought. “Let’s go to y place and I will make us something to eat. At least we won’t have the stench of bigotry and fear as our dinner guest.”

 

Good morning. Over the past couple of weeks, we have had a of conversation. This morning I want us to continue to be interactive with each other as we have been. I need audience participation. So please play along as the Spirit leads…In the story I just shared with you, what stands out for you? Give time for answers. What stands out for me is how fearless Joy was. She not only left her friends at the bible study to think about what “WWJD” meant but she stood up for someone that she really didn’t even know…

 

This is what I mean when I use the phrase “Fearless Christian”, willing to stand up for other and for the Gospel of Christ. Also what stood out for me is the waitress and her attitude. They were running on fear of the past and didn’t want to see the possibilities of the present and future… Fear is a sickness I think we all face at times but it is what we do with it that counts…

 

As I have said, we as Christ church 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. If we are to live life abandoned to Christ, we need to let go and let God as we move forward as God’s people and take hold of the land. If we don’t we are like the Israelites wandering in the desert…not seeing the promised land. All too often, we sound a lot like this “group” of people. If we are to live our lives as Resurrection people we need to act as if we have been resurrected. All too often we are stuck in the tomb with our comfortable “death cloths” on not wanting to come out being seen naked…leaving those things behind that bind us…and put on the robe of righteousness that we receive in and through Christ.

 

We are continuing 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 As I have said, 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. Not only that but after the service each Sunday, I invite us to have further conversation…living room conversation with each other in the green room. There will be a week that my friend Margaret will come for you to have conversation with her of what ails your heart. 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 …our good intentions…may be not so helpful. We all bring something to the table and it may be that very thing that keeps us from being the people god has called us to be. At times that our “religious laws” keep us and others away from the blessings and peace that God intends for us to have. 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.

 

One of the biggest inhibitions we have is the inhibition of “fear.” When we are afraid…for whatever reason…we become infected with the sickness of fear. Let’s talk about fear. How many of you feel fear? Give time to answer. Do you think the church is afraid and what do you think it is afraid of? Give time to answer. Ok…here’s the hard one, what do you think this church’s fear is and why? Give time to answer.

 

In the scripture I read this morning, we hear Peter…the rock…rebuking Jesus. Why do you think he did that? Give time to answer. A think Peter was afraid. He didn’t want to lose his teacher and friend. He did want his friend to keep talking about His death…that kind of talk just wouldn’t work for Peter. Peter didn’t understand that Jesus dying on the cross was Him following what His purpose was, why He came. Peter also didn’t understand that there is a price to follow God’s leading…leaving our fear behind…leaving or hang ups behind…leaving our prejudices, our biases…our preconceptions behind…and follow where ever He leads.

 

This fact was solidified…this was proven…by the second part of the scripture of Mark. Deny ourselves and take up our cross…we need to lose our life…lose our fears…to save our lives (and the lives of others). If we let the sickness of fear continue to keep its grips around our throats…personally and collectively, we will die… If we let fear take control of our lives and not move out of our death cloths into the robe of righteousness then Jesus’ victory over sin and death is sort of made null and void in our lives. If we are afraid of the price of the cross…our cross…then how can we fulfill our call to make disciples for Christ? If we let fear control and we not move out into our calling…are we denying Jesus?

 

Beloved children of the Most High God. Jesus is calling us out of our tombs of what ails us in to His glorious Light and be healed. 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 should we let fear stop us from being Fearless Christians? What if hope came through our door? Would we fear her or even worse…would she ear us? I ask that we prayerfully come together…as family…to heal what ails us. Let us become that group that the Hope would be to set her fears at the foot of the cross and be healed and loved. Maybe…just maybe…she will come through our doors. The question is…are we willing to let her in…?

 

Amen.

 

A Season of Healing

April 23, 2017

Stetson Memorial UMC

Sermon Series:

“Mending Fences-Healing the Heart…”

“A Season of Healing”

Adapted from Marcia McPhee’

“On the Mend” Sermon Series

Psalm 16 HCSB

James 5:16-17 MSG

Matthew 17:1-5 GNT

Psalm 107:19-21 NLT

 

“A Season of Healing…”

 

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 of Luke, chapter 5, verses 17-20. Listen to the word of God from His love letter to His beloved, you and I…

Jesus Heals a Paralyzed Man

17 One day when Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of the Law were sitting there who had come from every town in Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. The power of the Lord was present for Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a bed, and they tried to carry him into the house and put him in front of Jesus. 19 Because of the crowd, however, they could find no way to take him in. So they carried him up on the roof, made an opening in the tiles, and let him down on his bed into the middle of the group in front of Jesus. 20 When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the man, “Your sins are forgiven, my friend.”

 

She walked into the room not sure what she was looking for or needed. People greeted her with smiles and they tried to make her feel as comfortable as they could. But she had been her before. She had been in this same setting and didn’t like the outcome. But she decided to give it one more try…there had to be a place where she could go.

 

But then it all started all over again. Their intentions were “good”, so they thought. But in her eyes their intensions were something that was dark and frightening. She was afraid to talk with them because she wasn’t sure just how to explain her feelings. So she silently sat in the corner.

 

The others just thought she was just “the quiet type”. They were proud of the way they had let this new comer in and they thought that they were open and loving…so proud of that fact. They were the “best” group in the area and no one could even come close to what and who they were.

 

Months past and the girl started to attend the group less and less. Some of the members noticed she was not there. They started blaming each other. “You weren’t very nice to her anyway. You didn’t offer her a hand when she said she needed help moving. I have seen this happen before in this group…I know it is his/her fault.”

 

The more they argued the more they couldn’t see the look in the eyes of the new comer every time she came to the group. She felt that she couldn’t trust the people of the group because every time she spoke to one person…they shared with another…then another until what she originally said was nothing like the end words.

 

The girl finally gave up and never went back again. She still looks today for a place where she can call “home”. She just wants to be in a place where she feels loved, safe, secure and valued. She is wanting a place and a people she can call family.

 

Good morning. This morning I want us to be interactive with each other. I need audience participation. So please play along as the Spirit leads…In the story I just shared with you, what stands out for you? Give time for answers. What stands out for me is the fact that she is still looking for a place to go.

 

We as Christians know the place to go…just as the men did when they lowered their friend in front of Jesus. In fact, they even carried him to the roof, made a hole in the roof and lowered their friend down…from the ceiling…for him to be where he needed to be to heal what ailed him.

 

We, as the Psalmist in Psalm 107 verses 19-21, know what happens when we call out to God. Let’s read this together…please turn to Psalm 107 in your bibles and read these verses together…

Psalm 107:19-21New Living Translation (NLT)

19 “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,

    and he saved them from their distress.

20 He sent out his word and healed them,

    snatching them from the door of death.

21 Let them praise the Lord for his great love

    and for the wonderful things he has done for them

We cry out to God and He helps, He saves, He heals and He loves.

So, if we have this Truth, why do people turn away from our churches? Why do people think they are better off without the healing of Jesus? Interactive time. I really want to know what you think…

 

In the story from this morning, I see sort of a pattern here. This might help us to understand what happened in this group.

  1. Their intentions were “good”, so they thought. They wanted to be a group that was known for their lovingness…so to speak…they may have even tried too hard because they were proud of their status.
  2. So she silently sat in the corner. No one seemed to wonder why the girl sat in the corner. They didn’t go over and try to interact with her.
  3. They were proud of the way they had let this new comer in and they thought that they were open and loving…so proud of that fact. Maybe…just maybe…they were a little too proud of themselves. To the point that they couldn’t see the hurting right in front of their face.
  4. They started blaming each other. “You weren’t very nice to her anyway. You didn’t offer her a hand when she said she needed help moving. I have seen this happen before in this group…I know it is his/her fault.”  And now comes the blame game. Instead of finding the underlying cause of the issue, they just blamed each other.
  5. The more they argued the more they couldn’t see the look in the eyes of the new comer every time she came to the group. They were so enveloped in themselves that they forgot about what they were so proud of themselves for. They didn’t notice the damage they caused to the outside.

Now the girl did bring stuff to the group of her own:

  1. But she had been her before. She had been in this same setting and didn’t like the outcome. She already came with a very suspicious mind. She probably thought that all the groups were the same no matter where she went. Quite the defeatist attitude…
  2. But in her eyes their intensions were something that was dark and frightening. Still emotional baggage from before that probably was never addressed.
  3. . She was afraid to talk with them because she wasn’t sure just how to explain her feelings. It is hard to explain feelings of fear, mistrust, hopelessness, despair… But there needs to be a place where we can come together and talk about our feelings. That is why she still is searching…even today.

 

So why have I told you this story today? The reason I have shared this with you because we as Christ church 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. How will we do this you may ask yourself.

 

Over the next few weeks we will be talking about some of the things that ail us…that stop us from living that life in Christ. We will be mending fences and healing the heart with one another. And there may be no fences that need mending but we are all broken. What in us needs mending?

 

In the bulletin, you will find the breakdown of what we will talk about each week…what mending we will talk about. My hope is that we will have that conversation that will lead to healing. Not only that but after the service each Sunday, I invite us to have further conversation…living room conversation with each other in the green room with a little coffee…a little snack and I hope a whole lot of conversation and mending. We will put ourselves in front of Jesus where we can be healed. There will be a week that my friend Margaret will come for you to have conversation with her of what ails your heart.

 

Conversation is hard but it is vital if we want to be that vital congregation for Christ. We need to do a heart check to be the heartbeat of God in our community. James 5, verses 16-17 tells us:

16-18 Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.

 

So, I ask that we prayerfully come together…as family…to heal what ails us. Let us become that group that the girl would feel comfortable. Remember, she is still out there looking. Maybe…just maybe…she will come through our doors.

 

Amen

“Leave You Death Cloths Behind!!…”

April 16, 2017

Stetson Memorial UMC

Resurrection Sunday!

Psalm 113

John 20:1-18 NLT

Acts 10:34-48 MSG

Isaiah 25:6-9 NLT

 

“Leave You Death Cloths Behind!!…”

 

The Lord be with you, and also with you…let us pray…(Prayer of illumination….)

 

Please stand as you are able from the reading of the Gospel according to John, chapter 10, verses 1-8…

 

It was a morning like no other. Mary trembled as she made her way to the tomb of her teach and friend. “How could all of this had happened” she thought. “How could they have called for Barabbas instead of Jesus?” She continued on her way to the place she never thought she would have to go…at least not this early in Jesus’ life. All of the sudden the earth shook with a violent convulsion. It knocked her to the ground. She got up wondering what could have caused such a ruckus.

 

She began to think about the events of the past 3 days and how she stood with Jesus’ mother by the cross as her world was torn apart by the last breath of her teacher. “How could have the others ran away and leave Him to be alone…let alone Peter’s actions?” Then she remembered the stone in front of the tomb. “How am I going to be able to give Jesus a proper burial? I can’t move the stone away myself. But I must try. It is the least I could to for the one who saved me from the demons inside.”

 

As she neared the tomb she couldn’t believe what she saw. The stone had rolled been rolled away. Then she thought “Oh no…His body!” She ran to the tomb and it was as she had feared. Jesus body was missing. Everything else was there…the death cloths and the cloth that wrapped His head. But the body…it was missing… What was she to do…where on earth could they have taken Him…?

 

Good morning! Happy Resurrection morning! We have come to the end of our Lenten journey and now here we stand at the empty tomb. This is the foundation of our belief. Without resurrection morning, there is no faith…without resurrection morning, there is no forgiveness of sins…without resurrection morning, there is no victory over sin and death…without resurrection morning, Jesus’ life didn’t matter. This is probably my favorite day in the Christian calendar as well as Pentecost Sunday…but don’t let me get started on that…

 

When I think about the empty tomb I just want to shout from the mountain tops…Christ has Risen…Christ has Risen indeed! I love this day because it is the day that humanity was given the chance to come out of their tomb, remove their death cloths and come into the glorious light of our God in and through the Light of the world, our RISEN, Lord Jesus Christ

 

In Isaiah 25:6-9…the prophet Isaiah talks about the day that God will remove the gloom and gloom of death and bring joy and hope. The gloom of death hung over all of humanity and there was no end in sight. But God, in His infinite love, could not leave humanity in the pit it was and is in. He alone brings salvation in and through the frailty of His Son. We now are invited to the banquet with the best of everything we can think of… Death no longer has a grip upon us and we are set free in and through the empty tomb. If we choose to come out and leave behind our death clothes…

 

When I think about the John scripture from this morning, what stood out for me are these facts:

  1. Jesus death clothes were left in the tomb…
  2. Reminded me of Lazareth being raised…
  3. It represents victory over sin and death…
  4. People are like Mary…not know where He is…
  5. Jesus calls our name as He did Mary’s (she was blinded by the world and what she saw that was temporal)
  6. We are to go and give the message to those who are waiting…as Mary did…

 

In Acts Peter…the Rock…proclaims the resurrection…read Acts 10:34-48. What can we see from Peter’s reaction that is also for us today?

  • He proclaimed Christ’s ministry of healing and peacemaking (36-39)
  • Proclaimed that God raised Christ from the dead (39-40)
  • Proclaimed that they ate and drank with the Risen Christ (41)
  • Proclaimed Christ is the judge of the living and the dead but there is forgiveness in and through His name…

 

Resurrection Sunday is not just the end of the Lenten journey but only the beginning of the story, the beginning of the new life…the beginning of a new age. Christ went to the cross not just to save you and me but to save all of humanity and there is so many who need the hope and forgiveness of the cross I just can’t imagine Jesus wanting us to keep it for ourselves. God wants all of humanity to be saved and we are here to share the good news so that it is. That’s part of mine and your mission here…part of the purpose of why we were created…to love, to share, to be Christ for the world. But how can we bring the Good News if we are still in the tomb wearing our death shroud?

 

Resurrection people. It is resurrection morn and we are now given a new life. We have come from the ashes of Wednesday and have come up from those same ashes as a phoenix into the glorious light of the Son. We are being called from our tombs to a new and redeemed life. We are given the robe of righteousness for the death cloths sin had us wrapped in. The question is…will you come out?

 

Amen…

Cherished, Favored and Loved

 

January 8, 2017

Stetson Memorial UMC

Baptism of the Lord

Sermon Series:

“Becoming You…”

Adapted from Marcia McPhee’

“Who Are You?” Sermon Series

Isaiah 42:1-9 NOG Bible

Matthew 3:13-17 MSG Bible

Acts 10:34-43 The Living Bible

 

“Cherished, Favored, and Loved…”

 

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

 

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

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

Come upon us, Holy Spirit!

Come upon these waters.

Let these waters be to us drops of your mercy.

Let these waters remind us of your righteousness and justice.

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

Let these waters make us long for your coming reign.

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

Jesus Christ, Savior, Lord! Glory to you!

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Matthew 3:13-17 The Message (MSG)

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Acts 10:34-43Living Bible (TLB)

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Amen