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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…

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Pride Commeth Before…

 

May 21, 2017

 

Stetson Memorial UMC

 

Sermon Series:

 

 “Mending Fences-Healing the Heart…”

 

“Healing Pride”

 

Adapted from Marcia McPhee’

 

“On the Mend” Sermon Series

 

Psalm 66:8-20

 

Mark 9:30-37

 

Proverbs 16:18-19; Philippians 2:1-4; James 4:6-10

 

 

 

 

 

“Pride Cometh Before…”

 

 

 

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 9, verses 30-37. 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 their way to Joy’s house, they began to talk with one another. This is really the first time they had since they met and they were both nervous, not wanting to offend the other. “So, Hope, where do you come from?” Joy asked. “Oh, from here, there and everywhere. We never settle into one place when I was a kid. Always moving around, never knowing where we would wind up next.” Hope answered. “Oh, that sounds like so much fun. My family is very rich and we always had to make plans when we went places. We never just went and just moved like you did. We went to places like Spain, Rome, China, we even went on a safari in Africa… It was fun but I think what you got to do was more adventurous.” Joy explained. “You must have enjoyed it very much.” “Not really” Hope explained, “We moved because my dad couldn’t hold a job so we had to keep moving. We would lose our home and had to find a new one when my dad got a new job.” “Oh wow, too bad.” Joy went on, “I had the perfect life, so to speak, I got to go anywhere and do anything I wanted to do. We always had a beautiful home and never went without eating like some people do… How about church? Do you go to church?” Joy asked. “Well I haven’t found a place yet that accepts…well me for me…” Hope answered.

 

 

 

Hope was starting to worry about her new-found friend. She seemed to be talking a lot about herself and how perfect her life was. But, Hope decided not to judge her friend…she had been on the wrong side of that equation too many times. Joy continued “Well you haven’t tried my church. It is perfect. We accept everyone. We have many ministries that reach out to those people on the street. We feed the hungry and clothe the naked. We have 3 services on Sunday, 1 on Wednesday, a prayer meeting on Thursday and…”

 

 

 

 Hope started to walk away… “where are you going” Joy asked. “Away from you” Hope answered, “You are too “perfect” for me. For the past 30 minutes, all I have heard about is what you have done and where you have been, how perfect your church is and all those “people” you reach out to on the streets… Guess what, I am one of those people and I think you talk a good talk but you are not walking the walk. You think that you do soooo much but what I need is someone who cares about me not for me…I can care for myself thank you very much.” Joy was appalled, “What do you mean all I do is talk about myself. I am very proud of who I am and my church and what we do. There is nothing wrong with that.” Joy said through tearful eyes. “Maybe you are a little too proud. So proud that you don’t even see the ones you claim you are trying to help. Maybe if you thought about where your gifts come from, where your security comes from…your real security and gifts come from…maybe you might just think and see differently…” Hope turned and continued to walk away…

 

 

 

Good morning. This morning I want us to continue to be interactive with each other as we have been. It has been wonderful the past few weeks sharing as we have with teach 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 Joy and what she was proud of. It is not bad to take pride in things but when you lose sight of where it all comes from we can tend to be “pride-full”.

 

 

 

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. We need to give our whole life over to Christ…everything that ails us…in order to be the relevant Christians. 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, then why do we even call ourselves Christ followers if we can’t follow His example in the world because of what is ailing us? If we are to live our lives as Resurrection people we need to act as if we have risen from the grave of the world around us. All too often we are stuck in the tomb with our comfortable “death cloths” …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… 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. 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. Jesus us is calling us to be “open” …our eyes our ears, our hearts, our hands…to those around us who may feel closed off from others.

 

 

 

Fear is one of the biggest things that keeps us from being who God would have us be. 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…

 

 

 

Another thing that at times keeps us from being the light we are called to be is the sickness of “pride”. Pride can cause us to do a lot of crazy things…even making ourselves lord of others… We at times can think that…well to coin a phrase…our “poop don’t stink.” Being proud is not really a bad thing…we should take pride in what we do. What are you proud of in your life? Give time to answer. I am proud of my daughters but do I believe they are perfect and above reproach? No, we are all broken and imperfect. I am proud of how God has made them who they are and that I got the chance to help God, with His leading, bring these girls up… I give God the praise for it all.

 

 

 

In the Mark scripture, we hear the problem of pride. The disciples were arguing over who was the greatest of them. Jesus waste no time in correcting them on their emphasis on self. He brought in a child…pretty lowly…nothing special…children were seen and not really heard back then. The farther was the one who spoke for the whole family. So why do you think He chose a child? Give time to answer… A child is the last rung on the ladder. Pride really got in their way and Jesus had to make sure they understood the ways of heaven verses the ways of man.

 

 

 

You can see pride…the sickness of pride that is…just about everywhere you look these days. My question is this, do you see pride in the church? In other words, do you think it has a problem with pride and why?  Give time to answer… Ok…how about the church here…our church…do you think it has a problem of pride…? Give time to answer… How about the people within…? Give time to answer.

 

 

 

What does god say about pride?

 

ü Proverbs 16:18-19-18 Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall.19 Better poor and humble than proud and rich.

 

ü Philippians 2:1-4-Is there any such thing as Christians cheering each other up? Do you love me enough to want to help me? Does it mean anything to you that we are brothers in the Lord, sharing the same Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic at all? 2 Then make me truly happy by loving each other and agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, working together with one heart and mind and purpose.

 

3 Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. 4 Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing.

 

ü James 4:6-10-6 But he gives us more and more strength to stand against all such evil longings. As the Scripture says, God gives strength to the humble but sets himself against the proud and haughty.

 

7 So give yourselves humbly to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 And when you draw close to God, God will draw close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and let your hearts be filled with God alone to make them pure and true to him. 9 Let there be tears for the wrong things you have done. Let there be sorrow and sincere grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Then when you realize your worthlessness before the Lord, he will lift you up, encourage and help you.

 

 

 

God’s word is clear about pride and what it can lead to. What do you think the cure is for this sickness that ails us? Give time to answer…

 

 

 

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 healing what ails us, personally and collectively? What if hope came through our door? Would we boast about our accomplishments of lift up God’s name and what He has done? I ask that we prayerfully come together…as family…to heal what ails us. Let us become that group…that people…that the Hope would hear about the goodness of God and what He blesses us with so that she too can receive the goodness and grace 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.

 

Live Life Abandoned!

May 7, 2017

Stetson Memorial UMC

Sermon Series:

“Mending Fences-Healing the Heart…”

“Live Life Abandoned!”

Adapted from Marcia McPhee’

“On the Mend” Sermon Series

Psalm 23

Mark 7:24-37

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

 

“Live Life Abandoned! …”

 

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 7, verses 24-37. Listen to the word of God from His love letter to His beloved, you and I…

 

(Read Scripture from the NIV Bible)

 

Hope wandered through the streets. Where was she to go on this cold December day. It was below freezing but she hardly felt it at all. It didn’t seem to matter to her. She had become numb to the cold and numb to those around her. She had been through so much and she decided that there was no one that she could trust and nowhere to go. She had tried before and failed…failed miserably. She decided that she was just going to live her life alone…the alternative was not too appetizing for her.

 

As she entered the coffee shop, she walked by a group of people that seemed to be have some sort of study together. They looked up at her and quickly looked away. They didn’t want to make eye contact with her so they pretended to be reading their bibles. Hope went up to the counter, ordered her coffee and left. She thought that if only someone would actually look past her exterior they would finally see her for who she was…but what exactly was that?

 

“Thank God that woman left. She looked as if she was going come over to our table” one of the bible study participants said. “Awkward” said another. “That’s not very nice” another said, “maybe she just wanted to say Hi”. “Awe come on, you really think that is all she wanted? She looked like some druggy or something…you don’t know what those people will do…she probably would have pick pocketed our something,” said another. “Ok…we are sitting here in bible study and you are all talking like she is a leper or something. I am going to go see if I can find her while you guys figure out what W.W.J.D. really means.”

 

“Hey wait up” she said to Hope. Hope turned around to see who was talking but turned right back around and kept walking. “Hey you …yah you…wait up.” Hope stopped in her tacks. “What do you want…to make fun of me or something? Why don’t you just go back to your study buddies and leave me alone.” The girls said “ I am sorry for my so called friends. Are you ok…you look like you could use a friend to talk to.” “Wait…you…a so called Christian want to talk with me? What’s the bottom line? What do you really want?” “Nothing” the girl said “ I just thought you looked like you needed a friend. My name is Joy. What’s yours”? “My name is Hope” she said. “You wanna go somewhere and catch a bite to eat?” “I don’t think I could afford that” Hope said. “My treat” said Joy. As they walked down to the dinner together Hope thought ”maybe this one is different.” Joy thought “maybe this one is different”… Neither knew how much they really needed each other…

 

Good morning. This morning I want us to continue to be interactive with each other as we were last week. 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 people in the “bible study”. How closed off they were to Hope…

 

Beloved, 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 binds us…and put on the robe of righteousness that we receive in and through Christ.

 

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? 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. 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.

 

Last week we talked about intentions and the fact that there are times that our intentions…our good intentions…may be not so helpful. Our attitudes, at times, can be seen as exclusive instead of being inclusive as we are called to be. 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. There are times that our “religious laws” keep us and others away from the blessings and peace that God intends for us to have.

 

What do you think about inhibitions? Do you think that they can cause us to actually need healing in order to live life abandoned to God and our “co-inhabitants” in the world in which we live? Give time for people to answer…

 

The definition of inhibition is:

  1. the act of inhibiting:  the state of being inhibited

something that forbids, debars, or restricts

  1. an inner impediment to free activity, expression, or functioning

 

From the scripture I read this morning, we see two types of people…one with no inhibitions and one that was being inhibited. The woman knew who Jesus was and that being a woman in that day and time you didn’t just walk up to a man and star talking to them…let alone a Rabbi…unless it was your husband. But Jesus was different and she knew that. She had a daughter who needed healing and she was going to stop at nothing to get it. Even when Jesus told her…well pretty much to go away…she was uninhibited and was not going anywhere until this healer called Jesus healed her child. Now know that Jesus was pretty radical I think that He was actually testing her faith…how much did she really believe in Jesus…would she walk away or would she trust in His mercy as she pleaded the case for her child… And what happened for her because being uninhibited? She was able to live life abandoned to the one who brought healing. We too need to come to the throne of grace…uninhibited…recklessly abandoned to and for the One who says be healed…then we see the miracle…

 

Then we have the man who was deaf in the scripture this morning. This man was closed off from the world. He had no place and no stature in the culture he lived in. He was shut out and held back from living a life with meaning. We too can be like this deaf-mute man. WE shut things out and hold things in. WE don’t speak when we should. There are times we are afraid to speak because of things that have happened in the past and we are afraid to speak and become deaf to the cries around us… Why do you think we shut things out and are unable to speak…we become inhibited? Give time to answer… So, what do you think will bring healing? Give time to answer… Sometimes healing means facing difficult things…those things we find hard to talk about. What are some of the things that you think are causing Christ’s church to be like that deaf-mute man? Give time to answer. What happened when the healer of our souls “opened” him up to the possibility of life abandoned? Give time to answer… He lived abandoned tell everyone about the miracle of Jesus… We too are able to live life abandoned to Christ as we heal what ails us…talk about those closed off things as Jesus tells us to be “open”.

 

Beloved children of the Most High God. 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 does that mean we turn a deaf ear and become mute? What would it take for you and me to be “open” to the possibilities that God is placing before us? Shutting things out and holding things in is dangerous to our personal, spiritual and church life. What if hope came through our door? Do you think that she would be open to us…or would we be open to her? 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 talk about the tough things and be healed of her own deafness as our ears are opened to the cries of those around us and our mouths opened for justice and mercy. 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

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

 

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.