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…

 

A Christmas Letter

 

December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve

Sermon Series:

“The Invitation”

An Invitation to the Christ Child

 

A Christmas Letter…

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

I love you my beloved daughter and my beloved son,

Madly, deeply, truly, with an unending love.

 

God…

An Invitation to Peace

December 10, 2017

Stetson Memorial UMC

2nd Sunday of Advent

Sermon Series: “The Invitation”

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

Isaiah 9:6-7 (The Voice)

Isaiah 11:1-9 (The Voice)

Romans 14:17-19 (The Voice)

 

“An Invitation to Peace…”

 

The Lord Be with you

and also with you

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Isaiah 11:1-9The Voice (VOICE)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Romans 14:17-19The Voice (VOICE)

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

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

 

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

You never know…

Amen…