Monday, October 8, 2018

Apologies

I have neglected to post sermons for half a year. I will try to fill in the spaces as I keep up with the current.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Re-training


• Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost. 
World Communion Sunday
with Hebrews 1:1-4 and Hebrews 2:5-12
www.FirstChurchBville.com    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
This sermon (along with the entire worship service) was broadcast on Facebook Live 10/7/18 https://www.facebook.com/FUMCWV/

• As of World Communion Sunday I am beginning my sixth year at First UMC. The last five years I’ve had several major life changes, some needful. Three years ago it became clear to me that my alcohol use was squarely in the region of alcohol abuse. I had lost the ability to drink alcohol in moderation.
Blind in my own self-deception, I needed to be retrained with respect to alcohol. By the grace of God, by the support of my family, this congregation, my DS & bishop, and through AA, I learned anew things I thought I knew. This week I celebrate three years' alcohol-free.
I didn’t want to relearn, or get retrained. But I did need it.
My focus was out of whack.
• The book of Hebrews retrains a people with a distorted perception. People were worshiping angels instead of God. Hebrews shows that the Son of God is superior to angels. Hebrews reminds humankind that we are God’s beloved.
• Some things need retrained today. Let me tell you about how The UMC works.
Our church exists in connection. A federation of sorts. We are not an unconnected individual congregation. We are not in competition with other UMCs. We are a global body. Remember Paul’s verses about body parts working together, all necessary.
Our congregation is the charge conference, meets annually with the district superintendent. CC authorizes the Administrative Council to act on behalf of CC.
The Annual Conference is a connection of regional churches united in ministry and service.
• Some things need retrained.
Our church connection means we’re all in ministry together.
And we all foot the bill – called our “fair share” or our apportionments.
And together we accomplish more than we can as separate churches.
We benefit from connection.
• World Communion offering benefits disadvantaged students around the world.
• We participate in Church at the real incarnational invitation of Christ who is in us.

• Hymn in preparation for communion: In the Breaking of the Bread

Hebrews 1:1-4 (HCSB)
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made all things through Him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. So He became higher in rank than the angels, just as the name He inherited is superior to theirs.ò

Hebrews 2:5-12 (NRSV)
What we’re saying is that God did not give authority over the world to angels. But scripture says:
“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    or mortals, that you care for them?
You have made them for a little while
        lower than the angels;
    you have crowned them with glory and honor,
    subjecting all things under their feet.”
Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 12 saying,
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
ò

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Two Paths


• Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
with James 5 and Mark 9
www.FirstChurchBville.com    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk

• (I was last in this pulpit on Sept 9, before going to Ireland for two weeks. Our guest speakers were Denver Stevens and then Benjamin Wells from Marshall campus ministry.)
• I arrived in WV 5 years ago this week. Oh, the possibilities for exploring the woods and mountains, so close in the Barboursville park! Mostly the exploring I’ve done is worth repeating, but some not. Some marked paths, some un. Some clear, some with all Nature’s gifts (I walked through spiderwebs and spiders, thistles, dew…).
• Read Robert Frost’s Road Not Taken
Frost was describing a path, not a not-path.
He was not going out pathless.
Not even really a value judgment between the two,
like one was more adventurous or one was old and worn out.
He says the paths are pretty much equal.
• Jesus describes two paths that are NOT equal.
One is the path of kingdom things, the other of human things.
Kingdom things: prayer, humility, repentance.
Community. Being ‘in God’.
God is my savior, my defense, my salvation.
Human things: serving self. Not community but me.
• “Where the worm never dies, and the fire never goes out.” Uncomfortable phrases. This is the fruit of the human path, the path that doesn’t need God, the path Peter wanted Jesus to take after Peter in Mark 8 wanted to steer Jesus to safety. Get behind me Satan, you are not setting your mind on divine things but on human things (Mark 8:33).
Where the worm never dies, fire never goes out is Gehenna, a literal wasteland, superstitiously avoided because of its ancient history with human sacrifice, and consequently neglected and abused, full of rubbish and fire. There’s always a fire smoldering there, there’s always worms there.
The path to Gehenna is the human path, the self-sufficient I can do it by myself path. Jesus says it’s better to live with one foot, one hand, one eye than to end up in Gehenna instead of following the divine path.
• Robert Frost enjoys the relationship between hiker and path, and he finds both paths desirable, wants each path to be fulfilled, trod upon.
• We need a guide, and we HAVE a guide, and he does not always do what we want or expect (again, Mark 8) but he does right by us.
Our path is marked by mission (share the love of God, and make disciples).
Let us follow him not our own thinkings.

• 142 If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee

Mark 9:38-50 (CEB) 
38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone throwing demons out in your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.”
39 Jesus replied, “Don’t stop him. No one who does powerful acts in my name can quickly turn around and curse me. 40 Whoever isn’t against us is for us. 41 I assure you that whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will certainly be rewarded.
42 “As for whoever causes these little ones who believe in me to trip and fall into sin, it would be better for them to have a huge stone hung around their necks and to be thrown into the lake. 43 If your hand causes you to fall into sin, chop it off. It’s better for you to enter into life crippled than to go away with two hands into the fire of hell, which can’t be put out. 45 If your foot causes you to fall into sin, chop it off. It’s better for you to enter life lame than to be thrown into hell with two feet. 47 If your eye causes you to fall into sin, tear it out. It’s better for you to enter God’s kingdom with one eye than to be thrown into hell with two. 48 That’s a place where worms don’t die and the fire never goes out.[Isa. 66:24] 49 Everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? Maintain salt among yourselves and keep peace with each other.” ò


The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

ò

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Love in Action


• Fourth Sunday of Easter
with John 10:11-16  and  1 John 3:16-24
www.FirstChurchBville.com    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
This sermon was broadcast on Facebook Live 4/15/18
https://www.facebook.com/FUMCWV/

• I remember first love: my Super K t-shirt. Would’ve re-entered a burning building to save it.
• Some people love stuffed animals. Some love Blenko glass. Some love books.
My favorite book: The Alchemist (1993). Teen Santiago and a journey of learning about love and following his heart. His journey takes much longer than expected and leads him into danger, but he learns better than silencing his heart.
Conversation with the wind about love. Wind observes. Talks to sun.
I learned how to love. I know that if I came even a little bit closer to the earth, everything there would die, and the Soul of the World would no longer exist. So we contemplate each other, and we want each other, and I give it life and warmth, and it gives me my reason for living.
You are wise, because you observe everything from a distance, but you don’t know about love. It’s not love to be static like the desert, nor is it love to roam the world like the wind. And it’s not love to see everything from a distance, like you do. Love is the force that transforms and improves the Soul of the World. When we love, we always strive to become better than we are.
• 1 John is partly a work of praise to God and partly the encouragement slash command slash instruction to love as Christ loved us: not from a distance, not aimlessly, not staticly as a collection. Love involves knowing, listening, responding, giving.
The story of God’s love for humankind includes God knowing humankind and hearing its cries and responding in Jesus the word made flesh. The story of Jesus and his love for God the Father and for the world includes his pouring himself out for the salvation of the world, giving of himself so that we could live, giving of himself in praise of God. The story of Jesus and his love includes his desire to completely live in alignment with God, to completely live in obedience and humbleness before God, with no separation.
• If we love First UMC… means knowing First UMC. Participating and leading. Listening to its people and responding to its heartbreaks, pouring self into its ministry and its witness.
Earth day: reducing plastic. Reusing bottles, skipping straws…
If we love Bville, Hton… knowing it, participating in it, listening, responding. Leaving nothing between.

• Hymn 373 Nothing Between My Soul and My Savior

John 10:11-18 (HCSB)
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. 13 This happens because he is a hired man and doesn’t care about the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me,15 as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 But I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.” ò

1 John 3:16-24 (HCSB)                                
16 This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him?
18 Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action. 19 This is how we will know we belong to the truth and will convince our conscience in His presence, 20 even if our conscience condemns us, that God is greater than our conscience, and He knows all things.
21 Dear friends, if our conscience doesn’t condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and can receive whatever we ask from Him because we keep His commands and do what is pleasing in His sight. 23 Now this is His command: that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as He commanded us. 24 The one who keeps His commands remains in Him, and He in him. And the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He has given us. ò

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Be Like Christ


• Third Sunday of Easter
with Luke 24:36-48  and  1 John 3:1-7
www.FirstChurchBville.com    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
This sermon was broadcast on Facebook Live 4/15/18
https://www.facebook.com/FUMCWV/

• I visited my folks after Easter. The guy in the elevator recognized me.
The goal of disciples, followers of Jesus, to be known by who we’re like (Jesus Christ)
rather than by what we’re against.
• Book of 1 John something like an essay to a community in conflict. Several different schools of thought about who Jesus is and how salvation works and what it means to be follower.
• John’s response is basics. Keep plugged in to community, to study, to action. Trust that Jesus is Lord (and human!) and came for the purpose of reconciling people to God. It’s a gift! AND it is our duty to strive to be Christ like, regardless of what others are doing.
Sin creates barriers between people. Love seeks relationship, asks questions, connects.
Others saying they’ve achieved sinlessness, don’t need Jesus?
What does that do to relationship? Wall or connect?
You strive to be Christlike. You rely on his grace.
Others saying Jesus is a myth?
What does that do to relationship? Wall or connect?
You strive to be Christlike. You rely on his grace.
• What is this Christlike? It’s humility, hope, community. It’s righteousness – keeping the commands – and it’s deep concern for others. LOVE of others. It’s belief and obedience, with the assurance that God has chosen to be revealed among people for the purpose of erasing sin and leading into righteousness, and that that is done because of love, and the response is also love.
• So dwell not on divisions and differences. Stand firm, study, and act in love to all.
Seek to build relationship.
• Challenge / invitation in April: to discuss with another how to be in Christ.

• Hymn 365 Grace Greater Than Our Sin

1 John 3:1-7 (HCSB) 
3 Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know Him. 2 Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.
4 Everyone who commits sin also breaks the law; sin is the breaking of law. 5 You know that He was revealed so that He might take away sins, and there is no sin in Him. 6 Everyone who remains in Him does not sin; everyone who sins has not seen Him or known Him.
7 Little children, let no one deceive you! The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. ò

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Light, Truth, and Community


• Second Sunday of Easter
with John 20:1-31  and  1 John 1:1-5
www.FirstChurchBville.com    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
This sermon was broadcast on Facebook Live 4/8/18
https://www.facebook.com/FUMCWV/

• It always kind of baffled me that every year the Sunday after Easter the Gospel reading is the same, and always found it a little odd. Jesus breathed on them. Thomas wasn’t there, and he says he won’t believe without seeing. And a week later he gets the chance, and he believes, and Jesus says blessed are those who believe without seeing.
One of the earliest things I learned about the lectionary, because I was youth director, and that church did youth Sunday the Sunday after Easter.
Figured out this year that the event itself takes place a week after Easter. Ha.
• Little bit of a conundrum: we are social, storytellers, made in image of God. Easy to identify with Thomas, in that we were not there on Resurrection Sunday to witness.
What do we do when lacking convincing evidence?
What about the darkness (1 John 1:5, no darkness in God) and the hidden feeling?
• After college invited to learn about opportunity to generate income. Interested and skeptical. Listened to pitch, investigated, considered character.
Ended up making friends and cultivating purpose and hope.
• Would love to know about days 2-7, discussions and interactions the community had that week. We are social beings
and we read in 1 John We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
because we delight in telling news, especially good news.
We delight in seeing the lightbulb go on
and we delight in community of shared experiences and values.
• No evidence that Thomas was kicked out of community or belittled for his questioning.
Jesus appeared again in day 8 and the community was still together and Jesus addressed the concern Thomas had, and Thomas offers terrific conf of faith: My Lord and My God!
So what do we do when lacking convincing evidence?
What about the darkness (1 John 1:5, no darkness in God) and the hidden feeling?
We stay in community, we accept one another and continue to gather.
We facilitate forgiveness – seems like a random teaching of Jesus’ right there, about forgiveness, but it must be important to Jesus’ purpose and therefore the purpose of the Jesus community, not to hold things against one another.
We do what we can to embody reconciliation and to dispel darkness.
We nurture trust.
Where/when I may be unconvinced, I trust the testimony of others.
John Wesley was counseled by one of the fathers of our Methodist faith, “Preach the faith until you have it and then because you have it.” (Moravian Peter Bohler)
There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep one in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation. Herbert Spencer, d. 1903.

• Hymn 467 Trust and Obey

1 John 1:1-5 (HCSB)
1 What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have observed
and have touched with our hands,
concerning the Word of life—
2 that life was revealed,
and we have seen it
and we testify and declare to you
the eternal life that was with the Father
and was revealed to us—
3 what we have seen and heard
we also declare to you,
so that you may have fellowship along with us;
and indeed our fellowship is with the Father
and with His Son Jesus Christ.
4 We are writing these things
so that our joy may be complete.
5 Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. ò


John 20:19-31 (HCSB)
19 In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews. Then Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”
20 Having said this, He showed them His hands and His side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 After saying this, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
24 But one of the Twelve, Thomas (called “the Twin”), was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe!”
26 After eight days His disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace to you!”
27 Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don’t be an unbeliever, but a believer.”
28 Thomas responded to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Those who believe without seeing are blessed.”
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name. ò

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Fears, Fools, and Faith


• Resurrection Sunday
with Mark 16:1-8  and  2 Timothy 1:3-7
www.FirstChurchBville.com    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
This sermon was broadcast on Facebook Live 4/1/18
https://www.facebook.com/FUMCWV/

• Welcome! I’m glad you’re here! Some folks are here because this is their home. They come for spiritual nourishment and fellowship, for a place to give and receive, a place to belong. Some are returning or visiting. There are a host of reasons and motivations. Glad you’re here. Whether this is your familiar place or it’s your first time or something in between, I hope you’ll give us the chance to be your family. Come back next week!
• The wonder of Easter, the joy, the magic. Story about my early Easters.
It’s easy to forget that Easter begins in fear. In grief, in darkness, in confusion, in exhaustion. In fact the ending of our Gospel reading today: The women said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid. Did you remember that part? Can you blame them? (elaborate grief, connect our griefs.)
• So the women were fearful. Out of sorts. Very disoriented, not in their right minds. And you might say they were fools. I mean they went before sunrise and had no plan for how to remove the stone, which was very large. Might say foolish, might say faithful, that they went in spite of not having a plan for the stone, but we don’t make the best of decisions when we’re tired and griefstricken. Part of the message of today, though, is that our human limitation / shortcoming does not hinder God from ministering to us!
• Three weeks ago we read from 1 Corinthians 9, message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Y’know it might not be so bad to be a fool when we consider the company we’re in: God’s. It’s like walking into an expensive restaurant with the owner: nothing to fear.
• And walking in to any situation with God is great, because God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of right-mindedness.
We hear from the young man in the tomb that Jesus went before the disciples to Galilee, and as witnesses we’re told to go and tell, with the knowledge that Jesus goes before us. And in 2 Timothy we celebrate faith in community as others go before us, our parents and grandparents, and we are strengthened in witness together.
• So the fears, the griefs we face… we can leave them behind. They don’t go before us.
The disorientation, the out-of-sorts, the not-right-mindedness… in community with God and others, those fall apart. In the resurrection community there is power and love and rightmindedness. And nothing shall separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

• into Holy Communion

Mark 16:1-8 (HCSB)
16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so they could go and anoint Jesus. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise. 3 They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?” 4 Looking up, they observed that the stone—which was very large—had been rolled away. 5 When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were amazed and alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been resurrected! He is not here! See the place where they put Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there just as He told you.’”
8 So they went out and started running from the tomb, because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them. And they said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid. ò

2 Timothy 1:3-7 (HCSB)
3 I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day. 4 Remembering your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy, 5 clearly recalling your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois, then in your mother Eunice, and that I am convinced is in you also.
6 Therefore, I remind you to keep ablaze the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, and love, and sound judgment. ò


1 Corinthians 9:18-23 (HCSB)
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved. 19 For it is written:
   I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
   and I will set aside the understanding of the wise.
        [Isaiah 29:14]
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scholar? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish? 21 For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of the message preached. 22 For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. 24 Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom, 25 because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. ò