Sunday, December 25, 2011

Making Room in Your Heart

A pediatrician was examining a little girl. Peering into her ears with his otoscope, he asked, "Is Miss Piggy in your ears?"

The girl frowned and shook her head no.

Peering into her mouth, he asked, "Is Kermit the Frog in your throat?"

The girl frowned and shook her head no.

Listening to her heart with with his stethoscope, he asked, "Is Barney in your heart?"

The girl responded, "No, Barney is on my underwear. JESUS is in my heart!"

Suppose you get a DVD or a video game or a book as a Christmas gift. If it's something you wanted, you'll make time to use your gift.  We make time for what's important to us.

And yet how many of us got a book or video game or DVD for Christmas last year that we've essentially forgotten about?  Not all gifts have lasting value.

Jesus is a gift with eternally lasting value.
Knowing Jesus is important.
Take time to know Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

God Does a New Thing

Fourth Sunday of Advent

From Isaiah 43, Luke 2

• Talking with another pastor this week, what is favorite holiday, what’s best about slash passion for being pastor, also the sometimes challenge of taking a familiar story and telling it again...

• But there is something to be said about the familiar... potential assurance in dark times. I think that’s what God was teaching in the years wandering in the wilderness: trust in me. I make food and water appear for you, you have but to collect it and be satisfied. Give me thanks. When you wander from me I will raise up for you a faithful one to bring you back. Trust in me, have faith in me, listen to what I say.

• The people of Isaiah’s time knew trouble, knew sorrow, knew desperation. And God spoke into their situation and said Trust in me, have faith in me, I am redeeming you, I love you, I am for you.

And I’m doing a new thing. I will walk among you, live among you, live IN you, restore you renew you redeem you. There will be no desert in your life in which I cannot produce fruit, there will be no darkness in your life in which I cannot shine, no wilderness path you must walk without me.
Into your desert: I come, bringing water.
Into your unending suffering: I come, bringing respite
Into your darkness: I come, bringing light. 
Into your unchanging oppression: I come, bringing justice
Into your brokenness: I come, making new.

I am Emmanuel, God-is-with-us.

Prayer: Come Lord Jesus. Help us see you. Help us to make room in our hearts for thee.

• Children’s Program: The Case of the Reluctant Innkeeper

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Inoculation, Enthusiasm, Incarnation

Third Sunday of Advent

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

• Tis the season of giving. When I turned 16 I received the gift of this guitar. I’m not very good, but my friends saw something in my enthusiasm and planted the idea that I could be good. Enthusiastic about guitar.

• I’m not particularly enthusiastic about getting flu shot, but I get em every year.

Flu shot, they actually inject you with weak or dead strain of the flu, and your body reacts against it, then if you come in contact with the real thing, your body is ready.

Inoculation against virus. Injected into and utilized by living body.
The verb to inoculate is from Latin inoculare, which meant "to graft or implant" (as a plant part is grafted onto another plant); Over 2,000 years old, modern practice in 18th C. led to eradication of polio and the wide-spread control of many diseases, saving many lives.

• In a way, inoculation and enthusiasm are synonyms.

• Enthusiasm: God is in us, in our world. We recognize its advent (it happens) at Christmas. The incarnation is God’s life-saving inoculation of the world

• Incarnation: Jesus comes into living world and gives power.

Prayer that God would be born in us, change and save our lives, and that in our enthusiasm for God, others would know God.

• Reading of Luke 2 by Deb with musical accents by Josie, Art, Dylan, Brandon

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Prepare the Lord's Way

Second Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 40:1-11 and Mark 1:1-8

• season of political positioning & campaigning... season of making wish lists... look at me! glad to live in democracy where we can vote, but get sick of a year of campaigns.

Can you imagine if Jesus had a campaign to be savior? What platform would he run on?

Some of his talking points come from one of his campaign managers, the prophet Isaiah...

Here is the Lord God, coming with strength, with a triumphant arm, bringing his reward with him and his payment before him. (sounds good!)
Like a shepherd he will tend the flock, he will gather lambs in his arms and lift them onto his lap. He will gently guide the nursing ewes. (tough and tender! Nice touch)

• But his head campaign manager was John the Baptist, who, frankly, dressed funny and ate funny and I don’t know about you, makes me think of the street preacher that you cross the street to avoid.

And yet...

The people flocked into the wilderness to see John the Baptist. There was something attractive about him that compelled people to leave their comfort zones and enter the wilderness, leave their comfort zones and confess their sins, leave their comfort zones and receive baptism, turn their lives around.

John the Baptist was announcing a parade in which God was coming (Isaiah 40:3-5) and saying if you wanted to be part of this parade, you had to let go of certain things so your hands would be free to carry a flag or a banner in God’s parade.

Gotta let go of pride, let go of LookAtMe.

Gotta let go of the illusion that you can somehow earn God’s favor

And not only gotta let go of past failures but the notion that past failures are greater than God’s ability to redeem. (my sin is too great)

• John preached repentance of sins accompanied by baptism by water – a symbolic shedding of the old way of life, cleansing of the associated guilt, and emergence of re-ordered life.

And people wanted what John had to offer. They wanted to get right.

And John the Baptist was quick to tell people you’ve only just begun – there’s a One coming after me, HE’S the one to live for, HE’S the one will change your life.

And John the Baptist’s desire in life was to become more and more like HIM, to the diminishment of himself, which happens through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

• From the onset of the journey of faith the Holy Spirit is present in our lives. The Spirit comes to convict us of our need, to make us aware of our sin, to reveal to us the beauty of the Savior, to give us new birth, to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit, to empower us for service in the kingdom and in the church, and the like.

The Spirit ever moves us one step further in God’s parade.

• So, as you prepare for Christmas, be humble and repentant, and open yourself to the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in you, and ever point to God.

• Hymn 163 As With Gladness Men of Old

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What are YOU waiting for?

First Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 64:1-9 and Mark 13:24-37

• (a couple in the congregation waiting for the birth of their granddaughter)
(an engaged couple waiting for their wedding day)

We are waiting for Christmas. We prepare with special decorations, presents, meals, vacation/family time.

• Waiting for celebration of birth of Christ
Light of the world, you stepped down into darkness...

• Isaiah text – what are they waiting for? God’s undeniable earth-shaking presence... the people (God’s people) have long felt God’s absence. They’ve wallowed in brokenness and sin and have lost wars and homelands. There’s a clear lack of righteousness in the land.

Perhaps we join them in wondering O God, Where Art Thou?

We look around and it isn’t hard to see fruits of sinful nature.

We look back and say We’ve been anticipating Christ’s return since he was here the first time, what’s up with that?

• We look to Jesus for words of comfort and guidance and are astonished to hear warning and judgment. We hear him tell his disciples they’ll see his return, and we hear him say nobody knows the day or the hour.

• One thing Jesus anticipates is the destruction of the Temple, and I see in there a word of faith in God over faith in man. This Temple, beautiful though it be, will not stand forever. No human edifice will stand forever. Plastic does not degrade, but in no ways will plastic outlast God. God is greater.

Another thing Jesus anticipates is the completion of his purpose: to gather God’s people.

Jesus says we will not know the time, therefore we should always be ready, trusting in the Father’s choice of history

and we shall live expectantly, in some ways like a pregnant woman (labor pains of birth of God’s kingdom)

• Reminded of Paul’s dilemma in Philippians 1: ready to die, eager to be with Christ, but eager to work for Lord in the meanwhile. Not anxious but content and busy.

“Many times when I go to bed at night, I think to myself that before I awaken, Christ may return.” - Billy Graham

• Our prayer is Come, Lord Jesus, bring righteousness into the world.
God is faithful. Jesus is coming.
And until he comes our plan is to bring Christ’s righteousness into the world by the way we live our lives.

The kingdom is coming and it is here. Bless God.

• Hymn insert  hymn of advent Peace In Our Time

Sunday, November 13, 2011

We Belong to God

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost

Judges 4:1-7 and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

• The book of Judges is a history of the transition from the generation after the Exodus to the time of God’s appointed King, first Saul, then David. It tells of a time where there was no central leader of the people of Israel, and the people bounced back and forth between faithfulness to God and doing “what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”  The “Judges” were leaders that God raised up to lead the people, restore faithfulness, get ‘em back on the right track. Depending on how you count ‘em, there were something like a dozen judges over about 300 years.
• “After Ehud had died, the Israelites again did things that the Lord saw as evil.” (4:1)
This was the cycle of the Israelites: faithfulness, leader dies, fall into faithlessness, conquered by enemies, cry out to God, God raises up leader, who brings to faithfulness.
                                                                                                         People do evil things. They always have. No matter when we are in history, there are people doing evil.

“So the Lord gave them over to King Jabin of Canaan...” (4:2)
Seems from time to time God lets people eat the fruit of their evil. The result of people not walking with God is powerplay, abuse, and oppression. It affects evildoers and innocent as well, for it can last for years or generations.

“The Israelites cried out to the Lord because Sisera had 900 iron chariots and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly for 20 years.” (4:3)
This verse indicates for us the strength of Israel’s oppressors. Fast and powerful warriors.  No small foe.  Also we have the people crying out to God...

• “Deborah, a prophet, was a leader of Israel at that time... and the Israelites would come to her to settle disputes.” (4:4-5)
In the midst of oppression and troubled lives, people seek help from Godly people, and Deborah belonged to God. (If you belong to God and live accordingly...)
Deborah belonged to God: She discerned God’s call to Barak (4:6) to face mighty foe,    and she joined in the fray.
The people gained victory over their oppressors because they had leaders who were plugged in to God, and leaders and people stepped out together with God against fearful forces.

• A little fast-forward over to 1 Thessalonians.... Paul calls people to public lives of faithfulness (live as children of the light, wearing faithfulness and love)... dovetails with example of Deborah...
Paul calls us to public lives of faithfulness to equip us during dark times, times of facing powerful foes, to stand as light in the darkness and to bear that light that hope of salvation that healing balm into the fray. We belong to God.

• Hymn insert  God Be With You Till We Meet Again

Sunday, November 6, 2011

See You Again

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
All Saints' Sunday

Hebrews 12:1-2, John 14:1-4

• When moving, family members often interested in prospective new community... we have a few insights of our future community.
• Perpetual light and worship heaven. No Seasonal Affective Disorder, and yes, like a kid in a candy shop, awe-in-action=worship. (Rev. 4:8-11)
They never rest day or night, but keep on saying, “ Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is coming. ”
9Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the one seated on the throne, who lives forever and always, 10the twenty-four elders fall before the one seated on the throne. They worship the one who lives forever and always. They throw down their crowns before the throne and say,
11“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, because you created all things. It is by your will that they existed and were created.”

• Heaven is prepared by Jesus for us (John 14:2)
It is a place of perfect holiness. (Rev. 21:27 Nothing unclean will ever enter [the new Jerusalem], nor anyone who does what is vile and deceitful, but only those who are registered in the Lamb’s scroll of life.) A prepared place for a prepared people.
• No flu shots in heaven. On earth, no perfect health. John (again describing gifted vision) “Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away...” (Rev. 21:4). No colds, fevers, pains, strokes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, infections, headaches, heartaches, backaches.
No handicap parking in heaven. No need for wheelchairs or canes, no one bowed down with the infirmities of old age.

• Consider reunions in heaven.
        “Goodbye” is a sad word in every language. No one likes to be parted from a loved one. Separation from a loved one is what causes us to be sad when death removes that loved one from us.
        In heaven there shall be no more death to separate us from those we love. We will be reunited with those who have gone before.

• See You Again

Paul B. (11/9/10)
Betty H. (11/17/10)
Gerry H. (11/23/10)
Dale W. (12/25/10)
Wayne M. (6/27/11)
Steve M. (7/12/11)
Deb S. (8/10/11)
Bill W. (8/14/11)
Tish R. (8/31/11)               

We bless your holy name, O God, for all your servants who, having finished their course, now rest from their labors. Give us grace to follow the example of their steadfastness and faithfulness, to your honor and glory; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

• Hymn 452 When We All Get To Heaven

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What Would You Do?

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Reformation Sunday

2 Corinthians 4:5-12
We preach not ourselves, but Jesus

What does a German farmer in Ephrata PA in 1790 have in common with a lawyer from Chicago in 1873? And what do they have in common with a young Israelite king from three millennia earlier? Wait and see.
• Reformation Sunday (Martin Luther's desire to lead a life and a church of scriptural faith and not human dogma).
United Methodist Heritage. I'm a John Wesley fan. And while Methodism traces its heritage back to JW, several different flavors of Methodism preceded today’s UMC…
Who remembers what CUMC was before 1968? CEUB. (68: Evangelical United Brethren + Methodist Episcopal Church)
How about before 1946? CUB. (46: Evangelical Association + United Brethren)
Anybody know any of the stories of origins of EA or UB?
From the city of York, Reformed pastor PW Otterbein and Lancaster Mennonite M. Boehm famously declared "We Are Brothers" at Long’s Barn in Lancaster PA in 1767.
Berks County layman Lutheran-turned-Methodist Jacob Albright, father of the Evangelical Association, 1800:
• Jacob Albright was that German PA farmer I mentioned earlier. A Lutheran by heritage, Albright went through a spiritual crisis in 1790 when three of his children died of dysentery. While death drives some people away from God, it drives others TO God. Though he found no solace in the Lutheran Church, Jacob Albright DID find comfort through some local UB and Methodist church groups. He dug into the fellowship, immersed himself in Bible study, and spent long periods in prayer, fasting, and self-denial, and was motivated to preach the word. He organized Bible studies and discipleship groups, and his groups elected him as the first overseer or bishop of the Evangelical Association in 1807.  He had turned in his grief to God, and God worked great life through his discipleship.
• We read from 2 Samuel 12 earlier in the service… While David’s son lives, David pleads to God for his son’s life, taking neither food nor comfort for a week. But when the child dies, David takes a shower, worships God, and eats.
• I bet you’re figuring out the connection to the Chicago lawyer in 1873…
Horatio Spafford had had a few great years in the 1860s. Newly married, a prominent lawyer with a fair amount of real estate in Chicago, his life took a turn for the worse when his only son died of scarlet fever in 1870. Then in 1871 the Chicago fire destroyed his properties, consuming his life savings. Then in 1873 while traveling to England follow evangelist Dwight Moody, the ship carrying his wife and four daughters (ages 11, 9, 5, 2) sank in the Atlantic. His wife was among the survivors.
What did Horatio Spafford do in his grief? First, he wrote the hymn It Is Well With My Soul, and then he and his wife moved to Jerusalem (yes, that Jerusalem) and started the American Colony, a religious society and mission which served the needy of the community for three quarters of a century.
• I am amazed and inspired by the stories of these men, who, by the grace of God, in the midst of personal tragedy, turned to God in discipleship. I see in their lives the understanding that yes, death impacts our world, but God is greater, and while we yet have life and breath, we can serve and praise God. For we have something great, something priceless, and it’s not something physical or worldly, it is the love of God which calls us into mission and works our healing along the way.
Your life is a gift, it is not something you own. All life around you is a gift. And the greatest gift is the invitation to eternal life, life without death, life without suffering, life in and through God’s son Jesus Christ. So use the gift of your life to point to the greatest gift.
• Hymn 493 It Is Well With My Soul

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Loving People

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 22:34-46
Jesus tells the greatest commandment

• Charge Conference last week. District Superintendent Gary Nicholson shared about The United Methodist Church's mission statement (to make disciples of all nations, for the transformation of the world). We celebrated the missions and ministries of Ctown UMC
                                                                                                          Gary also shared some inspiring thoughts with our Staff/Parish Relations Committee...
                                                                                                          Preferential seating: make sure guests and visitors have a place to comfortably slide in without directing attention to them.
Your territory: Each church leader has responsibility to "watch out" for the ones sitting nearby, check up on them when they're not around, etc.
2-minute rule: For two minutes after church, don't talk to people you already know; instead, seek out new people to talk to.
Each one reach one Each member of the church focus on reaching one new person in a year and disciple-ing them.

Last week Deb K. presented a children's message in which she was dressed as a homeless person and she reported how well people actually received her. (we didn't do too good).

Gary’s virus scenario: Suppose there was a virus in the neighborhood (aka sin) and it guaranteed to infect and kill everybody and you learned of the antidote (Jesus). Would you wait for infected folks to knock on your door to give them the antidote or would you knock on their door to offer it?

1 Thessalonians 2:4, 8:   4We have been examined and approved by God to be trusted with the good news, and that’s exactly how we speak. ... 8We were glad to share not only God’s good news with you but also our very lives because we cared for you so much.

Closing Hymn: insert As A Fire is Meant for Burning

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Does God Care What We Wear?

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 22:1-14
A man invites many to a wedding banquet, but throws out one who is "not wearing the wedding garment."

First things first: What’s up with the invitation?
                                                                                                          Jesus has been speaking to the religious leaders, several parables back-to-back about how God’s invitation to the people of Israel has been rejected by Jewish lay and leadership alike, and that some of the initially invited (ii) even killed the messengers.
                                                                                                          Why did the ii reject the invitation? They had other things to do, they put other things first. Perhaps they took the invitation for granted. The passion of the early days was gone.
                                                                                                          Therefore the King invites everybody else.  Those who formerly had no invitation (the Gentiles) are now invited.
• Twenty centuries later, we Gentiles easily forget that we’re not the initially invited. We fall into complacency and a sense of entitlement (which is not unlike the downfall of the initially invited).

• Part 2: What’s up with the wedding clothes?
If part 1 is about invitation expansion, part 2 is about invitation acceptance.
It’s not so much about a wedding party, but about dressing the part.
It’s not so much about what do your clothes look like, but what impression do you leave on people? When people look at you do they see a person transformed by God, or is there nothing visible in you that marks you as belonging to God?

Story: There was a heavyset woman who went to an exercise and diet clinic. The first thing the supervisor did was draw a silhouette on a mirror in the shape she wished to become. As she stood before the mirror, she bulged out over the silhouette. The instructor told her, “Our goal is for you to fit this shape. We recommend this routine of diet and exercise.”
  For many weeks the woman dieted and exercised. Each week she would stand in front of the mirror, but her volume, while decreasing, still overflowed. But she persevered in her recommended diet and exercise routine. Finally one day, to everyone’s delight, as she stood in front of the mirror she was conformed to the image of the silhouette.
& when she went forth, she was a woman transformed, clothed in habits of healthy living.

• Galatians 3:26-27: You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.
                                                                                                          Pictures of [laborer, runner, doctor, dancer] (tell by clothes)
                                                                                                          Picture of Christian (tell by actions)
• Colossians 3:12-17:
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Knowing Jesus

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
World Communion Sunday

Philippians 3:4b-14

What excites Paul:
His impeccable credentials do not earn him righteousness with God. (that’s bad news except for the fact that righteousness is given to him, and that is good news.)
Any righteousness he has is God’s.
Any righteousness he has comes from knowing Christ and becoming like him. (and knowing Christ is eternal life, John 17:3)

• What excites me:
Story from Luke 24, Easter afternoon, 2 disciples headed home from Jerusalem, encounter with resurrected Jesus, who spends time with them and breaks bread with them   and in the breaking of the bread their eyes were opened and they recognized him (Luke 24:30+).

• What excites Jesus:
Relationship with you.
In communion, Jesus says, "I have a gift for you... I give to you my righteousness, in the form of the sacrifice of my own self for you.  Remember my sacrifice in somberness, yes, and celebrate my gift in joyful worship. Love me and learn me as though you were consuming me, let me sustain you like my Father sustained your fathers in the wilderness, let me be in you and in many so that many can be saved and many can be one, one with me and one with my Father."

World Communion Sunday arose out of a time of suffering in American history, the Great Depression, between the great world wars.  A Presbyterian pastor from Pittsburgh sought to do something both real and symbolic to proclaim that God is God indeed, in spite of politics, economics and future shock... in spite of suffering beyond our comprehension.  The idea spread slowly but grew as its message of interconnectedness in Christ was picked up by churches and nations.  Through a unique kind of suffering, Jesus Christ offered himself for the reconciliation and redemption of the world, and across denomination and border and time we proclaim together that God is worthy of our praise, and that in all that we do, we, the children of God, need God every hour.     

Hymn: In the Breaking of the Bread

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Thankful Tithe

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Stewardship / Financial Commitment Sunday

Genesis 28:10-22
God blesses Jacob in a vision ("Jacob's Ladder") and Jacob responds in worship and offering.

 Some statistics on the Bible and money… 500 verses on prayer, 500 on faith. 2,000 on money and possessions. Nearly half of Jesus’ parables, and 1 out of 10 gospel verses. 
• Take out page of scripture. Genesis 27 Jacob tricks Esau out of birthright and blessing by lying to dying father. Esau makes plans to kill Jacob (27:41). Rebekah sends Jacob off to her brother’s land 500 miles away (here to Montreal). It’s his first night running away. He receives a dream /vision / visit from God, who tells him I will protect you, I will multiply you, I will bring you back. Jacob’s response? Awesome. I will give you 1/10 of what I have.
(Two generations before, his grandfather Abram had given a similar spontaneous offering of a tenth of his resources in response to a divine blessing.)
Jacob’s motive? Thanksgiving to God. Praise, worship.
• Nearly 2,000 years after Jacob’s visit from the Lord and his spontaneous tithe, the author of the NT book of Hebrews recounts in chapter 7 how the tithe became standard, a way for one who loved God to honor God as well as a way of funding the Temple and the priesthood.
• These are some of the scriptures that have led the church across generations and millennia to teach the practice of the tithe as the standard giving for the faith practice of the Christian. (The UMC believes that tithing – setting aside of one-tenth of one’s income for God – is a biblical standard for the lives of disciples. The UMC expects its pastors and its members to tithe faithfully.)
• One of the radio stations I listen to is 88.7 WXPN, a member-supported public radio station of the University of Pennsylvania, and this past week was WXPN’s annual membership drive... They dedicated maybe a quarter of their broadcast time during this drive to tell their listeners about the benefits listeners receive for the free service, and how pledges of even as little as a dollar a day sustain the service.
The tithe is a way a Christian acknowledges that “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it...” Giving a tithe is like paying rent to God for living off his bounty.
• Tithe is personal investment in Great Commission of Matthew 28... If the church is about the business of going into all the world, baptizing and teaching, a person who tithes is saying I’m part of that.
• Tithing is a way of putting trust in the Lord. One time the disciples said to Jesus, Increase our faith. I imagine God saying: "I can think of a way to increase faith... give up some of your resources. I will help you rely not on your own devices but on me... "
• Tithing has the unexpected blessing of increasing joy. As an act of worship there’s an excitement about it, like Jacob when he awoke after his divine visit from the Lord.
• A Christian tithes to demonstrate love for God, to demonstrate that God comes first... "I love you, Lord, you get my firstfruits."
• Look in today's bulletin and you’ll see some 2011 budget info... the annual budget that provides for the mission and ministries of our church as well as our denominational support comes out to about $4400 a week. For most of 2011 we’ve come short of that mark.
The sad truth is, if every member of the church faithfully tithed (gave ten percent of their income), we wouldn’t have a budget deficit, we’d have a surplus.
Something like 5% of American adults tithe, and a Barna report shows that at best overall less than a quarter of Christians tithe (that’d be about 35 of the people in this room right now).  Average offering is not even half of that, it’s around 2.5%.  FYI I don’t know who does or doesn’t. I tithe & The UMC believes the practice to be biblical and the starting place for Christian giving.
• I invite you to consider tithing, or to commit to step towards tithing.  Maybe you're not ready to commit today, okay, take sheet home, talk and pray, talk and pray with trusted friends or with your pastor.
If you are uncomfortable filling sheet out because people will figure out your income, don’t fill in your name. or fill in your name and indicate whether you’re tithing or moving towards tithing.
• I invite you to join me...

• Response to the Word: Financial commitment cards and Offering

Heavenly Father, we acknowledge you as the giver of every good and perfect gift. We praise you for your generosity and kindness toward us. We rejoice over your grace as the basis of your dealings with us. Help us to recognize how blessed we are so that we might be moved by love in serving you. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ready For Action

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
New Members received today, also Commitment Cards
and it's the tenth anniversary of September 11th.

1 Peter 1:13-25
We are given some words about holy living

 Today is about saying Yes to God,
Yes to God the Father, Yes, God, I will listen to you, Yes, I will obey, Yes, I will learn from you. Yes, I will let you set the course for my life.

Yes to God the Son, Yes, I will follow you, Yes, I confess you are Lord and savior and I need you and I love you, Yes, I will love as you loved, Yes, I will give of myself as you gave of yourself, Yes, I receive your forgiveness and I will forgive others

Yes to God the Spirit. Yes, I will pray as you move me, Yes, I will listen for your still small voice amongst the clamoring noises of the world, Yes, I accept the freedom and power you give me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression, Yes, I accept your encouragement and your marching orders.

• Why yes? Why Ready ourselves for Action?
For the same reason that firefighters and emergency responders are honored today, b/c they put their life on the line for others.... not knowing whether they will survive or not, not knowing whether they’ll successfully deal with the emergency to which they’re responding. And FFs&ERs don’t stop being FFs&ERs when they’re off duty, just like you don’t stop being a Christian when you aren’t in this building... they go forth as public servants and representatives. 

• Why yes? Why Ready ourselves for Action? b/c the Lord Jesus Christ put his life on the line for humankind,
        Knowing he’d be rejected by his people
        Knowing he’d be turned down countless times
        Knowing he’d suffer and die
        And knowing that YOU are worth it...
          knowing that he could set you free

Live in this way, knowing that you were not liberated by perishable things like silver or gold from the empty lifestyle you inherited from your ancestors. Instead you were liberated by the precious blood of Christ, like that of a flawless, spotless lamb. (1 Peter 1:18-19).

• When Jesus ascended into heaven after his resurrection, the angels gathered around, in all kinds of wonder... “Lord, you suffered terribly down there. Do the people understand how much you sacrificed for them? Do they know how great your love for them is?”

No, not yet. Just a handful of people know right now.
“Well how will you let everyone know?”
I’ve asked a P,J,&J, and a few others to spread the news. They’ll tell others, who will tell others, who will take the message to the ends of the earth.
Knowing the nature of human beings, the Angel Gabriel said, “What's your Plan B? If you want the message spread, I’ll go...”
There is no plan B... I’m counting on them.

Twenty centuries later, there is still no plan B. Jesus is counting on you and me...

• Response to the Word: Commitment cards and Offering

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Body Work

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost
Scripture: Matthew 18:15-20

• A man dies and goes to heaven. As St. Peter was giving him a tour, he pointed out one particular building where you could hear the music and shouts of praise.  "That's the independent church," explained St. Peter. "They are glorifying Jesus. Good stuff."
As the tour continued, they walked by another church that was filled with excitement and praise.  "That's the UCC church," explained Peter.  "They love to praise God, too."
As they continued touring, St. Peter suddenly indicated that they needed to go quietly by the next church: "That's the Methodist Church," he said. "They think they're the only ones here."

(Hey, if it's a potentially disparaging joke, I might as well place the shame on me, right?)

There will be perfect unity in heaven, as all will happily sing glory to the Lamb.

• Matthew 18 is about unity on earth and in the church. Reconciliation and humility.

• The mission of The United Methodist Church is to "Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."  Everything The UMC does is to that goal.

The mission statements of some of the churches I know. Their mission statements are known and owned by the members, and everything they do is to the goal of living their missions...
 - Making gentle a bruised world.
 - Invite, Embrace, Empower

• What is our mission in Ctown?
Something we work towards together, gives glory to God, defines our purpose in Ctown, part of every thing we do.
Over next weeks and months I hope to examine our mission together.
Therefore Next week: commitment Sunday: how will YOU be involved in the life of CUMC?

May our worship services and the ministries and missions we are involved in bring about reconciliation and transformation

• Hymn 286 Blessed Be the Tie That Binds

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mind the Gap

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
Scripture: Matthew 16:21-28
Jesus tells followers to pick up their cross and follow him

• One night a man had a dream...  Jesus said I want you to be my disciple and the man agreed eagerly. Jesus gave man cross to carry, selected specifically for him. About 8 feet tall, and heavy and rough. The man's eagerness fades. After carrying it for a while, the man asked Jesus, "Can you do something about the splinters?" Jesus looked at the man with compassion and made it smooth. The man was pleased that Jesus was so kind to him.
 Now it’s smooth, he carries it for a while, but it's still very heavy... Jesus, could you make my cross lighter? Jesus looked at the man with compassion and made it lighter. The man was pleased that Jesus was so kind to him.
Now it's smooth and light, but still about 8 feet tall. The man says, "Jesus, my cross keeps dragging on the ground, and it makes me hunch over so. Could you make it smaller?" Jesus looked at the man with compassion and made it smaller. The man was pleased that Jesus was so kind to him.
 They come to a chasm, about 8 feet across. Jesus takes his own cross, still large and heavy and rough, and it perfectly spans the gap, allowing him to cross over safely, but the disciple’s cross, which had been exactly what he needed, has been rendered useless.
• Last week’s reading from Matthew gave us Peter confessing Jesus as the Christ, and this week Jesus points out that there is a cost to being the Christ and there’s a cost to being a disciple: Whoever would be a disciple must deny themselves and pick up cross and follow Jesus, and Jesus’ path is going to crucifixion.
• Being a disciple means trusting that God knows what is best for you, and submitting your will to his. It means being a student of Jesus, studying him and learning from him and seeking to be like him.  Being a disciple means letting Jesus set your priorities – what you do with your time, your resources, your energy.
• In two weeks we’re going to receive several people into the membership of this church. Several folks will stand before you as we all confess our faith, and together we all commit to participate in the life of the church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness.
That means that as a disciple in this congregation, we’re asked to be in active and regular prayer for our church, for its members, for its leaders, for its ministries, for our vision.
We’re asked to show up, be present!  Not only at worship services, but at events and meetings...
We’re expected to participate in the life of the church financially. Methodists together with many Christian denominations teach and uphold that God asks his followers to tithe... The Church expects pastors to "teach and model generous Christian giving with a focus on tithing as God’s standard of giving."  The ways in which we choose to earn, give, save, and spend money are really spiritual decisions. When our first decision is one of giving, we place a greater level of trust in God. We begin by saying, "Thank you God! All that we have received is a blessing from you." We acknowledge that we worship God and not money! Giving frees us from the bondage that money can have over our lives. Tithing encourages us to focus on God as the source of our strength, rather than our own achievements or financial assets. Tithing leads to spiritual growth.
As disciples, we’re expected to participate in the life of the church through our service, offering ourselves and our talents to the ministries and missions and maintenance of the church.
And as disciples we are representatives of God wherever we go...
• Hymn 358 I Am Thine O Lord

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Who Do You Say That I Am?

Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
Scripture: Matthew 16:13-20
Peter answers that Jesus is the Christ

  There's a story about Elvis, whose fans shouted out "You are the King!" And Elvis responded “I sing for the King, and his name is Jesus Christ”  In front of fawning fans and unashamed of his faith. Who do you say that I am?
  I'm doing a wedding on Friday... when that man and that woman say “I take you as my wife / husband” they are agreeing to order their lives by that relationship. It means they’ll make decisions together, or with their partner in mind, decisions about finances and activities. It means they’ll control their urges and desires and take care to be in frequent communication with each other. They will live as representatives of each other. They commit to each other.
  When you move you give over ALL your house keys, and expect former owners to do the same.
      So it is when we confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
      We invite Jesus to be Lord of life, we say I surrender all, I give you control, I give you the keys not just to some of the rooms of my life but ALL the rooms. There is nothing I will keep hidden from your influence. I will seek your will in the choices I make, in the words I say, in the company I keep and in the activities we undertake, in the way I use my money and in the way I treat other people, in the way I drive and the way I text, the way I wait in line at the grocery store and the way I order my life. I will submit my life and resources and decisions to thy control.
      I will be in frequent communication with you and I will live as your representative. I will align my passions and desires with yours. Without shame I will confess you as my Lord.
  Jesus asks Who do you say that I am? Peter: The Christ, the Son of the Living God. The Anointed One, the Messiah, God’s prophet, priest, and king
  After this passage Jesus lets disciples know two things: what the Christ will do (suffer and die and be raised again) and what disciples will do (deny self, pick up cross)
      (but that’s next week)
Prayer (Lord, reign in me... over all my dreams, in my darkest hour... over every thought/word, may my life reflect the beauty of my Lord)

• Song Lord Reign In Me

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Have a Heart

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: Matthew 15:10-20
Jesus speaks about what makes a person clean or not

(I showed this clip from Meet the Family, Ben Stiller saying grace)
  On saying grace. No right or wrong, don’t get me wrong, but grace for sake of grace is lacking life.
Are you thankful? How do you show it?
Children show it well...

  Actions speak louder than words. Actions reveal heart.

God is interested in heart, therefore God is interested in combination of how we live our lives and why.

  in fact it can’t simply be HOW because then adherence to the LAW would be sufficient

  Jesus was new & upset some standards that had been carefully set up but which lacked relationship... grace for the sake of grace, instead of grace out of thanksgiving.

Without relationship the Law is devoid of life.

Actions reveal heart

  We are 9 years away from centennial (8/29/20)

It will be our ability to indicate our heart with our actions,
Our ability to live in relationship (w/ God, w/ eachother, w/ community)
That will take us with strength into 2nd 100 years

  & as we move forward we must consciously examine our practices and how they reveal our heart – our decisions as individuals and as a congregation must connect to our heart, our reason for being the congregation of CUMC

What practices? Prayer force, missions, choirs, ministries, vbs...

Reveal what about our heart? Love & thanksgiving to God, service to community

  Jesus’ message is clear: if we are participants in kingdom of God, God conforms our hearts and our hearts inform our actions. Lives transformed.  Hearts right.

May the actions we undertake reveal our hearts, continually molded shaped conformed to God.

• Hymn 271 Standing on the Promises

Worship attendance: 150