Sunday, July 24, 2011

Christmas In July

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Scriptures: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Jesus' parables of surprising growth and joy

• Sometimes you can’t ignore an idea.
The wording of this parable (pearl of great price) and the joy of the kingdom and the timing (July 24th -- stores are having "Christmas in July") and I couldn't ignore the idea of Christmas in July

• The parable of treasure in a field, the parable of the fine pearl – both parables have a pattern of discovery followed by joy follwed by willing sacrifice and ordering of life.

The one may have stumbled upon the treasure -- not everybody is looking for treasure, not everyone is looking for God -- and on finding it, ordered his life to obtain that treasure. Imagine your friends, family members, co-workers who may not know God, may not be looking for God, imagine them starting to ask questions, and being there to guide them.

The pearl merchant was actively seeking. Some folks are actively seeking God. Imagine being there with them, encouraging them and guiding them as they ask questions about God.

• This church was born because of people in Palmyra and Lebanon who knew the treasure of God and wanted to share that treasure with the folks in Campbelltown. They ordered their priorites and their own treasure and their resources and their lives to build a church community and then a church. And like a little bit of yeast in flour the church grew.

1st preaching service: 1/25/20, Rev. Longenecker, municipal bldg
Charter service: 8/29/20, Rev. Rhoads. 75 in attendance, 14 became charter members.
1st service on this location: 1/16/21 in old tavern on this location

Because of ordinary folks who ordered their lives and worked hard to build kingdom.

• Movie illustration (part of that idea I couldn't shake): The Fourth Wise Man (1985, Martin Sheen, Alan Arkin). Artaban, a magi (peer of Balthazzar Caspar and Melchior) studies and predicts the birth of Messiah, and against advice and in spite of ridicule sells all and purchases a ruby, a sapphire and a pearl to give to the newborn king... Orders his life willingly and joyfully, in spite of hardship, seeking the king.

• What is your life’s goal? What motivates you to join a crowd on a hot day and part with your resources to maintain?

Jesus’ life goal: (to seek & save the lost, to give life abundant, incarnated and born to have relationship with you)

• some have given life to Christ. Live life for Christ.

• Christmas in July: tomorrow is 25th, 5 months til Christmas (153 days).

Say to folks tomorrow: It’s 153 days until Jesus’ birthday, and I was just wondering, do you know Jesus? Do you know what Christmas is all about? What does Christmas mean to you?

• Hymn Joy to the World

Uncomfortably warm (seven days of about 100 degrees)
so we had worship in the Social Hall
Worship Attendance: 127 (very crowded)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Sow Be It"

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Scriptures: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Jesus' parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat

• Kingdom living, what Jesus is talking about, is a funny line to walk, being in the world but not of it… Kingdom living requires humility, obedience, and discernment.

• The Parable of the Weeds Sown Among the Wheat. Jesus tells it, the disciples ask for an explanation. Last week we talked about our responsibility to sow seeds, invite people indiscriminately to experience the kingdom and about some ways to overcome some deterrents to the word. This week Jesus gets a little more specific about the different parts of the parable. Let’s take a look.

• In this telling, who’s responsible for sowing the seeds? (God. Specifically the Human One, the Son of Man, the Promised One, the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ.)

Anybody else? (The devil sows seeds too).

• Why does the Human One sow seeds? (for a harvest! For God’s own pleasure)

• What does the Human One sow? (good seeds, wheat, useful stuff. Followers of the kingdom)

• Then what? (weeds appear. We’re told they’re sown by the evil one, and they grow into followers of the evil one)

• Who notices? (the servants) What do they want to do? (get rid of the weeds). What do you think about that? (sounds reasonable) Why don’t they? (The sower, the Lord, says not to)

(by the way, has anyone ever grown wheat? The weed that Jesus mentions in this parable is called zizania in Greek, Lolium temulentum in Latin, and darnel or cockle or “false wheat” in English. It looks a lot like the real thing, until it matures, when it’s pretty easy to distinguish the weed from the wheat. And if the zizania is harvested and milled with the wheat it’ll ruin the flour.

So Jesus says Let the wheat and the weed grow together. He would rather the good seed grow with the weeds than the wheat be damaged by the removal of the weeds.

(by the way, that means that God chooses to allow good and evil to coexist in the world because the growth of the intended harvest is important)

Jesus says Let it grow, and other workers, reapers, angels will work the harvest and will separate the good from the bad.

• In the meanwhile, there’s a few things we can learn from the servants…

• Be eager to serve God.

• Be eager to learn. Understand that there are things beyond our knowledge, and that God appoints us tasks within our abilities…

• … therefore since our understanding is limited, while being eager to serve God and to learn, be slow to judge

• and be obedient to God.

• Jesus said in the sermon on the mount You shall know them by their fruits.

We cannot necessarily tell whether the “good Christian” is truly a good Christian or merely looks like one, but we trust God and we are obedient to God and we learn about the fruits of the Kingdom and look for those.

We can’t necessarily say that the one who does not come to church is “saved” or not, but we trust God and we are obedient to God and we look for the fruits of the kingdom.

• And you know what? Some things are best left to God, who is most capable…

And therefore I want to let God rule my life, let my decisions come from learning and obeying God’s will… Sow be it.

(pray for God’s spirit to reign in us so we’ll be found faithful disciples and bear kingdom fruit)

• Hymn 604 Savior Again to Thy Dear Love

Warm but comfortable.
Worship Attendance: 151

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"Sow Far, Sow Good"

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

• The Parable of the farmer, or the Sower. Mural on the wall of the cafeteria at the small private Lutheran elementary school I attended. I remember the plants, but it’s not about plants. We know that. Jesus explains the 120-word parable pretty quickly and concisely.

• First off, the seeds are the word of God (clearest in Luke 8:11 – Matthew’s is roundabout ... [the word t]hat was planted in their hearts, 13:19)

The word of God is the word of life, the invitation to abundant life, the promise and hope of forgiveness and reconciliation, the word is that life in and with loving relationship with God is infinitely better than life apart from God... THIS is the word that God seeks to plant and grow in people... any people, all people. The seeds are the word of God.

• Second thing Jesus tells us is that God’s word is not the only word out there – God’s word is in competition with any number of other things. Folks need to discern what they’re going to listen to, and it isn’t always going to be God – there are countless other advertisements and stations to direct our attention to, and if a person can’t clearly hear or understand The Word for all the interfering noise, ain’t no fruit gonna grow.

Also the Evil One is. There are forces out there designed to drown out the gospel.

• Another thing Jesus keys us into is the rocky soil where the word takes root quickly but lacks strong roots. When they experience distress or abuse, they fall away. “Wait a minute, following Jesus Christ means submitting my will to his? No thanks.” “I didn’t know it was going to be hard to be Christian... catch you later.” Or the ones who just silently fade into the background...

• Then Jesus tells of the thorny ground, the soil that grows everything well... fruits and weeds alike. Where the seeds on the path don’t get a chance to grow because of stress and distractions (and the evil one), the seeds on the thorny ground get a chance to test their wings but compete with other things that choke ’em out. “I don’t want to go to Bible study b/c I don’t have time, b/c there’s a game on, b/c I’ve got other things more important. I wish God would help me out here.”

• And of course Jesus tells of the good soil, where people hear and understand the word and they bear fruits of righteousness, a good and plentiful harvest, which is the point of sowing seeds in the first place.

• Jesus tells the parable and then explains it, but he leaves out one thing: who is the farmer? Who is sowing the seeds?

Well certainly on the one hand it’s God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, calling us as individuals and communities into new life, planting in us the seeds of abundant life and shalom.

But on the other hand, the seed-planter is you and it’s me. Remember the seed is the word of God, and the farmers, the seed-planters are those who are fulfilling God’s command to teach others.

The Parable of the Sower is a word to disciples, to those who love Jesus Christ and seek to be like him, to sow seeds far and wide. To Sow Far and Sow Good.

• Funny thing about seeds, though, is you have a certain quantity of them, a bushel or a packet or something, we think in limited ways, and you can run out of seeds. But not everything can be quantified like seeds... for example: I could give out smiles all day and never run out. I could give you a hug – I always keep one in this pocket – and still have a hug to give to the next person. You can share invitations and words of encouragment and words of kindness and not run out. When God the Sower allows seeds to fall on the path and the rocky soil and the thorny soil and the good soil, God’s not concerned about running out of seeds. We can share the word of God, the good news of God all day every day for the rest of our lives and not run out. So you don’t have to ration it. You don’t have to hold it back. It’s able to be given freely and in abundance.

• Funny thing about the farmer is that he doesn’t care where the seeds go, he just spreads the seeds, and THAT is where we limit ourselves the most. We look at a path and say “Not gonna bother spreading seed there, it’ll never get a chance to grow.” We look at a person and say “Not gonna bother telling them the good news, it’ll never grow in them.” !!! We look at rocky or thorny soil and say “why bother? This seed’ll never take root strong enough to withstand the wind or weeds.” Can you imagine saying that about people? “I won’t tell them about our prayer force or our mission trip or about how Jesus feeds my soul because they have too many other things going on, or because they told me they were raised in the church and they had a bad experience or they felt no connection...”

• You know what? TELL people why you come, tell people how you feel after worship or after a prayer meeting or a Bible study meeting, TELL people how you can’t explain it but you experience the peace of God when you gather in faith and when you commit to being there, TELL people how knowing Jesus makes a difference in your life, how he saves you, how he inspires you, how life with Jesus is infinitely better than life without.
Don’t answer for them before you tell ’em, TELL ’em.

• And thank God Jesus tells us of the deterrents. Gives us a chance to prepare. Somebody on the path, where the word has little chance to take root? Guide them to fertile soil by patient endurance. Are they on rocky soil? Nurture them with words of encouragement (unlimited). Surrounded by thorns and weeds? Pray WITH them, teach them spiritual discipline and accountability. Tell, guide, nurture, accompany, sow far and sow good. Bear fruit for God.

Prayer (opportunity, faithful witness, also nurture us)

• Hymn 270 Wonderful Words of Life

Comfortable temp today. praise band. powerpoint for entire service
142 in attendance

Sunday, July 3, 2011

It's Not About Me

Third Sunday after Pentecost
My first Sunday at Campbelltown UMC

Scriptures: Matthew 28:16-20 and Philippians 1:1-11

• A little girl was critically ill and was going to die unless she received a blood transfusion, but she had a rare blood type and the hospital had none. Her brother had the same blood type. The doctors asked him if he would be willing to give blood so that his sister might live. After a moment’s hesitation the young boy agreed.
As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing life and health coming into her body. Then the boy’s face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die soon?”
For the young boy had thought he was going to have to give his sister all his blood.
(Told in Chicken Soup for the Soul, and all over the internets…)

I appreciate this story for the boy’s Christ-like willingness to serve his sister, motivated by love, even though he didn’t know what he was getting himself into…

• I don’t know you but I love you. It is my calling and my desire to love and serve God while loving and serving you, the people of the Methodist church of Campbelltown, while together we love and serve the people of Ctown and the surrounding area. I am not here to be a Christian for you but to proclaim the word and equip you to witness to your faith, to offer guidance and perspective and sacramental presence.

• I am Kerry. Lover and a hoper. Lover of God and family (and biking running reading), perpetual hope of reconciliation in the world. Like Jesus I am fully human. Unlike Jesus I am not perfect in thought, word, or deed. I have victories over some temptations, and sometimes I don’t put up much of a fight. I strive to be Christlike in my living but I also struggle in maintaining spiritual and physical disciplines. I make mistakes. Do I sound familiar?
And oh, how I love Jesus.

• A few things I love about Jesus:
- his love for people (particularly marginalized... least and lost)
- his love for God (prayer, unity)
- his love for me (a sinner. "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me")
- his desire & ability to set free... from all sorts of slaveries

• And though I’ve been talking about me, it’s not about me. (ministry. The church. The mission)

It’s about the glory of God, the grace and mercy shown us in Jesus Christ...

It's about forgiveness and reconciliation

It's about personal mission (mine and yours) to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them...

• To show love to the world and proclaim the peace and hope of God, even if we don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into...

(pray thanks for Holy Spirit, Philippians 1:9-11)
This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. I pray that you will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ, in order to give glory and praise to God.

• Hymn 296 We’ve A Story to Tell to the Nations

July 4th weekend
uncomfortably warm
132 in attendance

Friday, July 1, 2011


Hi, I'm Kerry
I'm a pastor in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church.

I earned a BA in Chemistry from Grinnell College in 1994
and a M.Div from Lancaster Theological Seminary in 2001.
I was ordained an elder in The UMC in 2005.

I ride a 1983 Suzuki GS 650 GL.
I run a half marathon every other year.
I read a lot of books.

I am happily married to Melissa and our daughter L. was born in 2003. L. got her good looks from me because Melissa still has hers.

I served the West Lawn United Methodist Church as POYAYAM from 2002 to 2006.
(POYAYAM is an ancient Aramaic word that means Pastor Of Youth And Young Adult Ministries)

After that I served as pastor of the Spring City United Methodist Church from 2006 to 2011.
(my sermons from that era can be found at

I served as pastor of the Campbelltown United Methodist Church from 2011 to 2013.

In 2013 I accepted the bishop's appointment to serve "on loan" as pastor of First United Methodist Church, in Barboursville, West Virginia, beginning October 1, 2013.

And this is my blog.

And you're reading it.

Don't read it quietly! Leave a comment!

And knock 'em alive :)

I love you and there's nothing you can do about it