Sunday, January 26, 2014


On Matthew 4:12-25, Jesus invites Simon and Andrew, James and John to follow him
Third Sunday after the Epiphany

D'ya ever do anything spontaneously? How do you decide? 
My spontaneous things usually have to do with directions... sometimes it works out real well, sometimes not, but that's another story. 
Nevertheless I daresay folks might often say that the Spirit led them...

 • Yesterday morning at Trinity Episcopal for Marshall Medical Outreach and food/clothing/whathaveyou distribution. I had a great conversation with a biker named Larry who was an organizer. Folks tell him “I want to do something.” “Look around. Find something that needs doing that you can do, then do it.” 9 yrs, weekly. Spirit led.
I'll sometimes say when things go wrong, my fault; when things go well, Spirit.
People sometimes talk about finding God, but today's reading shows that God finds people... Jesus walking along the sea, sees Simon and Andrew fishing, fishing, not looking for a master, fishing, doing their job, maybe what they were called to do... Jesus comes into their lives, in the midst of what they normally do, says “follow me,” and they stop what they're doing and follow him. What prompted them? Authority? Aura? Spirit?
Whatever case may be, God initiates contact, God invites participation.
As God did with Adam&Eve in the garden, tend the earth, I give you everything for good... God initiates and invites.
As God did with Moses, didn't need Moses to talk to Pharaoh, perfectly capable of leading ppl by cloud and fire but initiates and invites Moses' participation.
God wants to work with people. God did, and God does today.
God initiates contact, and God invites participation
(look at Matthew 4:23-25)
The invitation to follow Jesus is not sedentary neither is it part-time ... Jesus not only wants us to live (John 10:10) but to go
live (rhymes with hive).
Jesus leads the disciples among outcasts, not so much established folks, to equalize position, to raise up the low, to elevate the poor and untouchable.
Where Jesus leads disciples, lives should be improved.
Good news is because of Jesus life can/will get better / be redeemed.
Because of Jesus, there is redemption,both redemption to come, and redemption in the here and now.

So. Look around, and do.
God calls you, invites you, sends you, redeems you.
And so invites redemption into the world.

Hymn 396 O Jesus I Have Promised

Sunday, January 19, 2014

For Sale or Sold Out?

on Matthew 4:1-11
Human Relations Day Sunday in The UMC
This Sunday, January 19th, is the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, as well as “Human Relations Day” Sunday, one of The UMC's special offering Sundays. Special offerings received will be used by The UMC to assist ministries helping to overcome injustice and empower the oppressed. Find out more at

• A man offers woman $1,000,000 to sleep with him... she agrees. He then says, “Would you do it for $5?” The woman replied, “What kind of person do you think I am?” The man answered, “We've already established that, now we're just haggling over the price.”
• We have read in Matthew 4 an account of Jesus' temptations, but we see that Jesus could not be bought, not by $5, not by $1,000,000... nothing the devil offered was able to sway Jesus, buy him, veer him from his path...
The temptations are not particularly evil; we need to eat and we do rely on God's protection, and if we had great power we could do great good things...The devil wants to do whatever it takes to buy you, to get you off God's path of righteousness and justice. And one of the things we find in this passage is a model for dealing with temptation.
• Jesus knows his path:
1) He was led by the Spirit, and 2) he spent 40 days in the wilderness thinking about it. He was disciplined, sold out to God... He wasn't for sale.
He knew who he was, whose he was, and what he was called to do.
• Jesus was grounded in scripture. The word was a part of him.
• In addition to providing a model for dealing with temptation, we see in Jesus the redemption of the story of Moses and the children of Israel: Jesus went into the wilderness (so Moses) for 40 days (so Moses 40 yrs) after going through water (Jesus' baptism, Moses crossing the Red Sea). Both were hungry, but where the children of Israel complained, the Son of God said “I rely on God.” And where children of Israel turned and worshiped an idol of their own making, the Son of God refused to worship the devil. Where the children of Israel failed to keep covenant with God, the Son of God refused to break that covenant, and in his discipline, obedience, and submission, in his perfect Sonship we find redemption.
Jesus knew who he was and whose he was,
and what he was called to do.

• I learned recently about a social experiment some students did on a college campus. (you can find it online at They wanted to see how people would respond to witnessing bullying, so they would stage fights right in front of people. One person did nothing, just let the fight proceed. Some people saw the fight and hurried away. A few people intervened. Whenever possible, the guys that were fighting tried to ask the people why they responded the way they did, and there were pretty much two common responses: “I didn't want to get involved” or “I couldn't sit by and let that happen.”
The people that didn't want to get involved: they sold their integrity for fear and for personal comfort... the people that intervened: they said with their words and their actions, I won't let my fear of getting hurt stop me from doing the right thing, I won't let my fear of what other people might think stop me from using the power I have to stop an abuse.
• We see in this experiment and in the temptation of Jesus that we are called to use the power we have for good, for God, for community, and that our identity and our abilities are given by God for good, for God, and for community.
• We see in the temptation of Jesus that being completely sold out to God, committed to God means that our actions and reactions will show who we are and whose we are, and that when our identities are rooted in God and nurtured in his word, we will live lives that are beneficial to others and pleasing to God.

• We have something of a mission statement at First Church, and if it isn't part of the fabric of our lives (as the word was part of the fabric of Jesus' life), I hope that it would become part of us in 2014: 

to share the love of God with people in a hurting world.

We also fall under the umbrella of The UMC, whose mission is 

to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

• What have these mission statements to do with the temptation of Jesus? These two things: that when we know who we are and whose we are, when our principles and values are not for sale but we are sold out to God and grounded in his word, that we will stay on the path God has for us, (to share... to make disciples)
and that as disciples of Jesus Christ we will actively use our God-given powers and abilities to further the kingdom of God.

• To God be the glory. Amen.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Place to Start

Baptism of the Lord Sunday
First Sunday after the Epiphany
on Matthew 3:13-17, with Isaiah 42:1-9

• Remember homework? I used to wonder how well Jesus did in school.
When I took Chemistry in high school, I used to bet a quarter with a few friends (who were in the top ten of the class...) on who would get the lowest quiz grade. I usually won the bet.

Imagine my surprise when I went to college and chose to major in chemistry!

Then I got a job teaching chemistry lab. I was a good chemistry teacher because I remembered what it was like not to understand. I would study the night before so I understood what I was teaching. I even recorded my lectures a few times, to better connect with students, better understand the student point of view.

• In a way, this is what it means for Jesus to be Emmanuel, God with us.
• There was so much that Jesus didn’t have to do but he chose to do. This is the way it should be done, he said. This is what God wants. Jesus' life was an example of what God wants in humanity.

• The first step in discipleship (after birth) is baptism.

John the Baptist was astounded: I should be baptized by you, Jesus, I should be cleansed and purified and initiated by you.

John the Baptist had a limited understanding of baptism. Jesus literally immersed himself in humanity, received immersion by John the Baptist in order to fully connect with humankind. For Jesus, part of being fully human was receiving baptism. & in his baptism, John the Baptist's understanding of baptism expanded.

• for John the Baptist, baptism was a mark of repentance, a symbol of a changed life marked by immersion in water, cleansing. 

• Jesus meets John the Baptist where he is, on his level...

And heaven opens, the Holy Spirit descends, and God says Atta Boy, Jesus.

• Through the sacrament of baptism, as for Jesus...

- Heaven is opened. We have direct access to God. Nothing shall separate us.

- We receive the Holy Spirit. The word for spirit is directly related to the word for breath, inspiration. What better way of living Emmanuel than receiving inspiration/breath from God. We are empowered to do the will of God, thy will be done.

- Identity is declared. You belong to me. I am yours and you are mine. You belong to God. You bring pleasure to God.

• The scripture reading ends there, in fact the chapter ends there, but the final thing is related to what we receive in baptism: after his baptism, Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, goes. Goes into the wilderness. Prepares spiritually and mentally for ministry and mission.
How wonderful and how amazing is the incarnation and inspiration of Jesus, who chose to be like us so we could become like him.

"Down by the Jordan"
a hymn by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette (2000)
to the tune of “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”
Down by the Jordan, a prophet named John was baptizing,
Preaching a message the people found bold and surprising:
"God will forgive! Show that you'll change how you live!
Surely God's new day is rising!"
There by the river, the crowd came with great expectation:
"Are you God's Chosen One, sent here to rescue our nation?"
"No!" John replied. "He who is mightier than I
Judges and offers salvation."
Jesus, you went to be baptized with all of the others,
Taking your place among sinners, God's lost sons and daughters.
Then with great love, God's Spirit came as a dove!
Your work began in those waters.
Here in the Church, we are baptized and filled with God's Spirit.
Freed and forgiven, we're welcomed with joy! Can you hear it?
This is God's sign! This is how God says, "You're mine!"
Let's take the good news and share it!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

John Wesley Covenant Renewal Service

John Wesley's Covenant Renewal Service,
adapted from The United Methodist Book of Worship

Christmas greetings in the name of the One who was born in Bethlehem: Jesus! We welcome you to the service today, and pray that you experience the loving and active presence of God in our midst this morning.

Today we will be sharing in John Wesley’s Covenant Renewal Service as we re-dedicate our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service to Almighty God, with hope, confidence, and humility, seeking God’s blessings in 2014. Our hope and prayer is that you will keep this bulletin as a reminder of your covenant with God.

*OPENING HYMN: “Come, Let Us Use the Grace Divine” No. 606
(Charles Wesley wrote this hymn specifically for this service)

O God, Searcher of all our hearts,
you have formed us as a people and claimed us for your own.
As we come to acknowledge your sovereignty and grace,
and to enter anew into covenant with you,
reveal any reluctance or falsehood within us.
Let your Spirit impress your truth on our inmost being,
and receive us in mercy,
for the sake of our Mediator, Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(David Tripp, England, 20th Century)

Let us give thanks for all of God's mercies.

O God, our Covenant Friend,
you have been gracious to us through all the years of our lives.
We thank you for your loving care,
which has filled our days and brought us to this time and place.

We praise your holy name, O God.

You have given us life and reason,
and set us in a world filled with your glory.
You have comforted us with family and friends,
and ministered to us through the hands of our sisters and brothers.

We praise your holy name, O God.

You have filled our hearts with a hunger after you,
and have given us your peace.
You have redeemed us, and called us to a high calling in Christ Jesus.
You have given us a place in the fellowship of your Spirit
and the witness of your Church.

We praise your holy name, O God.

You have been our light in darkness
and a rock of strength in adversity and temptation.
You have been the very Spirit of joy in our joys
and the all–sufficient reward in all our labors.

We praise your holy name, O God.

You remembered us when we forgot you.
You followed us even when we tried to flee from you.
You met us with forgiveness when we returned to you.
For all your patience and overflowing grace,

We praise your holy name, O God.

2 Chronicles 34:29-33
John 15:1-8

2 Chronicles 34:29-33 Common English Bible

29 King Josiah sent a message and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30 Then the king went up to the Lord’s temple, together with all the people of Judah and all the citizens of Jerusalem, the priests and the Levites, and all the people, young and old alike. There the king read out loud all the words of the covenant scroll that the high priest Hilkiah had found in the Lord’s temple. 31 The king stood in his place and made a covenant with the Lord that he would follow the Lord by keeping his commandments, his instructions, and his regulations with all his heart and all his being, in order to fulfill the words of the covenant that were written in this scroll. 32 Then he made everyone found in Jerusalem and Benjamin join in a similar promise. The citizens of Jerusalem lived according to the covenant made with God, the God of their ancestors. 33 Josiah got rid of all the detestable idols from all the regions that belonged to the Israelites, and he made everyone who lived in Israel serve the Lord their God. As long as Josiah lived, they didn’t turn away from following the Lord God of their ancestors.

John 15:1-8 Common English Bible

15 Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ,
the Christian life is redeemed from sin and consecrated to God.
Through baptism, we have entered this life
and have been admitted into the new covenant
of which Jesus Christ is the Mediator.
He sealed it with his own blood, that it might last for ever.

On the one side, God promises to give us new life in Christ,
the Source and Perfecter of our faith.
On the other side, we are pledged
to live no more for ourselves but only for Jesus Christ,
who loved us and gave himself for us.

From time to time we renew our covenant with God,
especially when we reaffirm the Baptismal Covenant
and gather at the Lord's table.

Today, however, we meet, as the generations before us have met,
to renew the covenant that binds us to God.
Let us make this covenant of God our own.


Commit yourselves to Christ as his servants.
Give yourselves to him, that you may belong to him.
Christ has many services to be done.
Some are more easy and honorable,
others are more difficult and disgraceful.
Some are suitable to our inclinations and interests,
others are contrary to both.
In some we may please Christ and please ourselves.
But then there are other works where we cannot please Christ
except by denying ourselves.
It is necessary, therefore,
that we consider what it means to be a servant of Christ.

Let us, therefore, go to Christ, and pray:

Let me be your servant, under your command.
I will no longer be my own.
I will give up myself to your will in all things.

Be satisfied that Christ shall give you your place and work.

Lord, make me what you will.
I put myself fully into your hands:
put me to doing, put me to suffering,
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and with a willing heart
give it all to your pleasure and disposal.

Christ will be the Savior of none but his servants.
He is the source of all salvation to those who obey.
Christ will have no servants except by consent;
Christ will not accept anything except full consent
to all that he requires.
Christ will be all in all, or he will be nothing.

Confirm this by a holy covenant.

To make this covenant a reality in your life, listen to these admonitions:

First, set apart some time, more than once,
to be spent alone before the Lord;
in seeking earnestly God's special assistance
and gracious acceptance of you;
in carefully thinking through all the conditions of the covenant;
in searching your hearts
whether you have already freely given your life to Christ.
Consider what your sins are.
Consider the laws of Christ, how holy, strict, and spiritual they are,
and whether you, after having carefully considered them,
are willing to choose them all.
Be sure you are clear in these matters, see that you do not lie to God.

Second, be serious and in a spirit of holy awe and reverence.

Third, claim God's covenant,
rely upon God's promise of giving grace and strength,
so you can keep your promise.
Trust not your own strength and power.

Fourth, resolve to be faithful.
You have given to the Lord your hearts,
you have opened your mouths to the Lord,
and you have dedicated yourself to God.
With God's power, never go back.

And last, be then prepared to renew your covenant with the Lord.
Fall down on your knees, lift your hands toward heaven,
open your hearts to the Lord, as we pray:


O righteous God, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
see me as I fall down before you.
Forgive my unfaithfulness in not having done your will,
for you have promised mercy to me
if I turn to you with my whole heart.

God requires that you shall put away all your idols.

I here from the bottom of my heart renounce them all,
covenanting with you that no known sin 
shall be allowed in my life.
Against your will, I have turned my love toward the world.
In your power
I will watch all temptations 
that will lead me away from you.
For my own righteousness is riddled with sin,
unable to stand before you.

Through Christ, God has offered to be your God again if you would let him.

Before all heaven and earth,
I here acknowledge you as my Lord and God.
I take you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for my portion,
and vow to give up myself, body and soul, as your servant,
to serve you in holiness and righteousness 
all the days of my life.

God has given the Lord Jesus Christ
as the only way and means of coming to God.

Jesus, I do here, with humbled heart, accept Christ
as the only new and living Way,
and sincerely join myself in a covenant with him.

O blessed Jesus, I come to you,
hungry, sinful, miserable, blind, and naked,
unworthy even to wash the feet of your servants.
I do here, with all my power, accept you as my Lord and Head.
I renounce my own worthiness,
and vow that you are the Lord, my righteousness.
I renounce my own wisdom, and take you for my only guide.
I renounce my own will, and take your will as my law.

Christ has told you that you must suffer with him.

I do here covenant with you, O Christ,
to take my lot with you as it may fall.
Through your grace I promise
that neither life nor death shall part me from you.

God has given holy laws as the rule of your life.

I do here willingly put my neck under your yoke, 
to carry your burden.
All your laws are holy, just, and good.
I therefore take them as the rule 
for my words, thoughts, and actions,
promising that I will strive
to order my whole life according to your direction,
and not allow myself to neglect 
anything I know to be my duty.

The almighty God searches and knows your heart.

O God, you know that I make this covenant with you today
without guile or reservation.
If any falsehood should be in it, 
guide me and help me to set it aright.

And now, glory be to you, O God the Father,
whom I from this day forward shall look upon 
as my God and Father.
Glory be to you, O God the Son,
who have loved me and washed me from my sins 
in your own blood,
and now is my Savior and Redeemer.
Glory be to you, O God the Holy Spirit,
who by your almighty power 
have turned my heart from sin to God.

O mighty God, the Lord Omnipotent, 
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
you have now become my Covenant Friend.
And I, through your infinite grace, 
have become your covenant servant.
So be it.
And let the covenant I have made on earth 
be ratified in heaven.

You are advised to make this covenant not only in your heart, but in word; not only in word, but in writing. Therefore, with all reverence, lay the service before the Lord as your act and deed. And when you have done this, sign it. Then keep it as a reminder of the holy agreement
between God and you that you may remember it during doubts and temptations.

Hereunto I set my hand as a sign and a reminder of my covenant:

(sign here) (date)

*HYMN “My Jesus, I Love Thee” No. 364
(verses 1 and 4: William R. Featherstone, 1864)
(verses 2 and 3: Kerry W. Bart, 2002)

    1. My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine;
     For thee all the follies of sin I resign. 
     My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou; 

     If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’ts now.

    2. I love, Lord, to sing of thy marvelous birth! 

     Thou camest from Heaven to live here on earth. 

     With wise men and shepherds before thee I bow; 

     If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. 

    3. Thou cam’st on a wonderful night long ago; 

     A gift to God’s people, my Savior, I know. 

     At Christmas I celebrate; I offer this vow: 

     If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. 

    4. In mansions of glory and endless delight, 

     I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright; 

     I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow; 

     If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.


If you have read this far, 
and if you have any questions about Christianity, or United Methodism, 
or if you have any confession to make, 
or if you would like to be part of a United Methodist Church, 
or if you would like to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, 
or if you would like to talk about Baptism,
please let me know. 
You can email me at kerrfunk1 at gmail dot com

God bless you