Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sometimes God Meets Us In Unexpected Ways

• Resurrection Sunday
with John 20    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 4/21/19

• The year was 1969, the nation was in moral decline and it seemed best days were in the past, and a young pregnant couple was apprehensive. Was it right or good to bring child into this world?
Then one spring day like today, Bill’s father George pointed out something extraordinary in an ordinary thing: a blade of grass, poking up from a small crack in the pavement in a parking lot. Pushed aside layers of dirt, rock, and concrete to reach the sunshine of the world above. It had such a strong will to live, it overcame all odds to fulfill its destiny.
Became a beautiful symbol of hope and new life, and the couple found that in that single blade of grass, God had touched them.
Sometimes God meets us in unexpected ways.
• The year was 30, and the events of the past few days left their heads spinning, it had all happened so quickly. For a few years hope had been building up because of the life and teachings of Jesus, who so deftly exposed the false teachings of the religious leaders. Just a week ago they had been on top of the world, but they were still trying to figure out how and when things changed. A couple of nights ago Jesus had been arrested in the dark and tried in secret and illegally sentenced to death. Crucified dead and buried before we could even do it properly. Now that the sabbath was over there was at least the hope that they could properly care for the body.
Mary went early. Sees the stone gone. Runs to tell Peter.
Peter and John run to see. They see the grave clothes lying there.
They see and believe, though they still don’t understand.
Mary looks in again, sees angels.
Jesus appears behind Mary, and speaking her name, she recognizes him. She worships, and she tells the disciples I have seen the Lord.
Sometimes God meets us in unexpected ways.
• The year is now. We’ve all experienced loss. 20th anniversary of a particularly memorable school shooting. 900-yr-old church burned last week. This morning’s news of bombs set off amidst Easter services in Sri Lanka, death count over a hundred forty. Untold abuses and injustices.
And I would venture to say we’ve all had a friend tell us about meeting God in an unexpected way, a way that quickened them, gave them hope where there was none before. I daresay some of us have had God meet us in unexpected ways. God continues to call people and be present.
• If you have experienced the living God, tell.
If you have not, listen. Trust.
God is real, giver of hope and life, of grace and power.
There is no power greater,
and no darkness that can quench God’s light.
• The year was 1970. George pointed out a single blade of grass to Bill and Gloria, and Gloria wrote a poem about her renewed hope.
How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride, and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance,
this child can face uncertain day because He lives…
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
and life is worth the living just because He lives.
- Bill and Gloria Gaither

• Affirmation of Faith 888, then communion liturgy

John 20:11-18 (CEB)
11 Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. 13 The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” 14 As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus.
15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher).
17 Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her. ò

An Easter letter from Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball
Dear West Virginia Conference, The Lord is Risen!! Christ is Risen!!
What a wonderful blessing. What a wonderful proclamation for this Easter morning!
“I have seen the Lord!”- Mary Magdalene proclaimed on that first Easter morning. (John 20:18) It was unbelievable! It was unexpected! God broke into this world in an unexpected way. It was exciting! It was life-giving, not just for the moment but for generations to come.
Since the time that Mary Magdalene ran to meet the disciples exclaiming these words, Christians have proclaimed this good news: Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed! Hallelujah! – year after year, after year.
Throughout the centuries, across all human barriers, God’s power to bring resurrection—to bring new life, to heal what is broken, to mend what seems irreparably torn, to forgive what seems to be unforgivable, to redeem those whose lives appear to be unredeemable — is unexpected, exciting, powerful, hope-filled and indeed life-giving!
Over and over again, we who follow Jesus proclaim this good news because the story of salvation, of new life through Christ is not over! The Easter message, the Easter sighting, the Easter proclamation needs to be declared again and again for the people who still need to hear, whose lives still can be changed by this good news – In Christ - new life can be ignited, birthed, begun!
We have seen the Lord! We proclaim on this Easter Sunday! Come and see him—he will make all things new!
As Christians gather today and throughout the Easter season, may we carry this hope of Christ to all who need it—in our families, in our schools, our communities, at our jobs, in our work, in our play, and beyond—so that all might come to know the life-changing Easter proclamation of the love of God!
On this Easter Sunday and in this Easter season and beyond, I invite you and your congregation to recommit yourselves to spreading this very good news and Christ’s invitation to salvation and eternal life.
Hallelujah! Christ is risen! May we all be the conduits for others to also see the Lord so that they along with us might receive Christ’s life raising, lifesaving power!
Peace,     Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Cantata: Jesus Saves

First UMC and Barboursville Baptist combined for another community cantata the evening of Palm Sunday.

"Jesus Saves" by Mauldin and Smith

What Changed?

• Palm / Passion Sunday
with Luke 19 and 23    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 4/14/19

• Whichever gospel we read, we get the story of Jesus, healing, teaching, leading disciples, and heading towards Jerusalem. Always a step or two ahead.
Our district has a lead team to fulfill the duties of district, to encourage and propel ministry, to keep ever before us the mission to make disciples of Jesus.
We discuss discipleship, we pray for one another,
and we intentionally look for “glory sightings.”
• I shared a glory sighting this past week around some conversations I had:
What did Jesus do? What does it mean that Jesus saved us?
Why did he have to die? What changed after his coming?
• How might you address those questions?
How about If God really loves us why doesn’t he just forgive us?
Why sacrifice his son for people who reject God?
Consider Old Testament sacrifice: life for life. It’s easy to reduce the idea of sacrifice to an economic transaction (cost of this sin or that) but to reduce to transaction is not to understand or honor sacrifice. I submit to you:
One, sacrifice never was about appeasing God but about people having some kind of "skin in the game". Sure, God could just forgive, but we humans are fickle and prideful and if something is just given to us, we don't really value it as much as something we worked for. Animal sacrifice has the symbolic meaning of life and value, plus the rules always were that good (flawless, firstborn, prize-winning) animals were used (again, we're prideful... not just any ol' animal will do as a symbolic 'me'.)
So one, sacrifice is more about humankind than about God and
Two: Imagine Jesus, Son of God, saying to God the Father, "I would like to get some skin in the game. People maintain this chasm between [God and humankind] and I would like to bridge it. I would like to demonstrate how much we love them, even if it means my own death. Maybe the sacrifice of a blameless life will be valuable enough that they'll respond."
What changed is where we had no hope of real reconciliation, we now have real hope of reconciliation. Where there wasn't a way before, now there is a way.
• Jesus lived life we could not live, died death we should have died, to gain for us a life we could not gain. Our response: honor. Go with him to the cross this week, so that come next week you may be filled with light and life.

• Hymn 295 In the Cross of Christ I Glory

Luke 19:28-40 (CEB)
28-29 As Jesus was going towards Jerusalem, he came to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, where he gave two disciples a task: 30 He said, “Go into the village over there. When you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say, ‘Its master needs it.’”
32 Those who had been sent found it exactly as he had said.
33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them,
“Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They replied, “Its master needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their clothes on the colt, and lifted Jesus onto it.
36 As Jesus rode along, they spread their clothes on the road.
37 As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen. 38 They said,
“Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord.
    Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.”
39 Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, scold your disciples! Tell them to stop!”
40 But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.” ò

Luke 23:33, 44-49 (CEB) 
33 When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. …
44 It was now about noon, and darkness covered the whole earth until about three o’clock, 45 while the sun stopped shining. Then the curtain in the sanctuary tore down the middle. 46 Crying out in a loud voice, Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I entrust my life.” After he said this, he breathed for the last time.
47 When the centurion saw what happened, he praised God, saying, “It’s really true: this man was righteous.” 48 All the crowds who had come together to see this event returned to their homes beating their chests after seeing what had happened. 49 And everyone who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance observing these things. ò

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Lent 5: Connect to God in Prayer

• Fifth Sunday of Lent.
with Daniel 9 and Luke 11    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk
A video of the worship service was posted on Facebook 4/7/19
Sermon number five of five in a series based on the book One Faithful Promise by Magrey deVega.

• A mark of a good conversationalist is the skill of listening, which includes prompting / asking / inviting / encouraging talk.
We know that prayer is conversation with God, but the dialogue part of it feels complicated.
Our reading from Daniel 9 begins with Daniel reading scripture – listening to God, asking, in essence, what’s on God’s mind, what makes God tick, what God’s priorities are.
Daniel’s response follows our OneFaithfulPromise outline.
Confide in God / Confess.
Compose your spirit – be serious about committing self to God.
Claim the covenant. For the sake of your name, petition for mercy.
Choose faithfulness. Daniel laments unfaithfulnes.
And today’s C: Connect to God in Prayer.
Which is also what Daniel did. Wrap it up in prayer.
• In prayer we position ourselves before God. Wesley encourages set aside time and place, and literally position as a means of directing our attention.
But how do we pray?
• Our Luke 11 reading today also begins with seeking God as the disciples request of Jesus teach us to pray.
That in itself is a prayer, a connecting with God.
Ye have not because ye ask not. (James 4:2)
Ask for connection with God. And claim the covenant:
God is good, and because God is good God gives what we need.
Consider the meanings in the phrases of the Lord’s Prayer:
Our (community) Father (relationship) in heaven (confession of elevation)
Hallowed (holy, set apart) be thy name (relationship. I’m not God)
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven
   (May your inherently superior goodness and righteousness infuse our existence)
Give us our daily bread (sustain us. You know better than we do. We rely on you.)
And forgive as we forgive. (relationship with God, relationship with others.)
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil (give us strength to follow your righteous path)
For thine is the kingdom… (praise)
• Connect in prayer. Wrap it up in prayer. Begin middle and end in prayer. And enjoy prayer.
• PRAYER God of grace and love, thank you for your constant presence and power in my life. Help me to serve you with full willingness and obedience, without expectation of blessing in return. Grant me an enjoyment in my prayer life, that I might hear your voice, know your heart, and understand your will. Amen.
• Hymn 618 Let Us Break Bread Together

Luke 11:1-13 (CEB) 
11 Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
2 Jesus told them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, uphold the holiness of your name.
Bring in your kingdom.
3 Give us the bread we need for today.
4 Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us.
And don’t lead us into temptation.’”
5 He also said to them, “Imagine that one of you has a friend and you go to that friend in the middle of the night. Imagine saying, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has arrived and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 Imagine further that he answers from within the house, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ 8 I assure you, even if he wouldn’t get up and help because of his friendship, he will get up and give his friend whatever he needs because of his friend’s brashness. 9 And I tell you: Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 Everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened.
11 “Which father among you would give a snake to your child if the child asked for a fish? 12 If a child asked for an egg, what father would give the child a scorpion? 13 If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” ò