Tuesday, September 18, 2018

ENCOUNTER AT THE WELL


Sermon Summary, 9/9/18, “Encounter at the Well” (John 4 selected))

Have you ever asked after watching the news, “What on earth is going on?”  Rosemary would say, “Are we the only normal ones left?”  What is wrong?  The answer is sin.  Not just girly shows and gambling, but radical, biblical sin.  Sin identified in the OT as idolatry and adultery,  placing other things ahead of God and being unfaithful to God.

We all have idols, we all cross the line, place things or people on a pedestal, worship them instead of God, go beyond love to adoration.  We all violate the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

We all have idols, and these idols never satisfy.  They never fully quench our thirst.  We have to return to the well over and over again and then are never fully satisfied.  The woman at the well never fully quenched her desire and therefore had five husbands and the man she was living with was not her husband.  Our idols never satisfy.

Tim Keller quotes author David Foster Wallace as saying, “Everybody worships.  The only choice we get is what to worship.  And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god...to worship is that pretty much anything else will eat you alive.”  Wallace toyed with religion but never accepted it and 18 months later took his own life.  His idols ate him alive.

And that is the human condition.  We all cross the line.  We all love our spouses, children or grandchildren to the point of worship and adoration.  We put them on a pedestal, and if we are not careful, it will eat alive.  Love them we must, but we will always be disappointed or devasted.  Our love will eat us alive.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn 4:14)

What do we do?  We can’t stop loving.  No, but we can reorient our worship.  As we look at the objects of our love, our things yes, but more likely our children and grandchildren, as we look at them with our loving eyes, we realize the great gift God has given us and raise our eyes to him in adoration and thanksgiving and direct our worship to him.  We don’t cross the line.  We live a life of gratitude.  We give thanks for the gifts of God and worship him.  It makes both God and our loves more important.

Now, it’s pretty obvious we aren’t the woman with loose morals at the well, obviously a sinner.  But lest we boast, next week we will look at a really good man who is also a sinner.  We are not off the hook.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

ENCOUNTER AT CANA


Sermon Summary, 9/2/18, “Encounter at Cana” (John 2:1-11)

The marriage in Cana is a wonderfully simple story of Jesus turning water into wine, a kid’s story on the surface.  Unique in the Bible, the only story of water into wine.  Jesus begins his ministry in John with something brand new.

Yet John runs far deeper than that, like the mention of Jesus being buried in a garden.  Jesus being raised in a garden, restoring the curse that had begun in a garden.  We only find that in John and only by reading below the surface.

John begins with soaring words, “In the beginning was the Word.”  Still in the first chapter he is the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world; and on the next day, the ladder, the way to heaven, the Son of Man upon which angels of God will ascend and descend.  And then the third day, there was a marriage.

Marriages were not only a celebration for a couple but also the whole village.  They represented the perpetuation of the village and the village celebrated for a week.  What a disaster if the wine gave out on the second or third day!  The couple would be known as Mr. and Mrs. Wineless their entire lives!

But Jesus says, “my hour has not yet come.”  Jesus thinking about his death even in the midst of celebration.  What does his Mother know?  We don’t know, but she tells the servants, “do whatever he tells you.”

“Now there were six stone jars standing there for the Jewish rites of purification each holding 20 to 30 gallons.”  John is telling us that the jars are empty, just like the old sacrificial system, empty, corrupt, inadequate.  Jesus is about to do a brand knew thing.  He will do for the world once and for all what the old system has never been able to do.  He says, “fill the jars with water, and they filled them to the brim.”  One hundred eighty (180) gallons, thirty-six hundred (3600) goblets of wine!  And Jesus fills our lives with that same extravagance. 

“When the steward of the feast (the one responsible to insure all at the wedding are joyful) tastes the water now become wine but did not know where it came from, he called the bridegroom and said, ‘Every man serves the good wine first and when the men have drunk freely, the poor wine.  But you have saved the good wine until now.’” It is always now with Jesus.  Jesus fills our lives now and it is always now!

The first of his signs in the gospel, pointing to  the reality that Jesus is the Son of God and that we can have life in his name.  We are called to believe and follow the signs.  For Jesus has saved the good wine until now.


ENCOUNTERING JESUS OUR SAVIOR


Sermon Summary, 8/26/18, “Encountering Jesus: Our Savior” (Mt 3:13-17;4:1-11; Eph 6:10-17)

When Rosemary and I were in college, we attended Canyon Lake UMC.  Their pastor was a rock star, right out of Hollywood casting, and he spent time with us during the week to answer questions.  I had questions about my salvation.  If I committed a capital sin, eg killing, and lost my life before I could repent, would I lose my salvation?  His answer was “yes.”  It took me over 20 years to get over that answer.  I now come down on a solid, “maybe.” 

Many of you know people with a “once saved, always saved” theology.  But here’s the deal, my salvation is my relationship with Jesus Christ who loves me and gave his life for me.  But like any relationship, I have the free-will to turn my back on him.  I can walk away.  I can ignore grace.  In fact, it is that subtle “devil” that confronted Jesus in the wilderness that does everything he can to sever our relationship with God.  He tempted Jesus.  Remember, he was the wiliest creature in the garden.  “Jesus, you’re hungry.  Turn these stones into bread.”  Eating is not a bad thing, is it?  His objective is not to fatten us up, but to detract us from Jesus.  We need a Savior!

Evil exists.  We need a Savior.  Evil exists.  Now I don’t know if evil causes cancer, or Alzheimer’s, or accidents, but I do know that Satan will use every opportunity to sever our relationship with Jesus.  Paul tells us that “12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” 

We are at war!  Tim Keller tells us, we must know three things to prepare for battle: who the enemy is; where the front is; and what is our best defense.  The enemy is Satan.  The front is the identity of Jesus (Satan to Jesus: “If you are the Son of God”).  We cannot let Satan deter us from knowing Jesus as Savior!  We need a Savior.  And the best defense for us Methodists is grace.

Grace!  Our defensive position is to immerse ourselves in grace through prayer, scripture, the Lord’s Supper, acts of mercy, and Christian Conferencing.  Conferencing.  We need one another to lift us up, to hold us accountable, to be Christ to us. 

We need grace.  Through grace, we grow in knowing Christ as Savior.  Amen.


ENCOUNTERING JESUS: THE SKEPTIC


Sermon Summary, 8/19/18, “Encountering Jesus: The Skeptic” (John 1:35-51)

Last week at lunch, Curt asked, “Why are there so many that disdain religion, strive to tear it apart?”  Good question, and there may be many answers: Pride, arrogance, belief they can do everything on their own (“I did it my way”).  The problem with the humanist approach is that they’re left without answers to the most important questions in life: Why am I here? What is life’s meaning? What is my purpose? How am I supposed to live? 

They might say, “Love others.”  I say, “O, Jesus said that.”  Or, “Treat others as of infinite worth.”  “O, Jesus said that.”  Or, “Help the poor.”  “O, Jesus said that.”  Amazingly, they  recognize the rules but not the rule-maker.  I would suggest what they need is to encounter Jesus.  Us too.

Today we begin a new sermon series, with themes from Tim Keller’s book, Encountering Jesus.”  Today is the story of a skeptic, Philip from John 1.

Nathanael (who has encountered Jesus) invites Philip who says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Nathanael says “Come and see,” and Philip answers the invitation, a lesson for us.  Not a theologian or evangelist, just “Come and see.” 

Jesus sees Philip, knows his heart, and says, “a son of Israel in whom there is no deceit.”  Jesus strikes a chord.  Philip replies, “How is it that you know me?”  Jesus says, “I saw you under the fig tree before Nathanael called you.” 

Now here’s the deal, no one knows what was going on under the fig tree, but Jesus knows and Philip knows that Jesus knows.  That’s all that matters.  Here’s an exercise for you.  Invite Jesus into yourpresence.  You know he knows what’s going on under your fig tree, don’t you?  The question is what we will call him.  Philip calls him “the Messiah, the King of Israel.”  Will we call him “the Lord of our lives?”

And what are our expectations when we see Jesus?  Jesus says, “You will see greater things than these…. You will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”  (Remember Jacob’s ladder?  Jesus says he is the ladder, the way to heaven!  Better than mind reading.  Jesus has come to change the world!)

Jesus knows what is happening under our fig tree.  We need to proclaim him Lord and invite him into our hearts, have conversations with him that will guide our lives, that will provide the answers to life’s most important questions, that will far exceed our expectations.  Amen.


Saturday, August 25, 2018

HILLS AND VALLEYS OF MEMORY LANE


Sermon Summary, 8/12/18, “Hills and Valleys of Memory Lane” (Luke 14:7-11))

Last week was our 60th high school reunion.  I can tell you that memory lane can be a rocky road.  For example, at the Saturday night street dance, I noticed a lot of old people there.  Then I realized they were a generation younger that I was!  I did see folks I hadn’t seen since 1958, good people.  I spent time with family.  Sister-in-law Dorothy and I laughed together and cried together.  We had family dinners.  I made hospital visits (one of my classmates), and led part of the Sunday worship service.  On Thursday night we had an awesome variety show.  I heard words of wisdom: From Dorothy’s daughter: “My mission in life has always been to get my kids to heaven.”  Think about that.  And I made a lot of visits to the cemetery.

Most of all, I got to know a whole lot more about a whole lot of people. Isn’t that what life is really about?  Knowing others so we can love them.

Here are some things you didn’t know about Rosemary: At twenty, she became executive assistant to the District Supervisor of Bell construction in five north-central states and in two years was running her boss’s meetings.  She loved sports.  She was the fastest girl or boy in grade school and ran on the boys relay team (verified by two of her grade school classmates at the reunion).  She cried watching the Olympics because there were no organized sports for girls when she was in high school.  When she was seven, a young preacher was appointed to her small town who combed the town for kids to come to vacation bible school, then walked the town with the kids each day recruiting more.  At the end of two weeks, he baptized 17 youngsters in a small town of 325.  It was the beginning of Rosemary’s spiritual walk. 

One of the things I had to do on the trip was to visit was to visit the funeral home and order a stone for Rosemary.  How do you define a person’s life?  What is a suitable epitaph?  I struggled.  The week before, I woke in the middle of the night and I knew.  The family concurred.  You know it to be true.  “All who humble themselves will be exalted.”  It is who she was.  It was always about others.  She influenced others with her humility and by elevating others.  It’s our story of the seats at the banquet.  We learn from the guest to take a lower seat.  We learn from the host to lift others up whenever possible.  That was Rosemary.

We will miss her hospitality and her conversations with all of us.  We need to learn from her, be intentional each week to enter into conversation with those we know less well, learn about them and from them. 

Our conversations with others are for a lifetime.  We can never stop learning about others, lifting them up to feel part of the family of God.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

THE LION KING


Sermon Summary, 7/22/18, “The Lion King” (Gen 49:9-10; Rev 5:5)

A friend sent a devotional from Frederick Buechner, awesome writer, who talked of the nature of life: “as far as we know, the vast majority of things in the universe do not have what life is… a few things are alive...even jelly fish and butternut squash.  They’re in it with us. We’re all in [life] together, or it in us.” 

The “Lion King” is about the “Circle of Life.”  Brutally honest about our mortality, but also about the preciousness of life, that we need to take our obligations seriously, that we all need to find our place in the “Circle of Life.”

The Biblical metaphors begin in the opening with the anointing and presentation (much like Jesus’ baptism) of the future king, Simba.  But even in this idyllic world, as with the biblical world and ours, evil exists in the presence of the King’s brother, Scar.  Scar.  Can’t you hear the evil in his name?  Scar plots, puts Simba in danger and King Mustafa (the father) sacrifices his life to save Simba (again the symbology?).  Tortured by guilt, Simba exiles himself, believing he can never be forgiven.  Scar rules and destroys the land.

The Return of the King: Simba is found, urged to return to accept his obligations as king.  During his return, he has a vision of his father who tells him, “Simba, you have not become who you were intended to be.  Remember who you are.” 

When I told my granddaughter that I was preaching on the “Lion King,” she summed up the movie in a single phrase, “Remember who you are.”

What does is mean for us to remember who we are?  Where do we fit in the “Circle of Life?”  Have you ever considered that the one true miracle may be that we can be part of that circle?  But are we the King or are we Scar?  How do we fit?  Unfortunately, there is a little of both within us.

Paul understood that there were two warring factions within us, our nature (which he called the flesh) and that which is Spirit led.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness (generosity), kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  (Gal 5:22-23)

We are part of the circle of life.  A good way to be a part of it is for each of us to ask each day “how we can live out the fruit of the Spirit?”  How is that we can love each day?  Extend joy? Provide peace, well-being to others? Patiently walk with another? Be kind? Be gentle, faithful and exercise self-control?  Ask each day, living out the circle of life.

Tomorrow, will we remember who we are?  Will we be faithful followers of the King in the manner in which we join the circle of life?


Saturday, July 21, 2018

JOY OF BEING CONTENT


Sermon Summary, 7/15/18, “Joy of Being Content!” (Phil 4 selected)

This is the final sermon in our joy series.  A woman loses her husband of 50 years and enters despair.  She remembers her husband had a friend who owned a pet store and she buys a parrot for company.  She tries everything to get the parrot to talk, a mirror, a ladder, a swing, Week after week she buys something new at the store, but nothing works.  The parrot dies.  The pet store owner asks, “Didn’t it ever say anything?  “Well, I think as it was laying in the bottom of it’s cage taking its final breaths, I did faintly hear it say, “Doesn’t that store have any food?” 

We focus on the wrong things!  We lose perspective.  We hate to wash clothes but fail to remember that not too long ago, washing clothes was an all day task, even longer if it was time to make soap.  We need to take perspective from the Appalachian Grandmother who encouraged us following the wash day to “Freshen up, smooth up your hair, brew up a cup of tea, sit and rock a spell, and count your blessings.”  Our joy is dependent on attitude.  Attitude.  Look for the silver lining.  “Faith is putting all your eggs in Christ’s basket and counting your blessings before they are hatched.”

Paul tells us “for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. . 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil 4:11b,13)  Focus on Christ.  To be content.  To be joyful, Paul tells us to focus on Christ.

Then rejoice: 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone.  The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Phil 4:4-7)

The Lord is near.  Rejoice sure, and we can do that if we focus on eternity.  Paul always focused the real thing, his time to be with Christ.  We can be joyful, we can be content, if we focus first on Christ, then on eternity.

And then my favorite verses: 8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Focus on the good things.  Focus on Christ, focus on eternity, focus on the good things.  In my case, in all of our cases, the good things are always people, those we are called to love and to share our lives with.  Focus on Christ, eternity, others.  Be joyful, be content.  Amen.