Friday, June 30, 2017
Sermon Summary (6/18/17) “Of First Importance” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Mark 12:29-30)
Happy Father’s Day. This sermon is about what Jesus said about his Father that changed everything. Here’s something for you: Do you that Judaism has a different first commandment than the Christian Church? (Read Exodus 20:2-3) We say, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Judaism uses verse 2, “I am the Lord your God.” They say without that, the rest have no value. “I am the Lord your God.” Lord: AM WHO I AM! I AM Life itself. Without me there is to meaning.
When I was at Sikorsky I worked with a young engineer. I was going to do a children’s time at church on Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the “Shema,” “Hear O Israel.” I called Larry and asked him to meet for lunch. He returned two weeks later with a friend who showed me his grandfather’s Tefellin, Jewish prayer devices worn on the forehead and upper arm and bound around the hand. “And you shall keep them upon your heart; you keep them as a frontlet between your eyes, and bind them as a sign upon your hand and write them on the doorpost of your house and on your gate.” Then Larry gave me a treasure that I have to this day. He had made me a set of Tefellin of cardboard and ribbon including the appropriate scriptures that go inside for use with children’s time.
What if we really, really believed in God and that he was our Lord? What if we did? Jesus did, and Jesus recited the ”Shema” twice daily. When asked which of the 613 laws was of first importance, there was no doubt in Jesus’ mind, “You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and all your mind and with all your strength.” This was Jesus’ Father’s Day present to the world. The gift that changes everything . The essential. Of first importance.
If we really believe that, we will keep the Lord’s commandments on our hearts, we will pass them from generation to generation. We will view the world through God’s eyes; we will use our hands as God’s hands. Then as we pass our doorpost, we will be reminded that we are going out into God’s world, and as we return be reminded that the family we return to are God’s gifts. We will live differently. We will be changed.
Changed by grace. Also at Sikorsky, I had a younger friend who was a running mate. I watched him be transformed from a disinterested non-believer to becoming a seminary graduate, ordained minister and now leading his own church in Connecticut. If we truly believe that the Lord is our God and that we are to love him with all our might, it is amazing what God can do. Loving the Lord is of first importance.
Friday, June 23, 2017
Sermon Summary (6/4/17) “Pentecost” (Acts 2, selected verses)
“Cappadocia.” I’ve always loved the word “Cappadocia.” (Acts 2 lists 15 nations/regions of the world, north, south, east, west, friends and enemies, representative of the known world). I love it because it means everybody is included in the Church of Jesus Christ, including me! I love the word “Cappadocia.” And Rome, the extent of the book of Acts, the target of the evangelism of the church in the first century is included. Rome was there at Pentecost. One of the mysteries of the early church is the founder of the church in Rome. We don’t know the spiritual heritage, how Christ came to Rome.
Have you ever wondered about your spiritual heritage, who your spiritual ancestors were? Mine came from Norway in the 19th century. They probably received their faith from Germany through Denmark, but don’t know for sure. What I do know is, that regardless of what happened in the middle-ages, my spiritual birthday was Pentecost. Yours too.
In John 14, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit: “This is the Spirit of Truth….You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be with you.” (John 14:16-17) In Acts 1, Jesus tells the disciples, “You will receive Power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” The Book of Acts is sometimes called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. It is the story of those Empowered by the Holy Spirit who spread the Gospel for Jerusalem, to all of Judea and Samaria to the ends of the earth.
We have much to learn from those Empowered people. We may not be able to preach like Peter, but power is available to us. It’s just like the electrical junction box at our house. We just have to tap into it.
Now, we may not be able to preach like the Empowered Peter, but we can follow Peter’s admonition to “always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting of the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15) We can do that, we can tap into the Holy Spirit and write that two minute response of the hope that is in us.
We may not become a martyr like Stephen, but we can by tapping into the Power of the Spirit, step out of our comfort zone. Risk for Christ.
We may not be an evangelist like Philip, but by tapping into the Holy Spirit we can be ready to connect others so that they can understand the Scripture and the Good News of Jesus Christ.
We have received Power. And as another of our spiritual ancestors said in commemoration of his conversion, “O for a thousand tongues to sing, my Great Redeemer’s praise.” We can praise him. Amen.