Friday, October 19, 2018
Sermon Summary, 10/14/18, “The Good Life and Generosity” (1 Timothy 6:9-10)
We’re in the midst of a three part series on the Good Life. Last week we reframed it in terms of gratitude, relationships and purpose beyond ourselves. The latter bridges to generosity. Money. Ah. The thing we never talk about in church yet one of Jesus’ biggest topic of his ministry. Money, close to hedonism. “The Love of Money” is the counterfeit path to the Good Life. Our Scripture admonishes us to avoid the “love of money” and to “be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share...so that they can take hold of the life that really is life.” (1 Timothy 6:18-19) How is it that we can grab hold of the life that is really life?
Some notes on money in America: Since 1960 our real income has grown 15 percent while our life style has grown 30 percent. Our houses have tripled in size and we’ve moved from one car to two and a pickup. For those on credit their credit card debt averages $17,500; their car loans $28,000; student loans $75,000; mortgages $72,000, all on an average income of $75,000. Easy to see that one of the biggest sources of stress in America is money! It is the third leading cause of divorce and my hunch is that it leaks over into one and two.
I’m a Dave Ramsey fan who says we should all have an emergency fund of two to six months in case of a broken leg or lost job. What a stress reliever. Then take care of basic needs, shelter, food, and transportation (he suggests cars old enough to not need collision insurance). Then, if you are in debt, take care of the debt. When you are out of debt, you have discretionary income to pursue dreams and goals. You have margin. You are living within your means. The Good Life is found in the margin. You are able to be rich toward others, generous, ready to share; to grab hold of the life that really is life.
One of the most precious commodities we have to share is time. And what if with our generosity of time we could lead a child out of poverty, break the poverty cycle of so many of our families? What if? What would it be worth to you?
Lin Diekamp tells that many of the children in her elementary achoolcome from broken or damaged homes with inadequate attention to their children’s educational needs. What if handful of us could commit to a class room to read to a second or third grader for minutes every two weeks. What if a child caught hold of reading that for them lead to the life that is really life? What if? Talk to Lin, talk to me if about it. Take hold of the life that really is life. Amen.
Sermon Summary, 9/30/18, “Encounter with Martha and Mary” (John 11:1-44 selected)
I remember a talk I had with my pastor years ago. I told him that I believed in God but I wasn’t sure about this Jesus. I am amazed that he kept silent. He must have known that grace would teach me what I needed to know. In another conversation, I noted that Christ was 100 percent divine and 100 percent human (see the Nicene Creed). My friend asked if that really made sense. I didn’t have an answer, and what difference would it make? We’ll find that it makes all the difference.
Our Scripture today is about the raising of Lazarus, but I’m most interested in in the encounters with Martha and Mary. First Martha, beginning in verse 20, 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
In the face of death we get angry, we accuse God, “If you had been here, if you would have answered my prayers..”
Jesus replies, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
The divine Jesus answers her, assures her, assures us that he is the giver of eternal life. He is the source of our hope.
Martha then tells Mary that Jesus is here. Beginning in verse 32. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
The very same accusation. “Jesus, where were you?” This time, the response is completely different. It is a response of a very human Jesus. 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.
Jesus wept! In the face of death, Jesus, angry with death, wept. He wept for Lazarus, he wept for Nancy, he wept for Rosemary. He wept for Barbara. He weeps for all of us.
It is through the Divine Jesus that we receive the assurance of eternal life, but without his humanity, we would never experience him. We would never feel his love. We would never experience his compassion. I’m sure about this Jesus. And I’m sure about his Divinity and his humanity. So may it be with you.
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
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
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.
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.
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.