Friday, August 30, 2019
Sermon Summary (8/18/19) “Who we believe in Matters” (Exodus 20:2-3; Luke 14:26)
My all-time favorite novel, James Michener’s The Source, tells a story of a man mesmerized by the Canaanite fertility goddess, Astarte. He kills a man because of his worship. His loving wife, a follower of El, says, “If Urbaal had had different god, he would have been a different man.”
What we believe about God, who we believe in as god, matters! The very first of the Ten Commandments, some would say the commandment from which all others flow, is “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Who or what are your gods? We all have them. We are all slaves to something. Good things. But we error when we make our good things our ultimate things. Martin Luther said, “Whatever your heart clings to and abides in you are your gods.” And depending on our gods, we will be either Christ-centered or self-centered. The greatest contest in our society is not between religion and atheism, but between our competing gods.
What we believe matters. What we believe in shapes us, forms us, determines our behavior, establishes our relationships. What we believe in, really believe in, shapes our very lives.
What good things have you made ultimate things? Your family? Approval? Romance or attraction of the opposite sex? Or here’s the tough one, your grandchildren. There is no doubt that Rosemary’s children and grandchildren were paramount. That’s just the way it was.
What then do we do? Step one is this. Give thanks to the God of the Universe for the good gifts, the ultimate gifts that he has given you. That is the first step in lifting God into his rightful place. Then take to heart the earliest creed of the church: “Jesus is Lord.” That is the beginning of putting no other gods before God.
This begins a sermon series, “Living Our Beliefs.” Some have said, “You can be a Methodist and believe anything.” That is not true. We are first part of the Universal Communion of Jesus Christ. We are baptized into the Universal Church and then received into the United Methodist Church. We hold in common the universal beliefs of all Christians: The Triune God, Salvation by grace through faith in the acts of Jesus Christ, the reign of God is both a present and future reality, the authority of Scripture in matters of faith, the doctrinal statements set forth and bounded by the ancient creeds. So may it be for us.
Saturday, August 24, 2019
Sermon Summary (8/11/19) “Peter: The Rest of the Story” (Acts (selected verses))
Peter traveled with Jesus for three years, but his ministry continued for 34 more! Half a lifetime. He became the Rock that Jesus predicted; he performed miracles; he raised the dead; he built up the church in Rome; and he was part of the hinge-point of the Christian faith as we will see today.
Last week, we saw Peter forgiven on the Lakeshore. This week he receives the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Church’s birthday with the other disciples. But more than that, Peter was empowered by the Holy Spirit and acted on that power. Standing on the day of Pentecost, Peter says, “Men of Judea...let this be known to you, and listen to what I have to say….36 Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
What Power! And with that power, Peter and John go up to the Temple to pray and meet a lame man on the way. “Silver and gold have I none, but in the name of Jesus Christ, stand up and walk.” When thrown in prison and then told to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, they say, “ “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; 20 for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Being told not to speak in the name of Jesus is like a grandmother being told she can’t show pictures of her grandchild. She cannot keep from doing it!
After telling the church what had happened to them, the church not only prayed “grant your servants to speak your word with boldness.” When was the last time we prayed for boldness?
As the result of boldness, Peter travels towards the Mediterranean, to first Lydda, where he heals a paralyzed man, then with his reputation preceding him, he is called to Joppa where he revives Tabatha.
While in Joppa, begins the story that would be the hinge-point of Christianity. An angel appears to a gentile, a Roman Centurion named Cornelius in Caesarea, telling him to send messengers to the house of Simon, a tanner, in Joppa where Peter is staying. At the same time, Peter has a vision of a sheet lowered to him filled with unclean animals and a voice saying, “Peter, get up, kill and eat.” Peter says, “No, Lord, you know I have never eaten anything unclean.” The voice said, “What God has made clean, you must not profane.”
Peter goes to Cornelius’ house, tells them the good news and the Holy Spirt comes upon the gentiles in Cornelius’ house. Peter realizes that the voice saying “What God has made clean, you must not profane” was not about animals but people. The Good News of Jesus Christ is intended not just for the Jews, but for the whole world!
Saturday, August 17, 2019
Sermon Summary (8/4/19) “Peter: From Cowardice to Courage” (John 21:1-3; 15-17)
When we last saw Peter, he was having the worst night of his life. His Lord and Master had been arrested and he had denied knowing him three times, then went out a wept bitterly. Fast forward, and we find only John and the women at the cross. The other disciples are in hiding. Our story culminates with one of the greatest acts of forgiveness and reconciliation, ever.
Let’s look at the disciples. They have had supper with Jesus, have experienced his body and blood. They call him Messiah, yet without understanding. He tells them he is going away, and Thomas asks, “Where are you going?” On the way to the Garden, Jesus tells them they will scatter because of him. Peter says, “Even if I die with you, I will never deny you.” So say they all.
Jesus is arrested in the Garden. The disciples scatter. Peter follows to the home of the High Priest, watches Jesus convicted and sentenced and while warming himself around a charcoal fire, denies him three times. He weeps. Jesus is taken to Pilate. By 9:00 am he is on the cross to die.
The first disciple on the scene is Judas, even before he gets to Pilate, returning the 30 pieces of silver. “I have betrayed innocent blood.” He goes out and hangs himself. A mini-lesson: Had he only waited 48 hours, had he encountered the Risen Lord, he would have been forgiven! Can you imagine the Evangelist he might have been? Maybe Judas was God’s Plan A, and when he took his own life, Paul became Plan B. With Jesus, the worst thing is never the last thing.
Weeks later, Peter and some of the disciples are in Galilee. I think that Jesus is in danger of losing his Church. Peter is returning to his old life: “I’m going fishing.” They fish all night and catch nothing. Jesus intercedes, meets them on the shore. “Put down your nets on the right side.” They catch so many fish their nets are in danger of breaking.
The come ashore. Jesus is preparing breakfast around a charcoal fire. Jesus breaks bread and gives it to him. We are supposed to see the Lord’s Supper in the breaking of bread and be reminded of Peter’s denial of Jesus by the charcoal fire.
After supper and around the charcoal fire, Jesus asks, “Simon Peter, do you love me.” Peter replies, “Lord, you know I love you.” “Feed my lambs.” A second time Jesus asks, and a third time, Jesus replying, “Tend my sheep.” “Feed my Sheep.”
Forgiving Peter and recharging him to be the Shepherd, calling him and us to love him by tending the most vulnerable among us. We love God by loving others. So may it be with all of us. Amen.
Saturday, August 3, 2019
Sermon Summary (7/28/19) “Peter: I Will Not Deny You” (Mt 16:13-25; Col 1:15-20)
I can vividly remember a half dozen Sunday School lessons from my elementary days and this is one of them: “Get behind me Satan.” Whenever faced with Temptation, we were to say, “Get behind me Satan.” I’m sure we didn’t understand what divine things were that we were to be thinking, maybe Peter didn’t either. Poor Peter, the butt of all of Jesus’ teachings. But certainly one of the questions we should be asking, what are the divine things we should be setting our minds on?
The disciples had been with Jesus now for nearly three years. Time was drawing near. He took his disciples on a retreat to the region of Caesarea-Philippi, 25 miles north of Capernaum at the base of Mount Hermon. It was a pagan place, a place where people came to worship the god of nature, Pan; and to praise Caesar. Yet this was the place where Jesus believed his disciples could come to grips with who he really is: “Who do the people say that I am?” “But who do you say that I am?” Peter, without really knowing, I think, blurts out, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Peter may have no fully understood then, but on this side of Easter, the disciples would come to understand that “He was the image of the invisible God; and in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” (Col 1:15; 19)
Following the confession of Peter, Jesus began to teach them that he must go to Jerusalem, be handed over to men, to suffer greatly, to be killed and then be raised on the third day. This shocked the disciples and Peter said, “Lord I will not permit it, this must not happen to you!” To which Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my disciples, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Here was the teaching moment. To be Jesus’ disciple 1) deny yourself; 2) sacrifice; 3) follow.
Deny yourselves, place the interests of others above your own. Sacrifice, Jesus said the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve (Mt 20:28). And three, Follow Jesus. 1 Peter 2:21 says, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you. Leaving you and example, so that you should follow in his steps.” “In his steps.” This bible verse by Peter is the basis for the awesome book, “In His Steps” which raises the question “What would Jesus do?” Follow.