Saturday, March 28, 2015


Sermon Summary, from Last Week, Footsteps of Jesus: “Among the Poor, the Sinners, The Outcasts” (John 4:1-20)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives; recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.”  (Lk 4:18) Thus begin the ministry and mission of Jesus. If we follow in his footsteps we will see him emphasize the poor (Lazarus and the Rich Man (Lk 16:19-31) The sin of the rich man? Not that he didn’t feed the poor, it was that he didn’t even notice him! He didn’t recognize worth, let alone his infinite worth!
And we would see him call even the most egregious sinners to his ministry. Matthew the tax collector, a too of Rome, an extortionist who stole from the people. Zacchaeus too!  Jesus changed their lives.  Then there was the woman of the world who came to Jesus while he was at the house of Simon the Pharisee and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.  Jesus forgave her. Jesus loved her.
Of course we all have our outcasts: The Hatfields had the McCoys; the Bosnians the Serbs; the Sunnis have the Shiites; and the Jews had the Samaritans. The hated Samaritans were a bastardized race who had a bastardized religion. A good Jew would not even go through Samaria lest he get unclean soil on his sandals. But Jesus did. Jesus had a divine appointment with an outcast, the “Woman at the Well.” 
We find her coming to the well alone in the heat of the day, ostracized by the village woman. A woman who had be cast aside by five men and living now with a man not her husband.  Knowing all this, Jesus asked her for a drink, then offered her spiritual water that would be hers eternally. Taking him literally she replied, “You don’t even have a bucket, how are you going to get this stuff?” (paraphrased)  Jesus tells her he is the Messiah (the very first person to whom he reveals his identity), excited, she leaves her jar and rushes into town to tell the others. They come out to the well and ask Jesus to stay and teach them, and he stays two more days.
In this simple act, in his first year of ministry, Jesus tears down all the barriers, all of them: Men, women, race, gender, culture, religion, all of them. Who are our outcasts? Who can enrich our lives if we would just get to know them? And who if we will invest in someone beyond our church, can we offer living water?


Saturday, March 21, 2015


Sermon Summary, of Last Week’s sermon, Footsteps of Jesus: “On the Mountain.”  (Mark 1:21-28)

“He went up on the mountain, and when he had sat down, he opened his mouth and taught them saying…” Matthew 5:1-2.  Thus begins the Sermon on the Mount, the most important and influential teaching in the world.  Yet it’s frightening.  Before Jesus gets into the moral teachings he says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Frightening.  But here’s the good news: Righteousness is not your job!  It’s God’s!  Your job, my job is to follow the footsteps of Jesus.
My sermon in large part is based on Dallas Willard’s book The Divine Conspiracy, awesome book, beloved author.  He makes the point that the sermon is both the vision of the kingdom of God (Jesus’ central teaching), and the process for achieving it.   He outlines it as
· First, the Beatitudes (those blessings in Mt 5:3-12), that tell us that we are blessed because Christ has come near.  And the good news is that because Christ is here, the kingdom of God is an option for all of us!  He then says he needs us to be salt and light if he is to change the world!  (Mt 5:13-16)
· Next, that we are to take sin seriously and uses prophetic hyperbole (if your eye cause us to sin..., if you hand offends you...),
· He urges us to habituate the goodness of God’s kingdom: prayer, fasting, turning the other check, loving your enemies, praying for those who persecute you. 
· Then, to be wary of finding security in things or in judging others.
Here’s the thing, all the time we are doing this, Jesus, the vine, is allowing his sap to drip into our branch’s veins and change us from the inside out.  We become new beings.  We become the kind of being whose very nature it is to enter by the narrow gate and to follow the narrow path.  Jesus has changed us from the inside out. 
It’s like a little boy or girls stepping into the foot prints of Mom or Dad (I want to be like Him.), and being changed without really knowing it.
In fact, we become the kind of people whose very nature it is to love our enemies.  Without knowing it, we have become perfect as our heavenly father is perfect!  (Your task is to read the sermon (Mt 5-7) as it was written and experienced by the first hearers, in one sitting.  Let it begin your footsteps!)


Saturday, March 14, 2015

FOOTSTEPS OF JESUS: "Miracles at Capernaum"

Sermon Summary, of Last Week’s sermon, Footsteps of Jesus: “Miracles at Capernaum.”  (Mark 1:21-28)
We’re following the footsteps of Jesus.  He left Nazareth in Galilee (Northern Israel) at the age of 30 to go to the Jordan near Jericho to be baptized by John the Baptist. God declares “This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”  Jesus is driven into the Wilderness by the Holy Spirit where he confronts temptation in preparation for his ministry.  He then returns the eight day journey back to Nazareth.  Luke tells us that Jesus was rejected in his home town for telling his listeners that the prophesy of the Messiah has been fulfilled in their presence.  He leaves Nazareth and makes his home in Capernaum by the Lake.
Had we accompanied Jesus on his two day journey to Capernaum, we might have seen a great thing, for half way between them lies Magdala, hometown of Mary Magdalene from whom we find later had seven demons cast out.  We don’t know how or when but Jesus made a profound difference in her life, she believed in him and followed him for three years becoming the most significant women in the New Testament save Mary, the mother of Jesus.
As he passes by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus calls his first disciples, Andrew, Simon later called Peter, James and John.
In Capernaum Jesus preaches in the synagogue and the listeners are astounded at his teaching.  Just then a man with an unclean spirit interrupts his sermon, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”  Even from the beginning the spirits and demons know who Jesus is!  The first of Jesus’ miracles is casting out the unclean spirit showing power over the spirit world.
Jesus then heals the fever of Peter’s mother-in-law, and a leper showing power over disease,  He then heals the paralytic let down through the roof declaring “Son, your sins are forgiven,” showing power over sin (Who can forgive sins but God himself?  Exactly!); and raises Jarius’ daughter from the dead showing power over life itself.  Later he would still the storm and his disciples would say, “Who is this man that even the winds and the waves obey him?”
Jesus performed these miracles so that we may see who this man is and come to believe in him.  So may it be with all of us.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Footsteps of Jesus: "To the Jordan"

Sermon Summary of Last Week’s (2/22/15) Sermon, Footsteps of Jesus: “To the Jordan.”  (Mark 1:9-14))
Jesus began his ministry at the ripe old age of 30, the age of “authority” in his culture, the age when Rabbis began to teach.  We know little of his life before then.  O, how we would like to know the stories.  But this we know for certain: John baptized Jesus in the Jordan.  When Jesus came up out of the water, a voice from heaven declared, “This is my Son, the beloved; in whom I am well pleased,” echoing Old Testament phrases depicting first, coronation and then identifying with the “suffering servant.”  Jesus, claimed by God, crowned by God, sent on a ministry of suffering by God.
Baptism can have a kaleidoscope of meanings in our denomination.  As we turn the instrument we see different meanings in each life.  Baptism is grace, a mystery.  We cannot know or understand all of its gifts, but we can start with the following:
First, God claims us as a child, covenants with us to be our God and we his children.
Second, God makes union with us and Christ’s holy church.  We are baptized not into a solitary faith but into a community of faith.  We are part of the body of Christ, with Christ as the head.  Can you think of anything more intimate?  We are in union with Christ.
Third, our sins are forgiven and we are brought into a right relationship with God.  But not only that, we have the promise of future forgiveness and therefore can live our lives differently.  We are born anew.  New life.  Jesus said, “No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the spirit…. You must be born anew.” (John 3:3,7)
And four, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said, “And remember, I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
All a gift of grace, God’s gift, without price!  It is God’s gift.  There is nothing we can do to make him love us more. The only thing we need to do is present ourselves at the Jordan and say “Yes.”  United Methodists are not a creedal church.  We ask but one thing at your "Jordan," that you confess Jesus as Savior.  Today, I ask another, that you remember your baptism.

The following link is a video of something two things you seldom see in a United Methodist Church: Testimony and immersion (yes, it's part of our liturgy, but seldom used).  View the video and ask what deepening of your relationship with Christ would be needed in order that remembering your baptism would have such an impact on you?  Just as God working in our lives is a mystery, so is the action of the Holy Spirit at our baptism. (View Greg's Testimony)
Jesus began his ministry by being baptized, end his ministry by commissioning us to “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…” First act, last words.  And in between, we can believe he remembered his baptism every day.  So let it be with us.