Thursday, November 12, 2015


Sermon Summary from November 1, “Appearances” (1 Samuel 16)

Yesterday, I had an amazing conversation with a woman that had been homeless, a woman that I ordinarily would have shied away from. Why? Because of appearances. I came to find out that because of medical problems, now controlled with the right prescriptions, she had become homeless.  She was educated, a voracious reader, and worked as a computer technician.  He had no car by choice.  She had no television because it was a time sink.  She hadn’t been to church for 40 years until the United Methodist Church invited her in her homeless clothes to attend, and now she considers it her church and she never misses a Sunday.  Amazing conversation and I almost missed because of appearances that I shy away from.

But you know that we all seem to create appearances that define us and others shy away from.  Some wear big hats and buckles.  Others have tattoos.  Others have bikes and helmets.  High School kids gather in like kinds by appearances.  We’re in the process of selecting Presidential nominees and I’ll bet we’re doing it in part by appearances.  I wonder what kind of chance Abraham Lincoln would have with our current system?

Jesus is described in the Old Testament as a man of sorrows that others would hide their faces from.  He was born into poverty, a manual laborer, homeless during his ministry.  Would I have missed him?

Israel almost missed King David.  They had a King, Saul, right out of Hollywood central casting, the most handsome man in the land who stood head and shoulders above everyone else.  But Saul chose military expediency over God, and God rejected him.

God told Samuel (prophet and the final Judge of Israel) to go to home of Jesse and choose on of his sons.  Samuel thought surely God’s chosen was among Jesse’s older and more handsome sons; but Go told him “mortals judge by appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  “...At the heart.”  David, the youngest, 10 or 12 years old was selected by God.

That’s what we need to do, need to train ourselves to do.  But to get to the heart, we need to enter into conversation, even with those that may look difference than we do.  Here’s our challenge, to find a person (in a safe environment) that we may never ordinarily talk with and engage them in conversation, maybe in the checkout line, maybe in the aisle.  Step out of our comfort zone.  Find ways to look at the heart.  We will all be enriched by it.


Sermon Summary from October 25, “A Life of Generosity”

There were times when Rosemary and I lived with no margin. We moved to Alexandria, VA, as new second lieutenants, high rent, low pay.  We made it through three weeks before we had to use silver dollars to buy the baby milk and charge our meals at the officers club.  Our move to Alabama and flight school a year later was very welcome .

We have a friend. a good man otherwise, who borrowed against the herd to buy expensive equipment then sold the herd to make the payments.  He went to jail!  It seems we can’t live without money and we can’t live with it.  We all have financial lives.  We live our financial lives each and every day.  No wonder the Bible and Jesus have much to say about it.  How is it that followers of Jesus should live their financial lives?

First, with an attitude of gratitude.  God created all of us and all that we have and give us dominion.  It is not ours.  We are stewards.  Be grateful.  Second, simplicity (I’m preaching to myself here).  Stuff costs money, requires maintenance, needs insurance, takes space, gets in the way, distracts us.  There are areas of our life that we should simplify because we should, and that leads to the next way of living: Live with margin.

John Wesley teaches us to “Make all you can so you can save all you can so you can give all you can.”  You cannot give, you cannot live a life of generosity without margin.

But why should we?  Because God is out to change the world!  We are called to be disciples so that we can transform the world.  What if every Christian tithed to a sound, efficient Christian charity?  What if?  We now give two to three percent.  We say let the government do it.  When was the last time the government ministered well?  When do they ever do anything with love? 

To change the world, we need to live a life of generosity, a transforming life of generosity.  And there are great charities in which are dollars are life changing and never go away: Habitat for Humanity returns payments to the fund for humanity to build more houses.  The money never goes away.  Micro-loans revolutionize lives and are used in perpetuity.  Safe water and throttling diseases like malaria are life changing.  Education, especially of girls in developing countries, may be the answer to peace.  God wants to change the world: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”

The best advice?  See where God is working in the world and join in!


Sermon Summary for October 18th (Mt 25:34-36; Gal 5:19-25)

We’re in a sermon series, “Foundations: Basic Practices of Following Jesus.” Today joining Jesus in ministry through a life of service.  We’re made that way: Divine Design. We’re on a life-long journey.  Journey would imply we don’t stay in the same place.  We start where we are, but we intentionally move, following Jesus in a life of worship, of hospitality, of opening ourselves to him, of obeying him, and joining in his ministry, a life of service.

Each of us are equipped with gifts.  Interesting thing about gifts—they are not for us.  They are for others.  They are of no value if we keep them to ourselves.  Spiritual gifts are for building up others, the body of Christ for service.  But for the body of Christ to be effective, it needs you, it needs your presence.  God is out to transform the world through the service of Jesus’ followers.  Your presence is required.

Last week Rosemary and I listened to an Andy Stanley sermon series “What Makes You Happy?”  The first was “No Thing.”  There is no thing that can make you happy.  Happiness always requires a “who or two.”  The second was “Sow Ing.”  We reap what we sow.  We need to sow with care to be happy.  The last was “Not Me.”  Selfishness, ego, narcissism can never make us happy.  He says, “You cannot acquire, consume or exercise your way to happiness.”  Happiness is about others.  That’s God’s divine design.

Andy cited medical surveys showing caring, teaching, protecting professions are the most satisfying, that volunteering reduces stress, depression, heart disease.  For teens there is less drug abuse, fewer unwanted pregnancies among volunteers even when the service was mandatory!  Why? We were designed that way.

In Galatians 5:19-25, Paul contrast the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit.  Works of the flesh are almost exclusively self-serving.  And when we strive to satisfy ourselves at the expense of others, we have a moral issue and we are being warned.

“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  There is no law against such things.”  These are almost exclusively for others, and they result in mutual joy.  And there is no limit, there is no law.  You can love all you want, be kind all you want, be gentle all you want.  Just think if all the people exercised self-control for one month what a world it would be.  There is no law against them.

What makes us happy?  Offering ourselves to others.  Smiling more, scheduling time to be with others.  Finding ways to help.  Mel West has told us that our opportunity to serve come at the intersection of the lines where the need of others intersect our ability to meet those needs. 

How do we follow Jesus?  Join him in ministry? Live a life of service?  We simply ask in all circumstances, “What does love require of us?”  And then listen to the urging of the Spirit.  And love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control will be part of your life.  You were designed that way.  Amen.