Saturday, September 24, 2016


Sermon Summary (9/18/16), “Worship Him.” Isaiah 6:1-8

I began going to church when I was five.  I remember where I sat in the congregation.  I knew the numbers to all the old hymns.  I even remember a sermon or two.  There is no doubt that worship has shaped me, formed me, had much to do with whom I am today.

We’re in the midst of a news sermon series, “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations,” those practices so critical to a congregation’s mission that failure to perform them in an exemplary way leads to congregational deterioration and decline—Bishop Robert Schnase.

Last week, Radical Hospitality that invites, welcomes, receives, and cares for the stranger; and this week, Passionate Worship that gives the stranger something to take away.  Worship changes us.  It “describes those times we deliberately gather seeking to encounter God…. We don’t seek to squeeze God into our lives.  We seek to meld our lives into God’s.”—Schnase.

When we worship, when we really worship, we encounter God in all the elements of worship.  How is your worship?  When we lift our voices in praise and song, do we encounter him?  When we lift our hearts in prayer, do we encounter him?  When we hear Scripture read and the word proclaimed, do we encounter him?  And on communion Sunday, as we gather around the table, do we encounter him?

And if so, do we hear a call on our lives?  And so doing, leave this place changed?  When we seek God in worship, He changes us.

Worship has been part of the plan from the beginning.  Cain, Abel, Noah and Abraham brought offerings.  God told Moses to tell Pharaoh “to let my people go so that they can worship me.”  The book of Psalms is the worship book of the people.  Isaiah encountered God in the Temple and responded, “Here I am, send me.”  Jesus began his ministry in worship, Luke tells us “as was his custom.”

We worship to fulfill the commandment to Love God with all our heart, mind soul and strength.  But God wants us to love him not to be revered but to gain access to his grace such that he can mold us into the people he calls us to be.  He calls us to worship him so that he can pardon us.  So that he can restore our relationship to him and one another.  And we gather together so that he can mold us together into the body of Christ.

Physically we are shaped over a lifetime.  We are formed spiritually the same.  We need worship repetitively, weekly, to be pardoned, restored, shaped, formed.  I need that.  We need that.  We need that passionately.  “Here I am to worship.  Here I am to bow down.  Here I am to say that you’re my God.”  We need worship.


Sermon Summary (9/11/16), “Being Radical.” Romans 15:7

We begin a new sermon series.  It is important from time to time for us to look at ourselves as a congregation to remind us who we are and what we are called to do: We are to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  New Disciples; when Jesus commissioned us, there were no “old” disciples.  We are called to make “new” followers of Jesus.  How are we doing?  The mainline churches are having difficulties because we are not replacing the old generation with the new.

With inspired and spiritual leadership, the Missouri Conference has done better than most, but still has lost attendance year over year.  To aid us, our Bishop guided us with a common language of “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations” that he says are so critical to our congregations that failure to perform them in an exemplary manner leads to congregational deterioration and decline. 

Today we look at the first practice, Radical Hospitality.  Hospitality is a biblical theme from Genesis to Jesus.  Jesus opened his hands to the common people and to the outcasts.  He welcome sinners and ate with them.  He invited the woman at the well, a hated Samaritan, to new life.  He touched lepers, the demon-possessed, those cast aside.  There was no one to whom Jesus did not offer his hand.

There is no other theme or practice that is as fundamental to our faith as hospitality unless it is love.  Yet I would argue that hospitality is an act of love.  It values people, it makes them feel worthy, it builds them up.  Hospitality is an act of love.

“Christian hospitality refers to the active desire to invite, welcome, receive, and care for those who are strangers so that they find a spiritual home and discover for themselves the unending richness of life in Christ.”—Bishop Robert Schnase.

Hospitality  is not just a matter of being friendly, as Bishop Bob Farr has said it, “Every church is friendly.  What the congregation’s goal must be is make them believe the church is a place where they can make friends.”  How is it that we receive a person such that they believe they are truly welcome and want to return to be with friends? 

Welcoming is important, receiving is important, caring is important if the stranger is going to find a spiritual home and discover the unending richness of life in Christ.

And it begins with an invitation. You don’t have to be a theologian to invite, you don’t have to be an evangelist.  All you have to do is be able to say, “I go to church; church is important to me; church makes a difference in my life.  Won’t you join me this Sunday.”  And then welcome them, receive them, care for them.  Give them something to take away.

Saturday, September 10, 2016


Sermon Summary (9/4/16), “Sustained by Grace.” Job excerpts

We’re concluding a sermon series looking at “grace” in the Old Testament.  As Methodists we believe that grace permeates our relationship with God.  He nudges before we know it (prevenient grace), he saves us (justifying grace), and he makes us grow in love of God and one another (sanctifying grace).  There are an infinite number of ways grace moves us and they are intermingled.  We are continually nudged, continually returned to a saving relationship, continually growing.  Grace is also there to sustain us.  And that is the Old Testament story of Job.

We have been or have seen those sustained by grace.  We say, “There but the grace of God go I”; and we marvel at how some get through life, but they do.  Sustained by grace.  The question in our mind becomes, “How can God let bad things happen to good people?”

Portions of Job are the oldest written passages of the Bible making the question of unfairness in life the oldest dilemma in the human condition.  The question predates the Psalmist who lamented “Why do the wicked prosper.”  It predated Moses who in Deuteronomy might lead us to believe that only the bad suffer.  It predated Abraham.  We find Job predates the Hebrew race.  Why do good people suffer?

The story: Satan tells God his faithful servant Job would not be so if his possessions (a good person rewarded with good things) and his health were taken from him.  God gives Satan permission to test him, “but spare his life.”  Job’s friends insist he has sinned, or has sinned and doesn’t know it, or his children have sinned.  “Confess and repent.”  Job insists in his integrity.  He is blameless and upright, always fearing God and turning from evil.  He says, “If I could only face God I could make my case.”

God appears to him with glorious language seeming to answer no questions at all except creation is a mystery, and Job relents, “Things too wonderful for me.  Things I did not understand.”  Then an amazing thing happens.  God says Job is right!  Bad things do happen to good people!  We come to understand that God has been sustaining Job’s faith all along.

As Christians we come to understand that freewill (God gave Satan permission to exercise his freewill as he does all his creatures including us) permits evil and chaos in this world.  The Almighty God has relinquished a part of his power to us, but he has replaced it with grace.

But when bad things happen to good people, in steps grace, sustaining grace.  In place of all our flaws, God sustains us.  And he gives us friends to walk along side us, to be sustaining grace too.  That’s us.


Sermon Summary (8/28/16), “Show-Me Grace.” Hosea 11:1-9

We often reject God for convenience.  Whenever our urges arise, God gets in the way.  We set him aside.  Another Boone County arrest for child pornography..  Where had he placed God in his life?  Entanglements that threaten marriages.  My guess that God was inconvenient and was set aside.  Drug addictions and alcoholism.  When choices could have been made, God was inconvenient and set aside. 

Oh, we make other excuses: “I reject the wrathful God of the Old Testament.  I want a God who care about me, not the God of the Old Testament.  I want a God who loves me, a God that forgives me even when I don’t deserve it.”  Let me tell you about the God of Hosea!

When God spoke to Hosea, he told him to not only to speak for God (that’s what prophets do), but “I want you to show them my grace.”  He told Hosea to take as a wife a woman of Il repute, and have children with her.  Hosea married Gomer and after having children, Gomer left Hosea to return to her life of sin (Just like the Children of Israel leaving God for other small g gods).  But God told Hosea to bring her back, redeem her, “love a woman who is an adulteress.”  Just as God loves Israel and calls her back, redeems her even when she is undeserving, Hosea, the “Show-me Prophet”, shows us the grace of a God who cares for us, loves us, forgives us even when we do not deserve it.

But the verses that truly show the grace of God are from Hosea 11:

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
    the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
    and offering incense to idols.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
    I took them up in my arms;
    but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
    with bands of love.
I was to them like those
    who lift infants to their cheeks.
    I bent down to them and fed them.

I love these verses.  Here’s the deal.  Everyone of us has someone that needs to be shown grace. God asked Hosea then.  He asks us now.