Saturday, October 22, 2016


Sermon Summary (10/2/16), “Being Generous for Him (Extravagant Generosity).” Mal 3:8-10

It’s taken me a while, but I finally understand that God is interested in my stuff, how I acquire and how I use my stuff.  I knew a man named Ray who had every power tool and power garden tool imaginable.  But Ray didn’t cultivate gardens, he cultivated people.  He would stand in church and say it’s time to plant, or it’s time to pick beans or grapes.  On Saturday people would gather at Ray’s for work, for fellowship, for a real communion.  Ray cultivated people.  I’m sure God approved of the way Ray used his stuff.

Our mission is “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”  We need to acquire and use our goods in an honorable manner and that portion that is given back to God, use transformationally, to change lives.  Our literature is full of people who have not: Slave traders and owners, graspers like Ebenezer Scrooge (we celebrate his transformation in the last scene), Mr. Potter, others.  How we use our stuff is important to God.

We’re in the last week of our sermon series, “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.”  This week, “Extravagant Generosity.”  God is extravagantly generous: “For God so loved the world, he gave…”  He gave.  Creation and life itself are acts of generosity.  And we are stewards.  We have dominion and all the responsibility that goes with it.  The Psalmist tells us, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that it is in it; the world and those who dwell therein.” (24:1) We are stewards, responsible for the earth, what we take from it, what we give back.  But God makes a bargain.  If we are generous, he will bless us: “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse...and thus put me to the test, says the Lord…, see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.” (Mal 3:10)

Jesus tells story after story about the use of money and our attitudes toward it: The widow’s mite (they gave of their abundance, she from all she had); Parable of the Rich Fool (Life does not consist of the abundance of possessions); Parable of the Talents (take from the one who buried their talent and give it to the one who was productive); Even the Good Samaritan (Here are two denarii.  Take care of him and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I return.)

What if we thought of ourselves as the “Little Church who could do Big Things”?  For 2017, let’s think of how we can do transformational things for the year.  Think of Rainbow Network where $6000 pays for a doctor or $4800 a house or $3600 for 10 scholarships.  Health and hearth and education are Big Things that never go away.  So may it be for us.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


Sermon Summary (10/2/16), “Serving the Least of These for Him (Risk-Taking Missions and Service).” Act 2:42-47

When we grew up there weren’t a lot of services available for the poor, no shelter, no Red Cross, no Salvation Army, no pantries.  But what we did have were a lot of people who had Christian compassion.  My dad had one man working for him with 17 children!  I found out that Dad had provide a turkey for them one year.  And I bet a Christmas bonus, and my hunch is that it happened every year, and was considered part of his pay.  Done so with dignity. 

We need a lot of Christian compassion in the world today, working with the poor so that the unfortunate can be treated with dignity.  The history of Christianity has been to work with the least, the lost, the downtrodden and the oppressed.  Christianity conquered the Roman Empire, not with the sword but with service.  Christians tended to the dead and dying of the empire in times of great plagues so much so that Emperor Julian (last emperor before Constantine) wrote to his pagan priest urging them to be more like the Christians “who support not only their own, but ours as well.”  But it was impossible for them because they lacked love. 

We can take a risk.  Jesus is worth dying for.  All humanity is of
sacred worth.  Jesus died for all.

A look at Syria, Sudan, oppressive nations around the world, we can see that the world in is need of Christian compassion.  We were all made in the image of God (Gen 1:37).  All of us are of sacred worth.  Jesus came to serve and not to be served, to serve the least and the lost, the poor, the blind, the captive, the oppressed.

We are in the midst of a sermon series on the Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, practices so critical to the congregation that failure to perform them in an exemplary manner leads to congregational deterioration and decline.  Today, “Risk-taking Missions and Service.”  We need to serve with the compassion of Christ, to serve the least of these.  And do it a manner that retains their dignity.

Fruitful congregations.  The District has a lay servant who months ago was homeless, was invited to Wilkes Boulevard UMC for breakfast, then to worship.  Because of her shabby clothing she did not feel worthy and had not been in worship for 40 years but as the music was played tears streamed down her face.  Fruit, a changed life.  All because a United Methodist Church is involved in Risk-taking Missions and Service.

Sunday, October 2, 2016


Sermon Summary (9/25/16), “Gathering for Him.” Act 2:42-47

I recall after I attended my first Lay Speaking course wondering how my fellow students knew so much about the Bible,  How did they know all that?  I became hungry for Biblical knowledge trying on my own, but finally asking the pastor if there was rigorous study that I could attend.  There was a Baptist church about 20 miles away but that did seem to mesh.  Then in 1990, the Methodist Church published Disciple Bible Study.  It changed my life.  It was demanding, 34 weeks with a 2 1/2 hour meeting each week.  Yet I couldn’t wait to get to my little table next to the window each morning, and I couldn’t wait to get with my group, to “gather for him,” each week in a group.  In a group.  That’s the way Jesus taught.  Can you see him gathering his disciples around him on the mount as “he opened his mouth and taught them” in a group?

Paul taught groups; his letters were to groups.  When his letters were received they were read to groups.  Disciple Bible Study was in a group.  The discussion was relevant, it was compelling, it was the most impactful part of my faith journey.

Today we’re talking about Intentional Faith Development.  Faith development is best done in relationship, in groups.  A rabbi once said of the Bible, “We hold this text to sacred.  But when we come together around this book, we share not just the words of the text, we share our lives together.  That’s what Bible study is supposed to do, relate our lives to one another and the sacred text.

The great biblical example is Acts 42 and 46: 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…. they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts.”  The first disciples spent time in the Temple, yes; but they spent time together in studying the Apostle’s teaching (We call that bible study) and sharing around a meal in relationship.

Andy Stanley says we are better in circles than in rows.  That’s why we are offering a new Bible Study called “Disciple Fast Track.”  It will take 24 weeks, meeting on Saturday mornings for just 1 1/4 hours.  And ending before Easter. Thirteen of you signed up last Sunday and I’m hoping that a few more will take advantage of this wonderful offer.  See me.

Small groups change lives.  Bible study changes lives.  Join us!  It will be one of the things you will always look back on fondly.  We’ll all be in circles, and God will be present.  Amen.