Saturday, July 21, 2018


Sermon Summary, 7/15/18, “Joy of Being Content!” (Phil 4 selected)

This is the final sermon in our joy series.  A woman loses her husband of 50 years and enters despair.  She remembers her husband had a friend who owned a pet store and she buys a parrot for company.  She tries everything to get the parrot to talk, a mirror, a ladder, a swing, Week after week she buys something new at the store, but nothing works.  The parrot dies.  The pet store owner asks, “Didn’t it ever say anything?  “Well, I think as it was laying in the bottom of it’s cage taking its final breaths, I did faintly hear it say, “Doesn’t that store have any food?” 

We focus on the wrong things!  We lose perspective.  We hate to wash clothes but fail to remember that not too long ago, washing clothes was an all day task, even longer if it was time to make soap.  We need to take perspective from the Appalachian Grandmother who encouraged us following the wash day to “Freshen up, smooth up your hair, brew up a cup of tea, sit and rock a spell, and count your blessings.”  Our joy is dependent on attitude.  Attitude.  Look for the silver lining.  “Faith is putting all your eggs in Christ’s basket and counting your blessings before they are hatched.”

Paul tells us “for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. . 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil 4:11b,13)  Focus on Christ.  To be content.  To be joyful, Paul tells us to focus on Christ.

Then rejoice: 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone.  The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Phil 4:4-7)

The Lord is near.  Rejoice sure, and we can do that if we focus on eternity.  Paul always focused the real thing, his time to be with Christ.  We can be joyful, we can be content, if we focus first on Christ, then on eternity.

And then my favorite verses: 8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Focus on the good things.  Focus on Christ, focus on eternity, focus on the good things.  In my case, in all of our cases, the good things are always people, those we are called to love and to share our lives with.  Focus on Christ, eternity, others.  Be joyful, be content.  Amen.


Sermon Summary, 7/8/18, “Joy of Sharing!” (Mt 28:18-20; Phil 2:12-13,17; 3:12-14)

I slept in an extra hour on Tuesday.  I had a dream that set up this whole sermon.  I had gotten to church early and there were people everywhere.  I had forgotten that I had invited a young preacher, highly successful preacher, to come and run the worship.  There were kids, bands, music of all kinds.  This young preacher is a friend who loves to share his faith—everywhere with everyone.  .  What he is doing is not a dream.  In a year, he’s tripled his attendance.  He baptized eight in the Missouri River near Glasgow.  In May, he asked everyone in his congregation to invite someone to the next worship.  His granddaughter even invited her school librarian.  It was an awesome turnout.

Paul’s small churches and the letters of the New Testament by Paul, Peter, James and others were essential to the faith.  The churches were no bigger than ours but formed the foundation for the Church Universal, the Body of Christ in that world.  The letters were Paul, Peter, others sharing their faith with them, joyfully sharing.  And these churches joyfully shared because they truly believed that people needed Jesus.

Adam Hamilton says that before we can freely, joyfully share our faith says we have to have the answers to three questions:

1) Why do people need Jesus?  Hamilton  says that the biggest prob-lems of the world are spiritual.  People need Jesus because he is the answer to the deepest longings of the human heart.  If you believed that, really believed that, wouldn’t be a joy to share Jesus?

2) Why do the people need the Church?  The heart of it is that It’s God’s plan for the world.  Without the church to convey Jesus to the world, there is no salvation for you or for humanity.  The world needs the Church.  We are better together.  We need one another, we need one another’s gifts.  The Church as an institution has done more good in the world than any other.  Society needs the Church.  If you believe this, really believe this, you will want people to be part of the Church.  You will share it.

3) The last question is Why do people need this particular church, Prairie Chapel?  We are United Methodists, the people of the middle way. We are authentic, grace-filled, welcoming, sharing.  Prairie Chapel is a place where people can make friends. 

I’ve shared this before, but it remains vital to our joy.  You don’t have to be an evangelist, you don’t have to be a theologian to share your faith, to invite others to church.  You just have to 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?”  Joyfully.  Amen.


Sermon Summary, 6/17/18, “Joy of Serving!” (Phil 2:1-5; Mt 11:28-30)

So, this engineer dies and goes to hell.  Unhappy with the facilities, the engineer installs air conditioning, a good deal in hell, then elevators to take the sweat out of stairs, even microwaves to replace hot ovens.  Satan is elated.  One day God calls, “Satan, God here, how is it going?”  “Great, we’ve got an engineer here that is just fantastic.  There seems to be no end of his creativity.”  God says, “An engineer?  Satan, that’s a mistake.  Send him back.”  “No way, I like having an engineer on the staff.”  God says, “Send him back Satan or I’ll sue.”  Satan cackles, “and really God, just where do you think you’ll get a lawyer?”

In real life, I experienced engineering managers who would never let you get a word in edgewise.  There was no consideration for the other.  Then there were two lawyers, young women, mothers, that each worked half time but together they comprised one of the best full time lawyers ever.  To be that effective, it required them to always be thinking about the other.  Even in the secular world, consideration of the other makes all the difference.  Together, they were a joyful pair.

The opposite we can best describe as “selfishness.”  We’ve seen it.  In ourselves.  In others.  We’ve seen it in broken and failed relationships.  Selfishness.  “I deserve it,” a prelude to infidelity, broken hearts, greed.  “It’s all about me.”  Tim Keller recently posted, “If each spouse says to the other, “I will treat my selfishness as the main problem in the marriage,” you have the prospect for great things.” Our task is to control our selfishness, and we will then have the prospect for great things!

So how was it that Jesus best described himself?  “for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Best described as unselfish, selfless, and his mission? You.  You are his other.  And his selflessness would take him all the way to the cross for you.

Then Paul, emphasizing the other says, “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.  (Phil 2:3-5)  Others, others.  “Let my joy be complete,” have regard for others.

Let me draw three circles for you, three circles of others: those you can touch, those you can see, those you can hear.  Touch, your families, close friends, those you care for; provide for their well-being, peace, joy, the others you touch.  Those you can see, your church, your communities; make them places where others can flourish.  We find joy in their growth.  Then, those we can hear.  God said to Moses, “I have heard my people cry and I send you.”  See where God is working in the world and join in.  Provide well-being, joy for those you hear.  Amen.


Sermon Summary, 6/17/18, “”Joy of Living!” (Phil 1:6; 9-11)

Joy! We are in the midst of a sermon series on joy!  I remember growing up, I wanted a Lionel train.  I would make me happy.  Then a Red Ryder BB gun.  It would make me happy.  Then a Winchester .22.  It would make me happy.  But they didn’t and they don’t.

When we get bigger, our toys get bigger.  Then it’s our spouse and family.  We need to be careful don’t we?  If we base our joy on our children, they will disappoint us; and, God forbid, if we lose them, it can destroy us.  I put way too much dependence on my joy in my granddaughter.  I have no idea what would happen.  I just don’t.  What then must be the source of our joy? 

Our series is based on Paul’s letter to the Philippians, written from prison, but a letter of joy, non-the-less.  “I give thanks every time I remember you, constantly praying for you with joy!”  Be grateful, be joyful, be positive.

Laugh again.  A man walks into a lawyers office and asks, “How much do you charge?”  “A $1000 for three questions.”  “That’s awefully expensive isn’t it?”  “Yes, what is your third question?”  Laugh again.

Be positive.  We are going to focus on a positive attitude.  A negative attitude says I need things to be happy.  A positive mindset says I need virtually nothing tangible to be joyful.  A negative attitude says I need others around me to be happy.  A positive attitude says I have the ability to create my own joy.  A negative attitude ways joy is always out there, always in the future.  A positive attitude says I can choose my joy now.  No need to wait for my ship to come in.  Positive attitude!

Our happiness, our joy depends on the set of our sails.  (“It is the set of the sails and not the gales that determines the way we go.”—from Ella Wheeler Wilcox)

Paul had set his sails on Rome, the center of that day’s world.  He made it through shipwreck and hardship and then was forgotten for two years in jail.  But when he wrote to the Philippians he wrote with joy and with confidence.  “I am confident...that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” (1:6)  Paul had confidence that he was at work in him, in them, and he’s confident God is at work in you.  “and it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.”  (1:9)  About living now.  Not that even Paul had already attained it “but I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (3:14)  That my friends is a positive attitude.

Our joy depends not on things, nor others, nor events, but on Jesus, the center of our Joy! “’Tis the set of the soul that decides the goal, and not the calm or the strife.”  Amen.


Sermon Summary, 6/17/18, “”Joy!” (Phil 4:4)

I’m back for another year!  Time for a new start.  The Problem of Pain (last sermon series) is behind us.  Time to move on.  Time for Joy!  When asked by friends, “How are you really?”, I arrived at the answer, “I’m grateful.”  I’m grateful.  Gratitude and joy go side by side.  Paul begins Philippians by saying, “I give thanks every time I remember you, constantly praying for you with joy!”  (1:3-4) Side by side.

(A story about who is joyful.  You had to be there.)

Is your Bible a joyful book, or is it stiff-collared and straight-laced?  Do you miss Elijah mocking the priests of Baal, “Where is your god, is he missing or has he wandered off?” (a euphemism for going to the woods to relieve himself).  Did you miss it?  How about Jesus, don’t you suppose when he told his listeners to “first take the log out of your own eye” or told the Pharisees “you tithe mint and dill but forget the weightier matters of the law,” don’t you suppose there were smiles on listener’s faces?  Jesus’ irony, hyperbole, and humor had to keep his listeners on their toes and a smile on their faces.  Did you miss that?  It had to be joyful to be around Jesus.

Paul may be the most joyful of all in spite of the beatings, imprisonment, hardships he endured.  And he writes this joyful letter to the Philippians from prison.  Prison!  Cuffed to a Roman guard.  “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I say again, Rejoice!” (4:4) 

Paul looked for a silver lining in everything.  From prison.  “Grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I give thanks every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy.” (1:2-4)  These may be the most grace-filled words in the whole Bible.  These are words I could say to you.  I do thank my God every time I remember you.  I do pray for you with joy.  I am delighted to be back for another year.  I give thanks. 

So while we are waiting for this sermon series to flesh out, how are we to be joyful?  Four things: Be grateful.  Start with an attitude of gratitude.  Wake up in the morning be grateful.  At night be grateful.  Pause during the day, be grateful.  Write it down.  Second, Be joyful.  It is a gift from God.  Let God’s feeling of well-being wash over you.  Accept it.  Say “Yes.”  Be joyful.  Third, Have a Positive Attitude.  Paul saw his imprisonment as a chance to evangelize the guards!  Lastly, Laugh Again!  (Did you hear the one about the blind man that ran into the bar...and the table...and the chair?) (Again, you had to be there.)

Rosemary and I kept books by Barbara around the house in times of despair. (Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and be Happy. etc)  Chapter titles included “Smile, it kills time between disasters.”  Advice included “Each day comes bearing gifts.  Untie the ribbons.”  Laugh Again.