Friday, January 31, 2020


Sermon Summary (1/19/20/) “The Power of One” (John 1:29-42)
The Mission of the United Methodist Church (and this church) is “To Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.”  Question: What is the most transformational thing you’ve ever done?  For me, probably Habitat for Humanity.  A warm dry place for a family to lay their heads is transformational.  
And did you know that Habitat for Humanity began with one man?  Actually, one couple when Linda Fuller challenged her self-possessed millionaire husband to take his faith seriously.  He did.  Together they gave all their wealth away and began one of the most transformative ministries ever.
The priorities of the Missouri Conference are to 1) Identify and nurture missional leaders, 2) Start new places for new people, and 3) Create pathways out of poverty.  The latter two require the missional leaders identified in priority one.
So what is the impact of a single invitation, a single person?  In our story today, Andrew and John are disciples of John the Baptist first, and when John sees Jesus and says, “The lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world,” they approach Jesus and say “Teacher, where are you staying (same word as ‘abide’).  Jesus calls them by saying “Come and See.”  And they remained (same word as abided) with him all day.  The next day, Andrew finds his brother, Simon Peter, and says “We have found the Messiah (the Christ).”  Peter accepted the invitation and that changed the shape of the first century Christian community and Christianity forever.  The power of a single invitation to a family member.
Who might be the missional leaders in your surroundings that could be transformational?  They might be the obvious candidates.  Or they might be the humble version of Christ that lead through humble service. “The last shall be first and servant of all.”  They might be those that are just compelled to do that drag those around them along.  Finding them may only take a single invitation.  The Power of One.
And sometimes God provides.  We have a case in point.  Just when we were talking of New Places or New People, such a leader came along.
And we might find that person among us.  You see, I was invited.  “You need to go to Sarah Smith’s class.”  (The district director of lay speaking ministries that eventually became my mentor.)  Mid-State district has a Basic Course on Mar 21st and an Advanced Class, “Christian Transformational Leaders,” on Apr 4th.  I encourage as many of you as possible to attend one or both of them.
Leadership may be quite different that you imagine.  Jesus spelled it out for James and John in Mark 10 when they were looking for the perks of leadership, only to be told that “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wills to be first among you must be their slave.”  The love of Jesus so demonstrated.  Amen.

Saturday, January 25, 2020


Sermon Summary (1/5/20/) “Epiphany: Christ’s Presentation to the World.” (Mt 2)

“The Twelfth Day of Christmas….Twelve Drummers Drumming.”  The Twelfth Day, the last day of Christmas is a noisy day.  Tomorrow, also Jan 6th is Epiphany, in some places in the world bigger than Christmas.  The first story Matthew gives us after the birth, the presentation of the Christ child to the world, to the “Magi,” the outsiders more than likely from Persia.  And what is the last story in Matthew? Jesus’ Great Commission: make disciples of all nations. The bookends of the Good News, the presentation to the nations and the call to go to all the nations.  Here’s my take: Matthew’s Gospel excludes no one. 

So, I have to ask myself, “who am I excluding?”  If Jesus is Savior of the World, and we are called to make disciples of all the world, who am I excluding?  Jesus calls us to love our neighbors, even our enemies.  We are told “God so loved the world.”  Who do I exclude intentionally or because I don’t give them second though or because they don’t share my values or they don’t belong to my tribe or maybe because they hate me?  Who?

Maybe here’s a New Year’s Question for me: Who should I include?  In the year 2020, who should I include that I exclude?

Stephen Covey (Seven Habits) says that we all have a circle of concern and that we should work to make our circle of influence approach our circle of concern.  What do you suppose God’s circle of concern looks like?  What should the circle of influence of his Church look like?

On Christmas Eve we did not take an offering, but I recommended that all write two checks, one to a worthy charity close to home, and other at a distance.  How do we expand our circle of influence?  See where God is working in the world and join in.

As a South Dakotan living far from home, I too often exclude the Native Americans.  I just don’t consider them.  Yet, the most caring Christmas message I received this year was from my Native American friend who grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation and now lives in Alaska.  Yet I exclude the Native Americans from my consideration.  If I look to see where God is working, I can find the Red Cloud Jesuit School on the Reservation that is transforming. I can join in. I can include them with a little effort on my part.

If the Church of Jesus Christ, the Body of Christ, looked, we can fill God’s Circle of Concern with our Influence, whether refugee camps, girls schools in Asia, impoverished people in Latin America.  We can find a way.  Individually, we can’t do it all, but because we are a connected church, we can do our part.

Epiphany is a manifestation, an appearance, it is Christ’s revelation to the whole world.  There is no longer Greek, nor Jew, male nor female, slave nor free, but all are one in Christ Jesus.  Who should we include in 2020?  How can we embrace them even if they are beyond our embrace?  See where God is working in the world and join in. 

Saturday, January 18, 2020


Sermon Summary (12/29/19) “Caring for a Child Not Your Own” (Mt 1 and 2 selected)

I grew up in town of less than a thousand.  If I did something wrong, my parents knew it before I got home from school.  The family, the church, the school, even main street were involved in our lives.  My sister–in-law said even the post master, she couldn’t buy a stamp as a kid without saying please and thank you.

I realize that Dad’s implement business employed a lot of people.  He took his employees seriously.  I remember Dad taking me to a house early one Thanksgiving morning (and shortly after a delivery of a baby).  There were Christmas bonuses.  His legacy to me was always to find ways to care without fanfare and with dignity.  Kids in our town were valued.

Charles Dickens’ England was a time and place that valued children little.  I think A Christmas Carol changed that and a crippled child, Tiny Tim, “God bless us everyone,” changed our thoughts.

What do you suppose it was like growing up in a town of 200, 2000 years ago, Nazareth of Galilee?  To carry an illegitimate child?  What did the community say? Was it a mysterious child of the Holy Spirit as the angel said?  Would it be adopted by the community?  A glimpse of Jesus at 12 where his parents believed he was playing with the children of the caravan would indicate he was a child of the community. (Luke 2)

But whose child was it in the eyes of Joseph?  Certainly Joseph responded to the angel, married Marry, protected the child, raised it as his own when even the genealogy of the community did not recognize him as the child’s father: 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. (Mt 1:16)  Not the father of Jesus but the husband of Mary.

Christmas is a reminder that it takes a community.  Coyote Hills in Harrisburg may be an example of Larry McDaniel and his wife providing for over 40 foster children at a time.  A friend of mine fostered a family of five and later adopted them.  We may not be able to take in foster children ourselves, but Christmas is a reminder that those that do need our support.

And we were blessed with the opportunity this Christmas to support a family with a disabled child.  Thank you for making that possible, Samantha.

This Christmas is also a season of Mister Rogers with his movie in theaters.  In his 32 years he impacted generations of elementary school children emphasizing developing of the child psyche and moral and ethic values.

(At this point we viewed “The Time Shop” (

It is reminder that maybe our greatest gift is a gift of time.  The community, foster parents, even Mister Rogers looking into the living rooms of our homes saying, “I’m going to give you my time.”  So may it be for us.

Saturday, January 4, 2020


Sermon Summary (12/24/) “Why We Need Christmas” (Lk 2:1-15)

I’m going to begin by answering the title question, “Why we need Christmas?”  Normally, you would have to wait at least half way through the message to get the answer, but the answer is so important, I’m going to give it to you now.  Here it is: “We need Christmas because Jesus is the answer to the deepest longings of the human heart.” (repeat)

Why do we miss that? Why do we not see that? We cannot see the need for Jesus until we see ourselves, until we see our human condition.

People in New York City cannot imagine how a 13 year old stabbed and killed a beautiful young college freshmen, Tessa Majors.  How can one of their own, a 13 year old take a life.  Do you suppose he had gone to church? Had been in Sunday School since a young age? That his friends had learned right and wrong from the stories of Jesus?  Probably not.

As I was writing this, I received a call from a friend asking how I was doing?  He knows that Christmas is a difficult time for those in grief and that Jesus is the only answer to my deepest longings.  I thank my God for the caller.

You see, the Christmas story really begins in Genesis, in the garden, with the giving of free will.  God gave us the ability to choose and instructions and a conscience to know right from wrong, but it is the human condition that even when we know things that cause harm to ourselves or others, we choose to do the harmful thing anyway. 

Jesus, in the story of the Good Shepherd, tells us that there are false shepherds, imposters that care only for themselves.  But Jesus is the Good Shepherd who cares for the sheep.  Jesus concludes by saying, “I come that you have life and it to the full.”  Other translations say, “life and it abundantly.”  Isn’t that what we want for our children, our grandchildren, “live abundantly”? 

John Wesley was asked, “How do we avoid the wrath to come?”  I had always thought of “the wrath to come” as the judgment, but there is “wrath” in this life, too.  John Wesley gathered those followers of Jesus into small groups to look over one another in love who would ask “how is it with your soul” and “what temptations have you faced and how have you dealt with them?”  And he gave them three rules to follow: “First do no harm (it is almost impossible to undo the consequences of harm.  You can be forgiven, yes, but the consequences remain).  Second, to good.  And third, stay in love with God (pray, read the bible, worship God.) 

We read in the papers every day of shattering actions that crush our Christmases because of bad choices.  Isn’t the gift of good choices the very best gift we can give ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.  “I come that you have life and it abundantly.”  Jesus is the answer to the deepest longings of the human heart in this world and the next.

We need to hear the angels proclaim the “Good news of Great Joy.”  We need to believe the shepherds.  We need to say, “Yes,” and to unwrap the gift of Christmas.  Jesus is the answer to our deepest longings.