Monday, March 23, 2020


Sermon Summary (3/22/20) “What We Believe About the Holy Spirit Matters” (John 14:15-17; 26-27; Galatians 5:16-25)

Does God talk to us? I mean if we had been there when God told Abraham, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to a land that I will show you” (Gen 12:1) would we have been able to tape record it?  What language do you suppose it had been in?  Or does God speak to us in other ways?  Through the heart?

God has spoken to me in a series of ways that have changed my life completely.  I can recall the first time I visited a church in Monroe, Ct. When I observed the liturgist reading scripture, helping with communion, something inside me said, “You can do that.”  A few months later, we invited a pastor to the house to talk to us.  On the way home that night, I can tell you the turn in the road, the house on the hill, the tree on the corner.  An incredible peace came over me.  I was putting myself in God’s hands.  I was going to do whatever he told me to do.  That night the pastor talked to me about Lay Speaker school.  Was God speaking through that pastor? 

I didn’t know it at the time but these conversations, these nudges would change my life completely.  Were they God speaking to me?

We are in a series of sermons on the Apostles’ Creed.  What we believe matters.  Today, What we believe about the Holy Spirit matters.  The third person of the Trinity.  What difference does it make?

John 14 is one of those amazing passages where Jesus introduces us to the Holy Spirit, here he calls it by the Greek word, paraclete.  Para, meaning along side, and clete, to call.  Paraclete, to call along side.  Newer translations say Advocate; the KJV, the Comforter, recent, the Companion.

In John 14, Jesus says he is going away and he is comforting his disciples, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (v.16-17) Forever, and then “abides in you, and he will be in you.” Can you imagine anything more intimate.

And then in v.26 and 27, 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.  27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”  Teach you everything.  Peace.  Like the turn in the road.

I am not the person I was 35 years ago at the turn in the road.  What happened?  The Holy Spirit happened.  We believe that God’s redemptive love in human experience is realized through the Holy Spirit.  We call that grace, God’s unmerited love for us that nudges us, saves us, molds us into the person God wants us to be.  Our part is to say, “Yes,” to cooperate with grace.  We become new creations, on to becoming little Christs.  CS Lewis says that is the whole reason for becoming a Christian.

And through that God has changed the world.  Because Christ lived, over the centuries everything has changed, our art, our literature, our philosophies, our governments, how we treat one another in human affairs.  It has all changed.  Through the presence of the Holy Spirit, God has changed and continues to change the world we live in and us.

In Galatians 5:16-22, we find God changes us from being under the power of the flesh (the power that opposes God’s will for us to love one another) to peoples embodying the “Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  Then he says, “There is no law against such things.”  There is simply no limit to how much you can love, or how good or kind you can be.  Wouldn’t the world be better off with a little more self-control?

The Holy Spirit wants to change us.  It is not us, not what we do, but the Holy Spirit within us when we cooperate, when we say “Yes.” Paul tells in Philippians, “I am confident in this, that the one who began a good work in you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”

So may it be for us all.  Amen.


Sermon Summary (3/15/20) “What We Believe About Jesus Matters” (Matthew 16:13-16; Galatians 1:1-5; The Apostle’s Creed.)

I just shake my head.  I recall a conversation with my pastor when I said, “I believe in God, but I’m just not sure about this Jesus.”  He said nothing.  Either he was biting his tongue or in his wisdom he knew that I’d figure it out. 

But I wasn’t the only one. Jesus asked, “Who do people say that I am...who do you say that I am.”  We find out later that Peter didn’t fully understand when he said, “You are the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” 

But who do you say that I am?  We are in series of sermons on the Apostle’s Creed, the dogma of Christianity, what nearly all believe about our faith.  “I believe…”  But it’s one thing to believe, quite another to change our hearts, change our behavior.  What you believe about Jesus matters.

Many today say it doesn’t matter.  The largest growing religious group in America are the “None of the Aboves” the “Nones.”  Yet it is a consensus from non-biblical sources that Jesus lived, walked, taught, was crucified at the hands of Pontius Pilate, that his disciples reported that he rose from the dead.  The “Nones” would say that is myth, legend, made up four centuries later.  I’m going to show you that what we say in the Apostle’s Creed was believed weeks, months, or a few short years after his death if not at the time of his death by hundreds of people and surely by his disciples.

The miracles of Jesus were to show that he was divine, power over the spirit world, “Who is this that even the unclean spirits obey him?” Power over disease by healing Peter’s mother-in-law; no one can forgive sins but God; Power over chaos (creation), “Who is this that even the winds and the waves obey him?”  For those who followed Jesus, he was the divine Son of Godl

The earliest creed of the more than likely dating from 35 to 35 ad was “Jesus is Lord.” (1 Cor 12:3) The sign of the fish, IXTHUS, “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior,” was from the late first century.  In the 2d or 3d century came the Old Roman Symbol, nearly identical to the Apostle’s Creed.  Lastly, Paul’s introduction to the Galatians states “Jesus is Lord,” “Jesus is Son,” “Jesus is Christ,” “Jesus gave himself up for our sins,” “Jesus died for us,” “Jesus rose again,” all as Creed which had to be part of the church by 40 ad.  Philippians and Colossians have hymns of he early church declaring the divinity of Christ that have to range from the 40s ad.

So what do you believe about Jesus?  That he is Savior?  That he died for me?  That he rose again?  That’s what the Apostles believed and they would go to their deaths before they would recant of their beliefs. 

Who is this that even the unclean spirits obey him, that forgives sins, that even the winds and waves obey him?  That gave himself up for me, for me?  He is Lord.  He is the source of everlasting life.  What we believe about him matters.


Sermon Summary (3/8/20) “What We Believe About God Matters” (Psalm 8; Genesis 1:1)

“Let me believe.”  My only prayer for three years following the death of our son.  I came to believe in phases.  First, as a Deist, one who believed that God exists but has left life to us.  Many of our Founding Fathers were Deists.  What they believed mattered.  If God was not involved, the good world was up to them and they had high expectations. 

My son challenged me, “If Jesus came and stood before you, you’d believe in a personal God.”  In essence he did.  God exists, it made sense that God exists, it takes far more faith not to believe than to believe.  It made sense too that if God us Creator, that he would want to reconcile creation to himself and do so by becoming like us, and do so with the greatest act of love that one can do for another and this is to give his life for me.  And if He would do that, He is a very personal God.

The problem is that so many are rejecting or ignoring God.  They don’t give him the time of day.  And then there are those who are practical Atheists.  They believe in God but it has no impact on the way they live.

Where are you?  Where are you on the spectrum of belief?  We say in the Creed: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”  This sermon is the beginning of a six part sermon series on the Apostle’s Creed, “I Believe,” in Latin, “Credo.”  What we believe matters as does how casual our believe is.  I can say, “I believe the Cardinals are going to win the World Series.”  Fan Faith.  It has little to do with my behavior.  I can get a little political, “I believe in the Second Amendment.”  Or like the Founding Fathers: “We hold these truths to be self-evident….to which we pledge our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor.”  I wish our Christian faith was so.

When we read the Psalms, we are reading the words of passionate believers, “When I look at the stars, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place.”  You can feel the passion.  So what’s gone wrong?

In the 18th century, science emerged.  Science became our god.  In the 19th century, the “Origin of the Species.”  Evolution became our god.  In the 20th Century, the Big Bang.  Some saw no need for god.  In the 21st century, ardent Atheist authors who see religion as the source of all evil. 

Yet the dozens of clues that God has left in the universe overwhelmingly convince me that there is a God.  Here’s just five: The Big Bang, proposed by a Catholic Priest tells us rather than being eternal, that the universe came from nothing.  I would declare that that nothing is God (I’m not alone).  Secondly, “Creation” itself declares the glory of God.  A baby wrapping its tiny fingers around my pinkie is a huge clue to the existence of God.  Thirdly, CS Lewis examines the “moral law “and finds a higher standard in almost every group.  God’s law.  Next, there is no philosophical reason for the “order of the universe,” that water boils at the same temperature each day, or that an apple falls at the same acceleration.  God exists.  Finally, the finetuning of the universe for life.  God exists.  The personal God of the Bible exists.  What we believe matters.