The Nourishing Thought: “Just as a candle can not burn without out fire, so people can not live without a spiritual life.”
Words of Wisdom: “Happiness can not be traveled to, owned, earned, won or consumed. Happiness is the Spiritual experience of living moment to moment with love, grace, and gratitude.” D. Waitley
Scripture: James 1:22, Matthew 7: 24
Sermon, July 29, 2018
It’s nearly August and people are thinking fall weather and football. Let’s talk about football for a minute. Some form of a game involving a ball has been played around the world from almost the beginning of time. In Europe, a game called football, which was like rugby or soccer, has been played for centuries.
The first American style football was played as early as 1820 by Princeton University. By 1827 Harvard students were playing football. These games were played by mobs of people...all trying to advance the ball to a goal. The game was violent and rules non-existent, so the colleges banned the game.
In 1869 the game returned to college campuses and rules were established, based somewhat on the European games. By 1873 strides had been made to standardize the rules of the ever growing popular sport. Other colleges, high schools adopted the game and sand lot games were played in neighborhoods and villages all across New England...the fun spread quickly...and the game became institutionalized.
Fields and stadium facilities were built, teams were selected, coaches and referees were hired, food services appeared to quince the thirst of viewers, score boards had to be built, then parking lots with attendants. Then professional football made the game a national pastime and big business. All the things that go with football, the game, whether peewee, school, college or pro, are just that...infrastructure. The real game does not start, nor does it have any real enhanced meaning, until the team is on the field and one person does something...the center hikes the ball….then all the other things related to football take on meaning. The spirit of the game is set loose...only after an act occurs.
The development of Christianity has taken a similar path. All cultures and societies from the beginning of humans have had some type of god-worship, or religion. Christianity has its basic origins in Judaism...a religion that worships only one God. Judaism has an identity associated with the ten commandments and a history of leaders, judges, priests, and kings and pver 600 specific rules that must be obeyed at all times.
About 2000 years ago a young Jewish man in Israel became convinced the religious people of his day had become spectators to traditions. The rites and rituals did not seem to change the behavior of it adherents to make life better for themselves and others. Something more had to be done.
So this man, we call Jesus, began to teach ethics and rules that might make people stop being spectators and become full participants. He taught in villages all over and his teachings were about being humane, about loving one another in practicality not in words alone. He taught to stop being self centered and realize that all others are as important as you are. People were drawn to him and his teachings of compassion, hope, forgiveness, and love...a faith centered in love began to develop. His followers were called People of the Way...the way of Jesus. Some 300 years later a Roman Emperor named Constantine made this fledgling faith the official faith of his empire and the institutionalization of Christianity began. A pope was selected to be like the emperor to have control of the hierarchy and the masses of people. Archbishops, bishops, priests, friars, nuns, preachers, teachers, church buildings, and printed bibles all became a part of upholding this institutionalized religion...and the marvelous loving grace-filled faith of Jesus slowly developed into a faith about Jesus...so stories had to be written to make him be like a god so Rome could compete with powerful pagan societies and religions.
Today we as Christians have gone the way of other instituions in our society...we have lost the original meaning of what became institutionalized. Yes, We have gorgeous churches and cathedrals, we have organs and pianos with moving, beautiful music and hymns and singers, we have creeds, a rules, and dogma, and tenets, and isms, we have all the trimmings to make us like Jesus, our founder, yet we still refuse to love people who do not love us or think like we do. WE become more like spectators for a bit of time each Sunday rather than full participants in the faith, full do-ers of the faith. All the creeds, and prayers, and ministerial work that is to help us all become more loving have made us into a people and a nation who say terrible things about each other and do worse things to each other.
Sin and hurt and wrong doing are so prevalent among people who claim to be Christians it is enough to freeze the blood in our systems. All the trimmings that go with our faith, the beautiful churches, the music, the scripture, the prayers, the creeds don’t come alive, don’t get filled with enthusiasm and spirit, until people who profess to follow the faith of Jesus take one of those radical teachings of His and act on it, do it, and do it every day. It is us using the teachings of our faith to improve kindness in the world that Jesus’ Christianity is all about. Love your enemy...pray for your enemy. Give yourself away in service instead of hording your possessions, stop giving lip service to your God and do what is asked...forgive all, love all, reach out to those in need in your community. Be a Christian, meaning you emulate, you imitate, Jesus in the simple ways he loved and cared for other human beings. Be someone for Christ. Be on his team. Pick up the ball of love and run full out with it. Don’t just be a spectator cheering on other believers, don’t be just a cheerleader, be a team player...catch and throw love around like nothing else matters...because in truth, that is the truth.
If we don’t start acting as Christian who leave our comfort zones everyday, all day long, to serve our Lord, we may just be the last truly believing and acting group of Christians in this country and the world.
We all think about it. We may even talk about loving like Jesus did. But, do we do it. Do we actually do the word of the Lord? Amen
The Nourishing Thought: "A gift above all the grace and goodness that Christ gives to his beloveds is that of overcoming self!" Francis of Assisi
Words of Wisdom: " A follower of the Almighty and Gracious God should be an alleluia from head to foot." Augustine of Hippo
"You are the only Bible some unbelievers will ever read." John MacArthur
Scripture: John 13: 35, 1 Peter 2: 9
Several times in my 78 years of living, I have wanted to be God. I wanted control. I wanted power. I wanted the ability to change other people, not myself. Yes, I wanted to be God. I think all humans have had that feeling and desire at some time in life.
One day, when I was unhappy with a life-situation, I really wanted to be God. And as I thought about what that might entail, I asked myself another question. Has God ever even for a moment wanted to be me? Has God ever wanted to be Jane? Or David? Linda? Or Jerry? Or Brenda? Or Jimmy? Or Lawrence or Betty? Has God ever wanted to be any of us?
I think the answer is "yes". I think God wants to be all of us. That is why his life-force, his breath, his energizing spirit lives within each of us. We have God's own DNA. We are indeed like him...and sometimes we even act like him...and those are the times we forget ourselves, forget our egocentric selves, and live to love others...as God him or herself does. I like to go home on any afternoon and think or say "Aha! I met God today. He was living through Judy or Charlie or Max or Lou." What a complete joy that is. Oh and I want to be the kind of person that you too can say, "Hey I met God today"...today he was living in and through Jane. I want to be that person.
When we act in selfish ways , our world shrinks into a tiny ball of stress where we are the center of our own self-centered universe. We matter more than any thing or any other person. Within those tiny walls we must constantly seek affirmation, seek to get our way no matter what, to focus only on ourselves...our needs...our wants. And the result is we become less content, nor more. We feel less love, not more. We begin to wonder why people avoid us, don't like us, never invite us in on their lives...because our little self-centered universe is toxic. Toxic to us and to those around us. If indeed we want life in the fullest, life abundant, we must not just crack open the shell around our little universe, we must blow it apart completely and join in the real quest for true life...and that is in relationships. An interdependent relationship with God, a healthy relationship with self, and a trusting loving relationship with others.
God in his infinite love and wisdom designed us to live expansively, with a desire for adventure, a need to relate to other people, a motivating stirring within us to serve, love, and relate in healthy, trusting ways to other people...even aliens, even foreigners and even enemies.
Our modern Christianity has lost some power because we either refuse to or are afraid to see the very radical nature of our faith...to forget our self-centered ways and to live abundantly in, for, and through God Almighty by spending our days in service, as servants, to one another. No person is ever taller than when he stoops to help another. Le us this day commit to allowing God to exist in and through us. God is gracious enough to allow us to make that decision. Will you live for God or for yourself? AMEN
The Nourishing Thought: "If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere."
Words of Wisdom: "Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging." Joseph Campbell
"Nurture our mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think." Benjamin Disraeli
Scripture- 1st Peter, 2: 16 and John 8: 32
This morning I have questions to ask us as individuals and as a church.
For individuals, the question is who do you represent through your daily living, your self or God? The fact is that your actions tell other people who you are and what or who you worship even more so than the words you speak. No matter how you choose to live your life, you are at all times representing whatever is of real value to you. So, do you represent a self-centered life or a God-centered life? Are kindness and forgiveness ;the hallmarks of you daily life? Or are complaints, criticisms, prejudices or lies your hallmarks. What or who do you represent?
When you make loving decisions that positively affect those around you, you are actually being a representative of the God you worship. And that is a role each of us must take seriously. We can deny that role and that choice often wrecks havoc with us. It is always best to do the right thing, even the righteous thing...and by so doing you are presenting Jesus, the Christ. If you are ever in doubt about how to treat another person, even one who has offended you, just do the loving thing and God will handle the rest of it.
For our church, the question is similar. Do we as a group of believers come together as a solid front for our God? Our church, The Nourishing Place, should stand as a beacon of light to the community we are in. We are not only to represent but communicate the desires and will of Christ to our neighbors. When we as a church make the decision to be like Christ to one another, then we are not alone. The Holy Spirit sets us on fire to do his will. In Philippians 2: 13 scripture teaches us "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to do for his good pleasure."
God designed us to be healthy and happy when we follow the road he set out for us. That is to think first of goodness and kindness of God, then to seek it and find it in others even when it might seem to be lacking...maybe it is just hidden under fear, or anger, or guilt. But again from scripture we read in 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."
Knowing this is God's will for us, frees us to enjoy our faith, to laugh together even in church, to commit errors in judgement knowing we are forgiven. We find true freedom when we act lovingly and choose to represent the actions of Jesus show up once again in human flesh..our human flesh.
Individually and collectively we are blessed when we believe in the power, majesty, and goodness of God to transform our lives into more lives for the Spirit of Christ to live in and through. Whether we believe it or not, we are imitators of whatever God we have chosen to worship and adore. To help determine who our God truly is, make a list of all the actions you take on a daily basis..in all honesty which ones consume most of your time, thoughts, and energy? If it is not kindness and goodness of God as shown to us through the human life of Jesus, perhaps it is time to re-think who you are and what you believe. Amen
The Nourishing Thought: "A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society." Billy Graham
Words of Wisdom: "For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone." Audrey Hepburn
Love happens when the other person's happiness is more important than our own.
The Good Samaritan...Samaritans were hated by the Jewish people. They were considered worthless and evil because they had once been Jewish. They had been conquered by enemies of Israel, and they assimilated into their conqueror's culture and religion...they had become worshipers of pagan gods. Jewish people looked down on all Samaritans as inferior people. And the Samaritan's hated the Jews for their arrogance and feelings of superiority.
That's the background for today's reading. This story was told by Jesus in response to the question "who is my neighbor?"
The man who was robbed and beaten is unknown. The story doesn't tell us what race or religion he belonged to...so he could be anyone. Therefore, the focus of the story is one the kind of people who passed by and either did nothing to help this stranger or stopped to help. Two passersby mentioned in the story were deeply religious men. One was a Jewish priest who supposedly taught God's love to all. The other, a Levite, was also a deeply religious Jewish man, for the Levite's were the ones who were responsible for the temple. Jerusalem...the holiest place on earth to the Jews. However these religious men were not the ones who offered compassion and assistance. The man these two hated, the Samaritan, was the one who acted like Jesus. He had compassion and he wanted tos ave the wounded man's life.
The point of the story is to change the question from "what kind of person is my neighbor or what kind of person was this who was robbed and beaten?" to "What kind of person am I?" Let's be honest about this. All of us at some time in our lives have probably seen someone in need and we asked the question, "Is that person worthy of my attention and care."
The truth in our faith is that every person is worthy of love, every person is worthy of love and compassion.
We must ask ourselves this question: who can I become the kind of person whose care, compassion, and love pays no attention to a person's social or religious status? We should never allow ourselves to offer a loving response only to our kind or sort of person. That elitism defies the core of Jesus' discourse on love.
This story is a condemnation of all forms of social, racial, and religious prejudice. In the story the Samaritan, the one who stopped to help the stranger, did not ask, does this man believe the same thing I do? He did not ask, is he another Samaritan like me or is he a hated Jew? He saw a person in need and he met that need at his own cost of time, energy, and money. Regardless of this good Samaritan's race and religion, he acted like Jesus wants us all to act.
Christian kindness must never be restricted to care only about other Christians...we are obligated through faith in our God to love and serve all others...for all others are our neighbors. We all, each one of us, belong to our planet earth as one race of people, the human race.
When an opportunity to show kindness and assistance arises, are you hesitant to help because that person might be from the "wrong side" of town, or that person might be a Muslim, or might be uneducated and unemployable, or recently out of jail?
So my question to all of us is, "to whom can you and should you be a neighbor today? What ever your answer is, the real issue isn't about who they are or what they are like. The issue is about who you are and what you are like. Don't ask if they qualify to be your neighbor. Ask yourself, will I choose to be a neighbor to them?
We must become like Christ to each other. AMEN
The Nourishing Thought: "Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow; it only saps today of its joy."
Words of Wisdom: Trust that God will put the right people in your life at the right time and for the right reasons.
People say, "Show me and I'll trust you." God says, "Trust me and I'll show you." Psalm 126.6
God's way is better than your way. His plan is bigger than your plan. His dream for your life is more rewarding, more fulfilling, better than you've ever dreamed of. Now stay open and let God do it his way!.
Worry is like the plaque or bad case of the flu... it hurts your body and reduces your ability to get things done. Someone described worry in this way: Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn't get you any where.
The truth of the matter is that worry has weight...it is heavy, and you carry worry somewhere in your body, your mind, your spirit, your emotions. It's like carrying around a large suitcase full of concrete bricks... it hurts your back. If you saw someone carrying such a case wouldn't you suggest to them they drop the suitcase? Put it down? Ease their back? Good advice for yourself as well.
Years ago, I had moved to Oxford with my four children and had no job and no money. Life was difficult. We all constantly worried...about paying bills, how to survive. The children really worried about what they could eat for dinner except the macaroni that had been eaten for weeks. I had inssted we all go to church together to get some peace. We were sitting ina pew, and I was hoping for some comfort, when the preacher began his homily. His first words were, "Worry is blaphemous, becuase it tells God you do not trust him." Then he paused. Harry, a young teenager at that time, punched me in the ribs and whipered loudly... "Oh, that's just great. Now we have to add going to hell to all our other worries." Not to be outdone, and to my horror, four year old Jamie loudly said, "Harry said a bad word, he said Hell and that's worse than shit." I developed a great aporeciation for the miister becuase he laughed out loud with the rest of the congregation. He even went so far as to say, "Yes, worry is especially difficult for some single mothers." It was weeks before I entered that church again.
Well, we do tend to hang on to our worries and anxieties hoping they will keep at bay the very things we worry about. Alas, it doesn't work like that.
The preacher continued his sermon. "Why hang on to worry? if we let go, and trust in the Lord, we will feel lighter...that's what being enlightened means. We not only feel lighter, we are lighter. And that enlightenment comes straight from the Christ who is the light of the world. His light of love dispels every darkness we encounter. We must change the direction ofour eyes and sseek the light which helps us move out of and away from the darkness.
The message that day was there are two kinds of people: One, people who worry are not content with their lot in life...they trust more in themselves than in God. They think well God is not going to do anything about this situation so I will do so myself. Then they impatiently create drama to get their minds off their worries, usually creating even more to worry about.
The other people who do trust their lord and know that whatever occurs in life the Divine Father moves them ever forward to whatever is good for them and others. It was a sermon I never forget...for several reasons.
Sooner or later it will behoove all of us who claim to be believers to know God can only move us forward toward a state of being that includes happiness, peace and joy and hope; He never moves us backwards into darkness. So what can we do about our proclivity to worry?
There are basically three ways to successfully handle life without worry.
1. When we think of our worries, we are either worrying about our past or our future. So replace worry with enjoyment of the moment at hand. We have a full life by living into the moments of that life and full attention to the time at hand. Swap worry for trust and enjoyment. You can do it. Make it a habit!
2. A second way to alleviate worry is to think higher thoughts. Think beyond yourself. Think gorgeous, plentiful diversity in our planet and how each different plant, animal, and human has its own touch of the Creator within. With God that close to you, with his majestic power at your hand, you can choose not to worry by praising God and trusting that he knows what he is doing at every moment of your life. Now, you might not like what's happening to you...but think beyond the situation and find some measure of truth and goodness in it. A challenge, yes. Do-able, yes.
3. A third way is to get smart, use the intelligence God has granted you and think about your life. Anxiety and worry come about from the desire that things should happen as you want them to rather than as God wills them to be. When we trust in God, trust so complete that we give ourselves and our loved ones over to him, then we lose his kingdom...the delights the Lord wants us to have.
We can learn from the missionary Paul. When he was chained to a wall in prison, damp through and through, and starving, he said " I trust God therefore in whatsoever condition I am in I will be content and praise Him."
You are here for a limited time...therefore don't waste a moment of it worrying. Seek other possibilites worry and the Lord will intervene, giving you confidence and peace.
As a believer realize at every moment in time God has your best interest at heart. Help him produce that in you by swapping worry for trust in his glorious and love care. Amen
The Nourishing Thought: "You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach because you do not just live in a world, but the world lives in you!" Fredrick Beuchner
Words of Wisdom: The two messages from F. Beuchner are worth our attention:
"Lord, catch me off guard today. Surprise me with some moment of beauty or pain, so that at least for a moment I may be startled into seeing that you are here in all your splendor, always and everywhere, barely hidden, beneath, beyond, within this life I breath."
Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace."
I Feel Good Sunday!
We read in Genesis that everything God made was good... including humans. We are made in the image of holiness, goodness, in fact, awesomeness! We are awesome creatures...wonderfully made!!
We must not separate the Creator from the Creation. We must not separate God from us. We are all wrapped up and embraced in the glory of God right now. In this place and this time. If God feels good about us why don't we feel good about ourselves? Why don't we feel great about ourselves? Sometimes our bodies hurt, we are in pain. But we must not allow physical hurt to damage our spirits or our feelings of worth.
Are we sinners? Yes. Do we often regret our sins,m hurtful words and bad behavior? Yes. Do we need to ask for forgiveness? Yes. Do we need to forgive ourselves? Yes. But then....take those burdens, those horrible, heavy burdens of guilt, fear, or anger off of your back. Rest, take comfort in the love that God has for you and that Jesus illustrated in his life.. he loved one and all no matter who they were or what they had done. In the final analysis, he even loved the Pharisees, though he did not love their condemning, unloving actions. Yet, he forgave even them.
Our spiritual lives are based on the stories in a book we call the Bible- and in the New Testament the first four books are called Gospels. The word Gospel means Good News. The stories about Jesus are good news. When you hear good news you rejoice, you feel good...that is what life, especially Spiritual Life, gives to you in full. A good feeling. If you choose otherwise, if you choose to think of yourself as unworthy, unforgiven, can't measure up, then you are denying the gift of life God himself has given to you.
I grew up in a church. For 18 years I don't think I missed a Sunday going to church. Yet, the message I received in that church was that I had no right to feel good because I was a sinner. Church made me feel bad about myself. It taught me to fear God rather than to know his love and abundant care. When I was 18, I fled that church, convinced that if church doesn't encourage you to live fully, love yourself and others abundantly, then go somewhere else. I hope this Nourishing Place is that somewhere else.
No church teachings should ever diminish you in any way.
Rather the teachings ought to prepare you to trust the Holy Spirit to guide you, to face whatever comes in life with faith, hope and love. All of us at times are judgmental of others, we are insensitive, and often prideful...and these are not healthy attitudes to have. And they might for a while make us feel yucky, less than, and bad. But by the power of the Almighty we can change those attitudes and the result is we feel purified, clean, healthy, we feel good. That is the natural state our God desires for us... in a true relationship with our God of love we do exhibit that natural state.
One scripture that is vitally important from Matthew 11: 28-30. "Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give your rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find comfort for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is Light." My hope as a pastor is that you come to this church to feel good about life...the joys of it as well as the sorrows. You are able to do so by knowing you are loved. God is for you. God wants to express his goodness through you. You are indeed wonderfully made. The risen Christ Spirit resides in you, therefore you are able to live your life full of grace. When you accept the knowledge of the truth that God is in your, and you are in God, then all is well.
This is "Feel Good Sunday." My prayer is that you will take this message of God's undying, uncompromising love for you and carry it throughout the week. Allow that joyous love to shape your thoughts, attitudes, and actions. Then every morning you can wake up alert, excited and eager to face what comes and say to you holy God, Yes! Thank you God. I feel good. Amen
Nourishing Thought: "Who sows virtue reaps honor." Leonardo da Vinci
Words of Wisdom:
"May we never forget freedom is not free; someone pays the price for all of us." A person's country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle and patriotism is loyalty to that principle." G.W. Curtis
May 27, 2018
On this Memorial Day Sunday, it is my belief that all military personnel who ever served and lost his or her life, did so believing they could make a positive difference for the people and country they loved. They signed up for the cause of freedom...a cause worthy of their lives. Today, we have a cause worthy of our olives too. That cause is to live and love as Jesus did...without counting the cost.
Some say the effectiveness of our lives depends on how we choose to see the world we inhabit. Whatever happens to us we choose between seeing it as positive (having potential), or negative.
Here are some examples: A shoe manufacturer was looking for new markets. The manager sent two men to the Congo, to an undeveloped territory, to ascertain the market potential there. One salesmen cabled back, "Prospects here are non existent because no one wears shoes. The other sales man reported enthusiastically, "Market potential here is terrific. Everyone is barefooted!" One gave into negativity. The other chose potential.
Look at an example from the Bible. When the Israelites were fighting the Philistines, a giant man known as Goliath appeared in the front line of the enemy. The Israelite soldiers all thought, "This man is so big we can never kill him." However, young sheepherder David saw the same giant and said, "He is so big I can't miss!" And he did not miss.
Look at what God did through Jesus and what Jesus did through his disciples. Of all the people of influence God knew and Jesus knew or knew of, they both chose ordinary me, men of no apparent influence at all, to be emissaries...to take the message of love aboard. God saw potential in uneducated, laboring stonesmason/carpenter names Jesus. In turn, Jesus, saw potential in uneducated, laboring fishermen and oridinary people to effectively show love in all is life-altering power. Jesus, spiritually inspired, saw potential in people and events, but most importantly he knew the potential love has for healing people and the world.
Jesus depended on his God to help him creatively visualize possibilities and capabilities in every human situation and in everyone he encountered.
And, guess what! We, as believers have that same gift of hopeful optimism within us. God says, "I have given you the ability to think in positive, loving terms. Now your part is to use that ability for the cause of love."
Never say "no" to a dream or an idea about ways to serve until you have explored the possibilities of "yes". That's why it is important to talk to one another about things that matter, ask questions of one another about what is deepest within us, share differing opinions and knowledge to help each other grow and expand our thoughts and our wisdom. Sharing is the basis of creative and positive Christianity!
A task we have as believers is to open our minds, expand our human consciousness, and recognize the holy spirit that dwells in us does motivate us to learn and try new ideas, or ones different from the status quo, so we can see beyond our present borders and limitations.
To enhance your own spiritual power talk to God in your prayer time and ask him for creative wisdom, new perspectives to motivate yourself and others to see and do what God has placed before you to see and to do. I believe God wants us to create environments of love so positive, so wise, so inclusive that all who cross our paths will have equal access to that rich enhancement.
Recall the scripture: "I pray the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which God has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance, and his incomparable great power for us who believe."
You are worthy. You are powerful. You are an extension and reflection of God who created all things for all time. In the great infinity of time, you may spend only a few years....however what you do or say during that earthly time lasts forever. Be positive. See potential enough in self and others so that great changes for good can occur. And above all, believe with every fiber of your being the spirit of God, manifested in the risen Christ, ks within you urging you on in love, hope, and faith. Alter the world you live in by saying and doing the same things Jesus said and did during his brief earthly time. Pray about it for you are needed in whatever situation or circumstance you are in. You say you believe in God and you believe God's teachings through Jesus, the Christ. If that is so, then you have no alternative...believe in yourself as a agent of love to change for the better the places you are in and the people you meet. We must be Christs to one another. AMEN
The Nourishing Thought: "If evolution really works, then how come mothers only have two hands!" Milton Berle
Words of Wisdom: "A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person who makes leaning unnecessary."
"Life does not come with a manual; it comes with a mother."
"A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take." Cardinal Mello
These words are probably very similar to words our mothers taught us when we were young. If our mothers were wise and loving she took time to show us by her own actions the things that make life magnificent and meaningful. Our mothers may not have had strength, power, or calling that Paul and the other disciples had, but I think they wanted what's best for their offspring.
On this Mother's Day, I hope each of us will take a long moment and remember, for good or ill, the impact our moms had on us. IF it was good, let us continue to share and pass on that good wisdom. If our relationship with mother was lacking and not very good, then be wise and seek counsel from others who love you. We all in our own way need to honor our fathers and our mothers... simply because God dictated that commandment for our own good!
Let's see what Paul teaches us today that may be like what our mothers taught us...
The book of Phillipians was written by Paul to build up the morale of his friends in Philippi. He cared deeply for these people who were new in their acceptance of Christ as their Lord and Master. Paul wanted to make sure they knew how God wants them, and us to speak and behave.
Therefore, he wrote this book that applies theology to life. Paul offered warm and wise basic advice about everyday concerns, concerns that have not changed much in over 2000 years since he wrote this holy document.
Paul spoke about our attitudes and our approach to the life we live every day. He teaches us to rejoice, that is have joy, bubbling over within us...that job cleanses out the negativity we so like to place in our hearts and minds. He teaches us to be gentle with each other for he knows first hand the stresses and hardships of life. He pleads with us to not worry....when we worry we clearly are not trusting God, who loves us above all else. Paul says we must pray about everything... that is talk to our Gracious God about what dilemmas we face what problems we are trying to overcome, talk to Him about things we do not understand...then listen to what he tells us back in the very core of our being. And then Paul says the easiest best way to live is to think and do what is right...then he gives us a promise. He says if you do these things God's peace will be with you always.
Now we must remember Paul was certainly not a perfect human being. But he did learn some crucial principles and values along the road of life. His mos timportant piece of advice is that we model our lives after that of our loving Lord we call Jesus. Jesus loved deeply, and he followed God's will no matter what the cost. Can we do teh same? And a better question is, will you do the same?
The Nourishing Thought: “It is said a person just needs three things to be joyous in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” Anonymous
Words of Wisdom: Peace is the beauty of life. Today I choose life. Find a place inside where there is joy, and the joy will burn out the pain. Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort. We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.
Scripture: Philippians 4:4
Sermon, April 29, 2018
Sometimes it is helpful to hear from people in all walks of life and from different centuries and eras, regarding their values, their beliefs, and life-purposes, especially as they pertain to God, Spirit, or later, Christ. There is much we can learn from wisdom in the past when people took time to think, read, study, and converse in small groups about things that matter. In the past there have been many people who experienced God in ways different from our own, yet just as spiritual as our more modern way.
There was one man named Baruch Spinoza who said, wrote, and taught things that Jesus himself had taught but in different language and images.. Let’s look at this man’s visions of God are.
Baruch (Baruch meaning blessed one) Spinoza was one of the most controversial figures in human history. He was born to Jewish parents in Amsterdam in 1632. His religious life was centered in the Holland-Portuguese Jewish community. Early on, Spinoza showed signs of deep thinking, based on the realism of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Which was all good and fine until he applied the realism of individual thought and Nature to the Jewish faith, which was and is filled with laws and regulations conforming people to a specific way to worship. Spinoza rebelled against that strictness of faith.
Spinoza believed the very first apparent sign and image of God is nature...it’s splendor, its diversity, its combination of impetuousness and calm, and its ability to self-regenerate, resurrect. He thought God’s main house was in the mountains, woods, rivers, lakes and beaches...a huge house where everyone had equal access. Spinoza taught that appreciating the majesty of a sunset or sunrise is feeling the love and care of the God of all. He taught that humans, as part of Nature, have a natural inclination to holiness and joy...one can not look at tiny new baby without automatically smiling...one can not see the full moon illuminate a body of water without naturally experiencing awe and joy.
The Jewish priests decided among themselves that his fascination of nature as the first image of God , Spinoza’s disregard of priests who claimed to know more what God wants than others do, and admitting that much of the Bible was simply moral stories, made Spinoza an atheist, claiming he created abominable heresies without listing any specifics...therefore they excommunicated him and actually insisted all Jews shun him. No one was to listen to him, talk to him, or read his writings. The Jewish leadership stated Spinoza’s joy in life trivialized faith...to be truly holy people had to know their wretchedness, and they must be somber, guilty, and fearful to truly worship God.
Of course, Spinoza rebelled against this condemnation, shunning and excommunication so he looked elsewhere for spiritual alliances. He studied many religions and found the ones that taught all life has value, that sees God as good and loving, and which teaches people to love and respect one another are all good religions. However, he became quite interested in the Christian missionary Paul who also at one time had been a Jewish man who left Judaism to teach the love of Christ. Spinoza studied Christianity but never officially converted. He did however, write volumes about his beliefs and experiences of God and the Christ. Like all philosophers he was a deep thinker and verbose in his writings. Yet those who could read and did read his writings found him to be God-intoxicated...seeing God in everything...a universal God of nature including humans.
Here are a few of his conclusions regarding God: “Whatsoever exists, is in God, and without God nothing can be, or be conceived.”
“Godly wisdom has shown itself forth in all things, but chiefly in the mind of man, and most of all in Jesus the Christ.”
“Jesus is the son of God because he lives the wisdom of God; therefore he is like God, therefore, his son.”
Later he added, all humans must sooner or later learn to live the wisdom of God, based on love.
What the followers of Spinoza’s thought processes came to believe is that God wants us to be joyful, sing, have fun and enjoy all that God made for us. If you read scripture, read it first in the power and love of Nature which expresses most comprehensively God’s infinite care and connections...all are one.
Spinoza told a friend, “Don’t fear God. He does not punish nor judge because he is pure love. Therefore, if you believe in the power of love your major and at all times primary emotion should be joy.”
In another letter to a friend, Spinoza wrote: “God created us to be free. Every person is free to create in his own life a heaven or a hell. Love can only blossom to its fullness in freedom of choice.”
Then my favorite saying of his is: “When you die this is what God will ask you, not if you behaved well or badly, rather God will ask: “Did you like life? Did you have fun? What did you enjoy the most? What did you learn?”
An important comment on what God’s love is is something each of us might want to consider: “Don’t just believe in me...believing is to suppose, guess, or imagine. Rather than believing in me, I want you to feel me in you when you kiss your beloved, when you cuddle your baby, when you caress your dog, when you swim in the sea. Do not look for me outside, you will not find me. Look inside, I am there, beating inside of you. The world is full of wonders and you are one of them.
Another Jewish man, Albert Einstein, was asked who is your God? His reply was, “My God is Spinoza’s God.”
The age old question is often still pondered: was Spinoza an atheist or a Christian of his time?
What do you think? And more importantly, how comfortable are you thinking outside the prescribed, traditional images of God...or can and do you think of others that may be deeply spiritual though not bound in a book called Bible.
The Nourishing Thought: Six Ethics of LIFE: Before you pray, believe. Before you speak, listen. Before you spend, earn. Before you write, think. Before you quit, try! Before you die, live!!
Words of Wisdom: “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird; it would be a jolly good sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” C.S. Lewis In other words, break out of your box, be true to yourself, go for it! If you want something you have never had you‘ve go to do something you’ve never done.
Sermon, April 15, 2018
Shepherd, warrior, musician, outlaw, faithful friend, empire builder, sinner, saint, failed father, ideal king! Who in the Bible but for David appears In so many roles? His name occurs more tan 1000 times in the old and new testaments, more than any other. In his early years David was a good, worthy, and innocent young man…it was after he became king that he strayed from righteousness to become a self-centered, greedy murdering man. Yet God never stopped loving David.
When David was chosen by Samuel to be the eventual king of Israel, Samuel sent David to live in King Saul’s palace and comfort Saul in his fits of depression. All was well for a while, then because David was so very popular among Saul’s people, Saul became jealous. Over a period of several months Saul attempted to kill David.
Some say David wrote the 23rd Psalm as a prayer during the years he was hiding from King Saul and his army of 3000 men. David was terribly afraid. So, he left his home, his comfort, his status, to hide in caves, mountains and the wilderness for 8 long years. And he learned to pray!
In reading the psalm I can almost see David curled up in the darkness of a deep cave hoping Saul and his armies would not find him. In his deep aloneness, David began to think about his life. He recalled the good, almost unbelievable, things that had happened to him. He had been a poor shepherd boy. Samuel had come and anointed him as the next king of Israel, then placed him in the palaces of King Saul where he was treated as a son to Saul and a brother to Jonathan. He was grateful for that time of easy living. Yet, he remembered when he had been a shepherd how sheep needed constant oversight to protect them. He could never turn away from even one sheep that was lost. He also remembered shepherds are the ones to find endless nourishment for his sheep. David hoped because God had provided these things in the past maybe God would continue to care for him.
David prayed: “The Lord is my shepherd.” David expressed this kinship with God…for both David and God had jobs that required protection for others. God had taken him away from a rural environment as a shepherd ultimately to make him king over all of Israel. Yet even now when he hardly had any food or comfort at all, he knew he still lacked for nothing. He said to God “I shall not want.”
Running and hiding every day made him tired, exhausted. He needed rest. He had to trust God long enough to allow him to have a quiet time, perhaps a nap or a full night’s sleep. David remembered that in the past, God had made him lie down in green pastures for a rest and led him beside still waters for cooling nourishment. Since God provided for his basic needs for many years, perhaps God would continue to do so.
Admitting his exhaustion and fear, David finally acknowledged he needed spiritual healing. He prayed, “God restore my soul.” Do we not all at some time yearn for that experience of having a restored soul? An OK-ness with God?
David needed to know what to do in his extreme and dangerous circumstance. He prayed, “God lead me in the paths of righteousness.” That is guidance…if only he could follow that guidance. To do so he needed a purpose for his life…and he finally acknowledge what his purpose was: “I will do all for His name’s sake.” He will be who God has asked him to be.
Then David realized he was being tested, yet even in this awful testing, he knew God would protect him once more: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me. Your rod and staff comfort me.” Protection, faithfulness, and discipline are all part of God’s plan for David…and for us.
Out of despair David began to be hopeful, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” He honored his chosen-ness, his consecration: you anoint my head with oil and my cup runs over….David had plenty to sustain him from the gracious hand of God.
Finally, David stated an affirmation about God and himself: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life (what a blessing) and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,’ that is eternal security.
Having looking at David’s dilemma and reading his prayer, what do we as 21st century residents, far removed from being shepherds, take from this prayer, this 23rd Psalm?
I think this prayer of David shows each of us who we are as humans and as divine.
As humans we are fearful, we live in a hostile world, and we worry about our lives and those who we love. We too need a personal relationship with God to keep us hopeful, faithful, and fearless. When we rely on God to strengthen us in those ways, we too look forward to whatever the future hold for us because God is with, He does supply assurance, guidance, forgiveness, mercy, and always love.
As people who have the divine within us, what does that prayer mean to us? I think it means no matter who we are, what we have done, God relies on us to live his story and to tell others his story of love, compassion, mercy, and redemption…but first we must acknowledge those in our day to day living.
Our lives will be expanded abundantly if we read and ponder the23 Psalm several times a week until we know without a doubt that our God provides healthy relationships, rest and nourishment, healing and guidance, protection when we are tested, discipline which leads to hope, and our own consecration as children of a living and loving God. Our lives do run over with abundance and blessings. We must acknowledge the blessed state of love in which we live and have our being.
Pray on it and live into the life-altering statements this prayer gives to us. Amen
The Nourishing Thought: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched...they must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller
Words of Wisdom: “Gifts are free. If you work for a gift, it is no longer a gift. Gifts, in the truest sense of the word are undeserved. If we feel we deserve it, then it ceases to be a gift and becomes an award. The eternal life God gives us is truly a gift of the highest order. It is given for one reason only: His love for us.”
Sermon, April 8, 2018 First Sunday After Easter
Luke is the only gospel writer that tells us this story...it is deeply spiritual in meaning….for it reminds us that we are very much like the two who were walking home to Emmaus. How are we like them?
The two people knew all about Jesus. They had a preconceived notion who he really was, what he was here to do, and how he should do it. In other words, they thought the Messiah would have come with an army to free the Jewish people from bondage. When that did not happen, they seemed to dismiss the whole thing. They lost faith and trust. Don’ twe also lose a little bit of hope, faith, or trust when God does not answer our prayers the way we want them answered? Don’t we back off from him a bit when we are disappointed?
Maybe it would behoove us to not be so quick to be disappointed...perhaps God is up to something we do not yet understand.
Another reason we are like these two people is that we too have not seriously dealt with who Jesus truly is. Just because they knew about Jesus, like reading his biography, it doesn’t mean they really knew him on a personal basis. Apparently, they had never had a heart to heart talk with Jesus. They did not know him well enough to recognize him when he was two feet away from them and enjoying a conversation with him. How many of us do not recognize the risen spirit of the Christ, the divine in each other, even when that sacredness is being revealed?
Maybe we need to be reminded that knowing about Jesus and knowing him are two very different things...knowing about him may be interesting. Knowing him is life changing...always for the better.
A third way we are like the people on the road to Emmaus is that we listen to preachers, Sunday School teachers, parents and friends to tell us who Jesus is. Learning from others is only a first step...we must get to know him through the scriptures because they are in actuality the only stories about how he lived and loved told by people who knew him and their disciples. Every biblical story about Jesus not only tells us about him, it shows us how to know him, love him, serve him, and thereby know and understand ourselves and our place in God’s plan for humanity.
Maybe reading the scriptures with an open mind and a new point of view might change the way we live, love, laugh, and grow into our own unique holiness….which is eternal.
A last way we are similar to the people walking with Jesus is that we, like those men, see Jesus most clearly in table fellowship...meaning, not only in the Lord’s supper, but in intimate relationships with others who believe. Acting on Jesus’ teachings is a life-changing, joyous, creative way to be...for it emulates Jesus himself. It is intimacy with one another that opens our eyes to the power and majesty of love, of unconditional love. Jesus revealed himself to the men at table fellowship...then he disappeared from their sight. A relationship with Jesus is not going to depend on our ability to see him, rather on our ability to experience him, trust him because he loves us even more than we love ourselves and those special to us.
Ultimately, once we recognize God’s compassionate, holy divinity in each other, we should not be able to contain that love...it will be spontaneous, all-encompassing, and will definitely include all others...family, friends, and enemies alike. Any response less than those is no response at all.
Jesus tells us “do not be afraid, do not stay in the dark, I am the light you need to see well, to love extravagantly, and to enjoy life abundantly.” Let’s you and me not settle for less than those Godly promises. Amen
The Nourishing Thought: “God loves you, yes you, as though you are the only one!” Saint Augustine
Words of Wisdom: “The resurrection of Jesus in us is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.” N.T. Wright
Sermon, April 1, 2018 Easter Morning
Easter: Isn’t is strange that the most significant event in all of history happened when no one was around. There was no fan-fare, no trumpets or parades, and no celebrations. Nothing. Just stillness. Quiet. Almost like a whisper.
The week before had been a horrible week...a week of brutality, murder in the bloodiest of ways. When people were just beginning to come to terms with the horror of it all, that their beloved leader/rabbi was gone, then all of a sudden he wasn’t gone. He was here! They must have thought “How can this be?” “Are we crazy?”
Nonetheless, people said they had seen him, had touched him, and dined with him. But that good news seemed too good to be true.
Even today, some of us still think it’s too good, or too far fetched, to be true. We don’t understand. It is confusing. So to pacify our confusion, to forget about trying to understand the mystique of it, we look to other images of Easter...like soft, cute Easter bunnies, or brightly colored eggs….both of these symbols are more about the pagan festival of springtime and reproduction than about Jesus. So, to be frank, there was nothing soft, sugary, colorful, or sexual about Jesus’ murder. It was horrible, a tortuous crucifixion which is perhaps one of the most painful ways to die.
In truth after Jesus’ death he was placed in a dark tomb...and some of us still kill him and bury him in the dark corners of our minds so we don’t think about him too often. Are we any different from those who physically murdered him? If we don’t allow him full access to our own lives, we are guilty of keeping him locked in a dark hole, whether in the ground or in our minds. We forget Ester happened in a cemetery, a grave yard, a grave.
The women who went to the grave that early morning did not sit and visit and say, “Oh, how sweet, he is not here.” Oh no. They were scared. The men disciples were so frightened and perplexed they ran away. Even the Roman soldiers didn’t have a clue.
Yes, Easter, is bewildering. It moves beyond the practical reality we deal with. We are seldom comfortable with the intangibles of life. We often don’t have the words or mental capacity to understand it. Yet, we are asked to accept Easter, and to manifest that remarkable good news in our own lives
Jesus lives. He lives within each one of us. And more than that, we as a church, the bride of Christ, are the living body of the resurrected Messiah. We are the people who keep him alive. We are the people of the good news. We are the people who spread his love, who shine light in the dark areas of our lives and communities. We are the people of the new life that Jesus bequeathed to us.
What kind of citizen are you in this new life? This life that encourages love and compassion for all people, respect for the divine in each person, a world of forgiveness, peace and joy? Which side of the cross do you live on today? The side that leads to a living darkness or the side that glories in the fullness of life right now, and forever?
Easter is not just about the resurrection of the Christ Spirit. It is more than that. The true meaning of Easter is our own resurrection. Yours and mine. Scripture tells us Jesus is the first fruits of this resurrection that honors and values all life. First fruits always have a harvest that follows and we are that harvest. We, who choose to live for Christ and to be God’s person.
Maybe the only way to experience Easter is in the way it happened. Alone. In the stillness. In the early morning when the sUn rises in the east and the son rises in us.
I ask you again...on which side of the cross do you choose to live ? The dark side, which kills the spirit of a person. Or on the side of light that gives birth to love, laughter, joy, peace, and eternal communion with God through Christ, the Holy Spirit.
Answer carefully. Your answer will be the defining moment of your life. Amen
The Nourishing Thought: “No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no
cross, no crown.” William Penn
Words of Wisdom: “I think, therefore, I am.” When Descartes wrote those words, he
remembered the “i am” statements found in the gospel of John. They were initiated b Yahweh
when he told Moses who he was/is. Descartes’ message is to use our minds as the mind of
Christ to fully realize we are indeed one Spirit serving One God, represented by one Christ. I
am who I am because God is who God is. Think! Think and consider this unique place you
have in the world.”
Sermon, March 25, 2018 Palm Sunday Zachariah 9:9; Matthew 21: 1-11
As Jesus was entering Jerusalem there was a small parade of his believers marching toward
along with him...they cheered him as the messiah, the one who would rescue them from
Roman rule and religious persecution. The people were so excited they placed their cloaks
and palm branches on the ground before him as he rode on a borrowed donkey. However,
this was not the only parade going on toward Jerusalem at the same time. Pilate, as the
Roman leader of that province, led a parade of hundreds of armed soldiers all dressed with
gold helmets, swinging swords and chanting “Hail to Caesar and to Pilate.” Of course
thousands of local people stood along the roads to watch this entry of powerful soldiers, many
on steeds, some in gilded wagons. This was the military power of Rome on display for all to
The time was nearing the Jewish festival of Passover...the place was the temple in
Jerusalem, where thousands of Jewish people were commanded to go offer blood sacrifices
of bulls, cows, doves or other creatures to pay for their sins. Of course, the priests ended up
with both the meat from the creatures and the money. That’s why the book of John says
Jesus stopped by the temple a couple of days before his arrest to overturn the tables of the
money changers and accuse the priests and money changers of high crimes.
Once he wrecked havoc in the temple then told the Jewish hierarchy the temple itself would
be destroyed in three days he had signed his own death certificate. The temple was the
source of income and power for the ruling elite, the Pharisees, the Sadducee, the Roman
military and political leadership….so these people would not tolerate the loss of their status or
income...so Jesus had to go straight to the cross, his death.
Well, what happened? What changed in only a week’s time, from shouts of joy and thrilling
anticipation to the crowds turning on him by the end of the week and demanding his death.
How did that parade that sparked patriotic hopes and dreams turn into tragedy?
We must remember all of Israel was ruled by the Roman Empire that needed to be
replaced..the people were anticipating and looking for a war-like Messiah to come and
replace Rome with the return of the empire of David...they still wanted their place in among
the powers of the world.
The Jewish people, a tribal God’s chosen people, had forgotten that their significance came
through an anti-empire concept through a covenant made with God in the wilderness, to
restore a broken humanity.
The people had forgotten their heritage was an alternative to the kings and emperors of
Rome, Egypt, Babylon, Assyria. God was to be their sovereign God, not just their king or
emperor. Sovereign meaning in all ways, spiritual, mental, physical...where all people of all
nations had equal standing, where there was no higher nor lower class of people.
They had forgotten their commandments based on the power to attract all nations to the light
of God given in love to this special people. Military might, opposing and killing others who
disagreed with the empire were no longer acceptable.
So, what went wrong? The Messiah the people expected brought no military with him. He
was not a general on a great white horse. He did not talk about overthrowing the Roman
Rule...rather he talked about commitment, that all people are worth loving, and he talked
about suffering, as in the cross.
Jesus brought an entirely different set of expectations. He came not to replace the empire, he
came to replace the claims and authority of the empire. The power of all empires lies in the
threat of death to those who oppose it. Jesus destroyed death itself, which triumphs over the
empire’s claims of salvation just for those people on top of the societal classes.
Empires can and do fail. Love and forgiveness never fail.
Empires offer temporary security. Jesus offers eternal security.
Empires consider only their own people. Jesus offers to all people a right, holy, and healthy
relationship with the only Power that truly matters, their God. In Jesus murder on the cross, and his spiritual resurrection,
God dealt a blow to empires and empire thinking.
Today, as we think of the hosannas in our lives, we need to keep singing them for all the right
reason. Our expectations of the Messiah must be on target. We are one with him. We are all
worthy of love. We all have the right and freedom to choose commitment to Christ and
thereby live life for him. It does require a change in thinking, a change in attitude, a change in
the words we use, and a change in the actions we take on a daily basis.
Today, this Palm Sunday is a good day to remind us of the Good News...Christ is the only
Lord, the only Power, the only life worth having in our earthly experience.
Praise Almighty God that he has not nor ever will give up on us. He has put the power of his
kingdom in our hands...may we treat it with respect, devotion, commitment and honor. And
remember, the church, l like this one, is the living body of Christ...and we are to learn to be
and practice being Christs to one another.
The Nourishing Place
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