The Nourishing Place

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Sermon, December 1, 2019
First Sunday of Advent ~ Hope

We use the word hope almost as much as we use the word love.  I love God, I love Max, I love peanut butter, I love symphonic music...on and on.  Likewise, I hope I can get out of bed today without aching all over.  I hope that it won’t rain today.  I hope my grandson passes his test today. I hope our world can have a day of peace...on and on. These are self-generated hopes.  They set up expectations for us that we move toward.  They motivate us to keep moving forward, from one expectation and hope to another.

But there is another kind of hope that resides in each one of us that is God-generated.  It is powerful, and sets determination in us, especially in difficult times.  This kind of hope saves lives, inspires greatness, solves problems, and is the cause of most reconciliation in the world.

I call this hope, spiritual hope, Holy Hope.  Holy Hope is a reservoir of emotional and spiritual strength for any occasion or situation.  It is the same kind of hope that Jesus used as a reservoir to face the horror of the cross and still offer encouragement to the criminal hanging next to him. 

Do any of us have that kind of hope, the kind that resides so deep within us we too can face terrible experiences, huge disappoints, and death itself with an assurance that all is still well with our souls? 

You have this Holy Hope, but are you aware of it?  If so, you live your life with calmness and wisdom and trust.  If you are not aware of it would you like to be?  And if you would like to be aware of Holy Hope, how can you ? And how do you use it?

The answer is look to the creator of hope...the God of the universe who abides within us in every cell of our being.  We look also to Jesus, the Messiah Christ, who above all others illustrated Holy Hope by his own personal life.  God is the initiator, Jesus is the experience.  We are the ones to use Holy Hope and pass it on to others...if we don’t, as believers, who will?

To be alive to Holy Hope and to use it in our daily lives, get in touch with your Creator by talking to God, by listening to God, and by learning to live by the teachings of God that he gave to you through Jesus.  The teachings that are eternal in nature and create within us the ability to live into life eternal, beginning now.  To live without hope is to cease to live.  So, know more about yourself as you learn more about the Christ within...the very image of hope itself.

As humans, we all have many troubles.  We are often burdened with tragic sorrows.  We are perplexed by the needs and griefs of those we love when we can offer no or little assistance.  We struggle with the desire for peace when it seems peace is too illusive to be real.  At these times we look to our Guide, our Redeemer, Jesus and realize he too faced all those harrowing experiences...but he always chose faith over fear.  He chose courage over cynicism.  He chose inner strength and trust rather than fall into the realm of darkness where life collapses.  Can we too choose the better way?  The answer is “yes, we can” when we rely on the faith of the Christ spirit within rather than our own weaker version of hope and wisdom.

When life is hard, which is often, let our eyes, hearts, and minds turn to spiritual power and say prayerfully, “I see in you, God, your vision and your power and your hope.”  Then you might add something like this, “Give me grace to accept the pitfalls and joys of my life and use all of them worthily.”  With tapping into your Holy Hope you can change the way you see your enemeies, you can act lovingly to those who hurt you, you can overcome shame and guilt, you can see light where before there was only despair and darkness.  Holy Hope is a creative and glorious gift God has planted in each of us and it can change our lives for the better in ways we perhaps have thought not possible.

As Christians, followers of the way of love, we need to open our minds to see opportunity when we struggle and be challenged to rise to the occasion rather than succumb to the troubles.  When we do so we know the powerful, unending spirit of God is for us and we can overcome those who situations and people who are against us. 

For each of us, no matter how strong our faith is today, there is still a deeper and better way to live...and that is as co-creator with the spirit of God in your own lives.  Face the challenge and don’t succumb to wooing emotions that threaten your strength.  Realize that when you ask for it, you will receive the wisdom to live your journey filled with Holy Hope.  You will say and do things that bring honor to your beliefs and glory to your God.  That is a uniquely powerful partnership.  Our God, desires to fill you with the light of his presence dispersing all darkness.  Let the spirit of Holy Hope guide you in your daily walk, in your prayer time, and in your fellowship with family and friends.  You can be and often are the only face of Christ that others will see.  And you may be the only live witness to the power of Holy Hope.  Look for it within you and let it give energy, strength, and power to yur personal existence.

Be available to your God just as he is always available to you.  This day, right now, let us encourage one another to not only have some hope but to live fully into the actuality of Holy Hope.  That is my prayer for each of us this day. 


Sermon, November 24, 2019


Christ the King Sunday is about many things: 

First, it is the last Sunday of the liturgical year...that is the last Sunday of our traditional church calendar. Next Sunday is the first Sunday of a new church year...it is also the first Sunday of Advent when we await the birth of Jesus. 


Second, Christ the King Sunday asks us to look back over the past year to see how intently we obeyed the teachings of Christ...and if so how did our faith in Christ change us and our community?  

As a group of people you have made an amazing difference in the lives of children in 5 elementary schools by providing tutoring to help children read, to be confident and successful. You have shared books by the hundreds with children all across the coast. You have shared your abundance by donating to the back porch which helps moms and grandmoms care for their young ones.  You have helped deliver and disperse bicycles, clothing, household goods that are sent to us from a donor in Maine. You have shared breakfast and dinner twice a week with fellow Christians getting to know each other better through fellowhsip.  You have participated in worship services and Bible Studies.  You have prayed for healings, for hurt feelings, for forgiveness, and you have been an essential part of an ever growing ministry….this one that reaches people who need to be touched with love and compassion.  You are as individuals and a group a true Christian fellowship.  With each passing day, we can ever grow stronger in faith and works! 

A third important aspect of Christ the King Sunday is to ask you:  is Christ your king?  Is Christ the one you obey?  Is He the one you follow every day?  Is He the one by which you measure your own words and actions?  If so, is there still room for improvement and growth in your spiritual life? 

If Christ is not your king, if He is not who you follow and obey, then who or what is? 

Today our nation, community, and neighborhoods are in the midst of challenges, emotions, and sometimes bewilderment.  But hopefully through these times we will cling more closely to the values by which Jesus himself lived.  He came to show us a difference in living in the light rather than the darkness.  He lived to illustrate how to love, really love, your enemies by wanting for them the same thing you want for yourself and your loved ones.  He lived to give us hope.  He lived to encourage us to try his way of living rather than our own self-centered way.  He lived to make us more like God designed us to be. 

Then He died. A cruel and greed driven priests and a foreign government killed him.  Yet He used that horror as one more opportunity to get the message across that forgiveness of all hurt to you is absolutely vital if you are to be mentally and spiritually healthy. He died to set us free from guilt, fear, anger, and insecurity.  Everything about Christ, as our Spiritual King, taught us to trust God through  his teachings as our guiding light. 

Christ is not a typical king.  He had no wealth, no army to control people, no acts of violence toward those different from him.  He was and is a king in spirit which is the true nature of human beings.  We are physical bodies having a spiritual existence.  And to grow spiritually we must feed our spirit through an awareness of the God within us, the divine in every human, the love in us all that is waiting to be shared, knowing the more we give, the more we help bring into fullness the Kingdom of God. 

So on this Sunday the question you might consider this coming week is:  how do you worship this strange kind of king?  And what difference does it make if you obey what he taught, or not?  Please pray about this question, because how you answer it determines the quality of your life. 

If Christ is your King then daily, hourly, be the faithful servant to Him.  Christ counts on you. 


Amen

Sermon, November 17, 2019 

Today’s reading sounds harsh.  But, as we ourselves have observed, whether in churches or government, some leaders’ actions do not match their words.  Jesus instructed then and now, do as they say regarding law, but DO NOTdo as they do! 

Gospel passages like this one remind us that the Church has always been both blessed and burdened in its leadership.  Some leaders, of course, were saintly, caring, living as Christ had asked.  Others however, were real sinners, that is they desired a leadership position to gain power.  Then they used that power for the possibility of greed leading to wealth could occur.  How many church and public leaders are true servants to their people? 

I remember the first time I went to Mexico City and saw the great Metropolitan Cathedral of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, I was amazed at the hundreds of poor, hungry, threadbare adults and children sitting on the steps begging for pesos.  I stumbled over several people to enter the Cathedral. Upon entering I was stunned at the magnificence of art work, crypts, and religious relics, and towering ceilings..all of them coated with pure gold, millions of dollars of pure gold.  I sat in the back of the cathedral and wondered what Jesus himself would have thought of this magnificence.  That magnificence cold have fed hundreds and hundreds of people. And rightly invested could have continued to assist human beings.  Did Jesus ask for such riches?  Or, did he ask us to show love for the poorest of us, for the outcasts, the marginalized, the ill and wounded? 

All through the world there are huge structures, gorgeous beyond belief, dedicated to Jesus, Mary, the Trinity...on and on...but again, are these the kind of things Jesus wants us to do to honor him?  Yes, these cathedrals and temples are cultural phenomena, and hugely beneficial to societys that maintain them for tourism, celebrations, and spectacles.  And we don’t want to see them demolished.  But, in actuality, how many are still used for worship, for the teachings of Christ, or Budda, or Hindu principles?  I wonder if Jesus finds solace and comfort in these places, or in simpler structures where people are important and gold is not? 

In the scripture today, the first sentence tells us Jesus spoke to a crowd and his disciples.  In that part of his speech he indicts the leaders of his day for not doing what they claim they do.  But then he turns to his listeners directly and tells them who their one and only master is.  The Lord is one as we are.  This lesson is for the disciples back then and for us today:    the greatest among you must be a servant, warning that whoever exalts himself will be humbled.  But whoever humbles himself will be exalted. 

That became a message repeated by Jesus over and over again.  He came and lived to be a servant to his people, and he asks us to be and do the same. 

Yes, earn money to have enough to care for yourself and your family.  Absolutely save some for hard times and when your are old or unable to work.   But after those issues are secure, then use your time, energy and resources, money,  to share with those who are ill, maimed, unfortunate, and in real need of help.  Having said that, Jesus also taught in Galatians:  “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  Scripture also teaches that if we want peace and happiness we are to give back to God first, then all other matters will be taken care of. 



Even though the American way is to work hard, and save for your olden days, that is not an excuse to hoard money or other resources.  Listen and learn this statement from Jesus, the Christ:  “In everything I did, I showed you that by hard work and labor we must help the weak, for it is more blessed to give than to receive.” 

I pray we learn this lesson and practice it daily.   It is what God sent us here to do.


Amen 



Sermon, November 10, 2019

Veterans Day acknowledges men and women through the decades who have given their time, sometimes their lives, to help keep us free.  That kind of freedom means peace.  Veterans day honors all who have served our country in war or peace, dead or alive, although it is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service.  At the end of World War I on November 11, 1918 it was called Armistice Day. People thought this was the war to end all war!  Peace was at hand.  However, very soon after other wars occurred: World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, on and on even unto today.  Peace is illusive and world peace is only a concept...not a reality.

The concept of world peace is the idea of a state of happiness and freedom among all people and nations on earth.  This is an idea of nonviolence to solve national and international problems.  It is a motivation for people and nations to willingly cooperate so that people around the world can utilize lives and resources for beneficial aims rather than to use for development of weapons of mass destruction. Today, with all the wisdom gained through the centuries, world peace is still just a concept, just an idea, not a reality.   All the ideas put forth up to today have not been successful.  So, how do we achieve world peace?

Perhaps world peace will not be a reality until human beings themselves desire personal peace, inner peace, peace that passes understanding.  There is a difference in world peace and personal peace.  World peace is an external phenomenon.  If it ever happens it will happen outside of us.  It will happen through mediation, through treaties that are honored, and wise leaders getting together to solve world problems.

But personal peace, inner peace, does not happen outside of us.  It happens inside of us. Peace, inner and personal, is a state of psychological or spiritual calm in spite of stress and free from the effects of stress.  Inner peace comes with personal self acceptance. And that occurs when we as humans learn how to release anger, guilt,  pain, sadness, or anything that limits us from being strong in our own lives.

Most people associate peace with the absence of trouble.  And that is a negative way to view inner peace.  There is a positive way to view inner peace and that is through our own spiritual being.  Our spiritual side is closely associated with the God who created us...so we can learn about inner peace from the stories about God in our bible.   The great spiritual teacher Paul found peace even in a damp, dark jail chained to a wall.  He wrote he had peace in this jail and was able to remain confident that in his heart and mind God was still gracious to him.  So he sang in jail, praised God, and eventually brought the jailer and his family into the arena of love.  There are other biblical stories of people who experienced peace...Mary when she accepted her role in bringing Jesus to life, the apostles once they understood what Jesus had given them, and the great missionaries who told the story of peace around the known world.

However, the greatest story is from Jesus himself.  The night before he was arrested, beaten, and murdered,  he took time to be with his disciples, to comfort them and to offer them peace.  He is quoted as saying, “Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you, not as the world does, but as I do.  Therefore let your heart not be troubled, nor be afraid.  John 14:27

The Jesus kind of peace helps us remain calm in the most awful of circumstances.  This peace does not come through situations and circumstances.  Rather it rises above all situations and circumstances to affect them and over-rule them.  This kind of peace is not an emotion, rather it is a fact, one we put our minds on to do and to accomplish.  This kind of peace is a gift to you from God himself.  It is a gift you accept, unwrap and use through his power. This peace is experiential.  It is a tranquility of the soul, a positive peace that changes the circumstances in life.  It is a divine gift available to you when your want it enough to ask for it, accept it, and make it a permanent practice.  This peace that Christ offers us is a peace that stands guard and keeps worry from corroding our hearts and unworthy thoughts from tearing up our minds.   The peace of Christ is also an unending source of strength in the midst of difficulties. 

 The task set before each one of us is this:  “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”  You already have this peace.  It is a gift.  You know you have it, now you are to use it, today, tomorrow, and every day.  It makes you one with the source of all peaceful living...the Christ  himself.

Amen


Sermon, November 3, 2019

Hundreds of years ago, Socrates, the first moral philosopher, taught “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  We need to know who we are, why we act the way we do, and what we believe.   How many of us take time to consider life in general and our own lives in particular?  It seems to be an important thing to do.  

 Shakespeare took up where Socrates left off and wrote:  “This above all:  to your own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, you then can not be false to anyone.”  Another way to speak of wisdom and spiritual power.

If we listen just to national news we get the feeling no one knows who he or she is anymore...newsworthy people are either trying to please a political party, or deny another one’s right to exist;  or they are trying to please a group they want to be part of;  or people are just not seeming to care what they do, what they believe, or give any credence at all to being inspired by someone or some belief.  So, by listening to the media we think our world is rotting from the inside out.

Yes there are huge issues, challenges, and problems galore...but remember good news does not sell...so we must expect media to print, write, say, or show only bad news, which they relish in doing 24,/7.

What we as Christians can do is not be fooled by all the bad news. There are actually many many good, happy, healthy stories...maybe we have to tell those to each other because they will never be written about or told on the national news.  Let’s commit to telling each other good stories, miracle stories, stories of blessings that come unannounced every day in some way!  We can be the antidote to negativity by our own words and actions.  And our community needs lots of positive talk and positive live-altering actions right now.

If we don’t listen to media, to whom do we listen?  My hope is we listen to the word of God as lived by Jesus, the Christ.   Here is some good advice from the Psalms 1:1 and 2 “Blessed is the person who does not walk in step with wicked people or stand around with sinners, or sit in the company of those who mock God.  But blessed is the person who delights in the Lord and understands his laws of love and righteousness.”

How many of us truly read the Bible to be counseled by those ancient words of truth?  And if you don’t utilize the Bible for that kind of instruction, how do you know how to live?  Who is your guide or your God? 

This we know to be true:  our actions and our words tell other people who we are and who we worship.  No matter how you choose to live your life, you are at all times representing whatever is of real value and importance to you.  We are imitators of the God we worship...whoever or whatever that is.

Do you represent a self-centered life or a God-centered life?  Are kindness and forgiveness hallmarks of your daily life?  Or, are complaints, criticisms, prejudices your hallmarks?  How do you answer?

Of course, to examine our lives is to look carefully at how often we choose to do loving acts?  Then ascertain if there is room for improvement...and if so,  do so.

God designed us to be healthy and at peace when we choose the follow the path he set for us.  That is to think first of God’s grace and goodness then to look for it in others, especially when it might seem to be lacking...or maybe goodness is hidden under fear, anger, guilt, or loneliness. Be aware that you can not read another’s mind, so tread carefully with friends and strangers alike. 

Scripture also tells us in 2nd Timothy that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but he has given us a spirit of love, power, and a sound mind.”  We just need to use them more often and more prolifically.

As individuals and as a church, we grow in wisdom and joy when we act on the power, majesty, and goodness of God to transform our lives into more lives for the Spirit of Christ to live in and through.    When we desire to do what is kind, helpful, and right, even in difficult situations, then we are enhancing God’s kingdom here on earth in our own way.  Then perhaps others will see the life of Jesus showing up again in human flesh...our human flesh.

May God guide us toward his goal...and may he have mercy on us.
Amen



Sermon, October 27, 2019
Luke 20: 27-35

Anytime the Bible talks about a woman who has remarried five or seven times..I get nervous.  Therefore, I am grateful for a loving God who forgives, reinstates, and has compassion for those of us who have failed in previous relationships.

So, the story we read today is about a woman who was bound by a the Jewish Law.  Stated in both Genesis and Deuteronomy, the law said if a man dies without having any children, the man’s brother had to marry the widow so there could possibly be a child to carry on the deceased man’s name.  That was one way the early Jewish people thought they could live eternally.  Having children was highly important to Jewish men.  The Law also protected the widow, because in Judaism a woman’s identity and sustenance depended on her being married to a man.

The scripture today tells us the woman married seven times and none of those relationships produced offspring.

The Sadducees, who were high priests, and wealthy merchants, were members of the conservative aspect of Jewish law.  They did not believe in resurrection and they denied the immortality of the soul and body.  It was these cunning, Sadducees who hoped to entrap Jesus into a false statement so they could have him arrested and put away.  They asked Jesus a question:  “In the resurrection, whose wife of her seven husbands will the woman be?” 

Since the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, they tried to show that resurrection could be complicated and complex.  They tried to make Jesus look stupid as he defended his belief in resurrection. 

They had thought out this question before they came to ask Jesus about it.  In their minds they thought there were only two answers:  If Jesus said one of the husbands would be the only one she would have after death, that would not be defensible because it violated Jewish Law.  The second answer, they thought, would be that Jesus would have no answer, proving resurrection is false...making the Saducees be right!  Which they loved to be.

There seemed to be a large flaw in the thinking of the Sadducees.  They thought the resurrection was just an extension of life as they knew it.   But Jesus surprised them.  He said, “in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead no ones marries, nor given in marriage.”   He didn’t stop there.  He went went further and quoted Moses to them:  “God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob...is God not of the dead, but of the living;  for to him all of them are alive.”   The Saduccees, much like some of us, try to understand the resurrection in a very narrow way.  We too think when we die we will go to heaven, be reunited with our families, and life will go on much like here.  But, is that what scripture really teaches?

Like the Saduccees, we too tend to put God in a box we are comfortable with and fail to see that God has a much larger vision than our limited imaginations allow. 

Jesus looks at the resurrection through a lens of love for each one of us.  This is the gospel, the really good news, that we are loved both now and in the life to come...whatever that is.  In other words, anyone who was or is ever a part of God’s life, never stops being a mystical part of it….never.  We must trust God.  He chose the time and place to put us on earth….he will indeed with great compassion and love place us where he desires to be with us when we receive  a new life...and that is either here on earth or in a world to come.  Or both.

The real message here is our perception of God must grow bigger, larger, more wrapped in unconditional love and not limit God or his love and care to what we want or expect it to be.  We are spiritual people...having a bodily experience….so today we must open our minds and hearts to a broader, more loving relationship with the holy The one...in so doing, we too experience the eternal sacred every day! 

The point is that God’s love is eternal, and our relationships with God never end.  He is the God of the living and we are given new life both in this world and the one to come.

So be it.  Amen


 

Sermon, October 20, 2019

What does it mean that God, or God’s Spirit is near? 

We as human beings are complex creatures.  We talked last week about including thoughts of God for a focused moment at least once in every hour.  We learned our brains are amazing in too many ways to list.  We are told 80% of human brain activity seems to be negative thoughts.  But, that can change, and hopefully as individuals, and as a church, we will encourage each other to make that changes that help us better serve God and one another.


Having one focused thought on God each hour will make you experience his nearness. 

We have all had spiritual experiences where we did feel the sacredness of that moment.  And usually those moments occur in nature, in sharing with family and friends, and in church.  Full moon, huge moss covered oak trees, the lavender and orange of winter sunsets, thrilling music and people who express love to us and us to them can and usually do help us experience God, Spirit, and the holy.  But we can also acknowledge and feel the nearness of this powerful spirit of love and patience even in frustrating moments...like being caught in a traffic jam when we are in a hurry, or when we are disappointed about an event...or person, or in any of the mundane moments we face on a daily basis.

Perhaps it is in these less than perfect moments that we need to feel the God Spirit more than any other time.  So how can we accomplish this?  One way is to convince our stubborn selves that the Creator of the universe loves us, individually, in our uniqueness.  To help convince us of that fact, perhaps we ought to write out this verse from the Psalms:  “God, where can I go from your spirit?  Or where can I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there;  if I make my bed in Hades, you are there as well.  If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.” Psalm 139: 7-10

You see, when we read and study the Bible there are things written that don’t necessarily ring true to us today.  But this statement from the Psalms reads like a fact, a true, indisputable fact….that God himself designed you, created you in his own image giving you special traits that you can use to live abundantly, full of love.  There is nothing false at all about this statement.  God is near.  He is built into every single one of the billions of cells that make you you.  He resides in your body, in your brain and mind, and in your soul.  He should also exist, if you allow it, to reside in the words you choose to use and the actions you take every day.  You are indeed unique...exactly who God wants you to be.  But he also gave you free will, free choices.  He wants you to choose to love him because that’s how you attain joy, happiness, and a healthy, enlightened sense of self-worth.

So, you can doubt some items in the ancient scriptures...but some you can not and must not doubt.  And that is you are a loved, cherished, made-to-order individual whom God loves beyond measure!  The Lord is near.  Accept that fact, live into it, and share your life with the One who is sacred above all else.  And nearly everything else in life will fall into place as it should.  Remember this Biblical promise:  Seek ye first the Kingdom of the Lord and his righteousness, then all other good you need will be added unto you.  Matthew 6:33  If you truly want to experience God’s nearness, commit to memory this proverb: 3:5  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on you own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge God and he will make your paths straight.    We might say to God:  Have mercy on those who choose to believe anything other than your love...God, Father, Creator, Image of Kindness, and Giver of life and love.


Amen



Sermon, October 13, 2019

When Jesus first started his ministry he was exclusive...he wanted this good news about God’s love and freedom to be just for the Jewish people...his family, friends, and the tribes of Israel.  Toward the end of his earthly life he opened his heart to all people.

After his death and resurrection, little by little, the apostles began to tell stories and write down the initial gospels and letters for the Gentiles..all people who were not Jewish.  The apostles, especially Luke, changed What was exclusive to be inclusive.  He reached out in unity to all people of all nations.  Earlier than Luke, tho, Paul went directly to the Gentile countries and clearly stated our God is also your God...almighty, omnipotent, and omniscient. 

People around the known world began to feel included in the good news of God’s love, forgiveness, compassion, and freedom.  There were inspired to live by love rather than by hundreds of laws and rules.  People everywhere began to understand the first and only law Jesus ever taught and that is to love the Lord you God with all your heart and soul and body and your neighbor as yourself.”
 
But that is not the only inclusion we need to consider. We need to make conscious efforts often every day to include God and God’s expectations of us in our thought processes.   Experts on our human brain estimate that a human being can think 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day...or 2500 to 3000 thoughts an hour.  Your brain, your mind, is extraordinary, powerful and busy.  Think for a moment on just one thought and let that thought be about God’s love for you...If we all did this we would experience some amazing transformations.

We would recognize a closer relationship with our spiritual nature and with the sacred and holy.  We would feel less afraid and more confident.  And, we wold express our spiritual side that is healing and life-affirming.

What we must include, be inclusive about, at least for one moment an hour is a focused thought on God and love.  It could be as simple as “thank you, God.”  It could be as pleading as “have mercy on me, God.”  Or, you could ask God, “what do you want from me today?”

Those are inclusive attitudes that we must learn to develop in the midst of our often chaotic, random, and busy thoughts.  Our clear focus on God for one full minute an hour will change who we are for the better in many, many ways

An additional fact, of the 2500 to 3000 thoughts an hour that we have, experts agree that 80% are negative thoughts and 95% are repetitive thoughts.  How do you think that influences your moods?  Your attitudes?  Your drive and ambition?  The greatest computer in the whole world resides in your own skull.  We must decide to use that in-grown power we have for good, first for ourselves.  Then and only then can we use that power to help influence others for the betterment of all...especially our societies, regarding health, wisdom, joy, peace, and compassion. 

We’ve been told humans tend to think more negatively than positively.  How can we change this phenomenon? Again, experts tell us we must learn to change the negative into positives if humanity is to survive...they give 6 suggestions:

1. Focus on God and goodness at least once full moment every hour
2. choose positive people as friends
3. take a moment each hour to breathe deeply and discover what it does to the tension in your body and mind
4.  Take a walk daily and observe nature...trees, bushes, flowers, birds, clouds.  Nature is amazing and full of the genius    of God...of which you are an important part
5. Every morning make a list of what you are grateful for...do so again at night before bedtime
6. Be creative. Do something today that is different from what you did yesterday!

The world is an exciting, complex, amazing place to be and you are an amazing part of it all...primarily because our Almighty God resides within you, in your brain, in your thoughts, just as God is totally present in our entire galaxy and beyond.

Realize your blessings.  Every day all day long.  Decide today to be inclusive and add God to the 2000-3000 thoughts you have every hour.  Including God makes you more willing to be inclusive yourself.  Pray about it.

Amen
 


Sermon, October 6, 2019

I want to start by telling you an old story...one you have probably heard many times.  But, it illustrates some Christian teachings that are important to all of us.

Here is the story:  Each Friday night after work, Bubba Jones would get his grill our and cook a large, juicy sirloin steak.  All of Bubba’s neighbors were Catholic.  And, since it was Lent, the neighbors, as Catholics, were forbidden from eating read meat on Friday.  The delicious aroma from the grilled steak caused such a huge problem for the Catholics that they went to talk to their priest to complain about Bubba cooking steak on Fridays during Lent.  In answer to their concern, the priest went to visit Bubba and suggested he become a Catholic.  That should solve the problem.  After several classes at the Catholic church Bubba attended mass.  After the mass, the priest sprinkled holy water over Bubba and said, “you were born a Baptist.  You were raised a Baptised.  But now you are a Catholic.

Bubba’s neighbors were greatly relieved until Friday night arrieved and the wonderful aroma of grill sirloin steak once again filled the neighborhood.  The priest was immediately called by the neighbors.

As the priest rushed into Bubba’s yard clutching a rosary and prepared to scold Bubba, the priest stopped and watched in amazement.  There stood Bubba holding a small bottle of holy water, which he carefully sprinkled over the grilling meat while chanting, “You was born a cow.  You was raised as a cow.  But now, you is a Catfish!

There are three specific things this old joke can remind us of, or re-teach us.  First, many of us are Christian in name only, rather than living the actions our Christ has instructed us to do.  Jesus and his teaching are change-agents...helping us grow and change to be better servants to our Lord, and living in more loving ways. Calling ourselves Christians is not what empowers us to serve with love, rather actions are what make a difference.

The second teaching is when change must take place we usually want the other person to make the changes while we stay the same.  For example:  I have a friend whose husband smokes constantly.  It makes the house smell terrible, it makes thier clothing have a stale odor, and the wife is scared of second had smoke.  She doesn’t want to get cancer.  Even though it is a known fact smoking will kill a person her husband continues to smoke.  So she told her husband he had to change.  He had to quite smoking.  His response was:  I like to smoke.  If you don’t like it you need to change your attitude and let me enjoy my cigarettes.  She wanted him to be the one to change.   However, we must realize, you can never change anyone anytime except yourself.

The third teaching is obedience.  When we profess our Christianity and try to live as Christ has instructed, we often look for the easiest way to change...the way that really doesn’t require us to be too different from before.  Most of us look for easy solutions rather than do the work necessary to obey the life-altering good news of God through Christ Jesus.  We as humans are great rationalizers.  He can often convince ourselves that our wrong doings are justified, that they really don’t hurt anyone so we keep on keeping on our own sometime self-destructive ways.

Life is about change.  Everything about us changes.  Change is inevitable.  If you look at yourself you see you are different from even 3 or 4 years ago.  Look at our society and culture.  We are experiencing change more rapidly now than at any other time in history.  We see change in our government, change in our economy, change in our health care, change in our technology.  Even change in our religious and national foundations.  So, if change is inevitable, how do we handle change.

Most experts in the field suggest we base our lives on the one and only thing that does not change and probably never will...that is the love our God has for us.  If we want joy and peace in the midst of constant change, we must follow the tenets of God, shown to us through the life of Jesus...love, forgiveness, compassion, and peace will be far more important in the near future than ever before.  And if we don’t live it...who will?

If the world is dangerous, perhaps we attempt to make our own homes and neighborhoods safer by living and loving as Jesus taught us.  If change is occurring too rapidly to suit us, let us hang on the precepts of Christian living that has lasted for over 2000 years.   We can stay strong in faith, learn to trust God more and more for therein lies the solution to life and life struggles.  Perhaps when we don’t like something or someone maybe we could try to find ways to change ourselves...changes that bring peace to us and those around us.  At least we can try.  Christianity is not always an easy path….but it is ALWAYS the best way.

Amen


Sermon, September 29, 2019

This parable has many aspects to it.  It is primarily about inclusion.  Who may be incluced in God’s embrace and generosity?  Who may be included to be effective members or leaders in the church:  Women?  Gays? Minorities?  The story springs from the fact that Jesus came to rescue and save his Jewish family, friends and tribes first and foremost.  However, most of the Israelite refused his offer.  So the last people to be invited to his faith were the Gentiles...all who were not Jewish.  So the Jews were first who became last, and the Gentiles were last who became first by spreading the good news of God’s love.

This parable in the gospel of Matthew is one which compares human justice with God’s justice.  It discredits our prejudices toward others who receive what we might want for ourselves.  Living in a capitalistic democracy has taught us that all people should only get what they work for and think they deserve.  Thus, the parable shows us  God’s ways are not like our ways.!

In the parable, the land owner  pays all the workers enough to support their families.  Jesus uses this story to focus on the fact that in his day, work was difficult to have.  The social situation in Jesus’ day was that many small farmers were being forced off their land because of debt they incurred to pay Roman taxes. This violated the God of Israel’s command that land could not be taken away from the people who work it (Leviticus 25:8-13), but of course this was of no concern to the Romans who were ruling Israel a the time.  Consequently, large numbers of unemployed men gathered each morning, hoping to be hired for the day. They are the displaced, unemployed, and underemployed workers of their day. And we have many people like that today.  Those still waiting at five o'clock have little chance of earning enough to buy food for their families that day. Yet the vineyard owner pays even them a full day’s wage.  This section of the parable is comparable to folks who say prison conversions are not fair.  Last minute conversions are not fair.  Those people did nothing for God while there were able so why should they received God’s blessings?  Is this how you thin? Would you deny God’s blessings to a last minute converter?   Would you if God asked you to be more generous and forgiving than you are, imitating him and his grace?

If the vineyard owner represents God, this is a powerful message that in God’s kingdom, all people deserve their food...and salvation.(Matt. 10:10). The parable is a message of hope to everyone struggling to find a place in God’s kingdom.. The parable is also a challenge to all of us who might could have a hand in shaping the structures of inclusion in today’s society. Can Christians do anything to advance God’s kingdom as a place of acceptance of all people right now in our community?  And if so, who do we show that acceptance of all God’s people?

In the parable those who had worked only a short time were paid first.  So, those who worked all day long were pleased, for they reasoned that if those who had worked only a couple of hour got all that money,  then they should get more.  Yet, when they came forward they were given the same amount of money as those who had worked only a couple of hours. 

Those who had worked all day became very upset.  It just did not seem fair.  But the owner of the vineyard answered them by saying that was none of their business if he wanted to show generosity to all his workers on an equal basis.  Those who worked all day were paid what they deserved and that should ave been enough for them.  Is it for us, or do we get envious when people we don’t really care about are given more in this life than we think they deserve?

Spiritual Question for you to answer:  would you be pleased if the person you least liked in the world ended up along side you in our heavenly state?  Do we pray for the good of those who harm us?  Are we concerned when someone hurts us because it hurts them as well? 

This parable then is an example of the incredible mercy of God, a mercy that we should be willing and eager to offer to those around us regardless of who they are?  Or are you comfortable passing judgment on others and determining what little or a lot another person deserves.   We are not God...but as Christians we are to plan our days so that more and more often we can imitate God in the grace, love, acceptance and encouragement he gives to his people.


Amen

 

Sermon, September 22, 2019

According to today’s scripture (Luke 18: 1-8) we might get the idea that faith is persistence.  Or we might think faith has something to do with praying day and night, as scripture tells us to do.  But, in this reading we see the widow expected something to happen.

Faith does include persistence and never giving up.  It does include praying day and night to and with the God you honor.  And it does include the expectation of having what you need.  But then, why does today’s scripture end with the question:  When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on the earth? 

That is a heart wrenching question, because what it is really asking is how essential is faith to you or how central to your life is faith.  In the Lord’s prayer we ask that God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. One way to look at the second coming of Christ is to say he comes again in each person that chooses to live for him in the now. His Spirit is here on earth.  But is His spirit what impels your heart and your mind and your actions, now?

The question, will Jesus find faith on earth, leads us to a different approach to faith than what we described early as persistence, prayer, and expectation.  Faith, the kind Jesus teaches, is a way of life, a way of living every day which includes how your treat your self, your family, your friends, your neighbors, and all other human beings.  It means you stay on the path that God laid out for us when humanity was created. That path is the teachings that came through Jesus.

God did give us map showing the path we must take to reach a sense of wholeness while on this earth. And he chose a special person, we know as Jesus, to walk that path first helping us know we too have that potential within us.

Most of us have been taught in some way that the path God designed for us leads us up to heaven.  That may be true, but on this earth God’s path is a circle and it leads back to you.  The path God made for us is sometime steep.  It does have stumbling blocks.  But each time we struggle to stay on the path we feel good about what we are doing.  Every time we fall over one of those stumbling blocks and get up to keep going then we learn a lesson that is valuable...be a bit more aware, looking more carefully about where we are walking. 

The path God planned for us takes us through beautiful scenery...that is life events that are breath taking in their meaning and power and love. We experience laughter and joy and excitement. But also takes us through desserts where we feel parched and unsure, afraid and weary.  If we stay on the path we will eventually cross the dessert and find nourishment again.  Sooner or later, if we choose to stay on the path, we realize God was in all of it and was walking it with us minute to minute. On the path, following the teachings of Jesus,  he sculpts us to be who he has asked us to be...representatives of him in the now.  And that is indeed heaven on earth.

No matter what befalls us we trust God and God’s goodness and give thanks for all that is because we have come into our own knowing we only have to answer to God.  We are free to forgive all hurts and all people.  We are free to find a spark of the divine in every single human being, even those we wish we could hate.  We are free to let go of our dependence on all our worldly goods and trust we will have what we need when we need it.   That is the Faith Jesus wants to find when he comes again into this world through you. 

My question to you today is:  what faith does he find in you...on earth, here and now?


Amen


Sermon, September 15, 2019

The world today is over loaded with knowledge...facts, data, information in unbelievable amounts.   So says some researchers, knowledge, if we include technical as well as practical,  is doubling every 4 to 6 years.  Education of the future then will be not learning facts, history, literature, etc., but learning how to find out what it is you need to know and want to know….and that involves computers far more then it involves human teachers.

So what is wisdom? Most scholars define wisdom as the ability to know what is true or right, common sense, or the collection of one’s knowledge put to health generating activities.  An example of wisdom is the quote:  the best mind altering drug is truth!  Let that sink in for a moment. 

Wisdom is more valuable than straight knowledge because wisdom is an outcome of a chain of actions...such as learning to know and gain knowledge, knowledge to gain experience, experience to gain understanding, and understanding to gain wisdom. 

Knowledge is the accumulation of data...everything you observe, everything you listen to, everything you read and write gets stored in your memory.  This stored data is just your knowledge.  Wisdom, on the other hand, is the application of that data and information in your daily life.  However, wisdom will not be gain without proper knowledge.
 
Let’s look at a man who is often considered the wisest person who ever lived...of course that claim is debatable, but let’s spend a minute with Solomon...the 3rd king of Israel.

He was the son of King David and Bathsheba, and he was the 17th of David’s 19 sons.  The oldest living son, Adonijah, was to be king.  However, by the cunning manipulations of Bathsheba and Prophet Nathan, they arranged to have David declare Solomon as king.  Solomon’s 40 year reign over Israel is considered Israel’s golden age.  I was a time of prosperity and national unity. 

But let’s go back a few years.  Solomon was a very young man.  He was at the altar of Gibeon offering extensive sacrifices to God.  Solomon must have fallen asleep because while there he had a dream, a vision.  God said to him, “Ask anything of me and I will grant that wish.”  Solomon responded by saying, “You have favored me by making me King after my father.  But I am a mere youth  not knowing how to act or to lead.  Therefore, give to me, your servant, an understanding heart to judge your people so that I with distinguish right from wrong.”  God was pleased with Solomon’s request and said I give you a heart so wise that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one equal to you.” (I Kings 4:30-32)

Some validation of this claim is that in his lifetime Solomon wrote 3000 proverbs and 1005 songs.  He is credited with writing Proverbs, the Song of Solomon,  the Songs of Wisdom, and editing Ecclesiastes.  Leaders throughout the world came to seek his wisdom and counsel.  One of those persons was the Queen of Sheba. Solomon was a wise statesman who traded with foreign leaders.  These foreign alignments might have been the first sign of trouble for they led to him taking many wives.

Solomon was aware of three warnings found in the book of Deuteronomy.  It commanded kings Not to do these three things:  Do not take many wives for they will lead your heart astray.  Do not multiply your horses for they will lead you to make a huge army.  And do not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.  (Deut 17: 16-17)  Of course, Solomon disobeyed each one of those commands.  True to the commands of what he should not do, Solomon began to worship the pagan gods and goddesses of his wives.  He turned away from his Lord God, and built altars to the foreign gods of his trading partners.

In spite of his disobedience, he was still wise in many ways and helped to solve problems of his people.  Here us just one example of his wisdom.  Two women,who were harlots, came to him.  One woman said, “we live in the same house.  We both gave birth to sons,  At night her son died and she came and took my son and nursed him.    No I did not, claimed the other woman.  It was your son who died.  So Solomon said, Bring me a sword.  When the sword was brought to him he said, “Divide the living child in half and I will give one half to each woman.”  Then one woman said, Oh no do not kill him.  Give him to this woman instead.”  But the other woman said, not divide him in half for he will be neither mine nor yours. Solomon said, “Give the first woman the living child  and by no means kill him. She is his mother.”  When all of Israel heard of the judgment they fearedthe king, for  they saw the wisdom of God was in him to  administer justice.

After that Solomon continued to gather lots of gold and silver and build the temple, buildings, palaces and roads.  He then purchased 12,000 horses and conscripted men to be in his army, though he never fought a war.  And he continued to marry 700 wives and kept 300 concubines...some of whom he never even met.  He married and kept them to gain their property.  God told him because of his disobedience the united kingdom of Israel would be split in two but that would not happen in his lifetime.  So during the reign of his son Rehboam the country was divided with Israel in the north and Judah i the south.

The tale of Solomon is a moral one...and a sad one.  Failing to heed God’s commands and warnings brought destruction to both Solomon and his kingdom.  This story could be the story of any one of us...perhaps not with the opulence Solomon gained.  If we too are not careful to persevere in the ways of our faith and devotion to God’s love and forgiveness, we too might fail as bright, wise, caring people.  Lust, greed, fascination with worldly things and goods, are all human problems and temptations.  When prayer and church attendance is less important to the majority of people in a community, that community is on a downward slide that is hard to reverse.  Where do God’s teachings through the Christ reside in your priorities? How important is it to you to obey God’s commands...do you know better than God?  Have you replaced God’s desire for you with your own desires and wants?
 
I know I’m speaking to the choir because all of you are good and faithful servants.  But, what about your children and grandchildren what do they really know about obedience and God’s will?  The younger generation of American children could be in danger of losing it all….just like Solomon.  Pray about it.  What can we do?


Sermon, September 8, 2019

Religions throughout the world and throughout time have been great vehicles for nation and culture building.  They have been amazing at bringing people together in mass to teach rules, regulations and doctrines that help people have common values, morals, and heroes .  These common traits make it possible for people to share traditions based on stories and lore that defines who they are and how they are to live. By following specific teachings of a specific god or gods.

A possible downside of most religions is that each religion thinks the God they have chosen, named, and followed is the only God all people should hold dear and worship. Most religions, attempt to keep people in line to follow that religion’s primary goals. To modify behavior religions usually include in their faith the concept of rewards and punishments.  Such as, if you break this religious law you will burn in hell. Because of that some people stay with their religion because it is fire insurance for them!

In  religions, people are asked to abide by specified teachings.  Thus arises some questions like these:

Have you ever wondered if you have truly disappointed your God?  Do you think your chosen religion simply means trying to be good?  And if so, and you fail fail doing good from time to time,  does that ever make you feel guilty?  Do religious rules, dogma, and doctrine, those that maybe not so godly after all, sometimes make feel like you are just going through a routine while you think about other things?  If so you might find that your religion has influenced some negative feelings in you.  By and large, religions don’t often encourage creative thinking about their faith, their teachings, or their God 

Religions are corporate which means all the adherents accept the same ideas that frame their religion.  When a nation or culture based on a single religion moves away from that specific religion, that nation and culture begin to fail its people. And chaos reigns.

Spirituality springs from religion.  Religion can be a foundation for spiritual thinking.  However, spirituality goes beyond the rules and dogma of a religion to encourage and inspire a more personal relationship with a God.   Spirituality moves beyond the threats of if-thens.  One example is if you are good enough then you will be rewarded in heaven.  Spirituality uses no specified punishments or rewards.  The reward is your own inner happiness, your own self contentment.  You willingly do what is right and good according to what is right and good for you and those around you.  There are no set rules in being a spiritual person beyond the basic law of love for all.

We can recognize that most religions have fear as some component of their faith system.  People who experience only the age old current forms of religion are often fear-based, wanting to avoid hell and judgment.  In spirituality there is only love.  It encourages you to be love based. Love will empower you to face just about any challenge, regardless of the consequences.

Religions teach their form of truths, and fail to admit there may be other truths equally as helpful and useful as theirs is.  Spirituality lets you uncover truth through your own experiences and reading of hearing about the experiences of others.  Spirituality encourages you to know your religions’ iconic stories and see how they apply to you today, how they may assist you in personal growth.  Spirituality wants you to  interpret scripture not just memorize it.

Religions tend to separate people according to belief systems.  Spirituality helps you find ultimate truths that give guidance and aid to all people.  Spirituality unites people regardless of the differences in stories that help to explain the divine message.

Religion talks often about punishment. Religion tells you what you must do to be true to that specific religion.   On the other hand, Spirituality talks about forgiveness and pardon.  Spirituality knows you get in life what you give to life. 

Religion recognizes and accepts differences in races, ethnic groups, belief systems, and doctrines.  Religions have specific people and acts that are taught to be deplorable and despicable. Spirituality sees us all as one and the only constant is love.

There are religious people who are deeply spiritual.  And there are deeply spiritual people who are religious.  We can appreciate the strengths and powers of both.  The important thing for spiritual people to recognize is that even though we may discover our own righteous paths, it is good and healthy to have group experiences, such as church, synagogue, or temple, where we do celebrate our one-ness regardless of differences.  We are gregarious creatures by nature.  It is healthy to have a shared faith based on religion that brings us together for the betterment of the community and nation in which we live. I hope and pray that this church, the Nourishing Place, does recognize the inherent divine qualities of both religion and spirituality and that we can therefore celebrate worship with all people for God is in each and every one of us and he loves us all equally.  Sometimes differences are good because they give us impetus to look at our own beliefs and either change them or strengthen them.

As we come to church each week, let us re commit ourselves to taking our own spiritual journeys to heart and pursue the journey while at the same time we worship together each Sunday paying homage to the Creator God who made us all in his likeness.

Amen



Sermon, September 1, 2019


Grace.  God’s grace.  What is it?  Why do we need it?  And how do we use it?

First, what is grace?  Grace has a lot of definitions;  here are a few:


Grace is the love of God for unlovely people;  the peace of God given to the restless and those with angst; and it is the unearned, unmerited favor of God.

Grace is the opposite of Karma.  Karma is all about getting what you deserve.  Grace is not getting what you deserve...as in punishment.  You get love, acceptance, and pardon instead of punishment.

Grace is unconditional love toward a person who does not deserve it.

These are just a few of the definitions of Grace.

Second:  Why do we need Grace?  It is most needed in the midst of sin and guilt.  It is present in the midst of suffering.  It is available when you are broken and hopeless, as we all are at times. In America, we expect to earn, work for, deserve and merit good things when we do good things.  We don’t often expect grace or favor when we do harmful, bad, sinful things.  Rather we expect judgment. 

By grace, we do not fall victim to extreme depression due to our guilt.  We understand that harsh judgment can kill either a body or a spirit, but grace makes us fully alive.  That is why we need grace in all our daily work or play, in every relationship, and in all our experiences with other people.  Actually, it is God’s grace bestowed on us that keeps us sane in hostile or bewildering situations.

We all need grace.  But, grace is not about us.  It is all together and wholly a word about God and his relationship with us.  Grace illustrates to us the extravagant care and favor God grants to each of us, whether we recognize it or not. When we sin, misbehave, act in rebellion toward God and his teachings, we receive forgiveness according to God’s grace.  God’s grace is what makes us gracious people, full of gratitude. It is what strengthens us to live according to God’s law of love for all people. 

Ultimately, we need God’s grace because grace is the risen Christ Spirit that inhabits each of us when we invite that Spirit to abide with us.  As Christians we need grace to live as God designed us to live.  We receive grace when we need it most.  Otherwise, we might just take off on paths and roads that are harmful and destructive but also have the power to woo us.  It is the grace of God that guides, directs, and keeps us on the path of love, compassion, forgiveness, and hope.

Third, how do we use God’s grace?  We use it to help us imitate God’s love for all people.  Jesus teaches us this important fact:  “As the father has sent me, so I am sending you.” God’s mission is to the whole entire world.  When you agreed to become a Christian you agreed with God to do your best in serving him and his people, caring for those who are less fortunate than you, and encouraging others to kneel before the power of a gracious God and learn to be gracious yourself.

You can not give to another what you do not have yourself. Look at Bible stories about Grace.  Abraham and Sarah were sinners; they rebelled against God.  By all thoughts, they should have been punished.  But God blessed them, gave them a son in their old age, and created a nation of people who were to show the rest of the world the “right” holy way to live.  Even when they did not do this, God blessed them.

Look at Noah.  Originally he was devout and did what God asked him to do.  But in later life he planted and grew a vineyard.  He got drunk just as if he was at a corner bar with fellow friends.  However he had no friends for they had all been killed in the flood.  Maybe he was just sad and wanted to forget this troubles.  But one night as he drank his libation he passed out.  His son Ham disrobed him which ultimately led Noah’s grandson to rape Noah’s wife.  Yet, God continued to bless Noah and most of his family.  Though Ham and Canaan reaped the wrath of their wrong doings.

All the great men and women in the Bible, Old and New Testaments, slipped from the holiness, sinned, caused harm and yet God still used all of them to bring his word to the world.  If that doesn’t give us Christians comfort I don’t know what will.

To acknowledge God’s grace is to share God’s grace, especially with those who are hurting, who feel punished, who are rebellious, and who are in need of a loving friend.  We are called to be friends of God and each other.  Is it easy? No.  Can we do it? Yes.  How, by recognizing and acknowledging God’s grace in our own lives and offering it to others...all others. 

To live and speak gratitude is sharing the grace of God.  

Amen


Sermon, August 25, 2019

Let’s talk about health and healing from a biblical perspective. We have all asked the question, why are some people healed when we pray and others are not?  A universal question.  The Bible and Jesus speak about that mystery.

How many of you have electricity in your home?  What is the source of that electricity?  In our community, it is the power company. This company, the source of electricity, generates the power and delivers it to your home.    However, when you want to turn on a light you don’t call the company and ask them to flip the switch for you, You flip the switch.  The company generates the power but it is under your control.  You are not the power source.  If you screwed a light bulb into your mouth, it will not turn on. But you will look foolish!  No, if we want electric power in our homes we must use the tools the company tells us we must use...ceiling and floor lamps, stoves and microwaves, heaters and air conditioners.  We need to know when and how to use each of these tools.  Then we use our own authority to control these tools.

Our health and healing is a similar relationship.  God is the source of our health, healing, and well being.  He puts wholeness into us the moment we are born.  As our Psalm told us “God knit me together in my mother’s womb, and I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  Our bodies and brains are among the most complex and unique organisms in the world.  That complexity and uniqueness speaks volumes about the mind of our Creator.  However, from the moment we have any decision making opportunities,  it is up to us to keep our selves healthy.  We have the control and authority to choose to be physically active, avoiding things that harm our health like cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and massive amounts of sugar.    When we have children of our own it is our responsibility to raise them as health conscious humans making right decisions for themselves.  To live with healthy choices can prevent some illnesses.  So God is the source of health and wholeness, but we are in control of how we use what he gave us.

However, as scripture tells us, the rain falls on the just and the unjust...and sickness, tragedy, and infirmities fall on us in a seemingly random fashion as well.

In many biblical stories, when Jesus or his disciples found ill and infirm people, they did not pray for them...they simply told them to be healed, or to get up and walk, or to rise up our of unconsciousness.  In other words they commanded the people use what was already within them.  If they relied on the faith that God put health in all of us, perhaps that knowledge and reminder enabled them to get up and walk, or to overcome illness and disease.  Yet, and here is the conundrum, even with full faith, sometimes our desires and prayers for health and recovery seem unanswered.  We become disappointed, disillusioned, and sometimes our faith wavers. 

There are basically two ways to answer this dilemma.  One is, no matter how infirm, how full of suffering, how disease ridden people become, as long as they have breath they can be helpful and live with some degree of contentment.  The truly sick people who encourage others, the broken and wounded who won’t give up, these are the heroes. The children and adults who accept their condition and do so without undue complaint can give hope to all of us.  Humans are remarkably strong even with sickness or disabilities.  So we don’t discount them...they are vital lessons teaching the rest of us how not to become victims, how to remain in the faith when we are hurting, and how to praise God for the life we do have no matter how much we think it is bad, or wrong, or even evil.

The second way to handle unanswered prayers, at least not answered the way we want them to be, is to recognize God’s thoughts and plans are not ours...and we always have a treasure inside of us to help us cope vigilantly and enthusiastically with disappointments...and that is TRUST. T R U S T. Trusting God

with our own lives and with the lives of those we love and cherish is a rewarding, comforting, and power building act of faith.  When we surrender to the God who made us and loves us above all else, we come to the point of acceptance of what is.  When we give our lives and the lives of our loved ones into the almighty hands of God we are relieved of the stress of trying to know all things at all times.  With trust comes surrender, and with surrender unto God comes peace...no matter what else is happening.

 When we can surrender and still have faith and hope, then we know our Christianity is for real.  When our faith endures all things we know for certain we walk with God, from this moment on.  That is the blessing we all strive for, to be one with the Holy One in all moments of our lives.  Thank God he is God and we are not, yet we can trust him always and in all ways.   Sometimes life hurts.  Sometimes life kills.  Yet love and hope and faith can remain...we are in control over those vital aspects of being human.  No answer of “no” or “not yet” is never a final answer.  Because we are not final people.  We are one with the Holy One on this planet and beyond, for ever.  We all are. 


Amen meaning so let it be.



Sermon, August 18, 2019

Communion

When I think about the last meal Jesus had with his best friends, I feel sad.  These friends were his disciples, his brothers, cousins, and neighbors.  He knew them well and he loved them.  But they were an odd lot, because not one of them seemed to be, at least to us, what Jesus needed.  They were not brave, they did not stand up and admit he was their friend, they vied for which on of them was the most important, and so we suspect they were pretty selfish, self-centered men.

As with so many leaders, Jesus must have hoped for more from them than he got while he was alive.  Even this last meal together, was a celebration, the Passover meal Jesus seemed excited about having with them.  He had told them he would be killed surely within the next day or two.  But they all let that go.

We think they should have spent that time offering comfort and support to Jesus.  They perhaps should have toasted him and shown their gratitude.  They could have esteemed him and served him and praised him but they did none of those things.  In fact, just the opposite.  Jesus washed their feet.  Jesus served the meal to them. And one of them betrayed Jesus.  After the meal,  Jesus asked them to remember him every single time they ate together.  And even then, they did not.

In fact, the next day, when Jesus was tortured and killed they ran away.  Yes, they were confused.  They were bewildered, and they were without a leader.  After a few days of wondering what they should do next, Peter solved the problem for them.  Peter said, “I don’t know what to do, so I’m going home and going fishing.”  The others said they would do the same.  In other words, they went back to their previous jobs as fishermen in the Sea of Galilee.

During the days and weeks that followed, they surely must have talked a great deal about Jesus...who was he, how did he act, what did he teach them!  Then for some unknown reason, suddenly they were inspired.  These uneducated fellows left their nets once again, recruited their own disciples, and began a journey to villages and cities throughout the know world sharing the life of Jesus, the stories he told, and teachings about how to have life abundant through love, compassion, forgiveness for all people.

And they changed the world.  At last they became the people Jesus had counted on and needed.  And today, even this day, he is asking us to at last come to be the people he can count on and needs to spread his words of grace and goodness to all we meet.  Let’s not disappoint our great saving Lord and recommit ourselves to him this day...as we share the communion meal together let’s do remember him.

Amen


Sermon, August 11, 2019
The Wedding Banquet

Matthew 22: 1-14

This is a parable written by Matthew nearly 60 years after Jesus’ crucifixion.  The early church was ain a state of confusion...people were asking who is Jesus, really... a human being,  a son of God, and  the leader of a new faith, or all three?  Others asked can anyone follow Jesus or do you have to be Jewish? These were the questions the New Testament struggles with, especially the gospels.  Matthew and Luke included this story in their gospels, however Matthew wrote strictly for Jewish people, where Luke, wrote for the new gentile believers. Gentile meant anyone who was not Jewish.

But lets look at what Matthew is telling us about Jesus:

In the parable, the King is God who is giving a wedding feast for his Son, who is Jesus. The bride of Jesus, of course, is the church.  So this story is to be about a celebration!   God, the king, sent his servants, meaning his prophets,  out to summon the invited guests to the feast.  These invited guests were the Jewish people… they were also the people who had refused to accept Jesus as the messiah.  They refused Jesus, therefore in the parable they refused the feast….that is they refused the many blessings that come to us when we follow the teachings of Jesus, the Messiah. 

So a second time, God sent his servants, his prophets, out and told them to tell the invited guests, the Jewish people, that he has prepared this feast especially for them...the chosen people,  by providing the finest there is available to them...represented by the fatted calf killed and ready to eat.

Some refused the invitation and went away one to his farm and another to his business.  In other words other things seemed more important to them than the importance of God and his anointed Son

Other invited guests, Jewish people, captured his servants, the prophets, and killed them.  You remember most of the prophets were killed by the Pharisees, priests and Roman soldiers. 

These killings made God angry, so he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.  This statement is regarding the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD.

God then said the feast is still ready but those who were invited did not come, therefore they were not chose darkness and misery.  God then sent his servants out into the main roads...meaning the whole known world… and invited to the feast whomever they saw.  The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests.  These were the Gentiles who were the last ones to be invited to know Jesus, and become his followers.  They are the ones who so to speak took up the cross and carried it to cities and countries far and wide.

When the king, God, came into meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment...meaning he was not prepared to be converted, he spoke the words but did not walk the walk.  When God approached him and asked, “My friend, why are you here without a wedding garment...but the man was reduced to silence.  Then the King, God, said to his attendants “bind is hands and cast him into the darkness outside where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”  This is a horrible condemnation of the man, but what it actually means for him and us is if you or we choose not to follow Jesus in our actions and not just our words, we too will not see the light that is available to us.  We do live in darkness and some degree of misery when we choose our own path of living and disregard God’s path of love, compassion, and forgiveness.  God did not punish that man, the man punished himself by choosing darkness over the light of love and service.

The story ends with the saying, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”  The original translation says, “God chooses all, but only a few choose him.”  Do you choose God’s way, or your own?  Are there times and days when darkness seems more appealing and easier to live into than the glorious light that is available to us every moment of every day when he learn to trust Jesus, the son of God, and live by his teachings….the results are what we all seek:  peace, especially in times of turmoil and hatred.

Think about the gifts and grace that are offered to us that we choose not to accept through fear, or ignorance, or just plain stubbornness.   Thank God we have the ability to see and to change...but only to change ourselves.

Amen



Sermon July 28, 2019
Judy Wood


Paradox

I recently had a friend call me and tell me about the death of her nephew. He was an outstanding student, an artist, handsome, funny - an all around good kid. He was 22 years old and had been in remission for a year after 6 grueling years of cancer treatments. He had gone to the doctor for a routine followup visit and while there suffered a massive stroke and died a few days later . I told her that I loved her and God did as well. I told her I was also so very sorry for the pain and loss she and her family were feeling. She asked me, “Why did God take him after he had won this battle, was about to enter college and begin his life? He was a great kid, why was he taken instead of one of those people who do nothing but bring misery to others ... It doesn't feel like God loves us at all, Judy - I can't understand that!” I was dumbfounded. It is one thing to treat people like you believe your God to be, and quite another to defend Him to them. I replied, “I know your are hurting and angry right now, and that's perfectly understandable, but God doesn't see the difference in you, me, your nephew, or anyone else on this Earth. He loves us all the same.” My friend was gracious enough to not hang up on me and even thanked me for listening, but the stretch of silence had grown by the end of the conversation.

Immediately after getting off the phone, I was regretting what I had just told my friend. I had basically told her “In God's eyes, everybody is just as special as your nephew you miss so much. He thinks of the cruelest psycopath the same way he thinks of any one of us.” Well, maybe not in those words, but I would bet that's what she felt like I had said. It wasn't what she needed to hear and that was NOT the answer she sought.

Now, I do believe we are loved the same, but at the same time I began to be pulled and challenged and stretched and just generally made uncomfortable about my truth could feel so wrong. I was and am not seeking to understand the mind of God, I don't think we humans have the capacity; I just want to settle in with another temporary peaceful co-existence with my beliefs. After all, I am a pretty good Christian until you start mixing in people, life situations, jerks that cut me off in traffic, politics …. you get the idea. I am the never ending “fixer upper” to the Master Carpenter....way over budget and something going wrong every day. Anyway, I have prayed, I've read, I've thought, I've meditated and I've just plain stewed. What I had done is answer her question with MY truth (God loves us all equally) without taking into account her circumstances, her pain, her emotional state or even HER belief system.

One of the books I read is “God's Problem”. Theologian Bart Erhman simplifies the problem with God in three statements:
God is all powerful
God is all loving
There is suffering

The top two statements appear to be in direct conflict with the third. Why is there still suffering in the world if God is (a) All powerful and (b) All loving; wouldn't he stop the suffering of His children he loves so much?

Erhman goes on to describe the different ways in which we try to reconcile the three truths. He talks about the free will of man as a variable in God's plan, but goes on to say that doesn't explain the babies born with horrible birth defects or innocent lives taken before their times by incurable disease or natural disasters. Man's free will doesn't enter into the suffering in those cases. He discusses Rabbi Kushner's book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” in which it is proposed that God doesn't like it when bad things happen and is there to love us and give us strength to overcome those things. In this case God is all-loving, just not all-powerful. He also tells of people like Elie Weisel, the Holocaust Survivor, who no longer believes in an all loving God. He is angry at a God that allows such suffering by His people. Then there are other people who actually believe there is no “true” suffering in this world only the natural state of mankind and the chaos it leaves in its wake. Bart Erhman was a minister and is a theologian and it is this “problem” that has made him lose his belief in God.

How can all three statements be true when there seems to be such a contradiction? A contradiction is two things that cannot be true at the same time. Our human minds are basically dualistic. We find it difficult, if not impossible to hold two contradicting “truths” in our brains at the same time. This results in 'this-or-that' thinking. If it is not this, then it MUST be that. Black or white, right or wrong, smart or dumb, good-or bad , conservative or liberal - It is a type of thinking that creates labels and assumptions about the labels. Contradictions are based on logic (if not this, then that), and a set of assumptions or expectations we think are true. If we expand the definition to be more precise, we can say a contradiction is two things that cannot be true at the same time with your present logic and assumptions. A PARADOX, on the other hand, is a seeming contradiction that may nonetheless be true if seen in a different frame of mind. The word paradox comes from the Greek prefix para meaning “beyond” or “outside of” and the verb dokein (dock-ein) meaning “to appear or to think”. A paradox is beyond the normal way of thinking. It isn't 'this-or that' thinking. A paradox opens the great middle that is in truth. It creates a 'both this and that' thinking. Labels and divisions aren't as clearly made.

We are all quite familiar with paradoxes. Our religion is based on the ultimate paradox - the Trinity... God the father, God the son, God the holy spirit. The Bible is filled with paradoxes:

We see unseen things
We conquer by yielding
We find rest under a yoke
We reign by serving
We are made great by becoming small
We are exhalted when we are humbled
We gain strength when we are weak
We live by dying


Jesus began His ministry by stating a set of paradoxes called the Beatitudes. He said

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth......” Jesus was a rabbi, he was trained and taught in parables that were often paradoxes. The Apostle Paul was a master at a style of teaching called dialectic teaching. He did not move a subject forward with a straightforward conclusion. He would play two ideas off the other to arrive at a third larger truth. It is quite simply 'both this and that' thinking that allows for a third, more encompassing, idea. Read the Bible with paradox in mind. Don't think in terms of “this part is true, this part is not true”, “if this happened, then this must not have happened”. It not only becomes a good spiritual exercise, but also becomes a lesson in faith.

We “religious” or “spiritual” types are quick to tell you God's love, grace, and mercy are the answers to all life's pain and general horribleness. But then something happens to our spouse, or our children, or our health. Can we then live into the “truths” that God is powerful, God is all loving? When someone hurts me, or tries to hurt those I love, is God there reassuring me that all is well? The truth is, like my friend, there were times I just wasn't feeling the strength and love. My friend and I were clearly seeing an all powerful and all loving God from different lenses that day. We both had our truths, but we were seeing it from different perspectives. Making room for the possibility of a broader or different truth, a paradox, is harder to do in our lives. We have unlimited access to INFORMATION, not knowledge, not truth, not fact,and certainly not wisdom. I think we are taking information, unchallenged, unchecked and becoming more convinced of our particular brand of this “truth” and we stick to it to the point that the middle in our world has all but disappeared. We don't bother to think that the same information may yield a different truth for another person. We cling to our own version of the truth like it unchangeable, and indisputable.

We are so caught up today in 'this-or-that' thinking that we are moving farther apart as a country, as people, as friends, and even as families. There is an air of discord, separateness, political and social unrest in our world. None of us are all good or all bad. We are all walking paradoxes.

What would happen if each of us looked honestly at our “truths”? What would change if you called your own assumptions and expectations into question? Can you let go of your ego that fuels your opinions? Why do we argue ? It seems that the purpose of social media is to fuel arguments. Why does it make you feel better if someone equally uninformed or even knowledgeable agrees with you? Does it matter if 1 or 1,000 people “see it as we do” In our dual thinking minds we are on the “right” side if we are agreed with at all – that is ego. The real truth is one in which you can separate your ego and pre-conceived ideas and stand back, view the concept from another's viewpoint. If you can open the middle of a paradox you can begin to think with a different mind... a mind of compassion, a mind of love, a mind that recognizes the humanity in all.

All truth,is indeed a paradox.

Drop the labels that are meant only to divide people. It's been said that if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

It is possible to be gay and Christian.
It is possible to believe in God and science.
It is possible to be pro-choice and anti-abortion.
It is equally possible to be a feminist and love and respect men.
It is possible to have priviledge and be discriminated against, to be poor and have a rich life, to not have a job and still have worth.
It is possible to believe in sensible gun control legislation and still believe in one's right to defend one's self, family and property.
It is possible to be anti-war and pro-military.
It is possible to love thy neighbor and despise his actions.
It is possible to advocate Black Lives Matter and still respect and support police.
It is possible to NOT have an education and be brilliant.
It is possible to be Muslim and also suffer at the hands of terrorists.
It is possible to be a non-American fighting for the American dream.
It is possible to be different and the same. - (author unknown)

I accept that my faith and even my very being is paradoxical. I'm convinced that

leaving a space in the middle for my “unknowing” is the very meaning of faith but also the meaning of self-knowledge and wisdom. God leads me even in the darkness that cannot be predicted or controlled by my ego or my rational mind. I am going to work on seeing views of others differently, especially those with whom I don't agree. I am willing to step back, open up, and let humanity and love win.

I had lunch with my friend; I still believe we are all loved equally by God, but I apologized for that original answer because I now understand why it is not HER truth at this time. It does not mean I am right and she is wrong or visa versa. I told her another truth I believe – I told her, I don't know. I don't know why you and your family lost this young man. Moreover, I don't KNOW a whole lot, but I am searching. We talked about other things and even laughed a bit and when we were ready to leave she thanked me and said that it was OK that I don't know why her nephew was taken. It was important for her to know that I cared enough to listen. Neils Bohr, the physicist said, “ The opposite of a true statement is a false statement, but the opposite of a profound truth can be another profound truth. I am going to leave space for another profound truth that neither my friend nor I can see at this time. I am at peace with that.

Amen



Sermon July 21, 2019

Unity...it seems to have its ups and downs.  We hear about a unified front, but where do we actually see one in action? We hear about families, clubs, organizations, etc. having unity.  I’m not so certain we ever have unity.  I think unity is something we do.  I think, as Christians,  do unity by sharing common values, attitudes, and actions such as respect for one another, gratitude for the lives and freedoms we do have, compassion for those less fortunate than we are and hard work to accomplish goals.  As followers of the Christ, we also do unity by attending church and fellowships together, participating in worthwhile projects that help our local communities and work on them together.  We do unity when we pray for faith, hope, and love to be apparent in our church gatherings.

I also think Jesus did unity when he gathered together his motley crew of disciples.  Though they do indeed seem to be motley, Jesus specified they be unified in their beliefs and actions.  That desire was never completely done, but at least most of the disciples did seem to move in the direction he desired.

 But, for the doing of unity, we go further back than the disciples.  We go all the way back to God when he chose the Jewish nation to be his model of what a nation of believing individuals could be if the individuals worked together to fulfill God’s plan.  It seems not to have worked so well yet.

Perhaps that was when God came to the conclusion that 2000 years ago was the right time to give to the Jewish people what he had promised them all along...the messiah.  However, the messiah God planned and the messiah the Jewish people hoped for were two very different characters.  The messiah the Jewish people desired was a warrior with a large army that would physically destroy all the people and nations that had made the Jews and their nation suffer.

The messiah God sent to them and ultimately to us was a Spiritual messiah.  That messiah was to be the visible image of our invisible God.  Paul in writing to the Colossians called him the firstborn of all creation, for in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.  Isn’t that a marvelous way to describe Jesus who became our Christ and our Lord...where the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.
 
We learn a little bit about God when we read the Old Testament, especially the Law and the Prophets.  But realistically, for Christians, all we can actually know about God is what we see in Jesus through his teachings, the stories told about him, and the stories he himself told.

 To have a group of believers do and experience unity, we agree to some degree about who Jesus was and is. That doesn’t mean we all interpret scripture in the same way.  It doesn’t mean we have had exactly the same revelations of Jesus.  But we have all read in the Bible ( our book of instruction )that Jesus was a healer, a teacher, a lover of the downtrodden and outcasts.  He forgave all manner of sins and continued to love the sinner.  He cried when his friends were hurt or died.  And, he did show a bit of anger and impatience with the arrogant, intolerant, aggressive leaders of his day.  However, he did pray for these unrepentant leaders and tried to show them a better way to guide their people.  Was Jesus 100 percent successful?  From our perspective perhaps not.  But we must not forget God’s plan is still unfolding, and we are it. 

Do we do unity here?  Do we agree that Jesus was an accurate image of our God?  Perhaps the best question is are we an accurate image of our God and our Christ?  Through the words you use and the actions you live by, would others know to whom you paid homage and to whom you worshiped?

We see what happens to a world when there is little unity found anywhere.  So perhaps one of the ways this church could do more unity is to talk to each other, compare actions and outreaches, and see how similar we are, yet still respecting our differences.  If the divide is great, perhaps conversations about what actions and words are truly important for Christians to do and to use, then maybe unity could be enhanced.  True unity done with continuity and love produces peace and comfort for those who live by  spiritual and moral truths taught by Jesus, the Christ.

Let’s try it.  It might be fun, it might be enlightening.  But for certain, it will be important for us to grow as images of the loving, forgiving, compassionate Lord.



Amen


Sermon, July 14, 2019

Today’s reading is the parable of the Good Samaritan.  It is a story Jesus told as an answer to a man who asked, “Who is our neighbor?”  We all know this story and we know what it is teaching us.  But let’s recap:  A Jewish man was walking along the Jericho road to Jerusalem.  Robbers attacked him, beat and robbed him, and left him on the side of the road. 

Soon after, two holy Jewish men walked right passed the badly wounded Jewish man and did nothing to help him:  one was a priest and the other was a Levite, that is someone who was in charge of the Temple.  You would think that of all the people who took that road those would be the two who would stop and give aid.  They did not.  I’m sure they had their excuses for not doing so.

Then a man hated by all Jewish people, a Samaritan, came along.  The reason the Jews hated the Samaritans is they intermarried with heathens, broke most of the Jewish laws, and even defiled the Jewish temple by placing pig blood and bones in it.  So this hated man, who also hated all Jews, did stop by to give aid.  He cleansed his wounds with wine and oil, lifted him up on the Samaritans own animal, and took him to an inn to be cared for.  There he gave the inn keeper money to care for the wounded one and said he would return the same way and if more money was needed he would pay it.

So obviously, according to Jesus, our neighbor is anyone anywhere who is in need, whether we love, hate, or fear that person.  According to the teachings of Jesus when it comes to being compassionate towards your neighbor there are no conditions applied!  No conditions...such as I’m too busy to help, I don’t have time, I don’t know this person anyway, I can’t afford the money to help, that person is different from me and my friends, this person may not be a Christian….on and on and on...Our excuses are endless.  Again, according the Jesus, we, his followers, must serve those in need without considering the parameters that divide and separate us.  That may be heavy for us to even consider...but otherwise, what good do we do if we only serve those we think deserve to be served.  According to scripture that attitude is arrogance and is spiritually harmful to us who live by Christian ethics.

To help a neighbor means a great deal more than giving a dollar or two to someone who asks...rather it is to recognize compassion is the ligament that unites all humankind.  As Christians, our ultimate purpose is to love and serve humanity irrespective of where those in need come from, who they are, or what they have done.  To be a good Samaritan, like Jesus asks us to be, we must serve all with complete willingness...often times without regard to the cost.  We either live in faith and become an integral part of the Kingdom of God here on earth, or we fail in our mission that brought us to earth in the first place.  All of you here are good, kind, loving people.  No doubt about that.  But if you were to truly and honestly evaluate yourself and your attitude toward the needy, I hope you will ask yourself these two questions:

Where do you stand on the continuum of true, wholehearted compassion? 

Is there room for improvement in your attitude and actions? 

Amen
 


Sermon, July 7, 2019

Prayer is as diverse as humanity itself.  It can be anything from deep meditation and kneeling with formality to singing in the shower or taking God while driving.  Prayer is as diverse as humanity itself.  Everyone has his or her own image of the god or goddess prayed to. Everyone has his or her way of addressing or communicating with the god or goddess of choice

Throughout most of human history, children were taught what God to pray to and how to pray.  In the Christian tradition most prayers include some of the statements found in the Lord’s prayer...both praise and requests are included.  However, in today’s busy world prayers and prayer times have changed.  Family prayers, except for saying grace at dinner, are mostly left out of family togetherness.  And sadly, prayer, God, Bible and Christianity have become something to joke about on the media and in the movies.

Sometimes I think we believe God is like a vending machine.  In a vending machine we put in our request, punch a button to indicate what we want and then we expect to get what we asked for.  When we receive what we asked for all is well.  However, when the vending machine gives us potato chips instead of a Pepsi, we often curse the machine and on occasion slap or kick it.  God is not a vending machine nor a Santa like dude in the sky granting wishes.

I believe our prayers are influenced by who we think God is and what God does.  Some of us feel so self efficient we think we don’t need God except in emergencies  Others of us are so full of fear of God we become like fundamental Christians who have very little freedom of thought or doubt.  So where does that leave those of us who want to expand our minds, who want to grow our relationship with the sacred one, and who do want life to be balanced for those we love?

How do we pray?  In a way, God has some of the same traits our verybest friends have.  WE can tell our best friends the worse about ourselves and that friend will not tell others our secrets, will not cancel our friendship, and will continue to love us and want to be with us.  We trust our best friends with our lives.  Shouldn’t we do the same with God?

If our image of God is that of a loving energy, patient creator, a forgiving deity, a powerful comforter who is within us then taling to that God is easy.  WE tell that God we are thankful for his presence, for love for abundance and grace.  That God does not need the praise we give but we do so for it is healthy for us...it provides confidence, assurance, and comfort, sustaining us through every day.  That loving God is trustworthy. Even if our request to him is answered with “no”, we handle that “no” because we trust God will still be with us, guiding us in every joy and sorrow.

If we see God as a vengeful creator, one who would create a hell for people who have made mistakes, and terrible ones at that, then that God requires more of you.  You must live by dogma, doctrine, and rigid rules...all man made.  You may become less free, less happy, less trusting because you are fear based rather than love based.

Too often we want God to change other people, change our circumstances, and to change himself to like us better than anyone else.  Therefor, in sincere prayer we don’t ask God to change.  Rather we seek God to change us in the way we think, believe, and act.  It is God who nourishes, strengthens, empowers and enables us to face whatever life sends to us. 

In effect, whatever we ask God for God is the answer.  God is the answer to any prayer...God’s presence in our lives, God’s gifts of forgiveness, compassion, mercy, beauty, guidance love and life itself is the answer to anything we ask of God.  We need to be aware that our loving, trustworthy creator God is eternally with us, within us, around us, below and above us...able to share every moment of life regardless of how we as humans view our own lives.

Praise God because it is good for us.  Say to God what you think you need and do so with a spirit of gratitude and trust.  God is indeed the very best friend you can ever have and more than that, so trust God with your own life and with the lives of those you love.

A delightful modern theologian, Anne Lamont, said for her the perfect prayer is “God have mercy! And thank you, God!”  Both show trust.

What about you and your prayer life?

Amen



Sermon, June 30, 2019 

Forgiveness is essential in our walk as Christians.  It is a combination of three fruits of the Spirit which are given to us by God.  Forgiveness combines kindness, goodness, and love toward ourselves.  We forgive because God asks us to and because it keeps us in control of our words and actions...if we don’t forgive we have given power over us to the one who hurt us.

We forgive because at some point in time everyone of us has been deeply hurt by the actions of another.  These betrayals, wounds, heartbreaks cause us distress, disappointment, and sometimes great anger.  It is difficult to forgive those wrongs, but why do we cling tenaciously to our resentment and our desire for revenge?   I think we cling to these resentments because we feel the person who hurt us should ask for forgiveness, because we seem to receive some kind of sick pleasure by hanging on to anger or hurt, and because we allow our ego or pride to control us.

If you think the one who hurt you must do something to repair the relationship or ask to be forgiven then you are not ready to forgive.  Forgiveness has nothing to do with how the person treated you….it has all together to do with how you want to live your life...free of stress and anger, or harboring those feelings, remain burdened, and live as a victim.

If you receive pleasure by hanging on to your anger or hurt, you are absolutely not hurting the person you need to forgive...you are hurting only yourself day after day.  Make that life-altering correction today!

 If you fail to forgive because of your pride, then you are in inner trouble and turmoil...they are the causes of stress in your body.  Pride is a dangerous emotion for it makes you think you are better than others; it seems to elevate you above all others and that is a false state of existence.

Think of Jesus for a minute. Being led to the cross, he was beaten and tortured, yet while he was being killed, but still able to catch a breath, he asked God to forgive his murderers.  In that way, Christ is a role model...to live this earthly life in peace and calmness regardless of the behavior of others!

Forgiveness does not mean condoning or excusing the wrong.

 It doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong.

Forgiveness is not pretending you were not hurt.

WE admit we were hurt and we do remember who hurt us.   It is because we remember that we must forgive so that we are set free from that burden.  Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself so that you can be at peace, sleep well at night, and know contentment.  By forgiving, you are set from the hurt that kept you attached on an emotional level to the person who hurt you.
 
Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does change and enhance the future.

Forgiveness does release resentment or vengeance toward the person who hurt you.

So, to forgive the worst that is done to you is sanity.  It frees you to move forward with your life and your dreams rather than holding you back going over and over again the pain of being hurt.  If you live in the past you are not truly living.

To forgive is a choice and a step forward in good mental health.  Once you choose to forgive, your memory will keep trying to call you back to the pain of the past.  But, you have control over that calling...emotions do not control you, you control your emotions.  Every time you want to re-live or re-think the harm, stop yourself and say “No more. You have wounded me enough.”

Forgiveness can be done and it can be done best and quickest by asking the Christ within you to amp up the power of love and strength in you...that partnership with Christ never fails.  Peace of mind, the peace that is God-given, is what you have when you let go of grudges, anger, and resentments.  The moment you say “It is time to let it go, is the time you forgive.”  That is the moment you find peace.

I found through tragic personal experiences, that the person who hurt me the most, the person I began to despise, became a friend again once I forgave. I truly felt free of all hostility and could interact with that person with joy, not fear.  When hate turns to love you know the power of the God of love and there is nothing like it in the whole of the world.

Most people in the world of healing will tell you that forgiving the person who hurt you has physical and spiritual benefits.  Here are just a few of the benefits:  improved mental health; less anxiety, stress and hostility; lower blood pressure, fewer symptoms of depression, a stronger immune system, improved heart health, improved self-esteem, and healthier relationships.  I you accept that is truth, then why hang on to resentments when they hurt only you.

So remember.  A rule of life is we get what we give and we reap what we sow.  Let today be the day you seek true peace by utilizing the power of love and give yourself the gift of forgiveness. 

Amen


Sermon, June 23, 2019

In our weekly gatherings to worship our God and enjoy each other, we often talk about happiness, joy, and other fruits of the spirit.  But in today’s often hostile, confusing, low-morale, divisive society I believe it is essential that we re-capture a gift our Creator has given us and live into it...that gift is inner joy.  God created us to be joyful...God wants us to be joyful.

From a spiritual view, joy and happiness are related, but are not the same thing.

Happiness is a fleeting feeling.  It is a mood that changes with situations and circumstances.  Joy, however, is God within you.  It is a positive position that does not depend on external stimuli.  Joy is believing with confidence, that is with faith, that God is in control of life, although immediate evidence might try to suggest otherwise.
 
To say it briefly, joy sustains itself through the sacred within us...happiness needs a reason to be happy.

Here is one example of joy.  When you make a decision to live by the teachings of Christ, you have within you a glow, a warm, shining light, that nothing can extinguish. That warm, glowing core of you fits right between your heart and your stomach.  It brightens every aspect of your life.  Now, we all know LIFE happens...problems arise, tragedy strikes, loss and betrayals occur...but, these events will not make your inner joy disappear.  However, they do bring your attention to the trouble of the moment.  As you rely on your inner joy, you calmly look at the current problem or event or loss, tell yourself you must act, then do something about that situation.  It may take time but whatever the problem is, you now have the warm energy to deal with it.  You have energy, you have focus, you have strength, and you have patience and optimism to face and deal with whatever needs to be dealt with….and when you begin to approach and deal with the situation, happiness, which is temporary, arises and joins joy and your life is enhanced. 

Our bible tells us all through the Psalms to “Clap your hands, all people!  Shout to God with the songs of joy...especially in times of trouble.”  And in Isaiah, the book Jesus loved and quoted often, tells us “Shout and sing for joy, for great in your midst is the Holy One.”

Any sane, fairly normal person can feel happiness for moments at a time over events, happenings, memories, etc.  But only your decision to be the vessel for the living Spirit of God will give you inner and eternal joy.  Like peace, joy comes from the relationship between you and God.  All else is temporary and fleeting.

Do you want to live a joyous life?  Remember the words of C.S. Lewis “Joy is the serious business of heaven.  And it is the serious business of your decisions and choices.  You mayt choose joy, become committed to it, and joy will remain that inner, strengthening, comforting glow.  Or, you can live your life on your own terms, experience happiness occasionally, then wonder all too often why you are disappointed, depressed, down trodden, miserable...on and on.

God respects you enough to give you the right to make the decision to have joy or not.

What is your decision?  


Amen


Sermon June 16, 2019


Who is God the Father?
 
Most of us were raised to a degree on biblical stories and teachings.  Therefore, we have been taught the original creator God fathers us all.

In the Old Testament God is called “father only 8 times, and that is primarily in reference to being the Father of the Jewish nation and the patriarchs of that nation.  In that sense Father is a title and not a name.  However, when we turn to the New Testament the word “father” or “Abba”is used by Jesus and his disciples hundreds of times.  In this sense, the word Father illustrates kinship, a familiarity and intimacy with God’s entire creation and especially his people.   

Sometimes I don’t like the word “God” because it has different meanings to every person who ever thinks about a divine entity.  The word “God” for some means love, joy, peace, affection...but for others the word “God” means fear, judgment, condemnation, and guilt.  I think the same goes for the word “Father.” So what do we make of these disparaging images?  It illustrates that what we are taught and what we experience are often not the same thing.

Perhaps the only way to accept these differences is to choose how we see or image God as the Father of creation.  To literally see God as an entity is not possible because he, she, or it is intangible, unable to be physically seen, heard or touched... except through his creation. And, toward that end, some folks will see aspects of creation as hostile, like hurricanes and tornadoes and earth quakes and some people, while others will see those things as helpful in keeping the planet viable and healthy. By observing the power and majesty of  nature, and by being aware of the orderliness of nature, we can mentally glimpse a divinity or a Father type entity maintaining a universe that is benevolent to all.

Knowing people the way our Creator does, this Creator evidently chose not to be seen or heard or touched except through creation and created people. Through all of creation we get the sense that a Father Entity is everywhere at all times, guiding, guarding and sustaining this creation. We who are made in his image experience God through all of nature...its majesty and orderliness,  through love and peace shared among each other, through the events of history, and through words written by men and women but nonetheless deemed holy and sacred.

With the title or name Father, we, again as people of the Bible, know God as the life-giver, the authority and the powerful protector often known as omnipotent, and omnipresent.  If we want to see or hear our Father God, just watch a sunset or a full moon rise, listen to the sacred music from around the world, read the stories of how love changes people and events, and look at the faces of new mothers as they hold their tiny infant for the first time.  These are glimpses of the power of God the Father’s relationship to each one of us on an equal basis...God favors us all.

As far as we now know, God is gender-less...that is God is neither male or female...but in the roles God uses we see the strength and protection usually associated with a Father...and also the tenderness and caring of one another that we often see as maternal.   For me, having been taught early on that God is the Great I Am, I am still comfortable referring to the divine power in my life as God, Father, Spirit, and or the Christ.  To me, they all point to the same unknowable, but experienced holiness available to us moment to moment as we choose to be open to such experiences.

The thing I find most appealing about God as father is that of his being a life-giver….a life-giver in two ways.  He creates physical life….God the father’s breath is the breath of life….he brought into being all that exists.  But life-giver also means meta-physical...that is beyond the physical.  The Father inspires the quality of life that involves his authority...he does know what is best for us, his attention to each of us, his generosity of the plenty he provides on this planet, his faithfulness to us always as in always available to us, his never-ending desire to forgive us even when we disobey, and his great love for his creation including us. 

Sometimes as Christians we focus on the life and miracles of Jesus and tend to pay less attention to God the Father who is himself life...all of it, and has been since the beginning of time.  He is not just Father the life-giver, he is Our father, meaning we have an eternal relationship with God the Father and each other...and that in itself should give each of us peace not fear, love not hostility, and trust...the true basis of all relationships.

On this Father’s day, let us make a commitment to include God the Father in our prayers, in our worship, in our relationships with each other and give God the Father gratitude, thanks, and praise for life and all the glory and grace it includes.

 Amen


Sermon, June 9, 2019

Last week, when I introduced my grandchildren, I told you about 3 year old Tyler.  The others in the house were playing a game in another room.  It was quiet in the back where Max and I were sitting.  Tyler, who doesn’t speak very clearly, came and stood in front of me.  He patted my knee and said, “I’m a good boy.”  I said, “Yes, you ARE a good boy.”  Then he said, “I’m a good boy.  I count to four.”

I thought about that all week long...and I think that little boy probably gave me one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard and all in 5 seconds!

Wouldn’t it be a grand world if each one of us, in an unassuming way, could honestly say to ourselves and others, “I’m a good person. I do simple things that are helpful.  I’m a good person.”

We live in a prosperous world, where goods of every kind are available. The more we have seems to define the quality of life we have.  But that prevailing attitude seems to push us toward wanting the finest of clothes, the biggest house or car, the most important job, the best reputation...on and on.  Some of those aspirations are indeed vital, but some when overemphasized are neither needed nor healthy. Often if we do have the finest of things, the cost to keep them fine like insurance, utilities, taxes, maintenance, causes us to use even more resources that might be better spent to enhance life in more authentic ways. The simplest way to live is often the best way to live.

If we have to live on limited income, if we wear hand-me down clothing, if we have menial jobs , then we should do all of that with dignity, doing the very best with what we have and doing so without complaint or bitterness.

If we look to the Bible for guidance we find that even 2000 years ago Jesus challenged the conventional convictions concerning what life was about and how it should be lived.  Through all of his parables and teachings, Jesus gave us snapshots of first century Jewish life in their homeland.  Jesus diagnosed the human condition and expectations of his time with the words “the broad way.” He saw his people justify almost any action no matter how hateful or cruel.  He saw his fellow Jewish men and women as preoccupied with their self-centered concerns not the real needs of their neighbors.  Their limited vision was turned inward toward themselves without regard to consequences.  They were controlled by social conventions and were manipulated by the convoluted culture of the time set by the leaders in politics and religion, rather than what was good, helpful, beneficial, and loving.  What was true back then seems to still be the way things are most of the time today.  Don’t some in our government and media bosses allow Hollywood to set standards for life styles rather than listening to the saner aspects of our society?  Who knew sane caring people would ever follow and attempt to live like the lurid, bawdy, arrogant self proclaimed important people who happen to be on television? On what are our living standards based today?

Jesus offered an alternative way to the broad way...he called it the narrow way...the road less traveled is how Scott Peck said it.  It is simple and easy.  It puts God, righteousness, respect, and love above all other considerations, all the time, every time.  You either serve God, or you will serve another lord of your life.  When you choose a Lord that is not God, it will put you in spiritual exile and make you blind to the abundant life that is the Christ way.  The narrow way also involves repentance.  Admitting what might need to be corrected or improved in the time you have left in this life.  It means turning around, going back to God.  Think new thoughts, loving thoughts that even include your enemies.  See with the mind of Christ. 

The social order of our day is extremely manipulative.  It often puts recreation over church, money spent on wanted items rather than needed items, or charitable giving.  Remember, you can never out give God. 

Our manipulative society often woos us to do things, say things and participate in ways we know are not healthy or good for us, but we do them anyway to be liked, included, or tolerated.

Sometimes, maybe many times,  we don’t like what Jesus taught.   We don’t like what the Bible teaches.  I think it is those times that touch something within us that needs to be looked at and pondered. 

So, the question this Sunday is: What would it take today for you to re-arrange your life to really put God first in all ways and to say with sincerity,  “I am a good person.  I do simple things that are helpful.”?

Amen



Sermon, June 2, 2019


The Rest of the Story

Last Sunday we talked about Jesus and man who had been an invalid for 38 years.  He waited by the Pool of Bethesda for someone to help him, rescue him.  When Jesus came by the pool he went to the invalid and asked, “Do you want to be well?  The man did not respond, but Jesus told him to ick up his mat and walk.  Which the man did.  We talso alked about the fact that in a healing more than just the physical impairment is involved.  The person being healed must be part of the healing process.

Since the man evidently was made well enough to walk, he should have been thrilled, happy, and grateful. He had a new lease on life!   Surely he would have thanked Jesus.  However, just the opposite happened.  When the now walking invalid left the pool carrying his mat, some Jewish authorities stopped him and told him it was the Sabbath and therefore against the law to be carrying his mat. 

The newly healed invalid’s reply was, “well I was only doing what the man that healed me told me to do.”  The authorities asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up?” 

The man who was healed did not know who it was because Jesus had slipped away into he crowd that was there. 

However, later, at the temple, Jesus found the man who was healed. “I see you are well again.  But stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”    Why did Jesus say this? Knowing his benign and loving nature perhaps He meant it as a real caution.  The man had not really had any opportunities to experience life.  Now that he was strong and well, he could venture into the world and might easily fall into evil activity before he was ready to face it and deal with it rationally.  But he man didn’t listen.  He immediately ran to the authorities and told them who had healed him. They began to persecute Jesus.  The authorities claimed Jesus had broken the Sabbath Law of no work can be done on the Sabbath and they considered healing as work.  Also because Jesus had called God his father, the authorities accused him of claiming himself as equal to God.

From the beginning of this story through to the end Jesus acted from his divine nature...loving, forgiving, caring, and claiming the glory of God.   For people like the invalid, the hurting, the wounded, and the lost Jesus was and is the answer to human despair.  Jesus never gives up hope, he never stops loving and encouraging, and he always shows what God’s will is through his own actions.

Jesus acted on the truth that the love of God includes the ones whom we have defined as despicable, unclean, or unworthy.   So the basic messages in this story is two-fold:  one, we are not to withhold caring, compassion or divine love from anyone,  but especially from those we think less of, those we might consider unworthy;   second when we act lovingly, we too are living from our divine nature.  In that regard we are like Christ to the people we serve. I think what Jesus illustrates in this story is to allow others to do and be their worst and care for them anyway, even without ever receiving a thank you or grateful comment.  Life is at its greatest worth when it is given away.

The teachings of Christ tell us to be kind, understanding, compassionate and to spread unconditional love through our daily actions.  However, Jesus never asked us to do anything that he did not do himself.  He was utterly obedient to the will of God.

If we are called to be Christ like in our daily actions and relationships, we must ask ourselves to what degree we are utterly obedient to the traits of Christianity?  What in your daily life are you willing to sacrifice or give up, if necessary, to assist someone in need?  Do you first determine if you think the person in need is worthy?  Will be grateful? Will share the goodness?  OR, you do like Christ did...see a need and and without regard to the person’s worthiness, and to the best of your ability, offer assistance and help anyway?

If we claim to be followers of Christ, that is Christian, how closely do you live by his standards?

A question to ponder.

Amen


Sermon, May 26, 2019
 
The story today is in the Gospel of John.  John’s Gospel is full of symbolic imagery.  It is esoteric in meaning.  It gives us a kernel of knowledge from which can spring an entire change in attitude, belief, or action.  So let’s read this part of the story with that idea in mind.   (Read John 5: 1-9.

Some people see a slight difference in the words “cure” and “heal”.    The words may be used interchangeably.  However, “cure” is usually used to express a discovery such as “we now have a cure for polio, or there is a cure for smallpox, or he was cured of his addiction, or she was cured of insomnia.  Cure sometimes means something outside of you was used for the healing process.  And we are grateful for cures of all impairments.

Healing, on the other hand, seems to indicate something a bit more than just being cured.  Healing leads to wholeness and involves something within you.  In today’s reading we get a glimpse of what is truly involved in healing.

The story is about a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.  He has gone to the pool of Bethesda every day for 38 years hoping to be healed.  Bethesda means House of Mercy.  However, the man at the pool, according to him, was not receiving mercy.  Many of us today are also in a place of mercy, yet we feel strangled by our situations and circumstances. 

Our scriptures call Jesus a healer.  Jesus came to us to set us free, but some of us are still living like we are blind, lame or paralyzed.  We are stuck in one place for a long time and are doing nothing about our condition.  Like the man at the pool many of us are waiting for someone to rescue us.  Waiting for a change in our circumstances.  Waiting for something to happen...yet we do not move out in faith and trust like we have been asked to do.

If you are bored and lonely, what or who are you waiting for?  If you are in a job you hate, what or who are you waiting for?  If you are depressed and discouraged, what or who are you waiting for?  If life is too much for you right now, what or who are you waiting for?  If you are suffering from an illness that is life-threatening or causing life-altering circumstances, what or who are you waiting for? Remember, waiting doesn’t solve the problem.  God and you are always the major players in any kind of healing.

That is why Jesus asked the man, “do you want to be healed?”  He asked that question because Jesus was surprised the man had waited 38 years when he could have done something for himself.  He was close enough to the pool that he could have rolled into the water instead of waiting for someone to pick him up.  Jesus knew this man had the potential to help himself, yet the invalid wanted to depend on someone else to solve his problem. 

Our Biblical account of Jesus teaches that Jesus solved most of our problems 2000 years ago.  He came to empower us to overcome our circumstances and earthly situations.  He is telling all of us that we need not sit by any pool of despair when we all have the potential to assist in our own healing, whether that healing is physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual.  Jesus asks us to be in relationship to him and his teachings thereby providing us with what we need to take action in the healing process.

Notice this about the story.  Jesus did not pray for the invalid.  He did not help the man get in the water.  He did not give the man any money or handouts.  He did not ask people around the pool to help.  And, Jesus did not pick up the man’s mat for him. Instead, Jesus spoke to man’s potential and said, “Pick up your mat and walk.”  Jesus simply spoke to him and told him what he must do to be well, to be whole. The miracle of healing was that Jesus spoke and the man responded. He acted. He did something. He got up and walked.  Healing and being made whole includes being responsible for yourself.

Today, maybe Jesus is telling you to pick up your mat and walk.  So, what is your mat?  What is holding you down, keeping you from realizing your potential?  In other words what is your excuse for not taking responsibility?  What has kept you chained to poverty, or unhappiness, or illness?  The mat is whatever symbolizes your inability to take charge of your circumstances and overcome them with the power and knowledge that is within you….given to you by your God and your Lord.

Through this story, Jesus is telling all of us it is time to exercise the power of God inside of us...when we do so, nothing shall be impossible to those that believe and act on that belief.

We all know each one of us will one day die an earthly death...and there are illnesses from which death and permanent impairment can occur.  So where is our self-responsibility in those times?  The answer is the same:  take responsibility for the change life has forced on us.  We can be bitter, live in a state of pity, whine, curse, be angry which is ok for a while...but real responsibility recognizes we still have life in us and it can be used for good by loving, being faithful, even laughing occasionally, and above all trusting that God does know what is best for us and is with us and for us in whatever circumstance we are in...and never ever give up hope.  It is in times like these that we can still manifest the greatness of God through us, his people. 

What a terrible shame it would be if we choose to not recognize that divine power he has placed inside of us.  So let each one of us be serious about activating the healing power of God within us.  Let’s not wait, but do so today. 

Amen


Sermon, May 19, 2019

What do we mean by Oneness or Wholeness when we talk about our spirituality?  We sing songs of “We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord.”  We read Jesus saying, “I am in my Father and my Father I in me and I am in you as you are in me.”  So, what about it?

Scripturally speaking, Oneness with God is not a dream.  It is the only reality we have.  Everything else is an illusion.  That statement means there is only one eternal, creative, benevolent energy we call God.  Likewise, there is only a single divine Spirit which manifests itself in millions of ways...through Jesus the Christ, through other spiritual men and women who teach and illustrate the power and presence of God, and through you and me as believers.  We are all one, just an extension of God and each other expressing ourselves in different human interests, intellects, and actions.

I want to give you an analogy. An analogy is a comparison of two things to show their similarities by which we can better understand both.

The best way I can explain and accept this concept of oneness with God and each other is to look at our Gulf of Mexico...our round gulf so very close to us.  Picture our gulf as representing God who fills the universe.  God is all the water of the gulf.  Each one of us is a wave that rises up from the water, to live for a brief time as an individual wave yet connected to the water, and to all other waves close by.  When our wave time is up we roll back into the water to live unified, as One, forever.

This image of our complete connectedness to God and one another is comforting to me.  It speaks volumes regarding how we as humans need to see each other through the eyes of our divine Lord and God.  If we do so, we will have more peace, a clear identity, a life everlasting embraced by God, and a powerful sense of humaneness with all other humans.

One day, go to the beach and just watch the gulf, watch wave after wave rolling ashore then submerging again into the larger body of water.  I don’t think you will ever see one wave being unkind to another...they make room for all, for they live and work in connection with each other, all based in and on the large water itself.

To me, the whole physical world is an illustration from God’s creativity to teach us who God is and who we are in relationship to him and each other.

Our task is to fully understand this concept, live into it, and rejoice in being part of the whole, being One with with All.

Amen
 

Sermon, May 12, 2019

Today is Mother's Day. Celebrated across the country in recognition of love, caring, and compassion.

Have you ever wondered where the word mother originated? It was developed centuries ago in a very old language, and the word was modor. Interestingly, the word modor is a verb, not a noun. And, it includes both genders, male and female.  Modor really means to take care of.

In the language of earlier times, we learn God modors all people...he takes care of all people. He mothers all people!

Because most of us associate mother with females, we often lose the true value of the word. For example, we know and understand mothering of children, that is taking care of children; but even today taking care of children and each other is for both fathers and mothers to do, and sometimes other family members as well.  God intends for all of us to participate in taking care of one another.  However, and this is important for Christians.  God also intends for us to take care of his Holy Spirit that resides in us.

Remember, we are told over and over again in the Bible that God’s spirit lives within us. We are God’s temples where God’s powerful spirit abides.  So, as Christians, we need to be very aware that God is within us...in our hearts, minds, and bodies.  We are to take care of that Spirit so it can grow within us and become a powerful change agent for Good.

We are to nourish, feed, and take care of God's Spirit actively living within each of us. For that spirit to grow and become powerful we must nurture it, feed it, let it live, let it guide us, let it change us. How do we nourish it?  By loving expansively, forgiving all hurt, and opening our hearts to all people.  It also requires us to know our Christ and what his main teachings are. We learn about his teachings through scripture, biblical stories, and observing one another as we live according to those teachings.  When we do nourish that Spirit, we grow into co-creators with God, creating a holy universe, God’s Kingdom, in the here and now, this day in this place. 
 
We know we are helping to build God’s kingdom now when, amazing things happen. Barriers of all kinds of prejudice are broken. Addictions are overcome. Races are reconciled. Hope, in spite of any and every problem, is established. People are blessed. Unity arises. And, church happens.

When we decide to seriously nurture and mother the spirit within, discouraged people cheer up. Dishonest people confess up. Fearful people open up. Gossipers shut up. Angry people make up. Mean people sweeten up. Boring folks wake up. And lukewarm Christians get fired up.

Mothering, from both men and women, is all about lifting up, ourselves and others, to a plane of living where no matter what happens around us we express confidence, experience peace, share joy, expand love, willingly offer forgiveness. Its all about being enlightened, letting God's love be the power in our lives.

Father Richard Rohr stated this in his recent writings:

"Most of us were taught that God would love us when we change our behavior. In fact, God loves you so you can change your behavior. What empowers change, what makes you

want to change and grow spiritually, is the experience of love. It is that experience of love that becomes the engine of change."

Change means growth in all the ways that matter. Enhancing the traits that makes life better, richer, more fun, more productive, more joyous. These are the very traits God himself chooses for us to have and to use ... and we do it best when each of us makes a commitment to mother and nourish the God Spirit within us, thereby taking better, more intentional care of each other and ourselves.

I hope and pray that as we come to experience our loving Lord more fully we will be more active individuals and a more compassionate church to the glory of God, but also for our very own happiness. 

Amen

 

Sermon, May 5, 2019


Have you ever had an idea, or an aha moment that changed your anxiety to joy?

I’ve had many of those, but the earliest I remember was when I was very young.  My mother told me I was a whiny baby scared of everybody and everything.  I was a fearful child. I do remember as a very young child I saw a globe and was told our earth, our planet, was round like a great big ball.  I became so fearful of falling off the earth I remember walking everywhere with baby steps, looking for the possible dropoff spots. Often I was so  anxious I would not go outside.  My lesson about the roundness of the earth was not complete...my mother should have added knowledge gravity holding on to me, thereby ensuring me I would not fall off the earth into outer space.  Had that fact been added to my knowledge perhaps I would not have been so anxious.  However, when I was assured that gravity worked it was in this way.  My mother said, “Jane, when you fall do you fall up or down?  “Down!”  I said knowingly.  “Well, that is gravity at work.  It will always hold on to you as long as your feet are on the planet.”  I changed my anxiety into rejoicing that I would not fall into open space.  And, believe it or not, I remember feeling lighter...no burden.


The same sort of learning occurred years later when I was told joy, and joyful living, is based on trust.  I thought joy was the same thing as happiness and it only occurred when good things happened to me. When I was hurt, or others were mean to me, I couldn’t possibly be happy or joyful.   Anxiety cancels out joy.

So lets look at what the spiritual meaning of joy, joyful living, and rejoicing really means.


Our scripture today teaches us about joy. Joy depends on trust in our God.  Joy and joyful living comes from the inside out, not the outside in.  It is a character trait that is a result of complete trust in the creator who created you. 

I realize most of us love our God and honor our God.  But how many of us truly trust God, or others?  Trust them with our lives?  I began to learn about real trust as an 11 year old girl scout.  Our counselor, who was Sybil Fant, wanted us to take a trust training.  Here is what happened in our trust training.  Ten of us girl scouts were taken out to the deep woods with no phones, no cars, no adults except Sybil.  In the training session each one of us was blindfolded and told that we would be shoved hard, and if someone did not catch us we could fall to the ground and be hurt.  Sybil told us this would be a fun experience. None of us wanted to participate because none of us trusted each other.  It was a fearful experience.  We discovered for ourselves that when anxiety is present joy is not! 

When it was my time to be blindfolded and shoved, I jumped out of the way.  That was not allowed.  We were there to learn to trust that a friend would catch us.  Reluctantly I allowed my self to be pushed knowing I would hit the rocky ground and be wounded.   Imagine my surprise when I was shoved  hard and was caught in the arms of a friend.  I was amazed that my friend came through for me.   We had to do that exercise over and over again until we could joyfully be blindfolded, pushed hard, and relax knowing we would be caught.  When the fear and anxiety were gone, joy erupted from all of us.

When all the trusting exercises were over, our counselor simply said to us:  that is how you trust your God to guide your life...because God is smarter than you are and loves you more than you love yourself. 

You want to be joyful? Then learn to trust in your God with every aspect of your life.

When you let go of your own ego, give up your own pitiful sense of thinking you are in control, when you trust your entire life to your God, you will have joy that will not disappear...no matter what is happening on the outside of you.  That kind of joy is a state of being  Circumstances or situations will not change the internal joy you have by trusting God to lead and guide you, and by allowing yourself to experience the privilege of co-living with your God.

I honor this verse from Isaiah:  “I, your God, will keep in perfect peace and joy those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in me and my eternal wisdom.” 26: 3  That kind of trust will result in your not panicking, not fretting, not obsessing...the joy is resting in His plans for you.  Whether you think what you experience is good or bad, helpful or hurtful, nonetheless God will see that you have the experiences you need to be the person he sent you here to be.

Psalm 86 assures us that God is more than able to gladden the soul and fill a servant’s heart with joy.  When you request God to make your heart glad, His response is “sure, yes, always.  Your joy  depends on your trust in me.”

So when you feel your life is not what you desire, if your job is not what you want, if life is too big of a challenge for you, if your friendships are struggling, if your family is in distress, if your finances are weak, if your stress is way too high, then I have great news for you.  Ask God for joy, for joyful living...and you will receive it and more when you trust God more than you trust your self, your spouse, your best friend, your bank account, and your insurance. 

Do you want to trust eternal God or man made stuff that is always temporary?  Which is better for you and longer lasting?  It’s your choice.  However, if you want joy, and a joyful, rejoicing life, then allow yourself to choose to trust God with every aspect of your life.  It is a choice.

As the Psalmist taught us, “bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you.”

Let’s make the healthy choice... trust makes our lives and our world a more loving, joyous place to be.  That is the spiritual take on joy and trust.  Think about it.    Amen


Sermon, April 29, 2019
21st Chapter of the Gospel of John
 
Jesus was dead.  His disciples...they were his bothers, cousins, and friends, had all abandoned him.  Jesus died on the cross alone.

Peter, probably Jesus’ closest friend, not only abandoned Jesus in his time of great need, he rejected him and declared to the authorities he did not know Jesus at all.

Can you imagine the guilt Peter experienced.  Can you imagine the dismay, the self condemnation, the horror of what he had done to one he loved, and cherished, and followed.

He was so dismayed, so terribly afraid, that he threw his hands up in the air and said, “I don’t know what to do, so I am going fishing.  That is, he returned to his old life as a fisherman.  Six other disciples decided to join Peter, for they too were discouraged, angry, and sad.

Early in the evening, they put their nets in the boat and went out for a full night of fishing.

The dawn came, and they had caught no fish.  There old way of life had left them destitute...no fish, no livelihood.  Suddenly, a man standing on the shore called out to them, “Have you caught any fish??

They answered back, “no, we have caught none.”

Then the man said throw you net over the RIGHT side of your boat and you will catch many.  Peter argued with the man and said they had already done that and caught nothing.  The man on shore insisted they try again.

The fisherman cast the net over again and caught so many fish they could not pull the full net ashore.

Then one of the disciples saw that the man on the beach was Jesus.  When he told Peter, Peter put back on his tunic and hurled himself in the water and scrambled himself to shore.  The others followed and when they climbed out of the boat they saw a charcoal fire burning with fish on it, and some bread.

As Peter struggled to get to the beach, he must have been terrified of the coming confrontation with Jesus...or he just wanted to get to Jesus and get the confrontation over as quickly as possible.

I imagine Peter was expecting the worst, that Jesus would disclaim him and maybe even destroy him.  But  what amazed Peter the most was that when he finally stepped on shore, the Prince of Peace, the Hope of the world, The Son of the Almighty God Jesus was there with his hands open to Peter and said, “Come, I have cooked breakfast for you.” 

Can you even think how relieved Peter must have been, probably to the point of tears in his eyes and unspeakable joy in his heart. 

After breakfast, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?”  “Yes, Lord, you know that I do,” Peter said.  Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”  Again, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?”  Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”  Jesus said, “Them take care of my lambs.”  And a third time, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?”  And Peter said again, “Yes, I do.”  And Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

These three questions and answers erased Peter’s earlier three denials of Jesus.  His sin existed no more. 

The power of forgiveness to give life back to another is Easter.  To love someone who has rejected you is Easter.  To tend to one another, to help those in need, to encourage the flock, to befriend your neighbors, to give of yourself to God’s guidance, and to live by the teachings of Jesus every day is Easter.  It never stops.  Easter goes on and on and on.  Jesus asks us every day to feed his sheep.

But there is a counterpoint to this:  Allow Jesus to feed us.  To nourish us through the Psalms we read, the hymns we sing, the music we hear, the words of scripture, the biblical stories of sinful people like us who find comfort and peace in the midst of chaos and fear...and place of safety.  Allow Jesus to speak to you in the faces of hungry children, in the eyes of single moms who are hopeless and without support, in the open palms of people who need us.

This story of one of Jesus resurrection narrative which puts a special emphasis on what Christ demands, what he asks each of us to do.  The risen Christ meets us and sends us out to love like he taught us to do.  But personal, individual commitment matters most, whatever the cost.

In closing, please remember on going Easter is emotion, love, caring, selfless living.  But above all Easter is action.  Easter is not just words, or good intentions, or prayer.  It is us as individuals and as a church doing, not just being.

In so doing something of the light of Christ will drive back any darkness in us and we will live with renewed energy, awareness, and love that alters for the better, all life.  

Easter is who we are, and acts of love are what we do.


Amen  


Sermon, April 21, 2019  Easter Sunday

The word Easter is not found in the Bible.  However the Easter experience, meaning the resurrection of Jesus, is told in a variety of ways in the gospels, Acts and Paul’s writing.  Easter can not be explained. Easter can only be experienced, one person at a time, one day at a time.

We have the story of Jesus, a man of great love and compassion, who believed with all his heart, mind soul and body that God is the one and only way to live. But Jesus was murdered, murdered by men who were hungry for power and greedy for fame and wealth.  After death Jesus’ spirit rose up to show us in amazing imagery that God said “no” to Roman and Jewish unloving ways of living, and said “Yes” to Jesus’ way of life.

Jesus himself represented Life...God’s Life.  He lived each day as God lives….loving all people.  Through his everyday actions Jesus showed us how important it is to love God and live by his love, because therein lies human joy, peace, and abundance. 

In our scripture reading today, there are two important points we need to understand .  One is the phrase “on the third day was raised again.”  We have all been taught that from late Friday afternoon until dawn on Sunday is three days.  The phrase “on the third day” is not a number.  Throughout the Old and New Testaments the phrase “on the third day” is used to tell us a new way of living, a new direction of life is now occurring, and can occur in you.  He is risen is always present tense, on going.  Scripture simply says it this way, again, as in ever possible.

 With Jesus’ resurrection God is telling us we too can arise from the darkness of night each morning and choose to live anew...with renewed commitment to faith, hope, and love;  renewed commitment to treat all God’s creations as sacred, including yourself.  We are Easter people, which means we are changing, growing in spirit daily when we choose to live as Third Day people.

The second important point in the scripture is this statement.  “The women bowed down with their faces to the ground but the men said to them, why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here.  He is risen.”  In this passage we read. “the men” not angels, were at the tomb...and they told the women he was alive because he was risen.  The word risen means to move from a lower position to a higher one.  Jesus did just that...he moved from just a man located in one space, at one historical time, to a spirit who lives always in every place and every time.  His resurrection should be the catalyst for us to rise up from a lower humanity to a higher one where we put God first, where we treat all people as though they are worthy of love, and that we offer forgiveness and compassion to all fellow human beings….as Jesus did.  That is the Easter experience.  It is personal, and it involves a choice...good vs. evil within our own thoughts, words, and actions

Love and life will continue long after we are gone...however, while we are here we are to use our energy, and consciousness, to keep love and life going the way God planned it and the way Jesus lived it.

The joy and experience of Easter comes to each of us when we realize that we, Christian followers of Christ’s teachings, are the only dam that keeps ill will and evil confined and diminished.

Today as we think about the resurrection, remember the tomb represents a darkness that evil acts bring.  And evil acting people tried to keep Jesus in that tomb.  But Life, God, Love broke open the tomb of darkness insuring real Life and extravagant love can continue to roam the earth through each one of us.  To be Christian about it, the on-going Easter experience will continue again and again. That possibility depends on………. you.  Amen


Amen



Sermon, April 14, 2019  Palm Sunday

Verses from Luke 13:34 and 19:41 

A week before Jesus was murdered, crucified as a political criminal, he and a few followers walked toward Jerusalem.  As they came close to the city his brothers and cousins and neighbors, a few other believers, and probably a few curious on-lookers joined the procession. 

Every person who was in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover Festival was either Jewish or Roman.  There was not a single Christian present because Christianity had not yet been established.  So those Jewish folks surrounding Jesus knew the old Jewish stories...they remembered years ago the prophet Zechariah prophesied that the king of Israel would enter Jerusalem riding on the foal of a donkey.  Jesus’ friends and followers wanted him to be their king, and believed he could be, so they borrowed a foal of a donkey and placed Jesus on the back of the small animal. They began to walk together toward Jerusalem.  Then like in years of old they waved greenery and palm branches and shouted “Hosanna, Blessed is the king of Israel.” 

To show their honor of him they placed their own cloaks on the ground to pave the road with their meager offerings.  It was a sad little parade compared to the one that brought Pilate to Jerusalem...he was surrounded by hundreds of mounted soldiers and hundreds of others marching beside him, sword raised in anticipation of a rebellion.  But in Jesus group of followers the excitement of was of a different kind.  Jesus’ people there were ecstatic...they believed that after 2000 years this man, this anointed one, would free them from oppression and reinstate their homeland to its former glory.  They were anticipation a celebration of glory.

Jesus rode on this small donkey’s back, with his feet tucked up under the beast so he wouldn’t fall off. As he crested the hill and looked down on the city of Jerusalem the procession stopped.  Jesus moved a few feet forward, looked again at Jerusalem and Jesus wept.  He cried.  He wept great tears of loss and sadness, saying to Jerusalem and his people, “even today you do not know the things that make for peace.” 

Jesus cried tears of sadness and loss. Not for himself but for Jerusalem, the city of peace, the hope of the world, that was now divided, and harshly ruled by cruel, greedy, men who knew not love nor forgiveness. Even then Jesus’ tears were for every other future city like Hiroshima, Saigon, Berlin, Calcutta, New York, London, Paris, Cairo, and Gulfport, Mississippi, cities which do not know the things that make for peace and thereby live without it. 

Today Jesus, and other caring persons on the planet at some time weep for African cities, Russian and Chinese cities, Chicago, San Francisco, New Orleans and other places that are being destroyed by a darkness more evil than war.  Darkness like teenage gangs with guns who murder at will, drugs which are destroying families and the fabric of society, children who are hungry and cold for lack of parental love;  homeless men and families who sleep in the winter on the open grates of Manhattan to keep warm, for the very wealthy who have so much but give so little to others, and by good, hardworking, loving people who are turning away from God and church because of more interesting distractions.

You and I are not saints.  Much of the time our faith is weak.  Sometimes our God seems far away or maybe absent.  But we do on occasions think about God and Jesus. It is because of the urging of the holy spirit that we go to church to honor our God and all the blessings Jesus and his teachings give us.  We gather together for something akin to love.  We realize we are all human beings on the same journey, full of the same hopes, the same misgivings, the same longings and fears and confusions about tomorrow and about today.  But we come to be together anyway and I hope we keep coming because for many this is the only family we have, the only hope we have, and to share in each other’s faith is life altering. 

We all know what happened just a week after that first Palm Sunday.  Our Lord Jesus was brutally murdered because his message was a threat to both Jewish and Roman leaders.  They were afraid of him and his impact on people.  So they killed his body.

But the power of his great care and concern, his love for each of us, lives on this day for us to cherish and to share.  His love is omnipotent, everywhere.  His love is for all people.  Those who do believe him are asked to share love and not with hold it.  I suspect tears still flow in the spiritual realm when you and I disobey Jesus by withholding love and compassion from others. We must not ever with hold love and blessings from another, especially those who need love, like our enemies or those we don’t like. That is a reckless behavior we must never act on for it leads to darkness within ourselves.  I also think that today, Jesus also weeps over us too for we too either do not know the things that make for peace, or we ignore them.

In closing listen to the words of Fredrick Beuchner:  “I believe that to draw near to that life that sprang forth like a rose out of death is to know at last the one thing that makes for peace truly and always.  In our heart of hearts to have faith, to trust, to hope against hope that not even death can put an end to that life is the one thing that changes Palm Sunday from a Last Hurrah on the eve of unspeakable loss and sorrow to first great Hosanna at the gates of dawn...the dawn of unconditional love.”

Amen


Sermon, March 31, 2019

Are you an authentic Christian?  Or to ask it another way, is acting on the teachings of Christ the top priority for you?
Most of us would probably say, “Well I want to put God’s way first, but other things do get in the way.”
What other things?  What is more important than putting God, Christ, the teachings of Jesus, first in your life? 

We would all probably say something like family, loved ones, enough money to keep family and loved ones safe and secure, and our sense of well being are vitally important things. Then we might add a job you like, a meaningful social life, money to do the things you want to do, and not just need to do, on and on.

Well all of those wants, desires, and needs are goals, aims of life.  They are the results of the way you live.  God wants you to have a plentiful, joyful, meaningful life...so God has a way of helping you receive these things.  And that way is to put him first.

If God, Christ, and the teachings, are the most important priorities it means you are living a life of trust, confidence, faith, hope, and love...that is the way of Jesus.   The way you live, Jesus’ way or your own way,  determines how well you get the results you desire.  Furthermore, if being an authentic Christian is your top priority then even if you don’t get the exact results you want, desire, and need, you will still live a life of peace, calmness, no panic, and joy.

To see life the way our scriptures tell us to live, is to put God first and all these other things shall be added unto you. In Matthew 6:33.

Also in Proverbs 3:5-6 we learn this vital lesson:  “Trust in the lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  But in all your ways acknowledge God and he will direct your path.”

God designed us and also gave us a way to live a meaningful, abundant, love, joy filled life.  So what is that way, that path?  There are 6 ways to order your life for God:

1.  Acknowledge God as the creator of all things including you...which means God is part and parcel of you.  He is in your cellular make-up, he lives in and through you on this planet.  Therefore you sing songs, or make a joyful noise, with a thankful heart.  That is a great way to honor God’s name...whereby your power comes. You study the Bible because the stories are about people and God in relationship, past, present, and future.

2. In your prayers affirm you do belong to God and are responsible to live the way he has asked you to live.  When you affirm God you spend your time, energy, and money on first things first.  Take care of yourself and family by including God in your everyday life.  Find a job, hopefully one that pays, but work none-the-less because God made us to be laborers for good.  When you have a job or any income at all, you pay for food, house, transportation, educational opportunities, and necessities before you pay even the first dollar for video games, cable tv, cigarettes, booze, or any other entertaining distraction.  By paying for fun things first instead of necessities you build your life upside down and you create havoc for your family.

3.  You add  goodness to the world be serving God and others...part of that serving is you don’t criticize, complain, or belittle another human being because they are as much God as you are...even the slightest unkindness is an unkindness to our God.  Therefore, learn to love yourself so you can love others...even your enemies.

4. You make forgiveness a priority. You rejoice when you quickly forgive an offense.  And stop being easily offended.  You are better than that.

5.  Believe and act as though you are already worthy, full of esteem, because you are. God loves you as your are, hoping that love will encourage you to grow in the spirit.  If you don’t see your own worth you will always choose to be with people who don’t see it either.  Seek friends and acquaintances who encourage you, help build you up, and who share goodness.

6.  Know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has a body.  God’s body is our universe, our planet, and all of nature.  Jesus, the risen Christ spirit, has a body and that body is the church of which you are a part.  Therefore, God acts through his body.  So be willing to live every day as the voice, hands, and feet of Christ. In that way we learn to be Christ to others.

By practicing these daily actions we become authentic Christians...and that is what our world  our nation our community needs from each one of us this day, and all days to come.

Amen

Sermon, March 10, 2019
The Prodigal Son


Throughout the New Testament we see ordinary people grumbling because Jesus loves sinners and was even accused of going to their homes, enjoying meals with them, and befriending them.  What does that tell us?  Jesus loves all people, yes, even sinners, even people who stray so far away they feel lost.  That’s what today’s story is bout.

This story, often called the Prodigal son, is really about three people not just the son.  It is about the father, the younger son, and the older son.  We need to understand what the word “prodigal” means.  It means extravagant. 
The younger son wanted to live his own life.  He asked his father for his share of inheritance so he could go to a far country and “find himself.”  The father granted his wish, the son went off, and yes he found himself destitute.  He had spent his money on selfish living, wining and dining prostitutes, probably gambling away his inheritance.  Where did he find himself?  He found himself tending to pigs and hogs and wishing he had as much to eat as they did.  In the Jewish world, swine were unclean animals.  So to tend to them would be the very lowest estate you could be in...the bottom of the social rung.  The younger son was wastefully extravagant and lost all he had.

The father missed his son.  Eagerly waited to hear from him.  But he did not receive any information about this son for years.  Then one day the father was out in on the grounds and he saw a poor, bedraggled man struggling up the path and the father recognized him.  Did he wait for this man to come to him? No, he ran toward the man, realized it was his lost son, and he grabbed him, embraced him, loved him and yelled for his servants to bring a robe, a ring, and sandals to his son who was lost and was now found.  The robe, the ring, the sandals means he reestablished this young man as his son and rightful heir. He said bring out a fatted calf and we shall celebrate his return. The forgiveness was easy and natural...for the father was extravagant in his love for this child.  The father in this story is like God.  No matter how far we stray, no matter how lost we become, no matter how wrong we treat him, God is waiting for us just to look toward him, take one step toward him and he races forward to grab us, embrace us, and reestablish us as his beloved children….forgiveness is easy and natural because God is extravagant in his love for each of us.

The third person in this story, of course is the older son.  He was also extravagant.  He was extravagant in his self-centered-ness, in being resentful, and even hateful toward his returning brother.  He was jealous of his brother.  He complained that he, the older son, had always done what was right but his father never gave him a celebration.  But his father said you have always had everything I have but you refused to enjoy it.  This son was so extravagant in his jealousy that he failed to enjoy the fullness of the life he already had.

This story tells me lost people matter to God.  And most of us at some time in our lives have been, or are, lost, even if temporarily.  We are human and we have a rebellious streak in us...it makes us strive for independence.  It makes us want full control of our lives and not have to listen to what other people teach and say and do, and most of all we don’t want God interfering in our lives.  We want to be free!

And, yes that desire for control of our own lives without the love of God as our guide, is often our downfall.  When we feel life has let us down, that we have been hurt too often, that we don’t have what we think we want or deserve, we let go of the one thing that can and does save us from ourselves, and that is the love of God that is always available, always eager to reconnect us.

Both of the sons in this story learned a lesson that you and I also need to learn:  Hell on earth is knowing the truth too late.    The truth is, God is life, God is all of life, God is love, God is forgiveness, God is compassion and all of that plus so much more is offered to you when admit you need God and his guidance.

Each of us is a rightful heir to the kingdom of God today.  Come home to God.  Bring your friends and family and feel the joy of belonging to a family whose center and strength is God...shown to us through the loving kindness of Jesus, the Christ who loved lost people, who loved the outcasts, who befriended the beaten.

My question to you today is:  Can you be a prodigal Christian? Can you be extravagant in the love you have for all people, especially those who are different from you?  A better question is this:  Will you this day choose to be an extravagant lover of humans of all races, all political persuasions, and all who are different from you.  If each of us attempts this ideal of life we can change our lives, our church, our community and God will take care of the rest.

Lets encourage each other.  Be a prodigal, extravagant Christian starting today. Amen


The Nourishing Thought:   “Love is not just something you feel, it is something you do! 

Words of Wisdom:  “The greatest happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved, loved for ourselves and loved in spite of our selves.” 

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”  LaoTze


Sermon, January 20, 2019 

 Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell stories about Jesus, his life, his way of dealing with others, and most especially about his relationship with his God.  These three together are called the synoptic gospels.  They have a common view about the life and works of Jesus.  The gospel of John is different.  It takes a different view of Jesus and his life...but adds in more detail the meaning of his life, the eternality of it.   For John it’s almost like saying, so Jesus lived, loved, forgave, and died...but so what.  He then tells us the so what.  His gospel is known as the spiritual gospel. 

The gospel of John was written at least 100 years after the birth of Jesus...within those 100 years Rome had destroyed the Jewish nation, torn down the great temple, and scattered many of the Jewish people to other areas and countries.   Also, during this time Christians were being persecuted and killed by the order of the Roman emperor Nero and his successors. 

 Because of his strong belief in the Christ figure of Jesus, and promoted him as the true Son of God, John himself had a compelling desire to encourage all Jewish people to grow from Judaism into Christianity.  He did so by writing stories like this one today….the Wedding at Cana. 

Look at the story.  The very first phrase, “on the third day” we immediately know this is a story about spirit...on the third day is not the number 3… it is a phrase used throughout the bible to indicate a special significant event that leads to a new direction, a new a better way to live…The next phrase tells us this story is about a wedding, meaning a story about love and commitment.  The story tells us Jesus’ mother is there...but she is not named at all.  Mary is never used in this story.  So what mother is the writer talking about.  Well, we know from other sources, it was common to refer to a man’s  mother being his homeland, his city, his place of residence, or even sometimes his God...like son of….  So we assume the writer is talking about Jerusalem and Israel as Jesus’ mother.  Jesus and his disciples were also at the wedding, or involved in something having to do with love and commitment. 

 The story then says, when the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother (Israel or Judaism) said to Jesus “there is no more wine” meaning there is no Jerusalem, no temple, no Jewish people left here. In other words, “Jesus, do something.”  And he wasn’t quite ready yet.  But the mother Israel says to the servants...that is the followers of Jesus...do whatever he tells you.  In other words, here he is, the leader of your new faith so obey him.   

Nearby stood six stone water jars the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing or purification.  Jesus said to the servants, fill these jars  to the brim and take a cup to the master of the banquet.  They did so and he realized it was new wine, better much better than the old wine.  Which tells us John felt  Christianity was better than Judaism because the Messiah had come and it was all about love not just the Law and Prophets.  Faith had taken a new direction where people did not have to take baths of purification because God made all people pure through the resurrection of the Christ spirit.  The master of the banquet said, you have saved the best for last.’ 

Now in Jewish tradition, the bridegroom was totally responsible to house, feed, and serve entertainment and drink to wedding guests.  When Jesus provided the new wine he became known as the bride groom.  So who was the bride?  The people gathered there...or the church.  Us.  The church universal is known as the bride of Christ.   

So this story is vitally important because it recaptures in spirit form the very beginnings of Christianity.  The Christian church welcomes all people with love and compassion, and honors and worships Jesus the Messiah or in Greek the Christ who is the full human representative of the Almighty God. 

Two thousand years later here we are together in the church, which is the gathering of people who love the Christ and who have made a commitment to live as he did and as he does.   

The gospel of John reminds us Jesus was the one who saved them from oppression and the heavy limiting Law by which they had to live.  Jesus also was the one who broke every barrier of prejudice and led the way for us to live in love. 

That is the so what.  We are descendants of that developing faith and like in ages old we are responsible as believers to love our God and obey his tenets.  By so doing we keep the Christ Spirit and the church alive. 

Those are our greatest needs, and our greatest deeds.   Amen 


The Nourishing Thought:  “Be kind whenever possible;  it is always possible.”  Dalai Lama

Words of Wisdom:  “Being nice to someone you don’t like doesn’t mean you are fake.  It means you are mature enough to tolerate your dislike for them.” 


“Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people.  A nation does no have to be cruel to be tough.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt 

“Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you, not because they are nice but because you are.  Always be nice to your children because they are the ones who will choose your rest home!”


Sermon, January 13, 2019 

The Dali Lama is a holy man to Tibetan Buddhists.  He is recognized by most other religions as a wise and spiritual person.  Even though he is in exile in India he is still considered the leader of the Tibetan sect.  Every day he sends messages to his people, and he usually includes this quote every time:  THE purpose of our lives is to be happy. 

We hear that from Jesus as well.  He taught “rejoice, rejoice always, rejoice even though we face challenges to joy.  So, how many of us act on this tenet?  Do we rejoice always?  Do we know we are meant to be happy?   

One of the many ways we can be happy, we can rejoice, is through emotional intelligence. 

 Now, we all know what mental intelligence is...being smart, being wise, making good and right decisions for ourselves and others. 

We also know what physical intelligence is...how to care for our own bodies through eating right, exercising, sleeping well, and avoiding drugs and alcohol.

But what about emotional intelligence?  What is it?  It is the ability and willingness to be empathetic with others and yourself.  It means recognizing all others experience the same moods, responses, and needs that you do, and then be aware when those experiences happen to others.  To have empathy you are willing to understand and to share the feelings of another person.  It also includes the ability to put yourself in another’s position and frame of reference.  The native Americans said it like this:  do not complain about another until you walk in his moccasins. 

Emotional intelligence is related to a higher consciousness.  Higher consciousness is that part of being human that is capable of transcending our animal instincts.  In comparison, lower consciousness is an awareness of and focus on our animal instincts of hunger, thirst, pain, pleasure, as well as basic drives for safety, security, and a sense of belonging.  A higher consciousness is also aware of these instincts but it does not focus on them.  A higher consciousness leads us away from a self-centered existence to a spiritual existence where our God, and our God’s core values, direct our behavior.  Higher consciousness is the next ladder up in human existence which makes us eager to seek and experiece spirituality.  In other words, when we develop our higher consciousness we know and can relate to a power and an energy that is larger and longer lasting than we are;  we call that God.  All humans, who can willingly put aside self-interest at times for the benefit of others are in truth seeking a higher or a God consciousness. 

To further our God consciousness, our higher state of being, involves sharing.  For example, we come to church to share the joy of communion with each other and our shared God.  It also involves each of us living each day, and encouraging others to live the primary universal God morals of love, kindness, compassion, gentleness, and peace. These living traits have far more to do with God than do dogma, doctrine, creeds, formulas, or literal readings of scripture.  If we are true believers in God and the risen Christ spirit, then we should want and desire to nourish the minds and hearts of one another so we grow and change together toward a higher existence for us all.   

It’s not hard.  Every simple act of kindness, especially to others we often deem unworthy, are the most powerful actions we can take on behalf of our loving Lord.  Every single act of kindness leads directly to and adds to our own divine-ness, our God consciousness, our higher state of being. 

We only need to have loving attitudes towards all, and to act on God’s rightness, to experience God’s kingdom on earth right now!    

Are you happy?  Do you rejoice always?  If not, try living a different way.  It is a choice.  Amen     





The Nourishing Thought:  “No one has ever become poor by giving.” Anne Frank 

Words of Wisdom:  “Remember the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”  “H. Jackson Brown, Jr. 

 “We make a living by what we get.  We make a life by what we give.”  Winston Churchill 

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”  Charles Dickens


Sermon, January 6, 2019 

At the  beginning of this new year we might need to remind ourselves that the Bible, and Jesus, are more than 2000 years old...yet if the bible is a living document, and Christ’s spirit is still active in our lives, then the stories in the Bible about Jesus are still relevant today.  Now, again, you are free to believe anything you choose to believe.  But this morning, I would like you to consider, just consider, an interpretation about the Magi, also known as wise men and kings, that makes sense today.  

Two things you need to remember as we talk about this story:  In 70 AD, 70 years after the birth of Jesus, Rome and its armies totally and completely destroyed Jerusalem, the holy temple, the synagogues, fields of grain and people’s homes.  There was nothing left of the Jewish way of life in and around Jerusalem.   And the second thing to remember is that stories in the Bible were oral stories for years before they were written down.  Today’s story was told as an oral story from about 71 AD until it was written as gospel in the year 80 AD. 

The reason this story was written was to attempt to unify, unite, and urge the Jewish people and the new Jewish Christians to keep the faith, stay together, don’t go off looking for other gods to worship. This was an earnest plea by Matthew to try to save the Jewish faith and the people.  Matthew did so by reminding the Jews and Christians of the Biblical heroes who have saved them throughout the centuries.  Six of the most popular Jewish characters were Noah,Moses, Joseph one of Jacob’s twelve tribes, Queen Esther, Daniel, and King Solomon.   

I ask you to keep an open mind and consider the characters in Matthew’s birth story of Jesus. 

1.  Jesus was put in a manger.  In Hebrew the words basket, manger, and ark are all the same word. Noah and his ark saved the Jewish race from a massive flood.  Moses as a baby in a basket grew up to be the second savior of the Jewish people through his rescuing them from the cruel Pharaoh of Egypt.  Jesus in a manger came to save both Jewish people and Gentiles...meaning every one, all people...including you and me. That is he saved us to live his life and to know the spiritual power of love, forgiveness, compassion, and joy. 

Next in the birth story Matthew mentions a man named Joseph, whose father he named Jacob, as Mary’s human husband.  The old Joseph was guided by God through dreams and interpreting them.  In the birth story, Mary’s Joseph was guided by God through dreams and his interpretation of them. 

Next came the story of the wise men, also known as Magi, and Kings, coming from the east guided by a star. Have you ever wondered why these three strange men are called by three different titles?  Well, apparently Matthew went back to the Old Testament to use the stories of Esther, Daniel and Solomon to further cement the importance of the birth of Jesus and to continue to urge his people to keep the faith.   

Here is where the Wise Men originate, through the story of Queen Esther:  Esther became the Queen of Persia...her husband King Xerxes was confused about how to save Esther’s Jewish people from an edict that demanded all Jewish people be killed within three weeks.  Wise Men who knew the Jewish faith and the terrible temper of the times came to the king giving him the gift of wisdom and problem solutions.  Consequently through the gift of wisdom from the Wise Men and Queen Esther the Jewish people where saved from the plan to mass murder all of them. 

Then Matthew uses the character of Daniel to promote the importance of magi.  Daniel, who had served as a slave administrator to the empires of Babylon and then Persian, was known as Rab-Mag, meaning he was chief of all the magis.  Magi were astrologers who studied the stars and prophesied about the future.  Daniel’s claim to fame is that he told a certain group of the magi’s a messianic secret...that is he foretold of a time when a Messiah, the anointed one, would be born and magi’s around the world would know when that happened because a strange star would appear at that time. This prophecy by Magi Daniel is a perfect story to accompany the story of Jesus’ birth. 

Lastly, Matthew turned to a favorite Jewish king, King Solomon the son of King David.  It seems he was known from near and far for his wisdom.  There is a biblical story of the queen of Sheba, from Yemen and Ethiopia, coming with a number of kings from the countries she ruled, to meet with Solomon.  Her caravan carried many camels toting bags of gold and spices of every kind.  These gifts she laid at the feet of King Solomon.  The story continues that while Sheba stayed in the palace with Solomon she became pregnant with a child by Solomon.  When time came for her to return to Yemen Solomon sent hundreds of Jewish people with her to help raise his son as a Jewish man to ensure the Jewish race of faithful people would people the known world.  To this day there is a large Jewish population in Ethiopia, Yemen and other countries that were ruled by Queen of Sheba. 

 This story, told orally for 5 to 10 years before it was written as gospel, is Matthew’s efforts to preserve the very foundations of Judaism through Biblical characters, proving Jesus is who they say he is, and asking Jews and Christians everywhere to keep their faith...because elements everywhere try to destroy it.   

My question to you: of what value is this story and its history to us as 21st century Christians? This is one extremely important value:   if we don’t know and remember our historical and spiritual past we are condemned to repeat the ills of it!”   If indeed we desire to follow our Christ and live by his tenants we need to know what the tenets are and where they came from.  The Bible was good enough for Shakespeare to base his plays and characters on so it should be good enough for us to desire to know who we really are and why we really exist as spiritual people.  The Bible was good enough for our founding fathers to use it as a base to create a nation of laws and freedom.  It should be good enough for us to desire to know what it says about us.   

I urge you to read and learn the Biblical characters on your own, or come to Bible study and know your own history as a guide.  You might just find yourself among characters who have lived with us for thousands of years.  We must keep them alive in our day and beyond.  We all need to be enlightened if Christianity is to survive past these current and upcoming generations.  Matthew’s plea for unity is as needed to today more than ever.  Please keep the faith, learn more, live into the power and majesty that is ours, stay with us, bring your loved ones...it is as essential today as it was in the days of the gospel writers. 




The Nourishing Thought:  Peace is not something you with for;  it is something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away. 

Words of Wisdom:  Peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. 
Each one of us must find peace from within, for there is the power and majesty of life.


Sermon, December 9, 2018 Second Sunday of Advent

This is the second Sunday of Advent. The Christmas season is in full swing with carols, parties,
celebrations, musicals, family and church activities. It is probably the largest celebration left in our
churches where families participate willingly and joyfully. We can not allow that tradition to diminish.
The second Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of Peace...and what does it take for us who listen to bad
news, and experience angst and worry, to have peace? Scripture tells us that acknowledging the risen
Christ spirit and abiding by his teachings are the only way to the kind of peace we seek and need.
Repeatedly, Jesus taught “fear not, for I am with you always.” He said again and again with almost
every greeting, “peace be with you,” meaning he, as the essence of peace, is indeed with us and within
us. But sometimes we seek peace in other ways...and not nearly as effectively.

Years ago Dr. Seuss wrote a popular book entitled “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” Those of you
with small children at the time, or grandchildren, are probably familiar with that book. But if not, let’s
remember the story. In the story there was an ugly green creature called a Grinch who lived in a cave
above the village of Whoville. The Grinch was mean...so mean the book described him as being
“cuddly as a cactus with garlic in his soul.” He was a vicious creature. This Grinch hated Christmas
and he despised anyone who celebrated Christmas. He decided to do something about his hatred...he
decided to destroy Christmas for all the happy Whovillians.

On Christmas eve while the villagers were sleeping, the Grinch broke into every house and stole
everything that had to do with Christmas...presents, food, lighted trees, stockings, and all the
decorations. It was dawn before the Grinch got back to his cave, but all the way up the hill he was
delighted he had ruined Christmas for all the happy residents of Whoville. However, that is not the end
of the story. I quote the remainder: In the morning, “Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the
small, was singing! Without any presents at all! He HAD NOT stopped Christmas from coming, it
came! Somehow or other, it came just the same! And the Grinch, with his Grinch feet ice-cold in the
snow stood puzzling and puzzling how could it be so? Why, it came without ribbons, it came without
tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags! And the Grinch puzzled three hours, till his puzzler
was sore. Then he thought of something he hadn’t thought of before. Maybe Christmas, he thought,
doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas..perhaps...means a little bit more.”

Like the Grinch, does Christmas mean more than the gifts, decorations, parties, and feasts? And if so,
what does it mean?

Perhaps it means something different for each of us, but, as Christians we realize the common
ingredient is that Christmas means something sacred, holy, more than we are, and full of mystique. The
mystique of Christmas is a bewildering truth that a baby, who grew into a holy man spreading peace
and joy in a time and place that was full of corruption, hatred and hurt, proved to be everlastingly
powerful and majestic. The forever-ness of that man and his holy teachings make it possible for us
today to live in peace and joy even in our own chaotic and unpredictable world.

I hope what each of us takes home with us today is the knowledge that through the birth, the life, the
death, and the resurrection of the man Jesus who became our risen Christ Spirit, we would learn that
our God is a God of love, a God of joy, a God of peace, and a God of power. And most importantly,
God gifted us with a son, a light of life, through whom God’s kingdom has already come to us, yet is
waiting for us to live fully as active citizens in his kingdom.

Are we those who can and will continue to live the life, the love, the joy, the peace, and power of our
Almighty God?

I pray on this day the answer is Yes. If your answer is not yet “yes,” please make it so soon. And say to
your God and your Lord, I will be who you have birthed me to be.


Amen




The Nourishing Thought:  “Each of us is an inn keeper who decides if there is room for Jesus.” N. Maxwell 

Words of Wisdom:  The joy of Christmas is not the presents, but His Presence. 

“For outlandish creatures like ourselves, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning...not home but the place we must pass through if we ever are to reach home at last.”   F. Buechner

Sermon, December 2, 2018   First Sunday of Advent 

The word means coming or waiting.  The Scriptural meaning- waiting for the Messiah to be born to safe us ...and when that type of Messiah was not forthcoming, prophesies and stories were written to say “Wait” he will come a second time as a warning Messiah...so says the book of Revelations.  But to all wise people, the Messiah that came, the anointed Messenger Jesus, was who God knew we really needed. 

The tradition of four weeks of Advent was first established in the fifth century in the form of  a six-week fast leading up to Christmas.  In 567 the early Christian church asked all monks to fast every day during the month of December including the Christmas celebration….which was actually a celebration of the winter solstice when the days of planet earth began to lengthen, bringing light back to the world...that also is the theme that surrounds Jesus as the Messiah...he is the light of the world by enligtening us,  making our lives lighter by given him our burdens.  Advent is a special time in our church calendar set aside to give us time to pay attention to the great gift of love and light that is brought to us from God the creator through Jesus, the Christ. 

Now, here the words of Mark 12: 33-37 

Have you noticed there is in today’s media world no news?  There is no plain ole news, that is the imparting of factual information.  The word “news” comes from the first letter in the words north, east, west, and south.  So news means information from all around our globe. All the news from broadcasting media and social media today is Breaking News!  Developing News!  Latest News!  The First and Fastest News!  From the broadcasters everything seems to be a crisis, intense, stress ridden.  Breaking news is catastrophic..spoken so to get our attention, make us have to listen.  We hear and see the horror and say, “Oh, My, what now?  What’s next?”  And we are filled with anxst. 

Stressful, breaking news is repeated over and over again ad nauseum until we don’t want to hear it again. But, media news is fear based on purpose, by design, so that we will look to the airways to save us, to depend only on them.  News media and social media have taken the place of families, churches,  schools and governments by loudly and incessantly telling us what they think we ought to know and by the way what will make their sponsors wealthy.  We have allowed the media of all kinds to become the vehicle by which information is disbursed, some of which is vital, a lot of which is not even news but opinion.   

So where is the good news?  The unadorned life-saving news?  Well, today we have it.  By way of scripture we get the good news, the very good news.  That is, love is primary, above all other solutions, love has the potential to make life safer for all of us. 

 With the advent of Advent we recognize our Messiah has been born here on earth. Now, realistically, the Messiah you and I look to was not what the Jewish people wanted.  They thought the Messiah, that is the anointed one, would be a military man of war who would gather an army and destroy their enemies.  That did not happen.  So, by and large, the orthodox Jews today, are still waiting for that war like Messiah. 

The Messiah we have, the one we call Jesus, is good news indeed.  As far as we know now, we only have one life on planet earth to live, so we must live it to the maximum possible.  And that anointed Messiah Jesus teaches us how to live fully and abundantly with grace.  This Messiah came to help us  destroy our inner enemies such as fear, anger, guilt, depression, envy, dependence on crutches, and insecurity, so that we can live abundantly, peacefully, and joyously while we are on earth...we need not worry about where we were before we came to earth nor about where we will be when we leave earth. God has already handled it all for us now, in the present.  When we choose to live God’s way shown through the life of Jesus, we are building the kingdom of God on earth.  So, how does this Messiah save us from ourselves and help destroy our inner enemies?  He teaches that if we use the tools God gives us, such as love even for our enemies, forgiveness, compassion, mercy, hope, and faith, then we have within us the armies that do conquer our inner enemies.  When we use these tools we can be set free from the enemies within which try to control our lives to make us miserable.  Don’t we want freedom from these despicable destroyers? 

We are given opportunities in this life to make investments of our time, energy, and resources.  This amazing Messiah teaches there is only one investment that never fails and that is goodness, or  Godness.  From God the father we are created as intelligent beings, from Messiah Jesus the Christ we have a model of how to live every day how to treat our selves and others in every instance, and from the ever existing Holy Spirit we have the conscience and motivation to do good by being Christ to one another. 

So during the next four weeks of Advent, let’s not just wait for Christmas eve and day to come….let’s live it like Love has already come and lets spend Love with every bit of energy we can gather...spend love, share love, don’t wrap it up, deliver it personally...that is what Christmas really is...face to face love, face to face forgiveness, faith and hope in spite of all the bad news we see and hear...when we do spend love like it has no end, which is true,  we do help make life better, safer, more joyous and peaceful right now in the right way.  Let’s encourage one another to destroy these inner enemies and find the peace that is promised. 

Amen 



​The Nourishing Thought:  “But charity means pardoning what is unpardonable, or it is no virtue at all.  Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all.  And faith means believing the incredible, or it is no virtue at all.”  G.K. Chesterton 

Words of Wisdom:  “Your time is limited, so don’t waste your time living someone else’s life.” 

“We are who we choose to be.” G. Gibson 

“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.”  O. Winfrey
 



Sermon, November 18, 2018  Sunday before Thanksgiving 

Thursday of this week we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day.  The last few days of October, I went shopping in more than one store.  I was surprised that all I saw was Halloween and Christmas decorations and gifts.  Thanksgiving was absent. 

It is a fact that Halloween and Christmas, primarily because of Hallmark stores and television programs, spend in excess of 8 billion dollars each year on promotions, selling decorations and gifts, emphasizing witches and jack-o-lanterns for Halloween and Santa Claus, the Grinch, and reindeer for Christmas. Fun days. Family gatherings.  Nothing wrong with that.  Yet, it is Thanksgiving that reminds us and teaches our young ones about the very beginnings of our America...our nation.  Its emphasis is on unity, sharing, and caring.  But there are no posters or cards of pilgrims and Native Americans dining together in the open air.  On the store shelves there were very few papers plates or napkins reflecting Thanksgiving images or ideas.  Not too long ago Thanksgiving was a special day.  Schools, churches, and even stores reflected the sentiments of Thanksgiving...but no longer.  We have truly become a secular society.  So, what happened. 

Commercialization as overtaken our lives.  Children are are being raised by television, electronic games, Iphones and Ipads and the programs they all promote.  Where are parental restrictions?  What are schools teaching?  What are parents emphasizing?  Where is our nation headed?   

I think it is a moral dilemma and a shame there is only one day set apart to give thanks to God as a nation.  Actually, we should have a time each day set apart to give thanks and not just lipservice, but deep felt gratitude for our blessings. 

As Christians, that is as people of God, we should want to give thanks, to live lives of grace, and to give our attention to God’s gifts to us then to thank God appropriately by living into these gifts of love, respect, forgiveness, and compassion. 

To me, through a variety of life experiences, I have learned that gratitude is the very foundation of healthy, joyous, grace-filled life. 

I was in the Post Office the other day and a man I know slightly stopped me and said, “Can I ask you a question?”  I responded, “Sure, what is it?”  He said, I see you in here often.  You are alone, but you are always smiling.  Why is that?”  I was surprised by the question, so I took a moment to answer.  Then I said, “I guess O smile a lot because I am blessed and grateful for life.”  He snorted, “Grateful for life? My life is a mess.”  I said back to him, “I regret that for you.  But I  believe on our worse days, our most horrific moments, we are better off than 90 percent of the rest of the world. That means something to me.” He shook his head and walked off.  I went on to my post office box.  As I was leaving he was waiting at the door for me.  He held the door open and said, “I’ll think about what you said.’’ I smiled and went to my car. 

I wondered how many people refuse to recognize the blessings we do have. It may not be true but it seems to me that we are a society of complainers, grippers, critics, and people quick to find fault and place blame.  But I hope those words and feelings are mostly spontaneous reactions and not deep feelings.  If we consider our situations, even though some of us have burdens some of which are huge, we are still blessed.   

Look at David’s Psalm we read this morning.  David was an intriguing man.  He was a sinful man, a sometimes cruel man;  he did terrible things to his clan and country.  Yet, he also knew God and worshiped God.  In this psalm you might notice that David had no plea, no request, no prayer of want...rather it was pure praise to God for the blessings.  These words are passionate, full of energy and life.  I can just picture in my mind David dancing around and around singing this hymn to God.   

Do you ever do that?  Get so overcome with joy for your life, those you love, the plenty you have that we just twirl around saying “thank you, thank you, thank you” to God and the universe?  If you haven’t done so, I recommend it..that action and those words of praise lighten every burden and puts all events into perspective.   

God himself, or herself, however you choose to image God, that entity gives purpose and meaning to live...far more than possessions, money, power, position or things can give.  God and his infinite mercy keeps our lives from staleness and hopelessness.  He restores our souls so that we can live the life he designed for us...to love, to be grateful, and to share.  

Happy Thanksgiving. Amen  


Sermon, November 11, 2018 

Today is Veteran’s Day.  This special day began As Armistice Day on November 11, 1919, which was the first anniversary of the end of World War I.  In 1926, our Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance.  But it wasn’t until 1938 that it became a national holiday.  In 1954, President Eisenhower officially changed the name of the day to Veterans Day to pay tribute to all American veterans, living or dead.  The day reminds us to pay special attention those people who have willing served their country honorably during war or peacetime. 

Today is a special day when we have the opportunity to give thanks and appreciation to all members of the military and in all branches of service. 

However, today should be a time of even more thanksgiving.  We are so busy thinking about our present and our future, that we tend to negate the importance all that has gone before us to give us the freedom and peace we enjoy today. 

There are several things we need to be aware of, remember, and be grateful for.  Here are just a few: 

It is the veteran, not the preacher, who continues to give us freedom of religion. 

It is the veteran, not the reporter who continues to give us the freedom of speech. 

 It is the veteran not the lawyer who continues to give us the right to a free trial. 


It is the veteran not the politician who continues to give us the right to vote. 

It is the veteran who salutes the flag and serves under the flag and who continues to give us the freedom to proudly wave the flag. 

Where would we be today had not these veterans stood up and stood tall for America?  And what will happen to us in the near and distant future if others are not willing to take that giant step, leave the comfort of their homes, endure endless hours of training, to keep us safe and at relative peace. 

 My question today, is, as Christians, followers of Jesus, the Christ, what can we do in the present time to make better the lives and careers of each veteran, every military person, and every person who works in public service.   Think about it:  military men and women are on call to keep us safe;  law enforcement exists to keep us safe;  firemen keep us safe...so to help these people we need to be more determined to keep our own selves safe...and we do that by being personally responsible for ourselves and our own well being.  We do so abiding by the rules our society has set for us so we all can be safe...we must abide by such laws as wearing seat belts, obeying the speed limit, talking about politics  and participating in our governmental system with common sense without hostilities and divisiveness.   We befriend friend and foe alike. We consider people on the other side of the world without judgment, condemnation or prejudice. We get to know people who are on the other side of our own philosophies.  Also, we don’t blame other people for the challenges we face nor do we expect others to solve our problems.  We take full responsibility for who we are, what we do, and how we act.  The answer usually lies in living and loving in all the appropriate ways.  Above all we must be kind..because every act of kindness adds kindness to the world.  We are safer as a community when we all do the right thing;  we are safer as a country when we all do the right thing;  and we are safer in the world when the right thing is expressed openly and willingly even if it is rejected by others.   

 So today, as Christians, followers of Jesus, our Christ, we recognize and give honor to our veterans, our military people, our public servants. My prayer is that we pledge to them that we will individually and as a church try to prevent problems that they have to solve.  Big Job?  Absolutely?  Can we do it?  Well, my answer is we certainly should try to do so. 

 God bless all his servants, all his followers, and even all his enemies.  Amen


*******


The Nourishing Thought:  Give us pure hearts, that we may see you;  humble hearts, that we may hear you; hearts of love, that we may serve you;  and hearts of faith, that we may abide in you.”  Dag Hammarskjold 

 Words of Wisdom:  Life is simple.  We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through it all the time.  This is not just a fable or a nice story.  It is true.  If we abandon ourselves to God and forget ourselves, we see it sometimes, and we see it maybe frequently.  God shows himself everywhere, in everything—in people and in things and in nature and in events. It becomes obvious that God is everywhere and in everything and we cannot be without Him.  It’s impossible.  The only thing is that we don’t see it.”  Thomas Merton, Trappist monk.



Sermon, November 4, 2018 

There is a book by Philip Newell called “Listening to the Heartbeat of God.”  Newell is a teacher of Celtic Spirituality, and in the book and his teachings he expounds on the natural and practical aspects of being a follower of Christ.  For Celtic Christians, God is in every bit of his creation.  We as humans have the ability to sense little bits and pieces of God every day in every action...however knowing His Allness is not yet possible.   

Celtic fishermen climbing in the boats at dawn hear and see God in swoosh and laps of waves and the foam that flows over the sides of their small boats.  The women see, hear, and feel God in the flames that light up the dry wood as they build their morning fires. They feel the heartbeat of God in wind whipping through the trees, in lightening and thunder, in a dog’s bark or the running feet of red deer.  Their hear and sense the very heartbeat of God in their own bodies and the hearts of those they love and hold close.  We too just have to touch our chest to feel the beat of God’s heart in our own hearts, and to watch the rise and fall of a heart in a sleeping child.   

With these things so very present and close why do we not pay more attention and realize these are the ways God speaks to us today, every day, all day long. 

WE know, or think, God is spirit and therefore without a body….yet every aspect of our cosmos and this planet is part of his body...and our church is the very body of the living Christ.   

If then God has a body, and we are made in his image, I think God has thoughts, ideas, emotions no more or less than we do.  I also think the very strongest, deepest, most profound place of God’s heart is in the passionate, unconditional love he as for his creation, especially his people, all his people. 

I think one of the most remarkable aspects of our bible, both old and new testament, is that it holds the story of our entire human history...the generating of us, the degenerating of our selves, and the regenerating of us by God...or in other words, God created us, we reject God, God redeems us...no matter what!  Perhaps this is how we can tell that we are indeed the heart of God...because even after we reject God over and over again, he goes to every extreme to encourage and enable us to return to him in a healthy relationship.  Those of us who know of God and attempt to be more like him are pleasing to him...and more-over because we more or less stay in line with him, he has more time to spend with the marginalized, the outcasts, the lost. 

Just look at all the scriptures that point us in that direction:  Jesus, the very reflection of God, spent most of his earthly time with sinners, with losers, with the diseased and the dishonest.   

There is a story that Jesus told about a shepherd who left 99 sheep to go find the one who was lost.  The woman caught in adultery was rescued by Jesus.  He reached out the short, ostracized Zacceus, told him to come down from the tree because Jesus was going to his house to have dinner with him.  Jesus cured the lepers no one else would touch or even go near.  He healed the woman who touched the hem of his garment, he healed the blind man, he raised from the dead his best friend on earth.  He forgave the woman at the well who had 5 husbands and was living with one who was not her husband.  On and on we read again and again Jesus loved, cared for, identified with, and socialized with the lost, the wounded, the not-too bright ones...and he even made some of those his disciples.  How can we not see God’s passionate love for us, for you and me, even when we feel battered, and guilty, and not worth much.  God’s love rescues every one of us and raises us up from the depths of our own created hell into an existence with Him that is all we ever need...the stuff bliss is made of. 

 All of these stories talk about changes in a person’s life.  I think that is the grace, the love God gives us.  He offers to each one of us, no matter who we are or what evil we think we have done, an opportunity to come into a radical, life-altering, relationship with him...the God of all, the creator God that made an infinite universe but thought you needed to be in it now.  God is available every second...perhaps God is waiting for you to realize how vital you are personally to our planet and our community today.  Think about it.  Are you ready for a healthier, happier, more peaceful existence...if so, try God.  He has all the answers just for you.  Amen 





 Scripture:  Deuteronomy 18: 10-13

The Nourishing Thought:   “The challenge of the saints of the twenty-first century is to begin again to comprehend the sacred in the infinite things of this world.  Let us encourage one another to see and honor the holy in things and moments that we usually view as ordinary or devoid of spirit.” 

 Words of Wisdom:  “For centuries the church has confronted the human community with role models of greatness.  We call them saints when what we really often mean to say is ‘icon or hero or star,’ ones so possessed by an internal vision of divine goodness they give us a glimpse of the face of God in the center of the human.  They give us a taste of the possibilities of greatness in ourselves.”  Joan Chittister in “A Passion for Life” 


Sermon, October 28, 2018 

 Halloween is only 3 days away...and did you know that last year $8 billion was spent on Halloween decorations, costumes, candies, and parties?  $8 billion...second only to Christmas spending.  Another thing we need to know about Halloween is that it once was a celebration of the church.  Halloween originally was the eve or evening before All Hallows Day...the day the church remembered and celebrated the church’s saints and all believers who kept the stories of love and life eternal alive. 

All Hallows Day later became All Saints Day which Pope Gregory designated as November 1 for all church calendars. 

Once Christianity began to move into the upper regions of Ireland, England and Scotland, the Christian faith became entangled with some pagan festivals.  In these areas of Europe, the Celts celebrated a festival of summer’s end called Sanhaim (Sew een), which also marked the eve of the Celtic New Year, November 1.  In Celtic lore, transitions like the change of one year into the next, were considered thin times...when the veil between life and death thinned.  On the eve of the Celtic New year,  spirits of the dead could roam around their previous areas of life.  These ghostly meanderings could cause trouble for the living, like ruining crops, destroying homes, or farm buildings.  Therefore, the Celtic people set out food and goodies to appease the spirits...hoping no harm would be done.  They hoped by offering treats bad tricks would not be played on them...hence trick or treat. 

During the middle ages, superstitions increased and witchcraft flourished.  October 31 became a potent day for spells, curses, wicked incantations.  Therefore, the more ominous symbols of Halloween grew and included witches, black cats, bats and skulls.    These images came to American through the English and Irish immigrants during the 18 and 1900’s. 

All the while, the Christian church was spreading….and in each new area the church came face to face with whatever pagan rites and rituals were present in those geographic areas.  So the cultural aspects of the Christian faith began to place its own rites and rituals on the same dates as the pagan festivals hoping to move the pagans into the Christian faith….but more often than not, the pagan and Christian festivals and holy days became intertwined which added confusion and complexity to the simple faith of Christ which was to love, forgive, act kindly and be merciful. 

Having said all that, perhaps it is still a good idea to take some time in the church calendar to remember and thank with great gratitude all the saints and believers throughout the centuries for keeping the powerful story of Christ love alive.  To look back at the mistreatment of saints and believers, the horror many withstood to save the church and its belief system, is to see courage unabated, bravery in the face of torture, and lives crippled to maintain a faithful stance.   Do any of us today even begin to understand what history has done to our faith and its holy traditions.  How many of us today would willingly face torture rather than deny our God?  How many of us would even be willing to be inconvenienced to stand up for God in the face of harm?  

In truth, we have that facing us today.  Secularism is taking over Christianity at an amazing rate.  What should we do to preserve our faith and all its miraculous traditions?  Or more specifically, what are you willing to do today to keep and preserve for the future your belief in a risen and loving Christ? 

Amen




The Nourishing Thought:  “Humans are never helped in our sufferings by what we think for ourselves, but only by revelations of a wisdom greater than our own.  It is this which lifts us our of our distress.”  Carl Jung 

Words of Wisdom:  Rumi believed we must learn to dance even in the midst of our pain.  “Dance, when your broken open;  dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off;  dance in the middle of the fighting;  dance in your blood.  Dance, when you are perfectly free.” 

“Believe God’s word and power more than your believe your own feelings and experiences.  Your Rock is Christ, and it is not the Rock which ebbs and flows, but your sea.”  Samuel Rutherford





October 14, 2018    23rd Psalm 

When I was about 20 years old my husband Neil and I lived adjacent to his grandmother’s dairy farm in Lyman.  One huge pasture had Golden Guernsey cows.  The pasture beyond that had sheep.  Being a town girl I had never touched a lamb or a sheep.  So one day, Neil’s grandmother Mrs. Ritchie asked me to go with her to give her sheep some treats.  She carried a large bag of something that looked like smushed up cheerios.  When we reached the fence line, Mrs. Rictchie called in a loud voice, Sheepa, Sheepa.  And the sheep came running to her.  She talked to, sang to them, then them threw their treats in a large arc so they all could have some goodies.  We watched the sheep for awhile and then Mrs. Ritchie walked the fence line to make sure her sheep were safe.  I was impressed.  So much so, that about a week later I went to the sheep pasture by myself and in the same style as Mrs. Ritchie I called to the sheep. Sheepa, Sheepa.  The sheep ignored me.  I called again and again.  Then the sheep ran away from me not to me. 

I later confessed this to Mrs. Ritchie and she laughed.  She said don’t you know sheep only respond to the voice of their shepherd? I did not know that.  But it did bring to mind what the 23rd Psalm teaches us.  We should respond only to the voice of a loving Lord. 

The language used in the 23rd psalm is figurative yet it clearly leads us to an understanding of the meaning of the message.  The overall theme is to welcome our God’s divine nature as our own and to utilize that internal connection to the divine to begin to experience heaven today, in the now. 

We do that by accepting the truth that God is our shepherd and only his voice will keep us safe...that is, will provide salvation for us.  His voice is his teachings and his leadership.  He naturally provides for us the things that matter and the things that lead us to wholeness in connection to holiness. 

 Toward that end, the poem assures us God places in our paths comforts such as still waters and green pastures.  Then we begin to desire his kind of loving peace in our own lives.  When we feel at peace in the now, regardless of what is happening on the outside of us, God is restoring our souls to their original oneness with God.  By leading us in the paths of righteousness, God affirms that indeed our souls are still part of his all. He is saying to us, I am alive in the very cellular structure of your humanity. 

Then because we are human, and live in a more or less hostile world, we will face challenges...some very hurtful and serious challenges.  Those are the times we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  We do experience those times, but the psalm again reassures us we are not alone...God’s own rod and staff (that his his laws and teachings) are with us.  They provide hope in the fearful moments.  These holy laws and teachings of love and forgiveness can be the defense we have against going astray ourselves. 

If we cling to God and his abundance during these tough times, then there will be provided a table  for us, a table, a life, full of unconditional love which is the anointing oil,  and wisdom, the overflowing cup.   

The amazing aspect of the poem or psalm, is that all the action except one is done by our God.  The only action we take as his sheep is walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  Other than that, we trust God, we follow the teachings that make us wise and joyous, we accept the good blessings that flow to us and through us daily.   

As modern day Christians, it is sometimes difficult to understand imagery from 3000 years ago when this psalm was written.  However, the truth of it is eternal.  That truth is that God loves each of us as individual reflections of God.  He loves us so deeply he has invested his own holiness, love and wisdom inside of us so that we too will share that freeing love, that compassionate wisdom, with those we both love and do not love.  When we do so then love will grow to include the even the unlovely who need love to become more humane themselves. 

Because God created us he knows us very well.  And he knows only choosing to join ourselves to him by living this teachings,  will ever make us truly happy, joyous, and full of light.  In that state of being in the now, we begin our eternal journey of enveloping heaven...that state of being that makes us forever one with him through our consent.  Amen




The Nourishing Thought:  “The only significance of life consists in helping to establish the kingdom of God in the here and now.”  Leo Tolstoy 

 Words of Wisdom:  “The kingdom of God is not a matter of getting individuals to heaven, but of transforming the life on earth into the harmony of heaven.”  Walter Rauschenbusch 

“If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead.”  William Law



Sermon, October 7, 2018 

 One of the amazing and stimulating traits of the teachings of Jesus is his reversal of conventional wisdom.  Again and again, Jesus turns things upside down to show that the kingdom of God is different from the earthly kingdoms we establish.  The morals of his parables and teachings are usually not what we expect...they have surprise endings, such as the last is first, the poor are more blessed, the master is a servant to all, and God’s ways are not our ways, nor his thoughts our thoughts. 

One of the most important teachings is that to have authority, to be a leader, is to become a servant.  In our expectations, we look at men and women who have authority and we expect them to be powerful and wealthy.  But Jesus taught the opposite.  In the Kingdom of God, the really great, powerful, life-altering people are those who willingly serve others...at all costs.  God honors his servants because he knows his servants will never harm others or manipulate them to gain power for themselves. God’s power is sufficient for his servants. 

Another major teaching probably makes no sense to us humans...and that is to love your enemies, be good to those who persecute you, and give to those who take from you.  We don’t want to do that;  we want to get even, we want to have revenge.  But Jesus taught (Matthew 5: 43-44)  you shall love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.  In our holy scriptures, they are holy because if we obey them they make us whole and healthy, Paul stresses that teaching.  He stated that we are to love our enemies and by doing so we actually  get back at them because we are relieved of the burden of harming someone.  God will handle the one who hurt you. Revenge is the Lord’s.  But here is an interesting verse:  The Lord says, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them.  If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.  In doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  In the first century people carried things on their heads.  If they were moving from one place to another, they would bind up the coals from their fire, and take them with them to their next place of residence.  That way they did not have to start a fire all over again.. and therefore the burning coals would enable them to cook and stay warm without undue effort.  So in effect, by heaping coals on their heads is actually a way of helping and assisting your enemies...which is God’s desire for us 

Another strange teaching is to become rich, give your money away.  To our human way of thinking to have money we hoard it, invest it, or save it.  Many people don’t give because they are afraid of being without themselves.   But Jesus says, “Give and it will be given to you.  (Luke 6: 38)    The world works on the principle of buying and selling.  But the kingdom of God works on the principle of giving and receiving.  The Kingdom of God is upside down from how we think and feel.  Jesus said that giving of our selves, our time, energy, and money, triggers a reaction.  It causes the things we give away to come back to us 30, 60, 100 fold...not necessarily in kind but often something even better.  And this principle applies across the board.  You can not out give God, even when you give out of need rather than out of plenty, you will gain more.  Ultimately it is not about money.  It is about our attitude towards money.  IF the only reason you give money in order to receive it, you have totally missed the point and that attitude will have a negative impact on you.  But when you give out of a true desire to help and bless others, then the harvest will come for you to receive.  Jesus said, “Seek you first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you.”  Matthew 6:33 

There are other teachings that turn your ideas upside down….read the New Testament and look for these stories...they will bless you, they will give you the skills you need to enhance your life by focusing on something other than your ego.  So, where am I going with this?  

The answer:  conventional wisdom is cultural, societal, and man-made based on ego...that is, what’s in it for me, or what is good for me?  Christ wisdom is the death of ego to set you free to ask, not what is best for me, but what is best for others and me.  Christ wisdom is love...and the greatest experience of love in action comes when we are kind to all others, when we do not judge others or categorize someone as less than we are.  Through Christ wisdom we are enabled to accept others’ weaknesses, differences, and shortcomings, and to have patience with someone who has let us down or disappointed us. Christ wisdom resists becoming offended when another doesn’t act the way we hoped or handled something in the way we wanted.  Christ love refuses to take advantage of another’s weakness then forgiving someone who has hurt us.  Christ love chooses to see the best in each other. 

 You have a choice of ego driven, conventional wisdom which does involve stress, conflicts, and a desire to control all….which is impossible.  Or you can choose Christ wisdom, and follow the flow of life that leads to peace, hope, and stress-free living based on trust and faith in a gracious God.   

Your choice.  Amen 


​The Nourishing Thought:  “The first to apologize is the bravest.  The first to forgive is the strongest.  The first to forget is the happiest.”  Anon 

 Words of Wisdom:  “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” 

 “Forgiveness is the surrender of our victimhood-taking back the power of full personhood that was stripped from us by another or our selves.”  D. Prisbin 



Sermon, September 30, 2018 

Today I want us to think about forgiveness.  It is one of the foundational concerns of our faith.  As scripture tells us, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  But thanks to the good news of the gospels, we don’t have to wallow in guilt over our wrongdoings.  We have been given a gift from our Creator...and that gift is forgiveness. 

We know from life experiences that every action has a consequence...either a positive one or a negative one.  It seems we often keep doing the harmful things we do hoping we don’t get caught... 

rather than just stopping our harmful tactics.  Getting caught and having consequences, however, can be the best most corrective thing that can happen to us. 

For example:  a lady wanted a pet, so she purchased a parrot that could talk.  The parrot was mean and spoke only unkind hurtful things to the lady. He told her she was ugly and useless.  Every time she tried to feed him he pecked her on her arm and laughed.  After several days, she had had enough.  She grabbed the parrot and threw him in her freezer.  For a few minutes he kept talking but then there was silence.  The lady thought, “Oh, gosh, I’ve killed him.”  She rushed to the freezer, opened the door, and the parrot was there shivering.  The parrot said, “Lady, I am sorry for the things I have said. Please forgive me and I’ll only say nice things from now on.”  The lady replied, “I accept your apology.”  Before the parrot flew out of the freezer, he looked beside him and said, “May I ask you a question.”  Yes, she said.  He asked her, “What did the chicken do to you?” 

That is so corny, but it makes a great point.  The parrot suffered consequences, but he noticed the chicken perhaps suffered more stringent ones than he did.  Is that not how many of us look at life and the wrongdoings therein? We compare our sins to those of others and often excuse ourselves because ours isn’t nearly as awful...or so we think. 

Young people feel immortal and think they are smart enough to misbehave and not get caught.  That is rarely the case.  Knowing this about us humans that God himself created, he loved us enough to build in a saving devise available to all of us.  It is called forgiveness:  we are to utilize forgiveness as we forgive ourselves and others.  It keeps us humane and opens doors for healing, for getting rid of guilt, anger, and fear.   

In the Lord’s prayer we say most Sundays, there is a phrase that states:  Father forgive us our trespasses (sins) as we forgive those who have trespassed or sinned against us.  That word “as” has two connotations.  WE are forgiven as we forgive, that is in the very act of our forgiving others we too are forgiven.  The other way to look at the word “as” is we are to forgive as much as God has forgiven us. 

It is my opinion that forgiveness is the great test of a Christ filled life.  You can look at almost any thing humans desire to become, and tests are always part of that becoming.  For example if you want to be a pro-football player you have to have a certain skill set...but you have to pass the test of running a certain distance in a certain amount of time, or tackling someone without seriously hurting them our yourself.  There are tests you must pass to become a football player.  If you want to be a doctor, you have to have intelligence, caring, and an ability to spend long hours wide awake, because you hold another life in your hand.  You take many tests to make sure you can legitimately call yourself Doctor. 

The same thing occurs as we become Christians.  To be a Christian means you live every day the way Jesus the Christ lived.  One great test we must pass in order to legitimately call ourselves followers of Christ is to forgive all, all the time, and do so willingly. 

Many of the greatest minds have discovered the power of forgiveness of self and others.  Paul Tillich taught that there is no condition for forgiveness...it is a choice    Henri Nouwen stated “Forgiveness is love practiced among people who love poorly.  It sets us free without wanting anything in return.  Francis of Assisi said, “It is in forgiving that we are forgiven.”  Robert Frost learned that to be social at all is to be forgiven.  Francis Bacon said that a person who wants revenge keeps his wounds open, which otherwise would heal and do well. Confucius taught that to be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.  Lastly, medical and psychological researches have documented the positive effects of forgiveness on the forgiver.  They say forgiveness reduces stress, lowers the risk of heart disease, and aids people in having happier, better adjusted, and healthier relationships.  Sounds like forgiveness is worth pursuing. 

Once we decide to be Christian, then we are making a commitment to live like Jesus did in regards to loving others, forgiving self and others, and being kind and compassionate.  I think those are the real tests of being a Christian.  How do you rate yourself in those areas?  Amen 


.The Nourishing Thought:  “There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that is your own self.”  Aldous Huxley 

 Words of Wisdom:  “Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.”  Les Brown 

 “If you believe it will work out, you will see opportunities.  If you believe it won’t work out, you will see obstacles.” Wayne Dyer


Sermon, September 23, 2018 

 Several years ago I was in Oxford keeping my grandchildren.  Charlie was 8 and Camille was 11.  I had asked them what they wanted to do that afternoon and immediately Charlie said let’s jump on the trampoline.  Camille said, “No, let’s go bike riding.”  An argument ensued.  Charlie became adamant and insisted, “Let’s jump, its fun.  I want to jump on the trampoline.”  Camille kept saying very loudly, “No, I’m not jumping.  We are going bike riding.  Charlie countered, “NO, trampoline.”  Finally, fully exasperated, Camille looked at Charlie and said, “Whaat eveah!” Then she walked away. Charlie  gasped, like he had been hit!  He immediately felt completely dismissed, of no value.  He started wailing and crying, “Camille said whatever to me.  She can’t say whatever to me.”   

 I was a bit surprised by Charlie’s apparent devastation, until I realized the word “whatever” conveyed at that moment what Camille felt about Charlie and his wants.  He got the message that who he was and what he wanted simply didn’t matter to Camille.  He was completely unimportant.   

Words are powerful because they reflect our thoughts.  They never just stand alone...they always reflect our thoughts...they are symbols of our inner most ideas, feelings, and thoughts. 

The word “whatever” held dire consequences for Charlie. 

Interestingly, in recent years Marist College on the Hudson River in New York took a poll attempting to discover the most annoying words Americans use.  47 % of those surveyed said “whatever” was the most annoying.  “You know” came in as the second most annoying, and the words “anyway” and “at the end of the day” were the third most annoying words we use. 

 But also interesting is that the very same word can have a completely different meaning depending on how it is spoken and in what context. 

For example, look at our scripture today.  Every phrase starts with “whatever.  In this instance the word is used to reflect the importance of the teachings of Jesus.  So we must first think then speak “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” 

 There are other “whatevers” in scripture.  Paul used it in several of his epistles”  “In Philippians he wrote, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am.”In Galatians, he states, “Whatever a person sows, this he will reap.” To the Corinthians he wrote, “Whatever you do, do all to the gory of God.” 

Perhaps the hardest things in life to control are our thoughts and the words we use. Scientists tell us humans have 10,000 thoughts every day!  Most of us probably think our words and actions make up most of what we spend time on.  However, not by a long shot.  Our thoughts are never ceasing...when we are awake, when we are asleep, even in our unconsciousness words march across our brain in unending fashion. Our thoughts compose the major part of who we really are.   That’s why today’s scripture warns us to train our minds, or as God calls our minds our hearts, to think in kind, lovely, honorable ways.  Admittedly it is hard to do, but have you listened lately to a movie or a tv show?  The language used even by young people is pornographic, it is negative, it is beneath us a people of a holy God. 

 Someone once said, “”Watch your thoughts, they become your words;  watch your words, they become your actions;  watch your actions they become habits;  watch your habits, they become your character; and watch your character for it becomes your destiny and your fate.”  I think this statement is completely true.   

 Wise people have stated through the centuries that we as humans do nothing without thinking about it first...maybe fleetingly yet it still flashes through our minds prior to action.  So if we could control our thoughts better, our actions would improve tremendously.  If we want to grow spiritually, if we want to increase our sense of peace and joy, if we want to be more who God wants us to be then we must win the war over bad thoughts because they become harmful words and can create disharmony or chaos. 

Now in America, we do have the right to free speech….that is a civil law.  But it works best when used with a spiritual law to speak no harmful words and think no damaging thoughts. 

 Just how Christian, how Christlike are we, in the control and use of our thoughts and resulting words. 

Use this week to ponder that question.  In the meantime, don’t say “Yeh, God, what evaaah”...rather say, “God, whatever you want is what I want.”  Amen 


******


The Nourishing Thought:  “There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that is your own self.”  Aldous Huxley 

Words of Wisdom:  “Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.”  Les Brown 

“If you believe it will work out, you will see opportunities.  If you believe it won’t work out, you will see obstacles.” Wayne Dyer


Sermon, September 16, 2018 

 This week is the first anniversary of being in our new, beautiful sanctuary.  One year.  I asked Max what this week might mean to him.  This is his reply:  “It’s amazing.  You get a square of dirt, stack up on it a lot of bricks, hold them together with mortar, love, and compassion, then you open the door and God walks in.  All of a sudden thus is a holy, sacred place for all time.”  Then he said, “That doesn’t happen when Walmarts are built.” 

Yes, this is a sacred place...and I see it as a birthing place...as we birth the true spirit of Christ inside in our hearts and minds;  I see it as a nursery...like plant nursery...where we encourage each other to grow, expand, become more open and mature. Where we fertilize one another with good food, great companionship, and a commitment to study together the Bible and our faith founder Jesus, the Christ.   Taken all together it seems to be a recipe for abundant Christian living.  The gifts of caring, participating and your funds create an amazing outreach...because your caring, your love, is taken out into our broader community where hundreds of little school age children are adored and encouraged, taught confidence and reading skills, and where success at home, school and in the community are enhanced.  We reach out to neighbors in need to provide food, clothing, household items that help struggling families.  Our scholarship program gives young, determined students funds to gain further knowledge and skills.  In a year, we have even expanded by purchasing the red house behind us as a meeting place...we want it to be used to further friendships, a place where knowledge and laughter go together.  God has blessed this church, this place, and all of us together because I think we are doing what He has asked us to do….be kind, be compassionate, be loving, be forgiving,be humble, and trust him...the God of all. 

Now you might wonder why I read some of the genealogy of Jesus this morning….it is because the Jewish people found meaning in their own history.  They looked to the past for their purpose.  And, it told who Jesus was.  The original readers of Matthew’s gospel were Jewish people and Matthew believed they could best understand Jesus if they knew their history of past saviors:  Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David...and the best of all, the real anointed Messiah, Jesus.   

In our case, we look at our Christian history and have gratitude for those who have gone before us to protect this story and this holy possibility in spite of the horrors so many faced.  Our meaning, then, is not just in the past, it is in the present and the future.  And what does the future hold for us? 

I think first and foremost we are responsible to God to keep the stories of Jesus and his life-altering love alive.  And how do we do so?  We have a responsibility to young people to help prepare them for life ahead that right now may be quite scary and hostile.  They need skills beyond what schools can teach.   They need churches to teach hope, to value faithful living, and to give of themselves as a way to live.   

We have a responsibility to older people in our church and community.  We need to help meet their needs in a world that is changing too rapidly to keep up….technology changes minute to minute and older citizens struggle with phones, and Ipads, and things unheard of 10 years ago.   

We have responsibility to this community to be examples of Christ’s unfailing love.  Nearly everywhere I go people remark about you, people of the Nourishing Place, and they are astounded at what you do without all fanfare and advertising.  You humbly and meekly and wonderfully serve our risen Lord and people take notice. 

And we have a responsibility to continue being part of this church, to come together to learn more about the power of love, the majesty of grace, and to strengthen you, prepare you, and propel you into the next and coming years of ministry in this place and this community. 

So today, let’s remember who we are in Christ, remember where we have been, and then look to the future, remembering what we have been put here to do and where we are going.  Let us infuse the future beginning today with God’s wisdom, Jesus’ love, and our own commitment to serve one another as God’s people...He is here, he walks among us, he depends on us to spread the good news as we become more and more aware of our own sanctification...we are set apart to work and to make life holy, sacred, and meaningful.  God is faithful, kind, merciful and we must be so as well.  May we live in gratitude for the lives we have been given...and may they produce even more grace in this place and this community.  Amen 



​The Nourishing Thought:  “You receive what you give!”  

Words of Wisdom:  Some people look for a beautiful place. Others make a place beautiful.” 

H. Inayat Khan 

“Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance you must keep moving.”  Albert Einstein 


Sermon, September 9, 2018 

 Today’s scripture is one of those stories that makes us think things we don’t want to think about...it forces us to ask ourselves just how far we are willing to go to serve the purpose of a loving, forgiving God. 

 So let’s put this story in today’s setting.  Suppose we are all here in the sanctuary, listening to spiritual music, getting in the mood to think about our relationship to our God, and there is a knock on the front door. We open the door and the infamous murderer Charles Manson is standing there.  He announces in a loud voice, “Hey, I’ve changed my mind.  I don’t want to kill people any more, I want to know Jesus and serve him.” 

What would you think, and what would you do? 

 I think we would be afraid, terrified.  We certainly would not trust him nor want him to come inside.  Someone might call the police to have him removed from our presence.  Some of us might drop to the floor or run out to the kitchen.  Perhaps we would be too afraid to move, and not know what to do.  

Well, what if Jesus himself was part of this congregation and he was here that day.  What do you think Jesus would say to Charles Manson and what would he do?   

 Now, hold that thought for a minute and look at today’s story again. When Saul came to Jerusalem to see the apostles they did not believe Saul and they were afraid of him.  He had murdered Christians by the hundreds, he was part of the Pharisees...those men who despised Jesus.  But one day as Saul was going down the road to kill more Christians he had a vision...the risen Christ Spirit spoke to him.  And Saul changed his mind.  He no longer wanted to kill people, he wanted to serve this new faith based on Jesus’ teachings of love and acceptance.  Even when he told the apostles what had happened to him they still were not sure of him. They wanted proof that his words were backed up by his actions.  Fortunately for Saul, he had a friend named Barnabas who vouched for Saul.  Barnabas told the apostles that Saul had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.  Reluctantly, the apostles allowed Saul to stay with them in Jerusalem.  One day Saul was preaching to some Greek Jews. They tried to kill him, so the apostles took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.  And an amazing thing happened.  Once the leader of the band of Jewish murderers, Saul, was converted, the murders of Christians stopped for a while, and the church throughout the Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace.  The church was strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit and it grew in numbers. 

 Now back to the earlier question.  If Jesus was a part of our congregation, and each of us must decide if he is or not, then we need to think about what he would have said and done to Charles Manson.  This is my opinion and only an opinion.  Knowing Jesus through scriptural stories I think Jesus would have gone to the door, probably embraced Mr. Manson, and walked him a far distance from the rest of us to keep us safe.  Then I think Jesus spent time with him.  He might have taken him down to the Waffle House, fed him, asked him about his change of mind.  Jesus would care for him.  But, that is Jesus’ job.  To take the bad, the horrible, the terrifying aspects of our lives and help us make peace from them.   

What we need to realize is that Saul, before he was converted and became Paul, was just as terrifying, horrible, cruel and vicious as Charles Manson. Yet, God anointed Saul to change his mind and teach the rest of us how vital to life faith is, how essential the teachings of Jesus are in order to live abundantly.   

Remember Moses? He, was a murderer, but God anointed him to write down the laws that direct humane behavior.  So my conclusion is Jesus never discounts anyone for any reason...and neither should we. 

 We claim to be followers of Jesus, of his teachings, and we claim to trust him with our lives.  So, what would you do about possible unwanted visitors at our own door?  Is there any real redemption for them?  If so, what small part would you be willing to play in offering grace to such people? 

We may not have murderers come through our doors, but we do have people who have sinned terribly and I am certainly one of those people.  As are some of you.  We have people come to us whose actions and words have hurt others and damaged spirits.  We have people here who have spent time in jail, who are hungry and lost and come to us for nourishment.  Some of them come fresh from jail and stand in the breakfast or supper lines and then sit at a table all alone while others of us quickly go sit with people we know.   We meet people in the aisles of grocery stores, the post office, hospital waiting rooms, on and on,  who are starving for a smile, a kind word, a warm touch.  A forgiving spirit. How do you treat these people?  As discards, unworthy of your attention? Or are they people worthy of God’s love and yours? 

Today’s message, that is difficult and sometimes frightening, comes straight from the teachings of Jesus himself. The message is all about how you treat other people with special attention given to the outcasts or the different ones.    

 As Christians what should we do?   What will you do?  Amen 



​The Nourishing Thought:  “Words which do not give the light of love increase the darkness.”  Mother Teresa 

Words of Wisdom:  “Would it appall you or delight you if Christ revealed your thoughts to others?” 
“Humans look at each other’s outward appearance;  but the Lord looks at our hearts.” 


Sermon, August 19, 2018 

 Jesus, Moses, and an old bearded guy were playing golf. On the first tee Moses shanked the ball into a lake.  He parted the water and hit his ball onto the green.  Jesus teed off, hitting his ball into another water hazard.  But he walked on the water, and stroked his ball just short of the cup.  Then the old bearded man stepped up for his tee shot.  He hit the ball with tremendous force, but hooked it badly.  The ball bounced off the clubhouse roof, hit the cart path, and rolled down a hill into a pond, coming to rest on a lily pad.  A frog hopped over and picked up the ball, then an eagle swooped down, snatched the frog, and flew over the green.  The frog dropped the ball and it rolled into the cup for a hole in one.  Moses turned to Jesus and said, “I hate playing golf with your dad.” 

Yes, God can do anything...he is powerful, creative, brilliant, and a master of all good things.  However, he depends on one of his special creations to carry out his plans of goodness.  That special creation is you and me...us frail, faulty, sinful, uncaring humans.  He trusts us at some point in time to come to our senses and realize God knows what he is doing and he is wiser than all of us put together. 

So he sends a special someone to earth to show us what to think and how to use our lives for a greater good.  One way we do this task is to use the mind of Christ that is already inside of us.  

As a young man, Jesus would have been familiar with the prophets of old.  He would have known each one by name, when and where that prophet lived, and most importantly what that prophet taught him about God and God’s will.  From the prophets Hosea and Micah, Jesus would have learned what God expected of him:  not burnt sacrifices but goodness. “God has shown you young man what is goodness. Here is what God requires of you.  To do justice, to be merciful, and to walk humbly with your Lord.”  Jesus not only practiced those aspects but he taught his own disciples to do likewise, and hopefully us as well. 

So what does it mean to do justice? Throughout history it seems people associated God’s justice with punishment.  However, if you carefully read scripture, you see again and again where God’s justice is fair, it is righteous.  In Job he says, “the Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power;  yet in his justice and great righteousness he does not oppress or hurt.”  From the Psalms we read, “God is full of unfailing love.”  God is upright and good,  he is fair and equitable.  He doesn’t show preference to some over others...his love is abundantly available to all people in the same portion. His love does not show favoritism.  Therefore, we are to emulate those traits and attitudes.  As followers of a good and grace full God, we too must love without prejudice, stand up for what is right for all people...all races, ethnic groups, nations, and religions.  God cares especially for the outsider, the marginalized, and we should emulate that all-encompassing compassion as well. 
 
The second thing Jesus learned and taught about what God requires is mercy.  God’s mercy means that when we deserve punishment God does not punish us.  Rather he blesses us instead.  We might punish ourselves through our actions and poor choices, but God does not.  He blesses, he loves, he forgives, he anoints, he lifts us up, he is indeed merciful, he does not give us what we deserve, he gives us love.  If we live into the mind of Christ that is within us, we too must show mercy.  We might condemn an act of hate and harm, but we must encourage the perpetrator to seek forgiveness and repent….meaning the perpetrator will cease his harmful acts.  Sound impossible?  Sound improbable?  Yes.  However, God’s truth prevails and our task is to at least attempt to emulate and imitate his kind of mercy.  When we choose to do so, the spirit within us will help and guide.  So we are here to do God’s will and leave he results to  him. 

The third thing Jesus taught about what God requires is that we walk humbly with God.  That means we walk side by side with God, for indeed his breath, his life, is within us.  We must seek a close friendship with God flavored with adoration for his majesty and gifts to us, recognizing all good things, all good things, come from God...through us.  Do not put Godly life in the back of your mind...rather keep those truths as guides for each day of your life.  God resists pride in people, but he gives grace to the humble.  The more humble you become the more God will work through you. 

As Christians we are to have the same characteristics that Jesus had while he walked this earth.  That means we have his mind as well as his spirit.  Having the mind of Christ means sharing the plan, purpose, and perspective of Christ.  The plan is for all people to recognize and accept the love of God for all people.  The purpose is to be personally involved in living your life with the intentions to follow the way of Jesus, to have the faith of Jesus, and to share your experience of the risen Christ spirit within you.  The perspective is obedience to his teachings...they exist to guide us into living lives of abundance in all the areas that make life meaningful:  like love, peace, forgiveness, grace, compassion.  If we do these things we will love ourselves and others in a new light, a refreshing experience.  We will know we are doing what we were put here to do.  And we will reap the benefits which are joy and fearlessness.  Isn’t this way of living at least worth the effort to try it?   

As Gandhi once said, “I thought Christianity was the best of all possible religions, until I met a Christian.  Then I realized the way of Christ has not really been tried.” 

Is that a condemnation, or an urging to try it, do it, live it.  We can’t possibly go wrong.  Amen 





The Nourishing Thought:  “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity.  The optimist seeks opportunity in every difficult.”  Winston Churchill 

 Words of Wisdom:  “Knowing is not enough;  we must apply what we know.  Wishing is not enough;  we must do our wishes.”  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

“Creativity is intelligence having fun!”  Albert Einstein 

Sermon, August 12, 2018   The Widow’s Mite 

Contrary to popular thought, this biblical lesson isn’t about money...it is totally about trust in God’s way of living.  The story indicates that Jesus and his friends were standing near the Women’s Court in the temple watching who tossed money into one of the 13 receptacles that were spaced throughout this court.  The wealthy made a great show of throwing enough coins in to make a noise...to be noticed.  However, the indigent woman, the widow, only had to of the smallest coins...the two equaled a penny.  She put both in and they made not a sound.  

Here was a woman herself in need of charity, however she had a giving heart and willingly gave her last money to God. 

Listen to this modern day parable that teaches the same lesson.  A Sunday School teacher had a class of children 7 to 9 years old.  She was teaching a lesson about obeying God and being generous.  Very excitably she asked the class, “If you had a million dollars would you be willing to give most of it to help people in need?”  Equally excited the class shouted “Yes!  Then she asked if you had a hundred thousand dollars would you be willing to give most of it to help the poor?”  The class shouted “Yes!”  Then she asked, “If you had one dollar, would you be willing to give most of it to help people in need?”  The class shouted “Yes” except for one boy who shouted “No!”  The teacher asked him why he said “no”.  His answer was, “Because I have a dollar.” 

Think about it.  Altruism, helping, loving, being generous are wonderful to think about, delightful to ponder, nice to consider...but actually doing loving, giving, being altruistic at your own risk and cost are altogether something different.  We want to keep what we have even though our faith says we own nothing...God owns it all.  God allows us to use what we have, what we have worked hard for and earned, to assist his people in need. 

The story of the widow is her life and livelihood means very little outside of her devotion to her God.  She trusted God with her livelihood which was her life.   

Some folks don’t like to think about offering what we have to God’s work for fear we will lose what we have….but let me remind you.  Thirteen years ago many of you in this room lost every possession you had...house, car, jewelry, photos, lifetime memories to a storm named Katrina.  But look at your now.  Some have more than you ever had.  Some have had those important things replaced.  God did not leave you alone….through people who have a willingness to help and give came forward and resurrected this community.  

The moral of this teaching is we must never, ever, ever blame fear, our fear of loss, for not obeying God’s call to give yourself away in caring...in whatever way it comes to you at whatever the cost.  A radical teaching? “Yes.”  Isn’t that what a Christian, a follower of Christ is asked to do?  Live radically on God’s terms not your own. 

If and when you decide to do so you will never regret it.  It is the way of Christ.  Amen
 




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Sermon, November 11, 2018 

Today is Veteran’s Day.  This special day began As Armistice Day on November 11, 1919, which was the first anniversary of the end of World War I.  In 1926, our Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance.  But it wasn’t until 1938 that it became a national holiday.  In 1954, President Eisenhower officially changed the name of the day to Veterans Day to pay tribute to all American veterans, living or dead.  The day reminds us to pay special attention those people who have willing served their country honorably during war or peacetime. 

Today is a special day when we have the opportunity to give thanks and appreciation to all members of the military and in all branches of service. 

However, today should be a time of even more thanksgiving.  We are so busy thinking about our present and our future, that we tend to negate the importance all that has gone before us to give us the freedom and peace we enjoy today. 

There are several things we need to be aware of, remember, and be grateful for.  Here are just a few: 

It is the veteran, not the preacher, who continues to give us freedom of religion. 

It is the veteran, not the reporter who continues to give us the freedom of speech. 

 It is the veteran not the lawyer who continues to give us the right to a free trial. 


It is the veteran not the politician who continues to give us the right to vote. 

It is the veteran who salutes the flag and serves under the flag and who continues to give us the freedom to proudly wave the flag. 

Where would we be today had not these veterans stood up and stood tall for America?  And what will happen to us in the near and distant future if others are not willing to take that giant step, leave the comfort of their homes, endure endless hours of training, to keep us safe and at relative peace. 

 My question today, is, as Christians, followers of Jesus, the Christ, what can we do in the present time to make better the lives and careers of each veteran, every military person, and every person who works in public service.   Think about it:  military men and women are on call to keep us safe;  law enforcement exists to keep us safe;  firemen keep us safe...so to help these people we need to be more determined to keep our own selves safe...and we do that by being personally responsible for ourselves and our own well being.  We do so abiding by the rules our society has set for us so we all can be safe...we must abide by such laws as wearing seat belts, obeying the speed limit, talking about politics  and participating in our governmental system with common sense without hostilities and divisiveness.   We befriend friend and foe alike. We consider people on the other side of the world without judgment, condemnation or prejudice. We get to know people who are on the other side of our own philosophies.  Also, we don’t blame other people for the challenges we face nor do we expect others to solve our problems.  We take full responsibility for who we are, what we do, and how we act.  The answer usually lies in living and loving in all the appropriate ways.  Above all we must be kind..because every act of kindness adds kindness to the world.  We are safer as a community when we all do the right thing;  we are safer as a country when we all do the right thing;  and we are safer in the world when the right thing is expressed openly and willingly even if it is rejected by others.   

 So today, as Christians, followers of Jesus, our Christ, we recognize and give honor to our veterans, our military people, our public servants. My prayer is that we pledge to them that we will individually and as a church try to prevent problems that they have to solve.  Big Job?  Absolutely?  Can we do it?  Well, my answer is we certainly should try to do so. 

 God bless all his servants, all his followers, and even all his enemies.  Amen