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 July 2018 Sermons

 

Below, you will find the collection of texts from sermons shared in July by Reverend Lindsey Williams, our pastor.  We encourage you to read them and use them in your study of God's Word.  May they build you up and encrich your faith and your daily living.  


Summer Hymn Sing

July 29, 2018 - Come and sing your favorite hymns, all the classics and some new ones too!

Come Away with Me

July 22, 2018 - Join us to see and hear an inspiring message. 

Power vs. Truth

July 15, 20198 - Pastor Lindsey shared with us a message calling us to bravely speak truth in the midst of power.

Psalm 145:1-18

John 6:1-21

Mark 6:30-34; 53-56 Mark 6:14-29

Where Rubber Meets Road

July 8, 2018 - Pastor Lindsey shared an message of putting faith into action.

 

Only Believe

July 1, 2018 - Pastor Lindsey shared a message of encouragement as we engage our faith.

Mark 6:1-13  Mark 5:21-43

 

Sing a Song 

 

Psalm 145:1-18

I will lift you up high, my God, the true king.
    I will bless your name forever and always.
I will bless you every day.
    I will praise your name forever and always.
The Lord is great and so worthy of praise!
    God’s greatness can’t be grasped.
One generation will praise your works to the next one,
    proclaiming your mighty acts.
They will talk all about the glorious splendor of your majesty;
    I will contemplate your wondrous works.
They will speak of the power of your awesome deeds;
    I will declare your great accomplishments.
They will rave in celebration of your abundant goodness;
    they will shout joyfully about your righteousness:
    “The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
    very patient, and full of faithful love.
    The Lord is good to everyone and everything;
    God’s compassion extends, to all his handiwork!”
10 All that you have made gives thanks to you, Lord;
    all your faithful ones bless you!
11 They speak of the glory of your kingdom;
    they talk all about your power,
12     to inform all human beings about God’s power
    and the majestic glory of God’s kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is a kingship that lasts forever;
    your rule endures for all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all that he says,
    faithful in all that he does.
14 The Lord supports all who fall down,
    straightens up all who are bent low.
15 All eyes look to you, hoping,
    and you give them their food right on time,
16     opening your hand
    and satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways,
    faithful in all his deeds.
18 The Lord is close to everyone who calls out to him,
    to all who call out to him sincerely.

 

John 6:1-21

 

After this Jesus went across the Galilee Sea (that is, the Tiberias Sea). A large crowd followed him, because they had seen the miraculous signs he had done among the sick. Jesus went up a mountain and sat there with his disciples. It was nearly time for Passover, the Jewish festival.

Jesus looked up and saw the large crowd coming toward him. He asked Philip, “Where will we buy food to feed these people?” Jesus said this to test him, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Philip replied, “More than a half year’s salary[a] worth of food wouldn’t be enough for each person to have even a little bit.”

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “A youth here has five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that for a crowd like this?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there. They sat down, about five thousand of them. 11 Then Jesus took the bread. When he had given thanks, he distributed it to those who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, each getting as much as they wanted. 12 When they had plenty to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the leftover pieces, so that nothing will be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves that had been left over by those who had eaten.

14 When the people saw that he had done a miraculous sign, they said, “This is truly the prophet who is coming into the world.” 15 Jesus understood that they were about to come and force him to be their king, so he took refuge again, alone on a mountain.

16 When evening came, Jesus’ disciples went down to the lake. 17 They got into a boat and were crossing the lake to Capernaum. It was already getting dark and Jesus hadn’t come to them yet. 18 The water was getting rough because a strong wind was blowing.19 When the wind had driven them out for about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the water. He was approaching the boat and they were afraid. 20 He said to them, “I Am.[b] Don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and just then the boat reached the land where they had been heading.

 

Reflection on the Word

 

When I think about Hymn Sing Sunday, I think about the various hymns that I love. Hymns that are in our hymnals, hymns that are not; hymns I could sing every day regardless of liturgical season. The hymns my mom and grandma would sing or hum as the day went along. The clearest memory that stands out is that of my mom occasionally singing a song to my sister and me as she was settling us in for the night in our beds, usually a hymn from church. He lives, Great is thy faithfulness, Jesus loves me, How great thou art, and For the beauty of the Earth are just a few off the top of my head.

 

During my many years spent at camp, first as a camper and then as a counselor, my favorite time of the day was Vespers. At the end of the day, we gathered around the campfire and would sing songs of praise and joy. Songs such as: Be thou my vision, Amazing Grace, Blessed be the tie, Come thou fount of every blessing, God of Wonders, Everything that has breath, Here I am Lord, Jesus Lover of my soul, and many, many more come to mind. I can hear the tunes now as I mention these songs, played on the acoustic guitar and sung by joyful voices.

 

These are the hymns that I don’t necessarily need the words for. The tunes and lyrics are written on my heart, engraved there for all time. They are likely just some of the songs I will sing to our little girl as I rock her to sleep. It is through these hymn that we are reminded that, “Your kingdom is a kingship that lasts forever; your rule endure for all generations.” From great-grandma, to grandma, to mom, to child, generations hear the words, words that are imprinted with the tune of God’s love for all of creation. These songs that speak to the very nature of who God is have endured for years, passed down through generations.

 

If you haven’t gathered already, music plays an important part in our life of faith. Many people say that music can make or break a worship service. They might be right, they might be wrong. But for sure music and the hymns we sing influence what we say about God. The hymns we have and sing, familiar or otherwise, offer us a chance to say something about God. They give us the space to affirm as the Psalm says, “The Lord is merciful and compassionate, very patient, and full of faithful love. The Lord is good to everyone and everything; God’s compassion extends, to all his handiwork!” Isn’t that true, that as we sing these hymns, and read the words, we see and hear the joy and affirmation the composers and musicians were attempting to express about God. We also participate in lifting up who God is!

 

So just who is God? We catch a glimpse of the truest nature of God in Jesus and his actions on the side of the mountain and in the midst of the storm on the sea this morning, as well as in the Psalm. Jesus shows us that God is a God of provision and compassion. Jesus didn’t HAVE to feed those people. He could have just let them fend for themselves. Go and find your own supper. Instead though, he takes a meager meal of loaves and fish and after blessing the food, gives it out. Was there any doubt in his mind that the food would not be enough? Doubtful. Jesus knows and embodies the words of the Psalm. “All eyes look to you, hoping, and you give them their food right on time, opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.” Jesus invites us to sit, eat and be satisfied.

 

We have been invited partake in this meal as well. There is enough to go around. We don’t have to worry that there isn’t enough to go around. We don’t have to store it up for just one day of the week, there is enough to go around every single day of the week, to every single person we meet. God is not the kind of God who is only enough for some and others go hungry. On that mountain side, there were 5,000 gathered and every single one was fed. Fed not just with a morsel that peaked their appetites, but satisfied them! And then there were leftovers, 12 baskets full of leftover. Jesus lived from a place of abundance. He was not one to say there is not enough food to go around, not enough work for all to do, not enough love for all of creation.

 

We might be looking around and having feelings that there aren’t very many people here. Maybe you look around and feel like God’s abundance has skipped us over, with fewer and fewer people in worship, but maybe it is because we fail to see God’s abundance or we are worried it might run out. Maybe we need to listen to the words of the hymns again, Great is thy Faithfulness! God continues to be faithful through all things. Through feast and famine, through highs and lows, through thick and thin, God is not a fair-weather God, but a God who endures throughout generations. This, friends, is the reason we sing. We sing because for thousands of years, we have affirmation that God is more than enough. Talk about a God who is worthy of our praise! Let everything that has breath praise God! Amen.


 

 

 

Come Away with Me

 

Mark 6:30-34; 53-56

30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him everything they had done and taught. 31 Many people were coming and going, so there was no time to eat. He said to the apostles, “Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.” 32 They departed in a boat by themselves for a deserted place.

33 Many people saw them leaving and recognized them, so they ran ahead from all the cities and arrived before them. 34 When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he began to teach them many things.

 

50 Seeing him was terrifying to all of them. Just then he spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”51 He got into the boat, and the wind settled down. His disciples were so baffled they were beside themselves. 52 That’s because they hadn’t understood about the loaves. Their hearts had been changed so that they resisted God’s ways.

53 When Jesus and his disciples had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret, anchored the boat, 54 and came ashore. People immediately recognized Jesus55 and ran around that whole region bringing sick people on their mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 Wherever he went—villages, cities, or farming communities—they would place the sick in the marketplaces and beg him to allow them to touch even the hem of his clothing. Everyone who touched him was healed.

 

Reflection on the Word

 

Let’s take a break from the daily grind for a moment. I’d like to share a reflection from Louisa Bergmann DuMont: 

 

Just as Louisa’s mother invited her to take a break, to step away from the hustle and bustle of the day to day activity, we too are invited to step away. We hear the invitation in the words of Jesus to his apostles this morning. Come away with me. As I read these words this week, I was immediately reminded of the 2002 Norah Jones song, “Come Away with Me.”

Come away with me with me in the night. Come away with me and I will write you a song. Come away with me on a bus. Come away where they can’t tempt us, with their lies. And I want to walk with you on a cloudy day, in fields where the yellow grass grown knee-high. So won’t you come? Come away with me and we’ll kiss on a mountaintop. Come away with me and I’ll never stop loving you.

 

This song is sweet, heart-felt, it has a slightly whimsical tone, but ultimately it is truly steeped in love. And Yes, while this is a love song, I imagine could be a song that would have resonated with Jesus. Come away with me, Jesus says to his disciples. Let us retreat to a place for rest. The apostles had been sent out in ministry and now returned to where Jesus was; Jesus was grieving the loss of his cousin and friend. Come away with me to a quiet place and rest for a while. Come away with me, so that we might be together and eat together.

 

This is a beautiful invitation to find some much needed rest. Reminding us of the importance of rest and retreat. It is also a reminder that we are called to be together and to eat together. Life is not all about the hustle and bustle, the appointments, the rushing, the constant on the go life that we lead. Life is also about being WITH one another. Sitting at the table, whether it is in a tiny kitchen, a grand dining room, a shaded back porch, or a church fellowship hall, we are called to sit, eat, rest, and BE in fellowship together.

 

This is one of the things that I truly love about our congregation. We know how to sit and eat together, from Covered dish, to birthdays, to welcoming new members, to simply sitting together after worship and enjoying a sweet thing along with a cup of coffee. Friends, being at table is part of the life of faith. It brings us together in a very important way. When we sit together for a meal, we take into often take into consideration the dietary needs of those who will be with us. We don’t just put OUR favorite things on the table, but we inquire about what others would like, we share new recipes that we hope others will enjoy. There is thought, love and care that is put into meals shared. We tend not only to the necessity for nourishment, but also the gastronomical delight as well as the relational ties of those gathered with us.

We didn’t read it this week, but we will next, Jesus feeds those who gather with him, all five thousand of them! He tends to their needs for nourishment, both of the body and the soul. When we are called to come away with him, it is not just because we need rest, but we also need to be renewed, in body and spirit. We hunger, as Jesus did, not just for bread but also for healing and wholeness. Come away with me, be nourished and renewed.

Come away with me…And yet…

 

And yet they do not actually get any rest. The crowds see where Jesus and the apostles are going and get there ahead of them. And Jesus, being Jesus, does not tell those in need to go away, but attends to their needs.

 

It is Jesus who invites rest and Jesus who, upon seeing the needs of those around him, responds in compassion. Listen again, it is Jesus who does these things. Jesus, not us. Jesus does not turn away those who are hungry or in need of healing, instead he responds with compassion. He had compassion on them for they were like sheep without a shepherd. Compassion, friends, is NOT pity, though often understood as such. No compassion is maybe best understood not in English, with all of its Latinization of our basic human experiences, which obscures (for most of us) the true picture behind this word. So maybe the German word is better, it is at the very least more direct. The German word for compassion is Mitlied – quite literally, “with-suffering.”   Which is the meaning of “compassion” too, but it is not what we hear. Jesus has compassion for those whom he sees, apostles and crowds, because he suffers with us; he knows our pain because he too has felt it; and he knows just how much we need rest, retreat and nourishment.

 

As we prepare to return to the world around us, we certainly can imagine our role, even recommit ourselves to rest or response, and live into God’s hopes that we care for each other and the community around us. We can see the need within our very own community for compassion, whether it be for rest and retreat or the nourishment of body, mind and soul. We need to not only see it, but be open to respond to that need, to walk with our fellow members and community members.

 

But we won’t get very far if we don’t recognize Jesus’ deep compassion for his disciples, for the crowds then… and for those of us gathered here today in the congregation. If you need an example of how to have compassion, turn to the scripture. Turn to the example of Jesus, who called to his disciples, who let the little children come to him, who did not turn away people who were hurting or hungry. And when you’re tired and feel like you’ve done all you can, listen for Jesus. When we realize the reality of Jesus’ love, and this is really a reality-changing truth, only then can we look around and see and respond to the needs of our community with measures of compassion and love.

 

Do you hear Jesus calling you? Come away with me, to a deserted place, and I’ll never stop loving you. Take a moment and listen. Listen to the words of the song, to the Jesus calling you.

 


 

Power vs. Truth

 

Mark 6:14-29

King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

Others said, “He is Elijah.”

And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”

But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”

For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married.  For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.

 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”

She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”

“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.

 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

 

Reflection on the Word

 

A wedding! Who doesn’t love a wedding? A marriage of two families. We have a handsome young man and a beautiful young lady. Married first in secret, for the groom was already spoken for. But what is done is done, and now it is time to celebrate. All of the people gathered there are feasting of all the finest foods in a great hall with all of the guests present. There is eating and drinking until their heart’s content, the stringed quartet plays music for all to hear as they enjoy the evening. Everyone seems to be having a grand time, celebrating the marriage of these two young lovers. And then the host of the party offers up a gift to the newly married couple. Not your traditional gift of silver or fine china or even a deluxe Kitchen-Aide mixer, instead to this newly married couple comes death, for very nearly everyone at the party. There is blood everywhere, as the bride, groom, mother of the bride, and guests, even the host’s wife, are all slaughtered. The host drinks his wine and looks on in contempt for the whole scene, which he has orchestrated unfolds before him. He sees his vengeance for being betrayed doled out to each and every offender, along with any potential supporters. A bloody mess in the great hall.

 

Have you gotten sucked into the Game of Thrones saga? What about the intrigue of the House of Cards? Maybe you have found another binge-worthy show that has drawn you into its drama, its battle for power, the conflict between good and evil.

 

This “Red Wedding” scene is just one of many provocative scenes from the HBO series Game of Thrones, and as I read the passage this week I was struck by the similarities. While Herod did not have everyone killed at his birthday celebration, he did grant the request of his step-daughter, who was also his niece, who had been influenced by her grudge=holding mother, after she had danced rather provocatively for Herod and all his guests as a birthday gift of entertainment.

 

When we encounter such pieces of text in the Bible we are left wondering what on earth is going on here!? How on earth can any of this be good news? Where is God, specifically Jesus, in the midst of this broken world? It appears, left on its own, this passage shows us the very real struggle between truth versus power. This is the confrontation of political power and prophetic faith which is a complicated one as well. We are left with a very real realization; which is that when truth is spoken to power, power will always prefer the status quo and social stability to prophetic truth telling, even if it means killing the prophet. If we are left to think about it, this scene while, yes, it might seem to fit better in an episode of Game of Thrones, it tells us a WHOLE lot about our world, -- the world that Jesus came into and reminded us was not the vision for the Kingdom of God. We need only look at the headlines each day to see that the callous manipulations of power we see today are NOT all that far from Herod’s actions in Mark.

 

John the Baptist spoke the truth to Herod and the very real threat of corruption that comes from temptation of earthly power. Herod’s encounter finds himself confronted by the very real danger of being tempted by the power of the world versus the opportunity for spiritual growth in listening to and heeding John’s words.   Herod is wooed by the temptation of earthly power and that leads to violence. Although, perhaps this is how most human beings deal with our inclination to prefer social stability and equilibrium over the messy, chaotic process of personal and social transformation that participating in a spiritual quest requires. We want to appear strong and mighty in the name of law and order.

 

Professor Karen Marie Yust, reminds us that, we would be apt to remember and realize that our own daily life presents its own series of Herod-like personal and spiritual dilemmas for each of us to negotiate. For a harried mother of a toddler, there is the question of how best to love and parent at the same time a child in the face of a defiant “No!” and a full-fledged temper tantrum in aisle 6 of the grocery store at the end of a long day. For the father of three it is the struggle to explain the importance of rearranging travel plans for a work trip so he can attend a Little League playoff game. A corporate executive wonders how her announcement of a long-awaited pregnancy will affect her employees’ perceptions of her as an effective boss. A stay-at-home dad wrestles with the whispers of former colleagues that he just couldn’t handle the pressures of work. Teenagers experience the angst of competing for acceptance in desirable social cliques, of serial broken hearts in the complex world of adolescent dating, of familial tensions over privileges and responsibilities. Younger children long for popular toys advertised on television, worry about parental fights and the potential (or actual) breakup of their families, and wonder if the trouble they have learning multiplication tables or basic grammar means they are stupid. Across the lifespan, persons question who they are and how they should act as life pushes and pulls them in conflicting directions. And as in the story of Herod’s struggle, there are lives at stake as they decide which actions they will take.

 

John is telling Herod, and us, that absent the intervention of Jesus, we cannot hope, but instead fall prey to the very same illusions regarding power and security that lead us to disdain both justice and mercy in the belief, or misbelief, that the ends justify the means.

 

We believe, teach, and confess that Jesus came to make possible for us more than mere survival, more than mere persistence, more even than mere success. Jesus came to help us imagine that there is more to this life than we can perceive. Jesus came to offer us not just more life, but abundant life. Jesus came so that there could be a better ending to our stories and the story of the world that we can imagine or construct on our own.

 

All of the miracles that Jesus performs, may make a huge different in the lives of those who received them, but ultimately did not make a lick of difference for the larger world. None of the miracles fundamentally changed the nature or course of the world, ONLY Jesus’ cross and resurrection have the ability to do that. We, who are marked by his cross and called to hope through his resurrection, are to face the challenges of our day with equal measures of courage and confidence, not just imagining that we will be fully “successful,” but rather that we will make a genuine different for those around us as we await God’s final redemption.

 

We, as the people of the Gospel, then ask for the grace and power of the Holy Spirit to flow through us so that we may accomplish the works that God has called us to do. Not only as we asking to be made aware of what we need to do, we are also asking to be made able to do those very things. God has called us to incredible things, but we can only do those things through the grace and power that God gives to us in God’s mercy. We would be apt to remember the words of Paul from Philippians 4:13: I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength. Amen.

 


 

 

Where Rubber Meets the Road

 

Mark 6:1-13

Jesus left that place and came to his hometown. His disciples followed him. On the Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were surprised. “Where did this man get all this? What’s this wisdom he’s been given? What about the powerful acts accomplished through him? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.

 Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.”  He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them.  He was appalled by their disbelief.


Then Jesus traveled through the surrounding villages teaching.

 He called for the Twelve and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick—no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts.  He told them to wear sandals but not to put on two shirts.  He said, “Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place.  If a place doesn’t welcome you or listen to you, as you leave, shake the dust off your feet as a witness against them.”  So they went out and proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives.  They cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them.


Reflection on the Word

 

As we enter into these long, hot summer months, things seem to slow down a bit. Don’t they? The days are longer, not that we have gotten more hours in a day, but the sun comes up early and stays around long into the evenings. The heat of the days may make us feel as though time has slowed if not stopped when we just can’t catch a cool breeze. We enjoy lazy days, relaxing in the shade, toes dipped in the refreshing waters of the lake. We watch the days slowly pass, as family and friends come for visits. These, friends, are the dog days of summer, and if you visit my three dogs, you will see that they do as little as possible, sleeping under the breeze of the ceiling fan to keep cool. My normally very active pups have become couch potatoes. Everything seems to have slowed; even things at the church slow down, as we put a pause on regular activities, exchanged for a slower pace of things.

 

I would like to challenge this idea though. I would like to challenge this season is not a season of rest from the busy, but instead it is a season of putting all that we have learned since Advent, since the beginning of December, through Lent, through Holy Week, through Easter and the amazing resurrection and then celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, into practice. We have journeyed with Christ from much anticipated birth through a saving death and resurrection. Now, we might be really tired, the first half of the Church-year is really busy, and the summer seems like a nice time to take a rest, pick up a glass of sweet tea and recline in the shade, but my challenge is that THIS is the time now to put ALL that we have learned into practice. This is the moment: where the rubber meets the road. We have all likely heard, maybe even used this saying in other aspects of our lives: Where the rubber meets the road. This is the point at which a theory or idea is put to a practical test. It is about practicality and about application. Can we apply what we have been learning? Does what we know and believe in effect how we live our “everyday” lives? How does everything from the birth of Christ to Easter to the coming of the Holy Spirit now inspire our lives? Or are we too tired and too hot from the near 100 degree days to even contemplate action?

 

The Gospel of Mark this morning shares with us a page out of Jesus’ ministry which is key to the continued mission and reach of the church. First, is that among those who know think they know us best, we might not be the best versions of ourselves. Second, we are commissioned, as the disciples were, to go out into the surrounding villages and share the Good News, not just by word, but also and more importantly, by deed.

 

Let’s touch on the first part of this passage, where Jesus is in his hometown and those who think they know him best, don’t really know him at all. I felt this just last month. I went to see family and celebrate the joy of our little person with them, and I really felt like, after being gone almost 15 years, the people there barely knew me. They didn’t know about all of the things I have been doing, they still saw me as the camp counselor, the geeky, bookish girl, they did not see me as a leader, and I didn’t really work too hard to let them see too much of the person I have become either. Why you might ask? Possibly because it was comfortable to slip back into the person they thought I was or possibly because I knew I wasn’t staying, and what did it matter. For Jesus, the hometown folks didn’t believe that Jesus could be anything more than the eldest son of Mary, who left his responsibility to roam the countryside. Because of their lack of faith in just who Jesus had become, he was unable to do very much. Jesus actually lived down to their lower expectation of him.

 

Maybe you have experienced something similar in your own life. Where you attempt to live a life that has been changed by the Good News, that Jesus lived, died and rose for each of us, and yet when you are around family and friends, who might not believe the same way or even same thing, you let those beliefs hang out in the background. Maybe we fear being rejected by the very people who we have known the longest by not meeting their expectations, and therefore we meet their expectations, all the while, dismissing our own expectations of ourselves. This is NOT the way that we are called to live.

 

Instead, we are called to live like the disciples, in the second part of this passage. We are commissioned, as the disciples were, to go out into the surrounding villages and share the Good News. Jesus sent those disciples out from him, they did not stay with him day and night for the entire time of Jesus’ ministry, but instead they went around, to surrounding communities, they made a difference in the lives of people who were sick, alone, possessed by demons, struggling with life. We too are called to do these very same things. We do this not just by talking about what Jesus did using pretty words, but also and more importantly, by doing the very things that Jesus did.

 

I’d like to share an example the integrity and balance between “doing” the word and “speaking” the word that was offered by one Hugh Thompson at the commencement exercises at Emory University several years ago. Honorary degrees were being awarded; the recipients made the requisite speeches. As is often the case, the students chatted through the whole ceremony. In fact, there was only one moment when they actually listened. “It was when a man named Hugh Thompson was speaking. Thompson was probably the least educated man on the platform.… He… did not finish college, choosing instead to enlist in the Army, where he became a helicopter pilot. “On March 16, 1968, he was flying a routine patrol in Vietnam when he happened to fly over the village of Mai Lai just as American troops, under the command of Lieutenant William Calley, were slaughtering dozens of unarmed…villagers—old men, women, and children. Thompson set his helicopter down between the troops and the remaining… civilians. He ordered his tail-gunner to train the helicopter guns on the American soldiers, and he ordered the gunmen to stop killing the villagers.… Hugh Thompson’s actions saved the lives of dozens of people… he was almost court-martialed.… It was thirty years before the Army awarded him the Soldier’s Medal. “As he stood at the microphone, the rowdy student body grew still.” And then Thompson talked about his faith. Simple words. Speaking of what his parents taught him as a child Thompson said, “they taught me, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do onto you.’” The students were amazed at these “words of Jesus, words from Sunday school, words from worship, words of Christian testimony, they leapt to their feet and gave him a standing ovation.” Thompson’s words about his faith had weight because the man had obviously “walked the talk.”

 

In the same way, the church will not be heard if what we do as Christians is incongruous with what we say about our faith. We cannot afford to for half the year spend all of our energy and excitement for the birth, death and resurrection and then when it is all over, let is have no effect on how we live our lives. The church, as a whole, cannot preach be kind, love one another, help those in need, do unto others as we would have them do unto us, if we do not ACTUALLY DO these things.

 

This is not partisan thinking; this is Christ-like living. If we are going to be a part of the mission that Jesus commissions his disciples to, then we are going to have to live where the rubber meets the road. Which, if we’re honest, is difficult, it’s scary, it’s daunting, because we don’t want to be rejected. We have this innate desire to be liked, and when we say things, or do things that we think will likely lose us favor, then we tend to shy away from them.

 

When you are asked “who is Jesus to you?” can you answer this question? OK, now can you answer this question without using ANY churchy language? Explain just who Jesus is to you, as if you were going to tell someone who had NEVER had an experience of Jesus. Do you live out your experience of Jesus in your everyday life? Not only talking the talk, but walking the walk. I find the saying, “do as I say, not as I do” comical because for many it seems that this sums current state of Christianity. Non-Christians and people turned off by the church, see Christians saying one thing, and yet behaving a completely different way. We are told to “Love your neighbor,” and yet we barely speak two words to our neighbors and would rather call the cops of them than have a civil conversation. We are told to “love the LORD our God above all else,” and yet we have put so many other earthly gods before our creator, redeemer and king, often times allowing having only one day we show we love God for 60 minutes. This is not about casting stones, because I have a whole pile just waiting to be thrown my way. By no means am I perfect, far from it actually, but I’m working on it. Often times not so successfully.

 

We have to stop being afraid of what people are going to think, or say, or how they will respond to us if we actually lived our everyday lives as holy, as a gift from God and a gift FOR God. Proclaiming with our very lives the good news that Jesus sent us out to share. Let’s love our neighbors, the one sitting in the pew next to us, living in the house nearby, shopping in the grocery store with us, sharing this whole earth with us. Let’s love God, above county, above state, above country, because all of it belongs to God. Let’s do unto others as we would have done unto us, because that is what Moses brought us down from Sinai and Jesus taught us every single day of his ministry. Let us live the greatest commandment, to LOVE, each and every day, then they will know that we are Christians. Amen.

 


 

 

Only Believe

 

Mark 5:211-43

A swarm of people were following Jesus, crowding in on him. A woman was there who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot under the care of many doctors, and had spent everything she had without getting any better. In fact, she had gotten worse.  Because she had heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothes. She was thinking, If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed. Her bleeding stopped immediately, and she sensed in her body that her illness had been healed.

At that very moment, Jesus recognized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”

His disciples said to him, “Don’t you see the crowd pressing against you? Yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus looked around carefully to see who had done it.

The woman, full of fear and trembling, came forward. Knowing what had happened to her, she fell down in front of Jesus and told him the whole truth. He responded, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, healed from your disease.”

While Jesus was still speaking with her, messengers came from the synagogue leader’s house, saying to Jairus, “Your daughter has died. Why bother the teacher any longer?”

But Jesus overheard their report and said to the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid; just keep trusting.” He didn’t allow anyone to follow him except Peter, James, and John, James’ brother.  They came to the synagogue leader’s house, and he saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly.  He went in and said to them, “What’s all this commotion and crying about? The child isn’t dead. She’s only sleeping.” They laughed at him, but he threw them all out. Then, taking the child’s parents and his disciples with him, he went to the room where the child was.  Taking her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Young woman, get up.”  Suddenly the young woman got up and began to walk around. She was 12 years old. They were shocked!  He gave them strict orders that no one should know what had happened. Then he told them to give her something to eat.


Reflection on the Word

 

There are some experiences in life that take us to the very edge of our ability to cope.  You lose your job and wonder how in the world you’re going to find another one.  Or you learn that the cancer has metastasized.  Or you look at the person you’ve shared your life with and realize that it’s over.  It may take a while, but in situations like that, the stress you feel can easily push you beyond the limit of what you think you can endure.  We have a word for it: finding yourself at the end of your rope.  Most of us at one time or another either have faced or will face this kind of situation.  And, unfortunately, in these kinds of situations, our faith can seem pretty empty.

 

Our Gospel lesson presents us with a couple of people who had reached the end of their ropes: first a father whose daughter was dying and a woman whose life has been almost literally consumed by her life-long illness.  Both have reached a place where they feel like there is no hope left, and they are likely very afraid of what is going to come next.  And if we’re honest, we know what should come next, the thing most people are afraid of, death.  How many millions, if not billions of dollars are spent each year on preventing death?  Death is the ultimate “end of the rope” the exact time when there is no more rope of this life.  These feelings of fear and hopelessness lead our father and unnamed woman to cross over a boundary they might never have previously contemplated.    

 

We begin with a well-known synagogue official who comes to Jesus and asks him to heal his dying daughter.  This is pretty impressive, folks.  This is a well-known official in the Jewish community.  This isn’t just some guy, some joe-schmoe who heard of Jesus and thought it would be cool to ask Jesus to heal his daughter. No,  Jairus is a key official in the synagogue, not just some average worshipper.  He is respected as a leader and teacher in the synagogue.  It would be expected that he has some favor with YHWH, and could ask anything of God.  This is not to say that he has not tried that, but Jairus has reached the end of his rope.  He has tried everything that his influence and power has availed to him, and none of it has worked up to this point. He has run out of options.   In his powerlessness, Jairus calls upon Jesus, who we know is the only one who can heal his child.  He is a parent who will do anything under the sun to find healing for his child.  He is willing to break down any boundary necessary to find a little hope.

 

Parents, you know this feeling; you can imagine how Jairus feels, maybe you have even been there!  You would do anything for your children.  Give your lives for them; go to any source, even if it might just make you an outcast.  We are willing to scale any wall, take any job, move to any place; go to any length to provide for your children, break down any barrier that might prevent your children from thriving. 

 

Jesus doesn’t turn this desperate father away. 

 

As they are moving along with a throng of people towards Jairus’ house, there is a woman in the crowd.  A woman, unnamed, outcast and in no position of power, but who is just as much in need of healing. After 12 years of hemorrhaging, she fears this might be her one and only chance otherwise it will be her end.  She has run out of options. 

 

Let’s be clear friends, fear is a liar.  Fear will try to steal our happiness.  Fear will stop us in our tracks is we listen too carefully.  Fear likes to tell us lies about ourselves as well.  Fear can also lead us to do the strangest of things.  If she has given into a fear of unworthiness she might never had attempted what she did. 

 

She attempts to sneak her healing.  Just a little touch of his garment. She might even imagine that Jesus wouldn’t even notice, there are tons of people brushing up against him, after all.  What will he know if I, a woman, who in the first century should not be touching another man, especially a man who is not my husband, and in public of all places, (gasp), what will he know if I just grasp his robe quickly?  This gives a whole new meaning to “unwanted touching”  but she breaks one of the biggest boundaries of her time.  In the Temple, men and women didn’t even worship together, and here she is reaching out and touching Jesus.  Sneaking her healing. 

 

It is surprising, isn’t it, that this method “works.”  Most of us would resist believing in Jesus as some sort of magic charm, something we can rub and magically we have three wishes, one of which should always be unlimited wishes.  Instead, we prefer to think that the miracles of Jesus are intentional and deliberate.  They are not snuck, but instead performed out of love.  But maybe this is the ultimate boundary that Jesus is breaking down for us.  God’s love, the healing present through Jesus knows no boundary.  It breaks down social conventions. It does not discriminate.  It does not judge our worthiness or even our devotion.

 

Fear rears its ugly head again, not for the woman who has found relief, but for Jairus, who is told that since he has left to get Jesus, his daughter has died.  Fear is once again trying to steal his happiness, stopping the crowd in their tracks, attempting to tell them to come no further, for there is no point to going any further. 

 

In the midst of the return of despair, Jesus tell Jairus: “Do not fear, only believe.”  These are pretty difficult words to hear, especially when we have reached the end of our rope, when we feel as though there is absolutely nothing left that we can do. 

 

If someone were to say to you in those moments of despair and feeling that all hope is lost, “Do not fear, only believe,” you might just want to walk away.  You might want to tell them to go to a place where the sun never shines.  When we have reached the end of our ropes, these are more than likely the LAST words that we want to hear, because we often feel as though any faith we had, had failed us. 

 

So what DO we believe in when we reach the end of our ropes?  Many of us these days have a really difficult time believing in miracles.  When life brings us something so painful, life-changing, so devastating that it feels like we’ve gone beyond what we can endure in this life, then what?  For many of us, if we’re going to be really honest, we’d have to  admit that our faith tends to evaporate.  That tiny mustard seed that we were nurturing seems to have shriveled up and died in the heat of despair.  But is there some way to face this kind of life-altering loss without giving up on our faith?  Can we believe in something or someone when we feel like there is absolutely nothing left to believe in?

 

Jesus does not disappoint, he continues to the house, he is not afraid, nor does he believe in the lies fear is attempting to spread around. 

 

Because THIS is exactly what Jesus calls us to do.  Jesus calls us to “not fear, only believe.”  But how Jesus?  Well we might have to start with the people around us.  We can believe in the people who continue to show us love, compassion and support, you know the people who walk through the very shadowy valley with us.  They don’t say, “ok well see you on the other side” instead they say, “let me walk with you.  lean on me, I am here.”

 

When I was in college, I was in a sorority.  Now I had never planned on joining such an organization, it was all too stereotypical college and valley, “for sure”, but I can say it was a great decision, that has given me support long past those four years in college.  There have been multiple times when I have reached out to these those ladies for advice, for support, for comradery.  The bond between my little sister, Lauren, and me is one that I could never have prayed for.  This past week alone, I reached out them, and boy was I glad they were there, even if we are all spread across the country now.  Another sister, who I have not actually met, posted that she was feeling like things were pretty awful about something that had come to an end in her life and now she was feeling helpless and hopeless, she was at the end of her rope, and needed to rely on the bond that binds us together for support.  We rallied together, sisters  and friends, showing her support and love.  It was and is beautiful the way we can see new beginnings in the midst of endings, no matter how painful they might be. 

 

Ultimately, we can believe that something good can come from the worst possible situations.  God has not set us on this path alone.  God has given us family, friends, a church family that is bound together in the very life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  God did not set us on this earth alone, but instead walks alongside of us through it all, gives us his robe to hold on to, pulls us beyond our fear, so that we might see the possibility.

 

In those moments, when we are pressed beyond our limits, we have a choice to make.  We can choose to pull the covers over our heads, isolate ourselves, and try to escape from it all.  Or we can embrace what we’re feeling and move forward in faith that God can and does have a future for us.  Just because we are in the darkest valley, does not mean that our lives are over.  It might just mean that our lives are just about to being!  If we can only believe, and let Jesus be the one to break down the boundaries, and open our hearts to see the new, endless possibilities.  This might just be the greatest miracle of all!  AMEN.

 

 

 

 

 

August 21, 2018

 

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Worship Service 11:00AM

Adult Sunday School 9:45AM

Children's Sunday School - starting again September 9


 

   

 August 19, 2018 - Summer Worship

 

 

 

 

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