Go Figure!

This week we will hear about civil disobedience. By midwives. In ancient Egypt. We will also get reassurance that “the gates of hell will not prevail against” the church. When Jesus spoke of gates the people would likely have images of gates that were strongholds of not only local cities but also powerful oppressive Rome. Jesus has confidence in the “church” he is building with the faith of disciples such as Peter. And lastly we are encouraged by Paul who stresses the “renewing of our minds” so as to be “transformed” so we can “figure out” what God’s will is for us. In other words, don’t be afraid to THINK! Just do the kind of thinking that leads to what is “good, pleasing, and mature.”

I was greatly encouraged by these scriptures! After the last few weeks of civic turmoil and international fear and anxiety, I felt that God shows us we will be given strength of mind and will and community to get through crisis; to be given the means to “figure this all out!”

Of course, the captive Hebrews in Egypt, Peter and the other disciples, and Paul the missionary to a wide cultural range of non Jews (Gentiles) still have a long walk of faith and witness ahead of them! But, God promises to meet the needs of the “will, the mind, and the body of believers” to find a way through crisis and uncertainty.

We may not be captive in Egypt nor subject to the “hellish gates of powerful Rome,” but there are challenges enough in 2017 America and in Middle Tennessee and in our personal lives! God says to God’s people…..”you can do this!”

Thanks be to God~+

See you Sunday!

Pastor Barry

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Solar or Lunar?

August, a month of changing light. Gradual but you begin to notice evening comes on and the house lights come on sooner. August 21, 2017 and many Tennesseans (and visitors) will catch the total or partial eclipse.

What better time to read scriptures that speak of light and the Light! And whether personal or family, local or national, nation or international we struggle with darkness, that which makes our life journey questionable, uncertain, fearful. Light and dark. It’s the way we learn to trust in God. And, in turn, share that trust with others also struggling to find their way in the dark.

As Edith Wharton said, “There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” For Christians we reflect Christ. We point to the True Candle.

Since we are less than all we can be and never quite the witness we are called to be each day, we need to be reminded that though not perfect we should

“Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”
Leonard Cohen

God is all about using us, the cracked imperfect, to help bring about light where there is darkness.

“Turn on your love light!”

Pastor Barry

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Rescue Me! (And the World)!

Rescue me! Save me! At some point, in a lifetime, these words will be said. An actual situation will arise both earthly and…spiritually. And maybe more than once!

If you haven’t seen the current movie DUNKIRK, you might want to see it since it’s all about an intense earthly rescue of some 400,000 British and French troops trapped at the beach village during WWII. The rescuing was done mostly by….civilians bringing their own boats to the rescue. Great acts of courage and faith; in rough waters under battle conditions. So it is also depicted in the continuing story of Jacob and his children. Joseph, the youngest, is done in by his jealous brothers! Is he lost? Down a well!

Paul in Romans 10 is still struggling with God’s rescue of both Jew and Gentile. And Jesus, once again, demonstrates to his fearful disciples that He is able to save in rough waters.

No one ultimately can save themselves. No one is “captain of their own soul.” We all need help, we all need each other, we all need a Savior.
And we need reminding! So, we can steer our flimsy boats toward the One who can make a safe harbor and finally bring us home! Bring us all home together!

Yes, go see the movie. And go to Jesus in whom God has acted for our sakes and not ours only, but for the whole Creation, the World God so loved!


Pastor Barry

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Wrestling, Struggling, Meal Planning

Our OT readings continue with Jacob and his journeys. He wrestles with an angel (?), a man (?), God (?). I’m glad Jacob was in good shape as this match went on for some time!

In our passage in Romans, Paul too has both an emotional and intellectual struggle: how can it be that Israel, God’s chosen given the promises, the Law, the Prophets, can’t see God’s new work in Jesus the Christ? And this very Jesus, in Matthew, upon hearing of John the Baptist’s brutal death, withdraws to himself in a lonely desert place. But, quickly he will have to struggle with the needs of the ill and hungry crowds that follow him. AND his slow-to-learn disciples!

The walk of faith is not without its struggles. Almost everyone likes it when “all is well,” and we are at “ease in Zion.” That works but doesn’t work all the time! When the wrestling with God and with people comes upon us we better be well nourished and in some measure of “good shape.” Are you strong enough to wrestle like Jacob? Are we willing to put our minds to work like Paul and study and receive from God’s word?

Finally, are we willing to humbly be fed spiritually when in the desert, in a lonely place, when with others “sick” and hungry as are we? Good questions perhaps. To answer them may require a measure of faithful perseverance and sharing this together with others wrestling with God as well!

Don’t be afraid! Jacob, Paul, and the disciples made it, climbing out “of the ring” victorious, and one day, indeed, sitting down for a truly heavenly banquet!

May it be true for us as well….as we wrestle with God……

Pastor Barry

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Jacob Gets His Comeuppance

The stories of Jacob and his complicated, messed up family seem endlessly fascinating. It’s almost like a modern family TV sit-com…..if only it was a lot funnier! And we also look in the mirror often and we may well see a version of Jacob staring back at us!

This week (see last week’s sermon) Jacob is tricked and his response is clearly not “God is in this place and I did not know it!!” And I doubt he could have said to himself, Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good, for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” Of course, Jacob didn’t have the New Testament! And Jacob HAS laid the groundwork for trickery by using it on his father Isaac and brother Esau. “What goes around comes around….or something like that.” Jacob still gets what he desires but definitely the hard way. And his remaining life story won’t get much easier either as we continue to read to his end.

We are all somewhere in our unfinished story. If things are going well, “great,” if not so much, we are “anxious or miserable.” Or somewhere in between. The range of human emotions contains a lot of different feelings and thoughts!

Nevertheless, we get wise counsel in Scripture, wiser than anywhere else. After all, it does show us The Big Picture and how much faith (“trust”) is at the center of that Picture. (“I trust this movie has a happy ending?”).

If you are like me and Jacob, you too need reminding from time to time: there is more to my life story….and God’s Story!

Let’s listen in this coming Sunday! See you soon!

Pastor Barry

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Perchance To Dream, To Reap, To Be Saved In Hope

In all my teen years as a Boy Scout, and all the camping out that included, I can’t ever remember using a stone as a pillow! Jacob does in the Genesis passage! How could he have slept?! Comfortably?!

He indeed slept enough to have a vivid dream of a stairway to heaven. With angels descending and ascending. And God coming before him with a promise! He awoke and made a point to really remember THAT place!

Paul speaks of a different way of using the word “dream.” More like hoping for what comes next. And Paul says we are “saved in hope” (Romans 8:24). We are people who dream for a wonderful future, and keep the hope alive. And this according to God who repeatedly makes this promise throughout the Bible.

Jesus again makes this point about the future and living in hope when he talks about sowing, harvesting, wheat and thistles.

To this good End we should not lose hope! And in this “dreaming” our present life can be exciting and fruitful, adventuresome and engaging with God. We can even now have great dreams even if the “hard rocks” (hard knocks?) of life make it difficult at times to rest peacefully.

Don’t you just love reading and resting and “camping out” in scripture!

Put on your Scout hat this Sunday and head for church!

Until then….sleep well!

Pastor Barry

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If You Would Just Listen!

We tend to believe that if we speak the truth about something to someone….and they really listened….why, then they would “see the light” and do what they should do! THAT tends NOT to be the way it usually happens. Something gets in the way of the “light” or the “truth” as we believe we have so clearly demonstrated. And thus…the frustration of parents, teachers, coaches, and…..preachers.

Our scripture this Sunday is all about that which “gets in the way.” Esau’s issue is hunger and a disrespect for a birthright! Paul’s issue is the “flesh” better translated “self-centeredness” (CEB). And Jesus mentions “birds, rocky soil, and thorns” which get in the way of hearing and seeing and doing! (Jesus “translates” these later on in Matthew 13. A big help by the way).

So, it’s always something interfering between us and God, or if you like, between you and me and the people around us who won’t listen (!!). Maybe it will help to name them! Rick Warren of The Purpose Driven Life book said that he needed to repeat the “basics” about every nine months. People tend to forget and drift away from the foundations. In our case this Sunday we are to be reminded of that which comes between us and God. Foundational information!

Listen up! (I’m talking to me too!).

See you Sunday!

Pastor Barry

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Who Doesn’t Need Help!

The group The Beatles ruled the music charts for much of the late Sixties. Their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is now 50 years old! Some of us grew up with the Beatles and know several songs from heart. They even had a song entitled “Help” and had a movie released entitled HELP. And they famously sang a song “I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends.”

You may get my drift! The texts today are about the NEED for help. Divine help. People in need. Paul, in Romans 7 cries out that he is a “wretched man” and who will rescue him! Jesus in Matthew 11 knows people labor hard in both body and spirit and that they will find “rest for their souls” in Him.

We all need help at points throughout our life’s journey. As self-sufficient as we strive to be we will learn that self-sufficiency is rarely accomplished. It can work…for a while…. but it can’t work forever! We are interdependent and we all need a Savior beyond ourselves.

Thanks be to God who helps!

Let us come together Sunday to worship the One who is our helper.


Brother Barry

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Let Us Be Free

July 4th is two days after our worship of God on July 2. Independence Day tends to be a full-fledged national celebration with fireworks, outdoor food and fun. We celebrate having become an independent nation. No longer a colony of another nation.

In church, we will see what Moses, Paul, and Jesus say about our attempts to be “independent and free.” Sure as the world (and Garden of Eden, and first century religious life), the notion of freedom takes on different meanings from our July 4th history. Or do the two overlap or relate somehow?!

When Paul says “For freedom, Christ has set you free,” what can that mean to citizens of the USA after being a colony? And how close to our Declaration of Independence is Jesus when he says, “The truth will set you free?”

Freedom will always mean something a bit different from nation to nation and age to age. But, as people of Christian Faith we look to Jesus for the deepest understandings about freedom from the power of Sin and Death, from the Fallen World and freedom for The Kingdom of God. When we celebrate Holy Communion is that not a Declaration of Freedom?

This Sunday from both pulpit and from God’s Table we will celebrate freedom!

See you Sunday in both Red, White and Blue as well as our Liturgical colors of Green and White! Fireworks indeed!

May summer blessings continue!

Pastor Barry

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Saddle Bags, Back Packs, the Gospel Trail

This Sunday the third Sunday after Pentecost, the scriptures are Genesis 21:8-21, Romans 6:1-11 and Matthew 10:24-39.

None of these scriptures are about rest and relaxation! Hey, it’s Summer vacation time, you say!? How about passages for going on family trips, time away from work and school? Time for play and excitement of freedom!

Actually…. a case can be made for such with the Genesis, Matthew, and Romans texts. Or at least a few days out, the effort is being made! All these involve a sense of journey, a sense of God’s calling us to nothing less than a full life, a full scale adventure involving all ages and all types of families and stages of life.

It does require getting in the saddle, packing the back pack, preparing to go somewhere! Think of a Westward movement, a trip to the frontier, to something of an Undiscovered Country!

As many of you know, LeNoir and I just returned from a trip to Colorado. That’s out West! We went up into the old silver mine mountains. Rode an old smoky train through rough gorges and across mountain streams. We saw a museum exhibit about Art and Cinema in telling the story of the Westward movement. And on Sunday, during Children’s Time, there may be people with a Western heritage telling us stories of The Wild West! Well, not wild like the 1800s, but close!

How does this fit with our scripture? I just say read and there will be a real sense of adventure and discovery not unlike stories of adventure we have heard from the USA West!

Let’s say this is what we are looking for…..God being our helper!

Blessings pardners!

Pastor Barry

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