The Parade of Advent

I’ve always liked the wit who came up with this charmer: “If you are being run out of town, get in front of everybody and make it look like a parade.”

Our selected texts are full of Biblical characters, e.g., prophets, John the Baptist, the adult Jesus, Job, people healed of deafness, blindness, all in a movement toward something better. A parade, to emphasize the drama of it all, toward an End Point of God’s eternal reign. And, unlike most parades, all have a rough time getting through it all, and two, John the Baptist and Jesus die!

This kind of parade is not exactly what we will see locally as we head toward Christmas in Middle Tennessee! But, the thing to watch for in our ADVENT parade is the wide diversity of characters. Much like a modern Christmas parade there will be many different participants from bands to floats, from horses to tractors, from a band that looks alike in uniform but play very different instruments! But all headed in the same direction!

Advent is like that. All of us are to a great extent quite different. But, each one is called to join the Kingdom of God journey toward wholeness, toward salvation. Like children excitedly thinking about holiday school break and those presents under a tree, all ages should be excited to be in the Advent parade. And excited to invite others in all their differences to come along for the journey toward the meaning of Christmas. Isaiah sums up that meaning very well when he writes, “They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Isaiah 35:10.

Blessings as we worship on this coming 3rd Sunday of Advent!

Pastor Barry

Gatlinburg, Wilderness, and One Shouting

Most of us native Tennesseans and local transplanted folks from all over the USA have felt the horror and the sadness coming from East Tennessee ridges, woodlands, towns, and homes in flames. And closer to home we have tornadoes! So called natural disasters are hard to bear. And the human element of arson brings forth feelings of anger as well.

Such thoughts, feelings, and images are not those of Christmas. And no more so for Advent either. Except that our texts for this Second Sunday in Advent include numerous images of nature, animals, and wildness in John the Baptizer! And the final reconciliation of all nature in Isaiah AND reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles by the time we hear from Paul in Romans 15! Things do get better!

Good enough reasons to go to worship! Good enough reasons to read the Bible! These are great “helpers” in coming to grips with our multiple sadnesss and angers and pains in this Fallen World. In hearing and also doing the Word, e.g. disaster responses by thousands of Tennesseans and others, we find ourselves able to “keep on keeping on.” This is the walking by faith and not by sight!

It is always a long ways to Bethlehem, going through all types of wilderness and dangers, but we never walk alone! Grab someone’s hand! Give of your time and talents. If you are blessed, be a blessing to someone in need!

Thanks be to God!

Pastor Barry

Isaiah Day People in a Roman Night World

The days of Noah were ordinary days according to Matthew 24:36-44. I suppose like this week in the USA. Multitudes will be doing what comes ordinarily and routinely this month: Thanksgiving and all that which goes with genuine thankfulness. Prayer, not taking each other for granted, and seeing to it that others get to the turkey first! And close on the heels of Thanksgiving comes the rush of Christmas as a cultural event loaded with both heavenly and ordinary earthly meaning.

The bible texts here for the first Sunday in Advent won’t let us settle for the “ordinary.” These positive Thanksgiving and Christmas characteristics are fine and good, but God is always asking us to “watch, wait, and prepare, for Gods next Big Thing.” The preparation is often a mere matter of attending to the details of the present! Being aware! Keeping alert. Loving the neighbor in the moment. Going deeper than all the commercial aspects of the next four weeks leading to Christmas giving and receiving, Christmas stress and busyness. This will require some intentional time spent in prayer AND action….for oneself and one’s neighbor (who could be anyone you come into relationship with in the next four weeks!). A tall order! Almost like the formidable tasks of shopping, parties, travel, and food preparation!

But, unlike the folks of Noah’s time, you are both ordinary AND extraordinary. You ARE the church! You ARE the Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22, 23) in the world. You are prepared for or, at least, “in preparation” for the Coming of The Lord!”

Happy expectant Advent Season!

Shepherds and Indians

I tried but I could not find a way to title this sermon “Cowboys and Indians!” Working with the “bad” shepherds of Jeremiah and the Samaritans of John 4 (as Indians!) will be stretching it as it is!

This Sunday we will have a different emphasis at each of our two congregations using the same texts. At Locks Memorial we will focus on Native American Sunday, while at Kedron we will highlight Bible Sunday. But both Native Americans and Bible Sunday will be in both sermons. The Colossians text should help us pull them a bit closer together. So, if this tweaks your curiosity as to “how will pastor pull this off,” read the texts several times ahead of time!

I hope to speak to the vast influence of the Bible on many cultures, and on Christ’s presence at all times past, present, and future. And how any wicked preachers, terrible Kings, false prophets, bad leaders (I.e. shepherds”) cannot thwart God’s plan or God’s ultimate outcome for Jews and Gentiles alike!

That should be Good News since there is too often a surplus of bad, woeful, despairing news. I hope we can find reason to again celebrate and have hope on November 20th. And don’t be surprised if I find room for The Gettysburg Address! I see that it was delivered on NOVEMBER 19 (!) in 1863! Speaking of a terrible time in history and a great leader and…….

Blessings too on your weekend and your upcoming Thanksgiving week!

Pastor Barry

Jerusalem The End

For some this past Tuesday, Election Day, it was the End. For others, it felt like a new beginning. If the other candidate had won, just the opposite feeling would have descended on those on the other side!

At least for a season we put a lot of stock in national outcomes. This figures no less in the Bible. We look toward Washington DC as that location where our nation’s wellbeing and future is decided. The prophets, the Psalmist, and the New Testament writers continually look to Jerusalem as the location and symbol for God’s unfolding of all purpose and meaning for all Creation. As Jerusalem goes, so goes the whole world! In God’s ultimate deliverance of the beloved people of God all nature is restored with Peace as are all humankind finally complete and beyond suffering and death. We long for God to bring us home to the holy city Jerusalem! Thus, we live not so much from out of our past but toward our Blessed End!

As we move toward that Blessed End we still have days of worship, celebration, honor, and memory…such as Nov 13, 2016. Since we are still caught in Time not Eternity we pause to note: All Our Veterans, The Vietnam War Era Veterans, The Worldwide Persecuted Church, Organ and Tissue Donation Sunday and Our Every Four Year National Election.

We are headed toward a God transformed Jerusalem and a New Heaven and a New Earth but in route there we have much to do here! So, drawn by the promise of a Great Future we live our day to day, year to year lives with days just “packed” with meaning and purpose! This time of year is just that kind of “day!”

Join together this Sunday to hope, to honor, and to remember!

Blessings!

Pastor Barry

All Saints and Sadducees!?

We overwhelmingly want more of life either to continue the good life we have had or…another life to make up for the pain and suffering experienced perhaps year after year in this life. The Sadducees of Jesus’ time were oddly advocates for no Resurrection of the dead. They did not yearn for another life to continue or make up for this troubled one. They followed only the first five books of our Old Testament (The Pentateuch) and argued in clever ways against Jesus and, once again, oddly the Pharisees who also believed in Resurrection. The Sadducees seem almost modern in that so many in our own time disregard Eternal Life!

On All Saints Sunday we recognize not only the impact of the departed faithful upon our lives, but we trust them to the God of the living, the people of the Resurrected Lord who does not leave us to Death. This dimension of our faith is always subject to questions that surround us in loss and grief and absence. The cemeteries “seem” to remain as they are.

Christian Faith says otherwise at the very depth of our being. But, we are NOT Sadducees worrying about the peculiarities of translating this life into the Next! All that going on about who is married to whom in the Resurrection! There is always a healthy curiosity but we have little business speculating about it. That is finally God’s “business! And that is good!

So, let’s come in faith, hear the Scriptures read to fill us with trust, and remember and honor our dear departed saints. They live!
Blessings! Mazel Tov!

Pastor Barry

Zaccheus is Everywhere!

Joy was a very small person, a midget. Dawn was large for her age all through elementary school. Roy was known to wear a pajama top to high school and kept to himself. Guy moved into our small community as a Junior and was slow to find friends.
Riki was an African American one of maybe two in our graduating class in the late Sixties! Dan and his parents were the only Jews I knew of in our small town until I moved away to college. I always had to wear “husky” size jeans! Well, almost always…..

All of the above felt excluded from others at times for a wide range of reasons. All were often in the minority in social situations at pivotal ages of development. All had their character shaped by either social, physical, mental, economic factors very much out of their power to quickly change or adapt to. And that brings us to the “larger than life” Zaccharus in Luke 19. Small of stature, in a job most local people despised, and an admitted sinner, he was living life on the margin and needed a life change! He sought it by climbing a tree so he could see over taller people than he! And the “tallest” of Men came his way. Jesus of Nazareth In every age, every place people feel left out, overlooked, disadvantaged, different, and down! Jesus NEVER excluded anyone for the above reasons! Jesus knew all were sinners but that all had come into a Fallen world, affected by temptations, hurt by social injustices, impacted by the sins of others. Jesus came to all and invited life change and a “abundant life” (John 10:10) in spite of all the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and our sinful nature.

Jesus loves us! Jesus saves! We have heard this and believe this! May we share this to others in word and in deed who feel left on the “outside of life.”

Blessings on our way to All Saints Day! Be a “Saint” to somebody today!

Pastor Barry

Autumn All Stars & Scars

The next three weeks are leading up to a momentous election….maybe! And three Sundays ahead we will arrive at a momentous Sunday worship that remembers the Saints. In our case, that is all the faithful that have gone before us. Those dear departed. Friends and family, neighbors and colleagues, saints that were also sinners!

The people that helped make us who we are today as individuals, communities, and Church. Gone but not to be forgotten. We will remember and honor. On November 6 we will celebrate All Saints Sunday. But to get there we will have some preparation. We will hear about some history of our churches, the past and the foundations that were laid for us to continue to build upon.

We rightly hear from the prophet Joel about God’s intentions centuries ago and how we are still connected to those promises. We will hear of the fundamental attitude to have before God as Jesus tells us about a “righteous” Pharisee and a “sinful” tax collector. Paul will look both backward and forward to the “race he has run” and will also name his teammates that he ran with!!

We are indeed surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses.” Let’s recall them and others for the next three Sundays! Remembering some of the most momentous members of our marvelous God Given moments on earth!

See you for all Sundays three….I hope!

Pastor Barry

Hope Is That Thing With Feathers

While watching various news updates tonight, I turned to my son and said, “It can’t be any worse in four years can it than it is now?” I was referring to the current ugly election cycle. And way ahead to 2020. But I was also thinking of the flooding in North Carolina, violence around the nation, and anxiety visited upon many locally with illness and family concerns.

For most of us, we get “down” over current events as well as anxious about the future. It comes and goes. If one stays in such states of mind for too long, medications or counseling are often necessary! Thank God for both when required.

The scriptures that address us this Sunday could have been written this past week! They are about persistence in prayer (Luke), sound teaching (2 Timothy), and hope in God’s promises (Jeremiah). I would like to think we are a gathered people who hear such words often enough that we have real hope in the future regardless of changing circumstances. And with hearing the Word, “cometh faith.”

It should make a difference in how we live in the present and how we approach the future whatever the “news” tells us! I think I will switch over to a different “news reporting”…..Good News channel!

As Paul often says: “Grace and Peace to you!”

Pastor Barry

Psalm 148 A Psalm of the Creator

“What could be more exciting than an October day? It’s your birthday, 4th ofJuly, and Christmas all rolled into one!” – Peggy T. Horton

I think Ms. Horton is very fond of October. It sure seems an exaggeration, but I agree there are reasons to be excited about that middle month of Fall. At least in Tennessee, the weather of day and night nears perfection, frost will take care of ragweed pollen, and trees will break into color! Plus, we get football, the World Series, pumpkins, and school and community festivals of all kinds.

And for the Church, she has a month bordered by World Communion Sunday and lastly All Saints Eve. These are well placed to remind us of our Christian worldwide fellowship in the midst of all our Endings. The saints commune and serve on earth and rejoice eternally in Heaven at the Kingdom Banquet Table. That combination is hard to beat!

There is still “much trouble afoot” and we need days like Halloween to help us take both seriously as well as “lightly in costume” our mortal condition.

Try to make the most of a month that shows us and speaks to us of the depths and heights of life made possible by the Creator in Psalm 148 who revels in all Creation! Enjoy the month!

See you in church as well as your “being the church!”

Fall Blessings!

Pastor Barry