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

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

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

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

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.

Blessings~†

Brother Barry

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

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

Dancing, Singing, Shouting, Praising

Psalm 100 is a dancing, singing, shouting, praising, happy day kind of scripture. On our best days we can easily relate to such joy in the Lord. To hear God’s love endures forever (v.5) and God’s faithfulness is for ALL generations, we feel secure for ourselves and for our future loved ones.

Romans 5:1-8 is dense. Thick with meaning in every verse. I usually need to read s-l-o-w-l-y and then go back and reread. And the images are painful: dying, suffering, being ungodly, powerless, sinners. It’s a good thing (also joyful and worthy of dancing and shouting) that Jesus died for us to overcome those painful realities within us and around us in others.

It’s like mixing oil and water, day and night, pepper and salt, and somehow all come together in Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection for OUR benefit….altho there is nothing in us that would ordinarily be worthy of someone dying for us. You have to use the word “extraordinary.”

Our preacher this Sunday is Connor Williams of Brentwood UMC, seminarian at Wesley Seminary in Washington, DC. He is a summer Intern at MTSU Wesley Foundation and over at Fellowship UMC. This local young man is on that remarkable journey where he walks between happy Psalm 100 and dense, thick, deep scripture like the book of Romans! As a ministerial student dedicated to a life time of bible study and ministry, of moving in and through our faith as well as earthly moments that try our faith, he comes to be with us.

Pray for him these next few days and be sure to read these passages in preparation for his sermon before you worship on Sunday. He will put in his preparation time and will appreciate and benefit from your worshipful participation and even your constructive “feedback.” In due time, and in our connectional church life he might well be your pastor someday! You are helping prepare the way for him to be among us into another generation. God doesn’t call the qualified, God qualifies the called! (By the way…that includes laity as much as clergy!). So, we are all students of God’s word hoping to find our way together for shouting and singing, and for being free from sin’s hold on us and death’s power over us!

God bless us all, in all generations!

Pastor Barry

Predators, Perfection, and Brentwood

Not all follow hockey. Not all are perfect. Only some will go to Brentwood UMC June 11-13 for The Tennessee Annual Conference. But all of the above come together in some way in our three scripture readings this Sunday. Even if you don’t follow the Nashville Preds you are probably aware that this team is on the verge of possibly winning the Stanley Cup within the next week. Even if you don’t imagine yourself being made perfect, your future (and present) preachers vow to that goal when asked the question next week when standing before the Bishop, Lay, and Clergy Delegates. And Brentwood UMC hosts thousands of Methodists striving to spread Good News and make disciples as in Matthew 28:16-20.

“Pastor,” you may ask? “What does a professional hockey team have to do with us as Christians, as Methodists?” Well….I am working on that! The Bible says a lot about “being in the world but not of it.” But “God so loved the world!” And Jesus said “Go into all the world….and make disciples.” He also said “Be ye therefore perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

This is a lot to prayerfully ponder! Read the scriptures before you come to worship this Sunday and see where the Spirit leads you in thinking about YOUR being part of the Great Commission, being a United Methodist, and whether or not you “could” be a Predators fan, a fan of a Tennessee team possibly about to be “perfect!” If only the Church were perfect(!). If so, it will be the work of God more than us~†

Blessings as you pray, read, and “go into all the world.”

Pastor Barry

Who Is Driving This Accord?

In one accord? All in agreement say “aye.” “Nay,” the same.

Most congregations agree on most matters and then comes a season where there are some “nays.”

The early first century church was no different nor has it been for over 2000 years. But, still the church persists. And serves. And worships God. Paul and the other epistle writers reveal both the unity and diversity of the congregations in the early years of the Christian Faith. Jews and Gentiles had to learn how to eat together (literally) and Romans and Greeks, slave and free, male and female had to love one another so as to be one “Body of Christ,” the Church.

Something we have to grow into in each generation it seems! The mark of a true church may be in how lovingly it agrees to disagree. Now that has to be the work of the Spirit! And that may be the one accord we can hope for. Love.

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday and we praise the Holy Spirit and our being “one in the Spirit” when we are at our best in “being the church!” Whether you come in a Honda or in a Ford or in a Dodge let us pray we are in “one accord!”

Blessings!

Pastor Barry