Just What Do I Do With That?!

Jeremiah 1:4-10, I Corinthians 13:1-13 and Luke 4:21-30

Whether we hear well or not, we attend to people every day bringing each of us a message. Someone in school, work, government, church, media, community or in mission has something to say to us.

It sure seems like the person of faith, a follower of Jesus, would be “listening up” each day for a message, a guidance, from God. It might be when you read a devotional, study the Bible, attend worship or join a time of fellowship. A Word for you is available.

Our three lectionary scriptures bring us a diversity of messages. Jeremiah says first you need a messenger. God calls preachers, prophets, and laity to bring a word from God by words and deeds. And we might get the “gold standard” of all scriptural messages, the love chapter in Corinthians.

When we do this kind of love then surely the “Kingdom of God is in our midst.” But some words from God through Jesus may well “set some people off!” The passage in Luke says after Jesus spoke in the synagogue some wanted to throw him off a cliff!!

Message, proclaimer, and response. Love of God, neighbor, and self is the ultimate but HOW that is spelled out may take many paths and may get all sorts of reactions. This can all be quite challenging but does make for an interesting, exciting, meaningful life!

So, let’s “listen in” this Sunday worship and other message moments and see what responses appear during the days ahead!

Blessings!!

Pastor Barry †

From Purification to Party

Isaiah 62:1-5, I Corinthians 12:1-11 and John 2:1-11

The Gospel of John presents Jesus beginning his ministry during a wedding, a joyous occasion in most any culture. Jesus is present with both his mother Mary and his new group of followers, his disciples.

This helps us draw close to his humanity and see how he affirms the people, places and moments in daily life. He doesn’t remove himself from the world we know but finds ways to bless and encourage.

As the week long tradition draws to a close, the wedding beverages are noticed to be in short supply. Jesus meets a relatively minor need using the divine power within himself. Why not help the hosts of the wedding? No reason for them to be embarrassed by a lack of wine.

What should also strike us as remarkable is His use of water reserved for ritual purification! The ritual washing of hands and even clothing was ever present so as not to violate proper cleanliness to honor God the holy. The water was required and necessary as well. Will there be enough ritual water now?!

From routine water for washing comes good wine not second rate wine! The time is still ongoing for celebrating the wedding couple and the extended family and community. “Enjoy,” says Jesus. Purification is fine in its place but celebration goes one better than being ritually clean! Abundant life indeed! (anticipating the abundant life of John 10:10).

Here is a profound message for all of us including Mary the proud mother, his new followers, the larger wedding party, and us today. God is able and willing to emphasize the good things in this world which is the Creation of God to begin with!

Blessings in the reading and hearing of this Word from God!

Pastor Barry †

Baptism- Road Sign?

Isaiah 43:1-7, Acts 8:14-17 and Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

On January 9th the first Sunday after the Epiphany, we celebrate Baptism of our Lord. Our sermon title is Baptism – Road Sign? The scriptures are Isaiah 43:1-7, Acts 8:14-17 and Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Worship this Sunday will include the Luke passage about the baptism of Jesus. We in turn will renew our congregational Baptismal Covenant.

We as United Methodists recognize two Sacraments, Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. Both are “outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace.” One marks a beginning of a journey and the other is like “food” throughout the journey. We are people who have “signpost.” Those moments and events which point us in a direction.

The road of life needs markers and means of guidance. God has supplied us with at least two through life in the church. Gratitude and humility and service are our response. All people need guidance. Some are reluctant to ask and try to go it alone. Sometimes a false pride in our own power and strength blinds us to our dependence upon the Creator, the Savior.

It’s interesting that on January 9, 1928 in Nashville, TN “The Seeing Eye,” the first school to train dogs to guide the blind was opened. We are all spiritually impaired and need guidance. We all need guidance on January 9, 2022 and onward. Baptism by “water and the Spirit and fire” is intended to open our spiritual eyes and help us see throughout this world and beyond.

God bless us as we celebrate our Lord’s own Baptism and renew our congregational covenant in this New Year.

Pastor Barry †

Sitting With Moses and Jesus at Kohl’s

Psalm 147:12-20, Ephesians 1:3-14 and John 1:1-18

Our first Sunday in 2022 brings us Holy Communion and a meditation upon Law and Gospel. It is right and good to ask between Christmas and Epiphany (Jan 6) just WHAT did Christ bring that Moses did not?!

John 1 clearly says Moses brought the Law while Jesus brought Grace and Truth. All are good but there are differences and what better time to review those differences than as a New Year rolls in! We tend to compare and contrast the past year with the hopes for the New One. We can do something similar with Law and Gospel.

I came upon the sermon title while sitting at the entrance to Kohl’s department store on the last Wednesday in 2021. Some 20 minutes to observe quietly the comings and goings and the setting of that moment. I highly recommend just sitting and observing whenever you get the opportunity!! Invariably you can discover something spiritual in those moments! All I will hint at now is the image of Moses and Jesus and I sitting on the benches going into Kohl’s! If you can, do something similar before worship this Sunday January 2!

Blessings on your observations upon the New Year 2022 this coming week.

Pastor Barry †

0h, Kids Today!

I Samuel 2:18-20, 26, Colossians 3:12-17 and Luke 2:41-52

We often hear it said, “Christmas is about the children.” True enough. But kids keep growing and the Christmases add up! What would you hope has stayed with you as you remember your childhood? Or with any child, teen, or now an adult?

Our texts point to two examples in the boy Samuel and the almost teen Jesus. And Colossians just about sums up what most any of us would hope for past the presents, gifts, parties, and fun of the holiday. It’s a holy life that is not so much “pious” as it is practical in its influence upon others. A life fulfilled and complete when words and deeds come together such that love is the result. Care and empathy shine forth.

Prophets, kings, apostles, disciples all participate in “holy living” but only to a degree. Ultimately we only have the Life, Death, Resurrection of Jesus to point to as holy. Thus, we are followers of perfect love as imperfect as we are. To aspire to love and to do so in faith is our calling.

But it’s great to have even those imperfect examples. At most any age, kids on up! Most people, in their imperfection and uniqueness leave some of the impact of their talent with us. We can be grateful for that. And always look to Jesus as the perfected love that sustains us forever.

May your Christmas Season be meaningful!

Pastor Barry †

Christmas Worship Program

Micah 5:2-5a and Luke 1:39-55

Stories and songs will abound this Sunday as we gather in worship. Ours is a sung faith and we repeat the stories of our Christian faith. Many different voices will be heard in our sanctuaries, yet all recalling the days some 2000 years ago. And how that Story still gives new life today!

Both congregations will receive the Word through much congregational participation. Christmas stories have been with most of us from childhood. And in turn we relive them and we pass along to all ages in our adult years.

Mary, Joseph, a baby in a manger, shepherds, angels and magi never seem to grow old.

So, join us as you can this Sunday, whether in-person or on-line, as our Advent prepares us one more week as we soon celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

Blessings~~~!

Pastor Barry †

John Lewis Collins Jones! Come Here…. Now! I Love You!

Zephaniah 3:14-20, Philippians 4:4-7 and Luke 3:7-18

For our Third Sunday in Advent we hear texts that send us both the “loud” and “gentle” voice of God. John the Baptist loudly calls people to repentance for their sins. Paul and Zephaniah tell us God is for us and loves His people.

All this feels familiar to most of us from our childhood. If we hear our full name said in a loud voice we know mother wants our attention and that means now! But just as likely we will hear in the same day a reassurance that we are loved. Both are needed and describe a caring Parent.

And certainly, the character of the One calling to us is of vast importance. What is at the very heart of our Creator, our Heavenly Parent? His wrath is for a season but God’s love for us is everlasting. For both Advent and Christmas, the bottom line is a God who is with us and for us from the cradle to the grave. If that Voice is raised at times it is to get our attention for our sake and the sake of others. God means no harm. And the word to us is “first do no harm.”

The Third Candle we light is the one that reminds us of Mary the mother of Jesus. Here is THE example of a patient, caring parent who has heard from her God and desires to do Gods will because that alone leads to ultimate joy and gladness. As Mary will years later say to the wedding servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”

Receive your Advent invitation to listen and to seek God! Abundant life John 10:10 will follow!

Pastor Barry †

St. Nicolas, a Prophet, Prison

Malachi 3:1-4, Philippians 1:3-11 and Luke 3:1-6

Our second Sunday in Advent will remind us of exemplary people of faith such as St. Nicolas, John the Baptist, St. Paul, and Nelson Mandela. Three of those mentioned spent time in prison.

Not an easy place to enjoy one’s faith! But the life of faith exists in every conceivable location and condition. For this fact alone, we light our Advent Candles to remind us that the Light of the world shines on our path wherever we walk whether in joy or in stress and trouble.

And God celebrates diversity and uniqueness, the many personalities that make up the Body of Christ in the world. When we receive Holy Communion on Sunday it is remarkable that “all are welcome“ is a profound statement. We take the bread and cup at the table as do millions around the world vastly different in cultures, customs, traditions, geographies, and economies. Yet, we are one in Christ!

Let us rejoice in our witness together in word and in deed, doers of the Word not just hearers of the Word only.

Advent Candles, Colors, and Blessings in your spiritual preparation for the birth of Christ!

Pastor Barry †

In Those Days-Waiting and Loving

Jeremiah 33:14-16, I Thessalonians 3:9-13 and Luke 21:25-36

Our first Sunday in the Christian Season is upon us. Just 1 or 2 more days! Then the great waiting until Christmas Eve……then Christmas Day arrives. We perpetually wait. This seems built into human nature and the fact we experience Time. And we have hints and clues as to what lies ahead based on experience, tradition, sacred stories, and reasonable forecasts!

Apparently, the Grand Finale in God’s Creation may well be dramatic and scary. Evil does not give up without a fight! But the Better End is worth the struggle says most all scripture e.g. Jeremiah, Luke, and Paul. There is the Good News worth waiting for.

And any such waiting is not boring or static. It is intended to be an active waiting full of life and joy and love. The full “abundant life” Jesus promises in John 10:10. So, we get both struggle and blessedness in that time we live in before the Eternal that is hard to describe. Let’s work with what we know making the most of what we are given!

We will light the first of four candles this Sunday reminding us of the Light leading us onward over the next few weeks and the rest of our life.

Happy Peaceful Advent to all!

Pastor Barry †