Genesis 32:22-31, Romans 9:1-5 and Matthew 14:13-21
Several will note the professional wrestling reference in the sermon title. WWE (WWF) is one of the most famous wrestling corporations in US history. It struck me that all three of these Bible passages are about “wrestling” (struggling) with someone or something pertaining to the spiritual life.
Jacob wrestles with a “man” (angel?), (God) until Jacob is blessed. But he is also wounded. Paul wrestles and agonizes in Romans with his Jewish heritage, the Old Covenant, his family of origin. Jesus struggles with both the execution of John the Baptist and the demands of the crowds who now flock to Jesus the healer. He needs to be alone for a while in a remote place but the crowds unrelentingly seek him out.
These are examples of “spiritual wrestling.” Wrestling may be the oldest “sport” referred to in the Bible! But here it is not a sport but an intense soul struggle with God and Gods people in a fallen world.
So, this Sunday we will hear references to wrestling entertainment in popular culture as familiar background for far more important spiritual struggles that Jacob, Paul, and Jesus were engaged in. And before we leave worship we will be called to remember our own “soul wrestling” in both our past and in our present.
So, as you know full well John 3:16, some of you will also recall a famous wrestling catchphrase from the Nineties WWE: Austin 3:16 (!). If you are a certain age or had children growing up in that era you may have had to listen and do your best to explain the differences between the Bible passage and Stone Cold Steve Austin’s borrowing 3:16 for his wrestler image. I did!
Read these passages in preparation for worship and consider you own “spiritual wrestling.”
Blessings in your struggles!
Genesis 28:10-19a, Romans 8:12-25 and Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
In Genesis 13, we see the ongoing story of a scoundrel, a family member known for trickery, and having to be “on the run” as a result of his misbehavior. Yet, our text says God shows up for that son-of-a-gun Jacob!
Here one could say the world and the flesh are having a huge impact on family! The devil’s role is subtle to say the least! Jesus speaks about Satan’s work in Matthew 13. Last but not least, Paul calls us all out and says we all walk according to the flesh if we don’t walk by the Spirit.
The terrible trio: the world, the flesh, the devil. No wonder no generation under the sun escapes tribulation! Like Pogo says, “we have met the enemy and it is us!” He’s a third correct! Two thirds correct?
All the more important is the role of the Church and what it offers in contrast to the Three Big Opponents. The Church tells of what the Scriptures say and points to a Savior and to the brothers and sisters of the Savior. All the more reason to Re-examine every Sunday what we the church are all about. We are reminded of our foes and our “weapons and resources” to meet the perpetual challenges that haven’t gone away! Much weaker, yes, but still around!
Let’s show up Sunday and hear the stories of those foes and what God is still up to when we are Christ followers! Who knows….we might become a “Bethel” for ourselves and those we come into contact with!
Come to worship this Sunday either in person or on the “airwaves!” Who knows when God will show us a Jacobs ladder!
Genesis 25:19-34, Romans 8:1-11 and Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Jesus is incredibly patient! He invests in his disciples for a good number of years only to see them falter, fail, flourish, and eventually forgiven. And the “harvest” of that first century planting is going on 2000 years now! The Church of Jesus Christ is still ministering, failing, forgiven, and going forward. It’s a wonder to behold!
The Church has a message of “planting the Gospel seed” here and yon and waiting on the various “soil and souls” to give increase….or not.
It’s both exciting and frustrating.
With six months to go in a rough and questionable 2020, will we the Church keep doing our ongoing “field work” in sharing good/Gospel seed for “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?” How much of a difference will it make in the USA and the world? We can’t say. The “soil” varies from person to person, place to place. We plant, people respond or don’t, and God’s bountiful harvest will still come about in each generation. Until the End.
So, let’s worship the God who is patient with us and with the many, and will bring to pass the Kingdom with “whosoever will!”
See you Sunday in worship!
Zechariah 9:9-12, Romans 6:15-25a and Matthew 11:16-30
What a great expression from Zechariah: “prisoners of hope.” We can’t really escape from Hope or another way of saying, “don’t be afraid!” This is a theme throughout the Bible and we hear it in each generation with its unique troubles and challenges.
July 4th in the USA is now one of celebration and community enjoyment. In 1776 the celebration was tempered by the armed conflict with England. Sic semper tyrannis! The patriots then were very hopeful in spite of going up against British government and its armies! Revolutionary colonists as “prisoners of hope!”
We also find the same theme of hope in Paul’s wrestling with his Sin nature and in Jesus being called a “glutton and drunkard.” Sadly, name calling today is nothing new. We hear or see something in others or in ourselves and we give it a “name” for better or worse! But, the Bible leans toward finding the “positive” name for us and proclaiming the Name that is above every other name!”
Come together this Sunday July 5 and hear your name calling from God. No escape here! You will discover you are a “prisoner of hope.” The rough, troubling Friday arrives, but….Sunday is coming!”
If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2:3-5 NIV
As we begin to resume gathering together in some in-person ways as the church, it doesn’t take long to realize what we’ve been missing. Worshiping together, serving together, and studying together. None have gone away completely, but just some MIA!!
We’re one Sunday into a new season of worship with temporary safety precautions in place during the pandemic. Hopefully we can continue safely until a vaccine or other measures emerge to release us from these restrictions of interactions with each other and the broader public.
As to study…..how are we doing in our lifelong call to “seek, knock, and the door being opened” to Kingdom living? Sunday School at both congregations is soon to find ways to regroup and study Scripture, reason together, share experiences, and build on what others have taught for generation after generation. Kedron’s adult class will resume this Sunday 8:45am June 28. Locks will do likewise before long.
The Tuesday Bible study at Travis Perry’s home will need to completely reconsider time and place since Travis’ is relocating with family. Bless him for his hospitality and teaching over the years!
During the month of July there will be considerations underway as to other options for study together. It feels as though the need is great to be encouraged through the Word and to find inspiration for service and witness!
Ideas and offers are welcome as to times and places. Until then, make it a daily habit to open your Bible and other devotional readings in your home. Share with someone “nearby” and give thanks for that which comes from God! “Call out,” “cry aloud,” “look” and “search” as Proverbs insists! We need that kind of help to continue forward together in this very unusual time.
Blessings in your readings and studies! Bear witness as you can with others!
Genesis 22:1-14, Romans 6:12-23 and Matthew 10:40-42
The experience of father Abraham and son Isaac’s near death by sacrifice moment is both inspiring and disturbing. Not something you would wish upon anyone nor legally would go unpunished today! But, being at the very heart of God’s promise to bless all generations through Abraham, there it is for all to ponder and pray through.
It just so happens that John Wesley’s birthday falls on this Sunday as well as this Genesis text. A birth in 1703 that only became truly momentous some 35 years later when Wesley’s heart was so moved by God that the spiritual movement known as Methodism sprang forth and continues into the 21st century!
Which one of these stories is more appealing and one you can relate to? Even so, in sermon, prayer, song, and witness we will attempt to share both in worship! Who ever said faith was an easy walk! We are asked to hear these stories of faith and to look inward and outward ourselves and to ask, “what saith the Lord to me?!”
We should pray to be challenged and to hear rightly what is good and helpful for each one in a troubled world. How might we be inspired to step up our faith for a full life offered in commitment to God in Jesus Christ!
Perhaps as the week’s unfold in Summer “by our fruits will we be known” as Christians! Let’s do this together not unlike Abraham and Isaac going up Mt Moriah and John Wesley being “strangely warmed in his heart at a prayer meeting on Aldersgate Street in London!
Psalm 86:1-10, Romans 8:31-39 and Matthew 10:24-39
This Sunday has the highlights of our “coming back from a mini-exile,” a recognition of Fathers in our lives, and the official first day of Summer 2020! Cause for celebration! Our return to the sanctuary will be less like a “celebratory parade” but more like a cautious stepping “inside” after an extended absence! We will still be staying “safe” during a time of public health concerns. Some will not be able to join us and will hopefully still be watching our “live streaming” broadcast. It is all a work in progress. It is a walk by faith not by a lot of sight!
And our scriptures and sermon focus on a caring God whatever we are going through. Life can be hard and difficult. The Bible is clear in agreement on that! But nowhere are we to “fear” or feel as though there is no hope. The Psalmist, Paul, and Jesus resoundingly declare God CARES!
Yet, being human as we are…..we have our “moments.” And we seem to be going through a universal “moment” when the path before us and the road ahead are not as clear as we would like.
All the more reason to hear “what saith the Lord.” All the more reason to gather together as we can in person or in whatever means keep us connected! So, “come on in” or “tune in” this Sunday! God has a Word for all of us together in this moment!
“See” you Sunday!
This Friday will be 33 years now since President Ronald Reagan visiting in a divided Berlin, Germany spoke publicly to Soviet leader Gorbachov and said “tear down this wall Mr. Gorbachov.” It took another two years but the Berlin Wall that divided a city and a nation came down and a united democratic Germany was reborn.
Our Gospel is all about breaking down walls between us and God, neighbor and neighbor, Jew and Gentile, differences that falsely lead to conflict and fighting. That’s why Jesus is often referred to as the Mediator (Hebrews 8:6). And blessed are the peacemakers. (Matthew 5:9).
Obviously one of the most difficult tasks for us in the “human condition.” A never ending calling, but one that has produced results and reconciliation throughout God’s creation. How might each of pray about and pray together for this to occur in so many spheres of life in the next half of 2020?! Let us pray to seek reconciliation and peace where we see conflict and division.
Just as the Berlin Wall finally came down to reunite a people, justice accompanied that reconciliation and rebuilding. It is a community process and takes collective and individual patience to see it through. Remember that God is obviously patient with us! Nevertheless, God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven~~~~+
Let’s step out in faith and do and be what God leads us toward…..The Peaceable Kingdom (Isaiah 65:17-25). The lion and the lamb will lie down together!
Psalm 116:1-9, Romans 5:1-8 and Matthew 9:35-10:8
On this second Sunday after Pentecost we note that our national Flag Day falls on the 14th as well. It’s astounding when you realize the number of flags in the world, the number of nations! And how memorable our Pledge of Allegiance is when it calls us to “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We are people of faith in a specific nation as are millions throughout our planet. And as Christians, we identify with Jesus who calls us today just as he called that first group we know as Apostles. He pledged Himself to them 100% even if they failed Him multiple times. And the Gospel of Matthew names them: Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John and 8 more!
Remarkably, Jesus gives them authority and power to do a lot of good. He shares God’s call to mission with them weak and inadequate as they are!
The same authority is given to us 2000 years plus later! We should wave that “flag” as well as our country’s flag! It is a powerful Liberty we are given to serve freely our Savior and Friend Jesus. He has empowered us to do that very thing…serve others for the Kingdom of God!
This Sunday we will hear of these early Apostles and their descendants, that is, US! And other Christians around the world in different nations, under different flags but under One God known to us in Jesus Christ.
See you Sunday as you “listen in” to hear your name as well as the names of others even the Apostles!
Isaiah 1:12-18, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 and Matthew 28:16-20
If you ask a 4 year old, why we attend church on a Sunday, they will likely answer “to hear about God.” When our son Ben was around 2-3 he was seated in a high chair around the table and for some reason our talk was about church. I just asked him “who is Jesus?” Ben replied quickly, “God.” And he kept on playing with a toy as he spoke. He had no depth of understanding to his answer but had picked up enough from his Sunday school and worship attendance to unknowingly make a confession of faith about God and Jesus! Out of the mouth of babes!
We go to church to worship God and to be not only “hearers of the Word but doers” as well. We live in a troubled stretch of time and a word from God is sought. This Sunday is also, besides Trinity Sunday, a special day of the church year as it is Peace With Justice Sunday. So much could be said and needs to be said about our country and the world’s problems. In every town and home we hear social and economic updates on this and that, opinions, and proposed solutions.
Perhaps we first must speak of God and then seek peace with Justice as we remember and act upon the very relational nature of God as Trinity. So, we will do our faithful best to focus on God, listen and (re) learn who God is for us. Never a finished task but one that should lead to the very “abundance of life” Jesus calls us to in John 10:10. And from that we can lean into Peace with Justice for all. All should have “the abundant life” in Jesus.
We will sing the stories of faith, hear the scriptures, pray for one another, recite our historic Nicene Creed, recite The World Methodist Social Affirmation and believe. (If you have a UM hymnal at home, be sure to have it with you as we “live stream” our service). “O God, help Thou our unbelief.” And then continue “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Join us this Sunday in worship!