The Usual Suspects

In the famous movie CASABLANCA, Claude Rains plays the local police chief in Casablanca and has a line that goes, “Round up the usual suspects.” This has to do with local crimes AND with the death of a Nazi officer!

I use the term “usual suspects” for us Christians when it comes to earthly temptations and stumbling blocks to faithful discipleship. These are the “criminals” that we carry with us inside ourselves. Both Jesus and Paul speak to these in our scriptures for July 31.

Greed. Piling up so called riches. Paul even calls this a “form of idol worship.” (!). Paul adds a few more e.g. “anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language…lying to each other.” Sounds like election year talk doesn’t it! But, I don’t want to get distracted here!

You can read these scriptures for yourself and not need a sermon, but allow me to try and see what the Spirit says to each and all this Sunday.

And I feel as though Jesus’ Parable about the Rich Fool may be just enough to make the point! Or you could watch Casablanca and get a good illustration as well. The movie speaks to evil and self-interest and finally to “doing the right thing.” Paul says doing the “right thing” is not so much battling the temptations head on with our resolve but more how close we live to Christ! How much we long to have Christ dwell within us. “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” Colossians 3:3.

Something to ponder, something to receive as God’s constant work in our lives. Colossians 3:10.

Thanks be to God!

Pastor Barry

The Fullness of Christ

It is good to hear different voices sharing our common story together in God. Or rather God in Christ!

Eric is our preacher for this 10th Sunday after Pentecost. Eric’s personal story was shared with us months ago as he now finds himself on a journey of exploration for extending his ministry, another part of his life story.

As you may remember, Eric is by training both a commercial truck driver and a teacher with a PhD! He is our UMC neighbor as well over at Fellowship. And as God leads he will continue to pursue opportunities to offer more pastoral leadership in our UMC congregations.

Every person’s life is worth a novel! All have their beginnings and endings, comedies and tragedies, victories and defeats. In the fullness of Christ all our lives WILL come together. Christ is the “head of the church and we are the Body.”

Let’s always strive to tell our personal stories in the light of the Big Story of God. And in the telling AND listening we see and hear what gifts we are to each other! Be that gift this week.

Welcome Eric as he proclaims the Word and through the week ahead the Living Word goes with us!

Peace and Grace,

Bro Barry

One Thing Needful…..or Maybe More

Nothing ruins a good meal more than a family fight. One minute, all is well, everything tastes great, an Uncle is going on about his years in WW II, or his farm, then…..out of the blue someone gets aggravated, says something, and someone storms off or it gets REAL quiet around the table! Been there…..who hasn’t?!

And here in Luke 10:38-42 we get the point, but we don’t get the whole family drama played out. We don’t know how Mary reacts nor how the hard working irritated hostess Martha reacts. Jesus is teaching and at that moment, in that house, on that day, that was the “one thing needful.” To Mary. And to Martha….we don’t know if she left several things unbaked and sat down beside her sister and listened to Jesus too. We don’t know if the next time when visitors appeared Mary helped out in the kitchen!

Sometimes there is just one thing needful. It may take years of Christian practice and prayer to realize that moment, that need, that one thing on a given day.

The Amos passage shouts at us and asks us to tremble and surely repent. The Colossians text asks us to ponder the majesty and mystery of God in Christ. Can we do both those things at the same time?! Is “one needful” at the right time, the right experience while much better to “wait to address the other?”

Which of these three scriptures speaks to YOU more….right now? Are you Mary or Martha or trying to be both? Do you need a swift wakeup call from a Prophet? Are you in need of joyously getting lost in the wonders of God’s revelation in Christ?

Well, that’s the good thing about discipleship in that it has many, many moments in a lifetime when we each hear from Jesus: “one thing is needful. Pay attention. It will not be taken from you.”

What needs OUR undivided attention as disciples of Jesus ? Good question. Pray for the answer in YOUR life, pray for the answer in OUR life together as church.

Hope to see you in worship this Sunday! There might be “one thing needful” present in that hour for you!

Pastor Barry

Just Love?

Jesus is a Great Communicator partly because he accepts questions from the audience and poses questions TO his audience. The Old Testament prophets are inclined to simply “tell it like it is!” Or better……”shout it like it is!”
Jesus CAN raise his voice but so often in the Gospels he simply enters into dialogue with those around him. Here in Luke 10, Jesus lets the learned man of laws ask questions, give a correct answer, but then will not let the “lawyer” get away with an evasive question about “then who is my neighbor?” Jesus gives a description of “neighborliness” in a most dramatic fashion while also naming names! Suddenly the most “neighborly” is a despised non-neighbor, a Samaritan! And Jesus echoes the 82nd Psalm (and numerous Prophets) by using a vivid story followed by another question to the “lawyer.” Point made!

We could learn a lot from Jesus “style” of communicating the right way at the right time to the right audience. Might take us a lifetime…..But what else are we here for??!!

“Go and do likewise…” Luke 10:37. Join together in this spirit as you are “Spirit enabled” (Colossians 1:9) this Sunday…this week….this…… lifetime!

Pastor Barry