Get Up and Go!

Psalm 22:25-31, Acts 8:26-40 and John 15:1-8.

Phillip, one of the first deacons in Jerusalem, has already been busy enough when he is summoned to the desert area between Jerusalem and Gaza. Phillip has been in Samaria and was heard by a sorcerer Simon Magus. Successful witness! The evangelist deacon could use a break perhaps. Not now though. Phillip gets up and goes again. Now he meets another non-Jew from Ethiopia. One who is ritually unclean as well as an assistant in that royal court. Another successful witness!

Perhaps the point for us is to be ready “to get up and go” when we listen to God’s call on our life. It might not be to Samaria or the wilderness, but could be anywhere in Middle Tennessee! For many with limited mobility or local responsibilities the “get up and go” might take the forms of :
•earnest daily prayer for others
•calls, letters, email, texts of care for others
•financial support for ministries and missions
•the use of personal talents offered to a wider population
•a willingness to meet and converse with very different people from oneself.

And, still, not to rule out one’s getting up and going to places one never quite imagined: short term missions, District and Conference opportunities for witness, world missions (!).

As our John text reassured us we are attached to the Vine of Jesus Christ as God’s Branches. We will always have God’s full support wherever we are called or sent.

How much like Phillip are we? A good question to ask this Sunday. And very likely the week ahead will have opportunities to bear witness to others in word and deed.

Be the branches too!

Pastor Barry †

Being Cared For on the Paths of Righteousness

Psalm 23, I John 3:16-24 and John 10:11-18

Some of us grew up with a glow-in-the-dark bookmark of Jesus as The Good Shepherd. He is holding a lamb and could be seen nearby as one went to bed at night. I felt safe and comforted if I had had a bad or anxious day! Such are memories from childhood.

This Sunday is traditionally observed as Good Shepherd Sunday. The scriptures for the day emphasize the love of Jesus for his flock of wayward and frightened sheep. God in Christ cares for each and everyone.

Often there are lines in the 23rd Psalm that are overlooked as they are read or recited. What is a “path of righteousness?” Who might be the “enemies” who are present while the psalmist speaks of us being seated at a bountiful table?

Our message will be all about finding comfort and loving care while seeking the way of righteous living in the midst of challenging “enemies!” This certainly seems to speak to our personal and communal stresses in 2021! Who doesn’t have very personal challenges as well as participating in the conflicts of nation and world.

What is it about the 23rd Psalm and The Good Shepherd of John 10 that is so compelling and meaningful? Invite a neighbor or friend to join with us this Sunday and maybe we will all find both “comfort” and a call to “paths of righteousness.”

May we all find our way to the bountiful table set before us!

Pastor Barry †

Come Sit a Spell and Ponder

Psalm 4, I John 3:1-7 and Luke 24:36b-48

When reading the Bible, it doesn’t take very long before you begin to “ponder.” Questions emerge. You wonder. You say to yourself: “what does that mean?” “How can THAT be?”

On a humorous level we might ponder why “a number 2 pencil is still number 2 if it’s so popular?” Or why we say “someone is IN a movie but ON TV??” And why does the expression “slim chance” mean the same thing as “fat chance?”

To ponder more serious matters should take more time and require some study. So, when we come to these texts for this Sunday we are challenged to “ponder” a Resurrection body and to consider the reference to a “ghost.” Jesus appears mysteriously in their midst and proceeds to eat. The disciples in our John passage both “disbelieve” and “wonder.” But Jesus also is said to “open their minds to understand.”

This is a lifelong pattern for growing Christians: something comes to us in our faith walk, we might disbelieve, or wonder, and then we understand.

Come “sit a spell” this Sunday and ponder! And we will all pray together to understand as best we can. And continue our faith walk into the week!

Blessings in your seeking and finding!

Pastor Barry †

A Change is Gonna Come

Psalm 133, Acts 4:32-35 and John 20:19-31

You have a big event, an exciting moment. Something amazing touches you! It might be a birthday, anniversary, championship game, best ever vacation, job promotion, graduation, and so on. The thrill lasts for a while and then some routine and normality returns. Your life is touched and has benefited but everything doesn’t change.

Our first Sunday after Easter, however, has texts in Acts and in John where everything seems to change and nothing remains the same! The Resurrection of Jesus had that kind of impact. Lives are really changed forever and people live together in community such that no one goes without aid or help. Fellowship and sharing and mission take on primary importance.

After two thousand years and centuries of Easter Sunday worship the Church has lived out this dramatic change in multiple ways with both success and failure; but always announcing the Hope that it CAN happen! And sure enough…..congregations and individuals are touched, change, share, change, grow, and see life take on great meaning and purpose!

So, Easter is not one day but potentially ANY and every day!

This Sunday we will hear of an astounding way to live together in community and how individuals react out of their particular needs and experience.

Resurrection has a way of making a difference. Not just in life after death but here and now! Believe! As the singer Sam Cooke sang in 1964, “a change is gonna come!”

Happy Easter!

Pastor Barry †

Resurrection and Running

Yes, most of us revel in the season of Christmas. Lots of preparation and anticipation, parties, gifts, and get togethers. Church goers or not, people get into the spirit of Christmas.

Easter should do the same but for most it’s not the preferred of the two Christian celebrations. Rightly so, the lead in to Easter’s hope is a difficult, painful week ending in an execution. The tone is much more somber.

Yet, when we actually read and hear the scriptures there is a breathless exciting story unfolding. Lots of running! There’s not a lot of running in the Bible! But, just read the John text! And if we celebrate a new beginning with a birth at Christmas even more so the call comes to celebrate a new beginning at Easter.

Part of the issue is that Resurrection as an afterlife is just not present for us. It is still to come. However, Resurrection as “empowering” to us in New Beginnings coming from God IS available here and now. And such New Beginnings act as energy to propel us on through our lives to their end which is NOT the only end.

For many, it is hard to grasp. So it was also for the early disciples. They had to “run” to see, believe, and share with others. Paul later does say he “has run and finished the race.” Indeed for many of us, we need “to pick up the pace” and run in faith. Some days we are better at that than other days.

Pray that an Easter worship will speak to your spirit and help enliven it for the Marathon of Life and the Victory Celebration over sin and death!!

Blessed Easter to you!

Pastor Barry †