God Invented Rest

Message Title: God Invented Rest
Theme: Flopped Inventions & New Discoveries
Season: Epiphany
Main Text: Mark 1:29-39
Scripture Reading: Psalm 147:1-11, 20c
RCL Scripture: Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20c; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39
Focus: Amid Jesus’ ministry, he took time to rest.
Function: To accept the gift of rest and find time to recharge our own metaphorical batteries.
Other Notes: Alfred L Cralle (a black graduate of an ABHMS seminary) & inventor https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_L._Cralle

SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 147:1-11, 20c Praise the Lord! Because it is good to sing praise to our God! Because it is a pleasure to make beautiful praise! 2The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem, gathering up Israel’s exiles. 3God heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. 4God counts the stars by number, giving each one a name. 5Our Lord is great and so strong! God’s knowledge can’t be grasped! 6The Lord helps the poor, but throws the wicked down on the dirt! 7Sing to the Lord with thanks; sing praises to our God with a lyre! 8God covers the skies with clouds; God makes rain for the earth; God makes the mountains sprout green grass. 9God gives food to the animals—even to the baby ravens when they cry out. 10God doesn’t prize the strength of a horse; God doesn’t treasure the legs of a runner. 11No. The Lord treasures the people who honor him, the people who wait for his faithful love. …20c Praise the Lord!

INVENTION: Ice Cream Scoop – Alfred L. Cralle

  1. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT:
    1. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? What is the best brand of ice cream?
    2. Who dishes their ice cream with any spoon they can find? Who prefers to use an actual ice cream scoop?
  2. Alfred L. Cralle has impacted each of our lives in ways you may not realize. Cralle worked as a porter for a hotel & drug store in Washington, DC. On Feb 2nd 1897, he changed our lives. That was the day the patent office officially registered his invention.
    1. What was his invention, you ask? The “Ice Cream Mold & Disher,” you heard me right. He invented the ice cream scoop. If you were paying attention, that means just last week we celebrated 124 years of the ice cream scoop! Aren’t our lives so much better?
  3. Cralle’s invention isn’t the only cool thing connecting his story to ours. Alfred L. Cralle is important to Baptist history too! No, not just because his invention of the ice cream scoop makes our pitch-ins easier.
    1. “Cralle was sent to Washington D.C. where he attended Wayland Seminary, a branch of the National Theological Institute, one of a number of schools founded by the American Baptist Home Mission Society immediately after the Civil War to help educate newly freed African Americans.”
    2. Booker T. Washington (Virginia Union University)
  4. Sources.
    1. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/cralle-alfred-l-1866-1920/
    2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_L._Cralle
    3. https://www.nba.com/pacers/video/this-day-in-black-history-alfred-cralle
    4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayland_Seminary

TRANSITION: Our story today may not include the sweet creamy goodness of ice cream, but we may still find some joy or reprieve from the stresses of this world through the stories of Jesus.

SCRIPTURE: Mark 1:29-39 29After leaving the synagogue, Jesus, James, and John went home with Simon and Andrew. 30Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed, sick with a fever, and they told Jesus about her at once. 31He went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she served them. 32That evening, at sunset, people brought to Jesus those who were sick or demon-possessed. 33The whole town gathered near the door. 34He healed many who were sick with all kinds of diseases, and he threw out many demons. But he didn’t let the demons speak, because they recognized him. 35Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. 36Simon and those with him tracked him down. 37When they found him, they told him, “Everyone’s looking for you!” 38He replied, “Let’s head in the other direction, to the nearby villages, so that I can preach there too. That’s why I’ve come.” 39He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and throwing out demons.

EXPLAINATION: Amid Jesus’ ministry, he took time to rest.

  1. As we follow the story of Jesus in Mark, you may notice that Jesus’ ministry begins in the northern part of Israel. He hangs out in the Galilee region for a while.
    1. In today’s text, we’re still in Capernaum. We know from the other John’s Gospel that Simon, Andrew, and Philip are all from Capernaum.
  2. Jesus leaves the synagogue after teaching & casting out a demon.
    1. Then James, John, Simon-Peter, and Andrew went with Jesus to Simon’s house. His mother-in-law was sick and Jesus healed her.
    2. Jesus stayed in the same area of Capernaum healing people.
  3. But eventually, Jesus took time to rest. Jesus went into solitude and rested.
    1. Yes, there were still people begging for his attention and demanding of his talents. But he paused and rested.
  4. After resting, he got up and continued on with his work. He didn’t stay in one town but continued traveling on teaching, healing, and casting out demons along the way.

INTERPRETATION: Amid Jesus’ ministry, he took time to rest.

  1. Jesus & Sabbath: The healing stories and exorcism stories are fascinating in this passage, but believe it or not, that’s not the thing that stands out to me. Instead, I notice Jesus practicing the very Jewish practice of Sabbath.
  2. Jews & Sabbath: Honestly, the others are also practicing the sabbath, but Jesus is on a different rotation.
    1. Just before this, Jesus was in the synagogue teaching and casting out demons, right? They’re celebrating the Sabbath for a day of rest.
      1. Sabbath is from sundown to sundown the following day. Starting Friday and ending Saturday evening.
    2. God established sabbath: The sabbath was given to humans as a gift. God designed creation with rest in mind.
      1. Genesis 1: 31-2:4–God set an example.
        1. 31 God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good. There was evening and there was morning: the sixth day. The heavens and the earth and all who live in them were completed. On the sixth [a] day God completed all the work that he had done, and on the seventh day God rested from all the work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation.[b] This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
      2. Exodus 20: 8-11–God made that a guideline in the 10 commandments.
        1. Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. Six days you may work and do all your tasks, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you. 11 Because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
      3. Jesus practiced the Sabbath in his life & challenged the sabbath laws made by humans.
    3. Humans hate vague rules: Humans have always struggled with vague rules. We like things concrete and clear. It is easier to score our successes and judge others as failures that way. In my perspective, the story of sabbath laws portrays humans perfectly.
      1. The people of Israel struggled with what it meant to “honor the sabbath and keep it holy.” So, they added amendments (my word not theirs) to God’s laws to spell out exactly what they could and couldn’t do. God had built the law with space for freedom and interpretation, but humans wanted the law to be rigid.
      2. I’ve mentioned before that the 10 commandments became 613 laws. The 1 commandment about the sabbath developed into 39, that have even more specifications within each of those categories based on the interpretations of individual rabbis.
        1. 39 Melachot: thirty-nine categories of activity which Jewish law identifies as being prohibited by biblical law on Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath. Many of these activities are also prohibited on the Jewish holidays listed in the Torah, although there are significant exceptions that permit carrying and preparing food under specific circumstances on holidays.”
          1. You could only take a certain number of steps.
          2. There is practically a flowchart of how you can help your cattle on the sabbath if they get into certain predicaments.
          3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/39_Melachot
        2. Shevut– rabbinic sabbath rules:
          1. The Rabbinic prohibitions fall into several categories: activities not in the spirit of Shabbat; activities which closely resemble a forbidden activity; activities which could lead one to perform a prohibited activity; or activities whose biblical permissibility is debated, so avoiding the activity allows one to keep Shabbat according to all Rabbinic opinions.”
          2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbinically_prohibited_activities_of_Shabbat
        3. Today in Israel on the sabbath:
          1. Hotels program elevators to stop at every floor b/c pushing a button on the sabbath is work.
          2. Hotel cooks prepare food for the sabbath the day before because cooking on the sabbath would be work.
    4. The story of the Sabbath is our story. It is easier to make life black and white than to consider the shades of gray. It is easier to feel validated as a child of God if we can condemn someone else for something we do well.
      1. The story of the sabbath laws is the story of all of the 10 commandments. In Matthew & John’s Gospels, Jesus says the 10 commandments are simplified into “Loving God and loving others.” We over complicate things.
    5. Our problem: We justify over working ourselves and consider it righteousness.
      1. It’s easier to think we can earn God’s favor than to think that God gives it to everyone.
      2. It’s easier to feel in control than to cling to God’s grace.
      3. Ephesians 2:8-10 You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith.This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. 10 Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.

APPLICATION:

  1. The economy of God has no scarcity, but the economy of the world sees you as a commodity.
    1. Midwestern work ethic- pull yourself up by your boot straps.
  2. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT:
    1. What is something you like to eat or drink as a reward for hard work?
    2. What is something you like to do to rest? How do you recharge your “batteries”?
  3. Sabbath-No matter what you hear in this moment, hear this: Jesus has set a precedent for rest.
    1. The Son of God had a-mile-long list of asks. People wanting him to heal them or cast out demons or solve their problems. The requests didn’t go away, but Jesus took time to rest. He didn’t wait until the to-do list was over. He rested.
    2. Meme- satan is a bad role model
      1. Satan wants you tired and grumpy.
      2. Tired servant doesn’t spread the hope of christ
  4. Ice cream scoops & rest.
    1. Find tools that will help you work efficiently and ethically, but also, rest.
    2. God gives us laws not as a burden but to help us flourish. Work is good but so is rest. Take time to rest and recharge so that you can continue the good work of God.

CONCLUSION: you have permission to rest and it won’t change God’s opinion of you. Rest, recharge, and continue God’s good work of loving God and loving others.

COMMUNION: Ask a deacon to pray for the elements.

  1. Communion is a reminder of the gift of rest God gave us.
  2. Communion is a reminder that the score card is on Jesus’ shoulders, not ours.
  3. Communion is a reminder that we are to encourage each other to rest NOT work until our fingers bleed.
  4. Communion is God’s grace.

Can We Really Know?

Service originally recorded on 1/24/2021

Message Title: Can We Really Know?
Theme: Flopped Inventions & New Discoveries
Season: Epiphany
Main Text: Mark 1:14-20
Scripture Reading: Psalm 62:5-12
RCL Scripture: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
Focus: Mark depicts Jesus calling his first disciples different from John’s Gospel.
Function: To find peace in the exploration of scripture by acknowledging our questions and considering different angles of a passage to enable God to speak to our hearts.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 62:5-12 5Oh, I must find rest in God only, because my hope comes from him! 6Only God is my rock and my salvation—my stronghold!—I will not be shaken. 7My deliverance and glory depend on God. God is my strong rock. My refuge is in God. 8All you people: Trust in him at all times! Pour out your hearts before him! God is our refuge! Selah 9Human beings are nothing but a breath. Human beings are nothing but lies. They don’t even register on a scale; taken all together they are lighter than a breath! 10Don’t trust in violence; don’t set false hopes in robbery. When wealth bears fruit, don’t set your heart on it. 11God has spoken one thing—make it two things—that I myself have heard: that strength belongs to God, 12 and faithful love comes from you, my Lord—and that you will repay everyone according to their deeds.

INVENTION: The first automotive–Elwood Haynes vs Ford

As someone who did not grow up a Hoosier, it came to a surprise to me to learn that Kokomo claims to be the place where the first car was invented. One of the first things I learned about after moving to Indiana was that Kokomo was considered the city of firsts.

“On July 4, 1894, “The “Pioneer,” as he called it, was ready for its first test run. The car was towed by a horse and buggy (to avoid frightening horses on the busy Kokomo streets) out into the countryside on the Pumpkinvine Pike. With Haynes at the controls, the car traveled about six miles at a speed approaching six or seven miles per hour – becoming one of the first cars in the country to achieve such a feat.”

Henry Ford’s first automobile, the “Quadricycle” was test driven on June 4th; 1986.

Haynes’ design was not the first gas powered automobile, there were German designs that predated his. Pioneer was one of the first automobile built intending to be automatic instead of pulled by horses.  The official title of “first car” was not given to Haynes because of “Pioneeer” but the design Haynes created with the Apperson brothers. Elwood Haynes along with Elmer & Edgar Apperson were credited with building the first commercial American car.

Sources:

  1. https://www.haynesintl.com/company-information/our-heritage/elwood-haynes
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elwood_Haynes
  3. https://www.indianalandmarks.org/2017/12/elwood-haynes-pioneer/
  4. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/henry-ford-test-drives-his-quadricycle

TRANSITION: Much like the lightbulb, the automobile’s timeline is quite fuzzy. I don’t know if I would have ever heard of Haynes or the Apperson brothers if I had not moved to Indiana.

Our scripture for today has a similar confusion when compared to last week’s text.

SCRIPTURE: Mark 1:14-20 14After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, 15saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” 16As Jesus passed alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17“Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” 18Right away, they left their nets and followed him. 19After going a little farther, he saw James and John, Zebedee’s sons, in their boat repairing the fishing nets. 20At that very moment he called them. They followed him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired workers.

EXPLAINATION: Mark depicts Jesus calling his first disciples different from John’s Gospel.

  1. We’re in the Gospel of Mark, not John today! Let’s compare the calling of Jesus’ disciples in Mark with John. In Mark’s Gospel, after John baptized Jesus and Jesus went into the wilderness, he returned and gathered disciples.
    1. By this time, King Herod had already arrested John the Baptist. Some other Gospels place John’s arrest (and execution) at a later date.
    2. Mark says that Jesus’ ministry started AFTER John’s arrest.
  2. Jesus calls Andrew and Simon together.
    1. Anyone remember last week? How did Andrew & Simon come into the picture? Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist and then got his brother Simon to check out the messiah.

INTERPRETATION: Mark depicts Jesus calling his first disciples different from John’s Gospel.

  1. Can I share with you my thoughts? I like the idea that Jesus may have asked Andrew and Simon more than once. Perhaps it took a bit of building trust before they were willing to leave behind their successful & family-owned fishing business.
    1. In some circumstances, maybe the historians wrote down different details of one event. For example, the description of Jesus’ baptism is different in each of the Gospels. Who was there? Who spoke from the clouds? Who heard the voice? Did the dove come or was it a symbol?
    2. In other circumstances, I like the idea of the Gospels stacking up. Maybe Jesus didn’t just feed one group of 5000 people? Maybe he did that multiple times and that’s why the ‘who, what, where’ are different?
    3. It would have been logical for a traveling rabbi to repeat his lessons in each town. Perhaps the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ and the ‘Sermon on the Plains’ are actually examples of Jesus preaching the same words to different people?
  2. It’s easy to get zoomed in on one topic and miss the rest of the details. Sure, there is a question of the order of invitation or exactly how Jesus first invited Andrew and Simon. But I wonder if we miss the point when we splice hairs over that debate?

APPLICATION: To find peace in the exploration of scripture by acknowledging our questions and considering different angles of a passage to enable God to speak to our hearts.

  1. As we consider this passage today, we aren’t going to consider the spiritual implications of how John and Mark record this story differently. Instead, I want us to consider how we approach scripture. This will give you a little taste of what comes from Wednesday Night Bible Study.
    1. Bible Study: February 3rd, we will be starting our Bible Study for 2021. Last year we went through a handful of amazing different topics. This year we are starting out the season with a study equipping you to study scripture yourself!
      1. Can you build questions and do research?
      2. Do you know how to find reputable sources, as opposed to someone’s opinion?
      3. AND How do you dwell in the beauty of scripture without approaching it like a task to accomplish?
      4. Please note: this group is used to asking questions, sometimes it can make people uncomfortable. Our goal is to open up to what God can say to our questions, not shame people for asking or wondering.
  2. To get you started:
    1. Finding the translation for you– each bible translation has a goal in mind with their version of scripture. Some want to contemporize the words (MSG, NLT, CEB), some want you focusing on the themes (MSG, Living, Paraphrased, etc), some want to be the most literal translation of words (KJV, NASB, etc). Depending on what you want to do, it may be beneficial to have a few different Bible translations.
      1. Bible apps are a great & affordable way to have many translations at your fingertips.
      2. If you would like to look at my collection of translations and get a feel for a physical copy, come up front after service or send me a message online.
    2. Different approaches– There are tons of different ways to engage with scripture. Some develop our spirit, some develop our mind, others will do both. Depending on the moment, each type can serve its purpose.
      1. Influential book for Spiritual Disciplines and developing your faith
        1. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
      2. Bible memorization- A classic but doesn’t always work for every brain or moment in our lives.
      3. Lectio Divina–where prayer meets study. Repetitive reading and meditation. Listening for what stands out.
      4. Journaling Scripture– reflecting and writing your thoughts down. I think this is great for reflecting on how the passage affects your daily actions and words.
      5. Manuscript– coloring scripture, my favorite, is to print off passages and look for themes.
      6. https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2019/03/14-great-ways-to-engage-with-gods-word/
    3. Hear other voices: It’s great to find other voices speaking on scripture to help you see another angle of the passage you’re investigating.
      1. The Bible Project– Website & Youtube
      2. My podcasts: Strangely Warmed, Pulpit Fiction, Working Preacher
      3. Great books on Scripture
        1. Reading the Bible from the Margins by Miguel A De la Torre
        2. The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns
        3. How the Bible Actually Works by Peter Enns
        4. Inspired by Rachel Held Evans
        5. What Does the Bible Say About Suffering by Brian Han Gregg
        6. God Behaving Badly by David T. Lamb

CONCLUSION:  Perhaps you enjoy going down the rabbit hole of car history. You may discover a new inventor that impacted the vehicles on the road today! Imagine having a passion for scripture as we do our particular hobbies! We can investigate scripture from both a spiritual and academic angle that enables us to grow as believers.

A Message from Beyond — quarantined service

Service from 1/31/2021: I was contact traced during COVID and required to stay home for 10 days (incubation time) until I could test negative. This service was broadcast on Facebook live from my home.

Message Title: A Message from Beyond
Theme:
Flopped Inventions & New Discoveries
Season: Epiphany
Main Text: Mark 1:21-28
Scripture Reading: Psalm 111
RCL Scripture: Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28
Focus: Jesus casts out a demon who knows Jesus’ divinity and others recognize Jesus’ authority.Function: To recognize the need to get back to the core of the message of Jesus by letting go of our own stigmas about Christianity.
Other Notes
:

ORDER OF WORSHIP

Announcements & Happy Dollars
Call to Worship
Doxology: Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below, Praise Him above ye heavenly host, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen

SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 111 Praise the Lord! I thank the Lord with all my heart in the company of those who do right, in the congregation. 2The works of the Lord are magnificent; they are treasured by all who desire them. 3God’s deeds are majestic and glorious. God’s righteousness stands forever. 4God is famous for his wondrous works. The Lord is full of mercy and compassion. 5God gives food to those who honor him. God remembers his covenant forever. 6God proclaimed his powerful deeds to his people and gave them what had belonged to other nations. 7God’s handiwork is honesty and justice; all God’s rules are trustworthy— 8they are established always and forever: they are fulfilled with truth and right doing. 9God sent redemption for his people; God commanded that his covenant last forever. Holy and awesome is God’s name! 10Fear of the Lord is where wisdom begins; sure knowledge is for all who keep God’s laws. God’s praise lasts forever!

LORD’S PRAYER: Our Father, who art in Heaven hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven, give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.

Sermon: Flopped Inventions & New Discoveries
A Message from Beyond Mark 1:21-28

NOTE ON AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: Now because of the lag that exists in live videos, I may ask questions and you may thoughtfully type out an answer but feel like the moment has passed. Send it anyway. We may not be super fluid in our conversation but we may reach some good topics.

INVENTION: Thomas Edison & Spirit phone

Audience engagement: If you could pick up the phone and call someone who has passed away, who would be your first call?

  • I would love to talk to my paternal grandmother again. I didn’t get to say goodbye.

I found the invention I want to tell you about this morning to only be a rumor. The ‘Spirit Phone’ was an experiment of Thomas Edison through a series of interviews and a recovered journal. Journalists recorded Thomas Edison’s Spirit phone would not require “any occult, mystifying, mysterious, or weird means, employed by so–called “mediums” in order to function. Historians and credible sources still debated if Thomas Edison was pulling the legs of interviewers with these details or if he genuinely was exploring the spirit realm.

Sources:

  1. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/dial-a-ghost-on-thomas-edisons-least-successful-invention-the-spirit-phone
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kristintablang/2019/10/25/thomas-edison-bc-forbes-mystery-spirit-phone/?sh=658521d429ad
  3. https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/602456/thomas-edison-nikola-tesla-spirit-phone
  4. https://science.howstuffworks.com/10-inventions-thomas-edison.htm
  5. https://play.history.com/shows/10-things-you-dont-know-about/videos/edisons-spirit-phone

TRANSITION: text today will examine the Spirit realm through a story of exorcism.

SCRIPTURE: Mark 1: 21-28 21Jesus and his followers went into Capernaum. Immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and started teaching. 22The people were amazed by his teaching, for he was teaching them with authority, not like the legal experts. 23Suddenly, there in the synagogue, a person with an evil spirit screamed, 24“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the holy one from God.” 25“Silence!” Jesus said, speaking harshly to the demon. “Come out of him!” 26The unclean spirit shook him and screamed, then it came out. 27Everyone was shaken and questioned among themselves, “What’s this? A new teaching with authority! He even commands unclean spirits and they obey him!” 28Right away the news about him spread throughout the entire region of Galilee.

EXPLAINATION:

  1. In the Gospel of Mark, after Jesus called his disciples, he went to teach in the nearest synagogue. (cool coloring page on the bulletin if you printed it off).
  2. While Jesus is teaching, a man possessed with demons comes, calls Jesus by name, and identifies him as from God.
    1. Jesus silences the demon & casts the demon out of the man. In the Gospels there is a thing called the “messianic secret” that Jesus regularly prevents people from saying too much about him being the Messiah. That’s something to reflect on after our service today, I won’t give you an answer 😉
  3. After all of this unfolds, the people acknowledge Jesus differs from other traveling teachers or leaders of Moses’ law. He has an authority unlike the others.

TRANSITION: I am sure many of you would like concrete terms of what the spiritual realm looks like or have a glimpse into spiritual warfare. While I have some personal stories, I could share on this topic, that won’t be our focus today. This is the season of Epiphany. Epiphany is a season of revelation or discovery. I want us to take some time to have a revealing conversation about this world instead of focusing on the abstract nature of the spiritual world.

INTERPRETATION: *Prepare the audience* I want to talk about something difficult. And because we’re interacting digitally, it is very easy to turn off the screen or sound if I were to say something you don’t like, understand, or disagree with. Instead, I encourage you to ask questions or dig deeper into the conversation. You can follow the instructions on the bulletin for a way to reflect or contact me for a conversation. I cannot guarantee I can/will answer every question in the chat, but I will connect with you afterwards if you feel your question is unanswered. The only way to grow as humans is to engage, not to shut down, when we hear something difficult.

I want us to take time to ponder a different type of exorcism.

As I was preparing for this sermon, I was studying and pondering the spiritual implications of Jesus’ actions. I was off in the ethereal, considering abstract thoughts. My fellow pastor friend brought me back down to earth with a hard statement:

The American church needs an exorcism.

OK. Take a deep breath. There’s a good chance you gasped at those words and may still be holding your breath. Take a moment to loosen your muscles and ponder different angles of this statement. What could it mean metaphorically?

A puzzled look on your face would be logical as a first reaction. Especially when entertainment depicts demon possession and exorcism in such graphic ways. Cinematics can unconsciously build our expectations in weird ways.

If you can join me in sitting aside the weird images of The Exorcist, Annabelle, or The Conjuring, we may be able to unpack this thought in a helpful way.

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: What could an exorcism metaphorically mean for the church?

  • We’ve lost our way, Gotten off track or topic, Worshiping the wrong thing

APPLICATION: To recognize the need to get back to the core of the message of Jesus by letting go of our own stigmas about Christianity.

  1. I want to consider where the church is and where we should be.
    1. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT
      1. How would you depict or define a Christian? – what does a Christian look like in actions, words, beliefs, etc?
      2. What are the non-negotiable pieces of Christianity? Think about the connecting points between all Christian denominations of all cultures.
  2. Sometimes creeds or statements of beliefs are used but the more detailed we get the more spliced we get. We splinter and point fingers at other believers and question their faith because of x, y, or z.  Words they use, Habits they have, Clothes they wear, Who they call family, How they vote.
  3. Human thoughts or ideas don’t limit God. Our God can do extraordinary things—like casting out demons. *Christ followers* look different depending on their culture.
    1. Current day example of culture changing: My grandmother expected me to act like a lady, dress like a lady, speak like a lady, and use good table manners. My brothers couldn’t wear hats at the dinner table.
      1. Can we admit that manners are cultural and change over time?
      2. In France to get the waiters attention you raise your hand, snap your fingers and make a “tsk tsk” noise.
      3. In Japan, its an honor to the chef to slurp your noodles loudly and drink the broth from the bowl. Eating quickly honors the effort of the cook to eat it hot.
    2. Examples: Christians in Africa
  4. Christianity doesn’t have one image. Christianity isn’t American. Nor are the majority of Christians living in America.
  5. American Christianity is not Christianity:
    1. We don’t need a message from The Great Beyond to learn that Christianity doesn’t have one image. We don’t have to be English speaking Americans with a 40 hour work week to be a believer in Jesus.
      1. Don’t hear what I’m not saying in this next sentence:
        1. American patriotism and the phrase “God Bless America” are American ideals but not Christian.
      2. While these are common ideals in American Christianity, they are not distinctly Christian. A Christ follower is loyal to God above any flag, pledge, or nation. If that offends you, you may be worshipping the wrong god.
    2. In Jesus’ time, symbols of the government were not allowed in the Temple nor was Roman coin accepted for tithes. If you wanted to tithe you first had to convert your roman coins to temple coins. Ceasar claimed to be god, his image was not to be brought into God’s house.
      1. Acts 15:  Defining Christianity was discussed in scripture in the book of Acts. If you have ever wondered why Christians weren’t Jewish …because … I mean …Jesus was Jewish, turn to Acts 15. The readers’ digest of this chapter asks the question if all Christ followers have to become Jewish. They decided no. You could stay part of whatever culture you grew up in and follow Jesus.
      2. 1 Corinthians 8: Paul expands on this later in his first letter to the Corinthians. Paul spends that letter talking to them about setting aside certain behaviors from their culture or changing their mindset about the culture. He even tells them that eating food sacrificed to other gods is fine; (because, you know, they aren’t real so its not like the food is contaminated or anything). We can participate in our culture yet recognize we are distinct from our culture. Paul encourages the Corinthians to give up any aspect of their culture that may prevent others from hearing about Jesus. If eating idol food prevents them from listening, give up meat entirely.
    3. I think Jesus would be surprised at the hills American Christians will die on while sacrificing the true tenants of his teachings. We’re willing to question someone’s faith because of their stance on abortions, homosexuals or the consumption of adult substances but we don’t question their faith on things that truly are at the heart of Jesus’ message.
      1. We are majoring on the minors.

CONCLUSION: While the word exorcism seems quite extreme for the state of American Christianity—I do think American Christians need a “come to Jesus” moment about our loyalties.

We need to honestly reflect on our definition of Christianity and filter that through the teachings of Jesus Christ.

He alone is the one with the authority to decide who is a genuine believer. Our job isn’t to fill Jesus’ shoes but to love others as Jesus’ hands and feet.

BACK TO THE BEGINNING: what messages would you hope to hear from someone in the Spiritual realm?  Jesus left us an entire book—are we willing to let go of our own ideas so that Jesus’ message rings true?

* Notes about digging deeper on bulletin*–If you find the link to the bulletin, there are instructions on how to continue worship, prayer, and study after this video ends.

If you want to consider American Christianity with me, I encourage you to call, text, email or send a homing pigeon. We grow as Christians when we discuss together. Keep the conversation going, keep the light glowing.

Blessed Be the Tie: Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above

Benediction: God help us to cling to you first. A child of God first. A Christ follower first. Help us to let THAT identity define all other aspects. Give us wisdom to see when we place something higher than you. Give us stamina to change our stubborn hearts to match your will. Amen.

Illuminated Discoveries

Message Title: Illuminated Discoveries
Theme: Flopped Inventions & New Discoveries
Season:  Epiphany
Main Text: John 1:43-51
Scripture Reading: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
RCL Scripture: 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20); Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51
Focus: Nathaniel, the skeptic, becomes a disciple of Jesus.
Function: To review the changes of the church over time and recognize the dawn of change to come.
Other Notes: MLK jr birthday

SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 Lord, you have examined me. You know me. 2You know when I sit down and when I stand up. Even from far away, you comprehend my plans. 3You study my traveling and resting. You are thoroughly familiar with all my ways. 4There isn’t a word on my tongue, Lord, that you don’t already know completely. 5You surround me—front and back. You put your hand on me. 6That kind of knowledge is too much for me; it’s so high above me that I can’t reach it. 13You are the one who created my innermost parts; you knit me together while I was still in my mother’s womb. 14I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart. Your works are wonderful—I know that very well. 15My bones weren’t hidden from you when I was being put together in a secret place, when I was being woven together in the deep parts of the earth. 16Your eyes saw my embryo, and on your scroll every day was written that was being formed for me, before any one of them had yet happened. 17God, your plans are incomprehensible to me! Their total number is countless! 18If I tried to count them—they outnumber grains of sand! If I came to the very end—I’d still be with you.

INVENTION: As we are in the season of epiphany, a season of discovery and “ah-ha! moments,” it felt appropriate that the next invention we would talk about would be the light bulb.

  1. ENGAGE THE AUDIENCE: Who invented the light bulb?
    1. Technically, this is a trick question.
    2. PHOTO
    3. ANSWER:  Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb like our history teachers’ claim.
  2. Invention of the Light Bulb
    1. PHOTO: The beginning designs for gas lighting, lamps, and light bulbs started in the late 1700’s, well before Edison’s time.  
    2. In fact, 22 inventors paved the way for inventors Joseph Swan or Thomas Edison to make progress in this field.
    3. Thomas Edison actually bought a patent from a team of inventors and changed it before making his own patent. 
  3. Thomas Edison was noted for many failures along the process of inventing a more efficient light bulb. Some notes from his journal say he was stuck testing 6000+ filament materials for an extended amount of time.
  4. Thomas Edison wasn’t the first to design a light bulb. Historians note that Thomas made the most efficient bulb of his time. Manufacturers could modify his design slightly for commercial reproduction.
    1. Sources:
      1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incandescent_light_bulb
      2. https://www.livescience.com/43424-who-invented-the-light-bulb.html
      3. https://www.fi.edu/history-resources/edisons-lightbulb
      4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J66e1X_w6i0
      5. https://www.energy.gov/articles/history-light-bulb
      6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Q4rQDN6Z4s

TRANSITION: In our text for today, we see an illuminating conversation that may not lead to commercial reproduction but to a changed life. As we explore this passage, I want us to consider the commitment of a disciple of Christ.

SCRIPTURE: John 1:43-51 43The next day Jesus wanted to go into Galilee, and he found Philip. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” 44Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and the Prophets: Jesus, Joseph’s son, from Nazareth.” 46Nathanael responded, “Can anything from Nazareth be good?” Philip said, “Come and see.” 47Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said about him, “Here is a genuine Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” 48Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are God’s Son. You are the king of Israel.” 50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these! 51I assure you that you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up to heaven and down to earth on the Human One.”

EXPLAINATION: Nathaniel, the skeptic, becomes a disciple of Jesus.

  1. This morning we are in the Gospel of John. This is an important thing to note because of how different John’s gospel unfolds compared to Mark. We will spend a lot of time in Mark of over the course of 2021 and maybe you’ll be able to hear the difference between his voice and the other gospels by 2022.
    1. Does anyone remember the goal of John’s gospel?
      1. to show Jesus is God made flesh or Jesus is divine (Meriah’s answer: different from the image of Roman gods coming to earth to mess with humans.)
  2. In the gospel of John, right after Jesus’ baptism, he calls disciples.  By this point in John’s narrative, Jesus has already called Andrew and Peter. Andrew was one of John the Baptist’s disciples.
  3. Philip, from the same town as Andrew & Peter.
    1. Word gets around in a small town… I feel like those might be lyrics to a John Mellencamp song?
    2. Bethsaida was small, think Groomsville size. So small that archeologists are not confident of its location. Different sources will tell you different things.
    3. Philip knew Andrew & Peter and was willing to listen to what they had to say.
  4. Nathaniel- Philip was quickly convinced, so he grabbed Nathaniel to share the news.
    1. He was skeptical at first
    2. It swayed Nathaniel to believe when Jesus said he saw him under the fig tree.
      1. What about this changed his mind?
  5. Jesus calls Nathaniel on his easily persuade opinion
    1. Jesus pauses to teach Nathaniel in this moment. This wasn’t some simple starry-eyed or awe filled fantasy. This commitment to be Jesus’ disciple was life changing.
    2. Jesus has these same hesitations in the next chapter of John with a crowd
    3. John 2: 23-25 23While Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, many believed in his name because they saw the miraculous signs that he did. 24But Jesus didn’t trust himself to them because he knew all people. 25He didn’t need anyone to tell him about human nature, for he knew what human nature was.

TRANSITION: Something illuminated in Nathaniel’s mind, and he was ready to leave everything behind and follow Jesus. His life would never be the same. But Jesus was calling him to a deeper belief.

  1. Following Christ was more than a starry-eyed belief in a magic trick or fortune teller. Following Christ was a lifelong commitment to a different way of thinking, speaking, and living.

INTERPRETATION: Churches experience change over time, but the message stays the same.

  1. LIGHT BULBS: It took at least 22 people and thousands of experiments to produce a commercially reproducible light bulb. After all of that time, we don’t use the Edison Bulb anymore.
    1. Perhaps you have purchased some stylistic light bulbs that mimic the Edison Bulb. However, the time of the Edison Bulb is long gone. It is no longer efficient, nor is it as cost effective.
    2. Lighting has changed to fit the times.
  2. State of the Church: We cannot continue to do the same thing but expect different results. Nor can we expect to ‘go back’ when we have ‘enough’ people. Ministry will continue to move forward and adapt, as the church always has. 
    1. Because of COVID numbers are low in ALL churches
    2. Because of 2020 church culture is changing
    3. Because of divide in politics churches are splintering
  3. The Church (unified) has had a history of adapting.
    1. After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples and early Christians had to worship and learn in alternative ways. Gentile Christians typically met together in houses. Some still identified as Jews who followed Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, and therefore still went to the Temple, a tabernacle or synagogue. 
    2. As the first few generations of Christians aged, the political climate in the Roman empire changed. Christians worshipped in secret, using symbols and word of mouth to find the location of a gathering. 
    3. Emperor Constantinian had a religious experience and attributed it to Christ. He claimed his victories in war were because Christ was on his side. The Holy Roman Empire developed out of this. They merged church and government in this period. Christians worshipped in public but the message got mixed up in politics.
    4. As the unified church splintered over disagreements– about theology, politics, or what they considered scripture– things became more bloody. 
      1. Christians didn’t need enemies anymore, Christians killed Christians in the name of Jesus.
      2. RELIGION TREE – Flash forward centuries to today. The major branches of religion have split so many times that we have to make it look like a tree to illustrate our lineage
        1. 2nd photo – Baptists take up about 1/8 of the tree. Baptists are so bad at getting along with other Baptists that we keep making a different type of Baptist.

APPLICATION: To review the changes of the church over time and recognize the dawn of change to come.

  1. The Church needs to adapt as the times change. The message doesn’t change, but perhaps the ministry or worship setting changes.
  2. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT:
    1. What are some changes we have experienced in church worship styles since your childhood? (Before 2020)
    2. What are some fresh developments you’ve seen in churches or ministry in 2020?
  3. Liberty has adapted & changed from its organization in 1854 until 2021.
    1. History of gathering:
      1. Met in houses
      2. Log cabin
      3. White building
      4. Brick Church that burned
      5. New Church
    2. I remember rumors that women and men used to sit separately during the service.
    3. Women were not part of leadership or even in attendance at business meetings.

CONCLUSION: Liberty has adapted and grown over the years. I don’t want us to go into 2021 full of fear about the possibilities of change. I want us to hold strong to the promises of Jesus with confidence that God will guide us into the next chapter.

As we look back at the changes to light bulbs or even the history of the church, I hope we find peace. Change is a constant companion of the living. As we continue to grow in our faith, we will see transformations occur in ourselves and in our communities.

Faithfulness to Jesus includes a willingness to set aside our goals and listen for the Spirit’s guidance. Perhaps these things we listed will be in our future, or perhaps other innovative ministries are coming our way, but God’s love and salvation remains the same.  

Waters Changing Tides

Originally preached on 1/10/2021

Message Title: Waters Changing Tides
Theme: Flopped Inventions & New Discoveries
Season: EPIPHANY (started Jan 6th)
Main Text: Mark 1:4-11
Scripture Reading: Psalm 29
RCL Scripture: Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11
Focus: John the Baptist baptizes Jesus, and a voice claims Jesus as his son.
Function: To commit or recommit to the continual transformation of our baptism.
Other Notes: (Wisemen arrived!) (Hidden Ministries/Mission of the Month)

SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 29 You, divine beings! Give to the Lord—give to the Lord glory and power! 2Give to the Lord the glory due his name! Bow down to the Lord in holy splendor! 3The Lord’s voice is over the waters; the glorious God thunders; the Lord is over the mighty waters. 4The Lord’s voice is strong; the Lord’s voice is majestic. 5The Lord’s voice breaks cedar trees—yes, the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon. 6He makes Lebanon jump around like a young bull, makes Sirion jump around like a young wild ox. 7The Lord’s voice unleashes fiery flames; 8the Lord’s voice shakes the wilderness—yes, the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 9The Lord’s voice convulses the oaks, strips the forests bare, but in his temple everyone shouts, “Glory!” 10The Lord sits enthroned over the floodwaters; the Lord sits enthroned—king forever! 11Let the Lord give strength to his people! Let the Lord bless his people with peace!

INTRO INTO EPIPHANY:  We entered into the season of Epiphany on January 6th. This season is a time of revelation, discovery, and proclamations. As we look at revelations about Jesus, we will also look at discoveries and inventions, some successful and some flops. Perhaps these discoveries will inspire our own revelations.

INVENTION:

  1. Did you know that Post-It Notes were a mistake?
    1. In 1968, Dr. Spencer Silver, a scientist at 3M in the United States, was attempting to develop a super-strong adhesive. Instead, he accidentally created a “low-tack”, reusable, pressure-sensitive adhesive. (WIKI)
    2. There is a claim by another gentleman, Alan Amron, that he was the one who actually invented the tech, but the story gets quite confusing to follow.
  2. Sources:
    1. https://www.businessinsider.com/failed-experiment-created-post-it-notes-2014-9
    2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-it_Note 

TRANSITION: The legend of Post-It notes speaks of failure as the gateway to success. This failed experiment became a staple of office supplies.

Though the epiphany that leads to Post-It notes is not a glamorous one, our text for today will lead us to another epiphany on a much grander scale. What will Mark’s epiphany teach us?

SCRIPTURE: Mark 1:4-114John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. 5Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. 6John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. 7He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals. 8I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 9About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the Spirit, like a dove, coming down on him. 11And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”

EXPLAINATION:

  1. Intro to Mark: Mark is the gospel for Year C in the Lectionary. Mark is the reader’s digest Gospel. He is quick and to the point. Mark is not the Gospel to search for details about Jesus.
    1. Mark did not tell a Christmas story. Instead, Mark’s Gospel starts with John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness.
  2. John The Baptist:
    1. John, in the wilderness –camel’s hair etc
      1. In the Hebrew Bible, God met people in the wilderness
        1. Hagar, Moses, The people of Israel
      2. John’s appearance & diet is to draw a parallel to
        1. Nazarite vow- a person set aside for holy work
        2. Prophets- OT writers describe other prophets looking this way-i.e. Elijah.
    2. John’s words mimic the prophets
      1. Note- in Mark’s Gospel, John does not draw the link between Jesus  & “the one coming.” In other Gospels that thought is linked.
      2. “Change your hearts & lives”
  3. Baptism:
    1. People of Judea & Jerusalem were getting baptized
    2. We’ve talked about this before, baptism for a Jew was common but different from what we Baptists do today.
    3. Ancient Jews used ceremonial washing frequently to set people or things apart for God’s use.
      1. Jesus is among them, receiving this baptism. We consider Jesus’s baptism the beginning of his ministry.
    4. This baptism was about transformation.  Some translations use the word repentance. But I think that word can have a very grand sensation without a lot of meaning.
      1. I love the CEB translating the Greek to say “Change your hearts and lives.
      2. Knowledge of God’s intentions should change us.

INTERPRETATION:

  1. A voice reveals Jesus as God’s son at his baptism. (No thanks to John -.-)
    1. Many ponder why Jesus needed baptism, if he was perfect.
      1. Some say this baptism was the first act of connecting heaven and earth.
      2. Some say Jesus’ baptism was only an example
      3. Others consider it his commissioning for his ministry.
  2. Our Baptism is about a commitment to be continually transformed by God’s Spirit. Not living by our own ideas or standards, but allowing ourselves to be changed by God’s guidance.
    1. John uses the phrase: “Change your hearts & lives”
      1. Our baptism is a commitment to Christ and the ongoing spiritual growth journey.
      2. Baptism isn’t the end, it’s the beginning.
    2. If you would like to talk about being baptized and committing to the ongoing faith journey, talk to me or a deacon after church.
      1. As Baptists, we baptize those who will say that: “Jesus is our savior”  and can commit to growing with a body of believers (Liberty, specifically).

APPLICATION: Epiphanies in our world– To commit or recommit to the continual transformation of our baptism.

  1. An epiphany has happened in our country this week on January 6th. Division has become so strong that Americans were attacking Americans.
    1. I recognize bringing up this topic is difficult. The story has become so convoluted that it is difficult to agree on what is happening and what these events mean. We don’t know who to listen to or who to trust, and politicians continue to fuel the flame.
      1. We have two separate narratives active in the news.
    2. How did we get to this place? We have stopped considering the perspective of our opponents and have labeled them our enemies.
      1. We have become so focused on being right that we have become virtually unteachable.
      2. When you are so determined to be right that you cease to show love, you are no longer right.
  2. The job of a pastor is scary during events like this. We may have our personal convictions and believe them just as passionately as you believe your convictions. But we must also tread carefully or risk repercussions from speaking of our convictions.
    1. The world encourages pastors to be spiritual guides, but to keep their political thoughts to themselves. “Stick to scripture,” leave the politics out of it.
      1. Scripture informs the rest of our lives. It is all connected. Your faith should inform your politics.
    2. We hear an opinion that we disagree with and our tendency as humans is to talk to everyone BUT the person we disagree with. Gossip spreads like wildfire. No healing happens.
      1. We rush to protecting our allies and reject any thoughts from our opponents.
      2. I’ve experienced this very thing in my own life.
    3. How is this behavior showing we are God’s people?
      1. How is our language showing we are God’s people?
  3. Defense is our natural reaction. I want to interrupt that moment right now.
    1. Liberty is a diverse group of thought. Not everyone in this room thinks the same way about what happened on January 6th. But the people you are sitting next to are not your enemies. They are your brothers and sisters in Christ.
    2. Together WITH our differences, we can listen for the Spirit of God to speak.  Together IN our differences, we can evaluate the messages we hear and listen for God’s truth. We need diversity of heritage, economic status, and voting record. We need a body of believers with critical thinking skills in order to challenge the voices attempting to sway our attention.
    3. In this space, we are not republicans or democrats, tea party or libertarians, we are followers of Christ.
      1. Unity doesn’t mean that we stop being an individual with thoughts and feelings. Unity means we are working together for a solution rather than taking our toys and playing somewhere else.
  4. Action: We are going to take some time to reflect together. There will be a song playing and I invite you to listen to the words or reflect on these questions. If you would like a copy of these questions just raise your hand.
    1. Song & Reflection prayer for our country
      1. Where is God asking me to speak? Where is God asking me to listen?
      2. Where is God calling me to let go? Where is God calling me to stand up?
      3. They Will Know We Are Christians: by Jars of Clay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugQwh-phnZY

CONCLUSION: Sticky-Notes were birthed out of failure. This failure led to a HUGE success.

The biggest failure in the church is believing we don’t need people who are different than us worshipping next to us. The church choosing to only worship next to people they agree with on every single thing leads to a church who has lost its way.

I need you. You need me. We need each other. If we want our faith to continue to grow and be stretched beyond our limits, we need to work together. Share your differences in love and work together to find a God centered solution.

Invitation to baptism & commitment to growing with this church.  

Shout it from the Roof Tops

Message Title: Shout it from the Roof Tops
Theme: God’s consistency
Season: Christmas
Main Text: John 1:(1-9), 10-18
Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 31:7-14
RCL Scripture: Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 147:12-20; Ephesians 1:3-14; John 1:(1-9), 10-18
Focus: Jesus was present & part of the plan from the beginning.
Function: To practice awe and wonder while considering the implications of our beliefs on our lives.
Other Notes: (Hidden Ministries/Mission of the Month)

SCRIPTURE READING: Jeremiah 31:7-14 7The Lord proclaims: Sing joyfully for the people of Jacob; shout for the leading nation. Raise your voices with praise and call out: “The Lord has saved his people, the remaining few in Israel!” 8I’m going to bring them back from the north; I will gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the disabled, expectant mothers and those in labor; a great throng will return here. 9With tears of joy they will come; while they pray, I will bring them back. I will lead them by quiet streams and on smooth paths so they don’t stumble. I will be Israel’s father, Ephraim will be my oldest child. 10Listen to the Lord’s word, you nations,  and announce it to the distant islands: The one who scattered Israel will gather them and keep them safe, as a shepherd his flock. 11The Lord will rescue the people of Jacob and deliver them from the power of those stronger than they are. 12They will come shouting for joy on the hills of Zion, jubilant over the Lord’s gifts: grain, wine, oil, flocks, and herds. Their lives will be like a lush garden; they will grieve no more. 13Then the young women will dance for joy; the young and old men will join in. I will turn their mourning into laughter and their sadness into joy; I will comfort them. 14I will lavish the priests with abundance and shower my people with my gifts, declares the Lord.

INTRO: Though many of you have already taken down your Christmas decorations, this a still a season of awe and wonder. On Dec 29th, 2020 NASA took a poll through their twitter feed @NASAHubble to pick the Hubble photo of the year. Let’s take a look at the four options.

  1. 2020 Hubble space telescope photos
    1. Cosmic Reef
    2. Jupiter
    3. Saturn
    4. Neptune
  2. Which is your favorite?
  3. Polling Results PHOTO
  4. Did you know that most photos taken by Hubble have been digitally edited in one way or another?
    1. This doesn’t mean NASA is lying to us, but that the technology we use to capture photos doesn’t work like a typical camera.
    2. Through the data they receive they are able to make estimations about the colors in the photos.
      1. “Finished color images are actually combinations of two or more black-and-white exposures to which color has been added during image processing. The colors in Hubble images, which are assigned for various reasons, aren’t always what we’d see if we were able to visit the imaged objects in a spacecraft. We often use color as a tool, whether it is to enhance an object’s detail or to visualize what ordinarily could never be seen by the human eye.”
    3. Sources:
      1. https://www.space.com/8059-truth-photos-hubble-space-telescope-sees.html
      2. http://hubble.stsci.edu/gallery/behind_the_pictures/meaning_of_color/
      3. https://www.businessinsider.com/how-hubble-images-are-manipulted-2015-3
      4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=WSG0MnmUsEY
      5. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/phenomena/2015/01/05/hubble-revisits-an-icon-the-pillars-of-creation/#close
      6. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2019/05/dear-hubble-space-telescope-transformed-astronomy-and-us-all/

TRANSITION: Humanity has been curious since the very beginning about our world and the heavens above.In our text for today, John starts his Gospel focusing on the vastness of creation. Let’s zoom out with John and see the big picture of the story of Jesus.

SCRIPTURE: John 1: 1-18 In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. 2The Word was with God in the beginning. 3Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being 4through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. 6A man named John was sent from God. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him everyone would believe in the light. 8He himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light. 9The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world. 10The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world didn’t recognize the light. 11The light came to his own people, and his own people didn’t welcome him. 12But those who did welcome him, those who believed in his name, he authorized to become God’s children, 13born not from blood nor from human desire or passion, but born from God. 14The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full  of grace and truth. 15John testified about him, crying out, “This is the one of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than me because he existed before me.’” 16From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace; 17as the Law was given through Moses, so grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. God the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made God known.

Explanation:

  1. Intro to John’s Gospel: John’s Gospel wants everyone to know that Jesus didn’t enter the scene at Christmas. Jesus has always been on the scene. Jesus wasn’t some dude that God liked and claimed as his son. Jesus was God in the flesh. But there are other gods who have similar stories, so John’s gospel focuses on Jesus’ divinity and its uniqueness to other stories of gods-made-flesh.
  2. “in the Beginning” should bring us back to Genesis 1:1. John is saying that Jesus was present at creation as the Word.
  3. Word, Life, Light- Jesus is more than just a man that we meet at Christmas.Jesus is God, who was present with us at the beginning.

INTERPRETATION & APPLICATION: To practice awe and wonder while considering the implications of our beliefs on our lives.

  1. Awe & wonder are significant elements in our worship of God. Our God is three in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This idea is way bigger than my brain can understand. The complexity should lead to worship.
    1. And perhaps worship starts out as questions which can lead to wonder.
  2. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT:  I want to play a philosophy game with you for a moment. I will ask a question that I want us to ponder together. I am not looking for a “right answer” but for thoughtfulness.
    1. Why did God make other “stuff” besides earth & the sun?
      1. Did God make creation FOR us?
      2. If not, then why did God make creation?
    2. When I think about these questions, and the answers I develop, it changes the way I view the world and how I interact with it.
  3. Honesty time: When I read scripture, I don’t always think of a tangible way to apply the words I read. Frequently, the words continue to inform me about who God is and the collective information adjusts my behavior.
    1. Atomic Habits by James Clear
      1. One nugget from this book: The way we think or speak about ourselves places a large impact on our habits or behavior.
    2. This passage in John makes me think, “… Ok, and now what?” I don’t hear a practical step screaming out from this passage. However, I am filled with awe about God.
  4. AUDIENCE ENAGEMENT: How would the knowledge that Jesus was present at creation and not just at Christmas change things for you?
    1. How do your beliefs create a chain reaction to other parts of your life?

CONCLUSION: Knowledge of the wonders of God *should* stir something inside of us. Much like seeing the majesty of space leads to awe and wonder. It’s exciting to talk about the discoveries NASA and Space X are making. Do we talk about our discoveries with God?

The goal is not to provide a guilt trip but a time of reflection. We have survived 2020 and know that there are no guarantees in 2021. How do we make 2021 a year that God’s kingdom comes to this world? The possibilities are in your hands.

COMMUNION: As we dwell in the awe of God, we will also take time to celebrate communion together.

Let’s dwell in the mystery of Bread & Juice, as it represents Jesus’ body and blood and the salvation we receive through him.

Risky Business

12/6/2020 at Liberty Baptist Church in Tipton, In

Message Title: Risky Business
Theme: Waiting on God
Season: Advent
Main Text: Isaiah 40:1-11;
Scripture Reading: Mark 1:1-8
RCL Scripture: Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8
Focus: God speaks of a future peace for Judah.Function: To commit to a life of peace-bringing and search out ways to bring peace.
Other Notes: Traditional themes each week: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love

SCRIPTURE READING: Mark 1:1-8 The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, 2happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah: Look, I am sending my messenger before you. He will prepare your way, 3a voice shouting in the wilderness: “Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight.” 4John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. 5Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. 6John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. 7He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals. 8I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

WAITING:

  1. Engage audience
    1. Check in: How’s your Luke read through? (should be at ch 6 by now)
    2. Travel:
      1. Longest road a person can travel (also most dangerous road)
      2. What was your longest road trip?
        1. PHOTO: Drive to Kokomo, Dec 2017- was supposed to be 12 hours became 18 hours because of ice & a moving van that topped out at 55mph. Yup, 18 hours in 24 hours.
      3. How many states have you been to?
        1. MAPS: Family has driven through all but 5 of the states together
  2. My story: so frequently the first image that comes to our mind when we think of family trips is the repetitive questions from kids: “Are We There Yet? When can we eat? How much longer? I’m bored!”
    1. PHOTO: Well, one of my strongest road trip memories, apart from traveling to Indiana four Decembers ago, was when my parents left me in the Grand Tetons. I joke that they tried to get rid of me. My parents are still mortified.
      1. I can’t remember for certain but I *think* I was 9.
    2. My family, my aunt & uncle, cousins, and my grandparents were on a camping trip together. Before we arrived at the campground, our caravan stopped at a bathroom. I left my grandparents’ car, told them I was going to ride with my parents, and went to the bathroom. When I came out of the bathroom, all three cars were gone. Little did I know, they were just about a mile up the road checking into the campground and hadn’t realized that I was not in any of the vehicles.

TRANSITION: Waiting for my parents to come back to get me felt like forever. In our text for today, Judah hears words of comfort as they are waiting to return from exile.

SCRIPTURE & EXPLAINATION: Isaiah 40:1-11 –God speaks of a future peace for Judah.

Vs 1-2 Comfort, comfort my people! says your God. 2Speak compassionately to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her compulsory service has ended, that her penalty has been paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins!

  1. Exile is fresh in ch 40
    1. Hoping back in time from the text of last week
    2. Ch 39 was the end of a section of judgement and harshness, now we hear a word of hope.
      1. Time of hope (you’re in exile but not forever)

Vs 3-8 3A voice is crying out: “Clear the Lord’s way in the desert! Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God! 4Every valley will be raised up, and every mountain and hill will be flattened. Uneven ground will become level, and rough terrain a valley plain. 5The Lord’s glory will appear, and all humanity will see it together; the Lord’s mouth has commanded it.” 6A voice was saying: “Call out!” And another said, “What should I call out?” All flesh is grass; all its loyalty is like the flowers of the field. 7The grass dries up and the flower withers when the Lord’s breath blows on it. Surely the people are grass. 8The grass dries up; the flower withers, but our God’s word will exist forever.

  1. God doesn’t want to punish Judah. God wants to restore God’s people. Clear the way! It’s gonna happen.
    1. Think of the song I posted on our FB group: “Ain’t not mountain high enough / ain’t no valley low enough / ain’t no river wide enough/ to keep me from getting to you”
    2. Jesus said in the Gospels- “even the rocks will cry out” if God’s people don’t praise him. (Luke 19)
  2. Judah needs consequences for their actions. Judah needs to follow the covenant commitment.
    1. It has been GENERATIONS since the 10 commandments given at Sinai
    2. Each generation has struggled to maintain the covenant.

vs 9-11 9Go up on a high mountain, messenger Zion! Raise your voice and shout, messenger Jerusalem! Raise it; don’t be afraid; say  to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10Here is the Lord God, coming with strength, with a triumphant arm, bringing his reward with him and his payment before him. 11Like a shepherd, God will tend the flock; he will gather lambs in his arms and lift them onto his lap. He will gently guide the nursing ewes.

  1. Now if you were to continue reading in this chapter, the imagery of comforting Judah continues to the famous quote of “rising up on wings like eagles.” God will care for God’s people.
  2. Judah has received the consequences of their actions, and now God calls them to obedience and a future peace.

RELATABILITY/ INTERPRETATION:

  1. Judah appears much like a lost puppy during exile. A loss of identity, as they are separated from their people, their land, and their God. They are lost without their identity.
    1. Does this sound like 2020 or what? Digital church, no normal family holidays, quarantined from society.
  2. God wants our flourishing and gives us opportunities for peace. However, we frequently reject those opportunities.
  3. We are the ones needing to shift our focus from us to God.
    1. God’s life leads to flourishing.
  4. Back to the Intro: As soon as my parents realized I was gone they sent a car back to pick me up. While I was waiting a family sat with me and waited for someone to return.
    1. Road trips are frequently not

ACTION/APPLICATION: To commit to a life of peace-bringing and search out ways to bring peace.

  1. Real Peace vs. “being nice”- Not the same as being nice or avoiding problems or conflict.
    1. Real peace gets messy and risky: Loving people gets messy. Loving people is an act of vulnerability/exposure. You put yourself at risk. But God calls us to those risky places.
      1. As we talked about last week, loving people is hard.
      2. Bringing peace is unpopular. Media and entertainment thrive on disputes.
    2. Real peace leads to social faux pas and being counter cultural.
      1. Not a license to tell gay people they are going to hell
      2. Not a license for denominational wars or telling someone their denomination’s theology is bad
      3. Not a license to play the martyr when someone disagrees with you
  2. Practical reality of living 10 commandments is flourishing of relationships. Can we think of examples without getting legalistic?
    1. Whiteboard:
      1. Loving God
      2. Loving Others
  3. God says God will level the mountains & fill in the valleys to make this peace come. We are his peace-bringers. What if God hands us a shovel and a pickaxe rather than snapping a finger and making it happen? We are the ones called to fill in the valleys and level the mountains to make God’s highway wide.

CONCLUSION

COMMUNION: Fran Pratt- Litany for Eucharist

God, You’re Late

11/29/2020 at Liberty Baptist Church in Tipton, In

Message Title: God, You’re Late
Theme: Waiting on God
Season: Advent
Main Text: Isaiah 64:1-9;
Scripture Reading: Mark 13:24-37
RCL Scripture: Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37
Focus: Isaiah asks God to provide Judah’s hope of restoration. (the People are blaming God)
Function: To pick up our Gospel responsibility and leave God’s responsibilities to God.
– To wait, trust, and hope in God’s promises
Other Notes: Traditional themes each week: Hope, Peace, Joy, Lov

Scripture reading: Mark 13: 24-27 24“In those days, after the suffering of that time, the sun will become dark, and the moon won’t give its light. 25The stars will fall from the sky, and the planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken. 26Then they will see the Human Onecoming in the clouds with great power and splendor. 27Then he will send the angels and gather together his chosen people from the four corners of the earth, from the end of the earth to the end of heaven. 28“Learn this parable from the fig tree. After its branch becomes tender and it sprouts new leaves, you know that summer is near. 29In the same way, when you see these things happening, you know that he’s near, at the door. 30I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until all these things happen. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away. 32“But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the angels in heaven and not the Son. Only the Father knows. 33Watch out! Stay alert! You don’t know when the time is coming. 34It is as if someone took a trip, left the household behind, and put the servants in charge, giving each one a job to do, and told the doorkeeper to stay alert. 35Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know when the head of the household will come, whether in the evening or at midnight, or when the rooster crows in the early morning or at daybreak. 36Don’t let him show up when you weren’t expecting and find you sleeping. 37What I say to you, I say to all: Stay alert!”

Intro to New Series: Waiting on God (an Advent Series) – This series will explore waiting for the Messiah from an Old Testament perspective. Advent is frequently misconstrued as a season of darkness. Rather, let’s picture it like dawn, the light is coming. (Photo) Dawn also coordinates with the colors of advent. Color: Blue/Purple & Pink

  1. Advent is about the building anticipation for the Birth of Jesus & getting ready for the fulfillment of God’s promises. (Standing on the promises of God *song)
    1. Decorate: get yourself a nativity- I’ve found a few printable ones with cut out figures. Set out the stable and progressively (each week) add more things. Don’t add Mary or Joseph until Christmas eve and don’t add Jesus until Christmas day.
    2. Tell the story: read the Gospel of Luke each day until Christmas. You’ll get through all of Jesus’ ministry by day 24.

TRANSITION: The broad theme for Advent is waiting with anticipation. Now, I know that as 2020 survivors, we’re sick of waiting. Perhaps, this season can be a healing salve to that wound. So, let’s focus on waiting from a joyful vantage point.

WAITING:  I want to hear your thoughts on anticipating a baby.  

  1. Engage the Audience:
    1. What do we traditionally do to prepare for a baby?
      1. Hospital bag- What did you pack? What did you wish you pack, but you didn’t?
    2. Do you feel you were fully prepared for the extent of parenthood?
  2. Expectations VS. Reality
    1. It’s common that before you became a parent, you build ideas of what you will or won’t do to be the best parent possible. How many of you broke your own rules/expectations?
    2. As a family prepares for a baby, preparations are expected to happen while waiting for the “time to come.” However, often we are surprised by the reality of life with babies. Yes, I am saying this as a woman without kids. Expectations and Reality don’t always line up.
      1. Preparation: Finances, house safety updates, supplies, medical/birth plan, etc
      2. Reality: not just about rosy cheeks, bodily fluids, pain, healing, crying, sleepless nights, nursing struggles, etc.

TRANSITION:  In our text for today, we are returning to Isaiah to hear a word on expectant waiting.

  1. Reminder of the story of Isaiah: If you remember, we were just in Isaiah in October. We looked at Isaiah 5, 25, & 45. We will get a few more glimpses into Isaiah during this series, along with another Old Testament text. (Ch 64, 40, 61).
    1. Here’s a refresher on what we know about the book of Isaiah:
      1. 2 kingdoms: Isaiah is speaking to Judah. Israel is going to get wiped out before the end of this book. Babylon will take Judah into exile.
      2. 66 chapters in this book, 150ish years covered.
      3. Scholars consider Isaiah split into 3 sections (and three authors): Pre-exile (announced coming judgement), Exile, Post Exile/Hope of return.
    2. CHART- where we are in the timeline

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 64: 1-9 If only you would tear open the heavens and come down! Mountains would quake before you 2like fire igniting brushwood or making water boil.  If you would make your name known to your enemies, the nations would tremble in your presence. 3When you accomplished wonders beyond all our expectations; when you came down, mountains quaked before you. 4From ancient times, no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any god but you who acts on behalf of those who wait for him! 5You look after those who gladly do right; they will praise you for your ways. But you were angry when we sinned; you hid yourself when we did wrong. 6We have all become like the unclean; all our righteous deeds are like a menstrual rag. All of us wither like a leaf; our sins, like the wind, carry us away. 7No one calls on your name; no one bothers to hold on to you, for you have hidden yourself from us, and have handed us overto our sin. 8But now, Lord, you are our father. We are the clay, and you are our potter. All of us are the work of your hand. 9Don’t rage so fiercely, Lord; don’t hold our sins against us forever, but gaze now on your people, all of us:

EXPLAINATION: Isaiah asks God to provide Judah’s hope of restoration. (the People are blaming God)

  1. The Text: Isaiah offers a prayer to God that sounds like an accusation, depending on the translation you read. The Jewish translation accuses God for humans’ sin by making a system impossible to follow.
    1. “if only you would….”
    2. “If you would…”
    3. “When you accomplished…”
    4. “for you have hidden yourself… handed us over”
    5. “Don’t hold our sins against us forever…”
  2. Break down: Judah is returning from an exile in a foreign land. They were away from God’s holy land as a consequence for their actions.
    1. Their sins: Basically, ignoring the 10 commandments entirely.
      1. disloyalty to others: Judah was ignoring the poor, widow, foreigner, oppressed, etc.
      2. disloyalty to God: Befriending other nations and worshipping their gods
      3. Their actions made their borders become vulnerable & Babylon oppressed them
    2. Isaiah’s words in response to God’s actions
      1. Acknowledged their sins
      2. Called out for deliverance
      3. Waiting on God to show up

INTERPRETATION: Isaiah asks God to provide Judah’s hope of restoration. (the People are blaming God)

  1. Consequences: Not following God’s commands has consequences. No, not God giving us a spanking. The consequences break up relationships between us, God, and others. We sabotage ourselves.
  2. Ownership for not living God’s Word
    1. (inspired by EBC) Are we in the cycle of sin because of our own actions or because God won’t save us?
      1. Jewish translation of Isaiah’s words: It’s all God’s fault. I’ll continue to do my thing until God rescues me. God’s people are skilled at wanting praise or rewards, not so great at ownership of actions or receiving of consequences. “Lord, have mercy! They made me do it!” or “you made me this way!”
  3. Orthodoxy vs orthopraxis: Time to stop blaming God and take ownership for our actions.
    1. Time to act the way we speak. God’s people were good at knowing the words to say but bad at living them.

APPLICATION: Act on This– To pick up our Gospel-responsibility and leave God’s responsibilities to God.

  1. We love to play God. But it’s God’s job to be God. It’s our job to be God’s people. We have joint responsibility in the Gospel story. God’s job is Gods. Our job is ours. We need to stop waiting on God to solve immediate problems.
  2. As we expectantly wait for the celebration of Christmas, we remember we are expecting Christ to return again.
  3. Our job is not to sit idly by. Our job is to tell people of the love of God.
  4. Call to action:
    1. Take ownership: Stop language that blames God for the consequences of your actions
    2. Take Action: Love God, Love People
      1. Matt 28:18-20 18Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
        1. Acts 1:9-11 9After Jesus said these things, as they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10While he was going away and as they were staring toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood next to them. 11They said, “Galileans, why are you standing here, looking toward heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you saw him go into heaven.”
      2. 1Cor 11: 26 26Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you broadcast the death of the Lord until he comes.
      3. 2 Peter 3: 8-10 8Don’t let it escape your notice, dear friends, that with the Lord a single day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a single day. 9The Lord isn’t slow to keep his promise, as some think of slowness, but he is patient toward you, not wanting anyone to perish but all to change their hearts and lives. 10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that day the heavens will pass away with a dreadful noise, the elements will be consumed by fire, and the earth and all the works done on it will be exposed.
    3. How will your Christmas season and the end of 2020 be impacted by your commitment to God?
      1. Ways to help people in poverty:
        1. Kokomo Rescue Mission is serving & delivering meals for Christmas
        2. Jubilee with Liberty
        3. United Way buddy bags
        4. Tipton School buddy bags
        5. Jackson St Commons
        6. CAM
        7. Howard Haven
      2. Ways to help people know about Jesus
        1. Invite people to enjoy this stream.
        2. Video Chat with friends and talk about your lives—don’t just get interested in them to rack up “Saved Points” but invest in their lives.
        3. Enter a mentoring or accountability relationship with another believer. Share your lives together. Listen for God together.

CONCLUSION: Loving people gets messy. Doing our Gospel-job is not always easy, much like the expectations of having a baby don’t exactly match reality.  

BENNEDICTION

Farm Animals & Kings

11/22/2020 at Liberty Baptist Church in Tipton, In

Message Title: Farm Animals & Kings
Theme: Christ the King Sunday
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Matthew 25:31-46
Scripture Reading: Psalm 100
RCL Scripture: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Psalm 100; Psalm 95:1-7a; Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46
Focus: Jesus’ parable calls for action, not just pretty words.
Function: To get involved in the messiness of the Gospel by loving people that are hard to love. 
Other Notes: thanksgiving//CHRIST THE KING Sunday

SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 100 Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth! 2Serve the Lord with celebration! Come before him with shouts of joy! 3Know that the Lord is God—he made us; we belong to him. We are his people, the sheep of his own pasture. 4Enter his gates with thanks; enter his courtyards with praise! Thank him! Bless his name! 5Because the Lord is good, his loyal love lasts forever; his faithfulness lasts generation after generation.

Audience Engagement: Holiday traditions

  1. Questions:
    1. What holiday season comes directly after Halloween?
    2. Do you decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving comes?
    3. What about Christmas music or movies?
    4. What are your favorite Christmas Hymns?
  2. Me:
    1. It wasn’t until I was in seminary that I even knew that there was a difference between Christmas hymns and Advent hymns.
    2. Honestly, until about 4 years ago, I had a poor attitude towards Christmas. Not Christmas, celebrating Jesus’ birth but Retail Christmas. I had worked retail. Retail can definitely suck the joy out of the holiday season.
    3. I haven’t decorated yet, but do intend to this week! Yes, Christmas décor before thanksgiving!

Intro: Today is a unique holiday that you won’t see marketed by Hallmark or Amazon. Today is Christ the King Sunday also called Reign of Christ Sunday.

Today is the last Sunday in the church calendar. This holy day was instituted by Pope Pius the XI(11th) in 1925. Though it wasn’t celebrated on the last Sunday in the year until 1970.

War can leave us full of fear and searching for stability or comfort. The Pope believed that after WWI ended, the world needed to be reminded of the One True King and the hope our King brings.

So, Today we celebrate Christ as our King who reigns forever!

TRANSITION: In our text for today we are going to focus on Jesus’ words. He shares a parable of a king with unique expectations for his subjects that includes scary consequences for those that don’t comply. Should we be filled with fear? Let’s see what the Reign of Christ brings.

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 25:31-46

31“Now when the Human Onecomes in his majesty and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his majestic throne. 32All the nations will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right side. But the goats he will put on his left. 34“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. 35I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 36I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37“Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40“Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’ 41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me, you who will receive terrible things. Go into the unending fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels. 42I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink. 43I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ 44“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ 45Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’ 46And they will go away into eternal punishment. But the righteous ones will go into eternal life.”

EXPLAINATION:

  1. Titles used:
    1. Human One- a title used in Daniel
      1. Read Daniel 7:9-14
      2. Some of your translations may say Son of Man.
    2. King
      1. Merging of the Jewish messiah with the Davidic king.
  2. Action of the King
    1. Separates sheep from goats
      1. Sheep/ the ones on the right/ the righteous
        1. fed, clothed, cared for, & visited those in need
      2. Goats/the ones on the left/ receivers of terrible things
        1. Did not feed, cloth, care for, or visit those in need

INTERPRETATION: Jesus’ parable calls for action, not just pretty words.

  1. Background
    1. Gospel Writer: Matthew (Jewish writer to a Jewish audience)
    2. Scripture’s Audience: Disciples (Matt 24:3)
  2. Context:
    1. Up until entering Jerusalem, Jesus used calculated language. With a few exceptions in other gospels, Jesus doesn’t directly call himself the messiah. As you continue to read the Gospel of Matthew, the closer Jesus gets to Jerusalem, the more bold his words become.
    2. This passage is during Holy Week. Jesus had already entered the city triumphantly.  And now Jesus turns his language up to 11 on the controversial scale. At the time of this passage, Jesus is in Jerusalem and days away from being crucified. So he starts to make the statements that he knows will lead to his arrest and crucifixion.
    3. Jesus had been preaching to crowds in the Temple. Then Jesus walked to the Mount of Olives and the disciples pulled him aside to ask more questions.
      1. Jesus will be crucified as a treasonous blasphemer by the church and state. His statements became more overtly political. More overtly about the system being broken and pointing to the One True Kingdom.
  3. It would be easy to get hyper focused on the questions about sheep & goats (Picture) Is Jesus saying literally that sheep are better than goats? Unfortunately, we’re not talking about the literal animals today.  
    1. If you listen, we qualify as both sheep and goats.
      1. “done it for one of the least of these, you have done it for me”
      2. “haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me”
      3. Ignoring 1 opportunity means you’re a goat.
  4. But is this passage supposed to make us scared? No. We’re called to action.

APPLICATION: To get involved in the messiness of the Gospel by loving people that are hard to love.

  1. What is interesting about this passage is Jesus seems to contradict himself (from the other gospels). In John 3:17, Jesus tells Nicodemus that the Son came not to condemn the world but to save the world through himself. Now, Jesus is painting himself in to the judgement seat.
    1. Jesus is simultaneously our judge and our savior. He is the one setting the standard, and he is the one fulfilling the standard.
    2. Our actions do not save us. No one can meet these standards laid out by the king, Jesus meets them for us.
    3. But does that mean we don’t even need to try?
  2. Ownership of our faith: I want to take a moment to get our brains active. Everyone should have a note card and a writing utensil. Raise your hand if you don’t, we’ll get some for you.
    1. Notes cards: write down your answers rather than shouting them out.
      1. Who are the people that seem to have “lost their way” to you?
      2. Whose salvation do you worry about?
    2. Congratulations, You’ve just made a starter list of “the least of these.”
      1. How will you love them this holiday season?
      2. *Notice* the King didn’t say
        1. Tell these people they are horrible sinners and unworthy of love.
        2. Tell these people they’re so lucky to receive your kindness.
      3. The king says, those “least of these” – they’re me. Treat them like you would treat me.
  3. Tangible option:
    1. Donate for Jubilee Christmas
    2. Deliver Thanksgiving Meals with the Rescue Mission https://kokomorescuemission.org/event/thanksgiving-day-banquet/
    3. Sponsor a Buddy Bag https://unitedwayhoco.org/sign-up-here-to-be-a-buddy-bag-packing-partner/
    4. Care for a Convict-

CONCLUSION:

  1. Confession: “Things we’ve done and things we’ve left undone.”
    1. People: Most merciful God, we confess that we are by choice sinful and unclean. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve Your judgement. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of your Holy Name. Amen.
    2. Pastor (Declaration of Grace): “In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ gave himself to die for us, and for His sake God forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in Jesus Christ, He gives the power to become the children of God and bestows on them the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  2. Crazy idea: for 5-10 minutes after church we’ll have discussion time for those wanting to iron out parts of the service that left them puzzled. We will have our benediction and then if people have questions, they can stay and ask questions and I’ll respond as best I can. I won’t guarantee solving the world’s problems but I can offer more clarity.

Forest Roots: A Bonus Episode

Originally preached on 11/15/2020 at Liberty Baptist Church in Tipton, In

Title: Forest Roots: A Bonus Episode
Theme: KNOW YOUR ROOTS
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Judges 4:1-7
Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:14-30
RCL Scripture: Judges 4:1-7; Psalm 123; Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18; Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30
Focus:  Israel forgets the dependable character of God.
Function:  To be a Christian requires us to know the history of our faith and our community.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Matthew 25:14-30 14“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who was leaving on a trip. He called his servants and handed his possessions over to them. 15To one he gave five valuable coins, and to another he gave two, and to another he gave one. He gave to each servant according to that servant’s ability. Then he left on his journey. 16“After the man left, the servant who had five valuable coins took them and went to work doing business with them. He gained five more. 17In the same way, the one who had two valuable coins gained two more. 18But the servant who had received the one valuable coin dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. 19“Now after a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The one who had received five valuable coins came forward with five additional coins. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five valuable coins. Look, I’ve gained five more.’ 21“His master replied, ‘Excellent! You are a good and faithful servant! You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much. Come, celebrate with me.’ 22“The second servant also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two valuable coins. Look, I’ve gained two more.’ 23“His master replied, ‘Well done! You are a good and faithful servant. You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much. Come, celebrate with me.’ 24“Now the one who had received one valuable coin came and said, ‘Master, I knew that you are a hard man. You harvest grain where you haven’t sown. You gather crops where you haven’t spread seed. 25So I was afraid. And I hid my valuable coin in the ground. Here, you have what’s yours.’ 26“His master replied, ‘You evil and lazy servant! You knew that I harvest grain where I haven’t sown and that I gather crops where I haven’t spread seed? 27In that case, you should have turned my money over to the bankers so that when I returned, you could give me what belonged to me with interest. 28Therefore, take from him the valuable coin and give it to the one who has ten coins. 29Those who have much will receive more, and they will have more than they need. But as for those who don’t have much, even the little bit they have will be taken away from them. 30Now take the worthless servant and throw him out into the farthest darkness.’ “People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.
LORD’S PRAYER

Intro: I have good news and bad news—The bad news, you may have noticed already, our guest speaker had to return to Miami, Fl and won’t be with us today.  Good news? You get a bonus ROOTS! Who’s excited?

OUR ROOTS:  Apostles’ Creed We have explored our covenant for three weeks, now I want to introduce another document that is foundational to Christian belief.

  1. The Apostles’ Creed:
    1. Sources say this popped up around 390 AD (Wiki)
      1. Church tradition says that each of the 12 disciples helped form part of this creed, though history/anthropology doesn’t back up that claim. (wiki)
    2. Most basic summary of Christian tenants
      1. Historically used to teach early converts about Christianity
      2. A source of unity for believers
  2. Read the Creed: I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Under Pontius Pilate, He was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.
  3. Baptists & The Creed: What is fascinating is thatBaptists haven’t always been big on the Apostles’ Creed because of the phrase “the holy Catholic Church” and assuming we’re talking about Roman Catholics. The reformation era really made Baptists skeptical of anything Catholic. If only we were able to acknowledge that “catholic” little “c” means unified or whole.
    1. Baptists have actually had a tradition of rejecting “tradition”… Well, as long as “tradition” points to Catholicism…We love the tradition of hymns or pews or our specific order of service or celebrations.
    2. But our tradition of rejecting tradition has become the greatest weakness for Baptists. Our habit to disassociate with the bigger picture of the church leads us to forget where we came from or where we’re going.
  4. TRANSITION: In our text for today we will see that the Israelites have lost sight of their roots and have become vulnerable to other kingdoms.What could they have learned from their own history? How could that have prevented these atrocities from happening?

SCRIPTURE: Judges 4:1-7

  1. Context: Era of Judges PHOTO
    1. After Joshua is Othniel (40 years) à Ehud (80 years)à Deborah (40 years)
    2. Sprinkled in with outside influences between each judge.
    3. Judges = Balance of law enforcer and pastor

After Ehud had died, the Israelites again did things that the Lord saw as evil. 2So the Lord gave them over to King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, and he was stationed in Harosheth-ha-goiim. 3The Israelites cried out to the Lord because Sisera had nine hundred iron chariots and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly for twenty years. 4Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was a leader of Israel at that time. 5She would sit under Deborah’s palm tree between Ramah and Bethel in the Ephraim highlands, and the Israelites would come to her to settle disputes. 6She sent word to Barak, Abinoam’s son, from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “Hasn’t the Lord, Israel’s God, issued you a command? ‘Go and assemble at Mount Tabor, taking ten thousand men from the people of Naphtali and Zebulun with you. 7I’ll lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, to assemble with his chariots and troops against you at the Kishon River, and then I’ll help you overpower him.’”

EXPLAINATION:

  1. Israel’s cycle of unfaithfulness: Remember how I said that the people would be faithful during the lifetime of Joshua & the leaders just after Joshua? Yeah that’s over now. Israel is now in a cycle of:
    1. Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord
    2. The Lord gave them over to their desires
    3. Consequences of their desires (usually being oppressed by another nation)
    4. They call out to God for help
    5. God rescues them
    6. They are faithful… for a while
    7. Rinse, repeat
  2. The Judge: Deborah, a married woman and judge over Israel
    1. Prophet and wise council
  3. Her Message: God will team up with you to overthrow Israel’s enemy.
  4. Post-Script:
    1. Barak is scared to go on his own, so he asks Deobrah to go with him.
    2. She agrees but says the defeat of Sisera will be by the hands of a woman
    3. Cue Metal Bible story: Jael and her tent peg. She defeats the enemy with hospitality and household objects.
    4. For this brief moment in time, Israel was faithful to God after being rescued, yet again, but they did not learn from their past. It wouldn’t be long before their ears would clog again and they would need rescuing.

INTERPRETATION: Knowing our history impacts our future

  1. Israel was stuck in a cycle of unfaithfulness. We’re only a few Judges into the Post-Joshua era but Israel has already forgotten that God is dependable. They became cowards and bent to the instructions of threatening outside nations.
    1. Imagine how their behavior would have changed if they remembered the God of their ancestors.
      1. We need to listen & learn from their story
  2. The importance of knowing our church covenant but also the heritage of Christianity, like the Apostles’ Creed, is the root system of support we have to move be faithful to the life God calls us to live. We have bravery to get up and serve God each day, knowing God is faithful. We can see it through the centuries of church history. God’s people may continue the cycle of Israel from Judges 4, but God keeps showing up.
  3. Part of being a follower of Christ is being connected to a church community. Community enables us to be faithful.
    1. Think about it, if Barak had KNOWN the stories of the God of Israel, he would have gone into battle with confidence: “I know the God who provides for God’s people! This God says he’s with me, I don’t need to fear!”
  4. Being faithful and holding onto belief isn’t easy. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has had days where I think “ Is this really true? Is it really worth the struggle? Is there an easier way?”
    1. There is nothing wrong with questions, especially when you have a community to support you through the questions.
  5. Nadia & The Creed: Nadia Bolz-Weber is an ELCA pastor and rather untraditional in her appearance & expression as a Christian but her words are rooted in scripture and tradition:
    1. She was interviewed by Krista Tippet for the On Being special for NPR. Nearing the end of their interview she talked about faith and the significance of a church working together to remain faithful.
      1. Let me paraphrase:
        1. “Faith is not given in sufficient quantity to individuals, faith is given in sufficient quantity to communities. God will not give you more than a COMMUNITY can bear.
        2. Nadia Plays out a conversation:
          1. I can’t say the Apostles’ Creed because I don’t believe every line of it…
          2. Oh My God, nobody believes every line of the creed. But in a room of people, each line of the creed, somebody believes it, so we’re covered, Right?
        3. Nadia believes that the Apostles’ Creed is not your individual creed that you believe 100% of the time all on your own. She believe the creed is given to a community to believe together.
    2. For Nadia, church is about continuing the actions of faithful living, even when we don’t mean it because God can transform our hearts. We support each other through the questions, doubts, or dry spells, and lean on the history that God is faithful and will show up. We help each other remember that.
  6. Tree System: Nadia’s image of church reminds me of an amazing natural phenomenon.There is a “forest” that is considered one of the oldest “TREEs” on earth. Yes, a forest = 1 tree.
    1. The Pando tree system is Aspen tree “forest” that is actually one whole tree & root system. It is not separate trees but a single root system that has continued to sprout fresh shoots in different places.
    2. The trees look separate but are connected.

APPLICATION: To be a Christian requires us to know the history of our faith and our community.

  1. Consider your place in the church:
    1. Who did you inherit your faith from? Who taught you about Jesus?
    2. What is the history or heritage of this church?
    3. Is this a community you can walk with?
  2. Ways of making commitment:
    1. A traditional church way: Baptism – a public declaration that you believe in Jesus and a commitment to continue to grow in your faith with a community.
    2. Some traditional Liberty ways: Getting involved and contributing time or resources to the missions of the church.
      1. Liberty people can correct me if they disagree. The way I’ve seen commitment recognized the most in this community is rolling up your sleeves to volunteer.
      2. Actions where your beliefs are.

CONCLUSION: I cannot guarantee tomorrow will come but I can guarantee that God will be faithful tomorrow. I cannot guarantee how long we will be fighting COVID and adapting our services but I can say that God hasn’t given up. God’s still here with us. Scripture, history, tradition tells me so.

In this midst of uncertainty, let’s remember the God we follow.

Recite the Apostles’ creed together.

I believe in God the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ,
his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
Under Pontius Pilate, He was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen

PRAY & Blessed be the tie & Benediction

Resources:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m09UpBIzD7c
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostles%27_Creed
  3. https://vimeo.com/73913123 Interview with Nadia Bolz-Weber (Great interview! 1:08:50-1:11:55 for the relevant part to our passage today)
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pando_(tree)
  5. https://apsari.com/the-pando-tree-system-is-the-oldest-living-organism-in-the-world