The Lighthouse Keeper

Greetings from Pastor Kerry, former pastor of Spring City UMC. This blog contains my sermon outlines and/or manuscripts from my pastorate among the people of Spring City PA, from 2006 to 2011. Pastor Dennis is now the lighthouse keeper. Come and worship on Sundays at 10:00 a.m.!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

"Depth of Imagination"

July 30, 2006
Ephesians series, 3/7
from Ephesians 3:14-21 and John 6:1-12

"Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever..." Ephesians 3:20-21

My sermon outline:

• Entertain for a moment the greatest thing that could happen for the people of Spring City and of SCUMC. Not “won the lottery” style but more “God grants the congregation 1 wish” ... Oddly enough when King Solomon was given the opportunity for God to grant 1 wish he asked for wisdom, the same thing that the author of Ephesians asks for us today in this reading.

• These things we imagine... I could stay on verse 20 all day: God, by his power at work in us, is able to accomplish far beyond what we can imagine.

• 126 years ago in Alabama, a daughter Helen was born to Kate and Arthur Keller. Deaf/blind at 19months due to scarlet fever. Yet in the years to follow, it was her father Captain Arthur Keller, who was the blind one. At 6 yrs, with a fierce temper and still virtually unable to communicate, the Kellers found Anne Sullivan. After spending several weeks with Annie, Helen had learned some discipline, was able to feed herself and brush her hair. That was “miracle enough” for Capn. Keller. He was blind to the possibility of greater things.

• What is “miracle enough” for you? Is what you thought of a few moments ago miracle enough? Are you willing to limit God’s possibilities? Could God a/c this sanctuary? Would that be a grand miracle, or a little miracle? If it’s imaginable by our standards, it barely scratches the surface of God’s imagination.

• HK: One day AS made a breakthrough with HK, and the concept of spelling was connected to object. 30 words that day. Within a few years no concept was beyond expression. Is that miracle enough?

• HK: in addition to learning Braille, HK learned English, French, German, Greek, and Latin. Is that miracle enough?

• She published an autobiography at age 23, one year before graduating magna cum laude from Radcliffe (now Harvard), being the first d/b to earn a college degree. Is that miracle enough for Captain Keller, once satisfied with Helen’s ability to feed herself?

• In her 88 years HK traveled to 39 countries, wrote 11 books, met 15 Presidents, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The d/b daughter of Captain Arthur H. Keller accomplished far more than many can ask or imagine.

• Far too many times, friends, we are like Captain Arthur H. Keller, who was blind to the possibility that his daughter could even learn to communicate. Far too many times we are like Jesus’ disciples, placing limits on what possibilities God can accomplish in our midst, crippled by circumstances or human tallies of resources. 5 loaves 2 fish, and Jesus fed 1000’s, with leftovers to boot. We think of our dreams for this church and this community but maybe we say to ourselves or others “That’ll never happen because of such-and-such.” Or “so-and-so’s relationship will never heal...” “It’d take 6 months’ wages to buy enough bread for these folks to each have a nibble.”

• These are the sorts of things that should never cross a Christian’s lips. HK wrote that:“Optimism is the harmony between man's spirit and of God pronouncing His works good.” and “We differ, blind and seeing, one from another, not in our senses,
but in the use we make of them, in the imagination and courage with which we seek wisdom beyond the senses.”

• There’s a pastor of a UMC in Ohio whose business cards simply say “Chief Dreamer.” I hope to be a perpetual dreamer here at SCUMC, believing not only that God fed thousands with a boy’s lunchbox, but that God can take our offerings, God can take our resources and abilities and do unimaginable things, not limited by what we deem to be possible or not, but instead fulfilled by God’s power in us.

• I hope to lead you to believe that God will expand our vision and deepen our imagination, that God who brought back Jesus Christ from the dead will work in us what is pleasing to him – that is, our belief, our love, and our service. Those wishes you may have thought of a few moments ago will follow.

God, by his power at work in us, is able to accomplish far beyond what we can imagine.

Glory be to him and to his Son Jesus Christ, forever and ever, amen.

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: hot & humid. 55 in worship.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

"The Organic Church"

July 23, 2006
from Ephesians 2:11-22 and Titus 3:1-12

"...He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit... (Titus 3:5)"

The second of seven sermons on Ephesians

My sermon outline:

• What is “organic”, what is “inorganic”? Rebecca did you eat a lot of tuna when you were pregnant with Emma? Why not? Mercury, poison, collects in the fish, gets ingested by human, poisons developing fetus. (organic = referring to a living organism)

• My brother is a hydrogeologist in Bangladesh, working for UNICEF to address arsenic problem

• Poison needn’t be a chemical; it can be an attitude or action (See Titus 3:3: we were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another...) These things in the organic body of the church are destructive

• Or look to Ephesians 2:14: Christ ... has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. Like the Sneetches, or the less famous Zax.

• Relationships may be poisoned like Israel and Hezbollah or Hamas. Or like the guy who flipped me off in the parking lot last week. Or like the dissensions and quarrels that drive wedges between spouses or siblings or church members

• Christ is our peace; in his flesh he has made [our enemies and us] into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. I can’t help but picture an organic image of Christ making us into one in him. Like a mother hen sheltering its young under its wings, Christ takes us and our poisons into himself, “that he might create in himself one new humanity... thus making peace... and might reconcile us to God... putting to death the hostility.”

• Making peace is something to celebrate, reconciliation to God, death to hostility, things to celebrate. And we celebrate them in baptism. We and our sin join Jesus in death, symbolized by going under the water, and we are reborn and renewed in Jesus’ resurrection

• In baptism we who were strangers and aliens to God are adopted into God’s family, not by our own works of righteousness but by God’s mercy and grace, and for God’s glory, for God’s dwelling place.

• Therefore since we are shown grace and mercy let us show grace and mercy

• Therefore let us be fertile ground for the growth of the newest member of God’s family, little Emma, who with us is (Ephesians 2:19: We are no longer strangers and aliens but citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God...)

• Therefore Titus 3:1-2: (Let us be obedient, ready for every good work, speaking evil of no one, avoiding quarrelling, let us be gentle and show courtesy to everyone)

• Therefore pray that God reconciles you to your brother, brings peace in the Middle East, reconciles humankind to God

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: warm & cloudy. An infant baptism today. 61 in worship.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Where is your "You"?

July 16, 2006
from Ephesians 1:3-14 and John 15:1-12

"It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for..."

My sermon outline included these thoughts. I talked about my personal history and about God's plans in the world, plans which are before and which will outlast any current circumstances...

• I was talking once with a person who’d had a child born into their family with a crippling disease... & they struggled, as the disciples struggled in John 9 trying to understand why a man had been born blind... & it was not the sin of the man nor his folks but it happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life: the man was healed and gave witness about Jesus Christ. This person and I talked about how because of this child (who’s mind is well intact and who is otherwise a healthy happy child) a generation will be changed.

• Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans

• Even only after 2 weeks here I’m seeing how God’s gonna use my past 4 years at WL to shepherd and lead this congregation

• challenges of sustaining of this church, of building up of our youth and teens, of vitality in our city

• world faces challenges in the Middle East, & when lasting peace comes about, we must give credit to God

• I started out saying This can’t be good, but I read in Ephesians about God’s long term plans, that before anything, God had a plan for good. Before Israel and Palestine started fighting, God had a plan for good. Before my wife died, God had a plan for good. Before the challenges we face in this congregation and in this community, God had a plan for good

• and that plan includes God choosing us to love us, adopting us into his family through Jesus Christ, and leading us to wholeness and holiness as God’s people. We were chosen beforehand to be pure and blameless, free from sin and free from death for though our bodies will die God’s plan doesn’t stop there but God’s plan is bringing everything in earth and heaven together, thanks be to God.

• as Eugene Peterson writes in The Message, "It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for... (Eph. 1:11).

You’ll find your “you” in Christ Jesus... we’ll find our “us” there, our purpose in community.

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: Hot and humid, 59 in worship.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

"What would God have us do?"

July 9, 2006
from Mark 6:6-13 and 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

“Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything,
But only God, who makes things grow.” – 1 Corinthians 3:7

My sermon outline:

• Our scripture readings today give us some glimpses into biblical leadership. Kinda funny that even as we read that David is crowned King, we read that he was king for 40 years. (written afterwards). Pastor Howarth appointed 6 yrs, Pastor Amy 1, Pastor Kerry???

• David was 30, reigned 40 yrs (7.5 at Hebron, 33 at Jerusalem), built Jerusalem into the City of David, and was a great leader why? Because the Lord, the God of hosts was with him. First Sam 16:18 gives a similar introduction of David earlier:

“I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.” 1 Sam. 16:18

David was able to reign 40 years, was able to build Jerusalem not on his own merit but because the Lord was with him.

• In addition to the Lord being with him, David was a man after God’s heart. (1 Sam. 13:14). During the Civil War, President Lincoln said that he hoped that, rather than us saying “God is on our side,” we ought to be praying that it is we who are on God’s side...

• David built Jerusalem into the City of David... as I read this I started wondering “What would we build? What would we do?” Up attendance, up membership, grow the next generation as we hand the mantle of leadership over... Fill our Sunday School rooms with activity. It’s a tempting question to entertain, and one that I’ll get back to. There were two scripture readings today...

• In the second part of the gospel reading that Dick read today Jesus sends the 12 disciples out 2x2 with virtually nothing: no bread, no bag, no money; a staff and shoes but only one coat. But one thing he does give them, remember? Authority over unclean spirits. Jesus sends them out with basically the shirts on their backs and with his blessing, and armed with those, they preach repentance and they bring healing to people in body and in spirit. In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul says that we bear the bright light of the glory of God in unadorned clay pots so that others will know that it’s God’s power not our own. Jesus sends the 12 out with next-to-nothing so that A) others will know it’s God’s power not theirs, and so that B) they will rely fully on God and not on their possessions or status. And relying on God they preach and teach and anoint and heal.

• Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3 that though we may plant seeds and water them it is God who provides the growth.

• I said a bit earlier that it’s a tempting question to entertain, what would be build / do, but if that’s the question we ask we’ll go the way of Saul, David’s predecessor... We’d be going after our own hearts instead of God’s. We’d be like a disciple sent out by Jesus but instead of going with no bread, stashing a loaf inside an extra coat (which we also shouldn’t have).

• Jesus didn’t send the 12 out to build programming or to fill pews or Sunday School rooms but to confront evil, to bear witness to the power of God. Jesus knew the needs of the communities around him and sent his disciples out to address those needs: What would God have us do?

• Picked up The Mercury to look for Elizabeth Hunter’s obit (found it) and was intrigued by a story on the cover of the Business section, a story about an internet cafeteria that opened up 6 weeks ago in East Greenville (10 miles N of Schwenksville). Centered around a vision to create a space where people could hang out, have fun, relax, and feel good, “Heaven On Earth” is meeting some community needs, and in doing so, is bringing some vitality to the community.

"If your idea of heaven includes [wireless] Internet access, the latest in Internet gaming, [specialty desserts] or gourmet coffee drinks, then this place might have your just reward."

You may not understand or like the Internet or specialty coffees or desserts, but those are some ways that a business is thriving and bringing life to its community.

• As this church community moves into the future, I pray that you’ll join me in discerning not only the desires and needs of Spring City UMC, but the needs of Spring City itself.

• You know the story of the young boy who wanted his busy father’s attention... The father, desperate to focus the boy on something else, took a magazine picture of a person and tore it into pieces, and told his son to put it back in order. When the boy returned minutes later with the picture successfully reassembled the father said, “Son how did you put that in order so quickly?” The boy said “It was easy. There was a picture of the world on the other side, and when I put it in order, the person got put together at the same time.”

• As we address the needs of the community of Spring City, the body of Spring City UMC will itself be strengthened and grown. I pray we do so as persons after God’s own heart, fully relying on God’s power.

“Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything,
But only God, who makes things grow.” – 1 Corinthians 3:7

-Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: moderately hot & humid. Attendance: 60.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

"I See You"

July 2, 2006
from Philippians 2:1-11

"Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus..."

My sermon outline:

• I saw a 3yo at Annual Conference (I see you). I don’t know you but I love you.
• fundraiser (can you imagine, a Methodist church doing a fundraiser, lol) at Grandview UMC, bought a pipe in the organ (sponsored it or something like that, I think it was a C# an octave above middle C)... special pride in that pipe, but all by itself, blech. Gotta be combined with the gifts of other community members in order for its beauty to be heard. And it was a beautiful time when, during a worship service, the pastor burned the loan which had been completely paid off.
• Imagine you made one piece of the stained glass windows.
You might change where you normally sit so you could see it while you’re in church :)
You’d show off, you’d be crazy about it. You’d make sure it was repaired if it was damaged.
Yet like a single organ pipe, a single piece of colored glass is boring. It’s when it’s combined with other pieces that a whole and beautiful picture is seen.
• I understand there’s an emotional history behind this painting of Jesus over here.
• Imagine you’re the painter
Imagine you’re the window maker.
You’d know each piece, you’d craft each piece and place each piece.

• God is the painter, God is the maker. You are his work of art. God is crazy about you. God knows you. As much as I know about my daughter and as crazy as I am about her, God’s knowledge and love for us is greater.
As much as I’d do anything for my daughter, God not only would do anything for us, God already did do everything for us. Jesus, who was indeed God, poured out his God-ness voluntarily and for us and “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, and ... humbled himself to the point of death on a cross.” “For though Jesus Christ was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty we might become rich.” Jesus knew that we had made mistakes, we’d hurt and offended God, and we would do it again, but he emptied himself nonetheless, so great is his love for us. He surrendered his body and his life, that we might be his body and have life.

And God asks that we maintain an attitude like Christ’s, that we “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. (Christianity is hard!). Let each of us look not to our own interests, but to the interests of others.” Galatians 6:9 puts it this way: “Let us not become weary in doing good... therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

• Although I do not know the future, I do know that over the next few weeks and months I will probably make some mistakes. I may do something to offend you. I may change something that’s important to you. Know this: we’re all in this together, we’re all learning together, and in all likelihood if I did something to offend you it’s probly something I’m not aware of, and it’s not done to spite you. I am not acting out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility am trying to serve you the way I know best. I pray that you respond with grace as we move into the future together, and I pray that God blesses our union, and that everything we do may bring God glory.

• Just like you’d see that piece of stained glass, that organ pipe, that painting, God sees you. We know it makes God proud when we give of ourselves and live in humility. Friends, let us make God proud of us in the way we give of ourselves and in the way we grow into our future together.

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: hot & humid. A Communion Sunday. 72 in worship, PTL.