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.!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Jesus and Mary Magdalene

September 24, 2006
Conversations with Jesus that Led to Discipleship: Mary Magdalene
from John 20:11-18 and Hebrews 5:7-9

"Jesus came that we may have life, and have it to the full." – John 10:10

My sermon outline:

• Recap of September Series: Conversations with Jesus that Led to Discipleship. Nicodemus and being born from above, the Woman at the Well and living water, Saul on the road to Damascus, and Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection. What did Jesus say and what’s it to us?

• Some awful things this week: Pregnant woman slain, her 7.5 month fetus torn from her body, her 3 children found dead (East St. Louis). 60 miles away a new mother had her throat cut in an attempted babysnatch. In Colorado a Mexican woman was found dragged to death. 92 people hospitalized from E.Coli in spinach. Venezuelan President Chavez called President Bush the devil.

• Closer to home Edie hangs on to life after a traumatic fall***. Tomorrow I do the funeral of my friend’s brother-in-law who essentially drank himself to death.

• You come to church hoping for an uplifting word & you’re saying "Why are you telling me this?"

• A 6 year old boy was supposed to be home from his friend’s house at 5:30 one evening. When he showed up half an hour late the mother was frantic: "What happened?! Where have you been?" "I was on my way home when I saw a friend whose bicycle chain had fallen off, and I stopped to help." "But honey, you're six years old, you don't know how to fix a bicycle chain..." "I know. But I sat down and helped him cry."

• Mary was crying in our scripture reading today... let's take a look at why.

• Mary went to the tomb when it was still dark (20:1) Sunday morning. Her teacher and close friend had died Friday afternoon and she was crying because his body was not in the tomb. Tears of sorrow. What do people need in times of sorrow (as above?) Comfort. God’s presence. Mary cried and Jesus appeared. “Do not cast me from your presence,” writes the psalmist. “If you’re not going with us, don’t send us,” Moses says to God in the wilderness. “I will fear no evil for thou art with me...” God’s presence is our ever-present hope and stay, our sure comfort in times of sorrow. That’s why we visit Edie in the hospital and why we gather here in prayer.

• Mary’s tears were tears of confusion. “I do not know where they have put him.” How many people are crying today because someone does not know the Lord? They cry because they know that there’s something not right in life and that they can’t handle it alone; and we who are here cry for them because they don’t see what is there, who is there, and what he can do. Mary cried because she was looking for Jesus.

• Mary’s tears were tears of confusion. She was literally in the dark, and she didn’t know what was going on. Jesus gives her direction, lights her darkness, tells her what to do. Don’t wait: go tell people I AM returning to the Father, our Father.

• Mary’s tears were also tears of love. It’s said that the depth of sorrow or pain you feel for someone is related to the depth of your love for them. Jesus had wept over Jerusalem, crying out its name because he loved it. And so deep was his love that he died for the very people that rebelled against him. Mary loved Jesus and she cried. And what was Jesus’ response? He said her name. Jesus knows your name. He knows my name. He loves us that much. (say names)

• God’s response to human sorrow: presence. To darkness: light. To love: love.

• We live in a world where there is sorrow. People get sick and die, there is murder and war. We can try to stumble through an explanation, or we can do what Jesus did and offer presence. We can offer our own presence and we can assure that Jesus’ presence is never failing.

• We live in a world where there is darkness and confusion. And we in the church are hopefully aware of God’s light (lighthouse). We can sit in the light and be aware of people stumbling in the darkness or we can do what Jesus did and reach into that darkness, maybe even step into is, and tell them about God’s light and what it has done in our own lives.

• We live in a world where I believe with every fiber of my being that love will prevail, where “the greatest of these is love.” And from that love springs hope and faith.

• I met a man this weekend who had a brain tumor removed. He spent something like six months in a coma. He was the keynote speaker of a church leadership event I attended, and is the pastor of a congregation in Fresno, where the 3,000 members don't have their own building, but set up and tear down every week. He told how Fresno is the poorest zipcode in the nation, and how he's the only 'white' family on his block, the only one that speaks English and has a job and a car. People ask him "Are you nuts? Aren't you scared of gangs?" His response: "I've been dead. How can a gang scare me?" He's using his love and his life to show folks who God is.

• I've seen someone who was dead. So had Mary. So have we all. His name is Jesus.

• So meet with Jesus, walk with him and talk with him and love him as he comforts your sorrow and lights your darkness. Then do the same for others.

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: Cool and clear. 68 in worship.

***Context note: A congregation member has spent the last week in a coma after sustaining severe injuries falling down a concrete stairwell at home. Prayers have been prayed and tears shed on her behalf. The doctors and the family are hopeful about her condition.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Jesus and Saul (Paul)

September 17, 2006
Conversations with Jesus that Led to Discipleship: Saul (Paul)
from Acts 9:1-9 and Matthew 25:31-48

"Jesus came that we may have life, and have it to the full." – John 10:10

Today was Health and Welfare Sunday

My sermon outline:

• Recap of September Series: Conversations with Jesus that Led to Discipleship. Nicodemus and being born from above, the Woman at the Well and living water, Saul on the road to Damascus, and Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection. What did Jesus say and what’s it to us?

• I got pulled over one time for doing a "rolling stop". Cop comes up and says "I got you for not stopping at that stop sign, sir. I'm gonna hafta write you up." Says I "I slowed down, there was no one around, what's the difference?" Cop asked me to get out of the car, and he starts beating me with his nightstick. "Stop, stop!" I cried. Says he "Do you want me to stop, or slow down?"

• Imagine the scene. Going down the road, on a business trip. God stops you with heavenly power. You fall to the ground (like Abraham. Like song) Why are you persecuting me?

• There are so many questions the Lord could ask any one of us that would bring us to our knees, face to the ground.
• Why do you hold grudges?
• Why are you doing this thing you think pleases Me when it is far from Me?
• Why are there hungry and naked and poor and imprisoned?
• Have you done enough for the least of these thy brethren, my children?

• When Paul talks about the experience he includes his question to the Lord: “What shall I do, Lord?” And when we ask this question, it’s good to to what the Lord says, instead of second-guessing. Saul did as God said.

What shall we do?
Love God, neighbor, least, lost, young, old... H&W
Leave life of sin (sins of commission, sins of omission)
Live life to My glory (honor God in word and deed...)

• Noteworthy things about this conversation:
• Change in Saul’s life comes about at Jesus’ initiation. Saul responded, but it was God’s idea to bring Saul to himself. Though all can take the blame for turning away from God, none can take the credit for turning back to God. That’s all God. Thanks be to God.

• Change is complete (do you want me to stop persecuting, or slow down?)

• You may not have a beesting / Damascus road experience, but if you are in Christ you can say “I have had a beginning. My relationship with God is personal. I love God and I will love others. I will leave my sins of commission and omission behind, and I will live my life for God’s glory. What shall I do, Lord?”

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: Cool and clear. 65 in worship. Health and Welfare Sunday. First day with the choir back.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Jesus and the Woman at the Well

September 10, 2006
Conversations with Jesus that Led to Discipleship: The Woman at the Well
from John 4:7-15 and Psalm 33:1-3 (for music appreciation)

"Jesus came that we may have life, and have it to the full." – John 10:10

My sermon outline:

• Introduction to September Series: Conversations with Jesus that Led to Discipleship. We'll look at Nicodemus, the Woman at the Well, Saul on the road to Damascus, and Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection. What did Jesus say and what’s it to us?

• So I’ve had water on my mind (Jesus just talked about living water). For the following trivia and additional interesting things, google "water trivia" (try googling "dihydrogen monoxide" too - that's fun)
The human brain is 75% water, a human being is 2/3 water, 80% of planet covered with water. This water was here when the earth began. Water spends about 97% of its time in the ocean. Human should have 2 qts a day for good health, yet a quarter of the world does not have adequate water access, and millions die every year for lack of good water. You can live a month without food but only about a week without water. Need for water is greater than need for food.

Without water there simply can be no life.

• As our physical bodies need water, our souls need God. Rick Warren writes in The Purpose Driven Life that since we are created for God we cannot function without God, we run on God, on the living water that God provides. The human heart thirsts for something that can only be found in Jesus.

• There is a God-shaped hole in every one of us, that can only be satisfied when it's filled with God. Lives are wasted trying to fill that hole, quench that thirst with alcohol or drugs, with work or sex, with gambling or porn, none of these fill the God-shaped hole, none provides lasting satisfaction or quenches thirst.

• Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

• Jesus tells the woman about living water, about being the source and about being the continual supply: (those who drink will never be thirsty again, will never be in need again; the water I give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life) Thanks be to God that the very thing we need to survive God provides in continual and eternal abundance!

• As said last week from Romans 10:14 how can people come to knowledge of this water unless they are told? We are lighthouse, it is our duty, priviledge and calling to show people the way.

• Let’s look at the way Jesus talked to this woman:

• Here’s a Jewish man initiating conversation with a foreign woman in a time and place when men & women didn’t just “talk” and neither did Jews & Samaritans. It was the middle of the day, not the typical time to draw water; it’s been suggested that this woman was ostracized even by her own people. Jesus initiates a conversation anyway. Not hindered by man-made social conventions or worried about “what will other people think if they see me talking to this person?”
It’s strange, the unwritten rules we have. I was at the airport, going to pick up my mom, waiting outside the gate, people from different flights are coming out. I asked a guard "Do you know what flight this is?" He said "No, but you can ask them!" I walked away, and heard him say to another guard "How come everybody always does that?" and then to a passerby "Hey, what city did you just come from?"

• Not only does Jesus talk to this woman as a person, he makes a simple request: Will you help me? Will you do what you’re already doing for me? Nothing fancy or contrived...

• Jesus then uses intrigue to invite the woman into deeper conversation (yesterday at a fair lunch table a woman asked me "do you have a church preference?" I keep my ears open for clues)

• Jesus offered something needful and relevant

• As our bodies need 2qts of water a day for physical health, do not neglect the living water your soul needs every day

• If we will meet people where they are as Jesus meets us where we are, we can introduce them to the one who satisfies our deepest longings and show the way to life abundant

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: Cool and clear. 72 in worship. Dedication of piano and music ministries
There were six first-time visitors today!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Jesus and Nicodemus

September 3, 2006
Conversations with Jesus that Led to Discipleship: Nicodemus
from John 3:1-12 and 2 Corinthians 5:17 - 6:2

"Jesus came that we may have life, and have it to the full." – John 10:10

My sermon outline:

• Introduction to September Series: Conversations with Jesus that Led to Discipleship. We'll look at Nicodemus, the Woman at the Well, Saul on the road to Damascus, and Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection. What did Jesus say and what’s it to us?

• Imagine if Jesus had said "No one can see the kingdom of God unless they have two heads."

• It's easy to join Nicodemus in not understanding what it means to be born from above, born again (BA). btw, the term in Greek is anothen ... it’s used 13 times in the NT, 3 in this chapter. The other ten times it has to do with top-to-bottom stuff, like the temple curtain tearing. “from above”, “from the first”, “anew”, “again” are other renderings of the verb.

• But Jesus says anyway that it is another birth, a second kind: "John 3:5-6 Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit."

• Just as there is beginning to physical life, there is beginning to spiritual life. Not: accident, stumble on, unawares, by association,

• You have your own beginning, no one else’s. I'm the youngest of three boys. My oldest brother's birthday is May 8th, mine is May 19th, and my middle brother's is November 26th. I thought I should be older than Chris because my birthday is before his. But we have different birthdays, we have our own lives, our own breaths, our own spiritual lives... We weren’t born at once, neither do we share spiritual births.

• Being BA doesn’t come about from being good or being nice or simply liking God and Godstuff: "Romans 10:9: If you confess with your mouth that 'Jesus is Lord' and believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)"

• People come to this state differently, some enter faith like a flower blooming, others come to know God suddenly and immediately like a bee-sting.

• One pastor wrote: "We cannot tell the first time the sun came up, but we knew that it had come up. To be born again means that I am able to say "I have had a beginning. My relationship with God is personal." "

• What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.

• There's something inherently different about this birth. Whoever is in Christ is a new creation.

• We need to be a new creation because on our own, we sin. My daughter is an angel but she fulfills her nature ... as my mom puts it: "Children exist to make liars out of their parents". It's in her nature to be contrary, just as it's in our nature to rebel against God. In the book I'm reading (Golfing With God): "Faced with [the majesty of God], we're frustrated by our own incapacity for perfection and we compensate for those feelings with bravado, petulance, anger, and ungratefulness."

• Our problem is sin, and the solution is inward reconstruction, reconciliation.

• The butterfly is a wonderful Christian symbol of rebirth because of the way it is born again. Genetically identical but not at all the same.

• BA we have new loves, new values, new priorities, new goals. ("When I was a child..." 1 Corinthians 13)

• BA is a miracle: "The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

• We don't choose when how circumstances of our births, we don't choose the wind, but we can respond to the wind. We don’t control circumstances of own spiritual birth (therefore miracle) but we can respond to the Spirit.

• BA is a process. My daughter is constantly being born, even though she's 3 1/2. I am constantly being born.

• Our life in the Spirit needs nourished, which we do in fellowship and study and we do as last week putting on the full armor of God. (truth, righteousness, salvation, readiness, gospel... Ephesians 6) Nicodemus came to Jesus alone at night and Jesus was able to answer question.

• BA does not mean end of struggles, but gives spirit ability to deal with struggles. And we nourish ourselves with communion as today.

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: A communion Sunday, also Labor Day Weekend. Lovely weather. 65 in worship.
Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad!