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.!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"A Blind Man Sees"

October 29, 2006
from Mark 10:46-52 and Hebrews 7:23-28

"Jesus said to him, 'What do you want me to do for you?'
The blind man said to him, 'My teacher, let me see again.'" - Mark 10:51

My sermon outline:

• Remember 3D Vision / Magic Eye? Wow. Learning to see something hidden.

• Gospel reading today about someone who receives sight, yet there’s not just one blind man. True, Bartimeus (son of honor) gains sight, but not only (A) did he already possess vision, but (B) those around him were blind, even though they saw.

• (B) Book of Mark contains several double stories (feeding of 5K, feeding of 4K; two times of Jesus calming storm; several times when a demon-possessed child was healed through the faith of a parent. Many times the disciples are as surprised the second time around as they were the first time. They don’t get it. They don’t see.

• In Mark 8 there’s a healing of a blind man (at Bethsaida, near Jesus’ home up north). After that: Jesus asks ‘Who do they say I am’... (Pete says Messiah, Jesus shushes, Pete doesn’t get it). Jesus is blessed by Moses and Elijah, they don’t get it. Unable to cast a demon out of a boy, they don’t get it when Jesus says stuff about the first being last (Jesus tells them several times), they turn children away after Jesus says whoever welcomes a child welcomes me, James & John still don’t get it and they ask for glory seats.

• Now they’re on their way to Jerusalem, which should ring bells for any good Jew, just like if we talk about going to Washington here and now it doesn’t just mean visiting the city...

• (A) Bartimeus (son of honor) already possessed vision. Though a hundred miles from Jesus, he knew that this was The One, the one God had promised to David generations before, the Messiah. He could see. And when Jesus asked him what he could do for him, Bartimeus knew. He knew what he wanted and he knew what Jesus could do. Jesus gave him sight and he used his sight to follow Jesus.

• Storytime: Boy seeks secret of happiness... The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.

• Our Vision Statement (quoted an older version two weeks ago)
Trusting God – Demonstrating God’s Love

We are called to GROW as a Church that is CHRIST-CENTERED, OPEN to the Holy Spirit and WELCOMING all people in its mission, outreach and witness.

To REACH PEOPLE in the community and developing surrounding areas and INVITE THEM to become part of a caring, believing church family that is growing in faith and commitment and in developing Christian education, prayer, fellowship, and service opportunities to meet needs.

• Think on your church participation the last few months. Are you being like the disciples, or like Bartimeus?

• Be Thou My Vision 451

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: Cool and clear. 73 in worship.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

"Where Do You Want To Sit?"

October 22, 2006
from Mark 10:35-45, Hebrews 5:1-10 and Luke 14:7-11

"Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all." – Mark 10:43-44

My sermon outline:

• It is human nature to want to sit in the best seat in the house... At sports games, in the parking lot, at concerts, in church, people naturally want the best seat. (good fun talk about the best seat in church)

• James and John ask Jesus for the best seats, THE seats of honor. Says Jesus: Where do you want to sit? You don’t know what you’re asking.

• Jesus goes to the house of a prominent Pharisee (read Luke 14:7-11)

• James and John ask Jesus for the best seats, the seats of honor. Says Jesus: Where do you want to sit? You don’t know what you’re asking. Don’t ask for the best seat, take the last seat instead. Take the least desirable seat, the seat nobody else wants, the seat of no honor.

• I heard once of a Christian organization that always asks newly hired people to clean the toilets for two weeks. It doesn’t matter what their qualifications or what they are hired for. That’s the first job they get. If they won’t do it, they don’t get a position.

• James and John ask Jesus for seats of authority.
Says Jesus: Where do you want to sit? You don’t know what you’re asking. Whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.

• The reading from Hebrews lifts up a few needful qualities of service to God: being subject to weakness, having reverent submission

• I think of the seat Mother Teresa chose, and the sisters who served with her, ministering among “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone”. Homes for the dying. Honors and awards MT received were given to the poor.

• James and John wanted to fortify rank, keep their position in the inner circle.
Says Jesus: Greatness is found not in rank but in service.

• During the American Revolution an officer in civilian clothes rode past a group of new recruits busy repairing a break in a rampart. The work was really too heavy for the size of group working on it. Their commander was shouting instructions, but was making no attempt to help them. Asked why, he replied with inflated dignity, "Sir, I am a Corporal!" The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers himself. When the job was finished, he turned to the corporal and said "Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this, and not enough men to do it, go to your commander in chief, and I will come and help you again." The officer in plain clothes was General Washington.

• We have a few plainclothes officers in this congregation. People who see what needs to be done and who do it. This group of soldiers had a task that was really too heavy for the size of the group. They needed more help to get the job done. This church is that way. There are workers but the task is larger, and we need more people who will look around, see what needs to be done, and do it. People who will seek ways to serve. If you look in the back of our directory you’ll see there are missing teeth in the gears that keep this place running. We have willing and plainclothes officers who are looking for more hands to lend to the task. In the coming weeks (as we prepare for 2007) we would be blessed to see a few more plainclothes officers serving on the worship committee, the staff-parish committee, the finance committee, as trustees or church council member. We’d like to see a team of folks committed to something for the children so that when we have visitors with kids they want to come back. I’d love if my greatest problem was figuring out what to do with all the people who came to me and said: “Pastor I want to help. Where can I serve?”

• Such was the seat Jesus chose. Following Jesus does not lead up the social ladder but down. It leads to dirty hands and aching backs. To cross and to glory.

• Philippians 2:3-8 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

• Where do you want to sit? The least seat. The seat of reverent submission. The seat of service. The seat of God’s choosing.

• For Better is one day in your courts
Than thousands elsewhere (Psalm 84:10)

• Galatians 6:9-10 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of God.

• Jesus says “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Thanks be to God for the service of his Son. May we offer ourselves in service.

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: Cool and cloudy. 75 in worship.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Laity Sunday

October 15, 2006
Hebrews 4:12-16 and Mark 10:17-31

"Come and listen, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me." - Psalm 66:16

"May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you." - Psalm 67:3

My sermon outline:

Honoring Laity Sunday, rather than me preparing a monologue, I solicited and collected answers to the following questions.

• Why go to church?
• Why go to this church?
• What are your hopes for this church?

• Why go to church?
To have fellowship with other Christians
To celebrate with God, to honor Him
To do God’s will and spread His word
For God. To worship God in community.

To offer, serve, listen. To pray, support, learn.
To touch the world as I’ve been touched.

To bring healing and hope. To be a lighthouse.

• Why go to this church?
The people are loving and compassionate and have the Holy Spirit within
Friendship, family, believe in the ideals of this congregation
Warm, friendly, caring people, spiritual people
It saved my life... it reached out to me in my time of need

Location, tradition, family obligation.
The people, the spirit.

• What are your hopes for this church?
To grow
To feel the Spirit always.
To fill the buildings with all ages.
To grow, bring a sense of community, to share God’s love for us
To bring glory to God in all we do.

To be the church that the community says “that church helped me. That church showed me something new. That church brought life back to Spring City. That church brought life back to me.”

Vision statement, Spring City UMC:
To grow a Christian Congregation where faith is taught and lived, where the visitor is welcomed and friends are made. A place where music fills the air with joy and we can seek communion with God to find peace and forgiveness.

Mission statement, Spring City UMC:
Inviting all people to God's family, learning and growing together in faith for ministry to God's children.

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: Chilly and clear. 63 in worship.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

On Forgiveness

October 8, 2006
from Ephesians 4:17-24 and Matthew 18:15-22

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." – Ephesians 4:31-32

"Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times." – Matthew 18:21-22

My sermon outline:

• Teacher and student walking down road, come to a stream where there is a woman unable to cross. Teacher carries the woman across stream and sets her down, and teacher and student go on their way. A mile later the student says “Teacher, why did you pick that woman up? We are not allowed to touch women!” Teacher replies “I set her down at the river’s edge; why are you still carrying her?”

• Nation has been shocked and horrified this week by the shooting in an Amish schoolhouse some 40 miles away. Charles Carl Roberts IV shot ten Amish girls on Monday, killing 5 of them before taking his own life.

• Marian Fisher (13), Anna May Stolzfusz (12), Naomi Ebersole (7), sisters Mary Liz and Lena Miller (8 and 7). Charles Carl Roberts IV.

• Emotions went from shock to stunned as we learned how the community responded immediately with forgiveness, setting up memorial funds for the gunman’s family and even attending his funeral yesterday. (over $500K has come in since the shooting, matched by Blue Cross)

• The faith and forgiveness demonstrated by the Amish has been astounding. They live the words we read from Eph 4:32: “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

• Oddly enough I believe they are able to forgive so well 1) because of their separation from culture, 2) because of their absolute trust in the sovereignty of God, and 3) because they practice it.

• 1) We are Gentiles to the Amish, just as the Romans were Gentiles to Jews... We are foreigners, and in order to preserve their faith, generations ago the Amish decided to not “live as the Gentiles live...” (as Ephesians tells us). Perhaps they recognized the potential that technology and material goods have for separating us from God and each other, so they took the Bible and drew a line on the ground and said “this line we will not cross... We would rather risk being different than letting something get in the way of God.”

• 2) There’s a trust in God the Amish have that is different than mine, that is different than many, a trust that says even a tragedy like this is God’s will, therefore they will abide by it and rejoice that their little girls have gone on to new life... because it is God’s will, they can forgive the killer. My own faith does not chalk this tragedy up to God’s will, for that would mean that God intended for this man Charles Roberts to be driven by the demons that tormented him, and that’s not the way I believe God works.

• 3) I believe the Amish are able to forgive so quickly and so well because they practice it... they learn it young and they learn forgiveness for small things so when big things come along their hearts already know how to forgive... Desiring all to know the fullness of God, they forgive all... the biblical maxim to “judge not lest ye be judged” is taken very seriously, as are Jesus’ words from our reading in Matthew today: “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven...”

• ...and that’s what forgiveness is, rather what it is not: forgiveness is releasing, is un-binding on earth...

• We can learn quite a bit from the Amish about what forgiveness is, and what it is not.

• Forgiveness is not condoning or approving of an action or behavior, but instead it is the conscious decision not to let said action or behavior come between a relationship. It is not saying “what you did is okay,” it is saying “I desire that not even this should separate us or cause me to treat you as less than human.”

• Forgiveness is unmerited undeserved grace; it can only be given and received, it cannot be sold or bought.

• Forgiveness is ceasing to feel resentment or anger towards the one who has offended you, it is ceasing to demand or maybe even desire the offender’s punishment (though it does not necessarily negate the sentence the offender may have to serve: Representative Mark Foley can be forgiven for his misconduct AND be kept from serving in public office or working with children) ... it is feeling compassion for the offender, recognizing their humanity.

• Forgiveness puts relationship first... it says “I will not allow this stumbling block to remain between us.” Unforgiveness fortifies the stumbling block, says “See? This shall be ever between us.”

Unforgiveness is a tumor, a cancer that eats at a person from the inside out. It hardens the heart and blackens the soul, and its fruit is death. Unforgiveness holds onto sin, holds it over the sinner’s head so that when you look at that person that’s what you see. Thank God that as forgiven sinners when God looks at us he sees Christ.

• In Matthew 5 Jesus says that forgiveness and reconciliation between people must come before we can truly offer ourselves to God: “So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

• Forgiveness in this body the church requires that we get rid of grudges that keep us from embracing others and God fully... Christ the head of the body wants a whole body, not a body eaten by the cancer of unforgiveness...

• So in order that we might be able to fully embrace God and others, in order that we might be cleansed from every kind of impurity and be renewed in the spirit, let us examine our hearts and see what unforgiveness lies within, and let us “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: Cool and clear. 66 in worship.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

"Be Good To You"

October 1, 2006
World Communion Sunday
from Mark 9:38-50 and James 5:13-20

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you." – Isaiah 43:2

My sermon outline:

• Riddle: What can you brush your teeth with, figure out your taxes with, and listen to on the stereo? (a toothbrush, a calculator, and a CD... different tools for addressing different needs)

• "Be good to you" is my way of signing off when talking with a particular friend online. My way of saying "I love you, I care about you, I believe in you, take care of yourself." (An online friend, sometimes heavy discussion, about her depression. She had needs, and I had one of the tools to address her needs. She was in need of a caring listening ear, of unconditional love. In need of meds and counseling... body and soul needs.

• My wife under the weather, needed to take some meds... needed to be cared for, needed rest, water, drugs... body and soul needs. Provided by her handsome nurse :)

• We as humans are in need in body and in soul, in need of someone who will listen to us and love us and address our needs. Need a way to get thru life. "In my life are times of hope and times of fear, times when no one’s there to know my tears, but the Lord hears our cries and takes us by the hand to clear our eyes..." (a song by Kerry Bart)

• One of my fave verses is Isaiah 43:2 (quoted above)
"...when you walk through fire you will not be burned..."

• But we read in Mark 9:50 that “everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”... hm. One Bible interpreter, Eugene Peterson writes the passage this way: “Everyone's going through a refining fire sooner or later, but you'll be well-preserved, protected from the eternal flames. Be preservatives yourselves. Preserve the peace.”

• Thought on that... everyone will go through a refining fire, a purifying fire.
• Precious metals like gold and silver are purified by intense heat;
• Pottery is fired by intense heat (twice!)
• Precious stones (rubies, emeralds, diamonds, etc) form under pressure and heat;
• We will pass through intense heat as we are purified and healed by God, being made useful and beautiful... (may mean that followers will have to suffer because of their faith) (where our hearts and minds are opened and grown after being split open by the challenges of life... seminary challenges what you know, tears down the thin unsubstantial stuff so that new framework can be put in, but that’s scary.) (salted with fire is also willingness to do whatever it takes to be pleasing to God)
• Or think about the pain of something like childbirth. And parenting in general. It’s tough to be a parent, it tests you even as you use tools and trials to shape and develop your child. In love.

• You may be saying, “PK I don’t want to be a gem.
Or a pretty pot. Or shiny gold. That hurts.”
I’ve had enough pressure and heat.”
But that’s why I love Isaiah 43:2 : you’re not alone...

• “Everyone's going through a refining fire sooner or later, but you'll be well-preserved, protected from the eternal flames. Be preservatives yourselves. Preserve the peace.” (Mark 9:50)

• We have strength for that purification because of God’s presence in us – God preserving us like salt preserves meat (for thousands of years it’s been used... and that’s why canned goods have so much sodium...)

• We have this need for purification, and we have tools to help with the job
• We preserve by getting rid of path to sin (cut off hand, foot, eye. Covenantal stuff)
• We preserve by prayer and fasting, by anointing and praising, by confessing and keeping accountable (holiness club) (James 5 list)
• We preserve by love, and we love because He first loved us.
We can be good to ourselves because God is good to us...

• We preserve by communion. It is one of God’s ways of addressing our needs of body and soul.

"In the breaking of the bread we are made whole...
When we take of Jesus’ body and his blood
in community, we share God’s holy food.
For his people God provides –
he gives us strength to live our lives
filled forever with the goodness of his son."

• So be good to you. Come with joy to meet God... (UMH#617)

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: Cool and clear. 89 in worship. World Communion Sunday.