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.!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Habits, Routines, and Rituals

December 31, 2006
First Sunday After Christmas

from Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 and Luke 2:41-52

"He has made everything suitable for its time" – Ecclesiastes 3:11
"Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor..." - Luke 2:52

My sermon outline:

• Habits, routines, rituals... how we go about our daily lives... how we get up (cuppa coffee, newspaper. Sleep as long as possible, hit snooze... if your morning routine is upset, often the whole day seems out of sync) and how we go to bed (Sashi’s nighttime routine: jams, brush, drink, go, read, pray, sing... she’ll let you know if you’ve varied)... how we eat (together with family or alone, pray)
how we shop (ever go to a different grocery store or one that’s laid out ‘backwards?’ what about gas... do you go the same place most of the time? The same pump?)

• Some habits & routines are not daily or weekly, but more spread out: survey at dentist “do you floss regularly?” (sure, if 3 wks before and after every visit is "regular") ... for some that’s similar to “do you go to church regularly?” (C&E)

• On New Year’s Eve, the part from this familiar story of Boy Jesus in the temple that stuck out for me was the underlying foundation of the faithful practice of the parents. One simple sentence: Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. Every year I go to Annual Conference. Drive to Philly or Messiah. Some folks grumble. Every year his parents would walk for five days one way for Passover. And back. And return seven weeks later for Pentecost. And return again in the fall. With kids. They were committed.

• One simple sentence about the parents backed up by Luke’s description of their faithfulness in ritual at Jesus’ birth a few verses before.

• Good habits and routines and rituals are endangered species (again, C&E)

• How can you increase God’s presence in your life in 2007? And what will happen if you do?

• Brother Lawrence, (17th century French monk), when he was near the end of his life, advised young monks “if only I had known God sooner, I should not have delayed in loving him. Believe me, count as lost each day you have not used in loving God.”

• Deuteronomy 6:6-9, 18
Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates... Do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, so that it may go well with you.

• Covenant with a friend, a spouse, the person next to you in the pew, to make a habit of God in 07

• Wesley covenant prayer:

I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
Put me to doing; put me to suffering;
Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
Exalted for you, or brought low for you;

Let me be full, let me be empty;
Let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
You are mine and I am yours. So be it.

And the covenant made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 65 in worship.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Preparations

December 24, 2006
Fourth Sunday of Advent

from Micah 5:2-5a and Luke 1:39-45

"Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord
Luke 1:45

My sermon outline:

• We sang a hymn after the scripture reading, which is a little unusual, but the hymn is a musical continuation of the scripture reading, containing what would be Luke 1:46-55... Mary praises God after receiving this human affirmation of what the angel had told her earlier (that she would bear God's son, and that as a sign, her elderly relation Elizabeth would also bear a child)

• Proposal stories... well received because of the love and thought put into it

• But you don’t have to think about it too long to see that God takes the cake when it comes to preparing Christmas.

• Back to the Garden of Eden there are the beginning signs of God’s plan: Gen 3:15 the seed of a woman (that is, a human) will destroy you (Satan), and you’ll only wound him.

• Move along to Abraham (Genesis 12, all peoples on earth will be blessed through you) that promise carries on through Isaac and Jacob. (the fathers of the nation)

• God’s plan gets a little more specific in King David (1000 years before Jesus) (2 Samuel 7:13-14) I will raise a ruler out of your offspring, I will be his father he will be my son and I’ll establish his throne forever.

• All this is confirmed by Isaiah (700 years before Jesus) through whom God announces that from the family of Jesse (David’s father) will come salvation (the call to worship we sang last week was a response to this proclamation)

• Micah also confirms that it is through David’s line that the Messiah will come, and that Messiah (long awaited) will come from Bethlehem

• Isaiah also is the one who tells that the child known as God With Us will be born of a virgin

• These are some of the details God laid out in his preparation for Christmas

• And though there aren’t specific prophecies about this the setting was right for God’s messiah to be born: the Romans had established a massive infrastructure of roads and language that early Christians would be ready to utilize in the spread of the gospel

• So the time is right for God’s plan to unfold and Gabriel announces to Mary but not before another little detail is taken care of: the one who will come before Jesus will come before Jesus: Elizabeth in her old age will bear a child who will make ready the way for the Messiah. Not only that but when Mary gets word from Gabriel she gets a sign: that Elizabeth will be pregnant. She visits and lo and behold, Elizabeth is pregnant. And Elizabeth is able to assure Mary in a much needed way.

• I started out by telling about an elaborate proposal and how it was touching because of the preparation that went into it.

• God planned Christmas for you. For all the world. So that he could offer salvation and reconciliation to all people. He did it out of love as a gift for you.

• Receive God’s gift of love. And if you like it, share it with others.

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 87 in worship.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

God Wants Spiritual Fruits, Not Religious Nuts

December 17, 2006
Third Sunday of Advent

from Zephaniah 3:14-20 and Luke 3:7-18

"Bear fruits worthy of repentance..." Luke 3:8

My sermon outline:

• "Sven & Ole" jokes:

Sven and Ole were playing cards at Sven's house when it started to rain. Well, Ole's roof leaked something terrible, and the water was just pouring onto the card table. "Sven!" cries Ole. "Why don't you fix your roof! It leaks something terrible!" "Well," says Sven, "It's too wet to fix it right now, and when the sun is shining, the roof doesn't leak!"

Sven and Ole were playing cards at Sven's house when Ole says, "Well, Sven, I got to be going. Lena wants me to help clean the house." "But Ole," says Sven, "I thought you just hired a house cleaner!" "I did, but we got to clean before the house cleaner comes over."

• Sometimes inconsistencies in life are funny. Sometimes not always so funny: I have high cholesterol... I pay a doctor and I pay for drugs to address my cholesterol. And I eat things that contain cholesterol.
I met a cardiologist once, who was overweight and smoked.

• Last week John the Baptist (JtB) appears in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of reptentance for the forgiveness of sins, urging folks to get right with God as a way of preparing for the coming of God’s kingdom

• “Bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:8)

• “You call yourselves children of A,” says JtB ... “remember your family ties, care for one another, care for your neighbor, live justly, abusing neither position nor power. ‘bear fruits worthy of repentance’: you have been planted by God and he’s coming to check things out, see what kind of fruit you are producing. He has no need of fruit-trees that aren’t producing good stuff but are just wasting soil and water and energy...”

• What is fruit worthy of repentance? It reflects the state of a person’s heart, as Jesus points out (Luke 6:43-45): "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

• Fruit worthy of repentance is hearing the word of God and doing it (Luke 11:28, most of book of James (faith w/o works is dead))

• Fruit worthy of repentance is someone who is convicted of sin and is moved to action, as the sinful woman in Luke 7, as Zacchaeus in Luke 19 (like the PA lawmakers and their midnight payraise)

• Fruit says “I love you Lord & want to live a life pleasing to you”

• Catholic sacrament of penance: 3 parts: contrition (sorrow/repentance, motivated by love not fear), confession (with absolution), satisfaction (penance, penitential act) bottom line: God wants our hearts over our deeds. Wants our deeds, yes, but wants our hearts foremostly

• story about a confirmation leader who gave me his cigarettes

• I knew a man whose life of sin had caught up to him and he repented and learned how to plant seeds of righteousness instead of seeds of destruction and together we watched as those seeds started to grow
Gandhi: "I like your Christ. Your Christians I do not like. They are so unlike your Christ." Let's live so that such a statement cannot be made.

• JtB’s goal is not mere consistency but that in our hearts and in our actions we would prepare for (clean up for the cleaners) and celebrate the coming of the Lord.

• John 15:8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

• Ephesians 5:8-14 For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 79 in worship. Also, there were 109ish for the Cantata this evening, which went swimmingly, PTL!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

"What Time Is It?"

December 10, 2006
Second Sunday of Advent

from Malachi 3:1-4 and Luke 3:1-6

"God says, 'Look! I'm sending my messenger on ahead to clear the way for me... He'll refine them like gold and silver, until they're fit for God... Then will they be fit and pleasing to God..." from Malachi 3:1-4, The Message

My sermon outline:

• “What time is it?” doesn’t have to mean hours and minutes... it could be more general, like “it’s Christmastime” or “it’s about time for us to head down the shore...” or the story of the turtle who tried to fly:
Deep within a forest a little turtle began to climb a tree. After hours of effort he reached the top, jumped into the air waving his front legs and crashed to the ground. After recovering, he slowly climbed the tree again, jumped, and fell to the ground. The turtle tried again and again while a couple of birds (turtledoves, what else?) sitting on a branch watched his sad efforts. Finally, the female bird turned to her mate. "Dear," she chirped, "I think it's time to tell him he's adopted."

• I skipped over part of the Gospel reading (the hard to pronounce names), a part that actually does tell us what time it is (before calendars were standardized the way they are today. I might say I started at Spring City in the second year after Pastor Howarth retired, or the second year after Marcus Matthews became bishop, or in the sixth year of GWB, 43rd president of the US. Luke was grounding this story in local contexts, but perhaps what’s most interesting and surprising is that after naming these 5 political leaders and two religious leaders, the word of God comes to a nobody, John the Baptist.

• But that nobody is a key figure in the advent story, although let’s just say JtB is not the guy you’d want your daughter dating. (imagine JtB @ your door, unshaven, unkempt, wearing camel hair... gonna take her to this nice place in the middle of nowhere and eat bugs and honey. JtB wasn’t the kind of guy who’d blend in at the Christmas party, he’d be standing on a couch or table preaching at people, or maybe by the punch bowl inviting folks to be baptized... you don’t see JtB cards or hymns or ornaments, but God’s word comes to JtB. What time is it? Time to broaden our horizons. Time to realize that God is moving among people you may not expect God to be moving among. Time to prepare ourselves for God’s actions in the world.)

• The word of God came to John in the wilderness, and he went all around the region, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Preaching “prepare ye the way”. Context: Babylonian kings would have engineers precede them, making it safe and nice. JtB's message is a little different, though. Instead of the ground being leveled for the king, God is putting everyone on the same playing field and proclaiming that his salvation is available to all. Man woman adult child, beggar king hero loser. Banker soldier senator janitor, no one has an advantage, no one is better than another. Jew, non-Jew, 1st Century Israeli, 21st Century Christian...

“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, and the rough ways smooth, and all mankind shall see God’s salvation.”

• However that’s not JtB's literal message: his is a message of repentance, of getting right with God, everybody, by cleaning house on the inside. John was announcing the coming of the one who would tell the Pharisees that they were like “whitewashed tombs: righteous and lovely looking on the outside, but full of all manor of unclean stuff and hypocrisy and wickedness on the inside. Bring all your sins to the surface, so that you can get rid of them. The things that thrive in darkness, shed God’s light on them.

• Today’s reading in Malachi compare’s the coming of God’s messenger to the strongest soap and to the white-hot refiner’s fire... scrub clean with lye soap, the stuff that if you leave it on your hands too long they’ll chap, but it’s the only stuff that’ll really get your hands clean. Not “SoftSoap”... Used in conjuction with a pumice... JtB says it’s time to get cleaned up folks. And God will help. God will be both the soap and the water (and the elbow grease), cleaning you up.

• You know how metals are purified, by intense heat. Boiling metal (hello, lava) and therefore burning impurities off. The word of the Lord that came to John in the wilderness has this awesome power.

• The wilderness, uncomfortable but that’s where God meets with people. “Then, and only then (after the purifying and cleaning) will God’s people be fit and pleasing to God as they used to be in the years long ago.

• So as we prepare for the coming of the Lord, Psalm 139.

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday:70 in worship. Winter temps are finally here, now where's the snow?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

"Stayin' Alive"

December 3, 2006
First Sunday of Advent

from Jeremiah 33:14-16 and Luke 21:25-36

"The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah... In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety." Jeremiah 33:14, 16

My sermon outline:

• Even though my sermon title is "Stayin' Alive", let me just put you at ease and say I'm not gonna dance (although if I meet my Lord today I might just do that, and that’s one of the points... though the return of Jesus is a fearful thing, we who are in Christ anticipate a glorious end to suffering when we are finally united with the kingdom)

After hearing the story of Jonah at Sunday School, a little girl repeated the story at school on Monday.

Her teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because, even though it is a very large mammal, its throat is very small.

The little girl said, "But how can that be? Jonah was swallowed by a whale. "Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human. "It is physically impossible!" she said.

Undaunted, the little girl said, "Well, when I get to heaven I will ask Jonah."

To this, the teacher said, "What if Jonah didn’t go to heaven?"

The little girl replied, "Then YOU can ask him!"

• It seems odd to talk about end times, especially first Sunday of Advent. End times are hyped up by some very popular books and at the same time avoided by many preachers, however the return of Jesus is one of the most basic beliefs we have, and we proclaim it every time we take communion: Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. So let’s walk through this.

• v. 25: unmistakable signs. Huge. Day & night. Undescribed, but unmistakable.

• v. 26: ppl will faint from fear, it’ll be so huge. At the same time we need not be afraid: five times in the book of Luke ppl are told “do not be afraid” : zechariah, mary, the shepherds, and twice in chapter 12 when Jesus talks about... suffering and the end. And actually in this passage Jesus tells us to stand up and raise your heads – can’t do that if you’re on the floor, having fainted from fear... reason to believe it’ll be terrifying, sure, but God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power (and love and self-discipline)

• I skipped over v. 27, they will see the Son of Man (SOM) coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 17 words that say sooo much. Luke uses the term SOM 25 times in his gospel (that’s a lot), and half of those are referring to the future coming. Jesus identifies SOM with himself, and is therefore not only tied to the suffering and death of SOM, but with the glorious return of SOM and the fulfillment of prophecy. Coming on a cloud ties this passage to prophecy as well as to Jesus’ ascension in the book of Acts when angels tell the disciples that Jesus would return in the same way as he left. Being SOM in this passage identifies Jesus as the one who was, who is, and who is to come, and that is something to rejoice about.

• in 1789 BFranklin coined the phrase “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” We know that people don’t get out of this world alive, yet the knowledge of unavoidable death can cause different reactions in different people. For people who believe you live and you die and that’s it, then death is the end. You cease to be. So death is to be feared, because it’s all over then. Nothing left but for the memory of your life to fade away. Therefore the goal of life is to pack as much in, to bring yourself glory so that your memory will last longer.

• However for people of faith, there is the knowledge that death is not the end, and in fact that there is glorious life beyond death, thanks be to Jesus. Paul even struggled with whether ’twas better to die now and be with Christ, or to stick around, and bring God more glory with his life. He did not face death with fear but with the confidence that his life was already and eternally in God’s hands.

• So Jesus encourages us to prepare for his coming. (Luke 21:34, 36)

• Tells us to not be distracted by the things of the world, not miss Christmas for all the decorations and preparations, but to pray, to trust, to anticipate and to receive the strength that was promised at his ascension (you will receive power). Do these things and you’ll stay alive. By the promises and actions of God, you’ll live. You’ll be strengthened by your fellowship with other believers. You’ll be kept sharp by your proclamation of the gospel that this life is available to all. You’ll be both cleansed and nourished by that blessed sacrament we celebrate today in Holy Communion.

• Jesus is coming. And it’s a good thing. We’re preparing for his birth even as we are reminded to be continually faithful, praying and trusting and believing in the promises of God.

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: Winter temps are finally here, now where's the snow? 95 in worship, including 9 for a children's sermon! PTL!