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, January 28, 2007

There's a Reason for Everything

January 28, 2007
Fourth Sunday After Epiphany

from Jeremiah 1:4-10 and 1 Corinthians 13:8-13

“The Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, ‘Now I have put my words in your mouth...’” -- Jeremiah 1:9

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.
Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
1 Corinthians 13:12

My sermon outline:

• “There’s a Reason for Everything” (TARFE)

• TARFE is a common response of people of faith (POF) to a variety of circumstances, from the simple twisting of a back to the direst of events. What do you think? Car accident? Delayed flight? Job loss? A family member dies? TARFE. A POF, intending to offer comfort/assurance/ encouragement, to self or to others, says “It’s okay, God is in control, TARFE.”

• While I do believe that God is sovereign, I do not believe TARFE. The implication of such a statement is that everything that happens is planned by God.

• Think again about the following circumstances:
Our church organ destroyed by a leak? God directed the leak
Space Shuttle Challenger disaster (21 yrs ago today): God installed faulty o-ring.
Edie fell down her cellar steps: God caused her to lose her footing.
School shootings, war, weather...

• Do I believe that God has reasons and plans, and that some things that happen do happen for a reason? YES. However, as Paul writes, we see dimly now, as in a mirror. We see in part.

• story of me going to WL, spending four years there. AE spending one year here. Appointed in season to build and to plant, as the Lord said to Jeremiah. Jeremiah was given words by God, and was appointed to take godly action, to use his position to tell people about God who is refuge and rock and fortress, sovereign Lord and savior. "I'm sending you to do some things you may not understand and that will be resisted, but it is for the upbuilding of my kingdom and to draw people unto me," says the Lord to Jeremiah.

• God is able to work good in any situation, whether planned or not. See Joseph, who was sold by his brothers... and who, years later, explained to them "Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good..." (Genesis 50:20). Now while I do believe that God planned that situation, Joseph’s words of wisdom apply even when something wasn’t God’s plan. Also Romans 8:28: "All things work together for good..."

• As POF, it’s possible any event is
God’s will, and it’s possible it’s not. Whatever the case, as POF we believe that God can work a situation into good. Our response should be to pray for discernment and guidance (see Romans 12:2: be transformed, renew your minds, that you may discern God's will), and to speak and act as God’s people, that God’s kingdom might be built up through our actions and reactions, and that people might be drawn near to God.

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 68 in worship.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

"Do You Love the Law?"

January 21, 2007
Third Sunday After Epiphany

from Nehemiah 8:1-10 and Luke 4:14-21

Ezra read the law of Moses from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. -- Nehemiah 8:2-3

My sermon outline:

• Depending on your POV of worship, we either owe a debt of gratitude to Nehemiah, or we have a person to blame :) b/c the public reading and interpreting of God’s word, which is central to so many worship services, has its roots in today’s passage from Nehemiah. Although somehow the reading and interpreting has gone down from the original six hours...

• Background and history of Nehemiah, walk through of chapters 1-7, the people ask for the law.
Nehemiah outline:
* People are returned to land from exile. Nehemiah is a governor under a foreign king. Neh finds out that the walls of his holy city are in ruins, and he weeps. Prays to God in confession and repentance and seeking favor.
* Receives leave from his boss to fix the walls.
* Gets there and people catch his vision and work day and night, giving of themselves and their resources, working with all their heart, praying with all their might to rebuild God’s city.
* Completed in 52 days (project 6:15).
* God is glorified, enemies are frightened because of the display of God’s power. People return to the holy city.
* And now chapter 8: they ask for the reading of the law.

• They ask for the law and its reading causes them to weep. Scripture doesn’t specify why they weep, although mourning is mentioned.

• Peter in Luke 5:8, Peter introduced to Jesus, miraculous catch of fish, Peter says “Go away from me Lord for I am a sinful man”. Mourns sinfulness.

• DCLA altar call story (2003) and mourning sinfulness

• that was also a weeping of joy in salvation (the story of their people enslaved and freed, given a land and a relationship, returned to promise)

• Ps 119 is a love poem about the goodness of the law:
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin... I rejoice in following your statutes, I delight in your decrees. How I love your law. I meditate on it all day long. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth. I gain understanding from your precepts, therefore I hate every wrong path. Etc etc.

• people also weep for joy because in the word of God they find their identity.

• law provides parameters: In the beginning earth was formless and void and God’s word created order, hallelujah

• we skipped last week’s reading from Luke about the wilderness temptation, but remember he quoted Deuteronomy: man cannot live on bread alone...

• and then today’s Luke reading Jesus proclaims his identity, his purpose based in God’s word.

• So come, hear the word, find your identity and proclaim your purpose, celebrate your salvation, and go about the business of God as hearers & doers, so that it may go well with you.

Deuteronomy 26:16-19
This very day the Lord your God is commanding you to observe these statutes and ordinances; so observe them diligently with all your heart and with all your soul. Today you have obtained the Lord’s agreement: to be your God; and for you to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, his commandments, and his ordinances, and to obey him. Today the Lord has obtained your agreement: to be his treasured people, as he promised you, and to keep his commandments; for him to set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor; and for you to be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 71 in worship.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

"What's In A Name?"

January 14, 2007
Second Sunday After Epiphany

from Psalm 36:5-10 and Isaiah 62:1-5

“You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.” – Isaiah 62:4

My sermon outline:

• Names have meaning in the Bible, (Adam, Abram, Isaac, Moses, Jesus, plus the weird names like Lo-Ruhamah (you are not loved), Lo-Ammi (you are not my people))
- and there are name changes (Abraham, Jacob-Israel...)

• personal story of a name change

• Shawn Hornbeck on Friday January 12, 2007 (now 15), found after missing since October 2002, with stepfather Craig Akers, St. Louis, MO
You shall no more be termed Missing, and your family shall no more be called Broken; but you shall be called Recovered, and your family Reunited, for you have been saved, and your family has been brought together again... So shall your God rejoice over you.

• and name changes like the ones described in today’s reading from Isaiah 62.

“You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called
My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.” – Isaiah 62:4

• The prophet is speaking words from the Lord to a people who have been in exile, who have been taken away from the land of their forbears, the land promised to Abraham Isaac and Jacob, the land their families had been living on for hundreds of years, the home of the holy city and the place where the Temple had once stood.

• The prophet offers to the people a word of hope (even in the depths of despair, death, and destruction, the things that be shall not be permanent), a word of grace (the Lord shall work your salvation), and a word of encouragement (I will not rest until Israel’s name shines again, is vindicated; let us not tire in crying out to the Lord to remember his promises, and let us take action to hasten that day. We are the bride of God, and even as we delight in God as a lover delights in her partner, so does God delight in us. I will sing to the Lord who has given me salvation.

• Just before Is 62 is Is 61 (the one Jesus quotes) proclaiming year of God’s favor on the people, year of rebuilding and of hope and grace and celebration and new covenant. And all will know they are a people the Lord has blessed.

• I believe 2007 will be a year of God’s favor on the people of Spring City, both the church and the community. I want to offer to you a word of hope (even in the depths of despair, depression, and decline, the things that be shall not be permanent), a word of grace (the Lord shall work your salvation... the name “Spring City” shall be vindicated, and we shall be called Beloved of God. We shall be called Home by generations and Instrument of salvation by people who did not know the Lord.) I want to offer you a word of encouragement that you have my prayers and my efforts to be a part of what God is calling us to be and promising to do.

• The prophet will not keep silent, will not rest until Jerusalem’s vindication shines. He’s seen the salvation of the Lord and proclaims I’ll shout it from the mountaintop.

• What has the Lord done for you, and who knows?

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 65 in worship.

Monday, January 08, 2007

It's Here

January 7, 2007
First Sunday After Epiphany
Baptism of Jesus

from Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 and Acts 8:14-17

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you..." Acts 1:8
"Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit." – Acts 8:14-17

My sermon outline:

• Yesterday was Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas (12 lords a-‘leapin). The ancient church celebrated the coming of Christ, the adoration of the magi, and the baptism of Jesus all right around now, and we’ve got these two short scripture verses today that mark the Holy Spirit, so it’s a confusing day. Naturally we decided to go with the flow and have four inserts. And just to add to the confusion, I’m gonna add something that isn’t in the bulletin, but fear not, I’ll guide you. Today I want to talk about Baptism and the Holy Spirit.

• Ever wonder why Jesus was baptized? John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, why would Jesus need baptized? Matthew tells us it’s to fulfill all righteousness. The other gospels don’t offer explanations.

• But we can pick up some clues in Luke’s account.

Jesus’ baptism is for Jesus. He’s 30 years old, he’s been away from his Dad for 30 years, and this moment is for him. Where Matthew reports “This is my Son...” and presumably all hear, Mark and Luke report “YOU are my Son...” It’s a much needed Father/Son moment.

Jesus’ baptism is for the people of the day, it’s another affirmation that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the chosen one, the Son of God. The Holy Spirit descends on him in bodily form, like a dove. First thing Jesus does after the baptism is follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit into the desert, where for 40 days he was tempted by the devil. After 40 days? He’s got the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14) and he goes home, goes to synagogue and reads "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.... today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing".

• Now there are five other people in the book of Luke who “the Holy Spirit” is on: angel tells Zechariah that his son John will be filled with the HS (1:15); the angel tells Mary that the HS will come upon her (1:35) and she will bear the Son of God; Elizabeth is filled with the HS when Mary visits, and she blesses Mary (1:41); Zechariah is filled with the HS (1:67) when John is born, praising God for redemption; Simeon, an old man in the Temple, has the HS on him when Jesus is presented in the Temple, and he praises God for salvation (2:25).
Five people in the first two chapters full of the HS, then it descends on Jesus and stays with him the rest of the book. Nobody else.

• Until the book of Acts, when Jesus tells the apostles “You will receive power when the HS comes on you, and you will be my witnesses....” (1:8)

• And then, Jesus’ baptism is for us. (Acts 8:14-17)

• Peter & John go and lay hands on some new Christians, and they receive the HS. They don’t baptize them again cuz that’s not necessary, they lay hands on them.

• When we baptize people we lay hands on them and pray that the HS would dwell in them.

• And like the apostles and like the new Christians, we receive the power of the HS in baptism. By the grace of God.

• In baptism God says to us “I love you and you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). “When you pass through the waters I will be with you.” Isaiah is talking about baptism there: one of the meanings of baptism is when you go under the water it’s like you’re dying and being buried with Jesus, and God is with you. After being dunked you rise again, united with Christ.

• In baptism our sins are washed away. God cleans us and we celebrate the family connection that we have. In baptism God adopts us and we say Yes Lord, I am yours, I pledge my faith and my love to you.

• And so it is appropriate on this the celebration of Jesus’ baptism, on this the first Sunday of the year, to remember our baptism by the renewal of our baptismal covenant. All who have been baptized are invited to join with me on page 50 of your hymnals; and if you have not been baptized or if you would like to join this congregation I would be more than happy to talk with you about that after the service so that we can hasten the celebration! Again, page 50:

(reaffirmation of baptismal covenant here, followed by Communion)

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 62 in worship.