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, February 25, 2007

"I'll get around to it": Sloth and Zeal (7DS 2/7)

The second in a series on the Seven Deadly Sins

February 25, 2007
First Sunday of Lent

from Romans 10:8-13 and 1 Peter 5:5-11

"The sluggard’s craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work" – Prov. 21:25

My sermon outline:

• (recap of intro): Lenten series on 7 deadly sins, somewhat dovetailing with Wednesday series on temptations of Jesus. Goes back to early church fathers (1500 years ago) talking about those sins or attitudes that we gateway sins, that would lead to other and various sins. Seven habitual sins that require serious change of heart to counter.

• Not like the spiritual gifts (which everyone has at least one of) although chances are you struggle with or at least identify with a few of these. Hopefully you’re victorious over them. If you do struggle with one or more of them it means you’re human and you’re in the right place. If you don’t then to whom much has been given much is required, and the rest of us are looking to you to help us overcome, and will also rely on your humility :) My prayer for us all is that we would allow ourselves to be led by God to examine our lives, our habits and our priorities, and that we would allow God’s spirit to work within us, purifying us of those things in our lives that do not lead to Life, but instead lead to destruction.

• Incidentally there is a traditional order of the sins, however I chose an order loosely based on the recommended scriptures for the week, and found out I came out okay.

• Last week we focused on gluttony, the sin that makes a god of food or eating. It’s a sin of excess, of overindulgence, countered by faith and by self-control. I lifted up how God provided for the children of Israel in the wilderness, not only feeding them their daily bread but teaching them to rely on God.

• Today’s focus is the sin of sloth (or slowth). Unlike gluttony, which is a sin of commission, of action, of overindulgence, sloth is more a sin of omission, wherein something is left undone. If you’ve ever uttered the words “I’ll get around to it later,” or “I’ve been meaning to do that,” you have been guilty of sloth. If similar phrases frequently pass your lips, you may struggle with the deadly sin of sloth, and you may understand how it can be considered deadly, how difficult it is to remedy.

• There are different flavors of sloth. Historically it includes joylessness, depression, and or apathy. These indicate a lack of trust in God, a lack of loving God with all your heart your soul and your mind. If your life were a garden planted by God for the purpose of producing fruit, sloth inhibits growth, allows for weeds to take over, allows for bugs and rot to destroy what God purposed.

• If you look through the book of proverbs you’ll find more than a dozen references to “the sluggard”, which I believe could just as easily apply to “the sloth”. notice the habits:

Proverbs 24:30-34 I went past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins.
I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest- and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

• Before I continue, I recognize that depression can be a result of a chemical imbalance in the body, and it may require medication and or counseling to deal with it. I know that, and it doesn’t make you a lesser person if you need meds or counseling to deal with depression. It also doesn’t let you off the hook: be diligent and watchful of your symptoms, and responsible in your actions and your treatment regimens.

• So joylessness, depression, apathy are some historical flavors of sloth. A word about apathy: a recent major study of the religious lives and habits of American teens describes the general teenager’s view of Christianity: benign positive regard. Means that in general, teens don’t care enough about Christianity to have a negative view of it. And guess where they learn that? At home. So you who are here, impress upon your children and upon your grandchildren that your religion, your faith practice, your love of God is not just some weird thing you do, but that it is the source of your strength and joy, that God is the reason for your existence, and that the fullest life is the life lived in the Spirit of Christ.

• There are other contemporary flavors of sloth, what I would call laziness and procrastination. Looking again to the Bible, we read that “A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing,” (Prov. 20:4). And Ecclesiastes 10:18: “If a man is lazy, the rafters sag; if his hands are idle, the house leaks.” Laziness is a person who deliberately and habitually chooses not to work, chooses not to pull their own weight but to let someone else do it. The hardest work a lazy person does is come up with ways to avoid work. Laziness is not necessary or deserved rest, but a deliberate lack of contribution, a deliberate avoidance of effort.

• I say deliberate to contrast the other flavor of sloth, procrastination, which I think can be a little more insidious because it is well-intentioned. The procrastinator doesn’t say “I won’t work, I won’t do that,” – they say “I’ll get around to that” or “I’ll do that later.” Well we all know the fruit of procrastination and good intentions, for it is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The procrastinator puts off perhaps cuz they don’t want to or can’t do it now, or perhaps because they intend to set up the perfect conditions to complete their task perfectly.

• Joylessness, depression, apathy, laziness, procrastination: several of the faces or flavors of the deadly sin of sloth.

• The counter virtue to the deadly sin of sloth is diligence – that is, hard work or work ethic – also known as zeal, or enthusiasm (which literally means God-inspired). It combines attitude with action, as Romans 10 (confess, believe)… it requires self-control and discipline and reliance on the God of grace (1 Pet 5)

• Perhaps one of the greatest ways to counter sloth goes back to God’s design for humanity in Genesis 2 when God said “It is not good for man to be alone.” We’re social creatures, made by God not to be solitary. The church is a body and its members are designed to work together for good and for the edification of others and the glory of God. Do you struggle with sloth? Follow the command of James 5:16: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other.” Heed the words of Paul in Galatians 6: “My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Make a covenant with a brother or sister in Christ, work on something together. If your weakness is you, ask that brother or sister to hold you accountable in love, to encourage your progress and to meet with you to succeed. Don’t let a day go by – tell me on the way out of church if you have to, but take action. Come to God as you are but don’t stay that way

• Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is he who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

• Walk with your brother or sister in Christ, and walk with your master and savior Jesus Christ: (hymn 430).

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 64 in worship. Mild.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

"Our Daily Bread": Gluttony and Faith (7DS 1/7)

The first in a series on the Seven Deadly Sins

February 18, 2007
Transfiguration Sunday

from Luke 9:28-36 and Exodus 16

"He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." – Deuteronomy 8:3

My sermon outline:

• Met with other pastors to plan Lenten series. UCC and UMC of SpringFord, plus Episc. doing Lent together, 730 Wed eve services, childcare and refreshments, oppty for combined choirs. Theme is “the Joys and Sorrows of Temptation”... Another idea we tossed around was the Seven Deadly Sins (7DS), so I decided to run with that here. Naturally each week we’ll talk about a different DS, see what the Bible has to say about it, and see how we can hopefully avoid it.

• concept of 7DS, oddly enough, does not go back to the Bible. No 7DS list there. They do however date to the 400s or so when the early church fathers (ECF) both reflected on mankind’s bent to sin, and to their instruction to new followers (so if you find yourself not particularly tempted by one of these you can instruct your friends and family. If you do struggle with some of these temptations, it means you’re human and you’re in the right place to get help).

• Anyway, 7DS. There’s seven, they’re sins, but where’s the “Deadly” come from? ECF divided sin into two categories: minor sins (called venial) which were less serious and which could be more easily dealt with and forgiven through the sacraments and acts of penance, and the major sins (called capital or mortal, deadly). These deadly sins were ways of life that could easily lead one to sin habitually. They could easily lead one to commit other sins. The 7DS formed life habits that required more perfect and constant action of heart to counteract. Whereas the journey from venial sin to grace wasn’t very difficult, the mortal sin was a formidable obstruction or detour from the road to grace. And the ECF in their obsession with perfect numbers concluded that there were seven categories or flavors of sin that were deemed life-threatening. Ergo 7DS.

• Although he didn’t come up with the idea of the 7DS, the 14th century Italian poet Dante cemented them in literature and art in his Divine Comedy (Dante’s Inferno, Pergatorio, and Paradiso) (comedy, btw, in the classical sense doesn’t mean “funny” but has more to do with the characters involved and whether the plot goes from bad to worse or bad to good). In any case, since Dante’s Pergatorio, there have been many artistic renderings of the 7DS, and books and movies as well. A movie came out in 1995 called “Seven”, about a serial killer and the 7DS, and it’s from that movie that I stole the cover of the bulletin and what you see behind you now.

• So there are these seven types of sin called DS, and we’re going to go through Lent talking about the different ones and our responses to them. Though we can talk about sin any day of the year it seems particularly appropriate to talk about it during Lent, the 40-day period before Easter, in which people mourn their own sinfulness and seek to be more like Christ. So my prayer for us all is that we would allow ourselves to be led by God to examine our lives, our habits and our priorities, and that we would allow God’s spirit to work within us, purifying us of those things in our lives that do not lead to Life, but instead lead to destruction. The first such sin we’ll look at is Gluttony.

• Gluttony is a sin of excess, typically associated with overindulgence of food and drink, although it can be applied to wasteful lavish lifestyle as well. It’s a deadly sin because it essentially makes food an idol. Food is a means to an end (we must eat to survive) and praise God that God made food good, but gluttony raises food and eating to a sinful, idolatrous level. It is habitual eating for the sake of eating. It is not dining in a fine restaurant or having an expensive bottle of wine or getting three donuts at Dunkin Donuts (although if taken to the extreme, each of these could fall under gluttony), it is a pattern of excessive consumption. Gluttony is a sin that leads one to being wasteful, perhaps even in the face of poverty – think of the rich man and Lazarus: the rich man’s love of the “finer things in life” led him to neglect charity and hospitality to a man dying at his feet. Gluttony can also include things like drug abuse and binge drinking, wasteful, harmful acts of seeking fleeting pleasure that have led to countless deaths and wrecked lives. Gluttony is a sin of excess that distorts reality and leads away from God. Hear me again, it is not enjoying eating or having a good time, it is over-indulgence and over-consumption of food or drink to the point of waste or destruction.

• (In the movie Seven, which I stole the graphics from, the serial killer exemplifies gluttony by force-feeding an obese man until the man’s stomach essentially ruptures.)

• Now I can imagine people saying, C’mon Pastor, that’s pretty extreme... nobody here is really gluttonous... I mean sure, maybe I could stand to lose a few pounds but that doesn’t make me a glutton. And like I said last week about BMI, 30% of Americans are considered obese. Now there’s a difference between morbid obesity and most of us here who could stand to lose a few, but I ask you, does the defense of unnecessary overweightness stand? Whatever reason you give, is it overcomeable? Does it make you proud? Would you accept that reason from your child? I will not accuse you, but I will ask you, if you are obese, even if you are “just” overweight, why? Do you know that if you are at your optimal weight your joints themselves will last longer, that it shouldn’t hurt to use them? Your heart and other organs will function at their optimal levels and you’ll be at lower risk for disease.

• If you had a million dollar car, would you be likely to take special care of it, or would you neglect to keep its oil changed and its tires properly inflated? Would you put good gasoline into it, or the fuel/oil mix that you put into your snowblower? Your body is much more than a million dollar car, and it’s the only one you get. Maintaining it, taking care of it is your gift to yourself. Not only that, it’s your gift to God, who gave you your body. Is it hard to maintain your body? Well let me put it this way: it requires work. All good things do. But it is something that can bring you appropriate inner pride. It can enhance your life in the present and lengthen it in the future, it is a spiritual issue as much as it is a physical issue, and I can help point you in the right direction so that you may even hear it said of your body: Well done, good and faithful servant.

• The Bible contains several references to gluttony, and several remedies we would do well to live by: two of the biblical opposites (or counter virtues) to gluttony are self-control and faith. Self-control and faith are two of the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 (and SC is one of the spiritual disciplines practiced during Lent). Self-control says “I will not allow food to be my God (and actually, self-control is a counter-virtue to many of the DS). Proverbs actually tells you to put a knife to your own throat if you are given to gluttony, indicating that it is a serious matter, one that requires self-control and discipline to avoid or overcome.

• Jesus addresses gluttony, I believe, when he teaches the disciples to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Lord may you provide the food I need for today. I ask not for storehouses of grain that I may rely on them instead of thee... I ask not for a disproportionate share of resources, I ask not that I may have more than my neighbor... I do not ask for a handout that requires no effort on my part but for life-sustaining partnership with thee. I ask, Lord: may you provide the food I need for today. And tomorrow I ask the same thing, trusting in your providence.

• As the Lord did in the book of Exodus, which we read today. The Israelites were in the desert, where God provided them with the food they needed for the day. Every day. Enough. While they had to work to gather the heavenly bread that God provided, they were able to satisfy their bellies, and while doing so, they learned to rely on God, who provided enough for the day and who did not allow them to horde food. God didn’t drop it into their hands or their mouths – they had to work to gather it – but God provided for their needs. Each day. He knows our needs, and even helps us to have faith in him.

• The remedy for gluttony is an attitude of trust in God plus work with His providence, an attitude of self-control plus prayer and action, and of course, the grace of our Lord Jesus. These are gifts of God, for as it is written:

Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is he who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

• Jesus sets us free. Let God bless you and keep you and guide you. (--> Hymn 142)

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 66 in worship. Cold.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Blessed are the poor

February 11, 2007
Sixth Sunday After Epiphany

from Jeremiah 17:5-10 and Luke 6:17-26

"I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve." – Jeremiah 17:10

My sermon outline:

• Bruce Griffith, UM missionary to Afghanistan (with wife Kathy) spoke to Bible Study on Tuesday. Story about flash-flood and Bible story, opening door for HS.

• Luke 6:46-49. Wanted to go to that passage instead of the earlier passage from Luke 6, the blessings and woes, because today’s reading isn’t nice. But sometimes comfort level is an indication that you should go there... Matthew’s is nice: it’s softer and it doesn’t have the woes.
Blessed are you who are poor
Blessed are you who are hungry
Blessed are you who weep
Blessed are you when people hate you

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Blessed are those who hunger & thirst after righteousness
Blessed are those who mourn
Blessed are you when people persecute you

• It’s one thing to hear the “blesseds,” and another thing to hear the “woes”

• Woe to you who are rich, who are full, who laugh now, when all speak well of you...

• Some trends and statistics (from
United States “Weighted Average” (for the world)
$39,452 per capita $8,142
30.6% obese 14.1%
84% happy 53.9%
Christians not really persecuted Many countries where Xnty is illegal and punishable

• More than any other gospel, Luke expounds the dangers of wealth, and its power to blind a person and consume a person. You think you possess your possessions but it may well be the other way around... your possessions possess you.

• Luke is not idealizing or glorifying poverty, but is pointing out God’s prejudicial commitment to the poor, because poverty is contrary to God’s design.

• So what should our reaction be to Jesus’ blessing of the poor and woe to the rich?

• Make a joke of it (the church will be happy to relieve you of your wealth)

• Follow the example of the rich young ruler who went away sad

• Follow the example of folk like Mother Theresa, JWesley (make all you can, give all you can)
JWesley who felt it would be a sin if he died with a positive bank account

• Remember that God, who is protector, defender, and redeemer of the poor, does indeed hold us accountable for our actions (Jer. 17:10) and that just as we may be the judges of angels, the poor may be the judges of the rich.

• Therefore let us examine our hearts & minds, motivations & actions, let us ask God for forgiveness & mercy, & let us keep ourselves near to the heart of God (UMHymnal#472)

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 61 in worship. Cold.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


February 4, 2007
Fifth Sunday After Epiphany

from Isaiah 6:1-8 and John 4:4-26

“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth...” -- John 4:23

“The seraph touched my mouth and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’” – Isaiah 6:7

My sermon outline:


"Worship Him" in "Spirit" & "Truth"

• John 4:23. What is worship? Devotion, attribution of worth, ascribe glory and honor. Picture from Isaiah 6, Isaiah has vision of the Lord on His throne with seraphs – 6-winged angels – attending to Him, singing Holy Holy Holy is the Lord of Hosts, the earth is full of his glory. A similar picture of worship comes from Revelation 4:8... winged creatures eternally singing Holy is the Lord... Worship is about glory, and it ain’t yours.

• That’s why we dress up. To ascribe honor and glory. Yet it’s a matter of the heart:
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.”
1 Chronicles 28:9

• Jesus knew that just because you look good doesn’t mean you’re right on the inside:
Luke 11:39-42
Then Jesus said, ‘Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.
‘But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others.

• “The true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth”
But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you're called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.
"It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration." (John 4:23-24 The Message)

• It doesn’t matter where. (summer in sanctuary or FH or SS?)

• Worship is attitude plus action.

• Isaiah knew he was unclean, the seraph sacramentally purified him – I say sacramentally because a sacrament is an outward sign of an inward grace. His outer lips were purified, causing a change within Isaiah. And he responded with action: Here I am, send me!

• The woman at the well experienced a change in attitude and she took action: you’ll remember that many in her village believed because she told them about Jesus.

• SO let our worship be in spirit and in truth, in attitude and in action. That’s why I so often pray that our actions would show who we are. And let us give ourselves in worship, and be sacramentally fed.

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 61 in worship. Communion Sunday. Souper Bowl of Caring. Luncheon. Very cold.