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, April 22, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

April 22, 2007
Second Sunday After Easter
Earth Day

from Acts 9:1-20 and Revelation 5:11-14

My sermon outline:

• Al Gore’s movie on Global Warming. (tell me about it). Increasing CO2, temp, affects atmosphere, polar caps, ocean currents, weather patterns, etc. etc. etc.

Debated whether humans caused it or not; debated whether humans can do anything about it or not, however it exists and it affects our lives and the lives of the next generations.

Therefore, propose the activists, we *change our lifestyle as we hope for the future*. We take steps to reduce CO2 output and plant more stuff (CO2 scrubbers).

Inconvenient truth is that regardless of how it started, it exists and we can do something.

• Ananias in Acts 9:13-14 (really, 10-20) faces an inconvenient truth: God tells him “Go” and he doesn’t say “no” but voices his concern: the man you send me to is the instrument of men who seek to silence us. Implied (and confirmed by his obedience) is “where you lead me I will follow. As you wish. Your wish is my command.” Set aside personal objections / fears and go ahead.

• The Rest Of The Story: Acts 9:21-31. Saul goes to Jerusalem, disciples reject b/c fear, but Barnabas vouches for him, the community gets accepts him, and the church “was built up... and increased in numbers.” A few leaders encouraging the community and the unthinkable is accomplished.

• Inconvenient Truth and SCUMC: Our congregation is facing some GW-like issues: life as we know it is not sustainable: our membership is eking along, our giving is meeting about half our needs, and we’re standing on the threshold of needing to re-lead the windows.

As with GW there is debate about cause (of GW, of window deterioration / Lexan)

• We must face this as Gore proposes facing GW: change our lifestyle as we hope for future.

• We must face this as Ananias: aware of what we face, going forward

• We must face this as Acts church: in unity behind a Barnabas, so that as a community we may see the church built up (literally) and the membership increase.

• Open our eyes to your possibilities, Lord (Hymn 454)

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 56 in worship.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

We Are Witnesses

April 15, 2007
First Sunday After Easter

from Acts 5:27-33 and Revelation 1:4-8

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give reason for the hope that you have." – 1 Peter 3:15

My sermon outline:

• If I told you there was a Phillies game last night would you believe me? TV, radio, plausible, credible, eyewitness, 35K ppl. It’s because of witnesses that we are here today, and our faith and trust that their testimony is both credible and true.

• We are here in church, a voluntary organization, why? Why deal with the politics, the hassle, the thou-shalt-nots, the financial sacrifice, giving up Sunday mornings and more?

• B/C of that credible and true witness
and b/c we’re called to be witnesses:

“Repentance and forgiveness of sins
will be preached in Christ’s name to all nations.
You are witnesses of these things.” Jesus, in Luke 24:47-48

“You will be my witnesses... to the ends of the earth.” Jesus, in Acts 1:8

• We’re called to be witnesses, we witness when we desire to be a part of God’s saving work in the world, and we witness because people have questions.

• Leading the fastest growing religious beliefs in U.S. are Wicca and Islam, and certainly atheism and Mormonism are high ranking. Some say the day is not far off when Christianity will be the minority in America. These groups are increasing in number because they are answering questions and addressing needs that people have, because their witness is strong. Or at least the perception is stronger than Christianity’s, where people look in and see the politics and hypocrisy and want no part of it. “Your Jesus I like,” Gandhi is reported to have said. “Your Christians I do not like. They are so unlike your Jesus.”

• I happen to think we have the best story. I believe it’s the truest and the most life-changing story. Christianity is the only one that offers both incarnation (God becoming human) and redemption (God saving, forgiving, reconciling humankind)

• Questions of why do you do what you do, what does Christianity have that’s of value to me, why should anyone be a follower of Jesus Christ?

• I’m a beggar, showing other beggars where to find bread. I’ve seen a messed-up world and I’ve seen a cleaner-upper, a wise one who knows that a solution I work for means more to me than something I’m given.

• Because Jesus Christ is the most solid foundation you could ask for (On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand) Because Jesus Christ is a buoy in a sea of change. Because Jesus Christ was healing people and was a threat to others then and now alike. Because Christ is the first and the last, before, during, and after. He who spoke existence out of nothing makes us into God’s glorious kingdom. (Rev. 1:6)

Jesus Christ is the foundation, and people have foundational questions.

"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow to attain the resurrection from the dead" (Phil 3:10-11).

• B/C I’ve read credible accounts like Acts 5 where people are willing to stand against corrupt authorities, under persecution, under threat of life. And many died for their faith, rather than renouncing God (Heard on radio when the 15 Brits were hostages how this radio host would appease the captors... made me think of whether under threat of death or torture I’d say what they wanted me to say or whether I’d trust in God even to the point of death.

• We don’t know time of coming (Rev. 1:7), or when we’ll be put in a situation where someone asks the right question. Therefore steep life in word, in prayer, in discipline, in fellowship.

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 46 in worship. Nor'easter! (cold, hard rain)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Surprise

April 8, 2007
Easter Sunday

from Luke 24:1-12 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-26

"Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen." – Luke 24:5

My sermon outline:

• Unusual week, the original Palm Sunday to Easter. Disturbing. Unusual week this year for us too. After seeing several 80º days in March we had snow flurries a few times in April. Started out normal enough, setting up for rummage sale, had to paint the kitchen, but on Tuesday night things started to turn. Brother Ed into hospital. Wed morning vandalism to our church was discovered. And minutes after Good Friday started, Brother Ed embraced Jesus as never before. Thurs morning Rev. Kern and I led worship here, we shared communion, led a service of darkness. Rev. Kern shared the temptation we have to question God or at least question God’s power, love, or goodness.

• Last Sunday was April Fool’s Day. Anybody witness any good tricks? Although not an April Fool's trick, one year on Melissa’s bday I surprised her by parking her car backwards. Cute. Funny. Easy to explain. Fun little prank.

• Imagine this week went differently. Imagine JB had gone into the kitchen, prepared to paint (move, wash, cloth, tape). Called it a day. Came back to newly painted and reordered kitchen. Response? Check calendar, ask around, call doctor. JB tells you... would you believe? Imagine our surprise.

• Imagine our surprise if after cleaning up after the windows, talking to the police, calling the window people and the insurance, we came in and there were no holes. Or better yet, neither of the windows was in need of repair at all. Mint condition. Response? Who would we tell, and what would they need to believe?

• These surprises are something like what the women mighta felt that first Easter morning, or the disciples. Add grief and exhaustion and fear (authorities). Add terror of seeing angels (they bowed with their faces to the ground). What would you say if your frend told you? Imagine their surprise.

• Miracles are weird. They bother people. (From Leif Enger's Peace Like A River: "Real miracles bother people. They rebut every rule all we good citizens take comfort in. When a person dies, the earth is generally unwilling to cough him back up. A miracle contradicts the will of the earth.")

• To their credit, the women talk. The men don’t believe. Peter checks it out and goes home.

• So here we are with this story that we all grew up with and that if we eyewitnessed today or if someone told us as an eyewitness today we’d think it was crazy.

• Here we are with this story we hold foundational yet we have brokenness around us literally, our window’s still broken, we still have to work, our loved ones still die and stay dead, even the ones that die on Good Friday.

• John 11:26 whoever believes in me will never die

• but John 11:25 will live, even though they die

• other selections from PLAR: "People fear miracles because they fear being changed, though ignoring them will change you also." and "No miracle happens without a witness. Someone to declare, Here’s what I saw. Here’s how it went. Make of it what you will."

• Luke 19:10 Jesus came to save the lost
and John 10:10 Jesus came that we might have life

1 Corinthians 15:21-22

• Lyrics to "Because He Lives":
God sent His son, they called Him Jesus;
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living, Just because He lives!

• Easter People, raise our voices (304)

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 120 in worship. Christ is Risen!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Wrath and love (7DS 7/7)

The seventh in a series on the Seven Deadly Sins

April 1, 2007
Palm Sunday

from Luke 19:28-38 and Isaiah's Suffering Servant texts

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." – Proverbs 15:1

My sermon outline:

• recap of intro: Lenten series on 7 deadly sins. “sin breeds sin”, and that’s why these are deadly, cuz they lead to more sins. Fortunately for us, life breeds life.

• Goal being to help you become 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. 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.

• Sins we covered so far, and their corresponding virtues:
gluttony (faith/self-control)
sloth (enthusiasm/accountability)
envy (love)
lust (purity)
greed (generosity)
Pride (humility)

• Today’s deadly sin of focus is wrath.

• 3 passages from Isaiah about God’s servant, who would
- peacefully bring forth justice,
- reconcile Israel to God and offer salvation to the world
- suffer for his service to God

• Goes from descriptors like chosen and delightful, peaceful. Instrument of justice to an instrument of salvation abhorred by the nations to a cruelly mistreated yet righteous teacher

• It’s a little snapshot of Holy Week

• We opened the service today with the Palm Sunday reading from Luke 19, where Jesus has his disciples fetch a colt for him to ride into Jerusalem. May not be of much significance to us, but as the gospels of Matthew and John point out for us, there’s an OT image of Israel’s king and salvation-bringer, arriving on a donkey. Jesus has the disciples fetch a colt for him so he can enter Jerusalem this way.

• The effect is not lost on the people, who give him a first-century ticker-tape parade. Tickertape parades are not everyday or even every year events; nowadays you pretty much only get one if you’re a New York sports team that has won a great victory. The people lay their cloaks down, and some of them cut branches from palm trees to honor the arriving king. Laying cloaks down hearkens back to 2 Kings 9:13, when Jehu was anointed king of Israel and they had a cloak-laying tickertape parade for him.

• It’s a few days before the celebration of a central Jewish holiday in the city of David, and there are these unmistakable “king” images as Jesus comes riding into town. It’s no wonder the authorities are a little nervous.

• Jesus comes into town and goes to the Temple where what? Creates havoc. Drives the merchants out. Matthew and Mark tell us how he overturned the tables of the monechangers and called the merchants thieves.

• Just a few verses later in Luke 19 and we read that the chief priests and teachers of the law and leaders of the people want Jesus dead.

• They’re afraid of him, jealous of his power and of his sway over the people, afraid of what the people will do under his influence.

• Jesus tells the people a parable of the vineyard tenants who beat the servants of the vineyard owner and eventually killed the owner’s son, and the chief priests and teachers of the law and leaders of the people see quite clearly that Jesus is talking about them and how they were abusing their positions of authority for their own selfish ambitions. Now not only is there all sorts of king rhetoric going around, but Jesus is exposing them for what they are, manipulating hypocrites. As long as Jesus is around their position and authority is threatened, so they come up with a reason to kill him. And in John 11 we see a meeting of the chief priests and Pharisees, the leaders of the Jews, the Sanhedrin. Leaders from all walks of Jewish life come together and decide that Jesus is a threat to them as a nation: they live in a police-occupied state (occ. by the Romans), who will not take kindly to the news of a king coming into town, and who would not take kindly to a people incited to rebellion. The Jewish leaders decide that Jesus must be killed in order for them to maintain their authority and position.

• They are blinded by their fear and jealousy, by their anger at being exposed.

• The deadly sin I’m sposed to be talking about today is anger, wrath. The connection didn’t go quite as well as I initially thought it would -- I thought I could talk about how their wrath led them to the crime of passion of crucifixion, but it wasn’t really wrath led them down that road, rather it was fear and jealousy.

• We do see Jesus’ righteous anger in the Temple and we realize that righteous anger can motivate us to do the right thing, but anger can also lead us to do our worst. We are easily blinded by anger, just as the leaders were blinded by their fear and jealousy. It’s difficult to control anger.

• People who have committed violent acts while angry say they’ve lost control, they snapped, it was like someone else was controlling their actions. In wrath, people seek to pervert justice to take care of things themselves (just like the priests and teachers and leaders sought to come up with a way to have Jesus killed, since they didn’t have real grounds to do it.)

• wrath is a sense of justice perverted to revenge. Its fruits are violent crimes, assault and murder.

• Like I said, though, it’s not human wrath that leads to Jesus’ murder, it’s jealousy and fear and exposure. It is, however, in the event of Jesus’ unjust crucifixion that we see wrath’s counter-virtue of forgiveness. Jesus sets aside the injustice of his sentencing and the unrighteousness of his framers and prays for God to forgive them.

• In doing the impossible, he opens up for us the possibility of forgiveness as the counter to and preventer of wrath. Jesus’ killers didn’t deserve forgiveness, and neither do we. But it is offered anyway. Quite possibly the object of our own wrath or anger does not deserve our forgiveness (Prov. 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.) but God wants us to forgive and leave righteousness and justice in his hands.

• And it’s all motivated by God’s love for us. Love that said “I will give of myself, my very life, for even they that have betrayed me again and again. I will turn my wrath away from them and offer them forgiveness and life.” How wonderful is God’s love? Because of his wondrous love we are able to have victory over all kinds of sin...

You who have received the forgiveness of God, won’t you join together in song: 292 What wondrous love is this

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 78 in worship. 5 New Members received, plus Holy Communion, and a reception!