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, September 30, 2007

There Will Be A Future

September 30, 2007

from Jeremiah 32

My sermon outline:

• Ancient property transaction. Seller (w/in family). Deed, signed, sealed, witnessed. Money exchange in public. Record kept in a safe place.

Some context at beginning of passage (Jeremiah under house arrest, city under attack, year wrt contemporary kings)

• Additional context: year is about 587 BC (about 2600 years ago), in Jerusalem, 3 miles from Jer’s hometown of Anathoth. Jeremiah has been serving the Lord for 20-30 years (back up from now to Rev. Jenkins. Recall what this church was like 20-30 years ago...)

• Jerusalem is under siege, has been occupied for ten years by the Babylonian army. Zedekiah is king, but he was put there by the Babs, and doesn’t really hold much power. Ten years earlier (597 BC) the Babs arrested and deported the king. The queen. A number of officials and citizens. Took them six hundred miles away. And 130 years earlier (that’s our congregation’s entire history plus a bit) half of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians.

It’s not a hopeful point in history.

• Jeremiah is under house arrest for having reported the word of the Lord: that Zedekiah’s rule is about to end, he’ll be conquered by the Babylonians, and that resistance to the Babs will fail.

• And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: Your cousin is gonna offer to sell you a field. Buy it.

He’s under house arrest in a city that’s been militarily occupied for ten years, under arrest for prophesying the immanent destruction of the city. Property value is not good. If you’re a landowner in this time and place (if you’re still around) it’s time to get out!

It’s not time to buy! Not a good idea. Doesn’t make any sense. Irrational. Foolish. Wasteful. Denying reality.

• “God told me to do this.” Bad idea. Bad investment. Investment: purchase something now that is expected to increase in value. You’re doing opposite. Guaranteed loss.

• Jeremiah doesn’t care about that, Jer cares about listening to God. He’ll put his money on the line. His reputation. His energy. These do not keep him from following God. Only thing that matters is what God says, and God says There Will Be A Future.

You may not be able to see it, but TWBAF. Faith is the substance of things unseen (Heb 11:1). May look foolish & irrational but TWBAF. We walk by faith & not by sight (2 Cor 5:7) I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a new future. (Jer 29:11) God says TWBAF.

• Some of you may know who Doug Wead is. DW is an author, presidential historian, philanthropist, businessman. CoFounder of one of the largest international relief and humanitarian organizations, Mercy Corps. Back in 91 or 92, after the end of the Cold War, Doug Wead was speaking to a group of independent business owners in Kazakhstan, where free market had just been introduced. Wead tells about the motivation of these business owners, who knew that with all their efforts, they still would never get out of debt. They knew that with all their efforts, their children might not know economic freedom. They were motivated by the possibility that their children’s children might know economic opportunity and prosperity.

• God asked Jeremiah to buy a field in a land that was about to be overcome by foreigners as a witness and testimony to the not-distant future when houses and fields and vineyards would be once again bought in Israel. Jeremiah may never have seen the fruit of his investment, but that day came in the lifetime of his children, in 537 BC.

• I don’t believe we’ll have to wait that long. There are some tough and inevitable things in our future, that we can’t deny. Some of you may not see the revival of this church. But our future is redeemable. I know because God is touching people here and around us. In the last few years even in this region, churches have been born and have produced fruit – we’re not in a desert. We have the ability to affect our image and our body to the glory of God and in cooperation with God.

This text is about betting on the future, which belongs to the expectations, the make-up, the discipline of the community of faith. It is about a risky act of trust and hope, based on the promise of God that we will not be abandoned or forsaken, but that God invites us into living covenant with him. This chapter is about the marvelous power of God to effect a surprising future, to effect a radical reversal of present reality. These things, God can do and God does do.

Our job is to listen to God and not be overwhelmed by circumstances, to invest, in body, mind, pocketbook, and soul, to trust that TWBAF, that houses and fields and vineyards shall be bought in this land, that Sunday school rooms shall be filled with children and that pews shall be filled with families, because we are bought and redeemed by the great redeemer Jesus Christ, whose name we bear and whose glory we sing.

13In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus... I charge you 14to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

• Hymn 526: What A Friend We Have in Jesus

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 60 in worship.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Cry Out to God

September 23, 2007

from Psalm 97

My sermon outline:

• Not your typical sermon fodder, Psalm 79. We tend to be more comfortable with the rose-colored glasses. I was tempted to skip this Psalm (lectionary) and I’da been in good company: John Wesley deleted Psalm 79 and 49 others from the daily devotional readings because he deemed them “highly improper for the mouths of a Christian congregation.”

However a UM worship preparation resource website suggested “Don’t skip this psalm. Lead your congregation in prayer with it.” Cuz whether or not you think Christians should feel the things this Psalmist feels, they do feel them.

• Psalm facts. 150 psalms, many types. both God’s words to humankind and humankind’s words to God. Lament (communal, individual), thanksgiving, praise, song, royal, wisdom… 79 is a psalm of communal lament. Laments make up the largest chunk of the psalms – somewhere around one-third of the psalms are psalms of lament.

Characteristic elements of lament psalms include a cry out to God, a description of trouble, a plea or petition for God’s help, a profession of faith or trust in God, and a promise of praise.

At times the laments may seem pessimistic, at times harshly judgmental, and at times they’re just what the doctor ordered, they’re statements of faith even in tones of despair. They can be cathartic, healing, as if uttering them somehow releases pressure or poison, somehow strengthens resolve. You may never think of bad news as good news but there’s times. (Tricia’s diagnosis was good news cuz it meant we knew something).

• Psalms are poetry, and while you can learn something by dissecting, there is much power in its imagery and in what it evokes within you. Without that evocative power something vital would be lost. Big difference between saying “God takes care of me” and “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

• So my re-imagining of this psalm:
World forces have conspired against you, God;
they have severely beaten your earthly body.
They’ve shamed and humiliated
your servants who love you.
How long will you let this happen, Lord?

Turn your righteous anger on those
who mock you and shame your people, Lord.
Turn your anger away from your servants and their children,
for we have been brought low.
For the sake of your good name,
deliver us, restore us, forgive us.
Don’t let the enemy laugh at you because of us – show them who you are!

We praise you, Lord;
we remember your steadfast love forever.

• As Augustine invites, so I invite thee to WRITE.
If the Psalm prays, you pray;
if it laments, you lament;
if it rejoices, rejoice with it;
if it hopes, express your hope too;
if it fears, you also fear;
for all things written herein
serve to mirror ourselves.

• How have you / your family / your community been brought down, shamed, ruined? How have you been mocked? What causes your soul to grieve? Write it down. Pray it.

• Verse 5: we often say “God is in control”. Ask God why things are the way they are. Cry out to God for help, for salvation, for deliverance. What would you ask of God? What would you ask God to do? Why should God listen to you?

• What do you have to offer to God? Not in terms of trading or bartering, but what will you give God regardless of circumstances?

• On a recent hospital visit notes of encouragement and praise for coworkers. What notes would you give to God? What praises do you have right now?

• Hymn 430: O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 66 in worship. Lovely weather.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

God Delights In Doing The Impossible

September 16, 2007
UMC Special Offering: Health and Welfare Sunday

from Luke 18:15-17 and 1 Timothy 1:12-17

"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners..." – 1 Timothy 1:15

My sermon outline:

• Funny song I heard performed by Jim Cole once:

So the man said to God, "What's a million years to you?"
And God said, "A second."

Then the man said to God, "What's a million dollars, too?"
And God said, "A penny."

So the man said to God, "Will you give me a penny?"
And God said, "Sure, you'll just have to wait a second."

God is good all the time.

Last week SS time is funny cuz we’re in it, can’t imagine being out of it. Like fish imagining life out of water.

Time like hourglass.
We can see the past, but we can’t change it, can’t get it back. Might be able to hide it, forget it, but can’t make it go away. We can examine different parts of it, learn from it, build on it, even celebrate it...
Sometimes present rushes by we sometimes have to take conscious effort to make the most of it, sometimes we tap the hourglass to see if we can make the present go by any faster; we can use it wisely or waste it...
The future we can make educated guesses about, based on present and past, signs that we see; we can make plans for it but chances are those plans will have to be adjusted, that’s why whenever you drive a car you hold the steering wheel instead of just letting go, even going straight always adjusting...
make plans for it or worry about it, but undoubtedly the wisest thing we can do is entrust it to God.

• Paul shares a few snapshots of time with us in his first letter to Timothy, the older, experienced pastor sharing some wisdom from his past with the newer Christian convert slash pastor, examining and contrasting his own past with his now. I was blasphemer, persecutor, a violent man, the greatest of sinners, Paul says. We talk about people you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley... for first century Jews, that was Saul. The last person you’d expect to be a witness for Jesus Christ (Ananias, Acts 9)

• But God delights in surprising people, in turning impossible things around. God had taken the infamous Saul, greatest of persecutors, and worked him into the greatest of evangelists. God gave mercy to Paul, so that when people looked at him they might not see the evil deeds of his past but instead his relationship with Jesus Christ. Mercy is an act of compassion when you’re set free from the wrongs you committed... Mercy says “that’s the past and this past need not be your future. By God’s grace, Paul received the free gifts of abundant faith and love. Mercy prevented Paul from getting his just reward; grace was a present aid to go towards the future, toward what God would have Paul become.

And if God could redeem Paul, if God could use him in his service, God could use anyone. God’s showing grace and mercy to Paul showed that God’s grace and mercy were deep.

• God delights in surprising people, and God delights in turning impossible things around. For the foremost sinner, the hardest human worker against the gospel to become its greatest supporter, impossible, unless you’re God. In the book of Judges, Gideon was leading an Israelite army against an enemy that was nigh uncountable – their camels numbered as the grains of sand, and Gideon had a mere 32K men. God ... whittled it down to 300, to show without a doubt that it was God who had the victory, so that the men might not boast in their own strength.

When the apostles had been spreading the good news of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem for a while, the Jewish council, the Sanhedrin, wondered what to do about it, and Gamaliel, a Jewish teacher of the law stood up and advised about future actions of the Sanhedrin: “If these men who claim to be doing God’s will aren’t, it’ll come out, we’ll know cuz they’ll fail. But if they are doing God’s will, nothing we do will be able to prevent it.”

• So I look at these things, that God delights in surprising people, and God delights in turning impossible things around, and I see hope for our future. May we make the best of our present, that our future may be guided by and credited to God. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen.

• Hymn: A Charge to Keep I Have

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 57 in worship. muggy.