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 27, 2008

Abraham and Isaac - the Test of Faith

January 27, 2008

from Genesis 22

My sermon outline:

• pop quiz time. Take out your bulletins, write your name at the top on the back, get a pen or a pencil, it’s time for a test.
1) What is the name of Abraham’s first-born son?
2) What is the name of my first-born?
3) What did God command Abraham to do in Genesis 22?

pop quizzes are stereotypically nerve-wracking – what was your initial response to hearing you were gonna have one? – but quizzes and tests serve a few purposes: they allow both teacher and student to evaluate the student’s knowledge of the subject taught, and they can indicate the particular effectiveness of the teacher… if a bunch of people miss the same question, for example, then that’s an indicator for an area the teacher needs to go over again.

Ans 1) Ishmael
Ans 2) Alexandra
Ans 3) flip your bulletin over for that answer: God’s command to Abraham was to take Isaac and offer him as a burnt offering…

• Right off the bat, in Genesis 22, God tests Abraham. No bones about it, it’s a test. Important to remember here, though, that there’s a difference between testing and tempting. Satan tempts us to bring out evil in us and ultimately to destroy us. Satan’s goal is to get us to rebel against God. When God puts us to the test, he always does so to bring out the good in us or to help someone else have the faith and courage to do that which is right. God never tempts us to do that which is evil. When God tests, it’s to bring out good, and God is interested in evaluating our spiritual health and growth. We were not designed to remain the same all our lives, we were designed for lifelong growth in relationship to God. When we get around to Genesis 22, Abraham is over 100 years old, possibly as old as 135, and God was interested in Abraham’s commitment to God.

In our reading from Matthew today, by the way, Jesus gives the disciples a little pop quiz. He wanted to test them, see what they knew, where they stood, see how the people were receiving him. Peter passes this test, identifying and confessing that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. One of the things we’re called to do in this world is tell other people that… we want lots of people to pass that test, and the answer is simple.

• My little pop quiz was simple. God’s test of Abraham was not. Nigh unthinkable, unconscionable. I don’t know if it makes it any better that God didn’t tell Abraham to kill his son but merely to “offer him as a burnt offering”, and I don’t know if I know of anyone who could pass the test God gave Abraham. Could you?

• Another pop-quiz:
1) What’s the first commandment?
2) What’s the “greatest commandment”?
3) What’s the honor code of the Marines?

Ans 1) No other gods before me.
Ans 2) love God heart soul mind strength
Ans 3) God country corps (sometimes God Country Family Corps, but always God first.)

"Anything I put before my God is an idol.
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol.
Anything I can't stop thinking of is an idol.
Anything that I give all my love is an idol."
(“Clear the Stage” by Ross King).

Children are gifts, but should we put the gift above the Giver?

• God’s command: go to the place I’ll show you (sound familiar? – God had all the details taken care of, all Abraham needed to do was trust), take your only son, whom you love, and offer him as a burnt offering. And Abraham does so without hesitation. He doesn’t offer excuses or objections, he offers obedience, tempered with a faith that if God required the sacrifice of his son through whom God had explicitly promised innumerable offspring, then God would provide. So great was Abraham’s faith, remember, that he told his servants “Isaac and I are gonna go worship over there, and then we’ll be back.” We.

• Abraham passed the test. (read from God’s response)

• What does this incident tell us of Isaac, the boy whose name means laughter, the one through whom God’s promise was to be fulfilled?

Jewish legend offers that Isaac may have been even my age, based on the fact that in chapter 23 the death of Sarah is reported, and she was 127 (and bore Isaac at 90).

The only exchange we have here is Isaac’s question, where is the lamb for the burnt offering? Abraham’s answer either left Isaac ignorant of what was going to happen, or Isaac went willingly anyway. Either way, it’s apparent he was familiar with the burnt offering (perhaps it was something he’d witnessed before; perhaps he only knew about it because of this special trip) and apparently he trusted his father and his God.

A little aside about Isaac: Isaac gives us a picture of Christ… going to be the sacrificial lamb, even carrying on his back the instrument of his own death. And though Isaac didn’t actually die, even scripture tells us in Hebrews 11 that figuratively Isaac was brought back from the dead. God’s promise was fulfilled through the participation of this beloved and innocent son.

• Remember that a test assess both the student (Abraham) and the teacher (God). As I said before, God led Abraham to a place God had prepared beforehand, and provided the necessary sacrifice. God’s faithfulness to his promises is revealed here, and his faithfulness to his people is revealed here. God, who asked this incredible thing of Abraham, is willing to do exactly the thing he asks Abraham to do: just as Isaac gives us a glimpse of Christ, so Abraham gives us a glimpse of God, offering his only son, his son whom he loved.

• You’ve heard it said that “The will of God will not lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.” God didn’t test Abraham and abandon him, he stayed with him the whole way, giving Abraham the strength he needed to make the offering God had asked for. And I think of a host of scriptures that connect to God’s actions in this test, that apply to us today as well: “God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13). “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). “You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:4).

• From this test God revealed that he would provide the lamb for the sacrifice. God proves his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). John the Baptist said Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world. That is what the world needs. That is what each of us needs. Trust him today as your Lord, that he might also be your Savior. Wherever God is calling us, whatever place God has prepared for us, he will not abandon us, or lead us where he will not go. We are God’s children, and God is faithful.

• Hymn 141 Children of the Heavenly Father

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 71 in worship

Sunday, January 13, 2008

In The Beginning God

January 13, 2008
First Sunday after the Epiphany

from John 13:12-17 and 2 Chronicles 27

My sermon outline:

• Some scientists challenge God to a contest… “We have discovered how to make life…” God accepts their challenge. As they begin collecting some dirt from which to make life, God says “Wait a minute. Make your own dirt.”

• The other day, Sponge Bob Square Pants. Where’d he come from?

Janet M. funeral yesterday. Story of where she came from. That was the middle of an earlier story, though, one that even goes back to the physical construction of this church. And that was the middle of an earlier story.

Every story goes back to another one. Sashi sometimes asks how God made puppies…

Every story goes back to another one.

Except God’s. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. There is no “before God”. Gospel of John puts it a little differently – in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. The beginning of the story is the introduction of God.

• God is introduced as being supreme in power and in wisdom. Having the knowledge and the ability to speak creation out of nothing, order out of chaos, existence out of nothingness. And he takes the dust he has made and forms it into a person, then breathes life into it.

• If you ask who any one of us are, we are likely to give responses in relationship to others. I’m pastor of Spring City UMC, I’m a husband, a father, a son, etc. God identifies himself in relation to himself. Generations after creating earth, creating life, God sends Moses. Who shall I say sent me? “I AM WHO I AM”

• God declares that creation is good. “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good…” God don’t make no junk. It was good because it was made by God and it was good because it had been ordered by God. And though God rested on the 7th day, God continued to order and set plans in motion, even laying the foundation for the redemption of humanity and the reconciliation of all creation.

• God’s good creation inspires generations to awe. The psalmist wrote “When I consider… what is man that you are mindful of him?” and he answers “you have crowned him with glory and honor.” Upon the creation of mankind, God saw that it was very good.

• Made in the image of God. Not necessarily look like God, but bear the characteristics. Rational and creative, moral and spiritual, ability to be like God.

• From this beginning we see God involved with the restoration and reconciliation of creation. Restoration (returning to original new state) and reconciliation (to make good again, reunite, bring together again)

• We are what he has made us to be, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

• Hymn 117 O God Our Help In Ages Past

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 71 in worship