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, August 31, 2008

Lord, I Want to Be Like Jesus

August 31, 2008
Sixteenth Sunday in Pentecost

Matthew 16:21-28 and Romans 12:9-21

"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."
(Matthew 16:24)

My sermon outline:

• Sometimes the lectionary texts weave together well, usually not. Today I find they do. A lot of sayings today, some difficult, some easy. Start difficult.

• Matthew. Jesus explains Passion, Peter doesn’t want Jesus to die, Jesus responds by calling Peter Satan. Get your priorities straight: divine over human. If you’d follow me Deny yourself, Pick up your cross, and Follow me.

Self-denial not a popular topic, but remember: Love God first, love neighbor as self.

Pick up cross:
what it doesn’t mean (general suffering or burden. Cross to bear, cancer, etc).
What it does mean: voluntarily shoulder a burden, at personal cost, that will help someone who couldn’t shoulder that burden. When you pay someone else’s debt... voluntarily shouldering their burden, at cost to you. (note this is a deny-self action)

Follow me. Do what I do. So far being like Jesus is not very appealing.

• Then Jesus gets weird. Those who want to save their life will lose it, those who lose their life for my sake will find it. Is survival instinct bad? Are those folks who are evacuating the gulf coast not followers of Jesus? Nah, but if you compromise your integrity, you’ve lost it.

Teachings like these are hard, and in fact in the book of John, disciples throw the towel in... say “Follow Jesus? Pick up cross? Deny self? Eh, not me.”

• Turn the page... Romans has some almost warm and fuzzy sayings. Stuff we already do, stuff we like to do. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good, love one another with mutual affection. My favorite: outdo one another in showing honor. Good, community-building stuff. The kind of stuff that prompted folks to say See how they love one another!

But the warm fuzzies start to become less warm and fuzzy, and a little more difficult... bless those who persecute you, don’t repay evil for evil, in fact show exceeding kindness to your enemies. And forget about revenge. Don’t even go there.

• Roy and Rodney:
Roy is a prison inmate who, becoming a Christian, had some hard lessons to unlearn. All his life he had been taught to hate his enemies, particularly within prison walls. One of his most vexing enemies was Rodney, who stole his radio and headphones one day while Roy was playing volleyball in the prisonyard. The radio had been an expensive gift from his mother, and the earphones a Christmas gift from his sister. Roy was angry and wanted revenge, but as he prayed about it, it seemed to him that God was testing him.

Day after day, Roy wanted to respond violently, to knock the wisecrack grin off Rodney’s face, but Romans 12:20-21 kept coming to mind: Paul’s instruction to avoid vengeance, leaving it to God to settle the score. Roy began to look at Rodney through God’s eyes and have compassion on him. He began praying for him. He began trusting God to accomplish something in Rodney’s life.

By and by, Roy’s hatred for Rodney began fading, and he found himself helping his enemy and telling him about Jesus. Then one day, Roy later wrote, “I saw Rodney kneeling down next to his bunk reading his Bible, and I knew that good had overcome evil.”

• Peace Like A River, principle of escalation.

• From the New Interpreter's Bible:
Yes, there is evil “out there” in the world. But God’s people are to meet it in the way that even God met it: with love and generous goodness. The theology of the cross, in fact, can be glimpsed under this apparently detached ethical maxim: when God came to defeat evil this was not achieved by using an even greater evil, but by using its opposite – namely, the surprising and initially counterintuitive weapons of goodness. To be consumed with vengeful thoughts, or to be led into putting such thoughts into practice, is to keep evil in circulation, whereas the way to overthrow evil, rather than perpetuating it, is to take its force and give back goodness instead.

• These sort of things make me want to be like Jesus.

• Hymn 402 Lord I Want to Be a Christian in my Heart

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: pray for New Orleans. Again.


Blogger Rev. Marguerite Earhart said...

Hi Pastor Kerry:

Good sermon today.

"Then Jesus gets weird. Those who want to save their life will lose it, those who lose their life for my sake will find it."

I believe it is putting the value or priority on what is in fact truly important. It's like someone who would go into a burning house because they could not part with a treasured photo album or expensive necklace only to end up dying consumed by smoke.

Or making the foolish decision to stay in their home during a dangerous storm to try and protect their home and stuff putting their life at risk.

Or a person who would decide to not to get involved - or decides to walk away - when they witness a crime or rape not wanting to wish to be hurt or die themselves.

Believe me I'm not being judgmental, and can empathize with trying to protect something that has strong meaning or value - something believed to be maybe irreplaceable. Or reporting a crime and being worried about any retribution.

Risk taking can be a difficult decision - and the Lord's work is sometimes about risk taking.

Risk in being spit at, cursed at, arrested, no sleep, being hospitalized, or sometimes even killed.

Not fun.

Most everything in this world is temporal. 10 out of 10 people usually do not leave this world alive. Only within certain circumstances does 'stuff' last long term such as past 300 years.

I believe the Lord is simply pointing out that deciding on or taking the safe route is not compatable at times with His will.

A person who truly believes in Him would have to recognize that, and follow Him in whatever meets the person along the way.

If they don't accept that as part of their path or walk with the Lord it causes for a possibility of a difficult time for them, and Satan will use it against the person to put them at odds - or in conflict - with the Lord. Usually at times when it is not a really good idea to be at odds with Him.

Satan would also whisper through someone around a person - or to the person in that little voice in their head - to try to dissuade them from what it is they are supposed to - or should - do. He will appeal to a person's comfort or to their fears.

Job's wife berating Job to simply curse God to be done with it is a good example:

9 Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.

10 But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips. Job 2:9-10

Job had a terrible time, and is a humbling book to read.

I highly recommend it.

I noticed a flyer at the post office that your Church is having dinners on several evenings coming up - I have to write them down the next time I'm at the P.O. I'm going to try to attend! I noticed that you don't have any evening services at your Church - do you have a Bible study?

Many blessings of peace to you,
Assuredly in faith,

12:52 PM  
Blogger Rev. Marguerite Earhart said...

On the overcoming evil with good, I learned if a person does not learn to let stuff go the stuff they refuse, or decide to be stubborn, to let go will drag them down as well. I see it a lot in the people around me.

As hard as it is to sometimes forgive it really is the better way. The best weapon is to pray for them.

I really like the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. Proverbs 3:5-7

1:14 PM  

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