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 25, 2009

On Jonah, and Jesus too

January 25, 2009
Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Jonah 3:1-5, 10 and Mark 1:14-20

My sermon outline:

• Jonah, no background. Jewish, “Dove”, son of “My Truth”. 800 years BC, northern kingdom of Israel. God asked J to go to Nin, 300 miles to the east. Nin had walls 100 feet tall (okay, 20 feet) and it would take 3 days to walk around the city.
Impenetrable fortress in the land of the hostile neighbors, the Assyrians. Oh, and their wickedness is great enough to catch God’s attention.

We know not their specific wickedness (evil ways & violence in 3:8, perhaps morally blind 4:11) but this we know: God planned to destroy them.

• What is “Ninevah” for us? What formidable powerful wicked neighbor strikes fear into our hearts and promises to defeat us? When I was a kid Nin was Russia. Before that maybe Germany. Nowadays Iraq.

Or Nin could be metaphorical for local resident evil, impenetrable. As close as Main Street or your own household or even your own self. A power that cannot be beaten.

Though contemporary society is wary of naming evil
and is perhaps more comfortable saying Live & let Live,
God does not tolerate wickedness, and would have people speak against it.

• So Jonah does what any might do. Buys a ticket in the other direction.

Yet after memorable detour, we arrive at chapter 3. God reissues his command to Jonah, Go to that great formidable city and proclaim what I have to say about their wickedness.

& he goes. 40 days poof! & they listen. & they repent in action. & the impenetrable fortress is turned by one man speaking God’s word.

• Take home points: Speak against sinfulness. Listen / Do / Repeat. Face challenges with God. Go; for the mission field may not come to you.

• Mark. Jesus collecting disciples, not a synagogue or school, but where workers are, at the dock. Normal, not specially trained.

Jesus invites Simon & Andrew to “Fish for people” & whatever that means, they do it.

Not “as soon as” whatever or “when the opportunity is right” the opportunity to follow Jesus Christ is now.

• James & John, in training to take over father’s trade, also stop & follow.

• Kingdom isn’t going to grow itself, neither are the wicked spontaneously going to turn from their ways. By trust & follow will insurmountable opposition be changed.

God calls US to spread good news of salvation & reconciliation.

• Take home points: No special training prereq. Follow Jesus now. Jesus is good news.

• Hymn 344 Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 68 in worship.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Faith for the Future

January 18, 2009
Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Human Relations Sunday / MLK Jr. weekend / inauguration in two days

Faith for the Future

1 Samuel 3:1-10 and John 1:43-51

My sermon outline:

• John Maxwell, pastor and business leadership author and guru, once told about a small town in Maine that was the selected site for a new hydro-electric dam that was going to be built. The electric company announced months ahead of time when the project would get underway, which would require the desertion of the entire town (because it would be underwater!).

During those months, a curious thing happened: All improvements ceased. No painting was done. No repairs were made on the buildings, roads, or sidewalks. Day by day the whole town got shabbier and shabbier. A long time before the waters came, the town looked uncared for and abandoned, even though the people had not yet moved away. One citizen explained, “Where there is no faith for the future, there is no power in the present.” That town was cursed with hopelessness because it had no future. (overwhelmed future = no present)

“Where there is no faith for the future,
there is no power in the present.”

(opposite is also true)

• Such faith is demonstrated by Philip, who at Jesus’ command “Follow me” went and found Nathanael and told him they’d found the Messiah. Philip had faith for the future, that the savior they’d been seeking, the one who would deliver them, had been found. Philip had faith for the future, and it influenced his actions in the present.

• Nathanael raised a little skepticism – perhaps his study of Torah and the prophets had led him to look not to Nazareth but to Bethlehem for the Messiah.... “What good is someone from Naz? That’s not where we’re looking.”

(what Jesus said) carried enough power for Nat to confess Jesus as teacher, King of Israel and Son of God.

• & Jesus gives to Nathanael and to the church HOPE. A vision of the future. Where there is faith for the future there is power in the present. Jesus says you will see greater things than these.

• The faith they had for the future... discipleship (tell others)... Witness (to the resurrected Lord)... take the gospel to NSEW even as far as India, and 11 disciples were martyred for their faith.

• Martyred for the power in the present from the faith in the future: MLKjr. (I have a dream) his hope for the future led him to powerful action in the present.

• Barack Obama: I don’t know whether you voted for him or not, whether he’ll be good or not. I celebrate with many the fact that this country has elected a minority as its Commander in Chief and I pray that he will be a faithful and effective leader

• One other thing: Eli received vision of the future that wasn’t good for him or family, & he blessed God, trusted in God’s righteousness.

• What future do we see here at SCUMC: the future of Maxwell’s soon-to-be-flooded town, or of the church of Philip and Nathanael? and how will it influence our present power?

We can see, we can do, we are invited to be a part of great things by the power of Christ.

• Hymn Come Let Us Dream (a hymn written especially to honor MLK Jr)

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 64 in worship.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

This is a Battery Holder

January 11, 2009
First Sunday after the Epiphany

Spirit Batteries

Mark 1:1-11 and Acts 19:1-7

My sermon outline:

• flashlight example: this is a Christian, this is the church. Designed with the purpose of giving light to the world (and not to self, btw... designed to point away from self). Designed to house and carry within the very power that shines through. First thing God created? Light. & God’s design, desire, and plan is that the world know his light (& in turn give him glory for the light).

• Acts 19. Paul traveling through new territory doing what? Spreading the gospel, sharing the light (do you know about the light of the world? Do you know about the savior? Lemme tell you how I met him on the road to Damascus, let me tell you how he has changed my life, let me tell you of the joy I have, the peace the forgiveness the wholeness that God has given me and that he wants to give you.)

Imagine his joy to find a community of believers, a community of converts, and disciples of John the Baptist. Converts because they don’t seem to know the Spirit of God... something is amiss... like saying “I know a great knock-knock joke. You start!” something is off. Paul finds a flashlight but it ain’t lighting.

Did you receive the HS? Do you know about batteries? HS? Batteries? What’re you talking about? Tell me about your baptism. John’s baptism.

Okay. First step. A good and necessary first step, the baptism of repentance. A gift from God, even, called prevenient grace. The welcome center along the road. But you don’t vacation to welcome centers... you start there and you embark from there. You start with repentance and embark from there, into what? What’s God’s plan? Light the world! Bring it into right relationship with God & therefore with others.

Paul baptizes them in the name of Jesus & lays hands on them & they receive the Holy Spirit – the batteries, & the next leg of their journey has begun. By the grace of God they’ve been justified – forgiven and cleansed and set right – and Paul tells ’em This is the first day of the rest of your life! & they begin the process of sanctification, of the God-given renewing of their minds. Luke (author of Acts) gives a few details about the wholeness, the perfection, the shalom of the event: the 12 (God’s number) new disciples (now baptized properly & in right relationship with God) speak in tongues and they prophesy – signs that God’s plan and purpose is for all the world, not just the chosen race, and that it is for individuals and for communities.

• Spirit filled church (God’s design and plan).

John Wesley: Wherever the church is being filled with the Spirit, scriptural Christianity is coming alive... people are walking in faith.

What’s this mean? Individuals and communities that have the HS, that are plugged into God’s HS batteries are increasingly in the mind of Christ, and the folks they come in contact with are growing in Christ as well. This sanctification is a lifelong process, a continually working gift of God, again for individuals as well as communities

• in 1744 John Wesley (who’d been preaching for 20 years... he’d preach another 40 years yet) took a good look at the church around him, determined that it was so bogged down in the maintenance of its own body that it no longer needed God, so JW said farewell to the Church of England and hello to the guidance of the HS, who led him to preach in open spaces and minister to the poor and imprisoned and to those whom no one would minister to, and to ensure that the believers in the New World would have a vital connection to Christ. His examination had led him to see that the folks he was around were spending more energy on how the flashlight looked than on how it worked.

• & we hear Paul’s words for us today as we examine our commitments to Christ as individuals and as a community... we examine whether we’re at the welcome center or driving down the road, whether we’re actively in our lives and in our life bearing God’s light in our little corner of the world, whether scriptural Christianity is alive & people are walking in faith & bearing the fruits of the Spirit...

• The gift of the spirit is given freely, & we cultivate it through prayer & study & action.

• Hymn 604 Praise and Thanksgiving be to God

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 60 in worship, in spite of ice storm.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Covenant Renewal

January 4, 2009
Epiphany Sunday

John Wesley’s Covenant Renewal Service

Service outline: (taken from The United Methodist Book of Worship)

• Today we will be sharing in John Wesley’s Covenant Renewal Service as we re-dedicate our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service to Almighty God, with hope, confidence, and humility, seeking God’s blessings in 2009. Our hope and prayer is that you will keep this bulletin as a reminder of your covenant with God.

• OPENING HYMN: “Come, Let Us Use the Grace Divine” No. 606
(Charles Wesley wrote this hymn specifically for this service)

A covenant prayer:
Let me be your servant, under your command.
I will no longer be my own.
I will give up myself to your will in all things.
Lord, make me what you will.
I put myself fully into your hands:
put me to doing, put me to suffering,
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and with a willing heart
give it all to your pleasure and disposal.

O righteous God, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
see me as I fall down before you.
Forgive my unfaithfulness in not having done your will,
for you have promised mercy to me
if I turn to you with my whole heart.

I here from the bottom of my heart renounce them all,
covenanting with you that no known sin shall be allowed in my life.
Against your will, I have turned my love toward the world.
In your power
I will watch all temptations that will lead me away from you.
For my own righteousness is riddled with sin,
unable to stand before you.

Before all heaven and earth,
I here acknowledge you as my Lord and God.
I take you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for my portion,
and vow to give up myself, body and soul, as your servant,
to serve you in holiness and righteousness all the days of my life.

Jesus, I do here, with humbled heart, accept Christ
as the only new and living Way,
and sincerely join myself in a covenant with him.
O blessed Jesus, I come to you,
hungry, sinful, miserable, blind, and naked,
unworthy even to wash the feet of your servants.
I do here, with all my power, accept you as my Lord and Head.
I renounce my own worthiness,
and vow that you are the Lord, my righteousness.
I renounce my own wisdom, and take you for my only guide.
I renounce my own will, and take your will as my law.

I do here covenant with you, O Christ,
to take my lot with you as it may fall.
Through your grace I promise
that neither life nor death shall part me from you.

I do here willingly put my neck under your yoke, to carry your burden.
All your laws are holy, just, and good.
I therefore take them as the rule for my words, thoughts, and actions,
promising that I will strive
to order my whole life according to your direction,
and not allow myself to neglect anything I know to be my duty.

O God, you know that I make this covenant with you today
without guile or reservation.
If any falsehood should be in it, guide me and help me to set it aright.

And now, glory be to you, O God the Father,
whom I from this day forward shall look upon as my God and Father.
Glory be to you, O God the Son,
who have loved me and washed me from my sins in your own blood,
and now is my Savior and Redeemer.
Glory be to you, O God the Holy Spirit,
who by your almighty power have turned my heart from sin to God.

O mighty God, the Lord Omnipotent, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
you have now become my Covenant Friend.
And I, through your infinite grace, have become your covenant servant.
So be it.
And let the covenant I have made on earth be ratified in heaven.

• Hymn 172 My Jesus, I Love Thee (with additional verses)

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 62 in worship.