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, March 29, 2009

The Jesus Priorities: 5/5: Spread the Word

March 29, 2009
Fifth Sunday in Lent

The Jesus Priorities: 5/5: Spread the Word
Matthew 9:18-26 and Romans 4:13-25

"How are they to hear about Jesus without someone to proclaim him?" Romans 10:14

My sermon outline:

• We’ve spent past 4 weeks on 4 other priorities of Jesus’, gleaned by Christopher Maricle’s examination of the gospel in his book The Jesus Priorities. We looked at Seek God’s Will, Treasures in Heaven, Children Are Precious, and Live with Humility. Falling right behind the big three of love and pray and heal, today’s focus is Spread the Word.

• Jesus’ mission: reveal God’s love to the world.

In 2000 years, millions have heard the gospel, the good news, the news that God loves them and invites them to reconciliation and to fullness of life. Millions have heard the gospel, millions have not heard the gospel, and millions have rejected the gospel.

Christopher Maricle pulls a few points of focus from Jesus’ life and teachings...

Invite everyone. Easy to name scriptures for this, Great Commission perhaps foremost (Go and make disciples of all nations). Another classic example is the great banquet Jesus tells about in Luke 14. Some who are invited make excuses cuz they’re busy.... “I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it; I pray you, have me excused.” Another just bought some cows and he wants to go check em out, and another just got married and apparently doesn’t want to bring his wife... So the homeowner tells his servant “Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” When that is done and there are still seats left, the owner says “Go into the roads and country lanes and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.”
Clear in the gospels (again, good news) that the good news is good news for everybody, it is not merit-based or based on any characteristic we can think of...

Rich poor sinners saints able-bodied crippled diseased well clean unclean male female young old with teeth without teeth long-haired bald with IRAs without IRAs fat skinny teen young adult mother father sister brother black white latin asian uneducated educated blind sighted deaf hearing dog owners cat owners

Can you imagine them all in the kingdom of heaven, and if so, can you imagine them all in worship at Spring City UMC? Jesus lived for all and died for all, and cries out that we invite all. There is ample goodness in heaven and God does not want any to perish (2 Peter 3:9) but to come to saving relationship with Jesus.

Romans 10:11-17... (read it)

• Another point Maricle brings up is that the job of gospel telling and inviting belongs to everyone. Invite everyone, and everyone invite. In the Great Banquet as recorded in Matthew 22 the master has his servants go out to bring people in.

Jesus himself recruited folks to spread the word, to go and preach the kingdom. At one time he sent 12 out, another time he sent out 70, and again, the Great Commission is for all. Jesus even welcomed the testimony of one who was not among the twelve – the disciples found him casting out demons in Jesus’ name, and Jesus blessed his work. Accepting the call of Christ does not mean simply that we have been invited to the banquet; it means that we accept the task of inviting others as well. Jesus became a servant and invites us to do the same. We are bound to extend Jesus’ invitation by serving as vessels of his love, mercy, grace, and compassion.

Invite everyone, everyone invite, and invite well.
Servants go out where people are, they don’t stand at the door or put up signs...
Woman at the well had no special training but spoke from her heart about her experience with the Messiah. Your personal experience with Christ is the best personal evangelism tool you have (well, that and the power of the HS promised us in Acts 1:8). Edify your personal experiences with Christ the way Christopher Maricle did – by studying the gospels, immersing yourself regularly in the teachings and actions of Jesus, and then telling others. Also is the Jesus you tell people about alive in your life today, or are you telling about someone 2000 years ago?

• invite well... good news (not bad, not threat). Listen and connect, don’t forget to pray (before and after)

• Acts 5:42: And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

• Hymn 413 A Charge to Keep I Have

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 67 in worship.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Jesus Priorities: 4/5: Live With Humility

March 22, 2009
Fourth Sunday in Lent

The Jesus Priorities: 4/5: Live With Humility
Matthew 20:20-28 and Philippians 2:1-11

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” - Matthew 20:28

My sermon outline:

• I am the most humble person I know… Humility a virtue, surprising at least to me that of the 8 priorities Christopher Maricle lists it’s the last, with a “mere” nine events told 12 times. Seems more prevalent, pervasive.

We’ve spent past 3 weeks on 3 other priorities of Jesus’, gleaned by Christopher Maricle’s examination of the gospel. In addition to the big three of love and pray and heal, we’ve looked at Seek God’s Will, Treasures in Heaven, and Children Are Precious.

• One of my daughter’s nightly prayers is The Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner. From Luke 18 when the tax collector knelt humbly in the temple to pray, not even lifting his eyes. I particularly like how Maricle writes about this:

The tax collector demonstrates that it is trust in God’s mercy, not in one’s merit, that assures forgiveness.

We receive mercy when we earnestly desire to be good. We demonstrate that desire by trying even though we may not succeed. In sports, we tell young people, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” We love them no matter what, and we’re proud when they give their personal best. When that best is far below everyone else’s best, we don’t punish them. We celebrate their achievement. Abba is a good, loving parent. God wants our best and rejoices when we conquer a hurdle that’s been difficult. God is also patient with us, knowing that not all our efforts will be successful. We can’t always win, improve, or succeed. Although Jesus did encourage us to “be perfect”, God knows that for us humans it’s not very likely.

There is nothing you can do to earn your way into heaven. God is perfect, and when we return to God, we shall be perfected in God’s love. That will not happen as a result of any act on our part, as if we could wake up one morning and say to the Almighty, “Okay, now I am good enough to be in your presence.” The idea is absurd. Our reunion with God is assured by God’s mercy, not by any state of holiness or grace that we can achieve on our own.

- p. 110

The practice of humility, then, requires trust in God’s mercy. The man humbly bore his soul before God, trusting that God would not trample on it, but bring him peace instead. It’s important to remember here that mercy is when a deserved negative consequence or punishment is withheld. When we cry out for God’s mercy, we say Yes, Lord, I am guilty, I have done wrong in thy sight, I have damaged the relationship between thee and me. This has caused me anguish, Lord. Please spare me from further anguish and have mercy on me. Restore me to life for thy sake, that I may give thee glory.

We also plead for and trust in God’s mercy for others when we ask that God might grant them forgiveness even though they don’t deserve it, for we know that in mercy and in forgiveness there is life, and Jesus came that we might experience life’s abundance.

• Another example of Jesus lifting up humility is in Luke 14, the parable of the wedding guest, and its parallel to today’s gospel reading. Jesus instructs us to presume the lowest place at the table with the humility that A) it doesn’t matter where you sit and B) you might take someone else’s seat of honor. This virtue of Presuming the Lowest Place is exemplified yet again in John’s telling of the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, as illustrated by James Snyder here on Wednesday. I have given you an example, Jesus says. Do as I have done. For Jesus did not consider his place with God to brag about, but he made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, humbling himself to death on a cross…

• Trusting in God’s mercy, presuming the lowest place, these are conducive to “right-sizing” God’s place in your life, right-sizing your own ego, which tends to be like the view in the side mirror: objects in mirror are larger than they appear… ego makes you appear larger than you are. You know what ego means: Edging God Out… Jesus calls us to sacrifice our ego, so that God might be maintained in the center of our lives. John the Baptist was in the spotlight as he proclaimed I am the voice crying out in the desert Prepare the way of the Lord. His ego could’ve gotten in the way and edged God out, but instead he recognized that when the groom appears the best man must step aside… “He must become greater, and I must become less.”

In his book Mere Christianity, CS Lewis writes “The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether, or you see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.”

Now here it’s important to remember that there is a healthy sense of ego – Jesus is not saying “always remember that you are dirt” but “you are where you are by the mercy and grace of God. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, you are precious in God’s sight and made in God’s image, and you have been granted these things by God, not by merit, you have not earned them they have been given to you. Therefore give glory to God, shout out God’s name and God’s wonderful works in your life. Practice humility because you have received an invitation to life.

• So keep these three things in mind – Rely on God’s Mercy, Presume the Lowest Place, Sacrifice Your Ego – as you practice humility (and as you become good at it!) and as you examine the life and teachings of Jesus and follow in his footsteps… footsteps which lead to sacrifice and redemption.

• Hymn 206 I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 78 in worship.
The handbells played today.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Jesus Priorities: 3/5: Children Are Precious

March 15, 2009
Third Sunday in Lent

The Jesus Priorities: 3/5: Children Are Precious
Matthew 19:13-15, Romans 8:12-17

Unless you become like a little child,
you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. – Jesus, in Matthew 18:3-4

My sermon outline:

• Christopher Maricle, educator and author, desirous of deepening his own faith, went through the gospels, charted the actions, motivations, sayings of Jesus.
“Why did Jesus do what Jesus did?
What did Jesus consistently say and do during his public ministry that would be instructive?”

• Measure of a man is how he acts when no one is looking...

Measure of society is in how it treats its most vulnerable... its children, its infirm, its aged... It’s one of the things that separates humans from animals... where predators will seek out and attack the youth, the weak, the elderly, they are the ones we seek to protect.

• Jesus in the gospels makes no fewer than six different statements about children, their importance and how they are to be treated; six statements recounted in fourteen places in the gospels.

• Mt 18:3-4: whoever will not become like a child will not enter the kingdom...

Children are natural believers, uninhibited (& therefore must be protected, handled with care) pure in heart and love.

We would do well to learn from how children praise, how they trust, how they show affection (do you remember calling mommy daddy? I don’t. I do remember calling my mom by her first name... feels wrong how my neph and niece do so). No surprise that Jesus chose a term of endearment / intimacy to teach disciples to pray to Father God.

(childlike ≠ childish) Jesus says we must be like children

Simple, Jesus loves me, This I know. Karl Barth summed up his own volumes of theology. Also what you learn as a child stays with you (Ruthie Huzz)

• Communion, because we’re poor. SO true, debt we cannot pay except by the bailout of Jesus Christ.

• Let the children come to me. Barna 1999 First time a person makes a commitment to Christ is typically before age 15. After 14 less than 10% likelihood of a person making 1st time commitment.

Welcome the children: We could do better. Personal responsibility.
Take a cue from children: children know no strangers, that’s why they have to be taught it.

• Children must be protected. World values
1. Happiness comes from stuff.
2. Sexual attraction is the best way to start a relationship.
3. Desire is adequate justification (I want, therefore I am entitled, therefore I will acquire)
4. Coolness requires distance from family.
5. Violence is acceptable for #3.

The antidote:
1. Make God central in the family.
2. Monitor media experience.
3. Talk WITH daily.

• Spirit adopts us, helps us to relate to others and to God with that childlike trust faith and love, and to accept each other.

• Hymn 560 Help Us Accept Each Other

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 64 in worship.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Jesus Priorities: 1/5: Seek God’s Will

March 1, 2009
First Sunday in Lent

The Jesus Priorities: 1/5: Seek God’s Will
Philippians 3:7-11 and John 8:12-30

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection... Paul, in Philippians 3:10

My sermon outline:

• Christopher Maricle, educator and author, desirous of deepening his own faith, went through the gospels, charted the actions, motivations, sayings of Jesus.
“Why did Jesus do what Jesus did?
What did Jesus consistently say and do during his public ministry that would be instructive?”

Uncovered 8 themes or priorities, wrote a book. Grew in faith.

The Jesus Priorities: Eight Essential Habits, by Christopher Maricle

For the month of March I’d like to share some of those priorities with you, that we might grow in faith along with Mr. Maricle. The top three, by the way, I think we already talk about fairly frequently, so I won’t dwell on Healing, Love, or Prayer, but we’ll spend the next few weeks of Lent on the remaining 5.

• Last week Transfiguration. Following transfig, bulletin cover: Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem, toward the holy city where the Temple was, the Temple where sacrifices were made, sacrifices that bought people forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus knew the task before him, and set out resolutely to do it.

We also recall from John 4, one of the times Jesus proclaims his mission: (context) My food is to do the will of him who sent me.

• And Christopher Maricle was led to one of the 8 Jesus priorities: Seek God’s Will. This priority highlights Jesus’ commitment to being of one mind with God. Indeed Mr. Maricle finds 14 instances in the gospels that speak to Jesus’ oneness with God. We read one such instance a few minutes ago. Jesus’ identity is rooted in God the Father. The Father sent him, he tells us. If you really knew me, you know the Father as well, he said. I always do what is pleasing to the Father.

• Jesus is so close to God the Father that he knows God’s will. And while it would be the height of human arrogance to claim we can fully know God’s will, we can gain increasing knowledge of God’s will, provided we get over a few hurdles.

• One hurdle to knowledge of God’s will is our limited capacity for knowledge. God’s simply a lot smarter than we are. Psalm 139:6-7: Your knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 1 Corinthians 13:12: Now I see but a poor reflection in a mirror, but then I shall know fully...

God’s ways are infinitely above us, but we know Jesus, and Jesus knew God the Father, had unity with him, and as we study and love Jesus and live him (make his priorities ours) we make steps towards knowledge of God’s will. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection... if somehow I may attain resurrection from the dead.

• God above us? Relate to Jesus. Hurdle hurdled. Next hurdle to knowing God’s will? A little closer to home: we lack urgency... we’ll get around to it... we’ll do it when...

In addition to myriad examples of Jesus telling us Be Prepared!! Christopher Maricle suggests asking yourself the question, “When will Jesus come for me?” as a way of maintaining urgency. Being prepared for Jesus’ return is a sign of love of him. We know not when the bell will toll for us, therefore the best way not to be caught with your proverbial pants down is to have no unfinished business, to keep front-burner items on the front burners (and to employ the help of loved ones if you so need it). Ask yourself these questions: When will Jesus come for me? and Have I done my best? and you’ll find yourself nearer to knowing God’s will.

• Lacking urgency leads to another hurdle in discerning God’s will, lacking focus. Getting distracted. Discipline and prayer. Jesus often withdrew to quiet places.

I am reminded of a prayer of Brother Lawrence: “My God, since you are with me, and since it is your will that I should apply my mind to these outward things, I pray that you will give me the grace to remain with you and keep company with you. But so that my work may be better, Lord, work with me; receive my work and possess all my affections.” (p. 37)

• In addition to lacking urgency or focus, a hurdle to discerning God’s will is lacking motivation. We consider religious action another item on our daily (or weekly) checklist. End of the week we go over the list: went to grosh, check. Paid bills, check. Dentist appt, check. Volunteered at soup kitchen, check. Bible study, check.

As if you’d find on that list things like Kissed spouse, check. Loved family, check.

God is not ON the checklist but is IN everything on the checklist.

We have but one task, lifted up in numerous places in the Bible, to love God with all our hearts and minds and souls and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Do this and God’s will becomes clearer.

• The last hurdle to knowing God’s will Christopher Maricle lifts up is that we fear or perhaps misunderstand Sacrifice. It takes effort to discern God’s will, just as it takes effort to build and maintain relationship – with God or anyone – and we fear that something may go wrong and our efforts wasted.

Maricle suggests that people only hear half the definition of sacrifice: give up something good.

Without hearing the rest of the definition: in order to achieve something better.

OT sacrifice you gave up something good (a lamb or etc, eventually money) to attain something better: forgiveness, restoration, reconciliation.

NT Paul in Philippians realized that all his worldly achievements were rubbish, compared to knowing Christ, and that through knowing Christ was resurrection possible.

As the priorities emerged, I realized that I could not understand fully what Jesus did until I explored why Jesus did what he did.

Integrating Jesus’ priorities into our lives is not about merely imitating behavior. Behaviors flow from beliefs and principles. Significant changes in our spiritual health will be achieved when we make conscious changes in our spiritual commitments. When we ask why Jesus did what he did and reflect on Jesus’ motivation, it can only lead us to one place: Christ’s unceasing love for God and complete dedication to God’s will. Jesus knew exactly what he was doing because he never forgot why he was doing it. our own spiritual reflection and growth can begin with two questions: What am I doing? Why am I doing it? (p. 119) & so attain God’s will...

Christopher Maricle, The Jesus Priorities

• On sacrifice: Jesus gave up something of value (his life) for something of greater value (salvation of humanity). & there is cause for both sobriety and celebration...

• Hymn 367 He Touched Me

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 76 in worship.
Communion and Luncheon today.