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 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.


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