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, June 28, 2009

The Opportunity of Death

June 28, 2009
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

The Opportunity of Death
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. – Psalm 116:15
I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. – Ezekiel 18:32
Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” – Mark 5:36

My sermon outline:

• Deaths this week: Ed McMahon (86, d. tues. bone cancer) Farrah Fawcett (62, d. thurs, cancer), Michael Jackson (50, d. thurs, heart attack)

Not going to eulogize any of these, but the co-incidence of today’s readings and these “national events” do set the stage to talk about the Opportunity of Death.

People in America fear death. They don’t understand it, and they don’t really talk about it, and it’s not healthy. Death is an opportunity.

• Reading from 2 Samuel 1 David eulogizes Saul and Jonathan, and let me just say, we have really glossed over the history of Saul and Jonathan and David... we read about the anointing of David and about David & Goliath, but that’s two chapters from the middle of the “book” of 1 Samuel, and our reading today we’ve skipped over the death of Saul and Jonathan, not to mention most of their life. Read 1 Samuel chapters 17 – 31 today.

David’s eulogy doesn’t tell you much about these relationships. As eulogies are wont to do, David takes the opportunity of death to accentuate the good and turn a blind eye to the bad. Now of course you’re not going to hear a eulogy and say “boy that guy sounds like a saint”, you recognize that human decency honors the dead, perhaps even regardless of honorability.

For example: John F. Kennedy’s “ranking” among the US Presidents is inflated by his youth and the manner of his death... In the popular vote he's in the top ten... (about 15th percentile). Presidential historians rank him around the 33rd percentile, or 15 or so out of 43). JFK’s youth and the manner of his death, it’s arguable, positively skew his place in US history... His record is pumped up by the manner of his death.

Similarly, were it not for the moral failure regarding the infamous Watergate events, Nixon would probably not consistently rank among the bottom five. His contributions are forever stained by Watergate.

Death gives survivors an opportunity to paint legend.

David doesn’t bring up the number of times Saul tried to kill him, directly or indirectly... Doesn’t bring up that Saul fell from God’s grace because of his disobedience to God’s commands... David honors Saul, and honors Jonathan, who traditionally woulda been king (cept for that whole Saul’s-fall-from-grace-thing)...

• David didn’t have to honor Saul, but he recognized that even though Saul had fallen from grace, Saul had been God’s anointed one... You may recall, in fact, that D had several chances to kill S, and he didn’t do it.

David took the opportunity of his political opponent’s death to honor the man, and in doing so, showed himself to be a man whom God was with. Gave glory to God.

• As pastor, I do a fair amount of funerals. I always imagine people think it sounds odd when I say I enjoy doing funerals. Unique opportunity in death to connect with an individual or family, and honestly, sometimes the only contact some folks have with a pastor is at a funeral. I want to take that opportunity to present the gospel, to let people know about the possibility of reconciliation, the hope of eternal life, and the forgiveness of sins and salvation offered to us in Jesus Christ who died so that we might live.

• And when I speak of the opportunity of death, I mean that we – you and I alike – can use death as a way to witness to our faith... perhaps not as insensitively as “so-and-so didn’t go to heaven because they didn’t believe in Jesus, do you?” – we want to be welcoming, and not drive people away – (if you speak ill of someone when they die, people will remember... likewise if you speak well of someone when they die, people will remember)
but by saying things like “not even death can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus...”. Maybe the open ended “what do you think happens when we die?”

• I said before that death gives survivors an opportunity to paint legend. The other side of that coin, of course, is that LIFE gives the living the opportunity to paint legend. You’ve heard it said, Live so that the preacher doesn’t have to lie at your funeral. Live so that you give honor and glory to God. Because you’re aware of the possibility of death, live in such a way that you’ll have no regrets, live in such a way that other people will look at your life and say God is with that one.

• We may not understand all there is to understand about life and death, but Jesus said Do not fear, only believe. Let us confess what we believe: as found on p. 883

• Hymn 525 We’ll Understand It Better By And By

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 58 in worship.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Facing Giants

June 21, 2009
Third Sunday after Pentecost

Father’s Day

Facing Giants
Mark 4:35-41 and 1 Samuel 17:1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49

David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”
– 1 Samuel 17:45

My sermon outline:

• What new can I tell you about the story of David and Goliath? Read it again.

David, a teenager, has a private audience with King Saul

Philistines we don’t know their history, but they’re mighty foes.

Goliath giant (9’6” maybe just 6’6”) champion, flashy armor, defies Israelites (seems pretty tame in his taunting, but apparently he was quite fearful)

David’s response (not fear, like others) but simply God will not be mocked. Just like that.

• What else can I tell you? About other giants.

• Annual conference was last week, and we heard reports of giants… legendary enemies that your church is facing… gun shop**, gambling & video poker, (70,000slots? stats show a job is lost for every slot machine)**, triple-headed giant of relevance, membership, finances/economy**.

** each case, United Methodists are doing three things: looking past the flashy armor and loud threats, taking steps to face giant, doing so trusting in God (and not in man). David knew that his victory belonged to God.

• additionally, David’s relationship with God was such that when Goliath did his schtick, David felt personally offended, which motivated him that much more. “Are you saying that you’re greater than my God? Nobody’s greater than my God.” & resolutely, w/o reserve or fear, David went forth.

• therein has been my problem… instead of facing SC UMC’s giants resolutely, w/o reserve or fear. w/o confidence that God will deliver. I’ve been more like David’s brothers that I care to admit... I see the flashy armor and hear the threats and I play it safe by toeing the line instead of facing the giant. I look at the giant of not having a children’s Sunday school teacher, and act as though that giant is gonna stand there and taunt me endlessly. I see a giant whose name is “you can’t pull off a VBS” and I look at my shoes instead of the emptiness of its threats and the fullness of the Pentecost power behind me.

Y’know, I desire to give glory to my God. Go down swinging, at least we’re swinging. No glory in looking at my shoes, amen? Willing to face my giants, by the grace of God.

• There is no giant that can defeat God… and David went forth confident that God would deliver unto him the one who opposed God’s chosen.

There is no foe or battle we face where God is not present.

There is no storm we weather without God,
no storm can’t be calmed by his command.

• And there is nothing that can separate us from God’s love.
If there is anyone who believes these last few statements... if there is anyone who will join me in desiring to do something to be more like David than David’s brothers, will you join me in this confession of faith as found on p. 887 of The United Methodist Hymnal (from Romans 8)

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 57 in worship.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

God Is Not Fair

June 14, 2009
Second Sunday after Pentecost

God Is Not Fair
Mark 4:26-34 and 1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—
and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
- Ephesians 2:8-9

My sermon outline:

A woman was washing the dishes when she saw her 5-yo neighbor Jimmy headed for her back porch. The woman had just painted the handrails, and she didn’t want Jimmy to mess them up.

“Come around to the front door, Jimmy, there’s wet paint on the rails,” she hollered through the open window.

“I’ll be careful,” returned Jimmy.

“No, Jimmy, don’t come up those steps!” she shouted, knowing Jimmy’s tendency to mess things up.

“I’ll be careful,” he said again.

“Jimmy, stop!” she shouted. “I don’t want carefulness, I want obedience!”

As she shouted these words through the open window she remembered Samuel’s response to King Saul: To obey is better than sacrifice.

To her relief Jimmy replied, “Ok, I’ll go around to the front door.”

As he turned to go ‘round front, the woman thought to herself, “How often am I like Saul or like Jimmy, wanting to go my own way? I rationalize, ‘I’ll be careful, Lord’ as I proceed with my plans. But God doesn’t want carefulness. He wants obedience.”

• Okay this didn’t happen to me, but coulda... children ask “Why” all the time. My answer is often “One, because I said so, two because (dinner is in an hour)”. I desire obedience. GOD desires obedience over sacrifice.

• Obedience over sacrifice actually has to do with 1 Samuel chapter 15, the story right before today’s reading. Saul is king, but due to his pride and disobedience – he took God’s command and altered it to his own desires for his own glory – God has said that Saul’s kingdom will be passed on to another. (shame!)

• Our reading today then gives us a glimpse at a key point in Israel’s history, the establishment of the house of David. It’d be like studying George Washington in 1775.

Out of nowhere, David is chosen. We don’t know much about his family... (in contrast, when Saul was chosen king in chapter 9, we find out he’s from a prominent family, plus he’s a head taller than everyone else. David is short and pimply but handsome.)

• I am reminded that God chose Abram out of nowhere. And Mary too.

• Herein I find good news (or bad news, depending on where you are!)

God chooses in God’s way, not by human standards or expectations. We expect a Saul, from the right family and head and shoulders above the rest, not the pimply youngest brother of a family of shepherds.

Good news: God’s grace is not by merit, not earned, which makes it open to everybody, not just the specially gifted or those born into the right family.

Of course, if you’re a specially gifted one or born into the right family, that’s bad news, that’s not fair (but God is not about fairness, God is about heart, God is about obedience).

If God’s grace is by merit, then the qualified not only wouldn’t need Jesus, they’d boast in their own works. (which was what Saul did in chapter 15, against God’s wishes).

• God is above human understanding yet is trustworthy and praiseworthy. God desires obedience.

• Obedience to what? God’s Word. To let Jesus Christ be Lord, #1 in life, thy will be done. & God gives Spirit to the Church to help discern through the ages. Importance of education & community (as congregation, as connection, as annual conference). Relationship.

• Hymn 399 Take My Life and Let It Be

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 64 in worship.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

It's About Relationship

June 7, 2009
First Sunday after Pentecost
Trinity Sunday

Peace With Justice Sunday

It’s About Relationship
Isaiah 6:1-8, Romans 8:12-17, John 3:1-17

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty: the whole earth is full of his glory.
– Isaiah 6:3

My sermon outline:

• Sermon on Trinity? Though the word is not in the Bible, there are passages that support it (as Great Commission, as Pauline blessing (2 Cor 13:14), not to mention Jesus’ baptism, etc.) Holy mystery, not without controversy in the first few centuries as the doctrine was formulated.

• Shield of Trinity (search for it on google image)

The Father is not The Son;
The Father is not The Holy Spirit;
The Father IS God.

The Son is not The Father;
The Son is not The Holy Spirit;
The Son IS God.

The Holy Spirit is not The Father;
The Holy Spirit is not The Father;
The Holy Spirit IS God.

• Trinity reveals something about nature of God, about nature of people. About Christianity, faith:

(Christianity, faith) It’s not about religion, it’s about relationship, stupid!

• One explanation of Trinity is God is love (1 John 4:8)… Love requires more than one, and God wanted to love, so God the Father begat the Son (begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father). & the love that flows like electricity between F and S is the Holy Spirit (proceeds from the F & the S)

• early 15th century, Russian painter Andrei Rublev painted the famous icon known as the Holy Trinity (google image Rublev trinity) in perichoresis, the figures seem to move. each one is in each one, and all are the same substance.

• Again, Relationship, not religion.

• Isaiah 6 heavenly throne room, Holy (3x) and almighty God, invites Isaiah into throne room (desires relationship) & cleanses, in order that relationship might happen.

• Romans 8 God gifts us with relationship, adopts us, invites us to the intimacy of Abba relationship & we are in debt to God. Minimum a debt of gratitude, ideally we live our lives in praise and thanksgiving and service to God.

• John 3 Jesus makes it clear that by no self merit may any earn the blessings of God’s kingdom – it’s a gift from God, and it’s a gift wherein God makes change of heart possible. One must experience inward change, be acted on from above, injected with Holy Spirit.

• Good news is grounded in God’s love

• Peace With Justice: folks motivated to serve God…

• Be like Isaiah, who responded “yes” even before knowing what was asked.

• Hymn: In the Breaking of the Bread

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 62 in worship.
Holy Communion