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, October 25, 2009

God's Grace is Sufficient

October 25, 2009
Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost

God’s Grace is Sufficient
Mark 10:46-52 and Hebrews 7:23-28
Lectionary texts from Job

Christ is able for all time to save those who approach God through him,
since he always lives to make intercession for them. – Hebrews 7:25

God’s grace is sufficient for me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

My sermon outline:

• 3 scripture stories today, one of the faith healing of Bartimeus (Mark 10:46-52), one describing the perfect goodness of Jesus Christ’s self-sacrifice (Hebrews 7:23-28), and a resolution of sorts to the events of the book of Job.

Perhaps it’s not evident, but in each of these readings we get a pair of snapshots:
a picture of the world through human eyes,
and a picture of the world through God’s eyes.

• Bartimeus: human eyes: there’s an unhappy crowd, there’s unwellness. Blindman shutup!

God’s eyes: there’s faith (even Bart’s!) and healing and cause to sing I once was blind...

• Hebrews: human eyes: death, insufficiency of priesthood, continual atonement, weakness

God’s eyes: Christ, life everlasting, perfect sacrifice, once and done.

• Job: well, let’s talk more about Job.

• At the heart of the book of Job is the question “Why?” On one level it’s an individual’s question for personal suffering, but it can be taken to other levels as communities and nations wonder Why... where is God in this situation, how can God allow this to happen? Israel in exile. Jews in holocaust. Economic crisis. Abuse, addiction, murder. Where is God in this situation?

• In the storyline, Job’s friends offer unsatisfactory answers: more concerned with theology (and poor theology at that) than with the genuine suffering of their friend.

And Job, forever remembered as “patient”, loses patience pretty quickly and digs into something like a pitying self-righteous mode, more interested in defending his own character than seeking to understand or inquire of the character of God.

• God’s answer: Really? You think you have a clue about the nature of God?

• Story of Corrie ten Boom and her father (from the book The Hiding Place)... I would be a poor father if I made you carry that burden when you’re not big enough... trust me to carry it for you until you’re ready. (p. 27)

• Says God to Job: trust me with that knowledge until the fullness of time has come, and you’re ready. And in the end, I daresay by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, Job does trust, does humble himself before God and repent.

• What’s this mean? Why? God allows hurts to happen (not necessarily WANTS or CAUSES hurts to happen) and then God introduces and injects: possibility, hope, reconciliation. God will use a hurt if we let him.

God will...

...use an addiction or abuse survivor to meet folks where they are, and be incarnation.

...use a senseless act of violence to build relationship (child bee-sting, draw unto me) and witness

...use economic crisis to demonstrate that faith and trust in God are not dependent on circumstances.

• So, response to the events of LIFE, why does God allow, not interfere with atrocities like holocaust or murder suicide, etc...

I trust that within the answer is God’s grace is sufficient, (like young Corrie ten Boom, I’ma let God carry that case), God’s ability far exceeds my own comprehension or lack thereof, and I’ma do what I can do: witness, live for God, study and put into action, trust and obey.

• Hymn 467 Trust and Obey

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 66 in worship.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hand to Heart Meditation

October 18, 2009
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Laity Sunday

Hand to Heart Meditation

Today was Laity Sunday in The United Methodist Church
- as an aside, did you know that in the UMC, clergy and laity have equal representation and vote in the official business of the church?

Four people took vows of membership today.

The following meditation (not original) was shared by Mr. John Reed:

Now I’d like to share a hand meditation with you.
Listen closely and follow along and do as I say.

Sit as erect as possible; feet flat on the floor,
with your hands on your lap with your palms up.
This works best if you close your eyes.

Think of your hands.
Become aware of the air at your fingertips...
between your fingers and the palm of your hand.

Experience the fullness, strength, and maturity of your hands.

Think of the most unforgettable hands you have known...
the hands of a parent or grandparent, a neighbor,
a friend, a spouse, a child.

Think of the oldest hands that have rested in your hands.

Think of the hands of a newborn.
Hands with incredible beauty and perfection;
the delicacy in the hands of a child.
Just think. Once upon a time, your hands were the same size.

Think of all your hands have done since then...
so much that you have learned has been through your hands...
feeding yourself, turning yourself over, crawling,
walking, coloring, writing, driving, working, loving.

Remember at one time, your greatest accomplishment
was tying your own shoes.

Think of all the deeds your hands have done...
deeds we’re proud of and deeds we’re ashamed of.

Our hands are not just for ourselves but for others;
how often were they given to help another.

Remember the tears they have wiped away...
your own or someone else’s.

Remember how often they were folded in prayer,
both a sign of powerlessness and of power and love.

Now, raise your right hand slowly and gently place it over your heart. Press more firmly until your hand picks up the beat of your heart, that most mysterious of all human sounds, one’s own heartbeat... be aware of your heartbeat. A rhythm learned in the womb.

Press more firmly for a moment and then release and hold it just a fraction from your clothing.

Experience the warmth between your hand and your heart.
Very carefully, lower your hand to your lap as if it were carrying your heart.
For it does.

When you extend your hand to another,
it is not just skin and bone...
it is your heart.

Think of all the hands that have left their imprint on you...
heart prints that can never be erased.

Now without opening your eyes, extend your hands on either side of you and find another hand.
Do not simply hold it
but sense the history and mystery of this hand.

Let your hand speak to it and let it listen to the other.

Try to express your love and gratitude for this hand stretched out to you.

Now bring your hand back again to your lap.
Experience the presence of that warmth and love lingering upon your hand.

The afterglow will fade but the heart print is there forever.
Whose hand was that?

It could have been any hand and it could have been Christ’s hand... for it was!
For Christ has no hands but ours!

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 76 in worship.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

World Communion Sunday

October 4, 2009
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

World Communion Sunday

Job 1 and 2

Job was blameless and upright; he feared God and turned away from evil. – Job 1:1

My sermon outline:

• (during scripture reading: “Satan” in this instance is not the devil, more like a “devil’s advocate”...) While my messages are generally delivered to believers, it would be instructional for me to deliver a message to a non-believer, to see whether it flows, whether it makes unjust assumptions or leaps, etc. The book of Job has such a character, an accuser, a critic, part of God’s heavenly court. This character is referred to as “the satan”.

• Today’s reading from chapter two is very similar to chapter one, which we skipped, in which the satan challenges God, saying that Job’s righteousness is a result of all that he has, his family, his possessions, etc. God allows the satan to take his family and his possessions, but not to touch Job. Job’s sons and daughters and livestock and properties are all destroyed, and Job responds, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:21-22)

• Once upon a time... Ancient story of a man who is not like everyman but is the paragon of man, the ideal. Over-the-top righteous (not self-righteous). Perfectly wealthy in family and in materials. Not leave-it-to-beaver (everyman) but more like a hero, like Tom Hanks – has it all, has it good.

It’s a story of a good man and his response to life, his response to unwittingly being made a guinea pig.

The story poses the question Why do bad things happen to good people? We get to see the accuser in this story, but that’s rare. We can be bombarded with instances of innocent people suffering and dying, without knowing any cause. Thousands of poor people that have their homes and lives swept away by a typhoon or a tsunami. (UMCOR, by the way, is actively providing relief to folks in Indonesia, South Pacific, Philippines...) Lives shattered by natural disaster and by disease. Individuals and families wracked by course after course of cancer.

• As you read through the book of Job you’ll find plenty of reasons that don’t cut it... and ironically, you’ll find few if any reasons that bring satisfaction.

Instead, reading the book of Job can give you insight into how you view God, and how you speak to, speak of, and interact with God. Job is righteous, that is attested to, and when suffering happens in his life he does not blame God but praises God, but he also allows his suffering to consume his view of God... he becomes focused on his own righteousness, and loses sight of the forest for the trees... loses sight of God.

• Over the next few weeks we’ll work toward hopefully an understanding of God and ourselves through the book of Job. Your understanding will be greatly increased if you take the time to read through Job... (in addition to the daily readings from James... there is no relationship without commitment... )

• Today is World Communion Sunday, and though there is not a message about it per se, WCS arose out of a time of suffering in American history, the Great Depression, between the great world wars. A Presbyterian pastor from Pittsburgh sought to do something both real and symbolic to proclaim that God is God indeed, in spite of politics, economics and future shock... in spite of suffering beyond our comprehension. The idea spread slowly but grew as its message of interconnectedness in Christ was picked up by churches and nations. Through a unique kind of suffering, Jesus Christ offered himself for the reconciliation and redemption of the world, and across denomination and border and time we proclaim together that God is worthy of our praise, and that in all that we do, we, the children of God, need God every hour.

• 397 I Need Thee Every Hour

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 72 in worship.