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, November 29, 2009

Looking Forward

November 29, 2009
First Sunday of Advent

Looking Forward
the Candle of HOPE

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 and Jeremiah 33:14-16

The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. – Jeremiah 33:14

My sermon outline:

• Children’s sermon: Have kids tell story of Cinderella, of baby Jesus, of themselves... How’s this one end? In Advent we count down to Christmas, a story we know. But many years ago people didn’t know the outcome of the story – they had to wait, and cling to HOPE. And so we think about what that would be like, and we thank God that he loves us and gives us life. In Jeremiah 33:15 God says I will give you a good leader. So we trust in God’s promises.

• Children’s sermon is as much for me and you as it is for children, you know . We have something of a “Rest of the Story” a la Paul Harvey... we have the benefit of reading hundreds of years of history, of reading God’s promise of sending a righteous leader, salvation & redemption, a Messiah (anointed one, one set aside for divine purpose, for priestly ministry, making others right with God)

• Imagine living in Jeremiah’s time, hearing the words of this prophet who warns of God’s judgment, who admonishes and warns folks to repent. Imagine living in time & place of gross injustice and unrighteousness, power hungry leaders sapping the life strength out of povertystricken masses, imagine hearing The days are surely coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah... I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up... Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. (Jer 33:14-16)

That HOPE would be like a candle in a dark room, LOOKING FORWARD to the fulfillment of God’s promise.

• We read last week (on Christ the King Sunday) of this fulfillment, of the single candle of hope shining as a sun of righteousness, a light of God’s revealing for all people, when Jesus was born and presented in the temple, and Simeon praised God, saying

Sovereign Lord, as you have promised... my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. – Luke 2:29-32

We have the rest of story, we see the fulfillment of what people were LOOKING FORWARD to.

• Fast-forward a generation, salvation has come to full fruition in the sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection of Jesus, and the disciples of Jesus are planting churches, telling the Good News (which is what? The hope of redemption! God’s faithfulness!)

• Paul writes a letter to a church he planted but has been away from, a letter of encouragement, even as he’s just heard from Timothy how well things are going for the church in Thessalonica. Paul gives thanks and LOOKS FORWARD to the return of the Lord, Jesus’ fulfillment of promises to come again, to the fulfillment of righteousness and the crushing of unrighteousness.

Paul says “I’m so glad you’re doing well. Keep on holding fast, no matter what... be strengthened by God & be blameless so when he comes back, we’ll all be ready.

• & we LOOK FORWARD still, not knowing the rest of the story but trusting in the rock-solid promises of God, celebrating that Christ came and LOOKING FORWARD to his return.

• Hymn 110 A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 53 in worship.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Christ the King

November 22, 2009
Last Sunday in Pentecost
Christ the King Sunday

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. – Revelation 1:8

• Today we remember the Christian calendar, the liturgical year, in scripture and song. Each season or holiday has a liturgical color (although many of the holidays are “white or gold”).

No sermon today, but a verse, reflection, and hymn representing each season of the Christian year.

Advent. Purple or blue.
The Christian year begins with the anticipation of the arrival of God’s Messiah, the fulfillment of the promise. We often sing Christmas carols, although some say we should wait until Christmas to sing the Christmas carols, and sing songs of anticipation before Christmas. We light the Advent candles to mark our waiting. Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas (12/25).
Reading: Luke 1:26-33
Hymn: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Christmas. White or gold.
The birth of Jesus Christ. God’s promised light comes to earth. Christmas is a 12-day season, going from December 25th to January 6th.
Reading: Luke 2:1-20
Hymn: Joy to the World

Epiphany. White or gold.
Celebrated in the Eastern churches as Christ coming to the world. In the Western churches (that’s us) it’s when we ‘remember’ the “wise men” who traveled far to worship the King. God revealed His light to all nations. January 6th is the day of Epiphany, and the season of Epiphany lasts until Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Often about five weeks.
Reading: Luke 2:25-40
Hymn: Once in Royal David's City

Lent. Purple.
The 40-day (minus Sundays) season of preparation for Easter. Often marked by repentance, prayer, fasting or self-denial, Lent (which means “spring”) is also a time of Christian instruction. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (46 days before Easter) and goes through Holy Week, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter.
Reading: Mark 8:31-38
Hymn: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Reading: Hebrews 10:16-25
Hymn: What Wondrous Love is This

Easter. White or gold.
The celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, his victory over sin and death. Though the date of Easter changes, it is always the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs after the vernal equinox (March 21). The season of Easter lasts fifty days, including Ascension Day (forty days after Easter) and ending at Pentecost (fifty days after Easter).
Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
Hymn: Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Pentecost. Red (for the day) and green (for the season).
Pentecost was a Jewish harvest festival (50 days after Passover), and is now celebrated by Christians as the birth of the Church, the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost marks the beginning of “ordinary time,” the season that spans from the end of the Easter season until Advent. In “ordinary time” (aka “Kingdomtide”) the actions of the early church are remembered.
Reading: Acts 2:1-6

Christ the King. White or gold.
The “New Year’s Eve” of the liturgical calendar, Christ the King Sunday celebrates, well, Jesus Christ the King of Kings. Thus the Christian year begins, revolves around, and ends in celebration of God’s gift to the world in Jesus Christ.
Reading: Revelation 1:4b-8
Hymn: Crown Him with Many Crowns

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 68 in worship.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Happy Anniversary

November 15, 2009
Twenty-fourth Sunday after the Pentecost

On the One Hundredth Anniversary of a Building
1 Corinthians 3:9-13, 16-17 and 1 Peter 2:5

Note: My church’s current building was built in two phases: a gray stone Sunday School Auditorium (with balcony) was built in 1909, attached to a brownstone sanctuary that had been built in 1873. In 1922/23 the brownstone sanctuary was torn down and an attached gray stone sanctuary (phase two) was completed.
The Sunday School Auditorium was dedicated on November 14, 1909.
We held worship in it and celebrated and rededicated it on November 15, 2009.

My sermon:

• We are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building... you are God’s temple, and God’s spirit dwells in you. – 1 Corinthians 3:9, 16

• Spring City UMC traces its birth to Main Street 1845 when the young Rev. Peter Cox was invited by Bethel Methodist Church member David Wells to preach the gospel to the people in the town that was growing at the Schuylkill River Bridge. Rev. Cox was a Methodist preacher from Pottstown whose preaching circuit of eight area churches included the young Bethel Methodist Episcopal Church. There were churches of other denominations in the surrounding countryside, but after the Schuylkill river bridge was built in 1840, industry and people moved in, and where there were people, there was the need to preach the gospel.

Note again that a layperson (David Wells) saw a need (a new center of people) and worked with the clergy (Rev. Peter Cox) to proclaim the gospel.

For three years, five pastors from the Pottstown circuit preached the gospel to the people of Springville, and in 1848 the non-denominational Union Meeting House was built where our sanctuary stands today. Seven years later (1855) the pastors and the congregation of 12 members organized formally as a Methodist church.

• Move ahead 24 years to 1872... the church membership has increased from 12 to approaching 100... 1872 was a keystone year in Spring City: the bank was built, the Church Street School was built, the town was officially named Spring City, the Methodist congregation became incorporated, and plans were made to build a new building, as the Union Meeting House was no longer adequate to the needs of the growing congregation. (As the story goes, one pastor (Rev. John H. Wood) tripped on the rickety steps and declared it was time to build a new church before somebody broke his neck!).

In 1874 the Spring City Methodist Episcopal Church got its own pastor, the Rev. Eli Pickersgill... for the first time it was not shared with the Bethel or Pottstown churches. Also the brownstone church was opened for worship. The 30-year old congregation now numbered over a hundred members, with over two hundred in Sunday School. It had been served by 38 pastors, many who shared preaching responsibilities for 8 or 9 Pottstown area Methodist churches. The church had grown with the town, and where there were people, there was the desire to proclaim the gospel. This brownstone edifice, the second building on this site, would serve as the worship and teaching space for the next 37 years, until the building that we’re in right now was built, in 1909.

• Once again, as the town grew, so grew the need for the preaching and teaching of the gospel, and so grew the church. For 37 years the church struggled to make its brownstone space adequate to the needs of the congregation, but the church grew and grew, and plans for our current building were drawn up. It was a two-phase plan, and though the sanctuary wasn’t built until 1923, a picture like that on your bulletin cover was on bulletin covers even in 1911.

It was in 1909 that John Jones, founder of the Jones Motor Company, made two trips daily between Spring City and King of Prussia, and using a horse and cart, hauled the stones for the building of this Sunday School Auditorium. And November 14th, 2009, under the pastorate of the Rev. Edwin F. Hann, this Sunday School Auditorium was dedicated to the glory of God.

• You’ve heard me repeat a few times what I would call the founding principle of our church: that where there are people, there is the need to proclaim the gospel. Going right along with this is a second point: The pastor may be the preacher, but the proclamation of the gospel is the work of the preacher and the people together. In fact, where there is no proclamation of the gospel by the people, there is no church... and where people are proclaiming the gospel and teaching and building on what God hath established and founded in Jesus Christ, where people are doing this, there shall the church be found.

• We rededicate this building, this sacred space which was built on the efforts of so many laity and clergy, which was built by the prayers, the presence, the gifts, the service, and the witness of thousands of our forbears.

• We rededicate this building, this space which has been dedicated to God since 1848, but when it comes down to it, the bricks and mortar that God is most interested in are not the walls around us or the roof above us, but the living temples seated in these chairs, living temples that enter and exit these doors, yea that spend most of their time outside these walls, living temples that leave these walls and carry with them the good news that God is for us, God is with us, God is in us, God redeems us and makes us whole. We are living stones, working together with each other and in cooperation with God’s Spirit, being built into a spiritual house acceptable to God (1 Peter 2:5). So let your life be founded on the rock that is Jesus... let your life be shaped by God’s Spirit and guided by God’s Word... and dedicate to God yourself: your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness. To God be the glory, Amen.

• Hymn: Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 80 in worship.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

If Everybody Tithed...

November 8, 2009
Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

A Stewardship Message
Mark 12:38-44 – The Widow’s Mite

“All the Israelite men and women whose hearts made them willing to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done, brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord.” – Exodus 35:29

My sermon outline:

• The preacher stood up in front of the congregation one day and said, “There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is, we have enough money to do the outreach project we want to do. The bad news is, it’s still in your pockets.”

• “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate!”
(Cool Hand Luke, 1967. Paul Newman)
Unfortunately things get left undone or underdone in life for the simple problem of not communicating.

Jesus is communicating something here in Mark 12: that motive not amount is important.

• A Tale of Two Givers: The widow & the rich folk.

Why does the widow give? Out of poverty. It’s not obligation. Trust. Worship.

Why do the rich give? Out of abundance. Perhaps to be seen. Perhaps to provide for the church or the poor. Given the context of the immediate passage before this one, it seems Jesus is making a negative example of these givers.

• Aside: ancient tithe was obligation, to support the priesthood and provide for the poor. Like a church tax. We believe now that God asks for our firstfruits, the first 10% of our resources, and we call that the tithe.

Paul encourages and praises such givers in 2 Corinthians 9:7: Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And check out this example from Exodus 35: (read 35:20-29)

• There’s a third giver in today’s gospel reading: you, the disciple, the observer with Jesus.

How do you give? Out of abundance or poverty? Obligation or worship? For show or for God?

• Many Christians consider the 10% tithe the starting place for giving, although the Barna institute reports that less than a quarter of Christians give 10% of their income... (actually only about 8 out of 100 tithe). Statistically 5 to 15 out of the 65 people in this room right now tithe.

Just some numbers for you: If everybody in this room tithed from a take-home income of $28K, their offering would be about $54 a week, and we would have to have a meeting to decide what to do with our extra income.

Conversely, a person giving $5 a week will give about $260 a year, which would be a tithe for an annual take-home income of $2,600... If all 65 of us gave $5 a week, the church would have $17,000 to pay for its mission and ministry, its minister and staff, its bricks and mortar, etc. $17K.

• My purpose in telling you all this is to honor Jesus, who knew that it wasn’t easy but who gave us his all (literally) and who praised the widow who trusted and gave her all,

and to challenge you to examine not only what part of your income you give, but why you give it, and are you satisfied and worshipful or are you guilty and pressured.

• Hymn 391 O Happy Day That Fix’d My Choice

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 73 in worship.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Death Destroyed

November 1, 2009
Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost
All-Saints’ Day

Death Destroyed
John 11:32-44 and Revelation 21:1-6

God... will swallow up death forever. ...
Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. – Isaiah 25:7, 9

• (recap of children’s sermon: A dying woman instructed her pastor to make sure she would have a fork in her hand in her casket. The pastor asked why, and the woman told how throughout life, at parties and church luncheons, after the meal, someone would announce “Save your forks, the best is yet to come!”)

(After this children’s sermon, forks were passed out, and we held the forks high in the air as the names of the dearly departed of the previous year were read aloud.)

My sermon outline:

• Ask the people: Would you want to know when you were going to die? The manner? How might such knowledge affect your life? Would you tell anyone?
(talk amongst yourselves for a few minutes) (share answers)

• Re-reading a book A Prayer For Owen Meany (John Irving, 1989)... In the book, an 11-year old boy has a vision of his own tombstone, complete with date of death. A few years later he dreams about the circumstances but lacks the exact details.

He doesn’t tell anybody (rather he doesn’t admit it to anyone but his best friend who pries it out). But he does gain a kind of peace about life – imagine how you might face danger if you were convinced your time wouldn’t come for another 5 years.

He also lives life fully, making the most of what he’s got.

• Thoreau (30 y.o., 1840s) lived in the famous cabin for 2 yrs.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what they had to teach; and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

• Death offers us the opportunity to embrace life.

• AND thanks be to God who gives us victory over death through our LJC. The saying will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O Death, is thy victory? Where is thy sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, He gives us the victory through our LJC. – 1 Corinthians 15:54-57

• From today’s reading from Isaiah: the LORD will make for all peoples a feast (bring your fork)
And he will destroy the shroud that is cast over all peoples:
He will swallow up death forever.

• & so we live in the knowledge that we will live again, (& see loved ones again) & we break bread in a foretaste of glory to come.

• Hymn 710 Faith of Our Fathers

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 81 in worship.