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, January 30, 2011

My Stack of Change

January 30, 2011
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

My Stack of Change
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed.
But it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved. – 1 Corinthians 1:18
It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus...
He made us righteous and holy, and he delivered us. – 1 Corinthians 1:30

My sermon outline:
• Comparing my 7-year-old daughter's money to my money to Bill Gates’ money... My stack of change doesn’t hold a candle to BG’s. Which is not to say that my stack of change is worthless – it’s necessary and it’s useful, it’s just not in the same league as BG’s.

Same with God’s wisdom, says Paul...

• Humanity ranks people. We compare grade point averages and even the names of colleges (a bachelor’s degree from a no-name college vs. a bachelor’s degree from Harvard). We remember that Michael Phelps won 8 gold medals in the Olympics two years ago, but do we remember the silver medal winners?

British pastor George Duncan says that one of the most important lessons in Christian service is that of learning to play the second fiddle well. “Think for a moment,” he writes, “how often we come across those whose worth is seldom recognized by men, but I am sure will never be overlooked by God, and will certainly not go unrewarded. Many are prepared to recognize the prominent part played by Simon Peter among the disciples, but forget that if there had not been an Andrew who ‘brought him to Jesus’ there would never have been a Peter! The church universal gives thanks to God for Paul, the greatest Christian who ever lived, but forget that if there had not been a Barnabas there might never have been a Paul!” Duncan goes on to ask his readers how many of them recognize the name of Albert McMakin. But Albert was the young man who invited and took sixteen-year-old Billy Graham to the evangelistic services in which he accepted Christ as his Savior. “So before there could be a Billy there had to be an Albert!”
– p. 461, Preacher’s Sourcebook.

McMakin’s stack of change, like Billy Graham’s stack of change, are both necessary and useful and of value.

• And what McMakin and Graham and Barnabas and Paul and Andrew and Peter have in common is relationship with God, relationship with Jesus, for which there is no prerequisite, and without which one cannot be made righteous before God.

My righteousness is as good as Billy Graham’s – neither one of ours earns us favor with God; favor with God is given solely through Christ. Your righteousness is as good as St. Paul’s, and neither of yours makes you holy; holiness comes as the gift of God. It doesn’t matter if you’re the gold medal winner or the silver medal winner or if you didn’t even qualify for the race, that’s the wisdom of the world, not the wisdom of God.

And that is GOOD NEWS for us, good news for people who look at the Bill Gateses and Billy Grahamses and say “If only I had what they had, then God might look kindly upon me.” The world in its wisdom may say “It’s the money in your pocket or the degree on your wall that gets you what you need,” but God in his wisdom says, “That’s not how it works; righteousness and holiness are given, not earned.” And you DO have what Billy Graham and Albert McMakin and Barnabas and Paul and Andrew and Peter have: relationship with God.

The message of the cross is foolishness... but it is the power of God...

• It is neither our merit nor earthly wisdom that makes us righteous or holy but it is the cross of Christ.

• Handbell Anthem, then Hymn 301 Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 55 in worship.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

On Unity Within the Church

January 23, 2011
Third Sunday after the Epiphany

On Unity Within the Church
John 1:29-42 and 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Christ didn’t send me to baptize but to preach the good news. – 1 Corinthians 1:17

My sermon outline:

• I was running through the country one day, passed a farm had a sign that said “Free – Lutheran kittens!” Curious, but I kept on running. The following week I was running down the same road, saw the same sign, but this time the word “Lutheran” had been crossed out and the word “Methodist” was written there. Now my curiosity got the best of me. I knocked on the door of the house, and asked the farmer, “What is this? Last week you had Lutheran kittens and now they’re Methodist? What happened?” The farmer replied, “Last week their eyes were closed. This week they’ve opened their eyes!”

I love that joke because you can put your favored group in the favored spot and poke fun at the group you want to poke fun at. And it’s all good.

• In a small group here at the church, a leader once asked everybody to explain why they’re Methodist. I went first, figuring I know that I find myself at home with the theology of the Wesleys. Some spoke of it being a family church, others spoke of it being a local church. One woman said, “I’m not Methodist. I love God and I come to this church because the people here love God.”

I love her for that answer.

1 Cor 1:10: Paul says to be not divided, but I don’t believe he’s talking about denominations... Paul is talking about division WITHIN the congregation

John 17:21 Jesus prays “that they may be one...” Jesus is concerned about the unity of believers.

• We get a snapshot from the life of John the Baptist in John 1, who previously berated the opposition (so you know he can be tough) but in this episode instead of seeking to share the spotlight with Jesus he completely turns the spotlight over to Jesus, submits to Jesus, edifies Jesus. He lost disciples to Jesus. John the Baptist was more concerned that the way of the Lord be prepared than having people behind him. Said He must increase and I must decrease. Are you on board with the Lord? Hallelujah, go with God, because it’s not about following me, it’s about following Jesus.

• Paul speaks on division within the church... in Latin, “separate apart” or dis-union... that word literally splits our vision, we don’t see eye-to-eye, our vision of ourselves and our brothers and sisters becomes distorted.

A remedy, I’d say, found in Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people, habit #5.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Sometime today or this week, practice this habit, perhaps even asking somebody with whom you know you disagree: “Let me see if I understand what you’re saying...”

As you gain understanding of another’s point of view, your vision becomes clearer, and even if you “agree to disagree” you may learn or affirm that you have a brother or sister in Christ. You become an effective communicator... Practice this so you can effectively communicate the gospel.

• Bottom line, says Paul, is my job is to preach the good news, to do the work of Him who sent me, to tell the old old story of Jesus and his love, to share the good news that in Christ there is forgiveness of sins. The church is not based on me, Paul says... The church is not based on Paul or Peter or Apollos or any preacher teacher or layperson, the church is based on Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and him is salvation.

• Hymn 562 Jesus, Lord, We Look To Thee

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 55 in worship.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Outside Looking In

January 16, 2011
Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Outside Looking In
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
…you aren’t missing any spiritual gift while you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. – 1 Corinthians 1:7

My sermon outline:
• I am something like the 74th pastor to serve SCUMC, to be called or appointed as pastor, over its 165 years. During many of those years, pastors were regularly moved every 2-3 years. There’ve been a few times where a pastor has served more than 10 years, and most of those longer appointments have taken place in the last 40 years.
74 pastors, and truly God knows how many members, over 165 years.

The church is not the pastor, it’s the people. There are some folks here who have been part of this church for 50 years or more! (perhaps a dozen in attendance today) That’s some longevity!

It’s an old church, and by that I mean that even with lifelong members, we don’t have any charter members, any founders. None of us were here when the Gospel was first celebrated in Spring City, none were here when congregation chartered, and I’m not sure that any were there when the sanctuary was built.

• Church of Corinth was not an old church. When Paul’s letters were first read to the church, there were probably charter members there, people who were there when the Gospel was first proclaimed in Corinth. The church of Corinth was made of rich and poor folks, probably mostly Gentiles, converts from local paganism. Paul had likely encountered the Corinthians for the first time a few years before as he traveled around the Mediterranean preaching the Gospel, establishing churches, taking up collections for the widows in Jerusalem, and sometimes going back. He had a variety of travel companions who joined him along the way, and he made good use of his status as an outsider.

Paul was an outsider. Not from here. & as outsider he could see some things that insiders maybe couldn’t see, and say some things that insiders couldn’t (or wouldn’t) say, but at the same time as an outsider he had to earn the right to be heard.

• The book of 1 Cor is Paul writing to the young church about some issues within the body.

• Claim authority. CALLED by God (not self or man) as APOSTLE (what’s it mean?) and added credibility of insider Sosthenes

• Writing to the church, the sanctified body, those called to be saints. How do you feel when you’re addressed as saints? Some good, some bad (conviction). And again, with emphasis on called, who has credit for putting this body together? God. Not individuals. And while Paul is claiming authority he’s not claiming superiority. He’s claiming unity.

• Claiming these things carefully (like when HS teacher says ladies & gentlemen)
Reminding folk in an edifying way, by grace of God you have been gifted to be the body of Christ together... and as the letter goes on, remember this. Remember my calling and yours. Remember who does the calling and who does the giving. And whatever happens, keep at the forefront your relationship with God who unites us.

• Hymn 452 My Faith Looks Up To Thee

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 61 in worship.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Incarnation and Inspiration

January 9, 2011
Baptism of the Lord / First Sunday after the Epiphany

Incarnation and Inspiration
Isaiah 42:1-9 and Matthew 3:13-17

When Jesus was baptized... A voice from heaven said,
“This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.” – Matthew 3:16, 17
Take a good look at my servant...
He’s the one I chose, and I couldn’t be more pleased with him.” – God, in Isaiah 42:1-2

My sermon outline:
• Remember homework? I used to wonder how well Jesus did in school. (his best).

When I took Chemistry in high school, I used to bet a quarter with a few friends (who were in the top ten of the class...) on who would get the lowest quiz grade. I usually won the bet.

Imagine my surprise when I went to college and chose to major in chemistry!

Then I got a job teaching chemistry lab. I was a good chemistry teacher because I remembered what it was like not to understand. I would study the night before so I understood what I was teaching. I even recorded my lectures a few times, to better connect with students, better understand the student point of view.

• In a way, this is what it means for Jesus to be Emmanuel, God with us.

• There was so much that Jesus didn’t have to do but he chose to do. This is the way it should be done, he said. This is what God wants. Jesus' life was an example of what God wants in humanity.

• The first step in discipleship (after birth) is baptism.

John the Baptist was astounded: I should be baptized by you, Jesus, I should be cleansed and purified and initiated by you.

John the Baptist had a limited understanding of baptism. Jesus literally immersed himself in humanity, received immersion by John the Baptist in order to fully connect with humankind. For Jesus, part of being fully human was receiving baptism. & in his baptism, John the Baptist's understaning of baptism expanded.

• for John the Baptist, baptism was a mark of repentance, a symbol of a changed life marked by immersion in water, cleansing.

• Jesus meets John the Baptist where he is, on his level...

And heaven opens, the Holy Spirit descends, and God says Atta Boy, Jesus.

• Through baptism, like Jesus...

- Heaven is opened. We have direct access to God. Nothing shall separate us.

- We receive the HS. The word for spirit is directly related to the word for breath, inspiration. What better way of living Emmanuel than receiving inspiration/breath from God. We are empowered to do the will of God, thy will be done.

- Identity is declared. You belong to me. I am yours and you are mine. You belong to God. You bring pleasure to God.

• The scripture reading ends there, in fact the chapter ends there, but the final thing is related to what we receive in baptism: after his baptism, Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, goes. Goes into the wilderness. Prepares spiritually and mentally for ministry and mission.

How wonderful and how amazing is the incarnation and inspiration of Jesus, who chose to be like us so we could become like him.

• Hymn 267 O Love How Deep

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 58 in worship.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

John Wesley’s Covenant Renewal Service

January 2, 2011
Epiphany Sunday

John Wesley’s Covenant Renewal Service

Service outline: (taken from The United Methodist Book of Worship)

• Today we will be sharing in John Wesley’s Covenant Renewal Service as we re-dedicate our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service to Almighty God, with hope, confidence, and humility, seeking God’s blessings in 2011. Our hope and prayer is that you will keep this bulletin as a reminder of your covenant with God.

• OPENING HYMN: “Come, Let Us Use the Grace Divine” No. 606
(Charles Wesley wrote this hymn specifically for this service)

A covenant prayer:
Let me be your servant, under your command.
I will no longer be my own.
I will give up myself to your will in all things.
Lord, make me what you will.
I put myself fully into your hands:
put me to doing, put me to suffering,
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and with a willing heart
give it all to your pleasure and disposal.

O righteous God, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
see me as I fall down before you.
Forgive my unfaithfulness in not having done your will,
for you have promised mercy to me
if I turn to you with my whole heart.

I here from the bottom of my heart renounce them all,
covenanting with you that no known sin shall be allowed in my life.
Against your will, I have turned my love toward the world.
In your power
I will watch all temptations that will lead me away from you.
For my own righteousness is riddled with sin,
unable to stand before you.

Before all heaven and earth,
I here acknowledge you as my Lord and God.
I take you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for my portion,
and vow to give up myself, body and soul, as your servant,
to serve you in holiness and righteousness all the days of my life.

Jesus, I do here, with humbled heart, accept Christ
as the only new and living Way,
and sincerely join myself in a covenant with him.
O blessed Jesus, I come to you,
hungry, sinful, miserable, blind, and naked,
unworthy even to wash the feet of your servants.
I do here, with all my power, accept you as my Lord and Head.
I renounce my own worthiness,
and vow that you are the Lord, my righteousness.
I renounce my own wisdom, and take you for my only guide.
I renounce my own will, and take your will as my law.

I do here covenant with you, O Christ,
to take my lot with you as it may fall.
Through your grace I promise
that neither life nor death shall part me from you.

I do here willingly put my neck under your yoke, to carry your burden.
All your laws are holy, just, and good.
I therefore take them as the rule for my words, thoughts, and actions,
promising that I will strive
to order my whole life according to your direction,
and not allow myself to neglect anything I know to be my duty.

O God, you know that I make this covenant with you today
without guile or reservation.
If any falsehood should be in it, guide me and help me to set it aright.

And now, glory be to you, O God the Father,
whom I from this day forward shall look upon as my God and Father.
Glory be to you, O God the Son,
who have loved me and washed me from my sins in your own blood,
and now is my Savior and Redeemer.
Glory be to you, O God the Holy Spirit,
who by your almighty power have turned my heart from sin to God.

O mighty God, the Lord Omnipotent, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
you have now become my Covenant Friend.
And I, through your infinite grace, have become your covenant servant.
So be it.
And let the covenant I have made on earth be ratified in heaven.

• Hymn 117 O God, Our Help in Ages Past

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 60 in worship.
Holy Communion