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, April 10, 2011

The Circle of Lent 5/5: Absolution and Reconciliation

April 10, 2011
Fifth Sunday of Lent

The Circle of Lent: Absolution and Reconciliation
#5 of 5

2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2 and John 17:1-5, 20-23

God… reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
- 2 Corinthians 5:18

My sermon outline:

• One time on a college choir trip, stayed at hotel, rooms with connecting doors. Cool! But each room had to open the door to have free access.

• We’ve been examining relationship, started with picture of unity, harmony, agreed-upon plan. Then deviation.

After sin we took a look at two different perspectives: the righteous one forgives (regardless of sinner’s actions) and, motivated by sorrow for sin, the sinner does a few things: stops & confesses, turns around (repents, aligns with Christ), and offers some kind of meaningful demonstration of sorrow (penance).

A Catholic prayer of confession and repentance:
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.

• So far the actions of the two parties are independent of the other…
Forgiveness offered freely without any strings attached (by power of HS), the forgiving party opens the door.
Sinner confesses and repents and offers fruit of repentance (by power of HS) without any expectation of forgiveness, opens door.

And now that both doors are open we can entertain absolution and reconciliation, which require the joint effort of both parties… there can be no absolution or reconciliation without forgiveness, and there can be no absolution or reconciliation without the sorrow of sin.

Where forgiveness says You don’t owe anything, and confession/repentance/penance say My sorrow over my sin wants to do something to cover my sin, Absolution is the joint effort that frees the sinner from guilt. It’s when the righteous says I accept your apology, I recognize your penance… don’t worry about it. I can see how your sorrow is motivating you to remain on our chosen path with me.

And once the relationship is freed from guilt and there is no barrier between the righteous and the sinner, those hotel doors are open and it’s party time! For real, think about the reconciliation party at the return of the Prodigal! Renewed relationship should be celebrated! Harmony and unity can flower again

• Two things to point out, that it is by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit that we can truly forgive one another, and it is by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit that we can confess and repent and offer penance and be reconciled, that’s the first thing to point out. The HS is the door opening to reconciliation.

Second thing to point out is that the relationship after the reconciliation may be stronger than it was before the sin! When you break a bone and it heals it’s actually stronger than before because of the scar tissue. Not like a broken plate glued back together but new bone forms around the fragments like cement and concrete.
With people, relationships that have gone through difficulties are stronger than relationships that have not.

Thanks be to Jesus, whose prayer is that we would be one just as he and the Father are one, thanks be to Jesus that we can be reconciled to God who does not count our sins against us.

• There’s a door in front of you. Open it!

• Hymn 562 Jesus Lord We Look To Thee

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 65 in worship.
Appointment Announcement: It was announced today that Bishop Peggy Johnson has appointed Pastor Dennis Keen to pastor the Spring City United Methodist Church, beginning July 1, 2011.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Circle of Lent 4/5: Penance

April 3, 2011
Fourth Sunday of Lent

The Circle of Lent: Penance
#4 of 5

Ephesians 5:8-14 and John 15:1-12

You were once Darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord,
so live your life as children of Light.
– Ephesians 5:8

My sermon outline:

• (Recall three weeks ago, idea for sermon series as pictures came into mind illustrating various stages of relationship, including sin, confession, forgiveness, repentance, absolution.)

• First picture, two folks walking. In this picture possibly equals. Maybe married couple, maybe friends, maybe pastor and member.. two beings in relationship with each other, walking together in harmony. In unity. Same path.

• God wants your life to be in step with God and full and very good. Allow your life to be full and very good by seeking to be in step with God. Remember your purpose and seek to order your life.

• The new picture the people have stopped. The "righteous" one has stayed on the path, and has the opportunity to offer forgiveness, regardless of "sinner's" state. In this picture, the sinner has left the path but has also stopped, in a moment of confession. Both are actions at the beginning of the road to recovery of community.

• Two weeks ago(stopping) was before, and last week was the sinner literally turning around, choosing a new direction.
A two part action (before and after) of ceasing that which causes sorrow, and choosing a new direction.
Jesus is like a magnet, pointing in the right direction. You can take a nail and put it next to a magnet and all its parts’ll point in the same direction – they’ll turn and orient themselves according to the magnet.

• now oriented right, our new picture can be walking together again, walking intended path again. Sinner has received forgiveness

For a moment imagine parent and two children.
One child pinches the other.
What does the parent say?

Two things wrong there: the apology is not motivated by sorrow, and it’s teaching the child to lie.

When Sashi sins against me (deviates from path) and says “sorry”, whether she is sincere or not, I accept apology, I forgive, and I am likely to say something like “I’ll know you’re truly sorry by how you act in the future... let your actions demonstrate that you’re sorry.

Today’s topic is penance... and though it sounds similar to repentance (which comes from the Latin word for sorrow) it actually shares a Latin root with penalty and penitentiary

• Penance is the name of the Catholic sacrament of confession. In its origin it has to do with punishment for sin, but another meaning, also original, has taken center stage, and as I’ve been skirting around, has to do with action motivated by sorrow for sin.

• You can think of sin and forgiveness and penance in financial terms.
Sin: debt is owed.
Forgiveness: debt is paid, debt is forgiven.
Penance: the now-cleared debtor offers token of sorrow. Token does not pay debt, does not pay for sin, but is instead motivated by it.

• A friend of mine once sorrowfully confessed to me that he'd drunk-dialed a girl the night before & he felt terrible about it. I suggested a few actions he might take to convey his sorrow and his true heart (i.e. picking up bottles in a parking lot, working in a soup kitchen with the young lady, etc)

Zaccheus (Luke 19) confessed and offered (as penance) 4x restitution plus half of possessions to poor (charity).

These are movements that go from disconnection to connection, that demonstrate sorrow and quality of being children of light instead of darkness.

• Many years ago some people had wandered away from God and they wondered what they could do to express their sorrow. (a thousand burnt offerings? Do justice... Micah 6:1-8)

• When you sin, stop. Confess. Turn around. Offer meaningful sign of sorrow. & live for Jesus.

• Hymn insert Living For Jesus

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 53 in worship.
Communion and Luncheon