June 3, 2020 Midweek Devotional Scripture: Luke 10:25-29 (NLT)One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” MeditationJesus answered the legal expert by telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan: Along a dangerous road a man is beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Three people come his way: two religious people, and one more person, from perhaps the most despised people group of Jesus’ day, a Samaritan.
The two religious people, who should have had a clear understanding of God’s law, passed by the man. But the least likely person of all, the Samaritan, stopped and showed compassion beyond what anyone would have expected.The legal expert had correctly quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. He understood the law required him to love his neighbor. His only question was “who is my neighbor?” After telling the parable, Jesus turned the question back to him by asking, “Of the three men, who was the neighbor to the one in need?”Jesus’ point was that while the legal expert knew the law, he did not understand the spirit in which God had given it, and that spirit was the spirit of love.
For the legal expert, and for you and me, the question is not “who is my neighbor?” In the spirit of God’s love, the question is always “how can I be a neighbor to the one in need?” Thoughts for ReflectionLack of love is often easy to justify, even though it is never right. Where is this evidenced in my life?Our neighbor is anyone of any race, creed, or social background who is in need? Is this belief evidenced in my life?Love mean’s acting to meet a person’s need. Who can I be a neighbor to this week in my church or community? Blessings for your day, Pastor Kim
A Blessing for Pentecost Day This Grace That Scorches Us
Here’s one thing you must understand about this blessing: it is not for you alone. It is stubborn about this. Do not even try to lay hold of it if you are by yourself, thinking you can carry it on your own.To bear this blessing, you must first take yourself to a place where everyone does not look like you or think like you,
a place where they do not believe precisely as you believe, where their thoughts and ideas and gestures are not exact echoes of your own.Bring your sorrow. Bring your grief. Bring your fear. Bring your weariness, your pain, your disgust at how broken the world is, how fractured, how fragmented by its fighting, its wars, its hungers, its penchant for power, its ceaseless repetition of the history it refuses to rise above.I will not tell you this blessing will fix all that.But in the place where you have gathered, wait. Watch. Listen.
Lay aside your inability to be surprised, your resistance to what you do not understand. See then whether this blessing turns to flame on your tongue, sets you to speaking what you cannot fathom or opens your ear to a language beyond your imagining that comes as a knowing in your bones, a clarity in your heart that tells you this is the reason we were made: for this ache that finally opens us,for this struggle, this grace that scorches us toward one another and into the blazing day.—Jan Richardson from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons
Opening Prayeran Invitation to the Holy Spirit Blue Hymnal 335O God, the Holy Spirit, Come to us, and among us; Come as the wind. And cleanse us; Come as the fire, and burn; Come as the dew, and refresh;Convict, convert, and consecrate many hearts and livesto our great goodand to thy greater glory;And this we ask for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
Gospel Lesson John 7:37-39 (CEB) Morning Message
A New Language?Outside the church walls?
For at least two, maybe three decades now, pastors, church leaders, church growth gurus have been saying these words, “In order to grow your church in today’s society, you have to move the church outside of the church walls.” We’ve been saying things like, “If people won’t come to the church, then we need to take church to the people.” And, of course, we’ve been saying, “The church is the people, not the building.” I did a search on Google this week. In the search bar I typed, “church growth and getting outside the church walls.” Google gave me 89,300,000 results. \
It seems that everyone has an opinion about staying relevant by becoming a church that does ministry outside of the church building. This is the result of a cultural shift in our society that most never saw coming. Studies show that we are now in the third generation of unchurched people: Children being raised by parents who don’t go to church, who themselves were raised by parents who didn’t go to church. Sunday morning worship and Wednesday night prayer meeting is not the norm anymore. Even in the lives of many Christians, other things take priority.
Think about it, when you and I were growing up, there was no church-growth movement. There simply wasn’t a need for it. Church life was the center of everything. There really wasn’t anything else to distract us. Businesses weren’t open on Sundays, and besides, all our friends and family were going to church, so where else would we go anyway?This simply is not the case anymore.
This cultural shift has brought with it declining numbers in attendance and membership across the board in all mainline denominations. Thus, the church growth movement is constantly trying to figure out where we went wrong and how to fix it.Rick Warren, of Purpose Driven Life fame, (maybe the father of all church growth movements) says this, “You measure a church’s strength not by its seating capacity, but by its sending capacity.” In other words, if you want a church to grow in this day and age, you have to get outside the church walls.And here we are, our twelfth Sunday away from worship in our church sanctuary. I think it’s safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has officially moved the church outside of its walls.Are They Drunk?Today is Pentecost Sunday, the Sunday in the life of the church when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit in the early church.
This couldn’t have come along at a better time in my opinion. Because celebrating Pentecost Sunday provides the occasion for Christians to recognize God’s Holy Spirit at work in the life of the church, and in the lives of individuals. It is the perfect time to remember that through his Holy Spirit, Christ sustains and unites his church. And it doesn’t matter how we “gather together in one place.” So, let’s take a look at the text for today, Acts 2:1-21 (Common English Bible):1-4 “When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.”Pentecost was one of three major Jewish festivals. This meant that the city of Jerusalem was filled with Jews from all over the world that day. Jesus had ascended to heaven to be with God the Father, and it is at this precise time he instructed his disciples to be in Jerusalem to wait for the arrival of the Holy Spirit.Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit would be with them until he returned, and he would serve as their Advocate, Helper, Comforter, and Guide.Just as Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit showed up, not quietly, but with a loud roaring sound, and as fire and wind, and everyone, not just the disciples, stood up and took notice.Listen to what happens:
Verses 5-11, “There were pious Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered. They were mystified because everyone heard them (the disciples) speaking in their native languages. 7 They were surprised and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all the people who are speaking Galileans, every one of them? 8 How then can each of us hear them speaking in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; as well as residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the regions of Libya bordering Cyrene; and visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!” The arrival of the Holy Spirit was dramatic, and it wasn’t just the wind and fire and noise stuff that was drawing a crowd, it was what they heard coming from the mouths of Jesus’ disciples.Because the disciples were literally speaking in other languages as the Holy Spirit gave them the ability.Quite the miraculous attention-grabber for the international crowd gathered in the city that day.All the nationalities represented recognized their own languages being spoken.And that day, many came to faith in Christ, and not just because of the signs and the miracles, but because of the miraculous movement of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and minds of those who gathered. Although the reaction wasn’t all good. Let me read some of the crowd’s reaction to all this:
Verses 12-13, “They were all surprised and bewildered. Some asked each other, “What does this mean?” Others jeered at them, saying, “They’re full of new wine!”As the crowd grew, and the disciples continued to speak, some were surprised, some bewildered, and some were so skeptical that the accused them of being drunk.And perhaps no one was more surprised than Peter himself when he stood up to refute this accusation.Remember that Peter often said the wrong thing, often misunderstood, and he denied Jesus three times after his arrest.But Jesus told him he was the Rock on which he would build His Church.And I bet Peter, himself, at the time, wondered how that could ever be.
But now on Pentecost, he knew, because the Spirit had arrived and empowered even him to do things he could never do before. The New Language of the Holy SpiritActs 2:14-21, “Peter stood with the other eleven apostles. He raised his voice and declared, “Judeans and everyone living in Jerusalem! Know this! Listen carefully to my words! These people aren’t drunk, as you suspect; after all, it’s only nine o’clock in the morning! Rather, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young will see visions. Your elders will dream dreams. Even upon my servants, men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
I will cause wonders to occur in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and a cloud of smoke. The sun will be changed into darkness, and the moon will be changed into blood, before the great and spectacular day of the Lord comes. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”What Joel had prophesied hundreds of years before was happening right in front of them.Peter preached, he refuted, and he quoted Old Testament prophecy.With the arrival of the Holy Spirit, Peter had the ability to speak new languages, and not just the languages of all who were in ear shot.
Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Peter had also learned the language of bravery and security because of his identity in Christ.Because a relationship with Christ is always transformative in nature.If you read through the rest of Acts 2, you’ll find that Peter continues to preach, and people continue to listen.And the Holy Spirit continues to move.Acts 2:41 tells us, “Those who believed what Peter said, were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3000 in all.”Not because of a church growth movement the disciples had joined, or a book they had read, but through the power of the Holy Spirit.The Holy Spirit had given them a new strength and a new ability to speak.
Grace in the World: What new thing will the Holy Spirit empower us to do?So, here we are. It’s Pentecost Sunday. We are gathered for worship together, but apart, together but not in one place. I think the question we need to ask ourselves is this: What new thing is the Holy Spirit ready to empower us with? How will he equip us to be the Church during a global pandemic? How will he equip us when we can’t “do church” the way we have always done church?Yes, we’ve figured out Sunday worship. But do you think that’s all the Holy Spirit is capable of? A Holy Spirit that added 3000 believers to the church in Jerusalem in one day?Because the church is more than the pastor. It’s more than a handful of us. It takes everyone doing their part for the church to function well.
Not one person can do it all. But we all can do something.You may feel limited right now. But if Acts 2 teaches us anything, it teaches us that Christianity isn’t limited. God’s power isn’t limited. The visitors in Jerusalem were surprised to hear the disciples speaking in languages other than their own, but they shouldn’t have been. God works all kinds of miracles to spread the Good News of Jesus. He uses as many languages as there are kinds of people, and as there are situations, so that everyone who hears can call on his name for salvation. Even during COVID-19, even when we can’t gather in the way we are accustomed.Here’s the thing, many have said to me recently that they are praying for this to be a time of revival. Honestly, I have been, too. But if you’re really praying for that, you need to let go of the picture of what you think revival looks like. Because I don’t think it’s going to happen in church sanctuaries, or big revival tents, with everyone gathering together for two weeks’ worth of services.
I don’t think it will involve droves of people coming to the altar as we sing all seven verses of “Just as I Am.”But I do believe the Holy Spirit is just dying to equip his church with something new. And yes, I do believe we will be back at the church someday, but I don’t know when, and I don’t know what it will look like. And right now, there are folks attending online worship who haven’t been to church in years, and some who have never been to church.
So, until that day comes, that we can meet at Bethel, I encourage each of you, and each group and committee to consider how you can be the church during COVID-19. Look at all the options you have. Video conferences, conference calls, livestreaming, email and text chains. And don’t forget the telephone and the United States Postal Service, both of which have served us well at this time.
I fully believe if you step forward and step up, as Peter did, the Holy Spirit will equip and empower you in miraculous amazing ways and probably surprising ways.As a response to the Word, we are going to say the Apostle’s Creed responsively. But let me say again that I believe it’s time to do some real soul searching and ask the question, “if I step out in faith, what can the Holy Spirit empower me to do here at Bethel Church? What will he equip His faithful to do? How many will be added to our numbers? I hope you pray about that in the coming weeks. I know I will be.
Apostle’s Creed I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth;And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried;* the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic** church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen. Pastoral Prayer Almighty God, you are clothed in glory and grandeur; you are the Light and the Life of all humankind. In Jerusalem you spoke through the roar of the wind and tongues of fire. It this moment, when everything seems upside down and limited, speak to us in this way, so that we, like the early church gathers and pays attention.Empower us to be brave so that we like the first disciples declare the Good News of Jesus to everyone we meet, in whatever way we can.Show your church once more that you have no limits. In fact, you are a God of limitless possibilities.We lift up all who ill today, show them your miraculous, healing power. Be with those who mourn, give them your peace. For those who doubt, struggle, or live with fear, remind them that they are never alone. Through your Holy Spirit, make your presence known to each of us today.Creator God, we thank you for providing for us, both as individuals and as a church. We thank you knowing that you will faithfully continue to do so. Finally, we pray that in all we say and do, we reflect your love and character in this world. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen. The Lord’s PrayerOur Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. Commission & Benediction for Pentecost (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:17-18)Go out into the world, and labor to bring forth new life. Dream dreams, pursue visions and speak of God’s goodness in the words of those who would hear.
And may the God who breathed life into creation be your delight. May Christ Jesus give hope to your dreaming, and may the Holy Spirit, your advocate and supporter, ........set your hearts ablaze with a passion for peace.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,…In the name of Christ. Amen.
May 27, 2020 Midweek Devotional Song of Solomon 2:1 (NIV)“I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.”MeditationThe Bible refers to Jesus as both Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley. Let’s consider this for a moment. The rose is considered by many to be the most perfect of flowers: perfect in shape, color, and fragrance. Both it’s firmness and tenderness remind of Christ’s character. The rose can be found in all countries and all places; it is a universal flower loved by people of all ages, nationalities, and walks of life. This reminds us that Jesus came for all people everywhere.Now consider the Lily of the Valley: beautiful white in color, representing Christ’s purity, and the flower’s drooping, head hidden modestly under the shade of its broad leaves, representing Christ’s humility.
How does this apply to each of us? As Christians, we are to grow each day into people who are more like the Savior we follow. Like the rose, we are to remain firm in our faith, but with an attitude of tenderness and love toward all people. Like the lily, we are to remain humble servants of God as we serve him in this world. One more thing about the lily is the way it grows. In talking to someone from our church who has a love for God’s green earth, and is well-versed in its plant life, I learned that the lily grows by sending runners out, and from each runner other plants are produced and multiply.Just as Christ called us to do when he said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”Just some food for thought this week. In this season of growing and change, remember to take the time to reflect on the new growth we see all around us, and consider how it reminds you of our wonderful Creator.
Thoughts for Reflection What things about Jesus that are reflected in the rose and the lily, are also reflected in your life?What fruit have you produced for Jesus this week? This month? This year?What is one or two areas where you could ask God for guidance and wisdom? Blessings for your day,Pastor Kim
Recognition of Veterans Robert Kline, US Army Mac McKinley, US Air Force Arthur Shields, US Army Lenny Vavruska, US Marines Bob Workinger, US Army Lloyd Hannigan, US Army
Thank you, gentlemen for your faith and service to our country.
Opening Prayer Gracious God, giver of life, you are a holy and mighty God. Thank you for the privileges we have as citizens of the United States. Remind us often that we are sojourners here, and that our true and eternal home is your Kingdom. Equip us to serve you, until Christ comes again, so others may hear of salvation in his name. All this we pray in His name. Amen.
Canticle of Remembrance The righteous live forever, their reward is with the Lord. With my song I give thanks and praise, for the Lord is my strength and shield. The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seem to have died, and their departure was seen as an affliction. And their going from us, to be their destruction; But they are at peace. For though in our sight they were punished, Their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, Because God tested them and found them worthy. Like gold in the furnace God tried them, And like a sacrificial burnt offering God accepted them. In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, And will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, And the Lord will reign over them forever. Those who trust in God will understand truth, And the faithful will abide in love, Because grace and mercy are upon the elect, And God watches over the holy ones.
Obituary Memoriam Since we met here one year ago, the following loved ones have entered into rest in the Bethel cemetery. They are:
Dennis Bacon, July 12, 2019
Tammy (Schroll) Montiel, September 12, 2019
Stanistawa Krakes, November 20, 2019
Lloyd Hannigan, November 25, 2019
Howard Lewis, Jr., November 29, 2019
Charles Franklin Leroy Stokes, January 18, 2020
Ethel Hannigan, April 25, 2020
Gospel Lesson John 17
Morning Message Old Glory, Christ’s Glory, Our Glory As United States citizens, there are many reminders of the privileges we have living in the land of the brave. There are many reminders of the countless lives sacrificed so that we can keep living in the home of the free. There are songs, many of which you are hearing today. There are holidays: Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, and 4th of July. Even at Bethel Church we have our own traditions that serve as reminders: A Memorial Day service that goes back generations, and just yesterday our friend, Gary put out the flags and plaques that he puts out every year to honor our country and all branches of the military. And we have symbols: the statues, the monuments, and all kinds of things in red, white and blue. Did you know that you can buy red, white, and blue M & M’s? Perhaps our most deeply cherished symbol is the American flag. So cherished and honored that calling it a symbol doesn’t seem to cut it. The colors and shapes on the flag have deep meaning. RED symbolizes strength and valor. WHITE symbolizes purity and innocence. BLUE symbolizes vigilance, perseverance and justice. These colors were carefully chosen because the characteristics they represent are closely aligned with the values of America. Even the shapes and structure have meaning and purpose. The 13 alternating red and white stripes represent the 13 original colonies. The stars represent each of our states. And according to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, here is the story behind the flag’s nickname, Old Glory: The name “Old Glory” was first applied to the U.S. flag by a young sea captain who lived in Salem, Mass. On his twenty-first birthday, March 17, 1824, Capt. William Driver was presented a beautiful flag by his mother and a group of local young ladies. Driver was delighted with the gift. He exclaimed, “I name her ‘Old Glory.’” Then Old Glory accompanied the captain on his many voyages. Captain Driver quit the sea in 1837 and settled in Nashville, Tenn. On patriotic days, he displayed Old Glory proudly from a rope extending from his house to a tree across the street. After Tennessee seceded from the Union in 1861, Captain Driver hid Old Glory by sewing the flag inside a comforter. When Union soldiers entered Nashville on February 25, 1862, Driver removed Old Glory from its hiding place, carried the flag to the state capitol building, and proudly raised it for all to see. Shortly before his death, the old sea captain placed a small bundle into the arms of his daughter. He said to her, “Mary Jane, this is my ship flag, Old Glory. It has been my constant companion. I love it as a mother loves her child. Cherish it as I have cherished it.” The flag remained as a precious heirloom in the Driver family until 1922. Then it was sent to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., where it is carefully preserved under glass today. Driver has been quoted as saying this about his flag, “It has ever been my staunch companion and protection. Savages and heathens, lowly and oppressed, hailed and welcomed it at the far end of the wide world. Then, why should it not be called Old Glory?”
As a noun, the word “glory” is defined as “high renown or honor won by notable achievements; and magnificence or great beauty. As a verb, it means to take great pride or pleasure in.” In John 17, prior to going to the cross, Jesus prays. He prays for himself, for his disciples, and finally for all future believers. Scripture teaches that he continues to pray for us through the intercession of the Holy Spirit. The theme of his prayer is ‘glory.” He uses the words eight times throughout the prayer in one form or another. And I want to take a few moments and walk through it with you. Then I will wrap things up with how this applies to our own lives. Because the Gospel of Christ is not just about knowing what we believe, but about living out our faith in tangible ways. First, in verses 1 through 5, Jesus prays for himself:
In verse 3, Jesus says, “This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.” How do we get eternal life? Jesus explains it clearly here: by knowing God the Father Himself, through his Son, Jesus Christ. Eternal life requires entering a personal relationship with God in Jesus. When we admit our sin, and turn away from it, Christ’s love lives in us by his Holy Spirit.
In verses 3 and 4, Jesus says that by coming to earth, he brought glory to God the Father. In other words, he brought honor to God and proclaimed his magnificence, in all things, but especially in his obedience and sacrifice on the cross.
In verse 5, Jesus says, “Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I shared with you before the world was created.” Before Jesus came to earth, he was one with God. At this point, when his mission on earth was almost finished, Jesus was asking his Father to restore him to his original place of honor and authority. As he had brought honor to the Father, he now asked that the Father honor him by returning him to his former status of privilege in heaven. Both Jesus’s resurrection and ascension attest that Jesus did return to his exalted position at the right hand of God. It is further attested to in Stephen’s dying exclamation in Acts 7:56, “Look! I can see heaven on display and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
Second, in verses 6 through 19, Jesus prays for his disciples.
He prays for their joy, their unity, and their protection.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t ask the Father to take his disciples out of the world, but to protect them while in the world from the evil one.
The disciples are citizens of the Kingdom of God, but they are to stay and accomplish the job to go into the world and make disciples.
In verse 10, Jesus says, “Everything that is mine is yours and everything that is yours is mine; I have been glorified in them.”
What did Jesus mean? God’s glory is the revelation of his character and presence. The lives of Jesus’ disciples reveal his character, and he is present to the world through them.
Do you ever wonder if your life brings glory to God?
Ask yourself this: Does my life reveal Christ’s character and presence to those around me?
Finally, in John 17:20-26, Jesus prays for future believers:
If you know Jesus as Lord and Savior, then this includes you.
Verses 21-23, “I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. 22 I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. 23 I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.”
Jesus’ greatest desire for his disciples was that they would become one.
Unified as a powerful witness to the reality of God’s love.
Jesus’ prayer for unity among believers is based on the believer’s unity with him and the Father.
Christians can know unity with each other when they are living in union with God.
Jesus is the vine; we are the branches.
Each branch living in union with the Vine is united with all other branches doing the same.
How do we bring glory to God? How do we honor his name and declare his magnificence?
The same way the disciples in Jesus day did: by living in joyful and sacrificial obedience to God’s commands. By being the revelation of Christ himself to the world around us.
Because the thing is, the Christian life is meant to be a purpose-filled life. And a purpose-filled life is always a life of action. The glory of God is revealed in the incarnate Christ, and now Christ is glorified in the lives of believers. I’ve suggested you bring a cross to worship today. Take it in your hands, touch it with your fingers if you’re wearing it around your neck. Feel the material it is made of. Now consider what it means to you, to your life, to the lives of those you love. Think about why it is a symbol of our faith. About what happened on the cross. About what happened to Jesus on the cross. His death. His sacrifice. His shed blood. The salvation we have in Him because of his obedience to the Father. The privileges we are afforded as children of God. The hope we have of a sure and certain future with God. A future with no sickness, no pain no tears. A present with freedom from sin and death, and the constant presence of God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Fully wrapped in God’s love and protection. Now consider the words of James, Jesus’ brother, in James, 2:14, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?” Friends, the truth is, you can carry a cross with you all day long as a symbol of your faith. Wear it around your neck. Keep it in your pocket. But if you don’t apply the message of the cross to your life, carrying it becomes meaningless. Just like a “honk if you love Jesus bumper sticker” on your car becomes a joke if you are cutting people off in traffic and displaying road rage. Just like waving an American flag becomes meaningless if we refuse to live out the values upon which our country stands. And what is the message of the cross? How do we bring glory to Jesus Christ? I believe it goes back to the two greatest commandments, the commandments Jesus gave us in Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.” How we live, how we treat people, the words we say, the attitudes we carry, the generosity and hospitality we share, all matter because these things reflect our deep love for God, and they reflect the loving character of God himself. We are going to the Lord in prayer in a moment. But first, a brief time of reflection with a few simple questions:
First, if you are a Christian, how does your life bring glory to Jesus Christ? How does your life reveal God’s character and presence?
Second, do you know reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ? Do you share the privileges of a life in Jesus Christ?
Time of silent reflection.
Pastoral Prayer based on John 17, adapted from a prayer from the World Council of Churches God of grace, together we turn to you in prayer, for it is you who unites us: you are the one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in whom we believe, you alone empower us for good, and you send us out across the earth in mission and service in the name of Christ. We confess we have been unworthy servants. We have fallen short as disciples of Jesus Christ who in his incarnation came to save us and teach us how to love. Forgive us, God, and teach us to forgive one another. God, hear the cries of all creation, the cries of all who are exploited, marginalized, abused and victimized, all who are dispossessed and silenced, their humanity ignored, all who suffer from any form of disease, and from war. God, guide all in seats of authority towards decisions of moral integrity. We give thanks for your blessings and signs of hope that are already present in the world. We give thanks for people of all times and places who have live faithful lives and glorified you. We give thanks for those who have gone before us in faith. We thank you for the good news of Jesus Christ, and the assurance of resurrection. By the power and guidance of your Holy Spirit, may our prayers never be empty words but an urgent response to your living Word – readily sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Open our hearts to love and to see that all people are made in your image. Transform us in the offering of ourselves so that we may be your partners in transformation, to become neighbors to all, as we await with eager anticipation of the full revelation of your reign in the coming of a new heaven and a new earth. God, in your grace, transform the world. We pray this in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is inheaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Dismissal with Blessing Prayer of St. Francis Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy; O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. In Christ name. Amen. Go in peace and may the God of peace go with you.
May 20, 2020 Midweek Devotional Matthew 6:28b-29 (New Living Translation) “See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was not dressed like one of these.” Meditation About a month ago a sweet lady from church dropped off a flower on my front steps. It was a lovely pansy, beautiful yellow and deep purple in color. Maybe it was the weather or maybe it was everything else that has been going on, but the short story is this: I neglected this little flower for the next four weeks. It stayed out there through wind, rain, a little snow, and even some hail. Yet, last weekend, when I finally got around to planting some flowers outside, I discovered it. After picking off the dead leaves and petals, I was amazed to also discover that it was still alive. I was reminded of something a local farmer from my church once said, “I don’t know how an atheist could be a farmer. Yes, we prepare the soil and plant the seed, but God really takes it from there. I’m not sure how you could do all that without faith in a higher power.” Yes, I thought, God takes care of the crops and the fields, and he even takes care of the smallest flower, just like Jesus said in Matthew 6. Here in his Sermon on the Mount, because of the ill effects of worry, Jesus tells us not to worry about the needs that he has promised to supply. Worry can damage our health, disrupt our productivity, affect how we treat the people around us, and limit our ability to trust God. And there’s a difference between worry and genuine concern. Worry immobilizes us; but concern moves us to action. When worry takes over, remember the words of 1 Peter 5:7, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” Remember that God loves you, he is always with you, and his promises are true and faithful.
Thoughts for Reflection
Reflect: What are two or three things you have a tendency to worry about?
Remind: Write 1 Peter 5:7 on two or three sticky notes. Place them in places where you will see them often as reminders to trust God for your needs.
Grow: Turn these worries over to God in prayer every morning before you begin your day.
In Christ Alone (Virtual Choir #3-Accapella)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RY4CW5pte98 Call to Worship Psalm 66:8-20 (Common English Bible) ll you nations, bless our God! Let the sound of his praise be heard! God preserved us among the living; he didn’t let our feet slip a bit.But you, God, have tested us— you’ve refined us like silver, trapped us in a net, laid burdens on our backs, let other people run right over our heads— we’ve been through fire and water. But you brought us out to freedom! So I’ll enter your house with entirely burned offerings. I’ll keep the promises I made to you, the ones my lips uttered, the ones my mouth spoke when I was in deep trouble.
I will offer the best burned offerings to you along with the smoke of sacrificed rams. I will offer both bulls and goats. Come close and listen, all you who honor God; I will tell you what God has done for me: My mouth cried out to him with praise on my tongue. If I had cherished evil in my heart, my Lord would not have listened. But God definitely listened. He heard the sound of my prayer. Bless God! He didn’t reject my prayer; he didn’t withhold his faithful love from me.
Welcoming the Light of Christ Please join me in welcoming the light of Christ into our midst. \ Recognition of Graduates Emma Hively, graduate of Red Lion Senior High School Alison Miller, graduate of Shippensburg University Daniel Mount, graduate of Pennsylvania State University Branden Reichard, graduate of Red Lion Senior School
Prayer for Our GraduatesBook of Worship 536God of truth and knowledge, by your wisdom we are taught the way and the truth. Bless our graduates as they now finish their course of studies. We thank you for those who taught and worked beside them, and all who supported them along the way. Walk with them as they leave school and move forward in life. Take away any anxiety or confusion of purpose. Strengthen their many talents and skills, instill in them a confidence in the future you plan, where energies may be gathered up and used for the good of all people; for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Pastoral Prayer Thanksgiving & Intercession BOW & 551 Almighty God, you are the shield of the oppressed. Hear us as we pray for the friendless, and the lonely, the tempted and the unbelieving. Be merciful to those who suffer, in body or mind, to those who are in danger or distress, and who have suffered loss. Let your love surround the sick and the aged. Be especially near to those who are passing through the valley of death. May they find eternal light at evening time; through Jesus Christ our Lord.Lord, we now place in your hands all who have been mentioned in your presence here today, and those who quietly remain on our hearts.
Bless them, heal them, and may your will be done in their lives.Almighty and merciful God, from you comes every good and perfect gift. We give you praise and thanks for all your mercies. Your goodness has created us, your bounty has sustained us, your discipline has chastened us, your patience has borne with us, your love has redeemed us. Give us a heart to love and serve you. And enable us to show our thankfulness for all your goodness and mercy by giving up ourselves to your service, and cheerfully submitting in all things to your blessed will; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
New Testament Lesson 1 Peter 3:13-18 (NIV) Gospel Lesson John 14:15-21 (NIV)
Morning Message You’ve Got a FriendLet’s pray. God of Wisdom and Love, bless the reading and receiving of your Word today. Use it to equip us for faithful service in your Kingdom. Amen. On March 13th, a little over two months ago, I had lunch with friends, and did some grocery shopping in East York. I thought I should stock up on some things since I have never been the type to keep a whole lot of food on hand, or toilet paper. This was also the day the Red Lion School District cancelled classes for two weeks. Very quickly as a church, we made the same decision. And as stay-at-home guidelines were put into effect, life in general changed. Work, school, income, the way we grocery shop, the way we eat restaurant food, even things like birthdays, graduations, weddings and funerals had to be done differently.I am saying all of this fully aware that opinions on this matter, the rights and wrongs of it, the legality of it, are all over the board. But that’s not my point today. My point is simply that very suddenly life as we know it changed, and we all had to find a way to deal with.I remember the first couple of weeks I woke up every morning saying to myself, “Is this real? Is this really happening?”
Every single day. Like many of you, I swear I experienced every emotion possible: sadness, depression, anger, frustration and something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.Then a friend of mine shared an article from the Harvard Business Review that gave a name to what I was experiencing, and that name was grief. Most therapists and counselors will tell you that if we can name it, we can find a way to deal with it.The article was an interview with David Kessler, who is considered to be the world’s foremost expert on grief.
I want to share a few quotes from the article: When asked if it was right to call some of what we’re feeling right now grief, he said:“Yes, and we’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”When asked how we can manage all this grief, he shared this advice:“Understanding the stages of grief is a start. But whenever I talk about the stages of grief, I have to remind people that the stages aren’t linear and may not happen in this order. It’s not a map but it provides some scaffolding for this unknown world.
There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally, there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.”Kessler adds that perhaps the most troubling thing about all of this is the open-endedness of it.*
We don’t know when it will end, or what the end will look like. We just don’t know.But naming this as grief has helped me deal with all this change tremendously. Personally, I’ve spent some time waffling between anger, bargaining, and sadness. It all still sets in now and then, just not as often. Just being honest here. I kind of like to do what I like to do. And I only like change if it suits me. But I have, by the grace of God, always came back to acceptance where I can continue to work on a plan and proceed with a new routine.And when I say “by the grace of God”, it’s not a cliché, or something that I say because I’m a pastor and I’m supposed to say nice stuff like that.I mean it with every ounce of my being. Despite the ups and downs, I fully trust God with all of this. We may be facing unknowns, but our Almighty God is not. He already knows the outcome of all of this. He is ultimately in control. I will place my faith and trust in him.
I said this earlier this year as we approached our denomination’s General Conference, which would have been this week. There was, and really still is, the threat of a split for United Methodists. All I know now is that we’re all going to have to live with each other for another year or so. But God knows what will happen. I trust him with that.I said it the first time in 2004 the night before my first cornea transplant. I didn’t know how that surgery would go, or what the result would be. But God did. I trusted him with it.The peace we experience in all the trials of life is because we claim the truth that God is all-knowing and he is in control. Job 12:10 says, “For the life of every living thing is in His hand, and the breath of all humankind.”AND because of what Jesus tells us in our Gospel reading today, “I will not leave you alone. I will not leave you as orphans.” In John 14:15-22, Jesus knew he would soon be leaving his disciples. But he also knew he would remain with them. How could this be possible? Jesus promised that the Advocate—the Spirit of God Himself---would come after Jesus was gone to care for and to guide the disciples.
In John 20:22, the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples just before Jesus ascended to heaven, and in Acts 2, the Spirit was poured out on all believers shortly before Jesus ascends to heaven. And this outpouring of the Holy Spirit continues even now for all who call on the name of Jesus.The Holy Spirit is the very presence of God within all Christians, helping us live as God wants and building Christ’s church on earth. By faith, we can rely on the Spirit’s power each and every day.This means we can rely on the Holy Spirit for comfort and counsel. Scripture tells that as our Advocate, he is our Comforter, our Counselor, and our Encourager. And Jesus promised he would be with us ALWAYS.With the Holy Spirit, we know God is on our side.
The end result of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is deep, lasting peace. Unlike worldly peace, which is often defined as an absence of conflict, this peace is confident assurance in any circumstance. The peace of Christ through the Holy Spirit means we have no need to fear the present or the future. Sin, fear, uncertainty, doubt, and a host of other negative forces are at war within us. The peace that our Holy Spirit Comforter brings restrains every hostile force that can attack us. Sometimes we wish we could know the future so we can prepare for the future. God has chosen not to give us all that knowledge. He’s given us everything we need to live this day and this life. We can trust him to take care of the rest. And we can rest knowing he is with us every step of the way.I want to close with a quote from theologian Henri Nouwen in his book The Life of the Beloved: “My own experience with anguish has been that facing it and living it through is the way to healing. But I cannot do that on my own. I need someone to keep me standing in it, to assure me there is peace beyond the anguish, life beyond death, and love beyond fear.”
That, my friends, is who Jesus promises in the Holy Spirit: a friend and comforter through every storm, and a guide to show us the way. Praise be to God.(*from “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Called Grief”, found at hbr.org on May 13, 2020.)
Prayer of Confession (inspired by Luke 10:26-28, Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:29-31)Jesus said: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Eternal God, we confess that we often do not obey your commands, and that many times, we do things that satisfy our own stubborn and selfish will, and not your perfect, holy will. Jesus said: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But we rebel against that more often than we care to admit, most often because we are worried about our own needs.Forgive us, Loving God, remind us that you provide for our every need, and that you have promised to never leave us as orphans in this world. In Christ’s name. Amen.(silence for personal confession)
Words of Assurance (Titus 3: 4-8)“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.The saying is sure.” Amen.
The Lord’s PrayerLeader: And now, with the confidence of children of God, let us pray as Christ taught us:All: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is inheaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Dismissal with BlessingMatthew 5:14-16 (NIV): “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
May 13, 2020 Devotional: Refined Like Silver Scripture: Psalm 66:10 (NIV), “For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver.” Many years ago, I heard this story at a women’s Bible study. It is called The Refiner’s Fire. “As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: ‘He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.’ (Malachi 3:3) She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, ‘How do you know when the silver is fully refined?’ He smiled at her and answered, ‘Oh, that’s easy — when I see my image in it.’”
Just as fire purifies silver in the refining process, the trials of life refine our character. With God by our side, they bring us new and deeper wisdom, they help us to know the truth versus lies, and they give us the discipline to know what is right and then do it. Above all, these trials help us to realize that life is a gift from God to be cherished, not something to be taken for granted, or feel that we are entitled to.
How do we know God is refining us in this way? It’s because we begin to reflect his truths, his values, and his love more and more. Just as the image of the refiner can be seen more clearly in a piece of purified silver, God’s image can be seen more clearly in us.
Prayer for the Day Creator God, you are faithful and loving. You care for us in both the blessings and the trials of life. Continue to purify me during the difficult times, so that I reflect you and your love; that others may see the Light of Christ and be drawn to his love and salvation. Amen. In His Service, Pastor Kim
Call to WorshipThe spirit of God calls us from many places; some of us come from busy homes with many people some of us live alone. We are a part of the family. This week has been different for each of us; some of us have had happy news we want to celebrate some of us have faced grief and need to cry. We are members of God’s family. Yet we all come to this same place; all of us seeking God’s presence in our lives all of us seeking God’s presence with each other. Together we become God’s family.(*written by Katherine Hawker, on her Liturgy Outside the Box website)
Opening Prayer for Mother’s DayGood and Gentle God,we pray in gratitude for our mothersand for all the women who have joined with youin the wonder of bringing forth new life.You who became human through a woman,grant to all mothers the courage they needto face the uncertain future that life with children always brings.
Give them the strength to live and to be loved in return,not perfectly, but humanly.Give them the faithful support of spouse, family and friendsas they care for the physical and spiritual growth of their children.Give them joy and delight in their childrento sustain them through the challenges of motherhood.Most of all, give them the wisdom to turn to you for helpwhen they need it most. And for each of us, Creator God, grant the same strength to live and love for you, and the wisdom to turn to you for help when we need it most. In Christ’s name. Amen.(*author unknown. Posted on Jesuit Resource website.)
New Testament Lesson Acts 7:55-60 (NIV)Gospel Lesson John 14:1-14 (NIV)Morning Message Two Choices
In Acts 6, we read the story of a complaint in the early church. Jesus had died and risen again for people of all nationalities and all walks of life. The Good News of salvation in Jesus was being preached to everyone. So, by this time there were Christians of both Jewish nationality and non-Jewish nationality. The problem was that the Jews in charge of food distribution to the widows in the community were giving preference to the Jewish widows and the widows who were not Jewish were being neglected.When the complaint reached the disciples, they decided they couldn’t do everything. They couldn’t preach the Gospel, spend time in prayer, tend to the spiritual needs of the people AND take care of every other area of ministry.So, they formed what we would call a Health and Welfare Committee.
And because this situation, and ongoing ministry, had to be handled with great care, with no one being neglected, the disciples chose people who met specific requirements. Verse 3 tells us those chosen were to be individuals known as men “full of the Holy Spirit and full of wisdom.”This is where we meet Stephen, the first Christian on record to be martyred for his faith. Stephen met all the requirements. In verse 5 he is described as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” Verse 8 tells us he is “a man full of God’s grace and power who performed great wonders and signs among the people.”And very quickly, Stephen would prove to be a man who would not waver from his faith in Christ regardless of the consequences. In our Gospel reading Jesus says this, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” He tells his disciples he is leaving them, that he will send the Holy Spirit in his place and he will come back some day and get them. He tells them while he is gone, he will prepare an eternal home for them. He assures them he is the Way the Truth and the Life: the only way to God.Jesus’ words show that the way to eternal life, though unseen, is secure---as secure as your trust in Jesus. He has already prepared the way for you. The only issue that may still be unsettled is your willingness to believe.
But let’s consider the phrase “believe in me” for a minute. When Jesus told his disciples to believe in God and also in him, he was not talking about a mere belief in God’s existence. He was not talking about believing there is a higher power that had set the world in motion. The old man with the long white beard up there somewhere observing this whole crazy planet. As Scripture says, even the devil knows God exists. Besides, that kind of belief is not likely to result in the commitment Jesus asks of his followers.Jesus is talking about a belief in which a person places all their trust in God, of committing your life to God, and of consenting to God’s laws and commands. In everything.
Regardless of the outcome. Regardless of the challenges and ridicule you will most certainly face. Because if you don’t face any challenges as a Christian, if everything is going pretty smoothly, then you probably aren’t doing something right where your Christian walk is concerned.Jesus was talking ultimately about faith like Stephen had: unwavering, unafraid, a faith in which you do not back down from your belief in Christ even unto death. Tradition tells us that Stephen was stoned in AD 35, two years after Jesus’ death. (Side note: A young Pharisee named Saul witnessed this (Acts 7:58) and soon set out on his own crusade against the early church. Although very quickly he had his own conversion to the faith on the road to Damascus and became Paul the Apostle, who also died a martyr’s death.) After Stephen’s death, persecution against the church continued until the fourth century. Stephen, and many more believers, most certainly had the kind of belief that Jesus was talking about in John 14. These people consented to God’s will as Christ had done: even unto death.
Hebrews 11:33-40 describes these folks as people who “through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
That’s what Jesus meant when he said “Believe in God. Believe also in Me.” Place your trust in me no matter what. Put me first. Make me, and only me the Lord of your life. Have faith that I will take care of you. Live a sacrificial life for me. Because I’ll be with you every step of the way AND we will share a beautiful eternity together. And this life, though it seems long and painful at times, is only a drop in the bucket compared to what is yet to come.That’s the kind of belief in Christ that Stephen and many others had in the early church. And truly, Christians are being brutally persecuted in countries around the world even today. This kind of belief, this kind of faith, is only possible when you fully trust in Jesus and all he has promised in Scripture.
That’s the first lesson in the story of Stephen.But there’s a second lesson that I think we miss in this passage and that is the lesson we learn from the people who killed him.If you look at the things that led up to Stephen being stoned to death, you’ll see beginning in Acts 6:9 that opposition arose from members of the Synagogue of Freedmen, AKA the Synagogue of Former Slaves. If you remember your Old Testament, you’ll remember that the Jewish nation, AKA the Israelites, were a nation of former slaves, thus the name of the synagogue. They were a nation oppressed by Pharaoh in Egypt, and led to freedom by a man named Moses hundreds of years prior to this.The members of this synagogue didn’t like the followers of Jesus. In particular, they didn’t like Stephen.
Maybe it was because as verse 10 tells us “they couldn’t stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.” The wisdom and voice of the Holy Spirit in compelling and undeniable in the hearts of both believers and unbelievers.When they couldn’t out-argue Stephen, they brought false charges against him. And in Acts 7 when asked if the charges were true in front of the Jewish leaders, Stephen launched into a dissertation of the history of their people all the way back to their father Abraham. As he worked his way through Moses, Joshua, and the prophets, Stephen’s main point was that as often as God had rescued them, they just as often failed God as his chosen people. Time and time again they fell into sin. But God always rescued and forgave them.
Time and time again, they had failed to see that salvation was always about their faith in God and never about their meaningless sacrifices and traditions.Stephen ends by saying this in Acts 7:51-53, “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute?
They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”The blood of the Messiah is on your hands. You’re just like your ancestors. And with this, the Jewish leaders had had enough and Stephen was stoned to death.What does this have to do with you and me? What do we learn from this?Here’s the thing: Stephen confronted the Jewish leaders with the truth. He was falsely accused of speaking lies against the synagogue and the Law. But given his day in court, Stephen spoke the truth. And the truth was that they were just like their ancestors.
And while the truth may indeed set us free, it is just as likely to make some people angry, and that’s exactly what happened here.That’s our second lesson: Two Choices. When faced with the truth about the sin in our life we have two choices: we can repent and turn back to God or we can harden our heart against God.If we face the truth and turn to God with a repentant heart, the Bible tells us he is faithful and just to forgive us.If we chose to turn away from the truth we are confronted with, our hearts will become hardened like those who killed Stephen, or like the Pharaoh in Egypt. For the Pharaoh, each plague left him with an even harder heart, and the end result was personal and national devastation.For us, the more we reject God and his commands, the more we turn away from his will for our lives, the harder our hearts will be, too, resulting in a life of frustration, anger, and bitterness.Friends, we may never face persecution and martyrdom like Stephen did. I pray not. But we face challenges and temptations every day. Daily we make choices that either honor God’s commands or they don’t. Sometimes we know God is asking us to do something, or asking us to sacrifice something for him.
And just like the people who stoned Stephen, just like Pharaoh, sometimes we fail God, too. It is then that we also have two choices: we can turn to him for forgiveness, or we can walk away with a hardened heart. I pray that we all are challenged by the story of Stephen to continually turn to God and live a life believing in Christ, a life where we trust him for everything, each step of the way.
As a response to the Word, and as a reminder of your faith, I invite you to join me now in the Apostle’s Creed. The Apostle’s CreedI believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried;* the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic** church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
The Lord’s PrayerLeader: And now, with the confidence of children of God, let’s close together with the prayer Christ taught us:All: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is inheaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. Commission & Benediction (inspired by Deut. 30:15-20, Matt. 5: 37)God has placed before you life & death, blessings & curses. Therefore choose life, follow God’s way. Go now, and be a people of reconciliation and integrity. Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” “no”.
And in all the paths you walk may God hold you steady and close. May Christ Jesus bless you and every place you enter. And may the Spirit give you length of days and fullness of life.
We are now living in a world that is strange to us. We can’t do what we normally want (and like) to do. For some this means not being able to go to work. For others it means not being able to be with your grandchildren. For still others it means not visiting loved ones in nursing homes. I think it is safe to say that for most of us, COVID-19 has taken away a piece of our everyday lives. This is temporary but it’s still challenging.The good news is that it has not taken away who we are as God’s people. It does not take anything away from who we are as a church.No pandemic can ever do that. In fact, nothing can. We still have the same job we’ve always had; the one Christ gave us as he ascended to the Father.
That is to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you.” (Matt.28:19-20)The Apostle Paul said this in Ephesians 20:24, “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”
The Apostle Paul was saying this: because you are a child of God, and because of your identity in Christ, your life has purpose and meaning. Regardless of your situation, worshipping and serving God, and sharing his love, is your ultimate purpose in life. Paul was the missionary God called to take the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. Paul accepted this calling and he never wavered on it regardless of his circumstances. Paul didn’t live through a global health crisis, but he did endure shipwrecks, beatings, and imprisonment. But none of these things caused him to lose faith, and nothing prevented him from sharing the Good News of Jesus with those he met.
Be blessed today knowing that God loves you and has entrusted you with an important assignment. And he has promised to empower you through his Holy Spirit to fulfill it no matter what obstacles you face.In His Service,Pastor Kim Prayer for the DayGracious God, you are faithful and loving. Empower me to stay focused on your work, and strengthen me to fulfill it; so that others may know your love and salvation through Jesus Christ. In His name. Amen
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Scripture John 10:1-10 (NIV)
Sermon The Good Shepherd When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time at my Grandma and Pap Cartwright’s house. We lived across the field from them, about as far away as I am from the chicken farm here. And in the late afternoon, you would often find me and my grandfather watching westerns on television. We watched Gunsmoke, and the Big Valley, and of course, we watched Bonanza, the show with the family whom my family shares a name with. Those Cartwrights lived on a big ranch called the Ponderosa. On that ranch one of their big concerns (besides the sons and their constant problems with women) was rustlers: cattle rustlers and sheep rustlers. Because it seemed that no matter how many ranch hands you had, and no matter how good of watch you kept, there were always a couple sneaky rustlers finding their way onto your property trying to take what didn’t belong to them. Sheep rustling wasn’t something new to the Old West. This is a crime that’s been around, I imagine, ever since there have been herds of sheep. In fact, it still goes on today. A recent report claims that it is still a problem out west. The only difference they say, is that in the New West, you can’t hang a rustler from a tree like you could in the Old West. In Jesus’ day, sheep farming was a popular occupation. Sheep were an important commodity is the biblical Middle East. So, as you can imagine, sheep rustling was a problem then, too. That’s why the shepherd was such an important person. When you think about it, sheep really give everything they have. Sheep provide milk, meat, and wool. Their skins can be processed into soft leather. Thanks to modern technology, lanolin is extracted from their wool, and lanolin is used in everything from cosmetics to pharmaceuticals, to motor oil. Sheep make contributions to medicine and research. In fact, scientists are using wool proteins to create new wound dressings, bone graft implants, and medical sutures. But here’s the thing, without the shepherd, they might not be able to do any of that. Like I said, in Bible times, the shepherd was of utmost importance and the shepherd, too, was giving his all ……for the sake of the sheep. At night, sheep were gathered into a sheepfold to protect them from thieves, weather, or wild animals. Sheepfolds were usually caves, sheds, or open areas surrounded by walls of stones or branches. The shepherd often slept across the doorway of the fold to protect his sheep. So, the shepherd wasn’t just the shepherd, but he also functioned as the gate to the fold. This helps us understand what Jesus was saying in our Gospel reading today. In John 10:1-10, Jesus uses sheep and shepherding as a metaphor to teach the people about himself. In the passage, he refers to himself as both the Good Shepherd (verse 11) and the Gate (verse7), which I have always found to be kind of curious. But when you think about it, this is true because the shepherd served as both to his flock. Interesting fact about sheep: a sheep that has not been clipped, if it ends up on its back, cannot get up on its own no matter how hard it tries. It takes the shepherd with his trust crook (Psalm 23 calls it his rod and staff) to get a hold of the sheep and flip it back up on its feet again. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, does the same thing for us when we get flipped over and out of sorts. Jesus reigns us in and flips us back on our feet again. That’s a good thing, and something we should always be thankful for. Because just like the rustlers and robbers who try to sneak into the sheepfold to steal the sheep, we, as God’s children are always in danger of the things that try to steal our peace and joy. This passage was talking about the false prophets and teachers of the day who preached lies instead of the truth. We need to be aware that there are still false teachers out there today. This is why we need to be in God’s Word regularly, so we recognize a lie when we hear it. But we also need to guard our hearts of other “thieves and robbers” that steal our joy in the end. We need to be aware of the things that pull us away from God. Scripture talks about such things:
Romans 12:22, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Hebrews 12:2 tells us instead of making the things of the world….money, material things, popularity, power….anything that gets in front of our relationship with God as top priority…we should be “fixing our attention on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of the faith, who, in view of the joy set before him, endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus Himself said in Luke 12:15, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness (don’t be always wishing you had other people’s stuff), for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
The beautiful thing is that when we get our priorities mixed up, and let other things get ahead of God in our lives, (and we will), Jesus is still our Good Shepherd. He is still the Gate that guards our heart, and when we turn to Him, he will lovingly flip us back upright again. A few passages talk about Jesus as our Good Shepherd. Perhaps none more beautifully that Psalm 23, written by David, himself a former shepherd boy. I want to read it to you from the Message version of Scripture today. Psalm 23, “God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure. You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.” “Jesus, you let me catch my breath, you revive my drooping head, you send me in the right direction. I feel secure with you beside me.” In describing the Lord as our shepherd, David wrote out his own experience because he had spent his younger years caring for sheep. Sheep are completely dependent on the shepherd for protection, provision, and guidance. As the Lord is our Good Shepherd, so we are his sheep. This doesn’t mean we are passive, frightened animals. It means we are obedient followers who are wise enough to follow the one who will lead us to right places and in right ways. This psalm isn’t about the animal-like qualities of sheep, but about the discipleship qualities of those who follow. So when you recognize the Good Shepherd, follow Him! When we allow God, our shepherd to guide us, we find contentment. When we don’t, when we decide to go our own way, we cannot blame God for the circumstances we find ourselves in. Remind yourself of this the next time you are tempted to go your own way, instead of the Shepherd’s way. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.