Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Live Out Your Faith-- sermon from September 9th from James 2:1-17

During the month of September I am preaching from James.  I like the book of James.  I taught it once at a middle school after school Bible Study and I did a study for one my Ordination paperwork.  I have preached it some too.

This post will include the sermon and one song from worship at one of the churches.  I also recorded the sermon for the first time (outside of requirements) and have attached that at the bottom of the post.  It is from the 2nd service.

The opening song we sang at Flintstone UMC was "New Wine" by Hillsong:

                                                         (longer version than what we sang)



“Live Out Your Faith”
James 2:1-17 (MSG)
September 9, 2018 (16th Sunday after Pentecost)
Flintstone UMC, Simpson UMC

James 2:1-17 (MSG)

1-4 My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?
5-7 Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?

8-11 You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.

12-13 Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.

14-17 Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
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THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
THANKS BE TO GOD.
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I chose the Message for today’s reading because often it helps us to hear and read the Scriptures in a version different than the one we read daily.  If you read the Message translation daily, it wasn’t different for you today and you might consider reading today’s passage in the NLT or CEB later.

The lectionary passage allows us to omit verses 11-13, however, by doing that we don’t have the flow, so I chose to keep it.

The author begins in verse 1 by saying, “My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out your glorious, Christ-originated faith.”  That statement by itself could take an entire sermon. How often do we allow others to influence how we are living out our glorious, Christ-originated faith?  May God help each of us to live out our faith under the sole influence of Christ.  Amen?

The next several verses go on to give us a scenario in a church setting where there is the possibility of showing favoritism or partiality.  If we are honest with God and ourselves, then those verses can help us see inside our motives and actions. 

In verse 5, we hear/see that God operates quite differently.  This is a very good thing.  If it were up to us, we would likely live inside our comfort zones, but we are reminded that the kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God.  The Royal Rule of Scripture is: “Love others as you love yourself.” 

In verses 8-11, we are reminded that we contradict that Royal Rule if we give precedence to others or if we are influenced by others in our faith instead of by Christ.  Verses 12-13 exhort us on how we are to live:

12-13 Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.

What does this mean for us as followers of Christ who are seeking to grow as disciples of Christ, to be transformed so that we can make other disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world?

It means that as we love others as ourselves, we are set free.  It means that kindness, compassion, and love win. Kind mercy wins.

It takes quite a bit of energy to allow kindness, compassion, and love at times, especially when we are tired or hungry.  Have you seen those Snickers commercials where the people just aren’t themselves and they are given a Snickers bar and they become themselves again?  When we need to show kindness, compassion, and love to others, we need to make sure that we are spending time in spiritual practices that are filling us up—prayer, reading Scripture, silence, solitude, fasting, worship, Holy Communion, and other practices such as spending time in creation, journaling, prayer walking, play, rest.  If we are not allowing ourselves to receive kindness, compassion, and love from ourselves or God, then we will not be able to offer it to others.  As we receive and give, there is freedom. 

Verses 12-13 remind me of one of my favorite verses, Micah 6:8.  It has been a life verse for many years.  I first memorized it in an older NIV:  “He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”   On a church sign in Red Bank that I pass several times a week after PT (physical therapy), they have two of the three commandments: “act justly, love mercy”.  There wasn’t room for the third: walk humbly with God.  Just as the greatest commandments: love God and love others as yourself sum up how we are to live, so does Micah 6:8.

In verses 14-17 of today’s passage, if we haven’t felt the conviction yet, we do here.

It begins: “Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it?”

That is one of those moments that is either an “ouch” or an “amen” moment, depending on where you are at the time.

One of my colleagues posted a quote this week that caused me to reflect on James and putting our faith into action.

"I would like to buy three dollars’ worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy three dollars’ worth of God, please."(Tim Hansel, When I Relax I Feel Guilty, 1979)

Sometimes we want just enough of God to get by.  How do we break out of that to live more abundantly, to live into the freedom that God has for us?

It comes as we live out our God-talk with God-acts.

As we love God, love people, and live like Jesus, our faith becomes action.

As we reflect on today’s passage, may we be the kinds of people who are influenced by Christ and not others as we seek to grow as individuals and as a church.

May we not stop at what we’ve already done to put our faith into action, but rather daily seek opportunities to love God, love people, and live like Jesus.

May we, as individuals and as a church body, be open to the moving of the Holy Spirit to help us be people who keep growing in our relationships with God and one another.

May it be so.

Amen.

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If you'd like to hear a recording of the sermon, you can click here (.wav) or here (.mp3).

Because I mention the Snickers commercials, I thought I would put one here.  There are many to choose from and finding one to go here wasn't that easy.  I chose to go with one of the more recent ones with Elton John attempting to rap.



Church sign in Red Bank, TN that has 2/3 of Micah 6:8

Thanks to Steve McDaniel for converting my .wav file to .mp3.  Community working together to make things happen for the good of all and the glory of God is a beautiful thing.

Maybe there will be something that meets you in this post where you are on your journey and encourages you.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Be Strengthened by the Lord-- August 26th sermon from Ephesians 6:10-20

The sermon for August 26th was different in that I preached from sticky notes.  It wasn't the first time.  In fact I have preached several times from sticky notes.  I tend to preach from sticky notes at Fort Oglethorpe more often than at the other locations, though I think I may have done it at Flintstone, maybe. 

I tend to preach from sticky notes when the sermon stays stuck inside me all week, swirling around. When it doesn't come out on paper, it goes on to sticky notes.

That is what happened this past week.  Sometimes it happens because there are other things going on in life, mission, and ministry and the pipes just don't get cleared up sufficiently to get it out.  At other times, it just seems to be a wrestling act with the Holy Spirit.  Regardless, I try to study and prepare all I can and allow the Holy Spirit to help me put it together and get it out of me, whether it gets out onto paper or sticky notes. 

No matter what form it gets out onto, the Holy Spirit is still in charge of how it is presented in the moment and things continue to change during the preaching of the message.

That is one of the things that gives me life about preaching-- that the Holy Spirit breathes into it, breathes into me.  It isn't about me. 

I will share my notes and a quote I shared from yesterday.  I will share the bulletin cover. I will share some reflections about the special music, which dovetailed nicely with the service.

The Call to Worship came from Nancy Townley, who writes for the UMC.  Her "Calls to Worship" can be found on Ministry Matters, in the Worship Connection.

Yesterday's Call to Worship was #4 for August 26, 2018:

Call to Worship #4

L: Whom do you seek here in this place?
P: We seek God, the Creator, who brought us to life.
L: Who has told you of God?
P: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, has shown us the love of God through his life.
L: Discipleship is difficult. Are you ready?
P: We want to be ready. Lord, strengthen and sustain us this day. AMEN.
The songs that we sang during the service were: "Standing on the Promises" from the UMH (United Methodist Hymnal) #374, "Who You Say I Am" (by Hillsong), "You Are My All in All" (by Dennis Jernigan), and "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" UMH #140.

If you'd like to sing (or listen to any of those songs, you can check out the links below.





The Special Music feature was "The Master's Touch" by Carson and Evelyn Madwell, assisted by Gail Coleman.  Carson did a recitation of "The Master's Touch" while Evelyn played the violin and Gail played the guitar.  It was a beautiful and touching piece.  I had heard the song many times, but not a recitation of the piece in this way.  We were blessed.

Carson and Evelyn Madwell, Gail Coleman
"The Touch of the Master's Hand" was written by Myra Brooks Welch in 1921. It was sung by Bill Anderson and many others, but it was made popular on Christian radio by Wayne Watson.

One link that tells how she wrote this is found here.


'Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile:
"What am I bidden, good folks," he cried,
"Who'll start the bidding for me?"
"A dollar, a dollar"; then, "Two!" "Only two?
Two dollars, and who'll make it three?
Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
Going for three----" But no,
From the room, far back, a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loose strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet
As a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said: "What am I bid for the old violin?"
And he held it up with the bow.
"A thousand dollars, and who'll make it two?
Two thousand! And who'll make it three?
Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice,
And going, and gone," said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
"We do not quite understand
What changed its worth." Swift came the reply:
"The touch of a master's hand."

And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,
Much like the old violin.
A "mess of pottage," a glass of wine;
A game--and he travels on.
He is "going" once, and "going" twice,
He's "going" and almost "gone."
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that's wrought
By the touch of the Master's hand.



Bulletin Cover Image and take away card image
Bulletin


10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength. 11 Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. 12 We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. 13 Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. 14 So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate, 15 and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. 16 Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.
18 Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers. 19 As for me, pray that when I open my mouth, I’ll get a message that confidently makes this secret plan of the gospel known.20 I’m an ambassador in chains for the sake of the gospel. Pray so that the Lord will give me the confidence to say what I have to say.
My sermon notes:  (Even though these notes come from my sticky notes, please recognize that what was shared in the message would not be exactly what you see here.  I expounded quite a bit.)

"The version you choose to read will help you focus sometimes on different words or phrases.  I initially read from the CEB-- thus the title from verse 10.  In the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version), the phrase in verse 10 is "be strong in the Lord".  The preposition change is slight, from "by" to "in", yet it changes the meaning.

How many of you are familiar with this passage?  Being familiar with a passage can sometimes cause us to tune it out.

How many of you pray it daily?  Especially verses 13-18?

Why would we want to pray these verses?  Why would we want to be ready and/or strengthened?"

[Share an example here from France.] [Quote from Feasting on the Word.]
[I shared a little about how this was meaningful to me as a descendant of French Huguenots.]

"Just one day after France surrendered toe Nazi Germany, a pastor preached to a small village congregation with a prophetic vision that "The responsibility of Christians is to resist the violence that will be brought to bear on their consciences through the weapons of the Spirit.  These Huguenots would provide sanctuary for 5,000 Jews. They discovered the Pauline "weapons of the Spirit". Christians can be awakened to weapons of the Spirit such as prayer (v. 18), Christian truth (v. 14), and the Spirit (v. 17b)" (Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 3, 379.

[Below you will find a movie clip of the Le Chambon movie.]You can search for other historical and documentary clips on YouTube.]




                                   Movie Trailer to Le Chambon: La Colline aux mille enfants

More notes from the sticky notes:

"Putting on new humanity. [talked about getting dressed, uniforms from Scouts, teams, military, martial arts.  I mentioned my TKD (TaeKwonDo uniform].  How can these "weapons" become life-giving?  Not just for you personally, but for those around you, so that you are equipped as a disciple to make disciples for the transformation of the world?"


As I am going back over the sticky notes and finishing up today, it has been a couple of weeks since I gave this sermon.  I started this blog the day after, but have had many other things going on in life.  Though I preached from the sticky notes, it was still a fairly full sermon.  I attribute that to the Holy Spirit.  

I don't know what you might get from this blog post, but there is certainly Scripture and history here.

May you find something here to encourage, bless, and strengthen you.

Blessings on your journey, 

Debra

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Be Filled With the Spirit-- August 19th sermon from Ephesians 5:15-20

I'm still catching up with posting this month's sermons.

While staying on top of preparing for this week's sermons, pastoral care, self-care, PT (physical therapy), family, meetings, and all kinds of things that keep popping up.

How has your week been?  Mine?  In many ways it has been a week full of Mondays.  I don't know why Monday gets the bad reputation, but it does.  With this morning's beautiful weather-- temps in the mid 60s (F) and breezes, I thought it was going to be good. That was until the local electric power board (EPB) hunted me down on three different phone numbers to give me a courtesy call that my power was going to be cut off later today at our other location.  I had to stop everything and figure out why this was going to happen.  Somehow our payment didn't make it to them.  Life can sometimes be a huge "ugh", can't it?!?!

But, then, there are days and moments in which we get to have deep and meaningful conversations with folks about life.  Sometimes those conversations happen without words.

But, I digress.

My goal for this post is to share this past Sunday's sermon with you.  I also want to share some of the songs that were sung/played in the services.

Below you will find the bulletin covers, the sermon, and some links to some songs.  As always, what is shared and preached in the moment isn't necessarily what you will find in the words below.  What you receive from the Holy Spirit may be totally different, even if you heard it once before.  Who knows.  May the Holy Spirit meet you where you are, draw you close, renew and fill you.
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“Be Filled With the Spirit”
Ephesians 5:15-20 (NLT)
August 19, 2018 (13th Sunday after Pentecost)
Flintstone UMC, Simpson UMC

Ephesians 5:15-20 (NLT) [New Living Translation]

15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
THANKS BE TO GOD.
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Last week’s passage helped us to understand what it meant to be an imitator of God, from Ephesians 4:25-5:2.  I encourage you to take some time to look at that passage and/or read the sermon from last week as this week builds upon it.

A few things from last week:

Being an imitator of God means living a transformed life of love.

There were quite a few dos and don’ts from last week.

Did anything stick with you over the week?

In today’s passage, there are a few more dos and don’ts.

Verse 15 reminds us to be careful how we live.  We are to not live as fools, but to live wisely.  In verse 16, we see that we are to make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. We can all agree that we making the most of every opportunity is good.  We may miss a few things along the way, but there is grace for those times.  As for these “evil days”, we can read and/or watch the news and all name something evil.  Yet, that isn’t the focus.  Notice that the focus is for us to make the most of every opportunity in the midst of whatever else is going on.

Verse 17 challenges us to not act thoughtlessly, but to understand what the Lord wants us to do.  We talk about that quite a bit, don’t we?  Just two weeks ago, we talked about “What Is God’s Goal for Us?”  When it comes to the bottom line of what God would want us to do, it would be to love God and to love others.  But how we are to live that out differs day to day, doesn’t it?  How we make the most of every opportunity, how we are to live wisely, how we imitate God.  These are moment by moment and day by day decisions that we make individually and corporately, as a church.

As we reflect on verse 17, thinking about what the Lord wants us to do, where do you dream and vision some next steps of reaching out to the community?

For Flintstone—The upcoming Valley Fest in September is a great way for us to be visible in community, along with the Scouts, simply by having a table at the Valley Fest.  We show up, we greet community, we blow bubbles with the kids or do other games, we talk to the adults, we hand out bookmarks, or whatever is decided.  Something to consider.

For Simpson—The upcoming Block Party at the end of August is a great way for us to be visible in community.  I know that Gayle Hawkins is already making plans to be at the Rossville Athletic Center with some folks to hand out Simpson pens and bookmarks.  A Simpson sign will identify the church.  It will be a great opportunity to talk with people and get to know them, letting them know Simpson UMC cares. 

Another way we could make a difference on this corner at Simpson is to turn that back fenced in lot into something for us and community.  Many of you remember the dilapidated and dangerous playground that was taken down. The fence around the grass remains there.  What if the fence came down, a pavilion went up with a couple of picnic tables and a bench or two?  That would be a great place for Simpson folks and for community folks.  A place for people to sit, eat, talk, have shade, shelter, to come together.  The beauty of such a project like this is that it really wouldn’t cost the church anything because when the fence got hit by a car, there was insurance money that came in. 
There have been other visions of raised community gardens shared with me that could go on several areas of the property, another project that would be beneficial to people in the community.

It’s a matter of praying and discerning how we can make a difference with what we have, using what we’ve been given, where we are.

Verse 18 goes on to tell us to not be drunk with wine, but rather be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Many will take this verse and focus on it as an admonition to not get drunk.  As we focus on the filling of the Holy Spirit, I remind us that Scripture can be taken literally or metaphorically.  Richard Ward, a professor of preaching at Iliff School of Theology in Denver points out that this passage, and especially verse 18 reminds the church to focus on its vocation.  He notes that “the church of Jesus Christ would be so foolish as to miss what the will of God for it is.” (Feasting on the Word, 355)  He also states “When the church is out of touch with its vocation, it moves through these evil times as one who is intoxicated---satiated and reeling, engaging in regrettable behaviors.” (Feasting on the Word, 355)

How are we to be filled with the Spirit?  Verse 19 tells us to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. As a church and as individuals, we are seeking to grow in our spiritual formation and maturity in these ways and through other spiritual practices of study, prayer, worship, communion, fasting, etc.

The last verse reminds us that we are to give thanks for everything to God.  That is a way of giving back, a way to remind us of our focus.

Two hymns came across my path in my studies this week.  One was unknown to me.  “Love Each Other” by WilliamJ. Henry, written in 1900, reminds us of our vocation as a church. The refrain:

“Kind and loving to each other,
Gentle words to all we meet:
Thus we follow Christ our Savior,
Proving all His service sweet.”

The second one, “Fill My Cup”, was written by a UMC Pastor, Richard Blanchard in 1959.  Though we only have the refrain in the UMC hymnal (#641) and use it primarily for communion.

Hear the refrain:

Fill my cup, Lord;
I lift it up Lord;
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul.
Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole
.

1--Like the woman at the well, I was seeking
For things that could not satisfy.
And then I heard my Savior speaking—
“Draw from My well that never shall run dry.”

2--There are millions in this world who are seeking
For pleasures earthly goods afford.
But none can match the wondrous treasure
That I find in Jesus Christ my Lord.
3--So my brother if the things that this world gives you
Leave hungers that won’t pass away,
My blessed Lord will come and save you
If you kneel to Him and humbly pray—

The stanzas are rich. I want you to get to know a little about Richard Blanchard. This came from the UMC History of Hymns webpage:

Blanchard’s parents were Methodist missionaries in China, where he was born in 1925. When the family returned to the United States, he grew up in Depression-era Indiana, then came south to North Carolina, where his father was an Army chaplain during World War II. Blanchard attended Davidson College and graduated from Mercer University. He met his wife, Anne, who was a student at Wesleyan College in Macon. He then went to seminary at the Candler School of Theology. Ordained an elder in 1950, he transferred from the North Georgia Conference to the Florida Conference, serving United Methodist congregations there until his retirement in 1988.
Blanchard’s own cup was not filled with sweetness. A lung condition required two surgeries and left him with one-third of normal lung capacity. His son, Richard, was left a quadriplegic at seventeen after an accident. And after Blanchard and his wife moved to North Carolina in 2000 to be near their three grown children, they experienced their son’s death and the fatal illness of one of their daughters.
Nevertheless, during his forty-year ministry, Blanchard composed dozens of gospel hymns, wrote a musical about Francis of Assisi, produced a regular newspaper column, wrote a biography of Bishop John Branscomb, and launched a popular television ministry in the Miami area."
This was not a person who had it easy. 

Most of us don’t have it easy.

It is in the difficult times that we have the opportunity to grow.

In fact, this song was born out of a moment of frustration, of killing time while waiting for a couple to come to his office for premarital counseling.  They were running late and he was annoyed, so he went to the piano, stating to the secretary that if they weren’t there in thirty minutes, he was gone.
Where do you find yourself needing to be filled with the Spirit today?  May you be filled to overflowing so that you are able to be a disciple that makes disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.


Amen.

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More history on "Fill My Cup" found here.

Songs at FUMC:

"Holy Spirit"


"Spirit of Faith Come Down"          UMH # 332



"Spirit Song"                                   UMH # 347

(Even though I was supposed to be leaving right about here in the service, I stayed for a few moments to worship with this song and was filled and blessed.)




"Jesus is All the World to Me"        UMH # 469       (verse 4)



Two of the songs from SUMC:

"Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart"   UMH #500



"Take Time to Be Holy"                               UMH  #395

Monday, August 20, 2018

Be Imitators of God-- August 12th sermon from Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Last week's sermon (8/12) continued the Ephesians message and was "Be Imitators of God".  During the week I felt led to do something different during the Benediction and after a conversation, decided to go for it.

At the end of the service I went down in front of the altar railing (as is normal when I stay at Flintstone).  But then I gave instructions for everyone to move from their pews to form a circle around the section of pews to my left, allowing some who needed to stay seated on the back pew to do so.  I mentioned that as they were moving to get in place, the song that was coming up on the screen was "They Will Know We Are Christians".  I asked them to join in with the chorus or more if they knew it.  The version I chose included Scripture throughout the video.  Though I had intended to used invitational language and invite rather than instruct, all joined in, except our next to youngest, who was in the middle of us all.  Usually he participates in everything from helping with the offering and giving out hugs.  But last week he stayed put.  The beauty of the moment was that, he, too, was in the circle.

At the end of the sermon, there will be a link to the song used for the benediction, as well as the song used at the beginning of worship, "Unfinished" by Mandisa. 

Here is the sermon, with the reminder that things were added or taken away.

Maybe there is something here to encourage you.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

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“Be Imitators of God”
Ephesians 4: 25-5:2 (CEB)
August 12, 2018 (12th Sunday after Pentecost)
Flintstone UMC

Ephesians 4: 25-5:2 (CEB)

25 Therefore, after you have gotten rid of lying, Each of you must tell the truth to your neighbor  because we are parts of each other in the same body. 26 Be angry without sinning. Don’t let the sun set on your anger. 27 Don’t provide an opportunity for the devil. 28 Thieves should no longer steal. Instead, they should go to work, using their hands to do good so that they will have something to share with whoever is in need.
29 Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say. 30 Don’t make the Holy Spirit of God unhappy—you were sealed by him for the day of redemption. 31 Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander, along with every other evil. 32 Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.
Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrificial offering that smelled sweet to God.
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THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
THANKS BE TO GOD.
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It sounds fairly simple, doesn’t it?  Be imitators of God.  Do what God does.  Live like God.  Act like God.  How simple is it? 

Today’s passage provides us with practical ways we can imitate God, ways in which we can live out godly action.  The passage starts off in 4:25 and begin to close in 5:1 with “therefore”.  Anytime you see a “therefore” in a verse, you want to ask yourself, ‘what’s it there for?’

Immediately prior to the beginning of the passage,  in verses 23 and 24, the apostle had told them, “renew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit 24 and clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness.”  The first “therefore” leads into how to go about this transformation.  The second “therefore” follows all the ways to be imitators of God and reiterates once again what to be, how, and why.  The importance of the transformed life is highlighted here for us.
Let’s go through the passage again and see what things might help us be imitators of God.  Note that there is a mix of “dos” and “don’ts”.  What catches your attention most today?

--Get rid of lying.

--Tell the truth to our neighbor.

--Be angry without sinning. Wait.  Does that mean it’s okay to be angry?  Yes.  It’s what we do with our anger, how we act on it, what we allow it to do to ourselves and others that makes it not okay.  Notice that the passage reminds us to keep a short leash on anger—“don’t let the sun go down  (or set) on your anger.” This is to keep us from allowing it to fester or for bitterness to set in.  If we practice dealing with our anger and frustrations, then we are less likely to take it to the next level.

--Don’t provide an opportunity for the devil.  (This can go with the anger or stand on its own.)

--Don’t steal.

--Work.

--Don’t allow foul words to come out of your mouth.

--Only say what is helpful for building up the community. (Are you familiar with the expression, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”?  It sounds similar to these two put together, doesn’t it?)

--Don’t make the Holy Spirit unhappy.  (Though it doesn’t give details here, we get that we’re not to…..)

--Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander… and every other kind of evil (in case you were looking for a loophole.)

If these are mostly the don’ts  and what NOT to do, then, how are we to IMITATE God?  What does imitating God look like?

Some things have been given already, but the more positive focus comes next in verse 32:

--Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each another, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.  (Oh.  God forgave us in Christ and we are to imitate God by doing the same for others.  Hmmm.)

5:1—Reiterates how we are to live, as imitators of God, as dearly loved children.  Why as children?  Have you ever noticed how children so easily imitate?  They imitate facial expressions, sounds, tones, words, etc.  Just this past week, a meme (a picture with words came across my FB feed from Clergy Coaching Network):

Clergy Coaching Network, August 7th

--Children imitate us.  We teach them.  If we are to imitate God, what aspects of God’s character and God’s teachings are we imitating? 

Today’s passage ends with the best way we are to imitate God: “Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself up for us.”

To be an imitator of God means that we will live a life of love, as did Christ.  Christ gave his life out of love for us. 

Love.  Imitating God is about love.

Listen closely to these next two verses I’m about to share.  Don’t think you know them just because you start to hear them.  I’m reading from the New Living Translation:

16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
(John 3:16-17)

This is how God loved the world.  God loved the world through Jesus.  We are called to love the world too, as imitators of God.

What does loving the world look like for us?  In our times, in our community, in our work place, in our family, how do we imitate God?


“Imitating God” means putting our focus on the actions that flow from God’s character.” ~ Richard Ward (Feasting on the Word, 331) 

BENEDICTION: "They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love"




OPENING SONG: "Unfinished" by Mandisa



What Is God's Goal For Us?-- August 5th sermon from Ephesians 4:1-16

I'm spinning plates or juggling balls, whatever analogy you want to use.  And daily, plates and balls drop.

As I attempt to get back into a normalized work routine and continue my healing and recovery from the hip replacement surgery, I find it to be an ongoing learning experience as to what my limitations are on my physical and mental strength.  Some days I am "energizer bunny" and other days I am completely "wore out".  I am focusing on self-care, soul care, family time, and trying to do what I can for work.  That doesn't even touch the surface of housework or many other responsibilities or desired activities.  So, things drop and fall through the cracks.  And that is okay.  Letting go is part of the journey.  Not an easy one, but part of it.

One thing I wanted to do was to post the sermons this month.  Not because they were super wonderful or anything, but because they have spoken to me and stuck to me.  They haven't let me go and in an attempt to get them part way out of my system, I figure if I post them, they are out of me.  Usually, preaching them gets them out of me and onward, but not this month.  Yet, time and energy have been limited resources.

Thus, I will start today by going back to August 5th and posting that sermon, a few reflections, the bulletin covers and go from there.

I don't know what, if anything, anyone will glean from these, but for me, it will allow some clearing space for my heart, soul, and mind.

Remember that the sermons that are posted are not the exact sermon given as things are added or taken away in the moment.

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Image on Flintstone bulletin cover 


“What Is God’s Goal For Us?”
Ephesians 4:1-16 (CEB)
August 5, 2018 (11th Sunday after Pentecost)
Flintstone UMC, Simpson UMC

Ephesians 4:1-16 (CEB)

Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.
God has given his grace to each one of us measured out by the gift that is given by Christ. That’s why scripture says, When he climbed up to the heights, he captured prisoners, and he gave gifts to people.
What does the phrase “he climbed up” mean if it doesn’t mean that he had first gone down into the lower regions, the earth? 10 The one who went down is the same one who climbed up above all the heavens so that he might fill everything.
11 He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. 12 His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ 13 until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others. 15 Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, 16 who is the head. The whole body grows from him, as it is joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments. The body makes itself grow in that it builds itself up with love as each one does its part.
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THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
THANKS BE TO GOD.
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Today’s sermon title is a question: “What is God’s goal for us?”  In order to answer that question, we first have to answer another one.  “Does God have goals for us?”  Hmm…. Think about that one for a moment.  How did you answer it?  How you answer that question will guide your answer for today’s sermon.

If we believe that yes, indeed, God has goals for us, then we will be open to the guiding of the Holy Spirit and we will listen for what those may be.  In today’s Scripture passage, might you have heard some goals?

In verse 13, we heard that “God’s goal for us is to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standards of Christ.”  As we look at the surrounding verses, we recognize that this has nothing to do with physical age, but rather it is a commentary on our spiritual growth, how we are growing in our discipleship and relationship with Christ.
As we seek to grow as disciples of Christ, we are reminded in this passage that we all have gifts to use and to share for the building up of the body. In today’s passage, we heard some of the gifts named and their purpose: “11 He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. 12 His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ 13 until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son.”

When I came into this appointment in 2015 you were beginning a study of the spiritual gifts.  We focused on spiritual gifts that first year, learning what our gifts were and how to apply them.  It is good to revisit our gifts every so often, to see if we are using them, to see how we are using them, and to see if there are any changes. Some gifts are given for a season. What are your gifts and how are you using them for the building up of the kingdom? If you aren’t sure, then talk to one of the CLMs (Certified Lay Ministers), one of the Lay Servants, or one of the pastors, and we will help you assess your spiritual gifts.

As we seek to understand our gifts and to grow deeper in our walk with Christ as disciples, a key component is prayer.

In the study Companions in Christ written by Rueben Job and Marjorie Thompson, they note: “A loving, living relationship with God is impossible without prayer.  We cannot know the mind and heart of Christ, receive God’s direction, hear God’s voice, or respond to God’s call without this means of grace.” (A Guide To Prayer for All Who Walk with God, 283.)

So, how is our prayer life, individually and corporately?  Are we spending time listening to God?
If we truly desire to become mature adults in Christ, then our prayer life as individuals and as a congregation will reflect that. 

Jane Vennard’s A Praying Congregation offers help for any congregation desiring to become more prayerful.

As I’ve only begun her book on this, I only have a few quotes to share with you initially:
“Praying congregations are lively places made up of diverse people who are longing to take prayer seriously.  In these congregations members want to learn about prayer, wrestle with hard theological questions, and learn from one another.” (1)

“The ministry of a praying congregation is to help people prepare their hearts for prayer—to recognize their desire to pray and help them explore these longings.”(3)

“In a praying congregation, we do want to know how it goes with another’s soul.  So we ask, and then we listen.” (10)

Prayer is key to our growth and maturity as followers of Christ. If we are to attain the goal of becoming mature in Christ, we are going to need to become a praying people.

We will also heed the words in the beginning of today’s passage that remind us how to live as mature Christians in verses 1-4, where the apostle states: ’I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope.”

Last week in Greensboro, NC, on our way to the Methodist retreat, I saw a sign in yards that read, “love and acceptance practiced here”.  I came home with that sign from one of those yards because of the love practiced by one home owner who gave me the sign.  During a wonderful conversation I learned that homes and churches had those signs posted around community. That message of love and acceptance is what this passage is saying to us, that we, as Christians are to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties us together, as we accept each other with love.

Today we gather around the table to share in table fellowship, to receive the greatest gift of grace offered to each of us, recognizing that we come together as one.

As we seek to grow as disciples of Christ, may we seek God in prayer so that we are better equipped to be and make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.

Amen.


"Love and acceptance practiced here" sign from Greensboro, NC