Christmas Day

Scripture: Isaiah 62:6-12, St Luke 2:1-7
The mighty words of the prophet Isaiah proclaim, “We see your salvation comes.” At Christmas we rejoice that our salvation is in the birth of a Savior who looks like an average human baby boy, but is promised to be so much more. Our reading for today shows a glimpse of how this salvation comes, what it looks like and how we can know it is real. We must examine them in light of our contemporary contexts for receiving the gift of salvation.

The psalmist tells us our salvation comes as light and joy, while Luke’s detailed account of the birth story proclaims that salvation comes not through fear, (although there was a little of that), but through the shining glory of a lord and great joy of the good news. Lest we forget from where this salvation comes, in the letter of Titus, we are reminded that it comes not through our own merit, but according to His mercy through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

Yes, today is a celebration not merely of a baby, although that gives us much to celebrate, but a celebration of our salvation! Throughout scriptures this salvation has been anticipated and proclaimed. How will it be proclaimed in our communities and among the people of faith today?

Consider what words we might use in our context to describe the arrival of our salvation on this Christmas day and everyday of our lives. How do we know it is real? How will people experience the light, joy, mercy and rebirth that are the salvation of our world?

Each time we tell the Christmas story we are obligated to repeat the stories of Christ’s birth everywhere and in any way we can possibly share it. The gift of Christmas is our calling as disciples of the living Christ in our lives. Thank you Holy Father, Son and Holy Spirit that we are worthy to share the reality of your precious gift of salvation through the example of your son, Jesus Christ.


Least in His Kingdom

4th Sunday of Advent
Scripture: St Matthew 11:18-25
Our text for today shows us how little we know about Jesus. It shows us and we must remember that in the gospels we have only a basic knowledge of Jesus’ work on earth and the things we do not know about Jesus far out number the things we do know.

We must be careful to catch the tone in His voice as he says many things. “Woe onto thee” is far more expressive of sorrowful pity as much as it is of anger. It is not the acceptance of one who is in a large temperament because his self esteem has been torched, nor one who is blazingly angry because his has been insulted , nor one in a passion of hatred at his people on earth at his time of his ministry among us.

For like our Lord, we can not and must not answer someone in anger who has misunderstood us. It was and is the sin of people who forget the responsibility of privilege that we have as a child of the living God. For unto the city of Galilee and even here today, there has been given privilege, a chance and an opportunity which comes to us through our lord and Savior.

We dare not condemn a man or woman gone astray, through ignorance or never having the chance to know any better. And we must never, condemn a child for that which we might condemn an adult. We can not expect to have someone who has never heard about Jesus to respond in the same way as a person who has grown up within the family of the church. We have a great Christian responsibility to respond with Christian ethics as we are members of the community of Christ.

Years ago, while serving in Richmond, IN community, I heard a radio preacher say he had never sinned since he became a pastor. By his own actions, in fact, he may have condemned himself.
Jesus tells us, from his own life experiences, he has been insulted and misunderstood by the religious community of His time. Paraphrasing Jesus words, the Rabbis and the wise men rejected Him while the simple people accepted and flocked to Him. When I left to study for the ministry, many in my small home church were extremely happy, while at the same time saying “don’t let your education destroy your faith in the Lord and your commitment to Him.”

I found this little saying sometime ago, and it comes to mind once again:

“Still to the lonely soul
He doth himself impart
And for his dwelling and his throne
Chooses only the pure at heart”

May we each strive, with the Lord’s help, to seek a pure heart.

Let us pray.

The Greatest Question!

3rd Sunday of Advent
Scripture: St. Matthew 11:2-11
Jesus response to John’s question, don’t ask for confirmation of who I am, “I am.” You can see who I am by my actions. Jesus repeated this 3 times. He further says that God’s people have to seek for who I am.
What John was seeking was much more than a bargain, for John was much more than a prophet. John had been arrested, and was in a cold dungeon. It was a very narrow space, just enough space to lie down. The light came in from a small opening at the top of the cell. One might be able to see out by standing on their toes, but you could hear voices, even if you could not see anyone. This was very hard on John for his life had been an open space in the wilderness. As a child of the desert, John’s life was under the canopy of the sky. Fresh air blew in his face. And most important, he was free to move around.
Hearing the voices, John asked his disciples to go and seek Jesus and ask him, “Are you the one or must we look for another?” Jesus told John’s disciples to tell John this:
  • The blind are receiving their sight.
  • The lame are walking and running about.
  • The lepers are cleansed.
  • The poor are receiving the good news.
  • Blessed is the man who does not take offense of me.
As a dying man, John can not afford to have any doubts about Jesus the Messiah, sent from God.
The supreme argument for the church today is not intellect or debate. It must be the experience of a change in ones life in allowing the power of god to control one’s life and lifestyle. Is the Lord’s changing power a major force in your life?
I ask you once again, why did the masses go out to the wilderness? Did they go out to see a reed shaken by the wind? What they discovered was not an ordinary man. They saw and felt something extra ordinary in John’s life. No one would go out into the wilderness to see an ordinary man!
Truly, John was more than a prophet. He had a special message to convey making us aware of great spiritual awakening. It had been told for centuries that Elijah would return to herald the coming of the Messiah. To this day, when the Jews celebrate the Passover feast, a vacant chair is left for Elijah’s arrival.
A prophet of today is a man or woman with god’s wisdom in their minds,God’s truth on their lips, and God’s courage in their heart, body and soul. Certainly, John had all three of these spiritual gifts. While John’s message was not a gospel of good news, it was basically and fundamentally a warning of the destruction to come.
It took Jesus and his death on the cross to show all mankind the
  • Length
  • Breath
  • Depth
  • Heights
...of the love of God!

The great question still exists today. Will each of us spend ourselves physically is need be for the hop and eternal life of god’s kingdom, even if we loose this life for the goal of his eternal love in the heavenly kingdom?

Let us pray.

Prepare the Way!


2nd Sunday of Advent
Scripture: Matthew 3:1-12


Who invited John the Baptist to the Christmas Party? He was wearing clothes made of camel skin, had an odd diet and was sharing an intrusive message! Or was the message not for one Sunday each year but for daily use in our lives, to shake us up and point us toward the reign of God. A dynamic message that is quite different than what most of our churches share week after week. His message of repentance is not a message of threat, but a promise for a new and better lifestyle.

It is both often and at the same time for us to focus much on the path, a path not looking to the future. For starters, perhaps we don’t have to spend money that we don’t have that our family members and friends don’t really need. What we need most is our attention and presence focusing on the Lord. Perhaps preachers should offer guidance for persons to refocus on what they really need and what is important.

John arrived on the scene preaching in the wilderness of Judea, crying out “repent for the kingdom of god is at hand”. As a prophet of god he said, “Make ready the way (road), by which the Lord is making, He is near. Make ready the road that the Lord may enter your life in a new and exciting way. He fearlessly denounced evil wherever he saw it. When Herod the King, was in a sinful marriage, he rebuked him. If the ordinary people were living a life of sin, unaware of God’s presence in his life, wherever he saw sin in the state or the church he loudly rebuked it.

If John were alive today, what would he rebuke in the church today that would awaken us to what the church is really about? Lord, we need a resurrected John the Baptist to emerge and awaken all the churches today. Our beloved UMC and countless other churches in rural America need a great spiritual awakening.

It appears today that the mega church is the new style. Huge church buildings, large membership, multi-paid staff are missing the target of the down and out in smaller churches that need the Lord also.

Our main reason for being a Church community is not to just add more on the rolls, but to make disciples for the Lord. We don’t need to keep up with the large churches across town, but we need to offer the in-churched a new and fresh life with the Lord Jesus as their guide and example.

A cousin of mine had a grandchild who recently took his own life. He was 18 years old with a small infant son. A young man, who could have been reached to know the Lord and be a disciple, is gone.

What are we doing to make new disciples? Where are we going as a church to reach out to those struggling with life?

With the drug culture in our community, just imagine just what any one church can do to save the youth and others. When I was young we heard of drugs in places like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Today it exists in our own back yards. What a wonderful Christmas we might have next year if we spent as much money on reaching others as we spend on maintaining our air-conditioned, sanctuaries.

John was not afraid to rebuke even a king of his sinful lifestyle. Oh yes, it cost him his head but it gave him eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. May we aid in the fight to reclaim our society for the Lord Jesus Christ!

Let us Pray.

Pressing Onward

1st Sunday of Advent
Scripture: Isaiah 43:18, Philippians 3:13-1
The Upper Room for last Tuesday really spoke to me: Paul is saying that the church and its leadership must forget all that has transpired and press on to the goal that the Lord has set before them. We should not, and shall not, rest on what has happened, but look forward to the blessings the Lord has in store for us.

Each new experience is to strengthen our service and love for the Lord. He knows what He would like us to accomplish for Him. He is in control for each and everything that transpires in our lives. And He promises to be with us 100% of the time!

I like a sign that was hanging in my father’s doctors office on Maple Ave. It read, "everyone that enters in brings joy, some when they enter and some when they leave." That reminds me of my years as your pastor, the joys we have shared over the years as well as the times of discourse. That includes the joy that lies ahead in our future. The leadership that will come after me will lead in a slightly different manner, but they will still be a disciple for the kingdom of our Lord.

In each new encounter within our lives, there are joys and sadness. Your doctor may announce you need to have surgery. I recall my feelings when I asked my doctor if I could go home from the hospital. His response was absolutely not, as I needed my gallbladder removed!

Lamentations 3:22-23 speaks about the stressful happenings in our lives. Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassion never fails! It is a new day every morning. Great is the faithfulness of our Lord!

May we each step backwards for a moment, recalling a painful and stressful time in our lives. I cannot imagine Paul’s feelings when the voice of the Lord spoke to him on a Damascus road. He was on his way to take Christians to Jerusalem to be tried and executed. He fell to the ground when he hears the voice calling him. He cried out, “Is that you Lord?” The Lord stated, “I have chosen you.” What a transforming life experience fell on Paul and often falls on us. From being the chief enemy of the Lord to one of His people, Paul was transformed into one of the greatest missionary of Christ in the Christian movement!

Lord, You are calling all of us to new and exciting labors in building your earthly kingdom. Each one of us is only a drop of ointment to salve the hurts and pains of this earthly life and we pray that each new morning your blessings will fall fresh upon us.

I praise You, Lord, for calling each one of us and continually helping us to envision each change in our lives as a new and exciting challenge for your eternal love. Help us not to dwell on yesterday or today, but the future that lies ahead for us. Give us only a glimpse that our futures will bring this church and our lives to new and exciting ministries.

In Jesus' name we pray, amen!

First Fruits and Tithes

Last Sunday of Pentecost/Thanksgiving Sunday
Scripture: Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Thanksgiving has become an American institution with ritual foods and the pardoning of the turkey, and Inter-faith civic prayer services and serving dinner for the homeless. This national holiday dates back to 1862 when President Lincoln proclaimed it as a national day of thanks. It was intended as a day of unity among the north and the south. It was a day of thanksgiving in the midst of a bloody civil war.

Thanksgiving is something that should be our vocation constantly 365 days a year, but few among us are naturally thankful for our many blessings that the Lord has given us. Thus we need to be reminded daily to be constantly thankful for the multitude of blessings that we have. Thankful people need to express a attitude of gratitude for blessings that we have as the people of God.
Our text from Deuteronomy is a demonstration of our gratitude unto the Lord for His daily blessings. Everything we have in material goods has only been given to us to make this life a blessing. That is why we don’t take anything with us when we leave this world.

Our thanksgiving gatherings are not just gatherings of friends and family members to stuff our tummies with fattening foods and drinks. It should be a time that is set aside from our daily activities to pause, and reflect on the gracious love of our heavenly Father who through our sweat,blood and tears has built this great nation, giving thanks for all our blessings where the hands and heart of god has guided us and directed us.

Like his people who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before entering the promise land, do we grasp the fruits of a gracious god who blesses our humble effort? On the first day of thanksgiving, they broke bread and sipped wine, giving thanks to the Lord for watching over them.
Are we so comfortable with ourselves and our life style that we can’t pause and give thanks unto the Lord not only for ourselves and all others? For we live in a free nation under the umbrella of a Loving God who has reached down from above to care for us. Now can we reach out and touch others that they may feel his presence as we feel it and give thanks not just on Thanksgiving but each and every day of our lives.

Let us pause for a moment or 2 setting in silence, reflecting on God’s love and blessings in our lives as we share in Holy Communion today.

A Warning Against Idleness

26th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18
Paul quotes his own experience, all his life Paul was a working man using his hands. The Jews glorified work. A man who does not teach his son a trade, teaches him to steal. Paul was a trained Rabbi, but the Jewish law laid it down that a Rabbi must take no pay for his teachings. He must have a trade that will satisfy his daily needs by the work of his hands. Thus we find Rabbi’s who were bakers, barbers, carpenters, and a host of other trades.

They believed in the dignity of honest toil and were sure something is lost when they became a scholar. Scholars lost something when they withdrew from life refusing to work with their hands.
Thus, Paul quoted this saying, “if a man refuses to work, neither let him eat. It is the refusal to work that is important.” This has nothing to do with the unfortunate man who through no fault of his own can not work or can find no work to do. Further, Paul says, “he was probably borrowing a bit of good old workshop morality, an industrious worker, who would forbid his lazy apprentice to eat dinner.”
We have a perfect example in Jesus himself. He was a carpenter in Nazareth. Legend has it that he was so good at making ox yokes that people came from near and far to buy one.

There is a story of a man who bought a house without seeing it. He was asked why he did this. His reply was “I know that the man who built the house was a Christian and he built that house with Christian ethics, one brick at a time.”

Paul’s’ instructions that those who disregard the work ethics, would be doubtful of that person’s love for his Christian brothers “All we can do is to aid him in his behavior, that he might see the light of his behavior and repent in his idleness.”

We need to go back to the fall of man is the Garden of Eden and for their failure to obey God’s instructions to not eat from a certain tree. The punishment for their actions, God said Eve would suffer pain in childbirth and Adam would earn a living for himself and Eve by the sweat of his brow.
One of our basic Christian actions is to aid and encourage someone who is idle and is failing to use their god given gifts. The joy that we might encounter when we aid someone like this is far beyond our understanding of the results of that person’s life when they turn a new leaf in their life.

Let us pray.