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January 2014 Newsletter

 

 

Looking Through The Window…

January 2014  

 

 3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.        Philippians 3

 

At this time of year, at the beginning of a New Year , we review our recent past:  2013 – It was a year of contrasts, challenges and blessings. In my annual review held by the Personnel Committee I was asked what was one thing in this past year that I was proud of. That answer came quickly: my leaders of Elders and Deacons. Hence, my scripture of Philippians 3 – I give great thanks….

Your elected leaders are a remarkable group of individuals who served faithfully this past year with energy, imagination and love. Their vigor in approaching old traditions and making them new on their assigned ‘watch’ has been inspiring to me this year. Their determination to stick to what the essentials of the faith, the focus and purpose of our congregation and church polity was impressive. Their love for God, their love for God’s Church and their dedication to demonstrating the love of Christ was nothing short of amazing. In the midst of challenges they held steady and remained true to the ultimate purpose of our local church. They are to be commended and personally, I am forever grateful to them for their fortitude and strength in challenging times of this past year. What a blessing beyond measure – to have such leaders among us.

The year brought many opportunities for steady stabilization and growth. As your Minister of Word & Sacrament – I was able to make great strides in the number of home visits, personal counseling, community connections and networking in the non-profit and ministerial arenas this past year.

Just stop in the office any weekday and take a look at the black book calendar and see where I’ve been and who’ve I’ve been with this past 12 months – you will find that your Pastor has been out and about – doing the work of ministering to your flock, administering the sacraments to those homebound and hospitalized, sat alongside those who needed comfort in their times of crisis, prayed with many at their bedsides and hospital rooms, brought food, clothing and funds to those in crisis in our community, sought out the needy and marginalized in Gaylord, sat at Board tables where she spoke the truth of God’s amazing love and grace to community leaders, prayed at official events in the town hall and local non-profit groups, met with fellow ministers and leaders to see how we can make effective change for those in most need…..all in the context of weekly preaching the Word, monthly offering Lord’s Supper and offering true worship here at Gaylord Presbyterian – our little ‘Kirk in the Birch Woods.’

Our year of celebration has ended but our years of growth have just begun. With putting our celebrated history behind us, we now move forward into becoming the congregation that Our Lord is waiting for us to become – His Flock. That is all He wants – just US! It is all that God really wants from us – to become the People of His Way.

This Annual Report 2013 is simply a compilation of all the work that your leaders have done this past year. It truly demonstrates the power and purpose of God’s people – who are dedicated to carrying out His mission here in Gaylord. What an outstanding group of leaders you are blessed to have guiding this congregation this past year. I thank my God for them, and pledge to pray for them in the coming years ahead. It’s a new year 2014 – full of new beginnings and new possibilities – let’s see where God will lead us and how we will extend the hand of Christ to all.

With deep appreciation and amazing love, I dedicate myself to you another year…. what a blessing. Alleluia Amen.

Christ’s Shalom ~ Reverend Karen Huddelson

 

 

Your Blessed Life

Ministry

B                Be Blessed                      acknowledge the blessings you have

L              Leave Others Blessed        be a blessing to others

E               Enter In                         into knowing God through study

S               Sabbath @ Table              receive God’s spiritual rest 

S              Seek Others                    to share their own gifts

E               Enjoy God’s Gift              educate others about God’s gifts

D            Desire to Give           determine new ways to be a blessing

I will bless you…

…..so that you will be a blessing…..

and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.

Genesis 12:2-3

 

Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do, nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

Genesis 11:6

 

…the blessings of God extend to a thousand generations of whose who love Him and keep His commandments.

Deuteronomy 7:9

 

August 2013

What a beautiful view from my window this month! The sun is strong, the flower garden is in full bloom and the water pond is a soothing sound as I write and study at my work desk….. Our summer has been in full swing. Literally. From the full swing of the golf clubs to the annual swing of our setting up the large tents on our property….we have been fortunate to hold two very successful missional outreach activities in late June and Mid July. In late June, our first annual “Golfing for God” was held at Michaywe links and had over 40 individual golfers from the church and local community. The efforts of the 25th Anniversary Committee raised $1,000 for our local mission: The Otsego County Food Pantry. What a gracious blessing from God to be given the opportunity to support our local mission project in such a generous way! The monies collected will help distribute more food and services to those who are hungry and needing assistance. Just think of the families that now have much needed food on their tables because of your efforts. Such a wonderful way to demonstrate the joy of leisure living, and celebrate our 25th year of ministry: what a surprise blessing, indeed.

 

In July we held our ubiquitous “Annual 1/2 Acre Flea Market.” We had over 50 individual volunteers who raised an all-time record receipt of over $12,000! Not only was there a record amount of money raised, but the camaraderie that brought each of us together for one purpose was most heartening to witness. Again, what a gracious blessing from God, to be given the chance to support our local mission projects and outreach of our church in such a generous way. The funds collected will help our local missional efforts in an increased measure, will continue our strong outreach into the Gaylord community, and most of all, strengthen our beloved community of faith that we call our own ‘Kirk in the Birch Woods’ Presbyterian Church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has been an amazing month, to see everyone gather together, play one of your favorite leisure activities of golf, watch you literally ‘ raise the roof’ of those old sturdy tents, digging in and emptying that stuffed pole barn and selling the donations for the one purpose: to enable our congregation to offer worship and mission to the Gaylord community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who says summer time is when everyone is lazy!? Not here at our amazing church. I’ve seen each of you stir one another on…encouraging and uplifting one another, loving the camaraderie and relishing the satisfaction of a job well done for GOD’S purpose…not our own. Here are the scriptures this month your good faith and work has called to my heart: “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another”…Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT) Each of you are a blessing to one another, and to me as your Minister. Most of all, you have been a pure and righteous witness to the work of God among you…. In Love & Gratitude, Pastor Kate

 

“A View from My Window” June 2013

It is with great anticipation that I write to you this month. As I glance out of my window this spring, I see that it is finally June and our church gardens are alive with their fresh green sprouts shooting towards the warm sun!  Is that not a great image for us this year?  Fresh, new, fragile growth straining towards its source of life and energy.  We are like these gardens that surround our sanctuary – whether fragile and new, or old and rejuvenated from our winter slumber….we are all yearning to soak up the life giving energy of our ‘Source.’  Christ’s Presence is that Source and we are the ones yearning for that new life.

One way in which we bear witness to this new life is through our leadership.. On June 2nd we will install another Elder and ordain two new Elders: Robert Hutton, Huntley Robinson and Scot Hutton.  Be sure to take a look at our new bulletin board that has a photographic listing of our Elders and Deacons. Displayed on the bulletin board are our leaders who have said yes to their “Call” from God to step out into new territory and engage in directing and guiding our beloved church in all its areas of life for this faith community:  worship, education, mission, outreach, comfort, compassion…..

Talk about ‘new life’! Each Elder & Deacon has taken on the responsibilities of spiritual leadership.  This is no small endeavor.  It requires practical things such as energy, time, talent, & money.  It also requires a certain level of spiritual strength to maintain the sacred vow of promoting the peace, unity and purity of God’s Church.  It requires substantial strength to hold together as a group of leaders, to be a cohesive unit, in our effort to grow this church in the direction that God is calling us.  This cohesiveness compels us to take a significant look at what our goals are, what our direction is and how we go about moving into the future that God has planned for us.  What does this look like?  What form does it take in our Kirk in the Birch Woods 1st Presbyterian Church?

 

Here are some things to consider:

 

The Ministry of Members

 

Membership in the Church of Jesus Christ is a joy and a privilege.  It is also a commitment to participate in Christ’s mission. A faithful member bears witness to God’s love and grace and promises to be involved responsibly in the ministry of Christ’s Church.

 

Such involvement includes:

  • proclaiming the good news in word and deed,
  • taking part in the common life and worship of a congregation,
  • lifting one another up in prayer, mutual concern, and active support,
  • studying Scripture and the issues of Christian faith and life,
  • supporting the ministry of the church through the giving of money, time, and

talents,

  • demonstrating a new quality of life within and through the church,
  •  responding to God’s activity in the world through service to others,
  • living responsibly in the personal, family, vocational, political, cultural, and social relationships of life,
  • working in the world for peace, justice, freedom, and human fulfillment,
  • participating in the governing responsibilities of the church,
  • reviewing and evaluating regularly the integrity of one’s membership, and
  • prayerfully considering ways in which one’s participation in the worship and service of the church may be increased and made more meaningful.

 

Gifts and Qualifications

 

a. To those called to exercise special functions in the church—deacons, ruling

elders, and teaching elders—God gives suitable gifts for their various duties.

 

In addition to possessing the necessary gifts and abilities, those who undertake particular ministries should be persons of:

  • strong faith,
  • dedicated discipleship, and
  • love of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

 

Their manner of life should be a demonstration of the Christian gospel in the church and in the world.  They must have the approval of God’s people and the concurring judgment of a council of the church.

 

b. Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit

joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life.

 

The council responsible for ordination and/or installation shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of ordered ministry. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation  Councils shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

 

Go out and be that Spiritual Leader God is calling you to be. Promote peace, unity and purity in the life of this congregation so that you may be a Beacon of hope and new life to all you meet.   You can be such a Blessing, Indeed,     Pastor Kate

A Psalm for Leaders

Psalm 45:1-17

In your majesty, ride out to victory,  defending truth, humility, and justice.       

                                    Go forth to perform awe-inspiring deeds!

Psalm 45:4

The prologue to Psalm 45 identifies it as “A love song to be sung to the tune ‘Lilies.’ ” The text of the psalm lavishly praises the human king of Israel and his royal bride on the occasion of their wedding. As we read Psalm 45, we might well wonder, “How should this psalm inform my life and guide my prayers?”

Throughout the centuries, many interpreters have read Psalm 45 as a preview of praise for the Messiah. Many of the verses speak of qualities found in Christ. And the king’s bride could represent the church (see Ephesians 5:25-33). But I would suggest that Psalm 45 can also serve as a divine word of encouragement for all leaders, not just royalty. This psalm speaks to those of us who are leaders at work, in our families, at school, in our volunteering, in government, in the church, and in any other context in which we exercise leadership.

I am especially inspired and challenged by the imperative of verse 4: “In your majesty, ride out to victory, defending truth, humility, and justice.” Not that I have much majesty, mind you. But, in my leadership roles, I should be committed to truth, humility, and justice. In fact, these qualities have suggested to me a set of questions that I am going to reflect upon. Let me invite you to join me in this reflection as you think about your life.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In my leadership roles … Am I committed to discovering, understanding, and speaking the truth? Am I willing to speak the truth when it is awkward or risky? Do I speak the truth in love? Am I genuinely humble, or do I get overly impressed with myself, my accomplishments, and my authority? Do I lift up the people around me, celebrating their successes? Do I truly value the input of others, even and especially when it is not consistent with what I think? How much am I motivated by a need to see my name in lights? Am I willing to do what’s right, no matter what? Do I faithfully and energetically seek to know what’s right? Am I committed to treating the people who follow my leadership with justice? Am I always looking out for the best interests of those who follow my leadership? Is my leadership moving our world in the direction of justice for all people?

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the leadership you have entrusted to me. Help me to be a faithful leader in all of these roles. In particular, I ask that I might be a person of truth, humility, and justice. May my leadership be focused, not on me and my power or glory, but on you and your kingdom. May I be a servant leader of all you have entrusted into my care. Amen.

 

portrait

 

Porttrait Dedication April 21, 2013

 

portrait dedication

Gerad Meteyer Foundation Video

May issue of “The View

April 2013 “The View” NEWSLETTER

March 2013. “The View” NEWSLETTER

 

TO READ NEWSLETTERS click on above.

Acts 4:32-35     The Message (MSG)

32-33 The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind! They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, “That’s mine; you can’t have it.” They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them.

34-35 And so it turned out that not a person among them was needy. Those who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it. The apostles then distributed it according to each person’s need.

Acts 5     Ananias and Sapphira

5 1-2 But a man named Ananias—his wife, Sapphira, conniving in this with him—sold a piece of land, secretly kept part of the price for himself, and then brought the rest to the apostles and made an offering of it.

3-4 Peter said, “Ananias, how did Satan get you to lie to the Holy Spirit and secretly keep back part of the price of the field? Before you sold it, it was all yours, and after you sold it, the money was yours to do with as you wished. So what got into you to pull a trick like this? You didn’t lie to men but to God.”

5-6 Ananias, when he heard those words, fell down dead. That put the fear of God into everyone who heard of it. The younger men went right to work and wrapped him up, then carried him out and buried him.

7-8 Not more than three hours later, his wife, knowing nothing of what had happened, came in. Peter said, “Tell me, were you given this price for your field?”

“Yes,” she said, “that price.”

9-10 Peter responded, “What’s going on here that you connived to conspire against the Spirit of the Master? The men who buried your husband are at the door, and you’re next.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than she also fell down, dead. When the young men returned they found her body. They carried her out and buried her beside her husband.

11 By this time the whole church and, in fact, everyone who heard of these things had a healthy respect for God. They knew God was not to be trifled with.

They All Met Regularly

12-16 Through the work of the apostles, many God-signs were set up among the people, many wonderful things done. They all met regularly and in remarkable harmony on the Temple porch named after Solomon. But even though people admired them a lot, outsiders were wary about joining them. On the other hand, those who put their trust in the Master were added right and left, men and women both. They even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on stretchers and bedrolls, hoping they would be touched by Peter’s shadow when he walked by. They came from the villages surrounding Jerusalem, throngs of them, bringing the sick and bedeviled. And they all were healed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh PA where I attended Seminary – many years ago – a Presbyterian minister began a radio campaign to take communion on a designated day.  With the time zones, it means communion is being shared at many places and at the same hour. It also unites us at a point where our differing beliefs about the Lord’s Supper often divides us ~ so THIS first Sunday in October….come and experience the richness….of breaking bread together….”How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”  Psalm 133:1

Now this Sunday – let’s take a moment to learn of the things of God together …..

Now imagine being part of a church that is growing by leaps and bounds….a church that is moving into its future at record speed – changes are about everywhere – just like here in Gaylord at our beloved “Kirk in the Birch Woods”…..

A church that started with just 12 apostles and little more that 100 others that added 3,000 on it’s opening day (Pentecost) and very quickly they had thousands more added to their membership….this is what Chapters 1 & 2 in the Book of Acts tells us.   I wonder what it must have been like, being a part of such a fast growing community of faith. Where miracles seemed to be a part of everyday life. Well, Jerusalem’s early church was like that.  The folks there saw miracles practically each day. they saw the presence and power take ahold of people, souls were being saved at mach speed.  And what were they doing that brought this about?  They simply lived by God’s love….that’s it….lived by God’s love.

I am sure it wasn’t all fun and ease and grace twenty-four seven….I imagine that those new believers soon understood that when you go “all out” for Jesys, people who prefer doing things their own way aren’t going to like it.  In today’s scripture let’s take a good look at some of those challenges the believers faces from both inside and outside the community.  Let’s take a look at how they reacted to these challenges of growth and then see how we can take some wisdom from that period of God’s history and apply it to our own growth – here @ Gaylord Presbyterian……..

Rev. Kate Huddelson

 August 2012

It has been a wonderful summer. Warm weather and sunshine always brings activities that are my favorites –hiking, boating, swimming, etc. = outdoor fun. The polar opposite from those winter months …..this California gal sure does love the sunshine….but the great work of our community of faith continues on whether there is sunshine or shadows….it’s the way of God at  work among us – is it not?!      As I mentioned in my sermon this past week – this ‘Kirk in the Birch Woods’ is a mighty spectacle of God’s incredible bounty.

  • God’s people gathering each Lord’s Day for worship – with increasing numbers….

  • Returning members who have been away through physical illness, location or distance or family needs….

  • Members who have been able to join us for worship despite chronic pain and medical problems – who come and are refreshed by our fellowship and worship…

  • Members getting ready to do their third adult Bible Study on the Psalms…

  • Members gathering weekly for support, love and encouragement through their mutual experiences of loss and grief….

  • Our new endowment committee putting into place a vision for their committee and communicating it to all of us…

  • Members quietly and anonymously donating goods and services so that our church will grow and prosper in its study of God’s word, fellowship and communication…

  • Members helping members who are homebound and isolated…..

  • Members praying regularly for one another and for our leaders….

  • Outreach to the community through worship for numerous local mission projects….

  • Generosity in time, talent and treasure for the future budget of 2013…

  • Staff and leaders working together to rejoice in a successful year past and a new year ahead with planning music, worship, outreach, mission, building, teaching, children….

  • Baptizing four little ones this summer….what a blessing beyond measure…

  • Witnessing the Committees stretch themselves and becoming the hands and feet of Christ’s vision for our beloved congregation….

  • More children coming weekly to our worship…new families and returning families ready to begin the fall season….

  • Welcoming new inquiries of potential members….they’re coming in a steady stream….

  • Visitors from the community…they’re coming in a steady stream as well…

God is at work among us in incredible ways and we are deeply blessed this past month.  Continue to pray for one another.  Continue to pray for your fellow leaders. Continue to pray for our future members and for your Pastor.

God is at work, indeed!                             Shalom – Rev. Kate

 

As our Brief Statement of Faith reminds us:

In a broken and fearful world

the Spirit gives us courage

to pray without ceasing,

to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,

to unmask idolatries in Church and culture,

to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,

and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.

In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit,

we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks

and to live holy and joyful lives.

 


“Holy Breath“  Acts 2:1-21                                                         

SCRIPTURE:  2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:17‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Acts of the Apostles 2.22-47

22“You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know—23this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law.24But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.25For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope.27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption.28You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’29“Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.30Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne.31Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’32This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.33Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear.34For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand,35until I make your enemies your footstool.”’36Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”38Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.43Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.44All who believed were together and had all things in common;45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

SERMON:  Greetings in the Name of our Lord – who is faithful to hear our prayers –     We’ve just celebrated Pentecost in the church last week. Wearing red, having red paraments and having our children learn of the way the Spirit came down upon all the believers in the early Church – with our children waving their red flames of fire on the tongues….what a display of an powerful ancient biblical narrative. What a great narrative to teach our children and to remember ourselves, now in 2012. We often refer to that as the ‘birth of the church’ – when the old covenant was dispersed with and the new covenant began.  While that may be true – I’ve been thinking on this – that there was not a new thing being created at that powerful Pentecost moment, but rather a fulfillment o f an even earlier event. 

  Let’s think a moment – and look back on this event of Pentecost. I’m talking early, early, biblical narrative, from the Old Testament.   So the story is about God’s Presence, right?  When you look back on the ancient narratives before the early church – when you look at the OT – There are many similarities between the expressions of God’s presence on Mount Sinai and his presence among the disciples during Pentecost. – On Mount Sinai, God’s presence was accompanied by fire, smoke, and the sound of thunder (Ex. 19:16-19). God’s presence during Pentecost was accompanied by the sound of wind, tongues of fire, and the gift of different languages (Acts 2:1-3).

        – When God gave the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai, the people were worshiping the golden calf. About 3,000 people died as punishment for their sins. When Jesus’ Spirit was given during Pentecost, the people repented, and about 3,000 people believed and found spiritual life.
- God’s presence was symbolized by a cloud and fire, which led the Israelites out of Egypt. Later, God moved his presence into the temple (2 Chron. 5:7-8, 13-14). During Pentecost, God’s presence moved from the temple into a “new temple,” the followers of Jesus (Rom. 8:9).

- Finally, The Torah provided God’s teachings for the Old Testament community of people. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit became the Teacher of believers (John 14:26).

Even more compelling is the realization that Pentecost was a fulfillment of something very ancient and true – that God’s Presence was for all people – for all times….Actually – there was nothing new – but something very old being brought forward into a new manifestation. 

     In fact, this narrative begin even earlier in the OT – long before Moses….Way back to the very beginning….in Genesis…in the Garden in fact.  Genesis tells the story of God’s love act of creation – right?  And what was that act of creation ending with?   Humankind!  Then what happens?  God creation starts to stray from that Garden         – The gift that was given was misused in that Garden.  The gift of freedom.  They began to use the gift poorly – choosing a way of pride and self-assertion instead of fellowship with God and one another.  Sin SLATHERS into that Garden. The consequences are dire.  Right then, a cycle of violence and murder starts to stain the human family.  So a tragic course is set – right then. 

       So when this sin starts to spiral everything downward – And it is as if God had to do an amputation of sorts.  Genesis tells us how God’s grief was so powerful over what was happening to the people he created, God sent a flood to wipe out land on the earth.  Wanting to start over with one righteous person – Noah and his family.  So after that – all of humankind starts to gather together in one place – speaking one language = all plotting to build a great city with a tower that reached into the heavens so they can make a name for themselves and resist spreading all over the earth. 

       Here we go again, humans choosing the path of Pride and self-assertion.  This time – God promised never to have another flood – God sends a message another way.

God CONFUSES their languages, scattering the human family into tribes and nations.  The effects of SIN  are seen straight up now – tearing the garment of humanity into  tatters and scatters them all into pieces throughout the earth.  What happened?  Sin divides us.  Sin conquers us.  Humanity is broken and defeated and separated. 

       So when the Holy Spirit shows up as wind and flame on the day of Pentecost, more is happening that the birth of a new religious order or community.  Much more is happening ….we see an absolute REVERSAL  of Babel’s curse:

  • Rather than the nations being scattered all throughout the earth – there were devout Jews from every nation gathered at Pentecost. [Acts 2:5]
  • rather than a tower that reached into the heavens, the disciples were together in one tiny upper room gathered to pray and wait on God’s promise of the Spirit.  When the Spirit comes, those disciples began to speak in other languages as the Sprit gave them. – this time many languages are intended to communicate and NOT confuse.
  • Now even though some may have not understood – all those international visitors were amazed that these Galileans were all of a sudden prophesizing in their own native languages. This unpredictable Spirit of God acts in ways no one could have ever expected.  What happened – there was a total upending of all the discord from the time of Babel – all the broken pieces of humanity were being put back together into a whole new Body of Christ. Peter’s sermon later on – tells us what the Spirit’s intention was all along.  Peter reminds the folks gathered at Pentecost of the prophesy of Joel {“I will pour out my Spirit”}
  • Peter tells them that a new thing is indeed happening – The Spirit came to give new life and to reassemble what sin had torn apart.  And how can this all be done?  By one way –  unity like this can be the work of ONLY the Holy Spirit. 
  • Isn’t this how the Power of God is made known among us –today?  How often do we read in emails across the globe – read of stories in the newspaper and see on television – of mighty movements of unity and power and strength among the world. Events of the Spirit – that only an Act of God can bring us?   
  •  From The People’s New Testament, B.W. Johnson, 1891.  “The baptism of the Spirit was not a sprinkling, but an outpouring that overwhelmed the human spirit.”
  • Is it not true that “We encounter God as God walks among us.”       
  • [Mitzi J. Smith, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2011.]

      The Holy Spirit – guiding us today – in this church – brings us towards this unity of humankind – each and every week.  When we as a gathered people – from all walks of life – form all socio-economic states – educational states – gathered together –standing together in the act of worshipping God – in one unified body – helping one another – coming alongside one another in your time of grief and joy – happiness and despair – each of you listening to the different ways you  express yourselves –  each in a  different language ….that’s it!  We are being led by the Holy Spirit – to do a new thing – to be unified and one in purpose – one in direction – one in living out the Kingdom of God here and now – in 2012.  This is the purpose – the fulfillment of Pentecost.  For this day – in this gathered community – worshipping God’s ways, not the world’s ways.  To be united in spite of our differences. To be of one purpose –to do the will of God.  How can we continue to do this?  By being led by the Spirit – Ruach Hodesh – we will continue to grow and thrive and make known God’s work among God’s people.  Alleluia Amen. 

“Every Time I Feel the Spirit” ~  Luke 2   Pentecost Sunday, May 28, 2012

Scripture Readings: 

John 15: 26-27    New International Version (NIV)

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify for you have been with me from the beginning.

The Message (MSG)

26-27“When the Friend I plan to send you from the Father comes—the Spirit of Truth issuing from the Father—he will confirm everything about me. You, too, from your side must give your confirming evidence, since you are in this with me from the start.”

John 16:4-15   New International Version (NIV)

4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, 5 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

John 16:4-15   The Message (MSG)

1-4 “I’ve told you these things to prepare you for rough times ahead. They are going to throw you out of the meeting places. There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he’s doing God a favor. They will do these things because they never really understood the Father. I’ve told you these things so that when the time comes and they start in on you, you’ll be well-warned and ready for them.

The Friend Will Come

4-7“I didn’t tell you this earlier because I was with you every day. But now I am on my way to the One who sent me. Not one of you has asked, ‘Where are you going?’ Instead, the longer I’ve talked, the sadder you’ve become. So let me say it again, this truth: It’s better for you that I leave. If I don’t leave, the Friend won’t come. But if I go, I’ll send him to you.

8-11“When he comes, he’ll expose the error of the godless world’s view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He’ll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.

12-15“I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I’ve said, ‘He takes from me and delivers to you.

Acts 2:1-21  New International Version

2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene;visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

The Message (MSG)

A Sound Like a Strong Wind

1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

5-11There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs!
“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

12Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”

13Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”

Peter Speaks Up

14-21That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:

“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
I’ll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
and they’ll prophesy.
I’ll set wonders in the sky above
and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives,
the Day tremendous and marvelous;
And whoever calls out for help
to me, God, will be saved.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Greetings in the Name of our Lord – who is faithful to hear our prayers…..

This is the weekend in which we remember. Not only do we remember that it is Pentecost in the liturgical church – but is a weekend of remembering – what is essential – in our country. 

Just imagine with me today – This Lord’s Day we celebrate the Sprit.  Just imagine:  The din of the crowd increases, it grows,  as students file into the basketball gym. The band tunes and warms up their instruments. With a wave of the band director’s baton, the fight song begins, the cheerleaders take center court, the team bolts in, full of confidence, and the students stand up, roaring, as the pep rally begins.

As a young girl in school, I loved pep rallies – a mainstay of many high schools across the nation. And what was the purpose of these events? To build enthusiasm, support our team, and above all, to celebrate our school spirit.  Spirit—that palpable feeling of pride that we were part of something bigger than ourselves. Our spirit grew as frenzied chanting and clapping and stomping shook the very rafters of the building. We were gathered together to build our enthusiasm and express our confidence in an ultimate victory! Boy were we all cocky in our confidence!  We just couldn’t help ourselves – yelping for glee – shouting out for everyone to hear.  We just couldn’t keep quiet.  Waiting for that victory that we were sure was to come.  We were all together –feeling that amazing Spirit.

The disciples,  “were all together in one place” as they waited for the promised gift of the Spirit. I can just imagine a growing excitement as the disciples spoke with each other, recounting the words of Jesus, “you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5). Like a pep rally, there was a rush of excitement as the Spirit, like a rush of wind, filled the house. There were even some pyrotechnics as tongues of fire settled on the disciples. Those who stood around asked, “What in the world is going on? What’s happening?  What does this mean?” What this means is that each person is gifted so that “out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). It means that the spirit is creative (Psalm 104:30) and empowers God’s people through its gifts.  It means that the Spirit is active and palpable. You could see it between people – and feel it between the people. 

(I Corinthians 12:3b-13).

It is the New Testament witness that the disciples did not stay together in one place—there was a victory to be won out there on fields across the world. Just like the crowds that gather in the gymnasium, everyone had to disperse at some point in time.  They came, they were ready with expectation, they felt the spirit move and they were swept up and carried away….filled with an Spirit they had never known before….and then they departed….much like us – here this 2012…..

Gathered together with other believers….we gather, we wait, we pray, we call upon the God who knows us and calls us, and then we receive the Spirit.  What a blessing, a blessing indeed.
When you think on it – you see that there are really two Pentecost miracles: (1) the uneducated disciples spoke foreign languages; and (2) the frightened disciples spoke bravely and publicly about Jesus. The second miracle is the one that children are most likely to experience.  Standing tall, speaking bravely about the gospel and Jesus i9s a miracle in itself – is it not?!
When we celebrate Pentecost – it is a reminder of the Spirit that lies between individuals and nations…..let me share a story that was forwarded to me recently though the Internet….It is a heartwarming story of a couple who exemplified the Sprit between them.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
For half a century, the world has applauded John Glenn as a heart-stirring American hero. He lifted the nation’s spirits when, as one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, he was blasted alone into orbit around the Earth; people have amazing affection for him is so powerful that even now people find themselves misting up at the sight of his face or the sound of his voice.

But for all these years, Glenn has had a hero of his own, someone who he has seen display endless courage of a different kind: Annie Glenn.

They have been married for 68 years.  He is 90; she just turned 92.

This year there has been news coverage of the 50th anniversary of Glenn’s flight into orbit. When the anniversary came in April, We were reminded that, half a century down the line, he remains America’s hero.

He has never really bought that.

Because the heroism he most cherishes is of a sort that is seldom cheered. It belongs to the person he has known longer than he has known anyone else in the world. The Spirit is evident between them.  Between John and Annie.  The Spirit between them may have been evident at an early age.

John Glenn and Annie Castor first knew each other when — literally — they shared a playpen.

In New Concord, Ohio, his parents and hers were friends. When the families got together, their children played.

John — the future Marine fighter pilot, the future test-pilot ace, the future astronaut — was pure gold from the start. He would end up having what it took to rise to the absolute pinnacle of American regard during the space race; imagine what it meant to be the young John Glenn in the small confines of New Concord.

Three-sport varsity athlete, most admired boy in town, Mr. Everything.

Annie Castor was bright, was caring, was talented, was generous of spirit. But she could talk only with the most excruciating of difficulty.     It haunted her.

Her stuttering was so severe that it was categorized as an “85%” disability — 85% of the time, she could not manage to make words come out.

When she tried to recite a poem in elementary school, she was laughed at. She was not able to speak on the telephone. She could not have a regular conversation with a friend.

And John Glenn loved her.

Even as a boy he was wise enough to understand that people who could not see past her stutter were missing out on knowing a rare and wonderful girl.

They married on April 6, 1943. As a military wife, she found that life as she and John moved around the country could be quite hurtful. She has written: “I can remember some very painful experiences — especially the ridicule.”

In department stores, she would wander unfamiliar aisles trying to find the right section, embarrassed to attempt to ask the salesclerks for help. In taxis, she would have to write requests to the driver, because she couldn’t speak the destination out loud. In restaurants, she would point to the items on the menu.

A fine musician, Annie, in every community where she and John moved, would play the organ in church as a way to make new friends. She and John had two children; she has written: “Can you imagine living in the modern world and being afraid to use the telephone? ‘Hello’ used to be so hard for me to say. I worried that my children would be injured and need a doctor. Could I somehow find the words to get the information across on the phone?”

John, as a Marine aviator, flew 59 combat missions in World War II and 90 during the Korean War. Every time he was deployed, he and Annie said goodbye the same way. His last words to her before leaving were:

“I’m just going down to the corner store to get a pack of gum.”

And, with just the two of them there, she was able to always reply: “Don’t be long.”

On that February day in 1962 when the world held its breath and the Atlas rocket was about to propel him toward space, those were their words, once again. And in 1998, when, at 77, he went back to space aboard the shuttle Discovery, it was an understandably tense time for them. What if something happened to end their life together?

She knew what he would say to her before boarding the shuttle. He did — and this time he gave her a present to hold onto:

A pack of gum.

She carried it in a pocket next to her heart until he was safely home.

Many times in her life she attempted various treatments to cure her stutter. None worked.


But in 1973, she found a doctor in Virginia who ran an intensive program she and John hoped would help her. She traveled there to enroll and to give it her best effort. The miracle she and John had always waited for at last, as miracles will do, arrived. At age 53, she was able to talk fluidly, and not in brief, anxiety-ridden, agonizing bursts.

John has said that on the first day he heard her speak to him with confidence and clarity, he dropped to his knees to offer a prayer of gratitude.

He has written: “I saw Annie’s perseverance and strength through the years and it just made me admire her and love her even more.” He has heard roaring ovations in countries around the globe for his own valor, but his awe is reserved for Annie, and what she accomplished: “I don’t know if I would have had the courage.”

Her voice is so clear and steady now that she regularly gives public talks. If you are lucky enough to be with the Glenns, the sight and sound of them bantering and joking with each other and playfully finishing each other’s’ sentences is something that warms you and makes you thankful just to be in the same room.

 


Monday will be Memorial Day, and once again people will remember, and will speak of the heroes like John Glenn the astronaut.

But if you ever find yourself at an event where the Glenns are appearing, and you want to see someone so brimming with pride and love that you may feel your own tears start to well up, wait until the moment that Annie stands to say a few words to the audience.

And as she begins, take a look at her husband’s eyes.

Thanks To ALL Who Served And Are Serving.

Please Pray For Our Troops And Leaders.

God Bless America … Land That I love….   Alleluia Amen.

 

 

Our ‘Best and All’   Malachi 1 & Mat. 5:38-42

Matthew 5:38-42   New International Version (NIV)

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Opening Story:

The teenage boy was tapped on the shoulder by the flat blade of a sword. Turning around, he looked into the face of a despised Roman soldier who said, “Here, boy, take my bag—and none of your lip, or I’ll give you the boot!” Under the Roman right of impressment, the soldier had the right to ask the boy to carry his bag for a mile, to run an errand for a mile, or to guide him for a mile. The boy picked up the bag, carrying it exactly one mile and no more. He then threw it down in the dust, muttered something under his breath, and returned home.

Everyone who heard this sermon on the Mount – everyone in Jesus’ audience understood the illustration Jesus was using.

But the question here is = how did they react to these sayings of Jesus? “Do more than is demanded. Go two miles!”

I bet their reaction was very close to what ours would be. Perhaps they murmured, “No way!”

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tried to help the disciples really get the actual demand of the gospel. This was not only a gift but also a life to be lived. Jesus’ entire sermon is a challenge.  A challenge to perfection; an ideal toward that all of us as Christians have to try for. Few passages in the New Testament have more of the essence of the Christian ethic than this one.

This is such a famous passage – yet how many of us know that
Jesus quotes from the oldest known law in the world? Yep – that’s right – this oldest known law was  the Code of Hammurabi (2285 to 2242 B.C.E.), which is based on the principle known as lex talionis—what we describe as “tit for tat.” We can find it in the Old Testament three times (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:19-20; Deuteronomy 19:21). Jesus’ interpretation is instructive.

He says we are not to resist, that is, “fight against,” or “stand against” evil. In other words, we are not to govern our actions toward others by their reactions to us.
This is really crucial to think about – what does this mean for us in this modern day – in our lives?

The “slap on the face” or the “turning of the other cheek” is  God’s way of saying that we are to live above the desire for revenge and the spirit of retaliation so characteristic of our society. Everyone everywhere tells us to “get even.”  Don’t turn that cheek and take it – but fight back even meaner and dirtier. Get Even at all costs….

So here comes the Sermon on the Mount – with it’s idea of “the tunic and the cloak”.  Where this hard outdoors sermon  teaches us something we do not want to hear – do not want to do – do not want to hear the truth of God’s way which is absolutely opposite of what we want to do…we are to go beyond what is demanded of us.

When we look at this in light of money and stewardship = the matter of giving is related to the totality of stewardship and must be understood both as privilege and as obligation. All giving, according to the Lord, is nothing less than giving to God. Jesus pointed this out by saying that feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, taking in the stranger, visiting the sick, and visiting the prisoners were all services unto God (Matthew 25:31-46).

LET”S HEAR THE MODERN TRANSLATION:

Matthew 5:38-42   The Message (MSG)    Love Your Enemies

38-42“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and
make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

All these ideas are summed up in verse 41. Obviously Jesus was laying down an eternal principle: “Do more than is demanded

of you in life.” We are told that Jewish boys living under Roman rule staked off exactly a mile down the road from their houses and never went beyond the stake.

Let’s be honest! Sometimes the demands of duty are a load in themselves. When we have to do something that we resent, we, like these Jewish boys, do it grudgingly. We look for the minimum we can do and seek to do no more. When I would tell my son to make his bed he’d want to know if he has to put on the bedspread. When my daughter’s teacher assigned a paper in her class in school, I’d hear her immediate question: “How long does it have to be?” Hey folks: The legalism of the Pharisees is not dead!

Now take another look at that young Jewish boy who was ordered around by the Roman soldier. What if he had taken the bag and gone past the mile marker? Did he hear Jesus preach this very sermon? Do you think this made a difference?

….Actually, when you really think about it – the entire plan of God’s redemption that we learn of in church is really  ‘second-mile’ stuff. The law demanded nothing of God. People knew the law and deliberately disobeyed. God gave humankind a second chance by going beyond the mile marker. God did this because of God’s great love for us. When you get right down to it, the second mile is one of consecration not compulsion, of opportunity not regulation.

Thinking of stewardship in terms not of law but of grace brings us to a new concept. Unlike the rich young ruler whose possessions possessed him, we now begin to think in terms of maximums not minimums; and rather than how little we can give, we consider how much we might be able to give. This involves the totality of our being—our talents, our treasures, and our time. When we think about our salvation, we know we cannot out-give God.

If we go beyond duty, three things will inevitably happen. We all know we have kingdom responsibilities. When we accept this and do more than the minimum, we can say we did something and sleep with a free conscience. That’s first.

Second, we can live in the company of the committed.

We read of many in the New Testament who walked the second mile. Mary with her alabaster box and the widow in the Temple –  giving out of her poverty, as well as those first apostles, all living beyond the demands of duty.

Third, we can live in the companionship of Christ, the One who said, “Follow me.” If we do, I assure you, it will be beyond the mile marker. Then we will know the real meaning of stewardship, and the Church across the world will be blessed immeasurably…….pause…..

The book of Malachi opens with what’s at stake in loving God with gifts that reflect His priority in our lives. Old Testament law required people to offer God choice sacrifices from their flocks, but the temptation was to bring blind and crippled and diseased animals. Bring a tainted, crippled, diseased sacrifice.  What good is that, I am thinking, what good is that? And God says, “Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should he show you any favor at all?”(Malachi 1:9)

We can do better, pastor Jim Nicodem has written, than spending an hour reading the newspaper cover-to-cover and five minutes reading God’s Word before falling asleep. A tainted sacrifice is when we bring to our careers our best energy and talent and motivation, but when it comes to serving in the Body of Christ we either sit on the sidelines, trying to stay under the radar, or look for something requiring little. A crippled sacrifice is when we watch our favorite ballplayer sink a perfect three-pointer and leap out of our Lazy-Boys in jubilation, but in worship we sit passively in neutral. A diseased sacrifice is when we spend a lot of money on ourselves for a house renovation or a summer vacation, but when it comes to giving God an offering we look at our budget and say, “What’s left over here?” A tainted sacrifice is when we love our kids so much there is nothing we wouldn’t give them, but if we’re honest our heart does not beat that fast for God Almighty.

God’s honor is at stake every time we pass the plate on Sundays: “No matter what we say or do, this is what we really think of You.”    ……. Alleluia Amen.

 

Sermon:  Psalm 116:1-14                    

“Money:  What’s God got to do with it?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Message (MSG)
I love God because he listened to me, listened as I begged for mercy.
He listened so intently
as I laid out my case before him.
Death stared me in the face,
hell was hard on my heels.
Up against it, I didn’t know which way to turn;
then I called out to God for help:
“Please, God!” I cried out.
“Save my life!”
God is gracious—it is he who makes things right,
our most compassionate God.
God takes the side of the helpless;
when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me.

7-8 I said to myself, “Relax and rest.
God has showered you with blessings.
Soul, you’ve been rescued from death;
Eye, you’ve been rescued from tears;
And you, Foot, were kept from stumbling.”

9-11 I’m striding in the presence of God,
alive in the land of the living!
I stayed faithful, though bedeviled,
and despite a ton of bad luck,
Despite giving up on the human race,
saying, “They’re all liars and cheats.”

12-19 What can I give back to God
for the blessings he’s poured out on me?
I’ll lift high the cup of salvation—a toast to God!
I’ll pray in the name of God;
I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do,
and I’ll do it together with his people.
When they arrive at the gates of death,
God welcomes those who love him.
Oh, God, here I am, your servant,
your faithful servant: set me free for your service!
I’m ready to offer the thanksgiving sacrifice
and pray in the name of God.
I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do,
and I’ll do it in company with his people,
In the place of worship, in God’s house,
in Jerusalem, God’s city.
Hallelujah!

As we continue on with our beautiful summer months….we are reminded every day of the bounty and blessing that our God showers down on us – each day the sun rises over the lakes and golf courses – each evening as the sun sets below the water’s edge – we are reminded of God’s amazing bounty…such beauty surrounding us at every turn….every sight of God’s beauty makes us pause and say YES to God’s blessing.  A blessing beyond measure…

All this blessing showering down – makes me sit and think on what it is to receive such a blessing…what is it about this blessing that is so remarkable?  Well it is because of the GIVER – don’t you think?  God’s blessing showering down on my little life ….who I am to receive such a blessing?  Why should I receive such a gift?  Well – it dawned on me – that this blessing has nothing to do with ME – nothing whatsoever…it is about the GIVER….not me…for sure.

One of the most remarkable articles on giving I’ve ever read came from an unlikely source. Came from a surprise source for sure.  The novelist Stephen King, who writes horror stories.  Now, no one would accuse Stephen King of being a devout Christian, and not a ‘syrupy’ idealist. But he actually makes a passionate and perceptive argument for giving.  King intuitively recognizes not only that giving is right, but that it’s smart. He may not understand that the glory of God, the good of others, and the giver’s eternal rewards are all higher reasons to give. But even if he doesn’t have a biblical worldview, this popular author recognizes, in his heart, that giving packs a really big transcendent purpose.  And that purpose is beyond the earthly pleasure here and now. In my opinion, King has a more accurate view of giving than many Christians:

 

Here is what he writes not too long after he had a serious bike accident:

“A couple of years ago I found out what “you can’t take it with you” means. I found out while I was lying in a ditch at the side of a country road, covered with mud and blood and with the tibia of my right leg poking out the side of my jeans like a branch of a tree taken down in a thunderstorm. I had a MasterCard in my wallet, but when you’re lying in a ditch with broken glass in your hair, no one accepts MasterCard.

…We come in naked and broke. We may be dressed when we go out, but we’re just as broke. Warren Buffet? Going to go out broke. Bill Gates? Going out broke. Tom Hanks? Going out broke. Steve King? Broke. Not a crying dime.

All the money you earn, all the stocks you buy, all the mutual funds you trade—all of that is mostly smoke and mirrors. It’s still going to be a quarter-past getting late whether you tell the time on a Timex or a Rolex….

So I want you to consider making your life one long gift to others. And why not? All you have is on loan, anyway. All that lasts is what you pass on….

Now imagine a nice little backyard, surrounded by a board fence. Dad—a pleasant fellow, a little plump—is tending the barbecue. Mom and the kids are setting the picnic table: fried chicken, coleslaw, potato salad, a chocolate cake for dessert. And standing around the fence, looking in, are emaciated men and women, starving children. They are silent. They only watch.

That family at the picnic is us; that backyard is America, and those hungry people on the other side of the fence, watching us sit down to eat, include far too much of the rest of the world: Asia and the subcontinent; countries in Central Europe, where people live on the edge from one harvest to the next; South America, where they’re burning down the rain forests; and most of all, Africa, where AIDS is pandemic and starvation is a fact of life.

It’s not a pretty picture, but we have the power to help, the power to change. And why should we refuse? Because we’re going to take it with us? Please.

Giving isn’t about the receiver or the gift but the giver. It’s for the giver. One doesn’t open one’s wallet to improve the world, although it’s nice when that happens; one does it to improve one’s self….

A life of giving—not just money, but time and spirit—repays. It helps us remember that we may be going out broke, but right now we’re doing O.K. Right now we have the power to do great good for others and for ourselves.

So I ask you to begin giving, and to continue as you begin. I think you’ll find in the end that you got far more than you ever had, and did more good than you ever dreamed.” 

 

NIV TRANSLATION ~   Psalm 116

1 I love the Lord,(A) for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry(B) for mercy.(C)
2 Because he turned his ear(D) to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.

3 The cords of death(E) entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name(F) of the Lord:
“Lord, save me!(G)

5 The Lord is gracious and righteous;(H)
our God is full of compassion.(I)
6 The Lord protects the unwary;
when I was brought low,(J) he saved me.(K)

7 Return to your rest,(L) my soul,
for the Lord has been good(M) to you.

8 For you, Lord, have delivered me(N) from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the Lord(O)
in the land of the living.(P)

10 I trusted(Q) in the Lord when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted”;(R)
11 in my alarm I said,
“Everyone is a liar.”(S)

12 What shall I return to the Lord
for all his goodness%