Archive for February, 2009

Installation of Rev. Kazy Hinds

Westminster Presbyterian Church

Piqua, OH

February 22, 2009

Philippians 1: 1-11


I. Way In

A.     Still inconceivable to me that my cellular phone can give me directions

1.      I can put an address in

a)     or ask for the hospital in Lima

b)     or a restaurant in Troy

c)      or the nearest gas station

2.      and my phone will show me a map, directions, and a pleasant-sounding voice to get me where I’m going

3.      VZ Navigator has been a real life-saver

a)     helped Kazy and I find places:

(1)   our churches

(2)   way back home

(3)   antique stores in Tipp City

(4)   presbytery office, presbytery meetings, etc.

4.      Drawback

a)     so used being able to punch in any address and find it

(1)   I do mean anywhere …

(2)   e.g., the community center in Houston (pron. it right)

b)     problem is, you do this enough, find enough obscure places … and find them easily

(1)   Until I KNEW WHERE I WAS GOING –or I THOUGHT I really knew my way around

(2)   just turn off VA Navigator see how true that is – lost as an Easter Egg

B.     It really comes in handy when I come to Piqua

1.      Kazy is here all the time, plus she has a better sense of direction than me

2.      I have been a little turned around here

a)     especially coming the “back way”

(1)   you know, the way that goes by the Brick Barn

(a)   which, by the way, is a SFPC family’s business

(2)   I just can’t do that way without VZ Nav yet

(a)   just ask Kazy

b)     I made the trip once and was looking for the building that was my landmark, just behind the church

(1)   and they had torn it down

c)      or it gets me to the parking lot out there off of _____

(1)   but it doesn’t tell me that I will be pointing the wrong way for the parking spaces

d)     and I was totally on my own finding that alley that comes in the back side of the parking lot

(1)   where at least, I’m pointing the right direction to park

3.      But the good news is:

a)     once I get close enough to see the big rock church …

(1)   I know that I’m going to make it

b)     it’s a very lovely building

(1)   I remember seeing the sign for the first time – God’s Table

(a)   I love that expression of hospitality

(2)   I love seeing your cornerstone – in Jesus Christ

(a)   a testament t a faithful presence, and witness

4.      And I love this beautiful sanctuary, with the gorgeous dome

a)     it’s been great to explore your church in the traditional way

(1)   playing sardines

5.      And I have appreciated hearing the stories of the church

a)     going back for generations

b)     as a presence in the community

c)      a landmark

d)     a testimony to the life and ministry of the Church of Jesus Christ

e)     and that’s a piece of the history of this church

C.     Now you don’t need me to stand here and tell this church your history

1.      but I want you to know how I and others appreciate your witness on this corner

D.    Bridge – and at this moment I am reminded of …

1.      Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi

a)     carries the message for …

(1)   this church as it prepares for the installation of Kazy Hinds, whom you have called as your Pastor

(2)   and as a reminder to the other churches represented here from our presbytery and maybe others from the community

2.      Paul’s’ letter to the church at Philippi was …

a)     a reminder of the good work begun among them

b)     an encouragement to continue that work

(1)   that it may be completed by the day of Jesus Christ

II. Tell The Story

A.     Paul writes to the church assuring them of his gratitude and joy for their friendship and shared ministry

1.      prayers of joy for their diligence in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ  – since Day 1

B.     Paul assures the church of his confidence:

1.      That God, “the one who began a good work among them”

2.      will “bring that work to completion” by the day of Jesus Christ

C.     Paul knows he is right in his thinking about the saints at Philippi

1.      he knows of their prayers and love for him

a)     they sent Epaphroditus with gifts and greetings for

2.      and their affections sustained him in his other works

a)     and at the time of his writing the letter – from jail

D.    Paul greets the saints there …

1.      in the love and compassion of Jesus Christ,

2.      with every assurance of his prayers

a)     that love may abound in the community

b)     and that wisdom may prevail

(1)   so that they may carry out the ministry of Christ’s church in such a way as to bring about the glory and praise of God

(2)   Until Jesus Christ comes again, and come again he will.

III. So What?

A.     Preaching an installation service, I have been thinking about my “hearers.”  Who am I preaching to?

1.      Pastor Kazy?

a)     the eager, gifted, capable, called minister?

b)     who is also my spouse, whom I will have to answer to if I say anything untoward”

2.      this congregation who has received and called Pastor Kazy?

3.      and, this afternoon we also have ministers, offices, and congregants from other churches in our presbytery – even our own exec., maybe churches from other denominations, even other presbyteries.. I am truly preaching before  an august body

B.     So the answer is “Yes.”  That’s who I’m preaching to – THE CHURCH

1.      I don’t mean this building – this stone church

2.      I’m preaching to the church

a)     The Body of Christ, the people of God; gathered for worship, fellowship, service, and spreading the good news of the gospel

b)     I’m preaching to the church

(1)   “Here’s the church, and here’s the steeple…

(2)   open the doors and there’re all the people”

c)      the church – it’s the people

(1)   it’s you, it’s me – it’s us

C.     The word is coming form Paul – having started a historical church

1.      like Westminster Church in Piqua

a)     a building that is a landmark,

b)     congregation that traces its history back to Christian meetings in ______

(1)   and we all understand how the perception of the church has changed in the community

(a)   I think we all understand that the steeple chimes no longer call the faithful to worship

(i)      certainly there are some whose respond in faith is if it were a phone call from God

(ii)    perhaps, though, there are other neighbors who merely tolerate the chimes, thinking they’re quaint, or ignore them altogether

(b)   I think we all understand that the language of faith does not ring today through the halls of commerce or administration in the same way as it once may have

2.      And I think, church, that we are also the saints Paul’s letter is addressed to

a)     because he wrote to encourage the church that:

(1)   the good work God began

(2)   will come to completion by the day of Jesus Christ

(a)   I think the 1st generation of apostles believed Jesus was talking about returning pretty soon

(b)   but we’re still waiting

b)     so Paul’s word carries over into each generation of the church, living faithfully until the day of the Lord

(1)   not coasting, or resting on our pious couches

(2)   but continuing the work of ministry Jesus started …

(a)   proclaiming the good news of the gospel

(i)      producing the harvest of righteousness

(ii)    so that the church – in the day of Christ – shall be pure and blameless

D.    What does this mean for you … the church?

1.      That’s what we will all be praying for you about

2.      But we know that Pastor Kazy has already begun a vibrant and enthusiastic ministry here

3.      The congregation has welcomed her leadership and pastoral ministry

4.      Now you are ready to continue, with prayerful discernment …

a)     the ministry of Jesus Christ with her as your Pastor

E.     So that God, the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ

1.      So be faithful to the sharing of the gospel

a)     stand firm in one spirit, strive side-by-side for it

2.      Church, write the name of Pastor Kazy on the list of pastors, and add this new day to the history of faith here

a)     strive for every good work of mercy, hospitality … even evangelism and witness in the heart of this village so that the good news will be proclaimed

(1)   for this will produce the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

3.      And for this church, and every church represented here today …

a)     So may it be –.  Amen


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Mark 9:2-9



I. Way In

A.     “Are you on Facebook again?”

1.      Kazy asked me last night

2.      Yes, I have been spending a bit of time on FB lately

a)     Oh, you haven’t heard?

(1)   on-line social networking

(2)   make a profile for yourself and put it out there

(a)   others can search and find you

(i)     based on networks: schools, work, hometown

(3)   they say it’s secure

(a)   people can’t see your full profile without your permission, etc.

b)     amazing who I have connected with

(1)   here in Sidney

(2)   Seminary, college, high school, even elementary and cub scouts

3.      One old friend I met was (name is private)

a)     she also moved north from BHM

b)     we e-mailed back and forth about a time we remembered at Montreat Youth Conference in NC

(1)   I was a chaperone, (name is private) was a Sr. High youth

B.     A mountain-top experience

1.      (names are private)one morning we all met in the lodge before dawn

2.      the 4 of us took a hike up the mountain to see the sunrise

a)     our youth group did this more than once

(1)   one Easter for a sunrise service on Ruffner Mt.

3.      It was glorious

a)     foothills of the Appalachian range

b)     purple and deep blue sky

c)      over the range they call in Black Mtn. the “7 Sisters”

4.      (name is private) and I talked about the pictures we still have

a)     of the group that morning, our mountain-top sunrise

5.      I told (name is private) that trip changed my life …

a)     that morning, that picture is how I remember it

C.    Bridge

II. Tell The Story

A.     Six days later

1.      about a week after Jesus’ healing a blind man at Bethsaida

2.      and Peter’s grand confessional answer to the question “Who do YOU say that I am?” – “You are the Messiah.”

B.     Jesus took Peter, James, and John

1.      Peter – the rock upon whom Jesus will build the church

2.      James and John, “sons  of thunder”, sons of Zebedee

a)     James came to be leader of church in Jerusalem

b)     John, “the beloved disciple”

C.    Jesus led them to a high mountain, apart, by themselves

1.      Jesus had a habit of taking to the mountains for retreat

2.      preparing the 3 disciples for a momentous event

a)     important to be off alone so they could see and learn

b)     teaching them the importance of time away? time alone?

D.    Jesus was transfigured before them

1.    metamorfo,omai

a)     to completely change or transform

b)     like cocoon to butterfly

E.     his clothes became dazzling white

1.      full light of everlasting life

F.     Moses and Elijah appeared with him

1.      Moses, the law-giver, represents Torah

2.      Elijah represents the prophets

3.      Jesus, refers to the law and the prophets

a)     “love the Lord your God…and love your neighbor as yourself, on these depend all the laws and the prophets” (Mt. 22:40)

G.    Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here, let us make 3 dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

1.      dwellings/booths/tents

2.      cf.  Feast of Tabernacles

a)     Jews remember 40 years in the desert

b)     living in tents

c)      God was with them

3.      wanting to mark this miraculous day

H.    Peter did not know what to say, they were terrified, then a cloud overshadowed them

1.      afraid of the presence of God?

a)     cloud = power and presence of God

2.      a cloud here as when Israel was in the wilderness

a)     God was seen as a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night

I.        Voice from the cloud

1.      like the voice of God at Jesus’ baptism

2.      same pronouncement, “This is my Son the Beloved.”

3.      “Listen to him”

a)     God commands them and us to listen to Jesus

b)     this is the Son of God, the messianic prophecy is fulfilled

c)      Listen to what he has to say

(1)   this stuff is important

J.      when they looked around, they saw only Jesus

1.      now, Moses and Elijah are gone

2.      the law and the prophet are gone

3.      now there is only Jesus

4.      Jesus said he had not come to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them (Mat. 5:17)

K.     Jesus ordered them not to tell what they had seen until … he had risen from the dead

1.      “the vision” they had seen

2.      until the resurrection

3.      later in 2 Peter 1:16-19, Peter was able to affirm, “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power of the Lord … but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty … we heard the voice from heaven, because we were there, and we have the prophetic word made sure.  You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your heart,”

L.      Bridge

1.      the vision the disciples saw was a ‘life changer’

2.      yet Jesus told them not to tell anyone about it yet

a)     he knew it wasn’t time for the disciples to tell yet

b)     it was still time to learn for them to learn

III. So What

A.     My time on Lookout Mountain that morning, was a life-changer for me

B.     I don’t know how it affected my 3 young friends, but I can tell you how that mountain-top experience changed my life

1.      I had been volunteering for a while at my church as a youth advisor

a)     I loved the kids, but by that summer I had just about had it

b)     annoyed to be the only adult chaperone

c)      good kids, but a handful

2.      more-or-less planned to check out on this trip Montreat

a)     took some vacation days from job (ppl at work thought that was weird)

b)     planned to do some relaxing, reading, exploring

(1)   while the kids were in their programs and meetings

(2)   so I took books, coffee pot, snacks, etc.

3.      thinking of myself as more of a baby-sitter

4.      but that morning – with those kids – that sunrise – that mountain

a)     changed my mind – changed my attitude

b)     had a day or so to actually do the R & R I was hoping for

c)      but that morning with my kids reminded me

(1)   how I loved youth work

(2)   how I loved sharing faith

(a)   and how getting to know them was a gift

(b)   learning their stories

(c)   hearing their questions

(i)     exploring the answers

5.      I came down from that mountain rejuvenated – restored – transformed

a)     God was dealing with me, reminding me, guiding me

b)     I kept that picture – it’s been almost 20 years

(1)   (name is private) told me she has hers, too

c)      A critical step of the journey that was the process of God’s call to me to ministry

C.    That’s a mountain-top experience

1.      life-changing event

2.      have you had one?

a)     maybe on a mountain, maybe at the breakfast table, or at your desk

b)     as dramatic as a sunrise or as intimate as a meal

c)      but I bet you have had what you could call a mountain-top experience

(1)   where God’s calling was a plain as the nose on your face

(2)   where you had a vision – a dream – an image

(a)   of a work of ministry

(i)     act of mercy

(ii)   revelation of a word from the scripture

(3)   that made a difference in your life

(a)   maybe it happened one day, and you are still responding, or still listening for what to do next

(b)   maybe you’re already all over it and in the middle of it

3.      Maybe it wasn’t that dramatic

a)     many times we feel abandoned

(1)   because we have not had that mountain-top experience

(2)   or not the same as our friends had

4.      sometimes it’s just more subtle

a)     just a moment of awareness of feeling loved, or noticed

b)     … a moment of compassion

c)      unexpected tears, or unexpected laughter

(1)   you didn’t mean to cry that much

(2)   or laugh that loud

(3)   but you did

(a)   and something felt different

d)     maybe a moment of more awareness

(1)   when something seemed to make more sense

5.      sometimes that moment is less of a dramatic mountain-top experience

a)     and more like the awareness of a hum deep within your soul

b)     one professor in seminary compared it to …

(1)   a tuning fork

(2)   or the hum you can hear the refrigerator make when you’re the only one awake

D.    when you an set that moment aside

1.      and get past all the other stuff that’s happening

2.      and you see only Jesus

a)     and know Jesus is there

3.      that, for you, can be a moment of metamorphosis

a)     calling to a life of making a difference for the sake of Jesus Christ

E.     That moment isn’t the answer …

1.      it isn’t the goal

2.      rather it’s the beginning

a)     of a commitment to a new way of living

b)     of finding ways to build community

c)      of living outside of what others expect or need from you, who may have their own interests at heart

3.      it is this moment where there’s only Jesus

a)     that we begin to realize that we have something unique to offer

b)     for his sake

c)      through the Body of Christ

F.     Then Jesus calls us back off the mountain

1.      to continue our journey of faith

2.      never alone

3.      always making a difference for his sake

4.      so let it be with us.  Amen

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6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

off-lectionary sermon

Mark 2:1-12

Hold Up Your Corner


I.        Way In

A.      My roll-top desk

1.      gift to myself years ago

2.      not “fine furniture” but I like it

3.      took it with me when I went to seminary in Atlanta

a.      moved 5x

i.        never lived on 1st floor

·         in fact, 2x on 3rd floor

b.      that’s 10x moving desk – up and down stairs

4.      this desk is a huge pain in the neck to move

a.      so it’s a good thing y’all hired movers for us

b.      or somebody would have gotten to help me move the desk – yet again

c.       my seminary friends learned to avoid me at the end of the semester

i.        didn’t what to help Hinds move his desk

d.      not so bad, it comes apart

i.        side drawers are ok

ii.      but the top is all one piece

·         desk surface

·         upper part with all the cubbyholes, and the roll-top part

iii.    usually I moved the drawers and pedestals by myself

iv.     went to look for a friend to help move the top

5.      sometimes I moved it around the room by myself

a.      carried the drawers

b.      slid the top across the carpet, or on a blanket

c.       always had trouble lifting the top piece up by myself

i.        could get it up so high…..then it was hard

ii.      several accidents

·         dropped it on the floor, slid off the back

·         once, I dropped the top on the corner of the drawer pedestal

·         punched a hole in the back – still there

B.      “Team Lift” – seen these labels on heavy packages at the store

1.      particle board bookcases and desks

2.      it’s always better to lift with a team

3.      you know how it is …

a.      not always that it’s so heavy, just awkward/unwieldy

b.      like a ¾” 4×6 sheet of plywood

i.        it’s heavy, but mostly really awkward to carry – too much so to try it alone

ii.      and if you’re outside, forget about it

·         windy? it will be like carrying a large, open sail

iii.    def. best to “Team Lift”

c.       like a king-size mattress, dining room table

i.        I recommend that you “Team Lift”

4.      and when you do “Team Lift,” 1st word is important

a.      have to work like a team

b.      what if you’re carrying that dining room table …

i.        better yet, a king-size mattress – carrying it upstairs

ii.      what if one of your teammates drops their end?

·         bad news for the team, right?

iii.    chances are, the mattress is going down

·         and maybe another team member along with it

5.      Team Lift

a.      you have to do it together

i.        coordinate your efforts

ii.      “hold up your corner,” “hold up your end”

b.      Pull your weight, for many hands make for light work

c.       and hold up your corner

II.      Tell The Story

A.      You know the “Team Lift” in today’s gospel reading?

1.      the 4 friends who brought the man to see Jesus – to be healed

a.      they heard about Jesus

i.        heard about his healing power and maybe about his  authority

ii.      there were other healers around

·         historical accounts of 1st century scams

·         not “faith” healers but “fake” healers

·         not only was Jesus the real deal

·         he did his healing for free

·         the charlatans, fakes, usually charged a fee

b.      Jesus was drawing big crowds

i.        word was getting around about him

·         people were getting into his teaching and preaching

·         and, the healing was a big draw, too

ii.      there were also some scribes

·         from the ‘big church,’ the home office

·         keeping an eye on Jesus

·         they were hearing about him, too

·         not so concerned about the healing

·         healers all over the place

·         but they heard that this … Jesus

·         was talking about forgiveness

·         and THAT was a problem – that was blasphemy

·         something only God could do

2.      so  there were 4 friends who were determined to get their buddy in to see Jesus

a.      willing to do whatever it took to get him there

b.      must have been used to carrying their friend around

c.       and when they saw the crowds around Jesus on this day

i.        they knew it was going to take something special to get their friend to Jesus

d.      got up on the roof of the house where Jesus was – and where all the people were

i.        tore a hole in the roof – must have been like thatch or straw

ii.      and lowered their friend down on his mat by ropes

·         to get him down to Jesus

B.      And when Jesus saw their faith …

1.      not just the paralytic’s faith, THEIR faith

2.      Jesus saw the faith of the friends who brought Jesus, too

a.      their determination to get the man to Jesus

i.        was evidence of their faith in his ability to heal

C.      but, healing the man of his paralysis was not the miracle Mark, the gospel writer, tells us about

1.      what Jesus said, when he saw their faith, was “your sins are forgiven”

D.     and that’s what the scribes were upset about

1.      they were asking this question in their hearts

a.      thinking it, but not asking the question out loud

b.      but Jesus heard them anyway

2.      to them, this was blasphemy

a.      only God can forgive sins

E.      Jesus noticed this too

1.      why do you ask such a question?

2.      is it easier to say to this man…

a.      “your sins are forgiven”

b.      or “stand up and walk”

3.      never mind the question of how Jesus knew …

a.      that they were asking these questions “in their hearts”

i.        not saying them out loud, just wondering

ii.      and Jesus heard them anyway

4.      never mind that …

F.       Jesus said, so that you may know that the Son of Man has the authority …

1.      I say to this man, “stand up, take up your mat, and go home”

G.     He did

1.      immediately, the man stood up

a.      took up his mat

b.      and walked out for the while crowd to se

H.     and they were all amazed

1.      “we have never seen anything like this.”

III.    So What?

A.      the ‘sin’ the scribes were after Jesus for was forgiveness

1.      something they believed only God could do

2.      they barely even seemed to notice the healing part

3.      for the scribes, Jesus’ transgression was forgiving somebody

a.      something only God can do

b.      but it’s really something we call can do

4.      ultimately, our forgiveness is up to God

a.      yet we pray every time we say the lord’s Prayer, at least 1x a week

b.      and ask God to forgive us as we forgive others

i.        which makes me think that I really need for God to forgive me BETTER THAN I forgive others

·         I don’t know about you, but I am sometimes slow to forgive

·         been known to carry a grudge, or be a little trifling or petty

·         a little slow to forgive

ii.      and I need for God to forgive better than that

5.      forgiveness is something we all have the gift of doing,

B.      but what I want to look at with you today is the 4 friends – the Team Lift

1.      or really, the Team Lower

2.      this is what Jesus noticed – this act of faith

a.      Jesus saw how the 4 friends brought the man to him

i.        and lowered him through the roof

3.      imagine the scene

a.      these four carried their friend to see Jesus …

i.        then carried him up on the roof

ii.      then lowered him down

·         through the hole they made/tore in the roof

4.      each one carried a corner

a.      each one held up a corner as they lowered the friend down

b.      if one let their corner tilt or drop …

i.        off went their friend, the paralytic

ii.      bad enough, even worse when they started lowering him through the roof

·         he would roll right off

·         and fall the rest of the way to Jesus

iii.    then the paralysis wouldn’t be all he needed healing of

c.       but when everybody held up their corner …

i.        they gave their friend the best ride they could

ii.      a smooth ride down to where Jesus was

C.      Hold up your corner

1.      like we were talking about earlier

a.      moving my desk, or a king-size mattress, a big piece of furniture

2.      many hands make light work

a.      and it works as long as each one holds up their corner

3.      but if one lets their corner down

D.     Teamwork is good – many hands make light work

1.      and many hands can make it easier to take a step back

a.      because there’s somebody else, right next to you

b.      and it doesn’t make that much difference

i.        if one steps back for a second

ii.      because there’s somebody there to take up your slack

2.      playing the game once with a big parachute out in a field

a.      where you have people all around the edge, holding up the para.

i.        bounce a beach ball or something in the middle

b.      everybody lifts and pulls their edge of the para. and the ball goes rolling and bouncing all over

i.        be sure to pick up your side so the ball doesn’t roll of on your side

c.       playing once at camp

i.        lots of people around the edge

·         practically side-by-side all the way around

ii.      I had to go check on lunch or something

·         so I stepped away to go do what I had to do

iii.    everybody shifted over a little bit

·         filled in the gap I left

·         and it seemed to go on just fine

d.      but you can imagine more and more people

i.        one or a few at a time – stepping away

·         “It’s okay, there are lots of folks left doing the job”

ii.      until only a few are left around the big para.

·         making it impossible to hold up the edge

·         so the ball falls off all over the place

e.      just like the paralytic in today’s’ gospel reading

i.        if one friend didn’t hold up their corner

·         the paralytic would roll off the edge of the mat

E.      Hold up your corner

1.      think about …

a.      the paralytic on the mat

i.        what happens to him if everybody doesn’t hold up their corner?

b.      the parachute game

i.        what happens if  everybody doesn’t hold up their corner/edge

2.      think about the church

a.      there are lots of hands holding up different edges

i.        when it works well, it’s good

b.      there are enough hands to take up somebody’s slack

i.        if one falls away, there are enough to fill in the gap

3.      but what if we get in the habit of stepping back?

a.      … in the habit of thinking somebody else is taking up the slack

4.      what if we get in the habit of thinking … “Oh there’s somebody taking care of that… old ‘so-and-so’ always steps in to

a.      greet visitors

i.        “Oh right, so-and-so always does a good job of that, they will go and sit with somebody, or talk to that person I don’t recognize.  Who was that, anyway?”

b.      make sure there’s coffee

c.       snow is cleared away from the door and sidewalks

d.      mowing the grass, trimming the edges, raking, sweeping, watering, planting

e.      isn’t somebody supposed to call when somebody’s not in church

i.        “yeah, I don’t need to worry about that.”

F.       what happens when the habit of holding back gets comfortable?

1.      what happens when we get used to somebody else stepping in and holding up our corner – or part of the corner

2.      what happens when we don’t even notice there must be somebody else out there …

a.      holding up all kinds of edges

b.      what do we think when we realize we’re, in fact, doing very little

i.        and get out of the habit of wondering what my part is?

G.     can you imagine getting so used to holding back, and somebody else holding up that edge

1.      that where it seems that so-and-so IS RESPONSIBLE for doing that thing

H.     Today, Mark’s gospel tells us that Jesus noticed the faith of the paralytic and his friends

1.      when Jesus saw their faith, he told them that their sins were forgiven

a.      and we witness this miracle every week in worship

i.        when we acknowledge our shortcomings, transgressions

ii.      and hear the proclamation that, in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven

2.      maybe I’m “preaching to the choir”  ( am I even looking at the choir, they’re behind me)

a.      we can deal with that – forgiveness

b.      we hear it every week

I.        Today, I’m more interested in the faithful living Jesus recognized in these friends

1.      in getting their friend to Jesus

a.      doing what they had to do

b.      holding up their corner

2.      today, I’m learning about doing a better job of holding up my corner

a.      what about you?

J.        My responsibilities are set out in the Book of Order, and agreement with the church

1.      some of us; staff and officers have clear responsibilities

2.      but in every task there is room for creativity and imagination

K.      and don’t we all have responsibilities to the church of Jesus Christ?

1.      to spread the gospel – the good news – by the way we live our lives

a.      as shown in hospitality and welcoming others?

b.      in serving those in need?

c.       in studying and praying?






What  it takes is enough faith to recognize that the church, the Body of Christ, is the place for the expression of a life of discipleship, and the realization that we do not travel this journey alone.  With this you can bring what you have and present it before God as an offering.  Then find your corner, your place in the circle, and hold it up.  Then hold on, because God has great things in mind for you.


Hold up our corner.  So may it be with us.  Amen.

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5th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Isaiah 40: 21-31



I.        Way In

A.      Not too long ago, season of the church year known as Advent

1.      talked about “waiting,”

2.      that’s what advent means

3.      talked about “active waiting.”

4.      about the irony of a job like waitressing

a)      called “waiting tables”

5.      compared to the idea of waiting

a)      as in waiting for a bus to come, or

b)      waiting by the mailbox for a letter to come.

B.      Waiting for the bus or waiting for the mail is passive

1.      talked about Advent waiting as active waiting

2.      Advent waiting is preparing for the coming of Christ,

a)      doing something about getting ready,

b)      done with anticipation,

c)      not just sitting idly by

d)      waiting for Christmas to come like

(1)   we were waiting for a bus,

(2)   or waiting by the mailbox for a letter.

C.      today we heard from the prophet Isaiah,

1.      and right there in the last verse we heard it, “wait.”

2.      this time it’s actually a word from scripture.

a)      Advent is a season of the church year,

b)      but there’s not a place in the Bible where it says “you shall observe a season of waiting before Christmas…”

c)      that wouldn’t work anyway because the word “Christmas” isn’t in the Bible.

II.      Tell The Story

A.      Isaiah says it right here;

1.      the ones who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.

2.      You’ve heard this, right?

a)      They shall renew their strength…they shall mount up with wings, like eagles…they shall run and not be weary…they shall walk and not faint.

3.      So right here, in the same verse, in the same breath,

a)      Isaiah is talking about waiting and about action

b)      We know about action,

(1)   we are doers,

(2)   we know the value of getting things done

(3)   Get with it, get on the ball,

(a)   don’t just sit there – do something.

4.      We get things done.  To wait is to miss out.

a)      Waiting is for the passive, the uncertain.

b)      You snooze, you lose.

B.      That’s not what Isaiah is telling us to do.

1.      Biblical waiting is different.

2.      Biblical waiting renews our strength.

3.      That’s what Isaiah says,

a)      “Have you not heard?” going back to verse 28, “The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth…the Lord gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless…even the very young will faint, they will get tired, they will fall down exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.”

4.      What Isaiah says here is just the opposite of “you snooze, you lose.”

C.      The English language Bible is the best attempt of English-speakers to express the Word of God,

1.      as passed down orally for generations

2.      until it was written down in ancient Hebrew and Greek.

3.      It’s critical to remember that just because I talk about waiting for the Lord and waiting on tables,

a)      those are not comparisons that would make any sense to speakers of ancient Hebrew.

b)      when I say that, I’m talking about some words we use, as an example of how they are understood in the context of 21st Century America.

D.     We can do the same thing with the scriptures.

1.      The word Isaiah uses for wait, as in “those who wait for the Lord,” is yEAq (koh-yee),

a)      other times the root of that word in Hebrew is used in the Bible.

(1)   56 times and it means “to wait,”

(2)   but there is an expectant attitude to it

(3)   the extended definition is to look for,

(a)   to expect,

(b)   to wait or look eagerly for.

(4)   It also means to lie in wait for,

(a)   like robbers waiting to rob the train carrying the payroll.

2.      In a few examples we find biblical waiting

a)      as in: Jacob’s last words to his sons,

(1)   when he says, “I wait for your salvation, O Lord.” (Gen. 49:18)

b)      Psalms are full of waiting:

(1)   “for you I wait all day long,” (25:5)

(2)   “wait for the Lord, be strong,” (27:14)

(3)   “those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land,” (37:9)

(4)   “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in the Lord’s word I hope.” (130:5)

c)      One of the Proverbs is

(1)   to “wait for the Lord, and the Lord will help you.” (20:22)

d)      about 12 times in Isaiah,

(1)   other prophets use it, too.

(2)   Ezekiel, Hosea, Micah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah.

(a)   Like where Hosea says, “wait continually for your God.” (12:6)

(b)   In Jeremiah, you will find the other attribute of the word we translate as “wait,” as in where the prophet proclaims to God, “we set our hope on you.” (14:22)

(3)   In the poetic book, Lamentations, we find the word used in the phrase “this is the day we longed for.” (2:16)

e)      In another place, Isaiah uses the word to describe the attitude of a farmer who had prepared a field; clearing it of stones, planted it with choice vines, built a watchtower so he could oversee the fields, and made a wine vat.  The word is used to express how the farmer then expected the field to yield grapes. (5:2)

E.      welcome to borrow my concordance and Hebrew lexicon

1.      but if you are willing to take my word for it,

a)      you can see that the Hebrew word we translate as wait

(1)    has a far richer meaning

(2)   and it gives a new meaning to the word for me.

(3)   Now I know that I can’t use this argument at home.

(a)   Even though Kazy has the same Hebrew language reference materials at home,

(b)   I know I can’t persuade her that I’m waiting eagerly for divine inspiration

(i)     before I clean up the my stuff in the basement or garage,

(ii)   or waiting with expectation to hang up the rest of our pictures.

(c)    In fact, I think I’m getting the message that by now my strength should be renewed,

(i)     that I should mount up with wings like eagles and get those things done,

(ii)   surely by now I won’t be weary, and will not faint.  But that’s another matter –

(iii) a whole other context that I don’t think Isaiah has any interest in and you probably aren’t either.

III.    So What

A.      But I think it’s useful for us to consider the richness of this word,

1.      the one we try to capture in four letters of the English language as “wait.”

2.      I think it’s useful to think about the expectation of the farmer preparing the vineyard, the one who prepared the soil, and planted the vines.  The one who made a vat for the wine as he expected the grapes to grow.

B.      I think it expands our understanding of the prophecy to wait for the Lord

1.      to consider Jeremiah’s use of the same word to describe how we can set our hope on God;

2.      or the phrase in Lamentations that says the Lord is good to those who wait for the Lord, then expands the thought, saying “to the soul that seeks the Lord.”

a)      We can trust in God, in whom our hope is set.

b)      God’s grace will come to those whose soul seeks the Lord,

3.      broadens the meaning of waiting for the Lord.

C.      Now hold all of that in your mind,

1.      collect those thoughts,

2.      bind them together…Oh, that’s another use of the Hebrew word yEAq, it’s found in Genesis 1:9, translated as gathered together when God  says, “let the waters be gathered together in one place.”

3.      So gather together all these descriptive English words about this little word in Hebrew –

a)      hold them if you can,

b)      these ideas of hopefulness, eagerness, expectation,

c)      and let those images flow as you listen again to the words of the prophet.

4.       “Have you not known?  Have you not heard? …those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

D.     My friends, I think this is the time.

1.      Can you sense it?

2.      Think of that vineyard I told you about in Isaiah 5.

a)      A vineyard is usually a metaphor for Israel, and although Isaiah 5 goes on about what kind of grapes the vineyard yielded that were not what the farmer expected, I think about the preparation of this community as a vineyard coming to the days for which it has been prepared.

3.      I think the period of waiting, of eagerly expecting has been a time of renewing strength.

a)      I think this Sidney church has had a time of waiting with hopeful expectation,

b)      a time of renewing its strength.

4.      I sensed it when I was here last summer,

a)      when I met with your PNC, and others.

b)      I had the sense of a church, a part of the body of Christ, a faithful, called people who had been through a time of waiting, and whose strength was being renewed.

E.      When my family and I were here to visit, and meet the community

1.      I know I heard the wings of eagles cupping the wind and climbing preparing to soar.

2.       I saw rested people running without being weary,

3.      I saw them walking without fainting.

F.       That’s why you are so eager now.

1.      That’s why you are so responsive to new ideas.

2.      That’s why you are looking for ways to reach out into your community to share the good news that Jesus Christ is born,

a)      and invite all who would call on him to come and join in the feast he has prepared in the community he is making.

G.     Later this month you are going to hear annual reports for 2008.

1.      You’re going to hear about obstacles overcome and progress made.

2.      You’re going to hear about a system of accounting for our resources that keeps getting better,

3.      you’re going to hear about ongoing ministries making faithful strides to keep up with the work God is calling us to.

4.      Maybe you’ll hear about something new,

a)      or you’ll hear about something you want to be a part of.

H.     Remember a few weeks ago when I invited you to share with those sitting around you in church?

1.      I asked you to think about Jesus coming and calling you to a brand new way of life,

a)       and to imagine yourself on the second day of that new life.

2.      You are now in that second day,

a)      and there are new ideas floating around.

b)      There are ongoing ministries and activities that are growing stronger in the Lord,

(1)   there are people praying and acting faithfully,

(2)   setting their hope in the Lord who makes all things new.

I.        I encourage you to look for ways of expressing your faith to your community.

1.      You don’t have to be pushy,

2.      you don’t have to bug people to death,

3.      but invite them to church.

4.      Take some of my calling cards,

a)      where people will find our address and what time we worship,

b)      and invite somebody to church.

5.        Sometimes people just need to know they’re invited, that they will be welcome.

J.        I encourage you to think of ways to serve your church.

1.      This is the time that new committees and ministry teams are being formed.

2.      we will be using the information on your Time and Talent sheets to invite you to share in various ministries and activities,

a)      but don’t wait on me…

b)      Isaiah says wait on the Lord,

c)       not wait on Pastor Joe.

3.      Jump on in there and let me know what you have in mind…this church belongs to Jesus, not me.

K.      This is such an exciting time for me to be with you.

1.        And I look forward to a lot of time to develop these ideas and plans we are making.

2.      This is the time.

            Strength is renewed.

            Do you hear it?

            Do you hear the wings, lifting and rising us up?

            Can you imagine it?

            Running and not getting tired?

            Walking and not fainting?

L.       Even if you find yourself not being able to get around like you used to

1.      you have the possibility in the Lord to do these things.

2.        You may not be able to run or walk like you used to,

a)       but that’s the whole idea of what Isaiah is saying…

b)      this is a whole new way of getting around.

c)       A whole new way of living, with renewed strength.

M.   Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.

So may it be with us.  Amen.

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4th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Guest Minister at:

First Presbyterian Church, Sylacauga AL


Mark 1:21-28

Gone Crazy


I.      Way In

A.   My “real and personal experience” with demon possession

1.    High School age

2.    first car date (or one of the first)

3.    I was actually ready for it

a)    knew it was coming

b)    prepared

(1)  cross, Bible with me

c)    prepared to be scared out of my wits—and I was

(1)  afraid of the dark for months after

(2)  still a little jumpy

4.    The movie, The Exorcist

a)    drive-in movie with girlfriend

b)    had all my totems in the car

c)    didn’t watch the movie, and not for the reason you think

II.    Tell the story

A.   Jesus preaching in the synagogue

1.    people were amazed with his teaching and authority

B.   During the sermon, a man, member of the synagogue, who was possessed with an evil spirit cried out

1.    What do you want with us?

2.    Have you come to destroy us?

3.    I know who you are—the Holy One of God!

C.   Jesus responded to the demon within, “Be quiet, and come out of him”

D.   The demon shook the man violently

1.    came out of him with a yell

E.   The Bible says that the people were amazed with Jesus …

1.    new teaching, and with authority

2.    he even orders out evil spirits

F.    News about Jesus spread quickly throughout Galilee

III.   So What

A.   You heard about my experience with demon possession, what about you?

1.    any spinning heads, pea soup, levitation?

a)    tell me later, but not at night

B.   Well, think about context of today’s lesson with me…

1.    1st century AD, around year 30

2.    medical science in “shall we say,” the early stages

a)    limited in their understanding about strange behavior

(1)  no studies or awareness about mental illness

(a)  no concept of anything but a spiritual dimension to this behavior

(b)  not a medical issue but a spiritual one

(2)  no medication or other means of stabilization

b)    demon possession was a good name for it for them

(1)  the person we may identify or diagnose with a mental illness

(2)  the best language 1st century culture had for it had to do with demon possession

(a)  being possessed – being taken over with something, something got a hold of you

C.   I want you to hear me say that there is a true demonic force

1.    as real today as it was in today’s scripture reading

2.    we have dressed up our language – semantics, are we saying the same thing?

a)    ancient baptism rites, renounce Satan

b)    contemporary, renounce the power of evil

3.    Satan, the deceiver

4.    problem with Satan/Devil

a)    not the opposite of God, not the “evil deity” in opposition to God

b)    “power of evil,” but not the “bad god”

(1)  a power or force, but not a deity

D.   What do we know about?

1.    People act nutty sometimes – seem crazy even

a)    clinical cases, sure, but what about …

b)    song on the radio this a.m.

(1)  everybody plays the fool, sometime (talking about falling in love – head over heels,  “stupid in love”

(a)  no exception to the rule

(b)  when the music starts to play, and your ability to reason drifts away

2.    People get taken away with

a)    anger, fear, guilt, jealousy, you name it (more) …

(1)  and they act out of that

3.    anybody you know?

a)    somebody you work with?

b)    go to school with?

c)    go to church with?

(1)  I’ve done it—I’m not perfect

(a)  thought I knew somebody’s motivation for a comment or action

(b)  acted on suppositions about that rather than taking the time to find out

E.   Are they possessed by a demon?

1.    No, but sometimes we let something take us over so that we act a little nutty

a)    arguing with Kazy once

(1)  tried to think of a mean come-back

(2)  ended up saying something like “You’re not the boss of me!”

(a)  I knew I was losing it

b)    Paul if he misses or is late for nap time

(1)  4am this morning

F.    What do we do?

1.    What did Jesus do?

a)    Did he let the possessed man behavior define his ministry?

(1)  did he vary from his path when somebody disagreed, or gave him a hard time?

(a)  let alone under threat of arrest and crucifixion?

b)    Did he let this behavior shape the church?

(1)  do we tiptoe around certain things to be sure “so and so” doesn’t get upset with us?

(2)  shy away from messing what has become a “sacred cow” so we don’t offend anybody

c)    How would things have looked for the church then?

G.   Jesus delivered the man from what had hold of him – and he can deliver us

1.    Whether you encounter this at work, school, neighborhood, even church….

a)    let us not be shaped by things that get a hold of us, things that want to possess us

(1)  name it, and claim it, like Jesus did

b)    can we identify what’s taking hold of us and holding us back?

(1)  fear of what may happen in the future

(2)  fear of looking a problem straight in the eye

(3)  fear of being found out

(4)  what if we’re wrong?

(5)  did we mistreat somebody? and are ashamed?

(6)  did we judge or think we knew somebody’s motivation?

(7)  did we pass by somebody we could have helped

(8)  did we forget to tell somebody

(a)  “I’m sorry”

(b)  “I love you”

(c)  or “I forgive you”

2.    We can be freed from what has a hold of us

a)    and freed from impact of what has a hold of others

b)    we can bring it to Jesus, just like the man in Mark’s gospel

(1)  Jesus won’t turn us out

c)    for he can heal us, free us

(1)  when we see him in others

(2)  and name the demons that drive us

d)    rather let us be shaped and formed by the steadfast love of Jesus Christ, and the example for ministry-life that he gives us

H.   When Pastor Jim first invited me to preach today, I did not know you would be doing this wonderful youth-led worship service today

1.    What a gift it is to be here and see this youth group lead today’s worship

a)    I remember Youth Sundays here – when I was your youth guy

b)    and many of these youth were in the children’s class

(1)  now you’re the youth

(2)  and my youth group are all grown up

(i)    with careers

(ii)  getting married

(iii) making a difference in the community

(iv) I prepared a sermon on today’s lectionary reading from Mark’s gospel

2.    So I want to encourage you: youth, children, grown ups

a)    don’t let anything hold you back

b)    don’t let anything ‘take hold of you’

c)    be strong and courageous

d)    when you find yourself filled with something that is taking hold of you …

(1)  bring it to Jesus

(a)  like the man in the gospel

(2)  it might not be a demon (I HOPE it’s not a demon)

(a)  but it may be something that’s taking you over

(b)  jealousy

(c)  pride

(d)  untruth

(e)  hurt

(f)   fear

(3)  these are real – and they can hurt

(a)  hurt others, and you

(4)  don’t be afraid

I.      Jesus stands ready to give you a second chance

1.    to help you name your “demons” the things holding you back

a)    and to teach you the words to make it better

2.    because that’s the first step

a)    naming what’s holding you back

b)    having the courage to notice the simple name, like:

(1)  I don’t want to be wrong

(2)  I don’t want to be sorry for that

(3)  I’m afraid they won’t’ love me anymore

3.    recognize that the Lord your God, in Jesus Christ will forgive you

a)    Jesus didn’t rebuke the man in the gospel for the demon that possessed him

(1)  rather he called out what possessed the man – and freed him to live as God intends

b)    and he will do the same for us

4.    Joshua 1:9 says,

Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

J.    Take hear, then

1.    Jesus has freed you to have another chance

2.    and, he calls each of us – you and me

a)    to go and do as he teaches

b)    to go and ‘do likewise”

c)    go and make a difference

K.   Let us follow the example of these wonderful young people today

1.    look at them – wanting to go and make a difference

2.    for we are witnesses to and bearers-out of God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ

3.    so may it be with us.  Amen

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