Archive for April, 2009

We have a guest preacher this Sunday, April 26.   Rev. David Fleming, the Interim Director of Kirkmont Center.  David will deliver a message on Living Water from Isaiah 55 and John 4, and reflect on the opportunities for refreshment and restoration at our Presbytery’s wonderful camp and conference center – Kirkmont

Sarah Steenrod, our creative and all-around-wonderful Program Coordinator, has put a campsite in the sanctuary to promote the camping minstry of Kirkmont Center – Presbytery of the Miami Valley26apr09


Read Full Post »

John 20:19-31

It Begins


I.      Way In

A.   Gospel lesson

1.    reminded of Jesus’ final days—preparing the disciples for his leaving

a.    for all their missteps and quarreling, this is where they start to shine

b.    seems that Jesus got it right, deciding how to prep them

2.    after Transfiguration, he told them not to tell yet

a.    said wait until he had been raised from the dead

i.      those days the disc.’s always argued with him

·         couldn’t handle thoughts of his death

3.    now after Jesus came to finds them where they were hiding

a.    they seem to get it

b.    Thomas, speaking for the others

i.      1st confession of faith, “My Lord and my God.”

4.    I think Jesus knew this was what it would take

a.    Seeing, running away, hiding, doubting, touching

b.    Finally understanding and proclaiming

B.   Disciples/Apostles, names sometimes interchanged

1.    Apostle(apostolos – messenger)

a.    noun describing person – messenger; noun describing work – mission

b.    Traditionally, an eye-witness of the risen Lord

c.    Although used before Resurrection, and Paul calls himself an apostle

2.    Disciple(mathetes – follower or pupil)

C.   The calling of the Disciples or Apostles

1.    ministry/service (diakonia – also name for an office of service)

2.    Acts 1:25, Matthias chosen to “take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside.” (diakoni,aj kai. avpostolh/j)

3.    community (koinonia) fellowship, close mutual relationship, fellowship

4.    church, congregation, assembly (ekklesia)

a.    Peter, the rock on which Jesus built the church

b.    From the beginning, cornerstone and foundation of the church – humankind (Jesus, Peter)

D.   Now the Disciples are prepared

1.    now that they have witnessed and learned from Jesus

a.    they are ready for their mission

2.    The Great Commission (Mat. 28:19f)

a.    “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the F, S, HS, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

3.    Messengers of the good news of Jesus Christ, to be his witnesses from Jerusalem into all the world

II.    Tell The Story

A.   Gospel reading begins after Jesus’ male followers went to the tomb

1.    found it empty

2.    went home, wondering who got Jesus

3.    locked themselves in a house

a.    hiding

b.    not so concerned about what became of Jesus

i.      even of his remains

c.    very concerned that they wouldn’t get what Jesus got

B.   Jesus came into this atmosphere of fear

1.    actually broke into it – through locked doors

2.    came and stood among them

3.    “Peace be with you”

C.   Showed them his pierced hands and side, breathed the power of Spirit

1.    gave them peace

2.    filled them with spirit

3.    sent them

a.    v.21 “As the Father sent me, so I send you.”

i.      Sent is a verb in the form of apostolos for sending

ii.    Lit., as the Father has sent me, so I (commission or appoint) you

D.   Jesus apparently left them after this

1.    and Thomas showed up at the house

a.    Didymus – the twin

b.    Called the brother of Jesus, no mention of who his twin was

c.    Gospel of Thomas – Gnostic Gospel, “sayings of Jesus”

2.    would not believe what the others told him until he saw for himself

a.    “Doubting Thomas”

b.    How critical can we be?

i.      Are we slow to believe where we have not seen?

c.    remember, in his first appearance to the disciples;

i.      Jesus showed his hands and side before anybody asked

E.   Jesus came back about a week later

1.    again through closed doors, “Peace be with you.”

F.    Gave Thomas a closer look

1.    didn’t wait for him to ask for proof, Jesus knew his story already

2.    “Put your finger here and see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it in my side.  Do not doubt but believe.”

G.   Thomas sees, touches, believes…and proclaims “My Lord and my God.”

1.    Good News of Jesus comes to us through the ministry of the apostles

a.    Through the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit – the good news comes to us

b.    In spite of and greater than any doubt we may have

c.    We can proclaim with Thomas that Jesus, over and above anybody or anything else, is “my Lord and my God.”

III.   So What

A.   The purpose of John’s gospel (v.31)

1.    so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and that through believing you may have life.

B.   This is still the season of Easter – the 50 Days

1.    with the disciples, we have heard the stories of Jesus

a.    learning about his life among us

2.    we have been through times of doubt about Jesus, and fear of being associated with him

3.    we have heard of (and participated ourselves in) rejection and denial of the Lord

4.    But we have ended up in community with others who have heard the same call and are being taught by the same teacher

C.   In Faith, we build community around the living ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ

1.    fellowship, prayers, worship, service

2.    a community of his promise, that we shall not be alone

a.    have you known this presence?

i.      When members of your community gather around

·         Joy and celebration, sorrow and crisis

D.   Our daily life is a sermon shared with the world around us

1.    By the way we live our lives, may others see the living reminder of the fulfillment of the ministry Jesus called his disciples to and that he calls us to

E.   In these days after Easter, as we see the Acts of the Apostles in our scripture readings

1.    let us re-commit our lives to the ministry and apostleship Jesus calls us to

2.    Faith is shared and God’s promise is spread one person at a time

a.    With the guidance and patience of Jesus may we continue his ministry

i.      Love and forgiveness

ii.    Reconciling with our neighbor

iii.   Friend to the friendless

iv.   Welcoming the stranger

F.    In a sense, this is where ministry begins – with the community of faith being built around the followers of the risen Lord.  It begins

1.    walking on the treadmill at the Y Friday (trying)

a.    hard not to see TV – they’re everywhere in the cardio room

i.      Dr. Phil – doing, I’m sure, some fine work with folks on the show

·         thinking about people watching him “fix” the lives of others

·         seeing people in the studio audience respond

·         to the emotions and sharing of the ones on stage

·         couldn’t hear, I wasn’t tuned in to the audio

·         (I was listening to the Allman Brothers on Pandora)

·         but I was wondering if it isn’t easier to watch somebody else work it out sometimes

·         doesn’t that free me from working on my stuff?

·         isn’t it easier to see how obviously somebody else is messing up

·         think about ways they can do better

·         … than paying serious attention to me

·         this was apparently some kind of “Biggest Loser” program

·         easier to think about how that guy on TV ought to do something about his gut

·         than getting down to business and doing something about mine

b.    are we becoming a culture of observers and commenters?

i.      preferring to focus on others than ourselves?

ii.    holding off on starting out on something new until …

·         I’m really ready

·         so-and-so get’s that thing done I’ve been waiting on

·         I get a new____

·         I get my old _____ back

·         so-and-so shows some leadership and starts something I can get behind

G.   But this is how it begins ( emphasize and insert often “it begins”)

1.    somebody was concerned about school kids going hungry

a.    and even though they cut prayer out of school …

b.    they met with the principal to get something started – a Christian ministry

i.      and don’t you think there isn’t prayer in school

·         when teachers know that a kid can’t concentrate because there isn’t enough food at home

c.    so it begins…a new mission/ministry

2.    somebody made a phone call to a friend who was going in the hospital

a.    so it begins…pastoral care between parishioners

3.    somebody heard about an important project

a.    made an anonymous gift to pay for part of it

b.    so it begins…supporting the cause

4.    somebody heard about a clothing need

a.    donated a full wardrobe of gently used clothes

b.    so it begins…community ministry

5.    somebody heard about a three hour community worship service

a.    they attended, offering their prayers and praise

b.    so it begins…building bridges in the ecumenical community

6.    friends, you know it … this is how ministry begins

a.    you have a conviction of your heart, and the assurance of God’s leading

b.    maybe you see heart-warming or heart-wrenching programs on TV that show people reaching out in the name of Jesus

i.      or in the name of something else good

·         and we feel so good seeing somebody doing something about … our favorite cause

·         more about this …

H.   But this is how it begins, as with the disciples

1.    Because this is the Christ we come to know when our eyes are opened and we acknowledge him as Lord

a.    And this is the ministry he calls us to

b.    In this we participate in building the kingdom of God

i.      Even among the ways of the worlds wickedness and greed

ii.    That we may be a living reminder of the love and life of our Lord Jesus Christ,

·         Our Lord and our God

·         So may it be with us.  Amen

Read Full Post »

Shelby County Ministerial Association, Community Good Friday Service

Seven Last Words of Christ


John 19:26-27

“Woman behold your son”


I.        Way In

A.      They thought that if they got rid of Jesus, they could stop the movement of God in him

a.      even though he had promised never to leave his followers alone

i.        they came to believe when he said that they would be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit

ii.      that they would have an Advocate/Paraclete

2.      Just like somebody thought if they got rid of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. they could stop the Civil Rights Movement

B.      The religious and political officials of the day thought:

1.      if they made an example of Jesus Christ

2.      that after the brutal scourging and execution of Jesus of Nazareth

3.      that they would be done with this troublemaker

a.      this hick from Galilee

4.      the religious leaders were done with him – such blasphemy

a.      his followers, whose numbers were growing, believed he was the Messiah

i.        … God’s chosen one

5.      The political leaders were done with him – such  political dissidence

a.      people were saying that he was Lord

i.        didn’t they know that Caesar was Lord?

C.      Surely if the church turned Jesus out – and he suffered the crucifixion

1.      the brutal public execution,

a.      the horrific and cruel fate of criminals and enemies of the state

2.      that they would also break the will of Jesus’ followers

a.      surely they would not want to risk the same suffering punishment and death of Jesus

3.      they thought they would crush the dreams of the ones who were coming to know

a.      Christ’s promise of abundant life in him

b.      the in-breaking of the Kingdom of Heaven

D.     But the “God Movement” …

1.      that’s what  Clarence Jordan, Georgia Baptist preacher in the 50s and 60s, author of the Cotton Patch Gospels – who, along with Millard Fuller started Habitat for Humanity –  calls it

2.      The God Movement is no cult of personality

a.      no ideology that runs only as deep and as long as the charisma of the leader lasts

3.      The God Movement is …

a.      a way of living that crosses over dividing barriers of old and worn-out traditions

i.        breaks the bonds of injustice

            where the hungry are fed spiritual food that satisfies and saves

            the thirsty are given long drinks of living water

            the ones who have lost their way are found – and restored

            and the ones who are dying to sin are saved

4.      The God Movement – in Jesus Christ – did not end in the dark noon of Good Friday

a.      it did not die in Holy Saturday’s grave

5.      Friends, we know that

i.        the power of God rolled away the stone

ii.      and the Good News in our Lord Jesus Christ

            left behind the grave clothes

            and burst forth from the tomb

            into the dazzling daylight of Easter morning

            declaring victory for us over sin and death

E.      Amen, but we must not move too quickly to the glory of Easter Sunday

1.      our life together as the Church of Jesus Christ …

a.      calls us to spend time – together – in

            the darkness of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday

            even though we are an Easter People

            our faith reminds us that we also belong to the suffering of these days

2.      the suffering and death of Christ are brutal and real, but he Good News is

a.      suffering is not the last word

b.      Christ was abandoned by almost all of his followers at the end

i.        but abandonment is not the last word

c.       this is the day that our Lord Jesus gave over his spirit,  breathed his last, and died

i.        but death is not the last word

3.      I said, “let us not move too quickly to the glory of Easter Sunday,”

a.      but I can’t help it

b.      I want to preach about God’s word

i.        God’s living Word in Jesus Christ

            “death” is not the last word

            the last word is “life”

            abundant life

            new life in Christ

            redeemed in our Lord Jesus Christ

            the Living Word of God

4.      Living on this side – the Resurrection side, of Easter Sunday

a.      we have seen the truth of the Resurrection

b.      and as we dwell in these dark days before

i.        let us also remember his suffering

ii.      and let us remember the community of faith Jesus made

            around God’s promise of abundant life

c.       let us remember the ways he has shown us to live

i.        ways of sharing

ii.      of pouring ourselves out for others as Christ has done for us

d.      let us remember that although we live in a world that always wants to teach us

i.        that might makes right, that only the strong survive

ii.      …. let us remember that Jesus Christ shows us a new way

            where the last shall be first

            that when we stop storing up resources

            out of fear that we might not get enough someday

            and share from God’s abundance

F.       The religious and political leaders of Jesus’ day thought …

1.      intimidation and fear would break up this band of followers

a.      drive them so far into hiding that these new ideas would never catch on

2.      they thought that if they could break up his family

a.      by taking away a mother’s son …

i.        that the movement would wither and die without its leader

3.      they thought if they got rid of Jesus, they would stop the movement

II.      Tell the Story, “Woman behold your son! Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!”

A.      this Gospel reading from John, “Woman behold your son”

1.      finds Jesus, even during his suffering and dying – thinking of others

a.      of his mother, of his friend – the disciple whom he loved

b.      he is building community    making a family of his followers

c.       not worried about his own pain – but the pain of others

B.      Mary is not the one on the cross

1.       – but if you are a parent, a grandparent, a beloved relative or friend

a.      you know how she would trade places with her son

2.      her presence, along with the other women at he foot of the cross

a.      is another dimension of the agony and suffering of Good Friday

i.        as they witness the willing sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth

            son of Mary

            and son of God

            fully divine and fully human

            fully Mary’s son and fully God’s son

III.    So What?

A.      There’s no question Jesus cares for his mother and his followers

1.      but here, he is not simply arranging care for his mother after he’s gone

a.      not saying, “John, would you please take care of Momma after I go to heaven.”

B.      Jesus is making a family of faith from his followers

1.      he said before, “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother

C.      Because of the cross of Jesus, we have a family of faith

1.      connected through God’s Word as known through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ

2.      because of God’s sacrifice of perfect love for humankind

a.      we have the promise of salvation and abundant life

i.        through Jesus Christ our Lord

D.     and from the cross of Jesus

1.      our Lord, despite, his suffering and coming death

a.      directs the family of Christ to form around God’s saving love

b.      with a new commandment – love one another

E.      The family of faith that we have in Jesus Christ shall not be broken

1.       by separation, suffering, or death.

2.       The power of Jesus has overcome the power of death,

a.       and opened us to a new way of living as he has shown us.

F.       We join that family,

1.      and are empowered, through the power of the Holy Spirit

a.      with the gift of reconciliation and forgiveness

i.        that restores our relationships,

ii.      and creates a family of faith where we were once strangers.

b.      talk about needs in the community related to economy

            Look around you.  Here are your sisters, here are your brothers.  Here are your sons and daughters, even your mothers and fathers in the faith.

“Woman, behold your son.”  So may it be with us.   Amen.

Read Full Post »

Palm Sunday


John 12:12-16

then they remembered



I.        Way In

A.      Last communion Sunday, I told about remembering family vacations

1.      that was the 1st Sunday of Lent

a.      vacation…as an example of a trip, a journey

i.        as our spiritual journey of Lent began

B.      Today, I want us thinking about remembering – vivid memories

1.      for me, the first thing I thought

2.      of was family trips when I was a kid

a.      in a station wagon – like this one

i.        You know how those trips are

ii.      parents usually on the front seat

iii.    kids arranged in the back

            around suitcases

            and other bags, books, magazines, and snacks

            mark out your territory with a line across the seat

            a line clearly traced over with your finger

            with all kinds of threats if anybody crossed over

iv.     usually I called “way back”

            and I usually got it

            I had seniority, I am the oldest

            besides my sister Betsy couldn’t be looking out the back window

            she got carsick, surely that would make it worse

            so I usually got “way back”

            that funny seat in the back of a station wagon

            that faces out the back window

            so you didn’t have to look at anybody else in the car

            if you didn’t want to

b.      and I have very vivid memories of those trips

i.        early 1970s, from Alabama to visit our old neighbors and family in Mississippi

ii.      I told you before about

            road food

            favorite snacks on the road: Nabs, Cokes, Snickers, peanuts

            still my favorites

            familiar sights along the highway

            oil wells near Vicksburg, Stuckey’s, roadside picnic tables

            billboards with grinning governors welcoming us back

            one time I kept my arm against the window as much as I could

            I wanted to have a suntan by the time we got there

C.      Today, when I look at this picture of a 1970-something model station wagon …

1.      I have vivid memories about those trips my family took

2.      what do you remember vividly?

a.      what’s the first thing that came to mind when I said that?

b.      don’t tell us, or at least not now

i.        just rest with that memory for a moment

            what are the textures of that memory?

            what smell do you associate with that memory?

            what was your emotion in that memory?

            how would you draw your face: smiling, frowning, laughing, crying

            is there something you taste in that memory?

            how are you dressed in that memory?

            who is with you?  are you by yourself?

            what comes back to you today-at this moment as you remember?

D.     Bridge

1.      memory is a powerful thing

a.      God told the Hebrew children to always remember …

i.        that their ancestor was a wandering Aramean

            called out from his home

            to be an alien in a foreign land

ii.      remember how God took care of you

            released from captivity in Egypt

            led and fed in the desert

            through the desert

            to the land of promise

2.      and now the disciples remember

a.      John’s gospel tells us today …

i.        they didn’t understand at first

ii.      but “when Jesus was glorified,” as we said last week,

            they remembered the prophecies and realities of Jesus

3.      as far as I’m concerned, this is the climax of John’s gospel

a.      the moment when things come together

b.      the moment when the vision begins to crystallize

c.       the moment when the disciples’ questions begin to become answers

i.        (v. 16) then they remembered

            that these things had been written of him

            and had been done to him

4.      What do you remember about our memory exercise a few minutes ago?

a.      what’s it like to remember something?

i.        long ago, or a more recent memory

ii.      do you recall your point of remembering?

            was that a strong memory?

            or, did it evoke a strong memory?

5.      Well, the disciples remembered …

a.      listen again for the words of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem

b.      The (switch to Palm photo here) Palm Sunday readings from John’s gospel and from Mark’s

II.      Tell the Story

Mark 11:1-11

            When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it.  If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.'”

            They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?”  They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.

            Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it.  Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.  Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

            Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.


John 12:12-16

            The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.  So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord– the King of Israel!”

            Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:  “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

            His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.

III.    So What?

A.      “Then they remembered”

1.      as I said before, this is the climax of John’s gospel

a.      the moment things began to come together for the Disciples

i.        before, they were confused when Jesus told them …

            my hour has not come

            “about that hour, no one knows

            or “the hour is coming” when …

            they knew a certain time was coming

ii.      before they were confused about what Jesus said

            about his death, about his life

            about his resurrection

            about their life together

2.      but at this moment, they remembered …

a.      they remembered the scriptures

i.        prophesying that the king (Messiah) would come riding on a donkey

ii.      the people were calling him the King of Israel

b.      the crowd that had been following Jesus around

i.        now received him as their King

            proclaiming it

            praising him with loud Hosannas

            or expressions of praise and adoration

            acknowledging Jesus as the King, son of David, King of Israel

3.      the next verse from John tells us that this was the same crowd

a.      that witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus

b.      and the disciples were remembering things Jesus told them before

4.      it was all coming together for them

a.      the prophecies were making sense

b.      they were understanding the signs of the miracles

c.       remember, John says that the purpose for writing his gospel

i.        was so that people would know about the things Jesus did

            and believe

            this is the reason for the signs – the miracles

            and the teachings

B.      Now most of the scholarship you will find on John’s gospel names the moment the disciple Thomas experiences the risen Christ is the climax of the gospel

1.      when Thomas says, “My Lord and my God”

2.      I haven’t seen anybody else call today’s reading the climax

a.      but I am thinking in terms of the dramatic expression of Jesus’ ministry we find in John

b.      especially this moment when the disciples’ questions and confusion seems to come together as they remember…

c.       and although this is also the moment before their betrayals and denials begin

i.        the disciples are being drawn into their formation as the Body of Christ

            … the beginning of the church

            even Peter, the denier, being named as the rock

            the one upon whom Jesus will build the church

C.      and I am calling us to remember as well

1.      re-member, re-join, re-connect

2.      upon the memories and teachings of Jesus, the disciples were becoming a community

a.      after Easter, we will be looking together in preaching at the Book of Acts

            how the disciples lived after they remembered Jesus

            remembered what he taught them

            what he showed them

            about living together, and caring for each other

            about being the church

            the gathered community

            the Body of Christ

            about how this unlikely band of fishermen and tradesmen

            were made into the church of Jesus Christ

            and carried out his commission

            to proclaim to the world that Jesus Christ is Lord

D.     How do we continue this ministry?

1.      How do we live out our call as disciples, followers?

a.      that’s the question before us always

i.        shaping the life and ministry of this church

            how do we carry out the work Jesus began in us

            how do we carry on after his lessons of





b.      the disciples remembered

i.        but they didn’t stop there

            they didn’t take their memories and make a scrapbook

            they made a difference

            a difference for the world

            a difference for the sake of Jesus Christ

            let us keep that before every ministry decision we make

            how does what we do make a difference for Jesus Christ?

            we are on a new journey

            didn’t just begin this Lent

            didn’t just begin when y’all called a new minister

            we are on a new journey for the sake of Jesus Christ

            living out the teachings we remember and hold before us

            let us seek the way every day

            to make a difference in our community and the world

            for the sake of Jesus Christ

            and in his name

            So may it be with us.  Amen

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: