Archive for June, 2009

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today my wife and I had a pulpit swap.  She preached in Sidney and I preached at her church – Westminster Presbyterian Church in Piqua, Ohio.


Mark 4:35-41 (same lectionary text as last week)


1.  Way In

Did the Mark reading sound familiar?

Did Kazy read it last week?  It was Sunday’s gospel lection

I preached on Mark 4 last week in Sidney

Somebody asked if I would preach the same sermon here today that I preached in Sidney last Sunday

same text

but different sermon

I’m preaching again from Mark 4 because it’s one of my favorites

after last Sunday, I heard about some of the storms folks in Sidney felt Jesus’ presence in

ways he calmed their storm

The storm the disciples encountered reminds me of hurricanes I have lived through – growing up on the MS Gulf Coast

Betsy, Camille, and Katrina (although I lived in NY when that one hit)

reading about the disciples in the boat with Jesus

reminds me of the amazing power of storms like these

and the reading reminds of the peace of Christ we experience

I remember crabbing one afternoon with my father in Gulfport, MS

lines set out at the end of the jetty

with chicken necks tied to the end of strings

at low tide, crabs would clamp on the  chicken with their claws

and not let go while the ate

we went out from time to time and scoop the crabs up with a net

it was late in the afternoon  when a rain storm came up

the wind was cold

Daddy gave me his jacket to wear

 while he went to check the crab lines

I was about 10

after almost 40 years I remember

Daddy’s coat was a denim jacket

made like blue jeans, but white

I remember the peace and comfort as I sat there on the beach

huddled in Daddy’s jacket

wrapped around to keep out the wind and the rain

that’s the very peace and comfort I long for some days

and that’s the kind of peace and comfort

… calming the storm

like Jesus in Mark 4

… there with us

… in the same boat


maybe It’s weird for me to start of by telling y’all what I’m not preaching on

but calming the storm is, to me, the obvious message from this text

and I think it’s distracting to leave that hanging

while I go off to talk about something else

besides, I read an article that gave me an idea on this text

and I didn’t want to wait 3 years until it rolled around in lectionary again

been keeping it in a “sermon starter”[1] file

share with you are the thoughts of a writer and seminary professor

and what that means for my life

I pray that it means something for you, too

2.  Connect the idea to the text

The article I mentioned is about “busyness”

we find Jesus in the back of the boat – resting, of all things.

imagine that, resting when his disciples are frantic

and asking him to do things for them

They need Jesus, and Jesus is resting.

not to say that Jesus is lazy or disinterested in the disciples problems

rather Jesus is taking the time to take care of what he needs

The disciples got what they needed

maybe not when they wanted it,

but as always; Jesus was right on time

not in “our time,” but right on time.

ironic that I clipped this article out of a journal to go back to later

I guess I was too busysermon 1

here in Mark’s gospel we see Jesus calming the storm by just speaking to it

like I said before, that’s where we generally focus,

Jesus in the front of the boat calming the storm.

We tend to overlook what he was doing before that –


in the back of the boat.

in our culture, what he was doing in the back of the boat makes us uncomfortable

I mean … He wasn’t doinganything

he wasn’t making anything

he wasn’t reading something for work or school,

he wasn’t balancing his checkbook

he wasn’t catching up on some letter writing

he wasn’t planning next week’s menu, or making a grocery list.

He surely wasn’t doing any ministry, was he?  … he was sleeping

Jesus was doing something he did pretty often, in fact

many times in the scriptures that we find Jesus going off by himself

to pray or just to rest –

to renew his spirit, to restore his soul.

If Jesus made this a practice, what can we learn from it?

Jesus took time in the back of the boat,

a place we should consider spending some time.

What if we spent more time in the back of the boat?

more time resting from everyone else’s expectations of us,

remembering who we are,

and that abundant life is more important than doing things,

or making things.

it is possible for us to lose ourselves in our work,

and forget that God loves us for who we are, not what we do.

3.  So What?

It’s important for us to set aside time for play (grown-ups, too)

for exercise, for hobbies, and for rest.

And that’s not just so we can rest up to go back and work even harder,

I’m talking about resting for the sake of resting.


After all that work creating the universe, God rested.

After teaching and preaching to crowds and healing the sick, Jesus rested.

And so should we

We could all use a little more Sabbath rest

we should set aside intentional time for rest, even to make it a priority.

being rested and refreshed is as important as being productive

when I am over-extended I am forgetful and scattered

Rest is as important as an end to itself,

not only in that rest prepares us to do more

building Sabbath rest into my schedule restores and renews me

not just rested up to perform better, but to be better.

the author of the article I mentioned on busyness says,

“Just look as what Jesus was able to do after spending just a little time in the boat.”[2]

Jesus did calm the storm,

and relieve the fears of the disciples,

but he did it at the time that was right

He did not rush into action, trying to please others.

He moved intentionally,

doing what needed to be done,

but doing it at the right time for him.

Every day there are any number of tragic circumstances

your TV is full of commercials and pleas

for your financial support for countless ministries and agencies

In our personal lives we encounter people who need help all the time

we pass them on the sidewalk or drive by them.

Our culture teaches us to be people who respond,

to react, to do the right thing.

TV programs depict real-life people responding quickly and smartly.

Taking time for rest and to be restored just doesn’t seem to be part of the picture.

But for us to survive

for us to fulfill the things God has in mind for us,

we must be aware of substituting busyness for abundant life

We must recognize our tendency to stay busy

to keep from dealing with relationships

or other issues that we had just as soon ignore or brush away.

Yes, Jesus is in the same boat with us,

but we can also learn a lesson from seeing him spend some time in the back of the boat.

Sometimes up front is where all the action is,

it’s where we can feel needed or important,

it’s where we can feel part of the crowd.

But there are times when the front of the boat isn’t where we need to be.

We don’t always need to be up front,

maybe we need to remain in the back of the boat for a while longer,

for a time of rest and restoration.

I have tried to make moving more slowly a spiritual discipline,

it’s surprising what you see when you walk a little slower,

or walk somewhere you normally drive

try it and see if you don’t notice something you’ve missed all this time.

Try saying “no” for a change

when you are asked to do the umpteenth thing

or chair the eleventy-hundredth committee.

Notice how it feels to claim more control over your schedule.

Please don’t leave here today and tell your friends,

“Oh you should have come to church with me,

the preacher told us to all be lazy and shiftless.

and please don’t tell Kazy,

“your husband told us to say ‘no’ when you ask us to do something.”

What I’m saying is to build in some Sabbath rest in your life,

and learn that you don’t have to feel guilty for taking it.

Don’t be surprised if your pride takes over a little bit

For example, I had to admit that I could take a step back

to take Sabbath from the church

That meant admitting the church would survive without me.

each church I served has “been in business for over 100 years”

and each one has done just fine for all those years

without Joe Hinds.

When we become convinced if taking time to rest, just to rest

to restore ourselves

for restoration

not just so we can jump back in fast and furious

I pray for the awareness and confidence to be open to rest

to take a lesson from today’s scripture lesson

awareness of the storm, and the need for calm

and to be aware of the need for restoration and peace in our lives

I know that I need some Sabbath rest when I:

begin to forget things like appointments or where I put something

lose my sense of humor or get snippy with my family

withdraw from the ones I love

resent others because of “everything I have to do”

lose myself and important notes or work in piles of papers and files

What are your touch points?

How do you know when it’s time to spend time in the back of the boat?

How can you tell when you need some rest and restoration?

Take the time to recognize what brings stress to your life,sermon 2

and take the time for rest and restoration.

Yes, Jesus is in the same boat with us,

but learn from him about the importance of spending some time in the back of the boat.

I think you’ll be glad you did.

“Peace, be still”

so may it be with us.   Amen.


[1]Leadership, Spring 2001, p. 42, ff., “Busyness: The Rush,” by Kirk B. Jones

[2] Jones, p.43

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Preaching is an event that I cannot capture in a printed manuscript.  Friday, I would have said that my sermon was mostly finished, but the gospel kept after me and there was something else to be said.  At 7:30 this morning I reworked the ending but left the conclusion open to spontaneity.  It was interesting how the accompanying photos for projection still helped present the message even as the words I used took a different track.  Although my outlines hold a lot of detail, I am grateful for crafting a technique that provides room for adaptations and revisions – spiritual urgings, that are sometimes “on the fly” – which I did not experience in preaching from a manuscript.



Mark 4:35-41

In the Same Boat



1.  Way In

When I lived in south Mississippi as a young boy, there are some girls’ names I remember

Betsy in 1965

barely, though.  I was 6 years old.

Camille in 1969

remember a little better.  I was 10.

36 years later – in 2005 there’s a girl’s name we all remember

Katrinasermon 1

8/29/2005, category 5 hurricane

costliest, among 5 deadliest storms in US history

severe damage along the Gulf Coast from FL to TX

My aunt and uncle live in Gulfport

they sent me this photo taken from St Stanislaus Church

Bay St. Louis, MS – just east of Gulfport

you can see the wall of water

part of the 27’ storm surge that went 6 miles inland

look at the center of the picture

see how the trough of the waves are over trees and rooftops

When hurricanes Betsy and Camille hit the MS Gulf Coast, I lived about 90 miles inland

even there, we felt the damaging winds

trees uprooted, crashing through houses and tearing up roads

On the coast, when Camille hit Gulfport

my great-grandmother’s house was flattened

across Hwy 90 from the beach there were shrimp boats, even banana boats strewn about them like toys a child left in the front yard

After Camille my grandparents built a house on the bayou just outside Ocean Springs

across the bay from Biloxi

I remember going to see their property

the roof of the previous house lay flat on the ground

Camille’s wind and water swept the house right out from under the roof


A storm is a terrible, frightening thing

the winds from these 3 storms

making landfall with forces from 155 – 190 m.p.h.

the devastating storm surges – massive walls of water

bring terror and death to those in its path, and aftermath

That’s a picture of my aunt – the morning after Katrina hit the MS Gulf Coast

that’s the bridge over Biloxi Bay, between Ocean Springs and Biloxisermon 2

that used to be the way to Grandmother’s house

I don’t think the storm in Mark’s gospel today was like any of these

but any storm at sea is frightening

imagine the power to destroy a concrete bridge or building

imagine being in a small fishing boat like the one the disciples were probably in

most of the disciples were fishermen

they knew about the waters called the Sea of Galilee

and the Bible says that when this storm hit, they were afraid

2.  Tell The Story

Before getting in the boat, they had been all around the Sea of G. with Jesus

 Mark says, he spoke to the crowds

and taught the disciples with many parables

a long day, Jesus told the D. to get in the boat with him to cross to the other side

This was familiar territory for the D. who were fishermen

knew the waters well, every rock and sand bar

knew their way to every place around the shore

knew how storms behaved there,

other writings indicate storms came up quickly

and they could be very severe

storm that came up that night was really bad

waves beat against the side of the boat

crashed over the sides

boat was filling with water

Seemed hopeless

prepared for the worst

Where was Jesus?  In the back of the boat, on a cushion, ASLEEP!

Teacher, don’t you care?  We’re dying here!

Without a word to the D., he woke up and rebuked the wind

“Peace be still.”

In that moment, there was a “dead calm,” the wind stopped blowing

“Yes,” this was the answer to their question

“Teacher don’t you care?  We’re dying!”

“YES,!” he was saying.  “I do care.”


God does care about what you are going through,

God is there for you to call out to

for a word of peace in the middle of your stormy time

God – in Christ is there with you – is here with us

in the same boat

3.  So What?

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that he’s here

do you ever wonder?

Do you ever ask, “Where is God now.  Now that I need him?”

I have heard that question.  I have asked that question.

on 9/11.    During and after Hurricane Katrina.

where was God?

maybe another event in your life

maybe something less dramatic, tragic, catastrophic than Hurricane Katrina or 9/11

or maybe something worse – for you

where was God?

it’s not wrong to wonder – it’s not wrong to be afraid

Jesus did not criticize the disciples for their fear – or their doubt

Jesus was there – he had never left

he was right there – in the same boat

I wasn’t in New York City on 9/11

but God didn’t criticize people for wondering how he could let that happen.

But God was there

sat with everyone who lost a loved one that day

God rushed in with each fire fighter, and paramedic

God was on the scene with each one that turned out to help

and God was there with each load of rescue supplies

and every kind word and comforter

and God’s heart was grieved as deeply as anyone’s

maybe deeper

at the evil his created people are capable of

I wasn’t in NY on 9/11, but I was in MS after Katrina

and God was surely there – had been there

God was there when rescue operations began

with each paramedic, firefighter, coast guard, national guard, police officer

with each citizen, neighbor, stranger, foreigner

each one – survivor and victim

that walked along in disbelief, horror, and grief

God was there in each community that did what they could to help

and God was here – in Sidney

as you made plans and collected items

for Roger and Dennis to drive to MS

and God was with each other group and individual

doing what they could

I experienced God in our Katrina clean-up trip from Long Island

as we raised money and gathered 2 cars of volunteers

a donation of money for the Presbyterian Church in Gautier, MS

a small church of about 70 people

that coordinated volunteers that arrived in Gautier

they provided shelter

and food

in fact they had been serving lunch every Saturday

since the storm hit

and kept  on serving for more than a year

we spent our week with 2 families

in one home in Pascagoula, we were “mudding out”

cleaning out the mud, muck, and mold

left behind after 4 or 5 feet if water subsided

the other home was in Gautier – the town where my grandfather was born

we turned up there on the lot where somebody’s house used to be

until the waters rose up through the bayou

and carried it away

Bill and Christie (not their real names) were still living there

but in a FEMA campersermon 3

with their 2 sons

they were buying materials

and making plans for their new house on the same site

and God was there

in the supplies we took

in the tools we bought

in the sweat we worked up

literally building the foundation of their new home

Bill and Christie never told us whether they wondered where God was

but I’m sure they did

as their home was washed away

and almost everything in it

what was left remained soaked when the water was high

in a spring and summer bayou

of muddy water

strong enough to wash away homes and hopes

dark enough to hide alligators and snakes

yet alive enough to still provide food and growth

I’m sure they wondered about God

in lives that were lost in the storm

and other homes that were destroyed

I would have wondered …

In our brief time with Bill and Christie we did what we could

only one skilled worker among us

but we could carry

we could visit, and go get food

we could play with dogs and children

we could hold boards to be nailed and cleanup the yard

I think we made a small difference on 3 spring days in 2006

there was a map at the Gautier church

with markers of where helpers came from

the markers were all over the country

not just southeast – nearby

but west coast, east coast

they even had to draw an arrow

across the Atlantic Ocean

to mark Norway – where some helpers came from

God was with Bill and Christie

surely before we arrived

but we felt it, too, as we left them with a new start

on the foundation of a new home

God is with us in the storms of our lives

when things go wrong

it doesn’t mean that God forgot about us


* Dear reader, the end of the sermon was extemporaneous.  The following notes at least capture the gist of my words.


reflections on the power of God’s created world

and the behaviors of forces of nature

often causing catastrophic disasters

Maybe God wishes we wouldn’t build so “close to the edge”

Why do people rebuild after hurricanes?

Yet I wonder if what you do for a living is catch fish or shrimp …

where else would you live?

We may be confident that God is in the same boat with us

let us be thankful for that

and aware of how we can also be the hands and feet of Jesus

for his sake


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2 Corinthians 5:6-17

“Walk by Faith”



1.  Way In

In-Town Mission Trip this past week

Participants from Sidney and Piqua
















Sidney:  Sarah, Rick, Katie, and Blake Steenrod

Mandy Milligan, Maria Theresa, Joan Reineke, Jerry Kauffman, Lyle Drew

Ann Hagen, Dale Barr, Kay Miller, Tom & Polly Watkins

Local mission experience

Jesus’ commissioned the disciples

you are my witnesses

you have seen the mission of the Body of Christ

healing, reconciliation, hospitality, proclaiming the good news

now, go and do as I have done, and as I have taught you

begin in Jerusalem (where you are)

then go into all the world

and we heard Jesus’ call

that we, too, are witnesses

to the same ministry the disciples witnessed

and we are called to go, and do as Jesus has done

and as he has taught us

so we go and do the mission of Jesus Christ

not a mission of pity

to take God someplace where we think God must not already be

to work on behalf of the poor to make ourselves feel better

not to go and fix something –

because we’re smart

because hard work always pays off

this is a mission, a ministry of presence, of hospitality

in some cases, we did go and work

to free up the other/regular volunteers

so they could do something else

or take a much needed break

This church has a tradition of Mission

we have faithfully supported local ministries

with our benevolences, and with our presence

Central School, Alpha Center, Compassionate Care,

Jackson Towers, Dorothy Love, and more

we have done mission here – and we have reached farther,

 in the same ways

through our presbytery

at Kirkmont, and other regional ministries

we have reached farther

on a mission trip to Mexico

and among our members who have travelled to Colombia

maybe even more that I have yet to learn about

as I meet and discern with our mission committee

… supporting the mission and ministry of our partners

I am encouraged that our hands-on mission will continue to increase


through this hands-on ministry and mission we have to walk by faith

sometimes stepping way out – outside of our comfort zones

resting in Christ who has called us

and given us all we need to be his hands and feet for ministry – the mission of the church

2.  Tell the Story

Paul writes to remind trhe church at Corinth – and us

when we get too comfortable in our own body …

too dependent on creature comforts

too self-reliant, that we believe we can do it all

by our own wits, we can be the whole person God intended us to be

that is the time we tend to get away from the Lord

when we are physically able to walk –

when we can see our destination, or at least know how to get there

we can walk by sight

but that’s not enough

for we walk by faith

trusting in God, through Jesus Christ

for everything we need

remembering what Jesus teaches about how to walk

and how to live our lives as witnesses to and agents of

the reconciling and saving love of Jesus Christ

we know how Christ wants us to walk

and what the Lord requires (Micah 6:8)

do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God

and these are the ways that please him

and this is the new life

for if we are in Christ, we are a new creation

everything has become new

3.  So What?

So we have heard the call of Christ to “be my witnesses”

and this church has responded to that call

through the life and ministry of this family of faith

And as we continue our walk of faith

we know that we walk by faith

I don’t mean “walk by” as in, “walk right on by” (Burt Bacharach song as perf. by Dionne Warwick)

rather, we walk guided by faith

walk by faith

walk in faith

trusting in God to guide us

trusting in God to show us the way to walk

as a living reminder of the ministry  of ChristIMG_8604

as his hands and feet

I asked people on our mission trip to pay attention to where we went

sometimes we walked

but even when we drove

to be aware of where we were putting out bodies

… maybe not in neighborhoods where we usually walk

or even drive

and I asked them to look for Christ in the ones we were spending time with


When we walk by faith

Christ leads us on a journey to wholeness – towards building up the Body of Christ

our life on earth is meant to be shared

not pining away for the “sweet by and by”

but being co-creators with God8

of his kingdom on earth

a foretaste – a glimpse of life with Him

a foretaste of eternal life

where people are reconciled with God

through the ministry of Jesus Christ

by the power of the Holy Spirit

trusting in God’s steadfast love

and seeking Christ in the ones we meet

proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ

who came to save the world

and inviting others to join us

to taste and see that God is good

to come and seeIMG_8616

to seek and serve

to step out

and walk by faith

to the place of wholeness, reconciliation, and love

where Jesus leads us

and so may it be with us.  Amen


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Acts 2:37-47


1.  Way In

What a day for the disciples – what a sermon for Peter

last week we looked together at the account of what happened at Pentecost

people from all over the world had gathered in Jerusalem

religious holiday – a big deal – shavout

the Greeks called it Pentecost – 50 days after Passover

Now, since the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter gives the first sermon of the “new” church

after which, there are more than 3,000 converts

Overwhelming!sermon 1

Acts 1 there are 120  “followers”

now, only by chapt. 2, there are more than 3,000

no doubt a “successful” sermon

at the very least it was well-received

we don’t know exactly how many, or whether they were all tithing  – or any kind of giver

but following Peter’s sermon, there were 3,000 new followers of Jesus

all these people

now what?

that’s what they were asking the disciples

What shall we do?

Jesus told the disciples that the power of the Holy Spirit would come over them – and it did – in a big way

It’s like there was this big power build-up

I really have to appreciate Lyle Drew today

he’s the one who prepares the visual slides for Sunday

we send him what needs to go up on the visual

‘early’ in the week

for the last 2 Sundays Lyle has been very patient with me

sermon graphic has been late

this week, I was at a real loss

I’ve been through several approaches for this sermon

and several sets of pictures

I was thinking about rocket propulsion testing – as an illustration of power build-up

no luck finding a picture that would work

in fact this is what Darren, our media consultant, warned about

Darren said there would be sermons for which I would be tempted to go all out over

that I would find hundreds of pictures to go with the message

until it totally took away from the sermon, not to mention my time

but I want to tell you about rocket-propulsion testing (as much as I can – I’m not a rocket scientist)

I used to live in Huntsville, AL – NE part of the state

lots of soybeans, cotton, and cattle

but the most surprising thing, I think, is what you see as you approach the city from the west on I-565 – Rockets, lots of rockets

a large rocket park just outside town

rockets from the early days of NASA’s manned-space flights

standing up tall, you see Hermes, Jupiter, Juno …

rockets that carried early space capsules

and over on it’s side is the giant Saturn V

used to go to the moon

you may not associate Alabama with rocket science

but Huntsville was the home of Werner von Braun

and other rocket and space pioneers

 facility where the Saturn V engines were tested

engines with the power to thrust a 3,000 ton rocket into space

were fixed to a magnificently strong base

then test-fired

you could see the engines light up across town

you could hear the roar

and you could feel it – literally like an earthquake

the sound like rolling thunder was even heard in Birmingham

such an overwhelmingly and majestic force

engines capable of launching the biggest rocket humankind could make…into space

with all of this power    yet the Saturn V engines were held fast to the ground

unimaginable force – inconceivable amount of thrust

held fast to the ground for a test

all of this power – yet it was held back

held back

this is the power I was thinking about

Pentecost saw the gift of the Holy Spirit

just like Jesus said

among the disciples and those gathered in the house

in this Spirit is the power to spread the good news of Jesus Christ

into all the world

good news of forgiveness and reconciliation

of the promise of new life, abundant life in Christ

power to overcome the bondage of sin and death

Like this big power build-up within the disciples

they got the power

then Peter preached

and the crowd heard it

the crowd was moved

Bible says they were cut to the heart

asked the disciples, “What should we do?”

this great power – this overwhelmingly powerful force

a new direction for the religion

new possibilities

new life

all this force – unimaginable power of the Holy Spirit

I wonder if this handful of Galileans felt overwhelmed

unsure how to start

Jesus, their teacher, mentor, Abba, friend – was gone

they were trained

but were they overwhelmed?

Jesus’ teachings were becoming more clear

the disciples authority, ability, and command to go

preach, teach, baptize, and proclaim Jesus

their band of 11, had returned to 12

and there were others – first of Acts they grew to 120

now they had more than 3,000 fresh, new converts

… ready to be a part

asking “What do we do now?”

I wonder if that was a little overwhelming …

for the disciples

things were going well now

even though Jesus was gone, like he said

they did receive this powerful Spirit he told them about

people were hearing them

and people were getting with the message of the good news

wonder if it was overwhelming for the people

herd the message of the disciples – heard Jesus’ teaching in them

fired up about this new way to express their faith

they must have been some of the same ones who also heard Jesus

before he was crucified

they knew the ways of reconciliation and forgiveness that he taught

now entrusted to and preached by the disciples

they knew they wanted to be a part

but wonder if it was overwhelming to wonder how to get started

so they asked, “What should we do?”


this is the question that begins today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles

2.  Tell the Story


crowds that gathered in Jerusalem around the disciples at Pentecost

everyone was there from all over the known world

and each one in the crowd heard the disciples

although the D. were speaking their usual language from Galilee

probably the same Greek or Aramaic that Jesus used

each one heard with their own ears in their own native tongue

somebody said in Bible study:

like wearing the headsets at the UN

where people hear simultaneous translation

from the speakers language into each of their own

Peter’s sermon had just concluded

he proclaimed Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy

and the promise of salvation and new life in him

(the text)

Peter’s preaching pierced their hearts

the crowd asked, “What should we do?”

Peter responded


turn from your previous ways

metanoia – completely turn around

and be baptized

washed clean and forgiven

then you will receive the gift of God’s spirit

for you and for your families

even to the Gentiles

in other words… e-v-e-r-y-b-o-d-y

turn away from the ways of the world

so those who welcomed his message were baptized

about 3,000 people were added that day

What happened after that:

They devoted themselves to

apostles’’ teaching


breaking of bread


because of the teachings, signs, and wonders of the apostles

all who believed were together

had all things in common

sold their possessions and goods

distributed to all as any had need

“Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple”

they broke bread at home

ate their food with glad and generous hearts

praising God and having the goodwill of all people

“Day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved”

3.  So What?

I believe this is us, church

this is where our church is

you have heard God’s word for years

from this pulpit

in these Sunday School rooms

you have come to believe that God’s ways are the ways you want

Forgiveness, reconciliation, and new life in Christ

is the life you want for yourselves and your family

God has called you by name to be the church

and that’s why you’re here

like we said last Sunday – called by name to be the church

This may be a familiar situation for you

new preacher

everybody seems happy

things seem to be going well

it’s been long enough to let down our guard

yours and mine

getting to know each other

you’ve been down this road before, I have too

it really does feel good to me, too

people responding to my ministry

learning the  community

learning my way around the community

except certain parts of town that are still puzzling

but I’ll get it

you have provided my family with a nice home

I have a comfortable office

and a congregation that truly cares about


my family

and this beloved church building and family of yours

Could it be this is what the church was feeling that day, too?  at Pentecost

for the disciples

things were coming together

Jesus’ teachings making more sense to them

he was gone from their sight day-by-day

but they still knew his presence

as they lived in and lived by his word

people were coming around to this new way

 this gospel way – way of love and forgiveness

for the people

learning ways of practicing their faith

here was more than laws to keep

more than just festivals to attend to give sacrifice

more than relying on a high priestly class to be the ‘God connection’

but a way of life that made a community of faith out of them

and it was feeling good

good enough for the disciples to preach about with fire and passion

good enough for over 3,000 souls to come forward from the crowd gathered in Jerusalem

good enough for all to come together

to form a community of faith

around the teachings of the Messiah

And perhaps it was feeling a little overwhelming

for the disciples to be followed

 for the sake of the message with which they had been entrusted

and for the people who were looking for an expression of the faith

that they were carrying in their hearts

But it was happening

in the 3,000 who came forth out of the crowd

decisions were made one at a time

One by one sermon 2

people came forth

deciding that this life was for them

that this way of faith was for them

faith expressed as life we live


individuals together in community

doing what we are unable to do alone

What should we do?

what do we do after God’s word cuts us to the heart?

when we have been called by name to something greater than our individual self?

What do we do after we receive and claim as our own God’s promise?

of forgiveness, reconciliation, and salvation to a new way of living?

What do we do after we step forward and offer ourselves as an offering to belong to the community of faith?

Answer:  It’s like the Bible says

we devote ourselves to



breaking bread


and following these signs and wonders

we learn how to live as a community

sharing ourselves and what we have as it builds up the body

and as we spend time in the temple

for us, spend time in the church



fellowship hall

prayer chapel

we also break bread at home

with glad and generous hearts

we praise God with everything we are and everything we do

and as we present this life

which is meant for us to enjoy

and invite people to join us, like the disciples did

we have goodwill of all the people

“and day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

God intends for his people to be in community for his sake

for proclaiming the good news

and bringing the world to his ways

for this God has shed his grace upon us in Jesus Christ

reminds us in the physical practice of this sacrament


(indicate communion table)euch

and God’s grace will not be wasted

“Preacher it can’t be that simple”

I suppose there is a little more to it

but this is where it starts

we have heard the word and asked, “what should we do?”

how do we express our faith?

worship, prayers, breaking bread

express our life in faith and invite others

we hold concerts, garage sales, Turkey Trots

we host meetings of AA and other community groups

we reach out to the schools and community in need

we get involved outside of these walls

to serve the Lord

 by showing what happens within these walls

and by the power of what we learn and become in here

to change the world

by proclaiming Christ out there

So what do we do?

we do all we can to build up the body





(somebody say, “Like stepping out as a Sunday School or Nursery volunteer?”

Preacher: “Yes, just like that.”

and friends, I believe that if we do all we can do to build up the body

that is, the Body of Christ, the community of faith –

by giving of ourselves

not just by watching others do it

or waiting for somebody else

(wait a moment here)

because it can be overwhelming

and it is easier, when it feels that way

to draw back in a little bit

let somebody else do it

somebody better trained, or with more gifts than I have

and when it starts to feel that way –

stop it

don’t sell yourself short

don’t sell God short

God has given you all you need

–a committed heart

— a convicted soul

–maybe even shown you through unexpected feelings or unexpected tears

God has made you – each one of us

as a living proclamation that reconciliation, forgiveness, and love will prevail

and if we will commit to building up the body …

God has promised that he will do the rest

and God has already started

you can tell because you are here

and if we care about the calling on our life

and the community of faith that God is building right here

we will not – can not – must not

let any feeling of overwhelmedness

or feeling of not being enough

good enough

smart enough

out-going enough

a big enough church

we will not let any of these hold us back

because the power we have in God’s Spirit

is surging within our souls

and if we will only let it out

and let ourselves go

there is no limit to what God can do with us

one at a time

for the sake of God’s name – in this community

–even to the ends of the earth


                  So let it be with us.  Amen

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