Archive for August, 2009

James 1:17-27



1. Way In

My family lived in Jackson, MS from the time I started school until I was in 3rd grade, around 1967

we lived on Ridgewood Rd

best friend Steve Bonner lived next door

we played a lot of army in his backyard

had some forts under the bed in an extra bedroom at his house

spied on his big brother, Randy

when we played in my backyard

playhouse and sandbox my father built

it was playhouse for my sisters

for Steve and me, it was a fort

played a lot in the woods nearby

climbed trees, swung on vines, dammed the creek

My parents hired a woman named Ruth to help take care of us and the house

my father worked at the bank downtown and my mother taught kindergarten

 for the job Ruth did, she was called our maid

My sisters and I loved Ruth like she was so much more

she fed us, dressed us

held us when we cried and made it better

and she did her best to make us mind and learn good manners

she was our mother when our Mommy couldn’t be there

I can’t give you much of a physical description of her today

it’s been a while

she was a big, sweet, gentle, kind, loving woman

she was an African American woman

as were most that held her position in MS back then

One day Steve and I were playing in the woods, but Ruth didn’t know where we were

she looked for me and called me – couldn’t find a sign of me

she had a good idea I was in the woods, too far

but she couldn’t leave my sisters alone to come find me

all that was left for her to do was call Daddy at work

and I know Ruth dreaded that

I remember being in the woods with Steve that day

farther than we should have gone

sitting there building a dam or a fort or something

and looking up and seeing Daddy walking through the woods

first I wondered why he would be in the woods at a time like that

shouldn’t he be at work?

at some moment it became crystal clear that

Daddy had not come to play

was there because he had to leave work

to come find me

Daddy was not pleased with me

I know how bad Ruth hated to call Daddy that day

knew I would be in big trouble

I remember that about Ruth, but there were things I didn’t know until years later

didn’t remember the time Ruth couldn’t come to work because her daughter had been arrested in Jackson

she had joined others marching with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

at the Capital building or at Jackson State College

Daddy went to get Ruth’s daughter released from jail

don’t think they were actually in jail, there were so many

I think they took the demonstrators to a school gymnasium

Daddy got Ruth’s daughter out if jail

so Ruth would come back to work

years later my mother told me why Ruth quit working for us

Momma came home from work one day to find Ruth crying

Ruth said she couldn’t come back to work for us any more

Momma didn’t understand

all of us loved Ruth

we thought she was happy with us

Ruth told Momma she couldn’t come back because of something I said

a word I used

a name I called her

Ruth said I probably didn’t really know what I was saying

probably heard it from some other children at school

but I called Ruth a name

and it broke her heart

“Mrs. Hinds, Jo Jo called me a   (“n” word) and I just can’t work here anymore.”

when my mother told me the story, it broke my heart

I called Ruth a name that I heard – and still hear – people use

the word has been co-opted

sometimes I wonder if we’re se-sensitized to it

but I personally experienced the power of a word

the “n” word

the power to break the heart of 2 people

Ruth: a degrading and ugly name meant to de-humanize

me: witness the destructive power of a word

witness the way it made Ruth feel

and how it broke me years later as the one

who so carelessly and hatefully used the word

I also remember the phone call I got in 1977 when I graduated from high school

Ruth found our number at our new home in Alabama

called to congratulate me on my graduation

one of the most important moments of grace I have known


Words have power

“sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me”words power

only half true (the first part)

words can hurt

heard from several as I posted these thoughts on my blog

most have reflected on being hurt by words

and, at other times, being the one to use hurting words

both the hearer and the speaker are damaged


2.  Tell the Story

James says that God is the source of all good

creating humankind by the word of truth

meaning for us to bear that image of our Creator

but we have failed

So James offers words of correction – to  get us back on the path

be quick to listen (a listening heart) and slow to speak

be slow to anger

our anger will never produce God’s righteousness

Don’t degrade yourselves and allow the growth of wickedness among you

rather, seek out and welcome God’s word

for this is the power that can save us

and don’t just hear the word – those are only fooling themselves

be doers of the word

If you only hear and don’t do

you have not been shaped by the word

the image lingers no longer than your reflection in the mirror after you walk away

But doers who act in the word

are shaped by the word

making God’s word a habit

and receiving God’s blessing in all they do in his name

James says, don’t think you’re religious of you act like it on the surface

but do not allow God’s word to penetrate your soul

speak and act carelessly

he says this is not only not-religious

but it is worthless

James reminds us of God’s exhortation from the beginning

pure religion is to:

care for widows and orphans

and keep ourselves unstained by the world


3. So What?


Last week was the 46th anniversary of Dr. King’s March on Washington.  Having heard some of the march on washington buttonspeech on the radio. I have been remembering and giving thanks for the life and witness of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  As I have been remembering the negative power of the ugly and hateful word I used that drove Ruth Edwards from the Hinds family in Jackson, Mississippi.

I think of Dr. King when I read James’ instructions to “be doers of the word, and not merely hearers.”  Dr. King was convicted by the truth of God’s Word that humankind was made in the image of God, and not just white people, but all people.  In the south, where he was speaking and preaching in the 1960s, that was a radical enough notion to get him into all kinds of trouble, and to have all kinds of wickedness and violence visited against him and the ones who followed him along the road that was and is the struggle for human rights for all people.

Dr. King spoke that day about the injustice of segregation and discrimination against Black people in the United States.  Like James, who was urging people to be through with wickedness and welcome the word that has the power to save souls, Dr. King was urging people to

 “rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation

 to the sunlit path of racial justice…

to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice

 to the solid rock of brotherhood…

to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”


Dr. King’s commitment to non-violence was inseparable from his commitment to justice.  His speech at the March on Washington was one to empower the ones in the struggle, and to equip them with the powerful tool of non-violent protest.  He said this to the “people who stand on the warm threshold of justice,” that,

 “in the process of gaining our rightful place

 we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds…

Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom

 by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred…

We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.  Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights

 of meeting physical force with soul force.”

He went on to acknowledge white people who joined in the struggle for civil rights, those whose destiny is tied up with our destiny and whose freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

This has been a powerful week for me, and I’m still trying to sort out what I am supposed to do about it.  I have been troubled by my memories of my own complicity in racism, and buoyed by the remembrance of Dr. King’s speech in Washington.

But there are a few things I know for sure.

I know that I am able to rid myself of sordidness and wickedness only as I am able to welcome the One whose implanted word has the power to save souls.

 I can only be rid of the wicked and ugly words I have used before, as I am able to welcome and greet the Lord – the One whose word of truth and light gives us birth.

I know that I am useless to the work of the Lord unless I am a doer of the word and not just a hearer of the word.

  Just as Dr. King knew and was convicted of God’s word that all of humankind was created equally…he was only able to be a powerful force in the struggle for justice when he was a doer of the word.

  When he did something about the word, when he stood for what was right in the face of what was wrong, and when he did it without submitting to the violence that was so often used against him…only then was he useful to God in the struggle for justice for all people, that was when he welcomed the One whose implanted word has the power to save souls, until justice flowed like a river and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I know one other thing for sure today, and I know it because I just read it from the Bible. I know that according to God, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

As I approach the 1st anniversary of my ministry here among you, my prayer is for the conviction to welcome God’s word of truth, the only word with the power to give all of God’s people here new birth and life together.

 I pray also for the conviction to be a doer of God’s word, not just a hearer, and not just a preacher.  Otherwise, I’m just a useless mouthpiece.  Finally, I pray for the wisdom to seek true religion which God has specifically defined as caring for those in need, and keeping free of the stains of the wickedness of the world.

Along with the words from James’ epistle, take these words from Deuteronomy, “So now, Israel (Sidney), give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.”

I urge you to take some quiet time today and reflect on the scriptures read here this morning.  Where has God’s Word shined light in your life today?  Where has the bright beam of truth pierced the shadows in your world?  What are the new words that God is giving you to replace your old words?  What are you hearing God say, and what are you going to do about it?

So may it be with us.  Amen.


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Rev. 21:5



1.  Way In

Bad set-up

expected to preach, have church

“hold y’all captive” while we all know what good food there is over there

(I’m standing in front of the serving tables, already laden with food)

not going to start naming them all

but you all have famous dishes you bring

So I’m not going to keep you too long

just a few things I want to cover with you


that’s what it says, the sermon title

another short one, the title anyway

Did I tell you I have all the answers?

no, I don’t think so

Did I tell you I would get the church back to the “glory days?”

don’t think so

Did I tell you I would get the sanctuary and SS rooms back to full”

don’t remember doing that

maybe y’all thought so, thought you heard me say it

Well, here’s what I do have

God’s word for us

and today, the word is …

sounds like Sesame Street

today’s program is brought to you by the number 3

and the letters “N” “E”, and “W”

and that’s the word for today     Newnew

2.  Tell the Story

This is the part of the sermon where I give you some background on the text

if you could see my outline, it’s Roman Numeral II

“Tell the Story”

today, we’re in Revelation, last book of the Bible

what I want you to know

Revelation, not Revelations

just one

author is John

same author as the Gospel, and letters 1, 2, 3?

generally not assumed so

author only identifies self as a servant of God (1:1)

remember how the Gospel writer likes to remind us he’s the disciple Jesus loves?

none of that here

style isn’t similar to the Gospel writer

could be a member of the Johannine community

“associated” with the apostle John and his teachings

writer calls this piece of literature a “revelation,”

first word is  apokaluyij

such a narrative was customarily written to reflect on

the present evil age and the future age of blessing

there is much more to be said about the book of Revelation

most of that will have to wait for another day

I’d have a revolt on my hands if I tried to keep y’all

from this picnic for that long

the speaker in our selection from chapt. 21 is God

v. 7, “I will be their God and they will be my people.”

Here is what God says in the 21st chapt. of this revelation

“See I am making all things new”

and that’s our sermon text today

3.  So What?

“See I am making all things new”

God said it

not just here, Isaiah, “I am about to do a new thing” (43:19)

Jesus says he gives a new commandment

“love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34)

but it wasn’t all that new

invoked the relational foundation of the 10 commandments

based in love, as we know God’s steadfast love

God said, “I am making all things new”

but we’ve been stuck ever since

doing the same old thing, but expecting something new to happen

I’m talking about the church here, not about God

not like I have any new ideas for God – he doesn’t need me like that

but I wonder what God has in mind for the church

The Church – universal  … or the church – SFPC

how do we know church today is what God wants it to be?

some comfort that God hasn’t blown us over

although with that storm Tuesday night I wondered

seriously, what’s really changed?


how long has the preacher stood up front, talking

the congregation sits, listening

choir sings, then the people

celebrate the sacraments

Sunday School

relatively new thing

18th cent., England   19th cet., America

committees, business, etc.

another relatively new thing

still pretty old model, concept

Don’t mean to just offer criticism here – of “the” church or “our” church

but I do think it’s important – critical

to always keep this word before us

there are churches in town that have more people in worship than we do – some that have fewer than us

are they right?  are we right?  are we wrong?   are they wrong?

it’s not about right or wrong

it’s about faithful, and listening to God

doing our best to be the church

to be a community of faith

living out the Good News of the gospel

with a “listening heart” (last week)  for God’s will

and questioning “the way we’ve always done it”

because that might not be the way we need to do it now

maybe there’s a new thing

Before I sound all negative let me say I think we’re doing a lot right

stepped outside the box calling me as Designated for 3 years

took a chance on a new model of pastoral call (new for you, anyway)

been trying your best to keep an effective Hispanic Ministry together

looking even this year how to do a “new way” with that

Mission Committee

diligently seeking more “hands-on” opportunities to enhance our strong history of benevolence

Central Zone

developing relationship with our schoolhouse neighbor

Munch Bunch, new way to provide for the children God says, “I am doing a new thing”

you introduced multi-media system in worship

that’s a new thing

working out well

we open the doors every Tuesday night

for some 50 years now, I’m told

to recovering alcoholics who gather in the church building

to receive what they need from each other

living sober, one day at a time

Big Event

Christmas Concert, Muleskinner Concert

Art Fair next Saturday

 VBS was a huge success

and we offer siginificant resources to Kirkmont in the summer

Sarah directing Sports Camp, with me as her willing assistant

This is the question I keep wanting us to ask

God says, “I am doing a new thing”

what are we doing about that?

are we

where we need to be?

the right size?

doing what God calls us to do in …





Leadership Development

Two images

the Church, as observed by Rob Bell in his book about re-thinking the Christian church in the 21st century entitled Velvet Elvis

what he describes here is the church desperately trying to hold on to old assumptions and practices to perpetuate the institution

One summer, Rob – then in high school, on family vacation

family visited a local church

end of the service, Pastor asked if anybody wanted to become a Xn

invited people to pray with him from where they were

said if you prayed this prayer you could be sure

of going to heaven and not hell

allowed time for silent preparation and prayer

Pastor told everybody to keep heads bowed and eyes closed

asked those who prayed the prayer to raise their hand

“keep your seats, just raise your hand if you prayed”

he was looking for the ones who ‘got saved’

told them nobody else would be looking

said, “I see that hand over there.  Thank you.”

“there’s a hand in the back, thank you”

“here’s three people up front, thank you”

continued acknowledging people all over the room

during this whole time, Rob Bell said he kept his eyes open

watching the whole thing

“I didn’t see any hands go up”

Years later, Robs father reminded him of that day

said he had his eyes open the whole time, too

only he was not watching for hands

he was watching his son

when he realized what was going on

and that his son saw it all

he had a sick feeling

that his son would walk away from God and the church

Rob said he has seen plenty done in the name of God, the he’s sure God wanted nothing to do with

and he believes he has a choice

to be bitter and cynical, jaded and hard

in fact that’s easy to do

many have

in fact, it’s easier that caring

just write off the church

as an old dinosaur

on its last legs

not making a difference

Here’s the other image

we can pull up to the table

that’s where Jesus did his best work

around the table

eating with friends, strangers, tax collectors, prostitutes

eating with enemies

and as we figure out how to prepare a banquet like that

and more important, to invite others to join us

then, we begin to figure out what it means to practice hospitality

throwing a dinner

and bringing something besides a covered dish and a chair

bringing somebody with us to share in faith

and to share in the life and ministry of the church

I don’t have all the answers, but I have a good start at the questions

and as we begin to seriously ask ourselves …

who do we believe God is calling us to be as a church

a community of faith

the Body of Christ

and what’s holding us back from the new thing God is doing


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1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14



1.  Way In

All heard of the “Genie in the Lamp”

Jokes abound about finding a magic lamp, rubbing it, and out pops a genie to grant 3 wishes

Such as …

federal gov’t employee

goes to warehouse to eat his lunch

finds an old lamp, rubs it …

Genie grants 3 wishes

doesn’t believe Genie, wishes for $1,000

gets it

wishes to be the only man on an island of beautiful women

gets it

wishes never to have to work again

Poof!  back to his government job

And so the jokes go

some suitable for telling here, some not, some questionable

but the gist is the usually the same

wealth, fame, happiness, satisfaction

you get the picture – personal gain

don’t hear many stories where the finder of the lamp wishes for

world peace

end to pollution

clean water

no more death & disease

What would you wish for?

would my wishes sound like one of the “Genie in the bottle jokes?”

Or would I set my sights higher?  Like Solomon.

2.  Tell the Story

OT lection begins with 1 Kings 2:10 to set the context

David, King of Israel died (slept with his ancestors)

after a 40-year reign

David’s son, Solomon was to be his successor

he had already showed great promise as a wise ruler

God comes to Solomon at Gibeon, a holy city, appearing to him in a dream

God wanted to reward Solomon, asked “What can I give you?”

Solomon’s beautiful answer…

you have been steadfast with my father, David,

who had an upright heart towards you

gave him a heritage and a son to sit on his throne

You (God) have made me King

although I am only a child

I don’t know how to come out or go in

yet I am among a great crowd of people and expected to lead them

“Give me, your servant, an understanding mind


[;mevo bl a listening heart

so that I can govern your people,

able to discern between good and evil.”

God answers Solomon

God was pleased

because of what Solomon asked for

not to enrich himself

or benefit himself

rather he considered his service to God and to the people God had given him to lead

called himself a “servant”

chose to lead in the spirit of service to God, caring for God’s people

reading the OT you can see that this is not typical “kingly” behavior in that day

absolute power

extravagant wealth

oppressive and cruel

God was pleased …

“Because you have asked this and not for:

long life


or for the lives of enemies

Pleased, because Solomon was …

humbled by the responsibility

realized that the authority was God, not Sol.

acknowledged his limitations

asked God to help him

Pleased because Sol. asked not for power and control but for wisdom … (a “listening heart”, an “understanding mind”)

God equipped Solomon

gave Solomon a wise and discerning mind

“like no one has had before and no one will have after”

“I give you what you have not asked for…”

riches and honor

“like none before and none after”

Promised that if Sol. would “walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and commandments, as your father David did, then I will lengthen your days.”

Solomon started out well

ideas about servant leadership were genuine

he showed great wisdom

expanded David’s empire

skilled in forming alliances and treaties

built fortresses, palaces, and magnificent temple

Song of Solomon

collection of his descriptions of love

between people

also expressions of love between God and his created people

yet he was not perfect

divided devotion

as he took on wives from surrounding kingdoms

a foreign idea to the modern mind, but not an unusual or unethical practice of the day.  Nor was this condemned by God.

he began to recognize the gods of these other cultures

divisions were his downfall and the beginning of Israel’s divided kingdom


but it is not for his failures that Solomon is remembered

we think of his wisdom, or his magnificent kingdom and building programs

3.  So What

God requires faith and commitment, not perfection

Bible stories are not fairy tales

no guarantee of “happily ever after” or preservation from suffering, pain, even failure

Bible heroes are human

flawed, imperfect

God makes use even of these imperfect people

face it, besides Jesus, (fallen) human beings are the only option

Not the same as requiring failure

doesn’t mean that God rewards failure or imperfection

Failure is not to be our goal

… not an excuse to not give everything in trying

God forgives our shortcomings and can use us anyway

…God loves us like we are, but too much to let us stay that way

failure should not discourage us, rather puts us in good company

Jonah, a prophet who preferred to decide for himself who God should save

Paul, formerly a.k.a. Saul, a persecutor and executioner of Jesus’ followers

David, a murderous king

Solomon, an idolater

the list goes on

some of these people did awful things,

and there are more … read this book

What about me?  What does this mean for me?

Let us not let fear of failure keep us from living fully with God and for God

God does not expect us to be perfect

In fact God knows, we are incapable of perfection

God does not call people and tell them that they have to be perfect from then on

God calls/sends people and promises to be with them

promised Moses that he would be with him every step of the way

Jesus sent the disciples out to complete his ministry of healing, compassion, and teaching … and promised to be with them always

and…as we read today, God promised to equip Solomon for his reign

God knew Sol. wasn’t perfect, and that he never would be

but God knew Solomon inside and out – and loved him anyway, and God trusted him anyway

God could tell by what Solomon wished for

he never asked to enrich or aggrandize himself

but he asked for … an understanding mind,  a listening heart

This is good news

God does not require us to be perfect to carry out the mission of his church

what God seeks is a willing spirit

like Solomon, who showed a willing spirit by asking for a listening heart

As we seek to fully be the people/the church that God is calling here

let our desire be like Solomon’s

for a listening heart

the center of faith and compassion

symbol of a willing and right spirit

how we listen to discover where God is calling each of us

in ministry and service

restoration and reconciliation

when we listen with our heart what do we hear?

places of suffering and pain

also of love and peace

in either case

called as God’s people

not perfect, just faithful

open to God’s leading

confident of his steadfast presence

equipping us as his people

as living reminders

    of his presence among humankind

as seen in the witness of the scriptures

and the living of Jesus Christ

So may it be with us.  Amen



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Ephesians  4:17 – 5:2

Imitators of God


1.  Way In

    I have been a Beatles fan since as long as I can remember (5 or 6 years old)

When I lived in Mississippi

Aunt Mary Joyce went to New Orleans to a concert

when I heard the Beatles on the radio

thought they were at the studio in town singing for me

stacked the records up on my record player

played one after the other

some of you may not know what I’m talking about – stacking the records up

wanted a Beatles haircut

wasn’t going to happen

my Daddy cut my hair

    on a stool on the back porch or yard

    one style – buzz

funny, that’s a cooler haircut today that it was then

in fact, Miller and Jack both wear it like that now

but when I was a kid, with my (uncool) buzz cut …

one kid at school wore his hair Beatles-style

black, collar-length

“mop top”

I idolized that kid with the Beatles haircut

now, I don’t remember his name

I knew it then,

and I wanted to be like that kid

because I wanted to be like the Beatles

John, Paul, George, or Ringo

with a cool haircut, cool clothes, play the guitar or drums

sing, and be cool

I wanted to imitate the Beatles

wanted to wear my hair like them

And I think I still do want to imitate them

every time I get new glasses, I try on the round silver frames like John Lennon wore

and every time, my face is still too round to wear those frames


Weird to think about the Beatles this week related to the Ephesians text?

I guess I was remembering that strong urge to imitate people I loved

That’s where my mind went as I read Paul’s words,

        exhorting the readers at the church in Ephesus (and us) to be imitators of God

Not to look cool

not as if we can really imitate God

But we can imitate God, so far as we can, made in God’s image,

    follow the life he would have us to live, transformed lives

shaped by the life and ministry of Jesus Christ


It is through Jesus that God has reached out to touch the hand of humankindSistine 2

    following Jesus is how we can imitate God,

and here, Paul tells us how we can do it

this is what the scriptures mean in calling us to be imitators of God.

2.  Tell the Story

Paul’s letters, like this one

meant to be read and passed around the churches

This letter was sent to the church at Ephesus,

and sent along to us

Paul says to stop living like the Gentiles

Gentiles were not only non-Jews

since they were not part of the temple faith, they were considered to have no belief in God

Said to be darkened in their understanding

excluded God from their lives

hard-hearted and callous

concerned only with what makes them happy

The early church was concerned with building a community of faith among unbelievers

how to practice the ways of Jesus among people who were strange to them

how to live transformed lives

without conforming to ways of the world

Paul says, don’t be like this, “You know better.”

You have heard Christ

Been taught in Christ

Don’t live like the Gentiles; instead, live like you’ve been with the Lord

lay aside the old self – corrupt and deluded

be renewed in the spirit of your mind

put on the new self

put on new clothes

the ones God made for you

Today’s reading from Ephesians tells us what those new clothes look like …

    how we can be imitators of God, living a transformed life.

Paul gives us specific examples

Tell the truth with love because we belong to each other

Don’t let anger control you

nothing wrong with being angry and injustice

but don’t be consumed or centered in anger

it will distort your thinking and behavior

don’t let the sun set on your anger

deal with it or make room for the devil

Work honestly for what you need

don’t steal it … don’t take it from somebody else

and remember to use some of it to help others

keeps reminding us of this….must be real important

Put aside gossip and slander

take control of what you say

show respect for others

speak words that build up instead of tear down

remember we belong to each other and to God

3.  So What?

Imitating God is living a transformed life

we have seen God act in Jesus Christ

therefore imitate him

Paul gives these examples as a foundation

failing to do so “grieves God’s spirit”

Transformed living is not just for our benefit

not just to make us feel good or keep us out of trouble

it is to build up the body of Christ

the Body of Christ – the church universal

this is how we have learned Christ


Let us work always to set aside ways that don’t build up the body

ways that are self-serving, or closed

seeking only to reach out to those who are like us

and always seek to live the ways Jesus teaches:

treating others, especially strangers, with the respect and love due to a person made in the image of God

building one another up as Christ has built us up

Put on the new clothes of righteousness and justice

imitating God in the way we live and relate to other people

Living a transformed life is how we imitate God

May we let his love show in all we do

walking in love just as Christ loved us

giving himself up for us

offering his life for us

… as an example

As Christ has given this for us … how can we give any less?

I hope you will join me

because I am preaching to myself today

and if I am preaching to you, too …

let us put on the new clothes, the new ways of Christ

living in this way, that makes life worth living

living for the sake of Jesus Christ

and buldging up the community of faith

and seeking to be a community where it is easier to do good

this is the church Jesus wants

more interested, I think, in our spiritual health

… our Christian friendship and outreach

of each person

not so concerned with the how the building looks

but more interested in how we use what we have

to promote, exhibit, and live the love of Jesus

     living as imitators of God

        for the sake of Jesus Christ

                                                for this community and for the world


                                          So may it be with us.   Amen.




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John 6:24-35

Junk Food & Bread of Life


1.  Way In

Experience with eating junk foodjunkfood

Tastes great! – carefully designed that way

candy bars, chips, other snacks

Satisfies craving; sweet, salty, etc.

just having something in mouth

But does it last?

sugar high

feels good right away

satisfaction goes away later

sugar high crash

hungry again

they say that about Chinese food

not my experience

I eat a lot at a sitting


“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.” (Jesus, v.27)

don’t be satisfied with junk food

crave the bread of life (v.35)

2.  Tell The Story

discourse in John 6

Q & A among Jesus and the crowd

When did you come over to this side of the sea?

What must we do to do the works of God?

What sign will you give us so we can believe you?

answers provide  much preaching material (another day)

Here is our message on communion Sunday

don’t just follow those who show you impressive signs

razzle-dazzle is easy enough to do

“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with B.S.”

don’t be satisfied with junk food, seek bread of life

choose carefully what you follow

don’t “work for” the food that perishes

seek instead the food that endures for eternal life, this is what Jesus gives you

Earlier Jesus said, “My food is to do the work of the one that sent me and to complete his work.” (4:34)

seek the food Jesus offers and receive his food

Jesus’ food is to do the work of God, or complete the work of God (that is the opus dei­)

to take that food is to do as Jesus does

today’s lectionary has an OT reading from Exodus

the bread of heaven God offered was enough

God provided manna from heaven

for the Hebrew children to eat in the desert

when the people had faith, they had enough

when they were greedy and stored it up, their stash was ruined

3.  So What?

Jesus said, “Don’t work for the food that perishes.”

don’t work on stockpiling food that perishes, it will spoil like them hoarded manna did

work for the food that endures for eternal life

gathering in faith that God will provide

like the manna was enough

like the child’s shared picnic was enough

when we learn about trusting in God instead of stockpiling for ourselves

we participate in the miracle of God’s beloved community

where dreams are realized, burdens are shared, joys are celebrated, imagine the world God promises, and our place in it

To receive the bread Jesus offers is to do as he does

“my food is to do the work of the one who sent me, and to complete his work”

Stake our lives on Jesus

serving only him

act as an example of Christ – a living reminder

loving one another as he loves us

Let us be like the crowd

following Jesus, asking him to give us this bread always

we may not always get it right the first time, but may we always be obedient and follow

when we do …

There we will find Jesus saying, “come to me and I will feed you in ways that you will not hunger and thirst anymore.”

Lord give us this bread always

To believe in Jesus and the one who sent him is to stake our life in him and his way, to be willing to follow where he leads

and to say as a measure of our faith

lord give us this bread always

In closing, I offer a prayer of Thomas Merton; a 20th century Trappist monk who staked his life on following God … seeking the bread of life he offers in Jesus Christ


My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for certain where it will end.  Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.  I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.  And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I know nothing about it.  Therefore I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost, and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.  In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


So may it be with us.  Amen

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