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Archive for November, 2009

Luke 21:25-36

Near

 

1.  Way In

How was your Thanksgiving?

Did you get enough to eat?

 …nice visit with family and friends?

…enjoy the day your own way?

My family had a nice day at home

started out with the Turkey Trot

… us and more than 400 friends gathered behind the church

4 truck-loads of food for Alpha/Holy Angels

Sarah Steenrod, Darryl Cloud – many other helpers

you did a fantastic job!  Thank you!

home by 10:30

to enjoy the smells of a happy kitchen

1:30 or 2:00 we gathered for a delicious feast

This is the first time we’ve been together since Thanksgiving Dinner at church

last Sunday

delicious food, good crowd

What about before that?

Were you here to decorate the church after worship last Sunday?

Hanging of the Greens

doesn’t it look great?

good job, Worship Committee

be sure to notice the beautiful wall Advent hanging

Marilyn McCarthy made it

you can also see her work featured in the 2010

OPHS (right?) calendar

and we had a nice lunch after that, thanks to Worship Com.

A busy day

on top of all that, we had a congregational meeting after worship

still finished church very close to on-time

So how was this week for you?

Remember the sermon last Sunday?

Were you thinking this past week about who Jesus put in your life?

Did you step outside your comfort level?

I know.  I said maybe this isn’t the week to invite the homeless and poor into your house …

 “I said maybe next year” on that.

but I hope you paid attention

because even if we decide that this isn’t the year

that doesn’t mean Jesus wrote us off

Jesus doesn’t necessarily wait until it’s convenient for us

sometimes…he goes ahead and shows up,

or maybe just shows us something

we need to be watchful – that’s something we hear about at Advent

We sing the carol, Joy to the World, “Prepare him room”

The days are surely coming …

justice and righteousness

there will be signs

be alert

the kingdom of God is near

 

2.  Tell the Story

Gospel reading, Jesus teaching about the last days

signs

skies: sun, moon, stars

earth: distress among the people

they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and glory

What to do?

when you see these things:

stand up, raise your head

for your redemption is near

parable of the fig tree

when the leaves sprout, it means summer is already near

connect the lesson

so, when you see these things I am telling you about happening

you know that the kingdom of heaven is near

Prediction

this generation will not pass away until these things happen

heaven and earth will pass away – but my words are permanent

So be ready

be on guard so that your hearts are not burdened

dissipation, drunkenness, worries of life

don’t try to self-medicate or be distracted

don’t fall into that trap, like others who are not prepared

Be alert

at all times

pray that you will have the strength to escape these distractions

and stand before the Son of Man

3.  So What?

Prepare him room – the kingdom of heaven is near

Second Coming has always been a big deal

disciples thought Jesus would come back within their lifetime

when he says “this generation will not pass away…”

but Jesus has always taught that we should not concern ourselves with when that time will be

“Just be ready”

live every day as if the kingdom of heaven is near

not just to save your hide

not just to bide your time until the “sweet by and by”

but live every day in the way God made us to live

abiding in his word

building up the body of Christ

creating a community of faith

that is ruled by the gospel of Christ’s love and reconciliation

not just so we don’t get caught doing something else

but because that is how God created us to live

Jesus isn’t coming back to bust us

but to save us and take us into himself

Don’t worry about the signs

there are always signs in the skies

falling stars, eclipses,

 constellations seeming to move about as the earth orbits the sun

the people will respond

confused by the roaring sea and waves?

these happen all the time

the tide goes in and out daily

waves never stop coming to the shore

storms and natural disasters?

yes, these are tragic

and claim numerous lives

I would never mean to diminish that

but we need not attach some apocalyptic meaning to every event

don’t let yourselves be filled with terror and fear at these signs

instead:  Stand up, raise your heads, your redemption is coming near

don’t get all caught up

Jesus will come again

in fact, the kingdom of heaven is already near

and we get glimpse of it whenever we prepare him room

And when we get ready – when we prepare him room – we see glimpses

we don’t prepare him room because Jesus needs a clean place to sit

sometimes we have to get Pauly to prepare room in the den

his toys are all over the place

there’s not a place to walk or sit where there’s not something underfoot (or under something else)

seems the whole house sometimes is littered with

Transformers, Hot Wheels, balls, and books

although I don’t mind the books – can’t get enough of those

we need Pauly to prepare room in the house so people can get around

We prepare Jesus room when we get rid of the things that keep us from knowing he’s there – or that he’s coming

distractions, desiring our comfort

My family was among the people out in force on “Black Friday”

I didn’t take the earliest shift

it was around 10am before I left the house

that was after Kazy came back to get me

she had been out since….well, much earlier

I suppose we saved a little money

Christmas and Pauly’s birthday

we were preparing for something

Christmas-related if not Christ-related

but I was hardly “Preparing him room”

But there were some moments in the past week that I was aware of “Preparing him room – for the kingdom of heaven is drawing near”

observing people decorating the church for Christmastide

grateful for the Worship Com keeping up with decorations being fresh and current

Marilyn McCarthy’s banner

mostly, enjoyed seeing how y’all work together on that – like you always do

fellowship at lunch after Hanging the Greens

Thanksgiving Dinner last Sunday night

remember the challenge from my sermon last Sunday?

did you invite anybody else?

did you notice somebody you didn’t know?

did you spend time with anybody new?

examples

Thanksgiving Dinner: did anybody else notice the unexpected family who came in about the time everybody else was through eating?

were we hospitable?

did we prepare him room?

was there anything else we could do?

was there still enough left to send food to Jackson Towers?

Did you notice the Jackson Towers folks who came for dinner?

notice how we are building community with them?

did you know they held 2 food drives for Turkey Trot donations?

what can you do for our friends at Jackson Towers?

How can we prepare him room?

Did you know the Deacons still serve dinners regularly at Alpha Center?

Did you now they are also preparing dinners and games

 at Jackson Towers?

Did you know they are also taking dinner to the volunteers at

Compassionate Care?

Did you know you don’t have to be a Deacon to participate in

these?

Ask a Deacon to let you go along next time

How can we prepare him room?

Notice how our relationship with Central School is growing?

now Munch Bunch

how can you help?

How can we prepare him room?

friends we are working on building relationships

first within these walls

then outside – maybe just across the street

what are you doing about it?

how can we prepare him room?

When we prepare Jesus room

we set aside our differences

claim what we have together

unity in the Body of Christ

shared sense of call to reach out

this is how we prepare room for Jesus in our life and in our world

    So may it be with us.  Amen

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Christ the King

Luke 14:8-14

Invite

 

Off-lectionary sermon.

People often ask if we, a clergy couple, ever share or swap sermons.  We don’t.  But sometimes one of us comes across something that fires both of us up.  This is one of those sermons, not shared, but mutually fired up.

 

 

1.  Way In

Around here, Thanksgiving starts today

big feast tonight in the dining room

after Hanging the Greens after church

worship committee providing some lunch

just priming the pump for tonight

don’t forget Thursday morning at 8:30—Turkey Trot

good start to the day

get some exercise in before you settle down to the big feed later

We’ll be at home

Kazy’s mother, Polly, is coming up from Florida on Monday

she’ll be here for Thanksgiving, and through next weekend

Menu

Yesterday Kazy and I talked about our menu

favorites:

turkey, dressing

green beans

mashed potatoes

 Ed and the Fellowship Committee working on tonight’s menu; Church dinner

I’ve seen the list, we are in for the usual delicious dinner

What’s your menu at home?

turkey?  anybody do something different?

dressing or stuffing?

green bean casserole, with cream of mushroom soup and onion rings

sweet potatoes?  marshmallows melted on top?

dessert?   pecan pie, sweet potato pie

all the stuff you need/like or it doesn’t seem like Thanksgiving.  Right?

Imagine for a moment – something more important than the menu

You think I’m looking for a churchy answer, right?

like giving thanks, counting our blessings, remembering those less fortunate

Those aren’t the answers.  But I am looking for a churchy answer

hint: it’s about the guests

2.  Tell the Story (Luk. 14:8-14)

 Background

Jesus was a dinner guest in the home of a Pharisee

it was the sabbath

“they were watching him closely”

of course, Jesus was giving them something to think about

a man suffering from dropsy/hudropikos came in the house

renal disease causing heavy swelling

Jesus asked his hosts if it was lawful to cure on the Sabbath

the Pharisees were silent

everybody knew it wasn’t lawful to do it

Jesus cured him anyway

Then Jesus noticed, in today’s reading, how guests chose places of honor at the table

Ever hear the old conversation starter question, “If you could choose anybody from anytime to dinner, who would you ask?”

people often name historical figures, musicians

usually mention Jesus Christ

would you really?

just remember, he’s not afraid to call you out

which is a good thing

just be aware of this when you invite Jesus home

Culture heavy into exchanging favors

had a lot to do with power

i.e. who owed you a favor, or who you owed a favor

dinner and party invitations were currency in this system

within that system, choice seating was a distinction

head of the table = honor

Jesus calls the dinner guests to consider hospitality

don’t take the head of the table seat if it’s offered

invite somebody from one of the lower seats to sit there

say “Friend, move up higher”

Don’t take the best for yourself, lift somebody else up

this breaks down steps of hierarchy and privilege

he goes on to a lesson about the guest list  (see what I mean about inviting Jesus to dinner? he will call you out)

 don’t pad your guest list with people you owe a favor to

or people you want to be beholding to you

in fact, invite people, who cannot repay you

i.e. people who the culture says have nothing to offer

poor, and the outcast

this is where your blessing is

3.  So What?

when we open up the table to all of God’s people … look who’s around us:

that’s right, all of God’s people

and it doesn’t matter who sits where

head of the table, middle of the table,

 even the kid’s table, because you’re going to move that one up

But Lord, what if we don’t have enough to eat?

but Jesus said

“And you will be blessed” (v. 14)

who has served a meal at the Alpha Center?  (raise your hand – Sondra, Jennifer, Rosanne, Carol B, Carol M, Kay, Diane, Rachel W, Annette … come on, Deacons)

maybe there wasn’t enough food to open an All You Can Eat Buffet

but did you ever have to turn somebody away without anything?

was there always something in the pantry you could use to stretch the meal if you had to

At the Open Door in Atlanta we always had enough

whether it was

150 we served at breakfast or lunch

dinner after worship on Sunday night

500 or so on Labor Day

there was always enough

This is a time for us to think about invitation

consider the ones Jesus spent time with

rich and powerful?

sure, when he was in trouble

but who did he choose to spend time with?

regular people

but always the poor, outcast, sinners, prostitutes, sick, workers, unemployed, foreigners, ones who everybody else hated

who do we invite?

the ones that make us comfortable?

the ones who invited us before?

the ones we have to invite?

what if we really opened it up

did like Jesus

go back to his guest list (above)

Can you imagine this Thanksgiving feast?

can you imagine inviting somebody you didn’t ask before?

is there somebody who’s going to be lonely Thursday?

is there somebody nobody else might think about?

can you imagine a truly Open Table – a truly Welcome Table?

can you imagine?

who would Jesus invite to Thanksgiving dinner?

You will be hearing more about programs and events in the coming months

building relationships, building community

hospitality and inviting

might be breaking some new ground – breaking some old habits

but it also is breaking down barriers and tearing down walls

might be a little scary, a little uneasy

kind of like inviting Jesus to dinner

but think about a first step

is there somebody you can invite to dinner at church tonight?

oh wait, we already turned our reservations in – the tables are already set up

are we going to let that guide our hospitality?

because it’s not always that neat and tidy

so what, bring a new guest, and bring some extra food

you have enough at home

we’ll probably have enough extra here

at the very least, be on the lookout tonight for somebody you don’t know very well

seek them out – Jesus may have put that person there for you

find out something about them

maybe you don’t know them at all

maybe you don’t know them well

maybe this isn’t the year for you and me to invite the poor and homeless into our house for Thanksgiving dinner

but imagine if we did

imagine what it would be like to share a meal

in a place where all we had to offer each other is our presence

just being together, sharing food

without worrying about who looks like what or who belongs

at least give it some thought

maybe this isn’t the year

but next year…

so let it be with us.  Amen

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Isaiah 43:19

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

 

 

1.  Way In

Are you   happy   angry    satisfied    frustrated    excited     confused ?

are you some of each

mostly one or two

Do you wonder what I’m talking about?

maybe I better back up

Maybe you haven’t heard

that Kazy and I are buying a house

and if you haven’t heard before now

it’s because I messed up

you see, my family made a big decision about buying a home

and our decision was a surprise to you

as I told the session Thursday night:

I know the value of process and communication

I have even practiced  both of these

but in this case I didn’t

I let you know after the deal was done

and that’s not a good kind of surprise

Especially in this case – and I am very sorry

because we are buying a house in Piqua

we decided to buy a house in the school district that holds the most promise for our child

and we have decided that that district is in Piqua

I could take a lot of time and tell you about my family’s decision and our thoughts

But all I will say is that I felt the commitment to buy a home as a commitment to the community

the larger community, that I see as only separated by 14 miles of highway

but you don’t want to know about that right now

I have already heard some of your concerns

for me, living 14 miles away, even in the next town is not unusual

I’ve done it in 2 of my previous calls without an issue

colleagues here and in other places do it as well

but it’s not the same for you

you’re used to your pastor living in the manse

or at least in town

you’re not used to your pastor’s spouse being a minister who serves another church in another town

you wonder how I will be able to be part of the community

you are mostly interested in what that means for SFPC: the church and the members of the congregation

So this is what I covenant with you

I will keep the same hours at the office

I will be available to you in the same ways

here in the office

cell phone, e-mail, other ways like FB (you know who you are)

my availability for meetings after hours will be the same

remain involved in community

YMCA (Childcare committee, plus the one I was invited to serve last week)

SCMA (these guys live all over, but their churches are all in Shelby CO)

schools and school activities

Agape, Alpha, Compassionate Care, etc.

work even harder at visiting in your homes

I will listen to your individual concerns

today:

preaching at DLRC at 2:30

attending Hispanic worship at 4pm

but there are other opportunities during the week for you to contact me

and I will  provide an opportunity for a community conversations

otherwise you may contact me anytime

I am used to living in the suburb and working and ministering in the city

in SYR I was involved in the urban areas where my churches were

known and involved there as I was in the suburban neighborhood where we lived and Pauly went to school

in my marriage, at least one of us has always commuted between house and parish

and we have been able to make that work

Just gave you a synopsis of the discussion we had at session Thursday night

I want you to know how proud I was to be at the table with the elders

some of whom were hearing all this for the first time

we acknowledged the challenges in this news

people were honest about their feelings

what made me feel best was that we all stayed at the table

each one took an opportunity to express themselves

the church was well represented

and I am certain that your concern was voiced by at least one of the elders

And I accept the challenge from the Session that:

it will be my responsibility to prove that this arrangement can work

and I pray that you will be encouraged as I begin to do just that

Bridge

So why preach about this?

After all, this format doesn’t give you a chance to respond

but I want to get this news out there

and for as many as possible to hear it from me

as I said, there will be opportunities to talk about this together

There are lots of things changing lately

we live and work differently than some ever believed we would

was a time when not living in the town where you work was unheard of

but we see it more and more

I think the boundaries of what’s considered local are changing

but this may not make change any easier to accept

for some here it may not make much difference where I live

as long as I’m available

for some it may seem like a deal-breaker

so I hope we can acknowledge where we all are emotionally

deal with that where it’s necessary

then move ahead

we can do this

2.  Relate to scripture

Read Isaiah verse

context

we are moving towards Advent

this is a traditional Advent text

God is doing a new thing

every day – since the beginning

God didn’t stop doing new things when he stopped writing the Bible

but every day is a new leg of the journey

and it’s different every day

It’s easier for us to stay comfortable

not take chances on a new thing

to assume:

if it’s new it’s bad

if it’s different, it’s going to mess everything up

I know it’s scary

but we’ve got to step out

and trust that God steps out with us

Bridge

Rear Admiral, Dr. Grace Murray Hopper

b. 1906

PhD Mathematics

led development of COBOL programming language

US Navy ship named for her (USS Hopper)

Quote

“A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what a ship is built for.”

I’m not saying that God has pre-ordained our buying a house in Piqua

or that this has any connection with biblical prophecy

God has way more important things to think about

But God’s way is a new way

God’s way never lets us languish in what’s familiar and comfortable

furthermore, I am aware that our decision to buy a house in Piqua comes at an awkward time

today is pledge Sunday

this may seem like a gamble to you

well, as somebody reminded me

I have 1½ years left of a 3 year Designated Pastor Call

and I can do my best to make this work…or not

3. So what

talk about reaction to some changes (pick a few)

“A great invention but who would want to use it?”  President Rutherford B. Hayes after a demonstration of A.G. Bell’s telephone 1877

 

according to a British Parliamentary Committee in 1878, Edison’s light bulb was “good enough for our transatlantic friends…but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific man (sic.)”

 

“the horse is here to stay, the automobile is only a novelty – a fad”  President of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co.

 

“That the automobile has practically reached the limit of its development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced.” Scientific American 1/2/1909

 

“While theoretically and technically, television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is impossibility, a development of which we should waste no time dreaming.”  Lee De Forest, inventor of the vacuum tube, 1926

 

“Where a calculator like the ENIAC today is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh only 1.5 tons.” Popular Mechanics March 1949

 

“The world potential for copying machines is 5,000 at most.”  IBM, to the eventual founders of Xerox, on how the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production,  1959

 

“With over 15 types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself.” Business Week 8/2/1968

 

“Remote shopping will flop, because women like to get out of the house,”  Time magazine, 1966 – writing off e-commerce before anybody ever heard of it

When I was in college (the 2nd time – mid 80s) I was a commuter student

lived at home, married with children

used a computer to write papers and other assignments

saw a notice at the library

that I could access the catalogue of the university library collection at home – on my computer

got an access code

took forever, eventually, at my desk, I could search for books in the library

around that same time, I got AOL and was soon able to e-mail

opened up a new world – way of being in touch

who knew that in 2009 people would be saying that

e-mail is becoming passé, even phone calls are going by the way

don’t believe me – get in touch with a teenager or young adult

call them, voice mail will probably pick up, they might call back today

but text them, or FB message

you’ll hear back instantly

Is it right?  Is it what you want to hear?

maybe, maybe not

but it’s a fact

if FB were a country with users as citizens, it would be the 5th largest country in the world

they thought HS and college students would be the biggest users, followed by young adults

but the fastest growing segment of users are over 40

Don’t get me wrong

none of this will ever replace the power and intimacy of personal contact and connections

but I am telling you that there is a new way of networking and connecting

and it’s on-line

and it is not a fad

there is a fundamental change in the way we connect with the world we live in

and Luddites may have a point – by holding on to low tech ways

but if we want to make a difference for the church of Jesus Christ’s sake

we deserve to use the best tools we can get

would you set out to build an office building with sticks lashed together with rope, notched logs, sod, or adobe bricks?

or would you consult an architect or engineer about the current safest, most endurable, strongest materials to use?

the scriptures are timeless, God’s word is alive and fresh to us as it was when it was first told and later put into writing

and the Good News of the Gospel deserves our very best in telling it

we are paying attention to the best tools out there

working at

keeping office equipment up-to-date

keeping up with curricula, books, topics

and current doesn’t mean expensive

internet technology and access is cheaper than many previous ad campaigns

full years web hosting and e-mail service costs less than many yellow page and other term print ad campaigns

and it’s current

not static and cast on paper

we can change it at a moment’s notice

so if you are in this

interested in making a change, getting connected

come to FFF this Wednesday night at 6

not asking you to be on a committee

not a long-term commitment

I want to brainstorm with you about how we can move ahead

and if you have never attended such a session here

I especially want you to come – just one night

bring your ideas – how do you want to connect

with the church?

with the community?

conclusion  (a free-style wrap up followed)

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32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 12:38-44

Threads

 

1.  Way In

A gift from my mother

Housewarming gift when we moved to SC

placemats made by my great-grandparents of Gulfport, MS – Horace and Mary Hinds

same fabric as the blanket they made

probably had lots of bolts of these yarns

many similar pieces

but my blanket has a silver thread through it

Scriptures are like these heirlooms from my great-grandparents’ loom

focus on the individual threads

miss the details like patterns, initials, silver thread running

focus on the silver thread reminds me

I was a special great-grandchild

Joseph III, named for Joseph Sr.

who they named after my great-grand’s sister Josephine

reminds me that I was woven into the family

a warm and useful memory for me – like the blanket

Bridge

Like the threads of my blanket and placemats

Bible is full of threads of storiessermon

creation and destruction

birth and death

defeat and triumph

promises made and broken

dwelling on death, we can miss the story of new birth

destruction – creation

broken promises – new covenant

let us look at today’s teaching parable, considering the threads that run thorough this text and everything that God teaches

heroic sacrifice of the widow who gave everything she had

AND Jesus’ teachings about the scribes who exploited the people’s gifts to the church

teachings about sacrifice, pride, and humility

2.  Tell the Story

Jesus taught to beware of the scribes

like to walk around in long robes

and to be greeted with respect, and get the best seats in church and in the marketplace

they devour widow’s houses and say long prayers for the sake of appearance

they will receive the greatest condemnation

They watched as a poor widow went into the Treasury – special room for receiving offerings

put in 2 coins

“mites”, worth about a penny

about 1/64 of a day’s wage

Jesus said that she had put in more than anyone else that day

they have contributed from their abundance

and she, from her poverty

put in all she had

everything she had to live on

3.  So What?

remember about the thread running through scripture

constant concern for the welfare of widows and orphans

condemnation of religious establishment for exploiting the vulnerable

Maybe she could have spent her money better and more wisely

after all, the temple was destroyed a few years later

would she have been better off saving the money?

A story of a new minister

Deacons told her of a single mother of 4 who was tithing from her meager paycheck

they were concerned about her welfare

Pastor went to let her know it’s okay to back off some

As the pastor spoke, the woman cried

“That would take away everything that gives my life dignity and meaning – giving to my church for the ministry of Jesus Christ

this is a story of somebody who knows what giving is about

we don’t give to the church because God needs anything from us

we do have this big building to maintain

but that’s not God’s problem

some of the church’s biggest problems have to do with buildings

maybe that’s why the only house of worship God laid out was the tabernacle – something basic, even portable

but our giving to the church is for us

we give because we need to give to God

need to learn to give – even sacrificially, to God

as God has given sacrificially for us, in Jesus Christ

Jesus’ teaching here

although  he says the widow gave more than anybody

implies the others could have given more

but he’s not critical of the other contributors

the ones he is critical of, actually he condemns them …

the scribes, religious officials

for pretentious practices and exploitation of people

Jesus tells them to watch out for the ones who walk around in long robes

and like the best seats

and demand respect

I’m starting to feel a little vulnerable

robe, fancy seat, called “Rev.”

this is who Jesus is saying to look out for

Jesus condemns empty religious practice

those that are weak and lifeless, destructive, empty and false

of giving to the church from our energy or resources when we can spare it, when we feel like it, on the days when there is so much extra that some sloshes over the top for the church to get

and he reminds us that we can’t always tell by looking

remember there was a scribe in last week’s reading who realized the truth Jesus was preaching and Jesus told him he “wasn’t far from the kingdom of God.”

but he warned against the ones who were exploiting religion for their benefit

the one who got it the most right on that day was the poor widow who dropped in two pennies – an unlikely example of a benevolent giver

 

Jesus condemns the religious practice of the scribes, showy and oppressive.  He lifts up the religious practice of the widow; faithful self-giving without show.

Jesus’ teaching recalls the prophecy that self-serving religious practices are not what the Lord requires.   Isaiah tells of God’s contempt for fasting yet still fighting and quarreling, and for offering worship to God while oppressing others.  “If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry, and satisfy the needs of those in need then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom will be like the noonday.  Your ancient ruins will be rebuilt; you shall be called repairers of the breach.  If you honor the Sabbath, not going your own ways, serving your own interests…Then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth.”

Friends, what we read in this book is are not old dusty words for us to gather around once a week and feel good about how we are not like some of these bad people.

    This book is the living Word of God calling to us over generations and ages because we still don’t have it right.

God is calling us to religious practices that give of ourselves for God and for others in need.  This is a common thread woven through the fabric of the scriptures.   God calls us away from religious practices that only give to ourselves, things done for us, and not for God.

    God is calling me to be careful with the office with which I have been entrusted, to remember the God of my salvation and to remember the vows I took at ordination.

    How is God calling you?  What is God showing you about your religious practices … about your commitment … what you offer

    We have talked this morning about reading the Bible, reading the entire Bible.  And we have talked about religious practices.  Our discipleship is the life resulting from reading the scriptures and our religious practice.

Jesus himself defied simple answers as to whether he was or wasn’t the Messiah–he simply told people to look at the fruit of his ministry and decide if it conveyed truth and power.

Recently, you should have received your stewardship letter and pledge card in the mail.  If not, there are some here today.  As you prayerfully prepare your pledge for 2010, I pray that we will consider our gift to God that comes from our abundance, even sacrificially, not because God needs it, but because we need to give it up.

We need to learn about offering the best we have for God.  And not from what’s left over, but from the very best we have to offer.

Friends, we are a small church.  And we are the right size to wrestle with the transforming truth of the Bible.  This church has a rich and vital history on this corner in the middle of this town.  Through many changes God has saved this church, and God has not saved it for nothing.

We are each woven in the rich fabric which is the First Presbyterian Church – people of God in this church, our lives are inter-twined with the life and ministry of this church over the years.  Each one of you represents a unique color or texture in this fabric, and the whole of it wouldn’t be the same without you.

May we recommit ourselves to God, and may our gift be of ourselves, our lives – the most precious gift we can give through the renewal of spirit, commitment to worship, fellowship, and service for the sake of the Church of Jesus Christ that we serve.  So may it be with us.  Amen.

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While I was away at University of Rhode Island Parent’s Weekend, Elder Charlie Castle was the guest preacher at First Presbyterian Church.  See you next week.

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