Messages and Other Things

This is where we share our Sunday Worship and other videos of interest. Come back often to see what's new and/or to follow the worship series.


The Grace of Jesus – the Love of God – the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
The Trinity, watching, guiding, and loving us through it all!! How can we
question that we are blessed … every second of every day! I Believe!! Do you?
Focusing on God, what we see is a Creator God, the source of everything that
is, who nonetheless chooses to send US on the mission to share His Kingdom
with the whole world. A gigantic God and a meticulous God. The terms
typically used for this are transcendence and immanence. Transendence
meaning “existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level” and
immanence meaning “permanently pervading and sustaining the universe”.
He is not an either/or but a both/and God. He is both wholly other and
intimate friend. God is both out there and in here. Out there referring to all
that is beyond us and above us and around us. In here being both the
indwelling Spirit within us and the presence that permeates this community of
faith in which we worship and experience God’s presence and God’s love and
God’s grace.
God-focused worship, then, is about giving praise and offering confession,
about spending time in the presence of God. But it is also about the
celebration of the gift of the church through which we have come to know
God. Worship gives visible expression to how we have experienced God in our
lives. I know we did something similar last week but, worship and recognition
of God is never enough. Let us both honor God and honor the community that
shares God with us and with the world.
So I will ask you a couple questions…
Can you name a time when you experienced God? What happened in that
And what about those who have shared God with you? Can you share their
names to honor them?
At the same time, we honor the creator God by responding to the sender God.
This is a day to speak of the nature of God by living into our mission to make
disciples of all peoples. And we cannot make disciples of all people until we
see all the people, see them as brothers and sisters, see them as part of God’s
plan and purpose for creation, see them as signs of God’s presence. We
embrace the fullness of God by embracing God’s creation as a whole. We
must embrace our role in protecting and preserving and stewarding all that
God has made in partnership with people of all ages, nations, and races, as our
baptismal vows declare.
We are invited to participate in God’s ever-continuing act of creation. We are
called to join in. We are called to go.
It’s time to go. You’ve heard that a few times in your life, I know. You’ve said it
many times too. Go. Let’s go. Can we go? Ready to go? Who could say no to
“Go"? It’s exciting and scary and irresistible! What’s next?? Go! Of course, we
want to go!
But. There is the other side of “Go.” To go you have to leave. To move toward
a new tomorrow is sometimes to leave a comfortable – or even not so
comfortable, but maybe familiar – yesterday. To embrace the call to go is to
turn your back on “stay”, even as you stride into a hope, a possible joy.
Matthew 28:16 says, “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the
mountain where Jesus had told them to go.”
Did you ever notice how many times Jesus told them to go? Or how many
mountains are mentioned in the Bible? Mountains in the Bible are more than
simply geological formations. Something significant always happens. It’s a
dead giveaway. Or rather a living one. Mountains are alive, but not just with
the sound of music. No, mountains are alive with the Presence and Power of
God. Standing on this mountain, the disciples’ lives were about to change
forever. In fact, the whole world was about to change forever. Not that they
knew that at that moment. All they knew is that they heard that word: “Go.”
There’s some very important information in the verses at the end of
Matthew’s Gospel. But, we want to get right to the “Go,” the Great
Commission. That’s where the call is. We are a part of a denomination that
makes its mission To Make Disciples for Jesus Christ for the Transformation
of the World. And we say it like that, with capitals and emphases. You can
hear it in how we say it. We say it with fervor, with passion; we say it, let’s
admit it, with a bit of desperation. We’re losing our grip on what we have
been, and we are uncertain about what we will become. So, we cling tightly to
the Great Commission for the salvation of the denomination. We hold on so
tightly that we squeeze the life out of it. It has become our weapon, our
bludgeon to force a resurrection of the churches we were once upon a time,
in our memory, if not in fact.
I think it comes down to how we hear the word “Go.” Go. Make disciples!
Whether they want to be made or not. Baptize them, even if you have to hold
them under the water until they stop squirming; get them in; get them done.
Then teach them to obey. Obey. Put them in their place. Under the thumb,
under the heel. Make them good; make them pure; make them right when all
they seem to want is wrong. Get ‘er done!
Oh, wait… that’s a different denomination. You can stop squirming now.
But the truth is, that is the attitude of many in Christianity historically and
today. The Great Commission is a license to hate, to wield the sword, to put
down, look down on, and come down on those who don’t measure up. Go,
run over the world until you’ve made it into the image that is palatable to Us!
There is no other way. So, you’d better shape up. And if you don’t have the
right credentials, we don’t want you; we won’t let you in. Go. Go away!
Eleven disciples gathered on that mountain, carrying their wounds, their
failures, their disappointment, and their fears. Even when Jesus appeared,
Matthew tells us that they worshiped but some doubted. Really? The
resurrected Christ, stood before them, about to ascend into heaven and take
his place at the right hand of Almighty God, and some doubted? Still? On the
We aren’t told what they doubted. Him? Themselves? The mission that was
about to be handed to them? All the above or something else entirely. Who
knows? We don’t.
Except that we do. Because we have them too: those doubts. That sense of
inadequacy. That feeling that maybe we shouldn’t force someone else to
believe what isn’t within them to believe. Maybe we should just keep it to
ourselves, this faith thing. Keep it quiet; don’t make waves; don’t disturb the
neighbors. “Live and let live.” That’s a better motto. Better than “Go,”
But then, maybe we’re hearing the word “Go” wrong. Maybe it is just about
joy. Not about being right, but about being whole. Maybe Jesus meant that his
way, his life, his teaching were indeed the better way to be; and that if we
were thinking right, we couldn’t keep it to ourselves if we tried! It will leak out
of us as we live in the world as fully alive human beings. “So,” says Jesus, “live
intentionally. Live outwardly.” When Jesus says “make disciples,” he doesn’t
imagine an anvil upon which we pound them into shape. Instead, he imagines
a relationship. He says, “Go, spend time with people, value them, learn from
them, know them, help them, tell them what makes you the fully alive person
that you are.” It isn’t a course you take and get a diploma; it’s a way of living
that we are always growing into. Like creation itself, the goodness is found in
the process. Make disciples as you are being made into a disciple.
“Give them something else, Give them Me,” Jesus said with that trademark
thousand-watt smile. And teach. Oh yes. Teach them obedience. Not by
breaking their will, though, not by beatings and repetitions, but by passion
and joy and encouragement. And by immersing them in the Creator God, the
Redeemer Christ, and the Sustainer Spirit.
“Go,” he said to the disciples and to us. Go. And trust that he knows how hard
that is. That to “Go” forward is to leave something behind; that to accept the
call to “Go” is to live with uncertainty and a sense of what if and why not. It is
to embrace the goodness of God in spite of those doubts. Trusting that new
place, the new world is a mountain of potential and power and the Presence
of God. And maybe the real call is to live into “Go” rather than to jump and
run to meet some deadline, some quota. Because we have known failure,
“Go” is harder to hear. Harder, but not impossible. Because, with God, all
things are possible.
On this Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the Triune God who is not distant and
aloof and apart, but the Triune God who is present in what came to be
through a word spoken in the void. We worship the Triune God who came
down like fire, burned a mission into our hearts and told us to “GO”!.

PENTECOST - MAY 28, 2023

What Kind of World Do We Want? (2)
Can you remember a day that completely changed your life? Maybe it was a
marriage or a death or a birth.
Can you think of an event – or series of events – that completely changed life
as we know it? Perhaps you think of JFK’s assassination, the Fall of the Berlin
Wall, the Viet Nam war, or 9/11. And most recently the Covid pandemic.
We are living in a time when power is trying to overcome love. When
everyday there is greater disparity between the haves and have nots, just like
the time of Jesus, both before and after his death.
Were you aware that Pentecost was originally an agricultural festival
celebrating the first harvest of the growing season? And later it became a
commemoration of the giving of the land of Canaan to the people of Israel;
and then even later, it morphed into an observance of the giving of the law to
Moses on Mount Sinai. All are important times of celebration, but nothing to
indicate the power that was unleashed on this day. I’m sure it caught the
disciples by surprise too! They were used to a low-key holiday (not unlike Yom
Kippur or even Rosh Hashana), but instead found themselves in an encounter
with God that literally blew them away!
Did the disciples realize their jubilant holiday of Pentecost would change the
course of the world for all time?! Wind, Fire, Holy Spirit!! Brought a new way
of being for all time!!
Luke tells us, the Day of Pentecost came like the sound of a violent wind. It
was fire; it was power; it was chaos and noise, but it was also meaning, and it
was hope. And then to be filled with the power to be, the power to grow, the
power to love as Christ loved. It gives me goosebumps to even think about!
That’s what Pentecost is all about. It’s not simply a birthday observed, just a
marker along the road, or a milestone passed. It is a moment of power, an
offering of transformation. So, how about it? Ready to fully come to church on
Sunday? Who knows who you might be once you’ve been windswept by the
Holy Spirit?
We need to pray for the Holy Spirit to fill us with a passion, a heat for justice,
love and mercy! What kind of world do you want?! Give the power to the rich
and greedy? Or take the power the Holy Spirit has given us and do the work
the Lord has charged us to do?!
Except. Sometimes it is hard to rise to the occasion of this kind of Pentecost.
The breath within us isn’t a mighty wind; it is more like a sigh. Of pain or
sadness and grief, maybe of uncertainty or fear. Not a gust, but a sigh. Just a
“sigh” O Breathe on us Holy Spirit. In the heat of the moment. In the struggle
of living and loving and finding our way in a complicated world. Breathe on us.
Give us peace. Not a peace that resolves every issue. Not a peace that fixes
everything that is broken, or that removes responsibility or covenant, or that
answers every question, or that removes every doubt. Breathe on us that we
might find peace enough to continue on the journey on which we find
ourselves. Peace enough to work toward resolution, peace enough to mend
the broken or that allows us to limp with grace and confidence. Peace that
breathes through our responsibilities and covenants, peace that lifts us up and
binds us together. Peace that casts out fear.
The Holy Spirit can and will break every chain of power, injustice,poverty,
confusion, oppression, and will set us truly free to do His will and create the
world which He intended!
He gave many gifts!! We ALL have them! Do not fear them! Be brave! Be
mighty! Use your gifts for the saving of our world! There is strength and
courage in numbers!!
3000 people heard Peter’s message and walked away filled with the fire of
love for a broken world! Filled with the heat of desire for a better world! Filled
with the power of love!
Remember Matthew 22 tells us to Love your God with all your heart and all
your mind and all your soul! And love your neighbor as yourself!
What kind of world do we want??!
“sigh” He breathed on them. Peace be with you. Receive the Spirit of holiness,
of ordination, of mission and ministry, of love. Receive it and then love. Love
from the strong center of peace, from the contentment of faith, of putting
your hands in the source of love and joy and peace. Lean into it, trust it,
receive it, give it!
We are so caught up by the rule of greed and the laws of the rich and
powerful, but… it is time to let ourselves be so consumed by the fire of the
Holy Spirit, we cannot do anything But change the world!!
“sigh” He breathed on them. On you. On me. A breathe of peace given to a
hurting and hungry heart becomes a wind of change in a new world.
Breathe deep and step out in faith! Even if it’s a baby step.
Jimi Hendrix said,
“When the power of Love overcomes the love of Power…
Then the world will know peace.”
“sigh” What kind of world do we want?!

(1)Call to Worship “Listening In Tongues” by Pastor Steve Garnaas-Holmes
(2)Thoughts and phrases used from the message “What Kind of World Do We Want?”
Pentecost 2020 by Rev. Lisa Fitzpatrick, Belmont Heights UMC, Long Beach, CA


We are in the midst of the Great Fifty Days of the Easter Season. On day forty,
which is always a Thursday, we celebrate the Ascension of Christ. Since most
congregations do not hold a special Thursday night Ascension Day Worship
Service, it is normally acknowledged on the Sunday one week before
Pentecost. So, here we find ourselves. The ascension of Jesus Christ into
heaven! It is something we believe in! We affirm this belief as part of “The
apostles’ creed” In The Apostles’ Creed, we say, “He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He will
come to judge the living and the dead.” We believe that Jesus Christ ascended
to heaven and has taken his rightful place.
As Christians, we must follow the instructions of Jesus in Luke 24 verse 47 and
teach repentance and forgiveness of sins. People today need the hope that
they can be forgiven for what they have done, no matter how long it takes
them to ask for forgiveness. There are way too many people suffering
needlessly because they are convinced that God couldn’t possibly forgive
them for turning away, wasting their life, wasting their talents, and living apart
from God. People need to hear this message from you! Jesus Loves Us! No
matter what!
We must understand and share that Jesus loves the earth he leaves and he
still calls the world his own, even though he is no longer physically present in
There is a hymn by Charles Wesley, #312 “Hail the Day That Sees Him Rise”
where in verse 3 Charles invites us to “picture” this day…
“See! The heaven its Lord receives,
Yet he loves the earth he leaves,
Though returning to his throne
Still he calls the world his own.”
I can understand this because it is what I truly believe. I believe Jesus is
present with us. He is present when two or more are gathered in his name to
proclaim the gospel until he comes again. He is present when a baby is born
into this world, and he is present when we say goodbye to loved ones as they
pass from this life into the next. He is present in the rising of the sun each
morning and in its setting each evening. He is present even in the darkness of
life. He is present in the blossoming trees and flowers that surround our
mountain homes, and he will be present when the leaves dry up and fall from
the trees and the grass turns brown and the snow begins to fall and the days
become short. He is present in every feeling of love and every action of love.
He is present in the breaking of bread and the pouring of wine. He is present
in the great cloud of witnesses, both on Earth and in Heaven, that surrounds
us all.
I want to ask you… Where is Jesus “present” for you?
Where do you see him in this world?
*wait for responses
I can just see his hands lifted! I imagine them held up high, with palms open,
in the same way some of us do when we sing praise songs or stand to pray.
And yes, I can see the marks on his hands, what Charles Wesley called the
“prints of love” that witness to the power of his sacrifice for this world, for
you and for me. Yes, I can see his lips moving as he offers a blessing upon the
people who gather in his name and who, in union with him, offer themselves
in loving sacrifice for the world.
Maybe we should take a moment and close our eyes and see what our minds
What do you see when you imagine the time and place and concept you call
heaven? And how does your vision of heaven “receive” its Lord?
Just stay present with Jesus for a moment in this vision.
*silence for at least 60 seconds
So here on the seventh Sunday of Easter: the final “of Easter.” It is time to
turn back to the one who is “chosen and precious,” …except, as you’ve heard,
he turns back to us! Even when talking about himself, his own glory, he turns
back to us. It’s amazing, really, in this moment, when you’d think he would be
focused on himself and the incredible event that is happening to him! But
even in the final moments on this earth…
we are the objects of His attention and His prayer!
When I said “He loves the earth he leaves and still calls this world his own”…
I wasn’t speaking of only the non-human creation here on earth.
I was speaking of us!
He Loves Us!
Luke 24 verse 51 says “While he was blessing them, he left them and was
taken up into heaven.”
Do you see it? Can you envision those moments?
Yes I believe we see him clearly on this Ascension Sunday blessing us here on
earth and in heaven! He Loves Us!


The Proverbs 31 Woman
I think when we read Proverbs 31 we have always looked at this woman in a
traditional sense. Housewife, Mother, Grandmother. Most see her as a strong,
capable woman, who, yes, can take care of her family, husband, home,
children, while her husband provides the “daily bread”. I’m not saying that is a
bad thing! Many women are perfectly happy to be that and provide that level
of support for her partner. If a woman chose to be something different,
something “other than” or something AND, she was looked at as odd or selfish
or both. This different life she wanted was not at all “normal”.
Maya Angelou once said, “if you’re always trying to be normal, you will never
know how amazing you can be.”
But, what if we looked at this woman in a more modern light. For instance,
there are many women who, for whatever the reason may be, have no
partner or who simply chose to have a career, with or without children and/or
a partner.
Being a housewife and mother used to be the way of life for women. I think
when I got to the marrying age in the early seventies that was truly changing
in our society. Women were no longer expected to marry and have a family.
Or maybe they were but, we young women were not having any of it.
Being a single woman for most of my life I can relate to the truth of Maya
Angelou’s statement. I have done so many different jobs and activities in my
lifetime and if I had lived the life my Mum lived as a housewife and Mother, I
never would have learned and accomplished all the things I did. And I have
tried and done so many things! I have been an Optometric Assistant, a
Cashier, a Jewelry salesperson, a waitress, a housekeeper, a menswear
salesperson, an Avon lady, a visual specialist (window displays), a marketing
specialist (sale signage and promotion), an Interior Decorator, a UPS Store
packaging expert, a camp host, and here I am now, a worship leader!
You know my Mum once told a couple of us girls how she felt so dumb
sometimes because she never experienced “life” as much as she could.
Now, was I amazing at everything I did? Of course not! But, the point is I at
least had the chance to try. I had the opportunities to be brave and strong and
capable and amazing.
I do believe now that God was always with me giving me the strength, courage
and intelligence to be anything but “normal”. My Dad and My God were
always telling me, encouraging me, to do my very best at whatever I was
doing! They still do! I was given the chance to be an excellent woman.
I believe that is who the Proverbs 31 woman is… an excellent woman.
(NLT) Proverbs 31:25 says, “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she
laughs with no fear of the future.”
She is not a basic everyday woman. She strives to be different from everyone
else, to be her own woman, and to bring strength and courage, dignity and
intelligence into everything she does. She is different from everyone else and
daily better than her yesterday self.
By being this excellent woman she not only can be a wonderful, supportive,
encourager to her partner but, she lives up to her full potential in that
relationship. Mind you ladies, I am not at all saying any relationship should be
one sided. We all know how those relationships go. And ain’t nobody happy!
This excellent woman is not content with “it is what it is”. She is always trying
to improve herself in order to improve her life and the lives of those around to
If she is a housewife, she doesn’t just sit around all day on the couch doing
nothing. She takes her Job seriously. And she does her best at it.
She takes care of herself, mentally, physically and spiritually.
She uses her money wisely, and does not spend frivolously while struggling to
pay her bills.
She is not weak. Whatever comes her way, she knows how to handle it by
thinking it through and relying on God and herself to do the next best thing.
Her life partner, should she chose to have one, will be her equal. As the
proverb says, she is “equally yoked” meaning she does not stand beneath or
above her partner, but she stands beside and they hold and lift eachother.
They trust that each one will do their best in all things and will have
eachothers back in all situations.
She is intelligent and teaches her children the same lessons she has taught
herself. Because of this they will admire her and not look at her with
She may be beautiful on the outside, but she knows in her heart that beauty is
only skin deep.
I know! You’re probably thinking at this point that she is superwoman, right?!
But, I assure you, She is…YOU!!
Now I don’t want you to see this woman as someone to to imitate in every
detail. Your days are not long enough to do everything she does. Look to her
instead as an inspiration to be all you can be!
I am going to share a prayer with you ladies that, if you pray it with full belief
in it’s power, over time, you will feel it working in you. Prayers don’t have to
be long or involved for God to hear you. This one is short and covers all I have
spoken about today. It is meant to be prayed time and time again.
PRAYER of EXCELLENCE by Kelly Forrest - Mother’s Day - 2023
Dearest Lord,
You have created me wonderfully in your image and
You have blessed me with gifts too numerous to fully understand.
Help me Father to discern my strengths and weaknesses,
and to understand how to use them, with grace and kindness,
so that I might be the excellent woman you planned for me to be.
Give me the knowledge and wisdom to be an example to all my sisters,
so they may see through me what it means to be a Proverbs 31 woman.
In the name of your Son Jesus I pray.
You can make a habit of praying this prayer daily, weekly, monthly, or when
you feel you need Him most. Feel free to use your own words and make it
yours. God has a plan to help each of us women to be the excellent woman he
wants us to be and His plan is unique to each of us. As unique as a fingerprint!
Also, if this prayer gets the Holy Spirit moving in you, be the kind, generous,
gracious woman that you know you can be and please, share it and this
message with another woman you know who may need to hear it. Because I
tell you now, the Proverbs 31 woman is in ALL of us!
Happy Mother’s Day to All the Excellent Women!!


"We Believe In the Holy Spirit”
The Nicene Creed has quite a history! Actually, it could be a whole Sunday School
lesson. Here is my summary.
When the Nicene Creed was drawn up, the chief enemy of Christianity was Arianism,
which denied that Jesus was fully God. Arius was a presbyter (=priest = elder) in
Alexandria in Egypt, in the early 300’s. He taught that the Father, in the beginning,
created (or begot) the Son, and that the Son, in conjunction with the Father, then
proceeded to create the world. The result of this was to make the Son a created
being, and hence not God in any meaningful sense. Arius stuck to his position, and
was finally excommunicated by a council of Egyptian bishops. He went to Nicodemia
in Asia, where he wrote letters defending his position to various bishops. Finally, the
Emperor Constantine summoned a council of Bishops in Nicea and there in 325 the
Bishops of the Church, by a decided majority, renounced Arius and produced the first
draft of what is now called the Nicene Creed. [1]
Later on, at the beginning of Methodism here in the US, John Wesley had something
to do with the Nicene Creed being deleted from the 39 Articles of Faith which were
used by the Church of England. He also removed it from the Sunday Service in the
Book of Common Prayer.
But, in 1944 the Methodist Conference approved the Book of Worship which included
the Niceen Creed as the second affirmation of faith. The Apostles Creed was first.
And it appears in the updated Book of Worship in 1965.
The United Methodists, formed in 1968 at the Dallas Texas Conference, put the
Niceen Creed back in the hymnal as the first affirmation of faith.
The Niceen Creed is valued by the United Methodists as a useful tool to better
understand our belief in the Trinity of Christian Faith. [2]
The message today is “We believe in the Holy Spirit”. But who or what is it?
“We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from
the Father and the Son. Who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and
glorified. Who has spoken to us through the Prophets.”
We believe the Holy Spirit is the giver of life.
Genesis 1:2 – the earth was formless and empty, but the Spirit was hovering
over the waters!! And every time God spoke, the spirit moved… Until His work
was done.
We believe the Holy Spirit is God.
“Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the
Son is worshiped and glorified. Who has spoken to us through the Prophets.”
The Holy Spirit is not an accessory piece. The Holy Spirit is the one who fortold
of Jesus through the mouths of the prophets. The Holy Spirit is worthy of our
worship because the Holy Spirit is God.
Scriptures are words that are alive with the voice of God that cause the Spirit
to move!! Listen to these…
As an angry mob closed in in Acts 7:55 (Message) says. “But, Stephen, full of
the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed -- “
2 Timothy 3:16 (Message) Paul says, “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed
and useful one way or another - …”
John 14:26-27 (NIV) Jesus says, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the
Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of
everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I
do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and
do not be afraid.”
The Holy Spirit was sent by the Father to be our advocate and our strength.
The Holy Spirit teaches us and reminds us.
The Holy Spirit leads us to peace in a troubled world.
The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to experience God everyday.
The Holy Spirit is given to, and acts and speaks through all who believe!
The Newsboys sing these words,
“The same power that rose Jesus from the grave
The same power that commands the dead to wake
Lives in us, lives in us
The same power that moves mountains when He speaks
The same power that can calm a raging sea
Lives in us, lives in us
He lives in us, …
We Believe!”


For many people, the Lord’s Prayer is simply a prayer to recite. But as we discover this prayer, we can find this model prayer to be a life-changing experience. There is no magic in a prayer, and mechanical recitation is empty and meaningless. Jesus discourages us to "not keep babbling like pagans who think they will be heard because of their repetitive prayers" (Mt 6:7). But as we truly pray this prayer-with understanding-we may find it changes our lives.
Here is my interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father who art in heaven
The Lord’s prayer begins with “Our Father” because we are all children of God. We pray for His mercy or forgiveness on all of us, not just for ourselves.
The prayer continues with “who art in heaven.” In Old English, “art” means to be or to exist. This is a reminder that we pray to a God that lives in Heaven, and we do not pray to objects on Earth, ever!
Hallowed be thy name.
In simple terms, “hallowed be thy name” means we respect God and are loyal to Him only. This phrase is like our pledge of allegiance - to God.
I have to say that in my high school Advanced English classes I did not enjoy reading Shakespeare. No matter how many times I read his plays or poems, I just couldn’t understand all of the Old English words he used.
But, when I broke down his writing, word-by-word, it became easier to read.
The same can be done with the Lord’s Prayer. For example:
• Hallowed means: holy or respected
• Be thy means: your
• Name means: what we call you
If we put these words together in simple English, this phrase could be understood as “we respect you.”
Thy kingdom come,
When Jesus prays “thy kingdom come” he is simply saying that God will be in control forever or until the end of time.
• Thy means: yours
• Kingdom means: an area controlled by a king
• Come means: to happen
Putting these words together we might translate this sentence to say that God is currently in charge and forever will be.

Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
To understand what this verse of the Lord’s Prayer means, we must read it very carefully. The verse uses very basic words, but they hold a very important meaning.
• Thy means: yours
• Will means: desire or wish
• Done means: completed
After breaking down this verse of the Lord’s prayer, it is clear that we are making a promise to God that we will obey his desires or wishes here on Earth.
The verse simply says, “your wishes will be completed on Earth, just like they are in Heaven.” And as the song said, “Right here in my heart.”
Give us this day our daily bread.
If you read commentary on the Lord’s Prayer, this verse “give us this day our daily bread” is often interpreted in many different ways.
We are to only collect as much “bread” as we need for this day and keep none of it for the next day. This is the daily bread Jesus is referring to. This is how the Indian Tribes in this country lived. Only taking what was needed and leaving the rest for others. But, that’s next Sunday’s message.
I believe the real meaning of this verse is that we must always rely on God to provide for us. As we grow spiritually, we do not become independent and no longer need God to provide for us. As we grow closer to God we actually need him more than ever.
You know I have actually had people respond to a suggestion of going on the Walk to Emmaus with “I don’t need that. I’m good with my knowledge of God.” To that response I say, “Really??”
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
We have all heard the King James Version of the Lord’s Prayer where it asks God to forgive our “debts,” as we forgive our “debtors” (the people that owe us something).
When I think of the word debt today, the first thing that comes to mind is my bills.
However, it actually means righteous or moral debts.
But, more simply put, Jesus is referring to our past sins. Our trespasses.
Our wrongdoings.
In the Lord’s prayer we are asking God to forgive our sins, after we forgive the sins of others.
Remember, we must first forgive others for their sins or mistakes. Then, we can ask God to forgive our sins. Not the other way around.
And lead us not into temptation,
This verse of the Lord’s Prayer asks God not lead us to do something wrong or into temptation. Similar to a military leader bringing his troops to battle, we want to know God has our back and won’t let us fall into harsh situations. And we need God’s help because we are often tricked by the devil into making the wrong choices in life.
We are asking God to help us avoid making more bad decisions and wrong turns.
But deliver us from evil:
Now “deliver” does not mean what it seems. We are not asking God to deliver us like a pizza from point A to point B. God is not our Uber driver.
Instead, we are asking God to rescue us and set us free from sin and evil in our lives.
We sometimes struggle with how God answers our prayers. C.S. Lewis once confessed that he was grateful God hadn’t given him everything he wanted:
"I don’t know where I’d be if I’d gotten all I asked for!"
Prayer may not change our situation, but it changes us.
I was taught this phrase in the Nazarene Church I attended.
If our request is wrong, God says "No."
If our timing is wrong, God says "Slow".
If we are wrong, God says "Grow",
and if our request is right, our timing is right, and we are right,
God (usually) says "Go!"
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Prayer is social action, economic force, and political might. There is more power in prayer than all the armies of the world.
This final verse of the Lord’s Prayer is our acknowledgement of God’s power.
Interestingly, this verse appears in various books and versions of the Bible, but, not ALL!
As our outline indicates, we begin with God’s glory, and then we bring up our needs. It’s been said, "When God is first, prayer makes sense."
The Lord’s Prayer is God-centered, not me-centered.
There’s no "spiritual frosting" in the Lord’s Prayer. It avoids pompous, high-sounding phrases, sticking to simple, meaningful concepts.
This phrase in particular highlights the supremacy of God.
Notice that Jesus didn’t discuss the posture of prayer - in the Bible, people prayed kneeling, sitting, standing and laying face down. He doesn’t dictate the place of prayer - we can pray anywhere; the whole world is a Temple. He does not discuss the manner of prayer - prayer isn’t getting a serious look on our faces or adopting a certain tone of voice. Nor does Jesus specify the time of prayer - some people organize their lives in such a way that they have very specific times of prayer. That’s fine, but prayer is fitting any time, under any circumstance.
Some people think of prayer as a parachute - they’re glad it’s there, but they hope they never have to use it. In prayer we rely on God; prayer is our steering wheel, not our spare tire! Those who don’t pray are trusting in their own, limited resources. Some people turn to God only when their fragile foundations are shaking, and then they find out it is God who is doing the shaking.
Paul instructs us to "pray without ceasing".
When we live in a God - conscious state, we begin to recognize first, the presence of God around us, that opens up a channel of communication with our Lord. And pretty soon you find you are praying “without ceasing”.
I end with these words from Jesus in Eugene Petersons, “The Message”
Matthew 6:6
“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”

{Portions of today’s message were used with permission from and
Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts}


John 20:24-30 includes the story of Thomas. Remember “doubting” Thomas?
Listen as I read of the third time that Jesus revealed himself after death.
Now… Why should we believe that Christ rose from the dead?
Because… If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christian faith is foolish fantasy. However, if the resurrection of Christ did occur, it confirms His life, His message, and His saving grace. The resurrection is the basis of our hope of life beyond the grave, that Christ is alive, and the evidence is overwhelming.
Here are some of the reasons we can be so sure.
1) We heard Jesus predict His resurrection in Matthew 20:19 and the Old Testament promised it in Psalm 16:10
2) The tomb was empty, and the grave clothes left behind. The Bible tells us in John 20:3-9 that if those who opposed Christ wished to silence His disciples, all they had to do was produce a body, but they couldn’t!
3) Many people actually saw the resurrected Christ. They looked on His face, touched Him, heard His voice, and saw Him eat. Including doubting Thomas!
4) The lives of the disciples were revolutionized. Though they fled and even denied Christ at the time of His arrest, they later feared no one as they proclaimed the risen Christ. His resurrection started the revolution!
5) The resurrection was the central message of the early church. The books of Acts and Romans give testimony to a church that grew with unwavering conviction that Christ had risen and was the Lord of the church. People then were not afraid to die for their religious beliefs if they sincerely believed they were true. Are we that courageous?
6) What one event could explain the start of the Christian Church? There’s no question that it began shortly after the death of Jesus and spread so rapidly that within a period of maybe twenty years it had even reached Caesar’s palace in Rome. Not only that, but, with the teachings of Paul, this movement or revolution triumphed over many competing ideologies and within 40 years was the major presence in the entire Roman Empire.
7) We know of men and women today who testify that the power of the risen Christ has transformed their lives. We know that Jesus is alive not only because of the historical and biblical evidence but also because He has miraculously touched each of our lives.
I know things have happened in my life that are unexplainable and I am not a believer in coincidence, are you?
8) One piece of evidence that no one can dispute, to this very day, is the ongoing encounter with the resurrected Christ that happens all over the world, in every culture, to people from all kinds of backgrounds and personalities - well educated and not, rich and poor, thinkers and feelers, men and woman. They all will testify that more than any single thing in their lives, Jesus Christ has changed them! To me, this provides the final evidence - not the only evidence - that the message of Jesus can open the door to a direct encounter with the risen Christ.
Don’t be blinded by your emotions, your circumstances, or your unbelief. Open your eyes to the truth of Christ. He Is Risen!!

*God emptied Heaven to fill the manger; He emptied the manger to fill the cross; He emptied the cross to fill the tomb; and He emptied the tomb to fill your heart!
*Pastor Jim Purdue

With the enthusiasm of a Disciple, the heart of a Pastor,
the soul of a Priest, and the mind of a Prophet,
let us unite in the Easter Proclamation.

I believe
that my life is a gift,
That it keeps coming and never ends;
That more than anything I possess or consume,
It is Love alone that makes it worth living.
I believe
that I am loved:
By people near and far, young and old;
That Love can be a memory;
Love can be a touch;
Love can be a word spoken in truth;
But whenever and however it happens,
It, too, comes as a gift
and renews my life.
I believe
that I can love:
People who are like me,
People who are different from me.
I can do it with my whole being -
Body, mind and spirit.
I believe
that is what loving God is all about;
And that is precisely the way
God keeps giving life back to us.
God loves us back to life!
Again and again and again!
By John Winn


So, what is Palm Sunday, really? While I prepared for this Sunday’s message, I wondered about that. For me it was always the day Jesus came to Jerusalem in a procession of Palms and cheers. There were thousands, maybe millions of people awaiting His arrival. They danced in the streets with excitement.
And we danced in the sanctuary with our palms! It was and is a joyful day.
But Palm Sunday is not really about all the Palms and Procession. It never was.
It has always been about Jesus entering Jerusalem as the King of All.
Might I suggest to you that All of us are Jerusalem?
This is why… the scripture tells us that
“When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil.
Turmoil. It’s in the news and in the air and in our hearts. Today our world is in turmoil. America is in turmoil. Ukraine is in turmoil. The Middle East is in turmoil.
I feel turmoil in my life, and I bet you feel it in your as well.
So, I repeat, All of us are Jerusalem.
Let’s envision the thousands who gathered to welcome and praise Jesus as he entered the city on the back of a colt, the foal of a donkey. People spread their clothing on the roads and others waved palm branches that they had ripped from the trees lining those streets. They shouted, “Hosanna! Hosanna to the King!”
And all of this was planned! Jesus knew what he was doing every step of the way. He knew he was to ride that donkey and that two of his disciples would have to fetch it for him. Matthew reveals that Jesus set the stage for what we now call Holy Week in order to fulfill the prophesy spoken centuries before in
Zechariah 9:9 and Isaiah 62:11.
“See your King comes to you gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt,
the foal of a donkey”.
Call it the first century or the 21st century,
The picture, and the story, remains the same:
Your King is coming! Hosanna!!
Jesus was a different kind of King than the ones we are most familiar with in this world. While royalty comes in determined to rule over everything, Jesus came in determined to serve everything and everyone.
While other Kings would choose to ride a horse, a magnificent steed, a symbol of war, Jesus rode a donkey, a symbol of meekness and peace.
Other Kings prepare for a Hero’s death or at least a Hero’s parade. But, Jesus was different. He prepared for the cross.
You see, Jesus knew precisely who He was, unlike other Kings who have no idea who they are. Mostly they are forced into Kingship through inheritance and birthright. Asked to foster the status quo.
Jesus knew He was the Messiah spoken of in the Old Testament Scriptures. Critics may deny this, but the record is clear. The prophets Isaiah and Zechariah described Jesus as being One different from the average King. This King would be humble, making His entry on a donkey.
Normally Jesus preferred to avoid the crowds and publicity when he could but, on that day, He wore the symbols of the Old Testament Prophesy. On that day, He deliberately provoked the response he received from Jerusalem. On that day, He deliberately declared by his posture and demeanor, “I am the King.” It was all done to force the issue of Who He was and Why He was here on earth. This was the catalyst to stir anger and jealousy in the religious leaders, which would set the stage for the greatest event in all history.
Embodied in his presence that day and today is a transparent honesty which defies so much of worldly leadership.
He stopped and wept for Jerusalem. How many of our world leader’s weep?
but, Jesus wept. Read Matthew 23:37
Yes, Jesus is a different kind of King.
He has loved us, been totally and unequivocally honest with us, fought for us, cheered us on, taken our pain as his own, and died for us.
On this day, we sing our Hosanna’s which literally means “Save now!”
Are we serious? Have we come today because it’s the nice thing to do or are we here because we mean business?
On the streets of Jerusalem Matthew tells us the crowds were in turmoil asking, “Who is this?” And others responded, “This is the King of Kings!”
Yes, he is but, I say, he is also a different kind of King.
This is the King who says,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
“I am the light of the world.”
“Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
“I will never leave you or forsake you.”
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.”
This is the King who says,
“So you must go and make disciples of all nations.”
“Remember I am with you always to the end of the age.”
I pray you hear the echoes of Easter in the list of who this King is because I want to ask you to do something. I want you to pay attention to all that happens this Holy Week and take it all in. There are messages for each of us this week.
It will be difficult and painful; Holy week always is.
But if you have the opportunity to attend Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Saturday Vigil, and Easter Sunday, please do, and keep awake and be ready.
Do not for one minute close your eyes or turn away from your Holy Week, because this King who enters the turmoil of Jerusalem,
this King who comes in the name of the Lord,
this is the King who will rise to new life on the third day.
And this King plans on taking you with him.


But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
This food Jesus was talking about was His spiritual nourishment. That includes more than just bible study, prayer and attending church on Sunday. Spiritual nourishment also comes from doing God’s will and helping to bring His work of salvation to completion. We are nourished not only by what we take in, but by what we give out for God. Sometimes Christians excuse themselves from doing, AKA witnessing, by saying nobody is listening or nobody sees what I do OR they just aren’t ready to believe so, why bother? But we learned last week that it is not your decision to say they aren’t ready. Only God can decide that.
I have a grandson, Tristan, who is Lilly’s age, 14. He has heard me, and Lilly have discussions about church and God. He hasn’t really asked any questions of me and I’m not sure if he and Lil have talked but, recently, Tristan decided to go to the teen group with Lil at the Journey Church. It may be that he just wants to be out of the house and away from all the stress. But, for whatever reason, I choose to believe that God put it on his heart to go along, and you know he will be listening to all the stories of what God has done in those other kids lives.
Jesus makes it clear that there is around us a continuous harvest just waiting to be reaped. Let’s not make excuses for not doing. And definitely don’t let Jesus find you making excuses! Look around, speak your truth, and do your sowing because you will always find people ready to hear or see God’s word come to life. And sometimes you might not even know they were ready!
The wages that Jesus offers are the JOY of working for Him and seeing the harvest of believers! These wages are given to the Sower and the reaper alike because both find joy in seeing new believers come to Christ. John 4 Verse 36 says. “…the Sower and the reaper may be glad together.”
In the story of the woman at the well, the Samaritan woman that Jesus spoke to at the well was not ready to hear God speak because of her difficult life. And she couldn’t believe that anyone cared what might happen to her. She was one of those people who thought she didn’t ever have a chance in life to catch a break. How many people do we know who feel this way? Or who feel like there couldn’t possibly be this generous God who is loving them through anything and everything? Jesus knew it was simply a matter of talking to her until she did understand. And then when she understood, she became a Sower and others became curious about this change in her, and about her joy and where she found it! When the other Samaritans came to hear Jesus for themselves, many became believers, thereby making the Sower (the woman) and the reaper (Jesus) happy together.
This woman shared her experiences of her past and how Jesus had changed her and that brought them to want to meet Jesus. We all have things we are not proud of in our past, big and little. But, somehow, through someone else, we met Christ. And He changed us! When other people see these changes, they get curious. These are the opportunities God gives us to bring those people to Christ. We become the Sower.
We may not ever reap that harvest but, that doesn’t matter to God as long as there is a Harvest! God puts us in the field doing the job that’s best for us and His purpose, in that moment. Sometimes we become the reaper, bringing in the harvest someone else has sown. So, we must continue to speak our stories and do our deeds because we may not witness the harvest of what we have sown but, That’s OK! What matters is that someone is doing the work!
Jesus sent out 36 teams of 2 to “reach the multitudes”. But he told them not to try and do the job by themselves, but to ask God for more workers. There are people who, as soon as they hear your story and relate to it, want to get right out, and start working. But Jesus suggests that we first teach these people to pray. And before praying for unsaved people, we should pray for others to help us save them.
Remember, in Christian service there is no unemployment. God has work enough for everyone. So, don’t just sit back and watch others work… look for ways to help with the harvest. But remember also, Jesus warned of being lambs among wolves. There will always be people who are non-believers. We can’t let them scare us into silence, or worse, into losing our faith. We just have to love and be gentle with them where and as they are.
I wanted to share this extra scripture with you from the Message - Galatians 6:8-10.
This scripture spoke to me this week as I was studying to create this message.
It is the law of nature to reap what we sow. You wouldn’t plant green beans and expect to harvest watermelons. And this applies to other areas too. If you gossip about your friends, you will most likely lose their friendships. If you groan about things, others will stop seeing your faith. Every action has a reaction.
Now, I admit, I have complained about a few things in the past month. Not meaning to harm anyone but, just out of frustration. Supporting and helping to rebuild this community of faith has been a big undertaking. Trying to entice people to help out and “pass it on” has been exhausting.
I wholly appreciate the folks who are hanging in there and pray every day that our sowing and reaping will produce much fruit! But my frustration is no excuse for the way I have been behaving and I wanted to apologize if I have offended anyone. I found out, if you plant to please yourself, you reap a crop of unpleasantness. If you plant to please God, you reap joy and everlasting life!
It is discouraging to any one of us who continues to do what is right and receives no tangible results. But Paul challenged the Galatians, and he challenges all of us to keep on doing what’s good and to trust God for the results that will bring us JOY. Joy is just like money… everyone wants it!
So, I ask you, what kind of seeds are you sowing?
I will continue to sow the seeds that please the Lord and help create a bountiful harvest!
Won’t you join me?


This week we are in the vineyard where Jesus is the vine, we are the branches, and God is the gardener who cares for and makes the branches fruitful. Those fruitful branches are true believers who, by living together in Christ, the vine, produce much fruit. But those who become unproductive will be separated from the vine. Pruned if you will.
Unproductive followers will be cut off and tossed aside.
Jesus makes a distinction between the two kinds of pruning: separating and cutting back branches. Fruitful branches are cut back to promote ever more growth. In other words, God must sometimes make changes in us as we grow to strengthen our character and faith. But branches that don’t bear fruit are cut off at the trunk, because not only are they unfruitful, but they can also infect the rest of the tree. People who don’t work at bearing fruit for God by allowing Him to work in us, or those who try to sabotage the growth of others, even unwittingly, are pruned and set aside so the others can continue their growth. Sometimes we are set aside and yet still tended to until we are ready to be part of the vine again.
Being part of the vine means doing all the things God has asked of us. Think of the ten commandments and the beatitudes and that will bring you to being fruitful branches. Mostly, he wants us to be clingy. He wants our undivided devotion so that he can bring us to harvest along with all the other good fruit we have produced.
Many, many people try to be good honest people who do what is right.
But Jesus says the only way to live a truly good life is to cling to him, like a branch attached to the vine, every minute of every day, because apart from Christ our efforts will be unfruitful.
I understand that sometimes we get lazy or complacent. We come to church, we tithe, we pray for each other, and that covers Sunday. But, what about Monday through Saturday? Let me ask you this… if we were to water and tend to our little garden here on Sunday only, would it still be productive? No, absolutely not. Here is the proof of no one tending the new growth. So, there will be tending happening during the week to be sure this little garden remains healthy.

And don’t you think your faith needs the same care?
Tending to it only on Sunday isn’t going to get it to grow and be fruitful.
You have to nourish it daily, all week long.
I had a one-on-one meeting this week with the NH DComM of the United Methodist Church. This was a meet and greet with some of the committee, for me to meet them and for them to get to know me a little bit. They asked me questions about me and my background. They asked about my family history and wanted to know about my church history. The whole meeting took about 35 minutes, but it seemed like 3 hours. Ha-ha
But, what I realized when I sat down to write this message,
and I thought about the answers I gave to the DComM,
was how often in my life I have not wholeheartedly tended to my faith.
I mean big gaping holes of non-nourishment.
I used to just go along willy nilly, growing, or not, in my faith like those little Johnny Jump Ups. You know those little purple flowers? They look like tiny pansies and they grow anywhere and everywhere, but,
without a plan or a purpose?
Yup, that was me. No real deep roots and no real direction for my growth.
I was over here attending this bible study, and over there helping out with flood buckets, and upstairs with the youth group at my former church and out at the food pantry gathering turkeys in a pile.
Oh, and let’s not forget the times I said,
“Everybody knows I take a vacation from church in the summer.”
Yea, I knew you’d remember that.
I thought it was enough to be immersed in nature, surrounded by creation.
The problem was, all the immersion, and serving, and learning, and whatever else it was I thought I was doing right, wasn’t keeping me connected to Jesus.
So, when I would try to come back to the vineyard, I had no hold on any branch and thus I got no nourishment from the vine. I truly didn’t know how to do this.
Well, that’s not altogether true.
I knew God wanted me to give it all to Him. Every minute and every step.
I was in a place where I didn’t dare to give my whole life to Him.
What about all my stuff I needed to do?

I mean c’mon, do you actually mean every minute is for Jesus??
Trust me, I truly get how scary that is to even think about!
That was a thought I chose to run away from over and over again.
I told myself I wasn’t ready. I even told Pastor Sue one time that I wasn’t ready.
I am just grateful for God’s patience and that he didn’t choose to toss me out.
I eventually realized that all my stuff, was His stuff too!
It was just in the past couple years that I realized I needed to give it all up to him, to cling to that vine, to allow his love to cut away all the bad stuff I was holding on to, all the thinking of only myself, and allow his living water to help me truly grow into helping others grow.
I finally figured out what it took to be the fruitful branch. And it’s not a Sunday only kind of job. This is every minute for the rest of my life.
And I am in awe of the good fruit I am able to produce.
Both in myself and in others.
Had I realized that by staying wrapped in the vine,
I would be set free to flourish, well, I would have stopped
dead in my tracks a long time ago!
This doesn’t mean I don’t still need pruning. I mean really, not every grape is a good one but, by allowing God to snip away the bad ones,
it allows me to focus on nurturing the good ones.
His pruning has given me great hope, not only for myself as a faithful Christian,
but for our little church family and our little community here in the Conway’s, because it has shown me the good that comes from simply
letting Him be God in my entire life, not just in the parts I choose to let Him in.
In the Old Testament - Isaiah 5:7 - grapes symbolized Israel’s fruitfulness in doing God’s work on earth.
Indeed, Jesus teaches us that the grapes symbolize our fruitfulness when he says,
in John 15:5
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
This is a state of grace we must live into, wholeheartedly, holding nothing back.
There’s a motto they use in the recovery communities, “Let go and let God.”
It means submitting to Him in all things, at all times, and surrendering one's life to His will and for His purpose, by faith.
So, I challenge you today, do you dare?


We all are aware that Jesus taught the people and his disciples with parables and short stories using familiar ideas and scenarios to explain spiritual truth. This method of teaching requires the listener to think. It hides truth from anyone too stubborn or prejudiced or, dare I say arrogant, to hear what is being taught. Some people don’t understand God’s truth because they aren’t ready for it.
We hear with our ears, but there is a deeper kind of listening that involves the mind and the heart. Hearing this way is necessary in order to gain spiritual understanding from Jesus’ words. God reveals the truth to people who will act on that truth and who will make it visible in their lives. No hiding those lamps!
Mark 4: 11-20 NIV
11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,
“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’[a]”
13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
Our call to worship today challenges us to become the Sower instead of the seed and see if we can sow with wild abandon. That would mean putting Jesus first and telling anyone and everyone about Him and not just telling, but using His words!
Everywhere, all the time, relentlessly! Just like Jesus!
There was an old man who lived in Fryeburg and many of us have had the privilege of knowing him. Now, mind you, when you first encountered this man you wanted him to just be quiet and go away. But, as you got to know him, and really began to hear what he was saying, you kind of looked forward to seeing him again. And knowing him did become a privilege because you realized, perhaps too late, that he was sent to us as a Sower. His name was Mr. Moore and God took him home about a year ago, but while he was here, the past few decades were devoted quite literally to talking to everyone, everywhere, all the time, about God and His word. He told his personal stories of sin and redemption. He praised his wife and God for opening his ears to hear. PRAISE GOD! (hand up) The same way I did in last week’s message but, as I just said, he did this with everyone!
He and I had some fascinating conversations standing in the UPS Store around 5:30 in the evening. We would chat while I did my closing work and made him copies of prayers and hymns and poems and scriptures which he would hand out to everyone. He always had a pocket full of these scripture cards and readings and if the spirit moved, he would pull one out and hand it to you with a big “Have a great day! God Bless You!” Most often the message he left you with was one you needed to hear. That my friends is true evangelism. Now, I will most likely never carry around a pocket full of readings but, really how hard would it be to know a few verses or to be sure the words you choose to leave someone with were God’s truth?
Mr. Moore also taught the children’s story at his church until the day he passed. He was 90ish years old? Not quite sure, but it got me to thinking and I believe, were it not for our conversations over the past 6 years, I would not have a mind to be doing this ministry. God knew I was ready to hear, and Mr. Moore was my constant storyteller who taught my heart, mind and soul to listen. I mean really listen! He always left me with “You’re a good girl, Kell. God Bless You!”
Wouldn’t it be awesome to be a Sower like Mr. Moore?!
I’m quite sure God has rewarded Mr. Moore with much more than he ever could have imagined. I pray he has been reunited with his beloved Ginny.
God reveals His truth to people who are ready to hear, act on it and make it visible in their lives.
Now I believe when you talk to people about God you need to be aware that they may not be ready to listen and understand the truth. And only God knows if they are. But we need to just be patient and keep talking. Every chance you get tell them more, share a story, quote a scripture, and pray that the holy spirit will open their minds and hearts to receive the truth and act on it. This is how we transform the world!
Even John the Baptist told the Pharisees and Sadducees, if we are God’s people in name only, we are of no value. If others can’t see our faith in the way we treat them and talk to them, we may not be God’s people at all.
So, go out there and sow your seeds everywhere, all the time, relentlessly! Do it with wild abandon! This is how we are called to live! Just don’t ever forget that even the Sowers need nourishment and rest, so they don’t just survive, they thrive, wherever they sow! AMEN!?


Have you ever wanted to just get away from it all? Perhaps some of us would like to find a quiet stream deep in the woods so we could have peace and quiet. Oh wait… That is my daily wish! Ha-ha

At the time of Jesus, however, people had a negative view of a wilderness—a wilderness was generally thought of as a bad or dangerous place. There were snakes and animals that could kill you. Criminals were likely to lie in wait for victims in unsupervised areas. They still carried the heavy theological burden of the sins committed in the wilderness by the tribes who followed Moses. The Twelve Tribes grumbled against God, they refused to trust God to care for them, so God allowed ALL of that generation to die in the wilderness. The people at the time of Jesus had an anxiety about the wilderness that is unlike the peace and quiet many of us find in our forests.
Before the children of Israel were led into the wilderness, they were brought out of slavery by going through the waters of the Sea. Before Jesus was compelled to go into the wilderness, today’s lesson tells us that John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. After the Children of Israel went through the water of the sea, they remained in the wilderness for 40 years. After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River he was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. Water comes before the wilderness.

“Water provides the central symbolism for baptism. The richness of its meaning for the Christian community is suggested in the baptismal liturgy which speaks of the waters of creation and the flood, the liberation of God’s people by passage through the sea, the gift of water in the wilderness, and the passage through the Jordan River to the promised land. In baptism we identify ourselves with this people of God and join the community’s journey toward God. The use of water in baptism also symbolizes cleansing from sin, death to old life, and rising to begin new life in Christ.”
Rev. Martin Dale tells us that “in the fifth Century AD St. Patrick baptized King Aengus by full immersion. During the baptismal ceremony, so the story goes St. Patrick leaned on his sharp-pointed staff and inadvertently stabbed the king’s foot. After the baptism was over, St. Patrick looked down at all the blood, realized what he had done, and begged the king’s forgiveness. “Why did you suffer this pain in silence” St Patrick asked. The king replied, "I thought it was part of the ritual."
After baptism Jesus immediately was compelled by the Spirit to face temptations and difficulty in the wilderness. The English Standard Version of Mark 1:12 reads, “The Spirit immediately drove Jesus into the wilderness.” If we are to take Mark’s language literally, He was thrown out into the wilderness. He didn’t simply decide to spend some time by himself, after his baptism, in order to prepare for his public ministry. No. The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. Isn’t that often the nature of wilderness experiences? We don’t always choose them. What compels us to go into the wilderness? Is the current “lack of leadership” situation a wilderness for us in the UMC? What about a conflict we may have at home? Is loneliness a wilderness that we face? Are some of us in the wilderness of physical afflictions? It has been said that when you discover that all you have left is God, then you will realize that God is all you need.

Sometimes we do choose them, of course. When you think about it, Lent is really a season when we choose to enter into a wilderness, a time of fasting, praying, and re-examining our lives of faith. But here’s the thing about these wilderness experiences. Whether we choose them or not, we can trust that God is going to be with us in them. All wilderness experiences contain within them an invitation to a deeper faith. They challenge us to rely on God more. God is with us in our wilderness, every single time. Of that, I have no doubt. Isn’t that what Psalm 23 teaches us? “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (the scariest wilderness of them all) I fear no evil, for you are with me.” God is with us in our wilderness, every single time. The angels wait on us in the wilderness, as they did for Jesus. We are not left on our own. And every wilderness experience, chosen or not, invites us to deepen our faith and trust in his promises.
Last week remember, I spoke about how evil is everywhere, all the time? Satan sneaks in wherever he finds an opening. He is relentless. There was a time - say the last 15 years - when I was walking with sinners, or no, wait, standing still with them. They all knew I was a Christian. They called me the church lady. Ha-ha. But they also questioned how I could be that if I was okay with having a few drinks around the firepit on a Saturday night, hanging out with unbelievers. It was confusing for them. To most of them my Christian life didn’t look any different from their secular one. I was simply a party person who went to church. So why bother believing in Christ if it wasn’t going to change anything? Quite honestly, I was asking myself that same question. Why bother? Now I was no longer a help to my church or my God but, a hindrance. Satan had found that opening in my mind with the sign hanging out that said, “come on in, sit a spell”. And boy did he! When you get to this point, you are no longer just standing with the sinners and scoffers, you are sitting with them. You sit in the church services picking apart everyone and everything, with your mind wrapped around everything BUT Christ. It was my wilderness.

Have you ever found yourself there? Or in a similar situation? Be Honest. Most people have their wilderness moments. Notice I said plural… moments. You and I aren’t the first people Satan messed with. Figuring us out probably took him about half a second. He knows our buttons and his fingers are always at the ready to push them. He doesn’t need to look for new temptations for any of us. He’s got ours on speed dial. If we let ourselves question and backslide even an inch, bam! That button gets pushed and we start trekking back into the wilderness. We have to be steadfast and prepared to face those wilderness challenges by digging our roots deep into the soil of sustenance, the Word of God. And don’t misunderstand… it is normal and right to question our faith and God’s ways, but that is when we need God most! We need to be able to hear His word guiding us through the questions. That is where we learn the most and our faith grows deeper! That is how we survive!
Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness and Satan even tempted Him! The difference between Jesus and us? Jesus kept his mind focused on the Father and struck down Satan at every temptation with the Father’s words. It is important to hold on to the fact that Jesus was fully human so that he felt real hunger when he didn’t eat. He felt real frustration when he was tempted. Yet, even in his worst moments when he questioned why his Father would put him through such torment, when he couldn’t wrap his mind around the things he would have to face, did he give in to temptation? Did he run away from God’s plan? Did he take his own path? No! He may have been angry and hurt, resentful even, but he never wavered! God was his good Father and worthy of his respect and trust. Jesus had everything he needed in the wilderness. And the angels took care of him. I had everything I needed in my wilderness, and being right here in this sanctuary is where my angels were, helping me survive! Praise be to God that he allowed me to hear his words!!
After Jesus left the wilderness, he went into Galilee where he announced that “The Kingdom of God is near!”
So, let us journey through this Lenten wilderness experience faithfully, and willingly. Let us have ears to hear. But let us all look for that time when we can take action, with a renewed sense of purpose and call. Let us proclaim the good news and just as the angels of God, be ready to help others through their own wilderness experiences. Always with the help of God.


In our opening moment today, it was read that Lent starts from a real belief in the lavish abundance of God’s prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace signified by Eden. This first week in Lent begins with creation and the planting of the Garden of Eden, and the trees in the garden, and the rivers that watered and sprung from it, and of man being put into it – to prune it and tend it – and was granted the fruit of any tree except one, which was forbidden under penalty of death.
So, in the beginning, there were two trees…
The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Have you ever gotten a vision in your head of these two trees? Did you ever stop to think what they may have looked like? My vision has always been that they were huge, full, gorgeous trees! Think lavish and abundant.
The Tree of Life represents God’s grace and love, and we know the overwhelming abundance of His grace and love in the world, so it would make sense that this Tree of Life would be rather ginormous. I also envisioned the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil as being just as large. Something like “twin trees”. Of course, we know that this tree housed a snake, or serpent, depending on which version of the Bible you read. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was I think a test, a temptation tree, maybe named the way it was not so much that man could “know” good and evil, but so God could know if man could choose correctly when faced with good and evil.
Genesis 3:22 states the Tree of Life was given to man as a source of abundant nourishment in order to sustain eternal life.
Doesn’t that speak to you of Heaven on Earth? Eternally? Like that was God’s original plan? But, maybe, God needed to know for sure. So, that other tree was man’s test of his free will.
Revelation 2:7 and 22:2 assure us that the Tree of Life is eternal and still exists in heaven and is abundant with fruits for all God’s people.
But, here on earth, we must pass the test.
Now, trees have always fascinated me. If you ever looked at my Facebook page or in my phone you would find an abundance of photos of trees. It’s truly an obsession. It is something my sister Barb and I had in common. We could and did spend days, quite literally, just studying trees! I still do. The couple of things that always struck me was how trees can thrive in the harshest of conditions. I’ve seen trees hanging off some rocky, washed-out ledges, roots dug into the ledge and the tree trunk still reaching straight up to the sky. I’ve seen many trees that grow as a couple, holding onto each other, wrapping around each other, nourishing each other. Those trees always remind me of my Mum and Dad. And that always remind me of our connectedness and how we all depend on and need each other. And how we all can nourish each other. There is a tree in Abbe’s yard that has a smaller tree growing in one of its largest limbs. This is God’s grace in plain sight!
I am reading a book called “Thrive” by Mark Hall, and yes, he is the singer in our music video. He is also a Pastor down in the south and he does a lot of work with the youth in his congregation.
There’s a story he tells of a big old tree. He likes to take his youth and young adults on ministry tours. One of those tours is to see “The Tree”, as it has been named. He says, and I quote, “whenever someone tells you they’re going to the tree, everyone knows what you mean and, you know the tree must be really special when it sports a name like “The Tree” “.
The Tree sits at a spot in Geneva, Alabama named the Junction because it sits at the confluence of the Choctawhatchee River and the Pea River.
The Tree is a mammoth oak that is more than 300 years old. It has been around longer than the United States. {I may have to do a ministry tour and see this tree.} Sitting there at the banks of the Junction the two rivers have always watered it. It takes about 9 guys to stretch their arms out and circle the trunk of the tree. One person can’t even wrap their arms all the way around most of the branches, and some of its limbs are so heavy they bend almost to the ground. There were 60 people on one trip, and they took a photo of ALL of them sitting in the tree, all at once!
The flood waters of the two rivers have risen many times over the years, left mud lines around the tree trunk, and washed away just about everything around – everything but The Tree. There’s even a bike stuck up in the tree.
The Tree, watered by two rivers, has just as much growth underground as it has above ground. That is why it stands so strong.
Psalm 1:3 says this…
“He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither.”
This verse tells what happens when we are like trees. When we dig roots deep into God’s word and pray and learn from and with other roots, the natural occurrence is for us to then branch out and show God to people and exclaim His abundance of grace and love.
Think about this balance of existence that has allowed The Tree to thrive for hundreds of years.
If the tree (we) are all roots, then we are useless to everyone around us because we are not sharing our abundant knowledge and sustenance. If the tree (we) are all branches, then we are useless to ourselves because we are spreading our knowledge without being sustained. So, in either case when the storms blow in, and they surely will, what happens?
The tree topples over!
We (The Tree) must be firmly rooted and nourished in order to do the branching out that God expects of His perfect creation.
Let me share this from Pastor Steve Garnaas-Holmes. He starts with this verse:

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Beloved,
continue to live your lives in them,
rooted and built up in Christ and established in the faith,
just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
—Colossians 2.6-7
You are not a potted plant,
dependent on your little cup of dirt for faith.
You are planted in Christ, the roots of your soul
tangled with the roots of a thousand saints,
like the million hands of a whole tribe's memory
grasping deep earth, roots like a lover's arms
reaching down into that love,
drinking water from underground springs
gushing up, roots wound like lovers' legs
in fungal webs of trade and alchemy, each
providing what the other lacks, holding hands
beneath all that can be seen,
deep in the earth of Christ.
You pray and praise with branches of the Spirits hands,
passing news from bird to bird,
and life from sun to little mouths that sing.

Rooted in Christ you are not a tree.
You are a forest,
Let me ask you this…
How deeply do you believe Adam and Eve were rooted?
I don’t think very deep. At the first “storm”, even within the all-encompassing abundance of Eden, the perfect habitat, they toppled.
Both grace and evil are far reaching and ever present, everywhere, all the time.
However, God is also, far reaching and ever present, everywhere, all the time.
And He is just waiting for us to take root and Thrive!

SUPER SUNDAY - (No, not football)

Today was Transfiguration Sunday.
A day to remember Jesus and praise Him for all He does in our lives.

We did not have a sermon today, but testimonies of faith and hope through Jesus Christ our Lord.
These testimonies were provided by the guys at Adult and Teen Challenge NH. This is an addiction recovery program based in faith in God.
Hopefully you were lucky enough to hear them. If not, you can check out their stories at

"BUT I SAY..." - FEBRUARY 12, 2023

I just want to say that our scripture focus for this week and next would have covered the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount. However, we have guests speaking next week, never mind that the Sermon on the Mount took days to complete! To try to cover that amount of teaching in one day, today, would have meant scripture readings from Matthew 5:1 through 7:27 and then creating a message to cover the entirety of it! In true Methodist tradition… We would have had to plan a dinner!

So, today we are going to focus on love in honor of St. Valentine’s Day.
When Jesus preached this sermon, it actually lasted for several days. He spent the better part of a week encouraging and instructing believers, and non-believers, about many important issues like witnessing, obedience, prophecy, anger, lust, divorce, integrity, revenge, loving our enemies, caring for the poor, prayer, fasting, money, criticizing others, going to heaven, servanthood, and faith. Whew!!
Whenever He spoke of an Old Testament rule he countered his own statement with “But I say…” and gave us that rule as what would eventually become Gospel. He spoke of rules and procedures and systems. I can only imagine that this sermon was intense and overwhelming and fascinating all at once!

As for rules, well we live by rules and learn procedures everywhere in life, from washing the dishes to how to behave in the library or at church. In our jobs, in our clubs and groups we belong to, and even in our families. Listen, if your house has seven kids like mine did, my Mum needed the rules and procedures just to maintain the house and our behavior.
Jesus focused on the details of daily life and spoke of revolutions and transformation. Sometimes all in the same sentence!

I believe he wanted us to consider HOW our behaviors, choices and attitudes affect and influence the greater community.
Take for example the “Warming Station” here at the Center Conway UMC. It was an idea that was brought up actually a few weeks ago. Some of us chatted about it over breakfast fellowship two Fridays ago. That would have been the morning of the deep freeze. What is that called… a Polar Vortex? Anyway. There were a few questions tossed around about liability and safety. A little research was done regarding rules that should be followed and safe sanctuary policy and the proper wording of such a ministry. Because ministry IS what it was after all, loving our neighbors and providing shelter from the cold and wind. And a few of us got together and opened the church for the night with games, movies and hot beverages available.
Now, nobody took advantage of the “Warming Station” ministry. But the impact on the community was huge! So many people helped us get the word out and we received many thanks for making our space available. Gratitude came from fellow citizens to the local police and fire depts. When I say “we” I mean CCUMC.
Obviously, this response from the community is NOT the reason this ministry was provided.
Matthew 6:3&4 says, “When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it, quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.”
The reason it was offered was to actually Love our community, with no hidden agendas, just working to be “salt and light”! Good neighbors… Unconditionally! We had time and space and willing hearts ready to sacrifice a few hours, a little heat and a bit of sleep for the greater good. So, why not?!
Why not be like Mr. Rogers?

This sermon and its teachings was not just about avoiding doing terrible things – but actually loving even those who have hurt you.
It was not just about “killing” – but actually about not doing any harm to another’s life.
It was not just about avoiding adultery – but actually about being faithful in every way.
It was actually about living with and loving people, with integrity and compassion.

(READ Matthew 6:14&15 MSSG)

Or as Leviticus 19:18 God said, “Don’t seek revenge or carry a grudge against any of your people. Love your neighbor as yourself. I Am God!”

It seems that’s a pretty straightforward message.
Our salvation is bound together with our relationship to our neighbor.
The salvation of our church community is also bound together with our relationships with our neighbors.
Pastor Steve Garnaas-Holmes says it this way…
“All God’s love flowing through me, not mine!
All I do is get myself out of the way and let God’s love flow through.
Turns out I am not the salt of the earth.
I am the Salt shaker!”

Loving others without thinking of gaining anything. Just loving! Period!

Last week I mentioned to you that the Sermon on the Mount holds us to a “Higher Calling”. To put our relationship with God into all our relationships with others. We are called to find ways of creating a community that resembles the Kin-dom of God.

But I Say…
Who are you in this world?
Maybe it’s as simple as being a salt shaker!

YOU ARE - February 5, 2023

The nocturnal section of the Perth Zoo in Australia they keep dark for the animals & wildlife that only come out at night. Do you know there’s a glass case which has a large scorpion in it. While looking at the scorpion, the light in the case suddenly goes very dull & something very strange happens …. the scorpion begins to glow in the relative darkness of the glass cabinet! The information printed on the front of the tank explains that scorpion’s glow in the relative darkness of ultra violet light…. what has often been referred to as black light. That’s an interesting thought, isn’t it, one of God’s creatures actually glows in the dark!!!
So, how about you …… are you one of his creations that glows in the dark?
As Christians that’s exactly what we have been created & called to do… Glow in the middle of the darkness of this world in which we live.
Text: (Mat 5:16 NKJV) "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
(Isaiah 58:10 NIV) “… then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like noonday.”
Basically, what the Lord is saying is that if you are a Christian …. You need to be glowing in the dark!
(ABBE IN BOSTON) (12 weeks at BCH with Finn)
Abbe’s first comment about her surroundings in Boston was, “Boston is loud! I had forgotten how noisy and busy and distracting it is to live in the city!”
Loud, indeed. And all those other things too! The idea of Abbe wandering those streets on her own all those weeks gave me the shivers. Maybe next time she ought to just keep her head down and stay inside the hospital. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.
Safe is a good thing. We spend a lot of time and money on being safe or feeling safe anyway. It occupies our thinking quite a lot. Yet, it never seems to be on Jesus’ list of things to worry about. He has a list. OK, maybe it isn’t a worry list – after all he did say, “Don’t worry.” Let’s call it a list of things to pay attention to. And it is a long and involved list, full of significant and powerful ideas and moments and people. But nowhere does safety enter into it. If anything, he seems to be a risk-taking kind of guy. “Get on out there,” he says. Go and do. Or perhaps, go and be.
“You are salt,” he says. You are light. No one lighting a lamp, hides it. “Hide my light under a bushel, NO! I’m gonna let it shine.” Admit it, you are singing that song in your head, aren’t you? Or if you aren’t, then you should be. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. That’s what Jesus says to do.

Bob walked us through the Beatitudes last week. We were reminded who we are, though we often try to turn them into imperatives - get out there and be peacemakers, be meek, be hungry and thirsty for righteousness – but Jesus doesn’t present them that way. He is describing, not commanding.
Likewise in these verses that follow the first twelve in the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus doesn’t say, “Get salty!” He doesn’t say “Light up!” He says, almost as a matter of fact, “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.”
Now if you’re like me, you can’t help but wonder, when did that happen? When did I become salt for the earth? When did I become light for the world? I’m just me. Just doing my best. Just watching out for me. Just trying not to get trampled underfoot. Jesus wants me to shine, to give light to the whole house?!
But, see, that’s the thing about light; it doesn’t exist for its own sake. The light is there to help folks find their way. It is about shining on the path, about revealing the hazards along the way, about getting where we need to be with a minimum of detours.
And salt, salt on its own, for its own sake is not really a good thing. But as an enhancer, as a preservative, it is invaluable. I’m not a farmer and can’t speak to today’s practices, but In Jesus’ day, it was a common practice for farmers to salt their fields to add in the right mix of minerals to help crops to grow. The word that we translate as earth is literally ground or dirt. You are the salt of the ground, the salt of the dirt. That’s not a fun job, perhaps, but it is one that helps things to grow. That’s our job: Not to be the center of attention, but to help things grow.
Yeah, it’s risky. No question about it. It is a loud and noisy world out there, and we might be safer just keeping our heads down. But we can’t! Jesus tells us that too. “A city built on a hill cannot be hid.” It is a reminder that we are the representatives of the faith whether we want to be or not. So, we might as well be good ones. We are the manifestation of Christ in the world today, whether we claim it or not. So, why not claim it? Why not live as though Christ were alive in us? Let them “know we are Christians by our love.” AKA… light and salt.
That is what he is saying here, “You are the salt of the earth, why not help things grow? You are the light of the world, why not help folks find their way? Why not mentor, why not lead, why not teach, why not guide, why not be what you already are, a sign of Christ’s presence in the world today?”
“Get out there,” Jesus says. Get out there in the world; the noisy, wonderful, scary, glorious world and let your light shine! Season the world like the salt that you are. Don’t worry about being trampled underfoot; that only happens when you stop being who you are called and created to be. You are light and you are salt. Let it shine on and flavor everyone you meet! AMEN!!

Have The Same Mind - January 22, 2023

In our increasingly contentious society and world, to consider that a sign of the kin-dom is that the community has the same mind might be a bit of a stretch. Yet here is the call from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In fact, this is the first call the Apostle gives us in this letter, so he clearly thinks it is important.
In the USA, we sometimes overvalue the individual, and many Christians say that it is all about “me and Jesus”. That it’s personal. I’ve said it myself and it is… to a point but, Paul argues for something else than that. Yes, of course, the individual is important, but so is the church, so is the community of faith. We are in this together. Again and again, the gospel indicates that we are not in this alone, that we are made to work this out together; we are meant to be reconciled; we are meant to be in relationship with God and with neighbor. We should want to preserve the community and not simply be right. Our early church leaders did just this. When there were issues and disagreements, they came together, face to face, to work them out. That is how we have the Nicene Creed. The early church wrote it with the earnest hope and prayer that it would serve as a unifying theological anchor for a strong church in their day and for generations to come.
We know the creed, but do we really live it?
Last week we celebrated our abundance, our “Lacking Nothing”. This week we give thanks for our relationships. We can celebrate the life of the community (and not just this community of faith but, the community of All believers) in fellowship, in learning together and serving together. We rejoice in our reach, which is always greater together than separately. There is an African proverb that says if you want to go fast go alone; but if you want to go far, then go together. We are in this for the long haul, all the way to the kin-dom of God. And along the way, we live by kin-dom rules, we show kin-dom values, we rejoice in kin-dom priorities, which sometimes means I set aside my personal preferences for the good of the whole. But many times, we realize that my personal good is fulfilled by the good of the whole community. Keep in mind when I say words like “our” and “community” and “they” and “we” I am speaking of ALL believers, from every denomination. This journey is always and will always be an ecumenical one.

So, we sing of the church and the joy that we have in communion and fellowship. We pray for the healing of broken relationships and misunderstandings so that our witness can be stronger. We give thanks for our leaders and teachers and pillars who have sacrificed much to help us be the church we are. And we continually look out for ways to be open, to invite and include those who are not yet a part of the fellowship of the church. We are making disciples of Jesus Christ, and there is always room for more.
So, “Have the same mind.” Okay, yes, well. Maybe we should look at some of the other texts assigned to this Sunday? Maybe there is something there that is within the realm of possibility. This “Unity” just seems so very far out of reach. Or maybe we’ve decided that this isn’t all that important. Or not as important as being right, standing firm, holding on to principles and doctrines. In our hierarchy of behaviors, “having the same mind” isn’t very high on the list, or so it seems. . .
Yet, just reading verse 10 will tell us how seriously Paul takes it as he makes his approach to all that is going on in the church at Corinth. How many times does he say the same thing in that single verse? “Be in agreement” and “no divisions among you” and “be united in the same mind” and “the same purpose.” All repetitions, or at best, nuances of the same idea. For Paul, what is tearing the church apart is the fact that they/we don’t agree.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to be all that keen in telling us exactly what it means to be of the same mind. Does it mean that we have to agree on every single point of doctrine and ethics? Does it mean that we have to read the scriptures in exactly the same way every time? Does it mean that there is absolutely no room for differences or nuance? That you have to apply the word to your life in exactly the same way that I apply the word in mine? There are those who would insist that this rigid following of doctrine is exactly what Paul meant. But differences are inevitable when dealing with human beings who are made differently and who have different experiences and histories. So, where is the line, then?

What if we go back a moment and ask what Paul might have had in mind when he told the church in Corinth to “be of the same mind”? He uses a familial reference. “Brothers and sisters,” he says. Even when trying to correct their behavior, or at least their thinking about their behavior. We are connected, we are united, we are the family that was created by the life and witness and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even in a conflicted situation, there needs to be a sense of connection, a belief in community. So, might we say that being “of the same mind” is that we all agree that our primary effort is in building up the body?
So, does this mean that we surrender truth? Or right? In favor of just sticking together no matter what? Of course not. Paul is writing this letter to correct behaviors and understandings that he argues are not of Christ. Which also means that there are ways we will go about making our arguments; there are behaviors that we will not accept as we seek new understanding of one another. We won’t tear one another down; we won’t call names and point fingers; and we certainly won’t tell others not in the community what terrible people we are saddled with in the body of Christ. There is a call to a higher behavior, no matter how frustrated or upset we get. There is nothing here about giving up trying to find ways of coming to a common mind.
The next verses: “I belong to Paul” or “I belong to Cephas” or “I belong to Christ”. (Wait, Christ? Hold on and we’ll come back to that one.) What this sounds like is what psychologists call “confirmation bias.” We listen only to the ones who confirm what we already believe. We aren’t challenged to look at something in another way. We simply repeat our understandings and our beliefs, rather than digging deeper into the source of those beliefs and being willing to be challenged to another way of thinking. Sounds about like the way the whole world is living right now, yes?
So, okay, Paul and Cephas, maybe. But Christ? Why did Paul include that name on the list? As if there was some problem with saying, “I’m following Christ.” I mean isn’t that how the song goes, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”? Actually, it seems as though that one should be the antidote to the problems, rather than a separate camp to follow. And that would be true in the best of situations. We can and should always call upon Christ to be the moderator of our disputes and disagreements and multiple interpretations. Except that too often, we claim Christ as one who always agrees with me, but not with you. And that to disagree with me is to disagree with Christ. The other side is not just wrong, but they are anti-Christ, which is about the worst thing we can think to say about them! Christ is not our exclusive property, no matter how “right” we might be. We cannot claim that only we follow Christ!
In speaking about the universal church, Francis Chan in the book titled “Until Unity” writes, “Let’s consider how our internal squabbles look to the wider world. They don’t get wrapped up in the detail of the theology behind the debate, rather they only see how we treat one another when we disagree, and that reflects badly on the universal church. How then do we make disciples? The call to watch how we live out our faith is clear. Even when we disagree, even when we have differences of interpretation, can we be “in the same mind” that Christ is the way of hope and of salvation? Can we come back to the core and find common ground even as we continue to move in different directions? Can we live in grace always?”
When we hear something of a different theology where do we go for help to understand why this difference is believed? Who do we turn to when we believe this theology is wrong? Well, of course we go to the ones who have taught us, the ones who are “in our camp”, the ones who will most always agree with us. And this makes sense, but it also means we really only ever get one side of the story.
You probably agree that scripture is the basis for truth? If we all agree on that, then how come we have so many theological differences? Because there are so many interpretations of scripture. So, how do we figure out who has the best interpretation of scripture? Is it the most intelligent? The one with the most education? The most humble and loving person? The one who seems most in tune with the Holy Spirit?
Paul explains in Chapter 2 of 1 Corinthians that a natural person cannot understand spiritual truth no matter how brilliant he or she may be. Now I don’t want to discourage you from studying and continually learning but to warn you to avoid arrogance. You might subconsciously, or consciously, believe that you’ve got everything right and the beliefs of other people and denominations is completely unfounded. You may believe to the point where having a conversation with someone about their opposing belief is not an option. “I am not going to discuss this with you!” Boy, how often have you said or heard that one? This pride is only going to prevent you from hearing the true Spirit of God. If God gives grace to the humble, it would be hard to imagine that the arrogant would be the most right.
1 Corinthians chapter 13, is a chapter that many of us know by heart. At the end of his famous description of love, Paul writes in verses 8-12: “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
Now if you’re having a hard time accepting your beliefs might be temporary, and you’re starting to feel defensive, stop right now and check your heart. Do you really think you have God all figured out? If so, that’s a scary place to be, for both of us!
Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, "I will build MY church", singular church, not your choice of many options.
1 Corinthians 1:11-13 Paul reminds us that Christ is not divided.
Christ does indeed want unity but not through diversity. He wants people to unite under His teachings, to draw near together to His throne of grace and mercy.
Unity is placing yourself in God's light, being in harmony with Him so we are united with all others in His light. We must strive for this kind of unity to bring us into the Kin-dom.
Look here… (CANDLES) You aren’t supposed to be a disciple of King Henry VIII, Martin Luther, John Wesley, John Knox, Joseph Smith, or Ellen White. None of these people died with ability to save you, none have risen to sit at God's right hand.
Christ is the only name by which you are saved. Christ Jesus is the only one we are to follow. AMEN?

God Has Equipped Us - January 15, 2023

Paul claims in 1 Corinthians that the church has everything it needs to be the church. That’s an amazing and powerful statement of faith. Too often, we spend time wishing – wishing we had more people or more resources or more volunteers or more activity. But what if, instead, we were simply thankful? Let’s be thankful for the gifts we have, for the people we have, for how they give of themselves and their resources and give thanks for the mission and witness that we are able to do week by week. Of course, we want to encourage more. But not because we are lacking. No, we encourage more because we don’t want anyone to miss out on the joy of being the body of Christ, the joy of serving, the joy of worship. We come from an attitude of plenty and not scarcity. We want everyone to see they have all the tools they need through their faith, to please God and build the kin-dom.
Psalm 40 could be used as a reminder that even when life is difficult, God is good. Sometimes we experience that abundant grace in surprising or even miraculous ways, but most of the time it comes through the generosity and caring of the community of faith around us. We are supported by one another. We are lifted up and rescued by one another. We needn’t fear trying, answering God’s calls, because we are part of a kin-dom.
Listen, John and Jesus had no instructions! They went and did, and prayed and did more, and learned and did more. Their faith was the toolbox they needed to step out in and do the tasks. They never thought, “Gee I don’t think I could do that!” They trusted their faith in God, and their faith in each other, and just did it! Whatever they heard Him say, they just did it!
When they felt inadequate, and yes, I do believe even Jesus felt not worthy at times, not fully equipped, so when they felt inadequate, what did they do? They prayed! They took a moment, a quick 15-minute break, and talked to God! Praising him, thanking him, asking for his guidance, seeking his answers. Did you ever notice how many times scriptures tells us Jesus left to pray or Jesus went alone to the garden to pray? Many times! Then when Jesus and John and any of the disciples felt strong and sure enough, they continued their service to God.
See, God gives us everything we need to step out in faith and witness and teach and serve his kin-dom.
Now it is tempting to want to have power and authority, to be admired and listened to. But Isaiah suggests that God’s servant won’t necessarily be glorified – but GOD will. When we offer ourselves up to serving God , and allow God’s spirit to work through us, good stuff happens… though we may never see the results. We might feel we have labored in vain. But the assurance is that in the big picture, our little works make a difference.
We frequently talk with others about Our hopes and dreams and aspirations, but we don’t often talk about being “called”. It’s not a call meaning we desire to be someone important or do something special, but that God calls us and gives us the tools to carry out His purpose in our lives. These callings are not necessarily what we want to do, but what the spirit, alive and free in us, wants us to do. (Though sometimes what the spirit is in you to do, is exactly the same as what you are drawn to do.) The key to knowing what this call is doesn’t require any special skill or ability, but discerning what God is telling you.
Remember the disciples who followed Jesus after being told by John that Jesus was the “Lamb of God”? Jesus asked them “what are you looking for?” That’s a question Jesus keeps asking us. Then they answer, “where are you staying?” I think for todays world the question would be “where should we look for you?” Jesus simply says ,”Come and See”. He doesn’t tell them ‘Here let me tell you what to think or how to act’. He says ‘Come closer. Pay attention. Notice what you see and hear!’
I had and still have very little clue how to be a minister! You have no idea how daunting the task is! How many times I have wanted to just say, I can’t do this this week! But what do I do when that happens? I pray. And I read and I journal and a host of other things to get me back to that place where I can see and hear God’s faith in me. And remember my faith in Him! That’s the place where I can re-open my toolbox and get back to work.
Remember as a kid and you thought for sure you were incapable of ice skating or riding a bike or playing that sport you so wanted to play? And for most of us there was some adult, a parent or sibling or teacher, who stepped up and looked us in the eye and said, “You CAN do this. I believe in you! I will be right here to help you!”
I remember at the age of 6, my neighbor taught me to ride a bike. I had been enviously watching her ride all week long. But she was 13! An adult! How could I possibly ever ride a bike like that?! Oh I so wanted to be able to ride that beautiful shiny bike with the handlebar streamers blowing in the wind and all my friends watching!
Well, she noticed me watching. It was like she heard my thoughts! She came and asked if I wanted her to teach me? Me! She was going to share her bike with Me! I was beside myself. Of course I wanted her help! And in one week, I was riding that bike like it was always meant to be. I had the desire, she had the knowledge, and God gave us the power, together.
That “parent” for a Christian is God. His work is All about this Kin-dom. This bringing together of the “family of God”. And unless we can be strong enough to act on our callings, this Kin-dom will not succeed. We will continue to be long lost relatives.
Paul tells us, particularly those of us who don’t think we measure up, that we have been blessed. Not that we will be or we could be or we might be, but that we have been. Not only that, he goes on to say that we are not lacking in any spiritual gift. We have all the tools we need to be the church that we are called to be. We don’t need to wait for anything. Okay, so we may not feel like we always know what we are doing. But like Kelly on that bicycle, we are learning on the job, learning to be the church.
So, what tools do you think you need to take up your cross, to serve your community, to be someone’s light? Because here’s the thing… You already have them! It’s just a matter of digging them out of the basement. Drag them up out of the muck and mire, with God’s, and your faith communities help, clean them off and use them, over and over again until they become sharp and shiny and comfortable in your own hands. But you have to start. Open your faith toolbox and start something! Anything, no matter how big or small, just start something! Soon, you’ll see that you’ve always had every tool you need to serve, to love, to preach, to witness, to be the kind of Christian who let’s their light shine, no matter how long that beam of light has been dimmed. God is always there to help you set it back up and shine so the whole world sees. And the Kin-dom, your faith family, is always here to help you as well. You only need to ask.
We also remember the call of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on this weekend. His witness and call remind us that the work of antiracism and civil rights is not yet done, and we need to be engaged in the transforming work of the gospel, even in our own neighborhoods. Even here, we come not from fear or from lack, but from an abundance of grace that calls us into action to be a part of the creation of beloved community in which everyone is welcome, and everyone is honored. Let us celebrate the church we are and we are becoming.

That nudge, that’s God calling you, your Faith is your toolbox, your tools are whatever or whoever you need to help you serve the God who loves you. Come and be part of the Kin-dom! Every little thing you or I do helps towards building the Kin-dom stronger.
Verse 2 in the old hymn “HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW” says …
“let not your heart be troubled”
his tender word I hear
and resting on his goodness
I lose my doubts and fears,
though by the path he leadeth,
but one step I may see.

Since it is Martin Luther King Jr day tomorrow, I will end with this quote,
“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”