Why not set aside about 20 minutes this evening to simply stop, get more centered, reflect and pray? Today, we are inviting you to remember that God sustains you during these strange and challenging times. Here’s a link to the first video in our Lenten Series entitled: “Streams in the Desert.”
Last week, in the first part of this creatively written story, we had the chance to meet a “city-boy” named Jimmy who wanted to be a farmer from the time he was knee-high to a grasshopper.
Jimmy bought himself a field in the middle of nowhere, got a horse and wagon, and a bushel basket full of wheat. And he planted his wheat by throwing grain off the left side of his wagon – off the right side of his wagon – and even off the back of his wagon. And Jimmy sowed that way because he knew in his heart that, when you’re sowing seeds, you don’t have time to make sure that every seed lands in the “right place.”
Well, this week, the delightful tale continues as a sneaky neighbor, who didn’t like Jimmy tries to ruin his crop by scattering poisonous darnel seeds in his wheat field. Darnel makes you nauseous, it makes you dizzy, and it can even kill you as dead as you’ll ever die. And, as Jimmy responds to the crisis he faces, he teaches us mighty, powerful lessons about life.
In this second part of this story, we’re challenged to think about the good people who live in our world and about all the bad people. We’re given a chance to think about people who gossip, and about God’s command to refrain from bearing false witness against others. We’re reminded that many people like to say that they don’t come to worship because churches are filled with hypocrites; but, we’re also reminded that God’s in the business of changing those hypocrites into people who do some really great things. Life’s full of surprises when God’s at work!
I truly hope that you enjoy listening to both parts of this little story that I’ve written for you. It’s always a joy to share God’s message with you in ways that invites you to think about your lives and your faith in a different way.
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We all love to hear a good story don’t we?
When we hear the words “once upon a time” we sit up a bit straighter in our chairs and prepare to allow our minds to drift into another world. Jesus regularly used stories, like the “Parable of the Sower,” to teach us about the ways that the Reign of God breaks into our world. And, of course, we all enjoy a story that ends with the words “and they lived happily ever after” don’t we?
“A Man Named Jimmy” is a modern-day adaptation of the “Parable of the Sower” and it’s sure to delight people of every age who enjoy a good story that contains a bit of a bite – just like all the parables of Jesus did. You’ll meet a charmingly innocent city-boy who decided that he wanted to become a farmer and you’ll see more experienced farmers laughing at him as he recklessly plants seeds in a rather crazy fashion. But, when God’s at work, miracles happen and even our sharpest critics are silenced.
So, sit back and enjoy this week’s message, “A Man Named Jimmy.” It’s a charming story that will certainly make you think about life, about generosity and about how God can use seeds that you plant to do incredible things.
I sometimes find myself wanting to withdraw, and to protect myself from the constant stream of breaking news and nonsense on social media. I find myself talking with more and more people who are simply tired these days, and I’m talking with more and more people who are simply looking for a sense of peace within the walls of the Church. Even in my times of prayer, I’ve found myself asking God: “Where have all the saints gone?”
That’s what this week’s message – “Where Have All the Saints Gone?” – is all about.
Jesus said that the “blessed” are found among the humble and among those who mourn as they watch what’s happening in the news. Jesus said that the “blessed” are still found among the poor, among those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and among those who still search for paths toward peace in crazy times. Jesus said the “blessed” are still found among those who are rejected by others because they are crying-out for justice in a world where other people are telling them to be quiet. When the “Reign of God” breaks into the world – through the lives of God’s saints – it’s always going to come as something that seems to be foreign, weird, strange, and other-worldly.
Even in crazy times, God continues to work through YOU as you put fingerprints on the world and help our world to become a better place. God’s continues to work through people just like YOU – His saints – as you extend mercy, peace, love and compassion toward others. God works in YOU every time you extend a laurel branch of forgiveness, every time you speak a gentle and encouraging word, every time you help someone to become a better person, and every time you live-into your faith and become an agent of God’s Reign. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Where Have All the Saints Gone?”, perhaps you need to simply look in the mirror and think about all the ways that God’s using YOU to make our world into a better place for all of us.
Never forget that what YOU do really matters!
What YOU are doing to fulfill God’s plan for your life really matters and IS helping our world to become a better place. Rise up, O saint of God!
How would you describe your relationship with Jesus?
My relationship with Jesus began when I was baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. I have been a student and a church organist. I have been a counselor at a Christian camp and I’ve served as a pastor for 29 years. My relationship with Christ has changed as I’ve moved through life, and I’m excited about where God is going to take me in the coming years.
How would you describe your relationship with Jesus?
In this week’s message, “The Apostolic Imperative”, we see that the writer of Matthew’s Gospel referred to people who surrounded Jesus in two different ways. In Matthew 10:1, we see that the people who surrounded Jesus were called “μαθητης” – a Greek word that occurs 74 times in Matthew’s Gospel and that describes the people who surrounded Jesus as “disciples” – followers – “followers who adhere to the teachings of a particular teacher.” But, in Matthew 10:2, the writer of the Gospel shifts gears and uses the word “αποστολος” to describe those who surrounded Christ – a Greek word that is only used one time in the Gospel. “Αποστολος” describes those who surround Jesus as apostles and “commissioned representatives” of One who sends them. When you think about “αποστολος,” I want you to think about Moses – a man who was called to serve as a commissioned representative of God and who was sent to the Pharaoh of Egypt with a clear message from God.
I suspect that most of us picture ourselves as “followers” of Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus is walking with us and we want to believe that we’re doing things that Jesus wants us to do. But, what if we began to understand that we’re, also, called to be commissioned representatives of the Reign of God? Imagine the power that kind of a distinction could bring to our ministry in the Church of Jesus Christ!
Christ’s “Commissioned Representatives” feed the hungry, and announce the coming of the Reign of God in the very same way that Jesus did. “Commissioned Representatives” of the Reign of God confront the powers of evil that oppress the poor and that continue to separate people by looking at the color of their skin. “Commissioned Representatives” of Jesus Christ proclaim God’s forgiveness and embrace, and they speak a word of hope to young people who are being bullied in schools. “Commissioned Representatives” of Jesus Christ fight against domestic violence, substance abuse, homelessness, and hunger in the lives of children who are living in the communities that surround our churches. And why? Simply because that’s what “αποστολος” do!
I believe that the modern-day Church has become insecure, and I believe that the role of the Church in America (and in other places around the world) has been clearly dislodged because the Church is experiencing an “identity crisis.” We must recapture the important distinction between being “μαθητης” (followers of Jesus) and “αποστολος” (commissioned representatives of the Reign of God) in the world today. And that’s what I lift before you in this week’s message, “The Apostolic Imperative”
God has a wonderful plan for your future!
I suspect that many of us come to worship and invest our time in prayer because we want to experience a sense of the divine. We long for God’s presence in our lives, and we want to live “in tune” with God’s plans. We want to know that God’s walking beside us and giving us the strength that we need each day. And, perhaps most of all, we all want to know that God’s going to be with us when we face that one, inescapable moment in time when we close our eyes and quietly slip into eternity.
But, when we travel through times when our faith’s being tested, God’s “heartbeat” can become so soft and muted that it almost seems to disappear. God’s “heartbeat” can be silenced by our busy-ness. God’s “heartbeat” can be hard to hear when we find ourselves running from place to place because we’ve tried to squeeze too many things into our already over-packed schedules. But, if we listen carefully to the words of Jesus, we can know that when it’s all said and done, we’re going to be OK. That’s what we explore in this week’s message: “The Heartbeat of God”
Julian of Norwich often listened to the “heartbeat of God” and she came away with a great and life-giving truth: “All shall be well – and all shall be well – and all manner of things shall be well.” Listen to those words today. Remember that Christ has gone before you to prepare a place where God shall wipe the tears from your eyes – and where there shall no longer be mourning and crying and pain for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).
Listen to the “heartbeat of God.” Open your ears as the Great Rabbi Himself, the Risen Christ, opens His arms and draws you close to His chest. All shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.
Life changes quickly, doesn’t it?
I still remember the day when a doctor looked me straight in the eyes (at the ripe old age of 37) and said, “Wayne, I believe that your hands are shaking and your walking’s a bit shuffled because you have Parkinson’s Disease.”
I’m sure that a lot of people in America are trying to figure-out what happened in the House of Representatives last week because they’re not sure if their struggle with an addiction – or with a birth defect – or even with a mental illness is going to prevent them from being able to purchase health insurance in the United States.
Even though we’ve been raised to believe that we are “safe” in the United States of America, we can no longer ignore things like terrorism – and we live in an age where we need to spend time teaching our children about safe body boundaries.
And yet, even in the midst of a quickly-changing world, we’re reminded that God is a Great Constant in our lives. God continues to point us in the right direction. God is a Good Shepherd who continues to nourish and sustain us. God is always present when His sheep are grazing in green pastures – and even when His sheep are walking through the scary valleys of the shadow of death.
In this week’s message, “The Lord is Your Shepherd”, we’re reminded of the faithfulness of the God who continues to recognize the deepest need in our lives and who opens His hands to fill our lives with goodness. We’re reminded that the Lord is a Good Shepherd who watches over us and the people that we love, and how God has promised to be the one constant in life that never fails.
We all know that things can change quickly in our lives and in the world. We all know that the specific circumstances in our lives aren’t always easy to control. And yet, the Good Shepherd continues to journey with us – taking us by the hand and leading us through all of the crazy ups and downs that we’ll face as we journey through life.
The Biblical theme of “darkness” has always fascinated me.
The Bible tells us that God moved around in the darkness long before He ever said, “Let there be light.” (Genesis 1:3) God wrestled with Jacob in the darkness (Genesis 32:22-31), and Jacob saw a ladder reaching into Heaven in the darkness (Genesis 28:10-12). We read that God moved through the land of Egypt and “passed over” the homes of the Israelites (Exodus 12:12) in the darkness. We read that the tomb of Jesus was found empty “at early dawn” (Luke 24:1) because God had raised the Christ in the darkness.
It’s easy for us to be overcome by the darkness these days. North Korea has been rattling its nuclear swords; and, last week, we witnessed the strategic dropping of the “Mother of All Bombs.” We’ve heard about innocent people being killed by poisonous gas in Syria and about millions of people starving to death in Africa. People are dying, every day, from drug overdoses and churches need to carefully screen volunteers before allowing them to work with children. We live in a world where relationships are hard, where our marriages can crumble and fall apart, and where young people are being bullied while they attend school.
And yet, the God who has worked “in the darkness” through all of human history is hard at work today! God’s creating something new, and God’s restoring what has been broken and what needs to be healed!
In this week’s message, “God’s Creating Something New!”, we’re reminded that God is at work in our world and that the forces of good shall prevail. The message of Easter is one that reminds us that, when it’s all said and done, the forces of good and the forces of God will surely prevail! And that’s what we really need to know, isn’t it?
Easter reminds us that God shall triumph; but Easter, also, sends us back into the world as people with a mission. Every time we leave our homes and our churches, we return to a world where we’ll be surrounded by darkness and bad news. Every time we leave our homes and churches, we’re challenged to speak to others with a conviction that springs from Easter courage and Easter hope!
Jesus Christ is risen! All the forces of evil and pain and brokenness have crumbled before the power of a God who even raises the dead! And, today, we can live our lives knowing that all of us – all of the people we love – and all of the people in our world – are securely held in the hands of a God who continues to work “in the darkness” and Who has surely promised us that He’ll lift us up to a better and more glorious Day.
We’ve just traveled through the “Season of Giving” once again.
We listen to people a little bit more carefully as Christmas approaches, and we try to be more “in tune” with people’s wishes and desires, don’t we? We spend money during the holidays because we all enjoy the look on people’s faces when we give them gifts. And, of course, we always try to identify and to purchase things that other people want or desire.
Right after John’s disciples began to follow the “Lamb of God,” Jesus asks them a very important question: “What are you seeking?” And this is a question that Jesus commonly asked people. “What are you seeking?” “What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus can see that people are searching for something that they can’t always clearly identify until they’re asked to be specific. What are you seeking from God? What do you want God to do for you, right now?
In this week’s message, “Your Greatest Gift”, we listen to a familiar story in a different way. We’ve all been taught to be “good consumers.” We’ve all learned to be satisfied by things in life – and even in our spiritual lives – that can offer instant gratification. Some people even drift from church to church to church looking for their next meal (what they think will satisfy them, at least until they find something a bit better). Like the Samaritan woman at the well, we can find ourselves so focused upon satisfying our momentary thirst that we never allow God to draw us into the depths of “living water.” (John 4:10)
“Your Greatest Gift” is your life and your witness to Jesus Christ. The greatest gift that you can offer another person is a warm and embracing invitation that can open doors, and that can point people toward a God who walks with us through all of the ups and downs of life, and who has even promised to lift us up when we die. And that’s big!