Pastor's Corner
September 20, 2015, 8:14 AM

New Pastor


We have welcomed a new Pastor: Pastor Pam Wooden. Come out and Join Us on Sunday to meet our new Pastor.




June 18, 2014, 5:54 PM

Second Sunday of Easter 2014 Sermon


Second Sunday of Easter 2014 Sermon

John 20:19-31; Acts 2:14a, 22-32

Witness Beyond Doubt

 

 

The picture of the disciples that we find in the Gospels is not flattering. They hear Jesus preach and teach. They see him heal and leave signs of his identity. Yet, they lack undertanding. Obviously, they mean well. Thomas urged them to follow Jesus to Jerusalem and die with him. But they all flee when Jesus' cause seems all but lost. To their credit they reassemble; however, they remain fearful even after Jesus appeared to them.

 

According to the Book of Acts, the disciples found their courage when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

According to the Gospel of John, the Holy Spirit is Christ's presence with them. Divine strength comes through many avenues. Friendship is one of those avenues.

 

The disciples seem to be on a journey. The journey starts down the road of fear and doubt when Jesus is crucified. That road, like many country roads, changes its name to faith and doubt after Jesus appears to them. Then, with the help of Christ's empowering presence, the disciples dare to travel down a new road. The name of that road is witness beyond doubt. Now they understand, believe, and witness. And as you read Peter's sermon in Acts 2 you know that the disciples are fired up! They are passionate about what they preach! Disciples are made! A Church is born!

 

As time passes and the first witnesses die, the passion begins to decrease. It happens with any movement. The Church begins to settle in for the long haul. The charasmatic glow begins to fade.

 

John's gospel was written toward the end of the first century. The early witnesses are all dead. The Church is primarily Gentile. There is hostility between Jews and Christians. Belief and doubt go hand in hand. The Thomas story fits this time frame.

 

Maybe Thomas has been treated unjustly by being called doubting Thomas. Is he really any different than the rest of the disciples? After all, Peter betrayed Jesus. The other disciples had to see before believing. Yes, Thomas, like Peter, talked a good game and promised much. In the end, though, all the disciples fled.

 

Actually, Thomas is like any of us. We have trouble believing something that you can't see. I'm not sure that is a bad characteristic to have. Thomas did hear the reports about Jesus' appearances. To make a modern comparison, there are many people who say that they have seen UFO's. Personally, I have an I'll believe it when I see one attitude.

 

I know that Jesus told Thomas to stop his doubting. If he was going to be a witness for Christ, Thomas wanted there to be absolutely no doubt in his mind. Yet, I wonder. Is it humanly possible to never doubt when it comes to matters of faith? We do jokingly say things like “I can't believe my own eyes.” The great theologian Paul Tillich once argued that doubt is not the opposite of faith. Instead, doubt is an element of faith. Maybe what all of us do is witness beyond any element of doubt we might have.

 

Thomas and the first disciples did have an advantage. Their faith was first hand faith. They spoke about what they saw. We rely upon their testimony. Did they have moments of doubt even after Jesus appeared to them. They probably did. Yet, they witnessed beyond any doubt they may have had.

 

Our faith is second hand faith. We are the ones called blessed by Jesus because we have not seen and yet believed.

 

Our faith relies upon those first witnesses. At the same time, we experience the risen Christ. You could say that our experience is a different kind of seeing. In a way, we are like the people who heard about Jesus from the woman at the well. Some listened to her testimony about Jesus and believed. Others heard her testimony and went to hear for themselves. They believed because they saw and heard.

 

And what is our experience. Most people that I talk with tell me in various ways that in Christ they experience a new way of living, freedom, new life, healing and forgiveness. In other words, they experience that the living Christ is their light, way, truth, and life. And while doubts may come from time to time, there is a certainty that is confirmed over and over.

 

What those early disciples shared was good news. It was the good news about Jesus Christ. Good news about what God did through Jesus Christ. We can understand why they shared when we experience what they experienced. It is something that you want to share!

 

If there are modern words that express the early witness of the Church, they may be something like these:

 

Up from the grave he arose,

with a mighty triumph o'er his foes;

He arose the victor from the dark domain,

and he lives forever with his saints to reign.

He arose!

he arose!

Halleluia! Christ arose!1

 

Our witness is second hand witness. We rely on the early disciples but we have also “seen” the Lord. Our experience might be expressed in these words:

 

He lives, he lives,

Christ Jesus lives today!

He walks with me and talks with me

along life's narrow way.

He lives, he lives,

salvation to impart!

You ask me how I know he lives?

He lives within my heart.

 

Witness beyond any doubt started then and can continue with us, the community of the faithful. I close with realistic, yet inspiring words from Barbara Brown Taylor:

 

The story is already alive with or without us. God wants us to be part of it-to sob on Palm Sunday, to wash each other's feet on Maundy Thursday, to fast on Good Friday, to laugh out loud on Easter Sunday-in these and a thousand other ways, to be part of Jesus Christ's risen life on earth-so that the brave, fragile testimony goes on being heard: 'We have seen the Lord!' In the flesh? No. In the story? Possibly. In our life together? Absoulutely.1

 

1 Barbara Brown Taylor. Home By Another Way. 1999. Cowley Publications. pp. 117, 118.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




April 28, 2014, 8:28 PM

Easter 2014 Sermon


Matthew 28:1-10

Fear Not

What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you? My scariest incident may have come during my first jet flight.

The flight was from Brownsburg, Texas to Atlanta, Georgia. I was excited about my first flight but a little edgy. I was with a friend who was seasoned at this flying thing. His job was to coach me through the uneasy moments-a task at which he failed miserably. At any rate, we started our descent to what was then called the Atlanta Municipal Airport. The pilot announced that we would be descending. I think I forgot that announcement when I felt what seemed like engines being turned off and a jet falling from the sky! My friend noticed what must have been a look of panic on my face and did what any friend would do in that situation. He laughed at me. Needless to say, the descent and landing went just fine. 

Martin Copenhaver, President of the Andover Newton Theological School, is right when he observes that we might become suspicious when the pilot announces something like: "Ladies and gentlemen, you will have noticed that we are experiencing an unusual amount of turbulence in our flight today, but let us assure you that there is no reason for concern." We might get concerned when somebody tells us not to be concerned.1

That brings us to Matthew's story of Jesus' resurrection. Let me submit this thought. If we sat around a campfire telling scary stories, this one might win first prize.

I have often wondered about the angel's command to Mary Magdelene and Mary. These women walk to the tomb that first Easter morning and hear these words: Be not afraid! Sure thing Mr. Angel!

What's there to be afraid of, you ask? Well, lets turn the clock back to get the full story. According to Matthew, on the day Jesus was crucified darkness came upon the whole land from noon till three in the afternoon. Then, after Jesus died, the earth shook hard enough to open some of the graves in town. In fact there were reports of dead people being raised and walking around! Remember Aunt Jane? Bless her soul. She sure was a saint! We buried her a few years ago or at least thought we did! And, oh yea, there were also reports that the curtain to the entrance of the temple holy of holies was torn from top to bottom!

And that brings us to this first Easter morning. What's to be afraid of, you ask? Well, let's see. The women are walking around in an eerie place while the Sun is rising. And then there is an earthquake. No. A great earthquake! An angel descends from heaven. The stone set over Jesus' grave rolls back apparently providing a seat for the angel! Not something that happens everyday! It causes such a fuss that the guards die from fright!

What's there to be afraid of, you ask? My personal experiences pale compared with Matthew's story. But the story teaches us something about how our faith can help us when the fearful moments come. The story helps us because it gives us an eternal perspective in fearful moments. The words that can calm our fears and soul are He is not here. He is risen! ! Hope springs eternal!

 

Be not afraid! It's important to know what these words do not mean. These words do not mean that nothing will go wrong. I suppose there are some that teach that you are not right with God if anything goes wrong. We know better because of Good Friday. Who of Jesus' followers were not shocked by its events? How many expected that God would intervene to save Jesus from such a tragic end? God seemed silent as the political and religious forces of the day conspired. Good Friday tells us that there are moments when evil triumphs.

 

But that is not all. We also know better because of our experiences. A divorce, shattered dreams, the death of a child, a prolonged illness. We know that life can take unwanted twists and turns. Yet, while we experience our own Good Fridays, the admonition remains the same: Be not afraid.

 

Be not afraid doesn't mean everything will go right either. Isn't that obvious? Our favorite sport's team would win every time if everything went right. There would be no more hunger, poverty, unemployment, or homelessness if everything went right. Yet, maybe through it all, fear can give way to courage as we continue the fight to make things right.

 

I'm sure that not being afraid doesn't mean other things as well. But what does it mean? Well, it does mean that God is always at work. Easter follows Good Friday in the Kingdom of God. The seeming silence of God ends with stones being rolled away and new life emerging. Guilt, pain and sorrow give way to joy. Defeat gives way to victory. And though the distance between them sometimes seems endless, Easter will follow Good Friday. It is also possible that the experience of Good Friday will make us stronger even before Easter arrives.   

 

God is at work. And more importantly, God has the final word. Hope springs eternal. At both the beginning and end of life stands the giver of life. That gift of life is our eternal hope in Christ.

 

God is at work. God has the final word. And that means that God's love will triumph. We catch a revelation of that love in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The kind of love we see in Christ sheds light on the path we should continue to travel.

 

Be not afraid. This Easter admonition is a call to courage as we face the Good Friday's of our lives with Easter hope that springs eternal.

 

I recently ran across a story told by a person witnessing a goodbye scene in an airport between a father and daughter. It is a story that expresses in a secular way the daily hope that we might dare to have:

 

An elderly man was visited by his daughter. The daughter lived some distance away and was only able to visit for a short period of time. Father and daughter embraced at the security gate in the airport as the daughter was about to board her plane. Both knew that this might be the last time the daughter would see her father alive. Afterward, they looked at each other and said: I love you and wish you enough.

 

I wish you enough was like a family benediction. They were no doubt words that family members said to each other at all family gatherings and reunions, at holiday times, or at the end of phone conversations. They were words passed on in the family from the grandmother to father to daughter.

 

There is a poem connected with these words recited by the father from memory to the onlooker at the airport. The poem goes like this:

 

I wish you enough

 

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.

I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.2

 

Be not afraid. Easter follows Good Friday. He is not here. He is risen. And the promise is that because he lives, we shall live also. These words from a popular Easter hymn express the hope and reality we share this Easter:

 

Because he lives

I can face tomorrow.

Because he lives

All fear is gone.

Because I know

He holds the future

and life is worth the living,

Just because He lives.3

 

 

1 Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. Year A, Volume 2. 2010. p. 348. Westminster John Knox Press.

2 Story and poem told by Bob Perks

3 Because He Lives. The United Methodist Hymnal. p. 64.