"One Nation Under God"
Sermon on Sunday, July 5, 2020
Over 2,000 soldiers would die from a variety of diseases and the hardness of the winter. Many of the troops had no clothes, shoes, or general protection from the weather that long winter at Valley Forge. The conditions could not have been more adverse. Washington had never commanded anything larger than a regiment and now he was leading an army of citizen patriots against an army of professional soldiers. It is most likely his lowest point. It was during the cold and long winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge that General George Washington sought God’s help in prayer. This story is well documented in the historical records. Isaac Potts, 26 years old, was a resident of Valley Forge, and as a Quaker was opposed to the war. He supervised the grinding of the grain, which George Washington ordered the neighboring farmers to bring to his army. The fullest account of Potts’ testimony is in the “Diary and Remembrances” of Rev. Nathaniel Randolph Snowden, a Presbyterian minister and a Princeton graduate “I was riding with him (Mr. Potts) near Valley Forge, where the army lay during the war of the Revolution. Mr. Potts was a Senator in our state and a Whig. I told him I was agreeably surprised to find him a friend to his country, as the Quakers were mostly Tories. He said, “It was so and I was a rank Tory once, for I never believed that America could proceed against Great Britain whose fleets and armies covered the land and ocean. But something very extraordinary converted me to the good faith.” “What was that?” I inquired. “Do you see those woods, and that plain?” It was about a quarter of a mile from the place we were riding. “There,” said he, “laid the army of Washington. It was a most distressing time of ye war, and all were for giving up the ship but that one good man. In those woods,” pointing to a close in view, “I heard a plaintive sound, as of a man at prayer. I tied my horse to a sapling and went quietly into the woods and to my astonishment I saw the great George Washington on his knees alone, with his sword on one side and his cocked hat on the other. He was at Prayer to the God of the Armies, beseeching to interpose with his Divine aid, as it was ye Crisis and the cause of the country, of humanity, and of the world. “Such a prayer I never heard from the lips of man. We never thought a man could be a soldier and a Christian, but if there is one in the world, it is Washington. We thought it was the cause of God, and America could prevail.” I could go on and on with examples of our “Founding Fathers and their faith” but George Washington’s will suffice. Have no doubt the founding fathers were men who endure great hardships and had a profound faith. They were men of deep religious conviction. Here will be a country that any religion would be accepted. The religious persecution that drove settlers from Europe to the British North American colonies sprang from the conviction, held by Protestants and Catholics alike, that uniformity of religion (a single religion) must exist in any given society. This conviction rested on the belief that there was “one true religion” and that it was the duty of the civil authorities (govement) to impose it, forcibly if necessary, in the interest of saving the souls of all citizens. As was the case in most countries of Europe in the 18th century. Nonconformists could expect no mercy and might be executed as heretics. The dominance of the concept, denounced by Roger Williams as "inforced uniformity of religion," meant majority religious groups who controlled political power punished dissenters in their midst. In some areas Catholics persecuted Protestants, in others Protestants persecuted Catholics, and in still others Catholics and Protestants persecuted wayward coreligionists. Protestant Goverments in England and Scotland burned Roman Catholics at the stake. One record of a Catholic priest disemboweled by protestant Authoritites. Anabptists (Menonites/Amish/Quakers) killed by Catholics. Thousands of Protestants butchered by Roman Catholic Mobs in France. On October 31, 1731, the Roman Catholic ruler of Salzburg, Austria, Archbishop Leopold von Firmian, issued an edict expelling as many as 20,000 Lutherans from his principality. Many propertyless Lutherans, given only eight days to leave their homes, froze to death as they drifted through the winter seeking sanctuary. They heard of a new world. A place where they could worship God in their own way. AMERICA! These 13 new colonies. Congregetionalist – Connecticut, Anglecian, Dutch Reformed – Delaware, Roman Catholics – Maryland, Mennonite, Brethren, Amish, Moravian, Lutheran – Pennsylvania. The founding Fathers knew of the religious persecutions happening in Europe and were determined it would NOT happen here – in these 13 colonies. So, our founding Fathers all with deep religious convictions wrote the “First Amendment” undoubtly the most misquoted and misunderstood Amendment in the entire Constitution! Here is what the First Amendment says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” noplace does it have the words “…seperation of Church and state”. That is a horobile distortion of the 1st ammendment. Why did they NOT want government to establish one single religion? Because of what was happening in Europe. With Government established religions. Can we conclude that America was founded as a Christian Nations? No. But everyone could practice their religion as they wished! Jewish, Christian, Muslim. Our Founding Fathers were absolutely men of faith. No doubt. Are our laws based on the decolog – Ten Commandments? Yes absolutely. The founding fathers wanted to be sure that there would be a safe place in the world where a family could go and worship their God – in their own way. Without the fear of a Lutheran mob invading Maryland attacking the Catholics. Or the Anglicans in Georgia attacking the Congregationalists in New York. They wanted to be sure that government would not tell you how you may or may not worship God. They didn’t want the government establishing a religion. George Washington is quoted as saying, “Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society.” They clearly viewed it as one purpose of government to encourage and defend religious freedom, and one purpose of religion to promote morality and decency throughout the land, including the government. I could go on and on this morning with quotes from our Founding Fathers but these men were individuals with individual and personal convictions. What about Congress? Most were participants in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution. What were their views on the 1st Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” On September 6, 1774, the first act - of the first session of the Continental Congress was to pass a resolution to open its next meeting with prayer. This prayer included reading Psalm 35. On September 11, 1777, it was approved by the Continental Congress order the Committee of Commerce to import 20,000 Bibles. Again, on September 10, 1782, Congress approved the printing of Bibles in America. It was specifically stated that the Bibles would be "for the use of public schools!” [Hum…So much for the separation of church and state.] Now this great Republic finds itself in the 21st century. If George Washington, John Hancock, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin would come back to the country they founded what would they think? I believe they would marvel at the accomplishments, telegraph, automobile, cure for polio, we Americans have walked on the moon. They would burst with pride and excitement. When they looked at our bloated government system power hungry politicians serving 40-50 years in office? Families becoming political dynasties – Bush, Kennedy, Casey, Wanting the people to serve them and not serve the people. Telling the people they can not pray in school, or at a football game. Its illegal to handout a Bible on public property. Or to have a Nativity on community property. When they see today’s rioting in the streets trumping on and burning the American flag, statutes dedicated to the precise men who sought to protect the very freedom that is used to riot. I believe they would be saddened. The Founding Fathers were visionaries. They were men of conviction. They were men of faith. They gave us the Declaration, US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. These cherished freedoms. We once revered these men in our history books are being rewritten. In my school every classroom had a picture of George Washington on the wall – no more. We proudly named our streets, cities, states in honor of the Founding Fathers and we erected monuments to these men. In order that future generations could look upon them and be reminded of their hard work and personal sacrifices in the formation of this great Republic. Francis Scott Key the writer of the National Anthem was not a Founding Father but was a contemporary of many of them. Key considered of becoming an Episcopalian priest. Most people have no idea the words of the anthem’s second verse, when we sing the hymn, carefully look at the words of the second verse “In God is our trust”. Freedom ought and need be celebrated. So many churches and ministers today loathe patriotism in the pulpit. I am not one of those. I celebrate today with you the freedoms which God has blessed this great nation of ours. This One Nation Under God founded by men of great faith. Amen
“Don’t Take That Shortcut!”
Sermon on Sunday, June 28, 2020
I knew seminary was on the horizon and I was in dire need of a computer. Now, my upgraded 286 computer, which is now a 486, has served me well but it was really quite obsolete. My newly purchased Bible program was barely able to run on my computer, my hard drive was full to capacity (actually some of my programs had to be deleted and reinstalled with each use in order to save space), constant pop up warnings warning me that there was not enough hard-drive space! I thought I’d better get a new machine. I hunted through my trusty computer shopper magazine; finally I found the “state of the art computer” at an amazingly low price! I couldn’t believe it! I was saving hundreds of dollars actually around 50% cheaper than most comparable machines. I never heard of this company “Pro-Gen” but who cares at this price. I ordered it. The long awaited computer finally arrived and I put it together. All the software was already loaded (which was rare then), I turned it on. It was great: soundboard was working, encyclopedia program was talking to me, and then in less than 5 minuets - it stopped and crashed. After days of calling, I got through to the manufacture; their tech support said it was the hard drive. They apologized and would immediately ship a new hard drive completely loaded with software. Months later after repeated calls the hard drive arrived. I installed it; none of the software was loaded as they had promised. Quite upset, I called the company and told them I wanted a new computer, and guess what I couldn’t have a new computer because my warranty had expired! Over the 4 years of seminary, I replaced the 2nd factory hard drive; a motherboard, 1 power-supply, and ram memory chips. What a bargain?!?!?!. The old adage says, "We get what we pay for." If we buy a cheap, we shouldn’t be surprised if it goes on the blink in a few months or in my case in the first five minutes. or the picture quality is not as sharp as the one on the expensive units. If we want quality, we have to pay for it. I’m sure the owners of the HUGO cars will attest to this. Leaking oil sitting in the dealer’s showroom. In a similar sense, what we get out of life depends on what we put into it. If we seek after cheap values and evil ends, we should not be surprised when life pays us back with emptiness, guilt, and worthlessness. If we want the most out of life we need to in a very real sense invest ourselves into our lives, we need to give ourselves to the highest and best values we can—the values seen in Jesus Christ. This is the message we hear from the Apostle Paul in our 2nd lesson. Paul talked about yielding their "members" to God. What Paul was referring to was a soldier’s weapons, weapons offered in service to the emperor. A Roman soldier would hold nothing back in his commitment to a cause. Actually, if a Roman soldier was thought to hold back – not fight with his full 100% commitment during a battle, then the other soldiers would strip him of his armor and he would be executed. It was to make an example of him. If his life was demanded, it would be given in battle. That was the commitment of a soldier. Like a soldier, a disciple of Christ should commit 100% to his/her cause – the cause of the gospel. The weapons of the battle are their lives—their hands, feet, eyes, minds, hearts, their lives—are all needed to be committed to serving Jesus. Hold nothing back. Paul said, at the time, there were plenty of people who were committed to serving evil in the world. That changed when these people committed their lives to Jesus. Now they were instruments of righteousness. The commitment given to evil was now redirected to Christ. Paul asserts that, Christ held nothing back from us. On the night that he was betrayed he willingly gave up is freedom and ultimately his life for you and I. he held nothing back – hence we are to hold nothing back from Christ. Whatever it takes to serve, we are to give openly - freely. When we do this, we will notice the sense of freedom we will ultimately feel by serving Christ. For a person who has never experienced the freedom of a Christian they could never understand this spiritual concept – but for those of us who have we know this freedom well. What does it mean to be free? Strangely, this may seem like a paradox to us the answer to that question is seen in the imagery that Paul used concerning slavery. Slaves were to give complete, total obedience to their master. Unfortunately, in Paul’s day, many slaves did not get a chance to choose their masters. But we can! Simply put, we can choose righteousness and the way of God, or doing evil and the way of sin. Those are the choices. The Apostle Paul tells us to be careful, “Whichever choices we make, that master demands our total obedience”. However, the only true freedom we have is to choose to what or to whom we follow or will serve. Good or evil? Not sure? Ask yourself the question: “Are we focused on God or on our own self-interests?” All of us will serve something or someone. We are free to choose. One of the most precious gifts God gave humanity is “free choice.” No other creature on the face of the earth has God given such a gift. Remember, some choices we make in life are good choices and some are bad. The bad choices can be very – very costly. Choose wisely for there will be consequences. Paul closes the second lessons with an ominous reminder, "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (v. 23). In other words, we get a payment or a salary for what we do with our lives. We can be a slave to things, but things will not give us love. We can serve pleasure, but its final payment is disillusionment. We can serve our jobs or work, but the work will end and we will be forgotten. We can serve ourselves feed our own narcissism, but we usually are paid back in loneliness and emptiness. Only one way will pay us what we need—that is the way of Jesus Christ. Christ brings us life, abundant and eternal. His way will bring us love, mercy, hope, peace, joy, and grace. Paul tells us; we get from life’s, relationships, friendships, our faith, or church, what we choose to invest into them. As with my computer, I took a shortcut and ended up with a poor quality computer that left me frustrated and disappointed and quite costly in time and money. We can take shortcuts and not invest time and energy into friendships and eventually what will we end up with. We can take time and energy away from our worship and our walk with Christ, then what? What will we have in the end? Nothing. Nothing for the wages of sin is death. It is always our choice. Freedom to choose is a wonderful precious gift from God. What choices will we make? How will we live our lives? There are always consequences to the choices we make in life. We can choose to seek after our own selfish desires. We can say, I am not going to worship on a Sunday. We can say, ach, I’m too busy to attend Bible studies. I’ll carve out a minute or two during my morning commute to pray and talk to God (until my favorite song comes on the radio). Don’t take a shortcut in your Christian faith. Remember cheap isn’t better. What we invest now, will result in what we receive later… May we choose our pay wisely. A-men.
“I’m In With The ‘In’ Crowd”
Sermon on Sunday, June 21, 2020
Some of you may have seen the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou”. Starring George Clooney, Tim Blake and John Turturro. This is a whimsical retelling of Homer's Odyssey set in 1930s Mississippi. Three hapless escaped convicts--Everett, Pete and Delmar--are hiding out in the woods, running from the law. There is a scene where they encounter a procession of white-robed people going down to the lake to be baptized. As the baptismal candidates move toward the water they sing, "Let's go down to the river and pray." As the baptism ceremony begins, Delmar is overwhelmed by the beauty and the mystery of this rite. He runs into the water and is baptized by the minister. As he returns to his companions, he declares that he is now saved and "neither God nor man's got nothing on me now." He explains that the minister has told him that all his sins have been washed away. Even, he says, when he stole the pig for which he'd been convicted. "But you said you were innocent of that," one of his fellow convicts exclaims. "I lied," he says, "and that's been washed away too!" Later the three convicts steal a hot apple pie from a windowsill. Delmar, who felt that his sins had been washed away returns and places a dollar bill on the window sill and quickly leaves. Delmar wasn't made perfect by his baptism any more than any of the rest of us are made perfect by our baptism. But he was conscious of the fact that it was time for him to make a new beginning. That is why in understanding baptism we begin with the washing away of our sins. Much of Apostle Paul’s theology flows out of his understanding of baptism. Baptism isn’t magic. It doesn’t have a divine power that operates independently of human will and cooperation. God acts in our baptism, but in order for us to benefit fully, like our friend Delmar we must lay hold of God’s gracious act and make it a directing force in our lives. The defining dynamic of our baptism is that we are (v3)“baptized into Christ Jesus”. The phrase “in Christ,” which describes our baptized state, becomes Paul’s chief way of characterizing the Christian life. Those who live “in Christ Jesus” certainly can have no thought of living “in sin.” Paul says we are “In Christ” we are part of a special group of people. When I read this passage from Romans, a refrain of a song came into my mind. Do you remember the 1964, #1 hit song by Doby Gray…remember that song? My older sisters played this 45 record until they wore it out. The first verse goes like this: I'm in with the in crowd I go where the in crowd goes I'm in with the in crowd And I know what the in crowd knows Paul says through baptism we are “in Christ” we are part of the “in Crowd” we go where the in crowd goes, and we know what the “in Crowd knows”. We know we are saved and our sins have been washed away. We are baptized “in Christ.” Many of us make our Christian journey in three stages: (1) As children we start out “in Christ”—with the wonder and trust of children. (2) Then teenage or young adulthood certain forces pull us “outside of Christ.” (3) Finally, whether through a radical and violent reordering of our will or through gentler means, we end up “in Christ.” We finally discover with Paul, (Gal. 2:20) “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me”. The fact that we are joined to Christ has great implications. It means, in an overall way, that we have become different creatures and entered a completely new way of life. Our lives are set in a whole new direction. Just as Jesus healed and brought hope wherever he went, so do his disciples participate in the redeeming activity of God’s kingdom. We share our faith, we make lives better for other people. The dreadful powers of sin and death no longer have dominion over those who are united in Christ. These powers don’t have the last word! Still another implication of our being the “in crowd” or “in Christ” is that we, the church, are the body of Christ, not a body of individual Christians. I have seen Christians who seem to be on fire for the Lord. Active, serving on council/consistory, teaching Sunday school, always there to help. Then something pulls them away. I could see how there fire begins to go out. Its like having a a bed of red hot coals, you take one coal out, the fire doesn’t seem any different but it is. When you look at the red hot coal that was removed you’ll see it isn’t burning as bright as it once did. It begins to go out, more and more till the fire is completely gone. The coal now is ice cold. Dead. When baptized, we are united to Christ and his church. It is impossible to have union with one without the other. Everything is in the plural here. There are no “Lone Ranger” Christians. Here in chapter 6 Paul leads up to a final implication of our being “in Christ.” This truth bursts forth two chapters later when Paul declares that absolutely nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:39). This is the inevitable outcome of Paul’s logic. To be in union with Christ is to be in union with love itself. This love will never fail us. Praise be to God! French writer Henri Barbusse tells of a conversation he personally overheard in a trench/foxhole full of wounded men during the First World War. One of the men, who knew he only had minutes to live says to his fellow soldier and friend, "Listen, Dominic, you've led a very bad life. Everywhere - you are wanted by the police. But there are no convictions against me. My name is clear, so, here, take my wallet, take my papers, my identity, take my good name, my life and quickly, hand me your papers that I may carry all your crimes away with me in death." The Good News is that through Jesus, God makes a similar offer. Something wonderful happens to us when we are baptized. When we are baptized, we identify ourselves with Jesus. We are part of the ‘in crowd”. We go where the “in crowd goes” we publicly declare our intention to strive to be like Jesus and follow God's will for our lives. When we are baptized, our lives are changed. We know what the “in crowd knows” we see things and people differently than before. Like our friend Delmar going back and putting a dollar on the windowsill - baptism enables and empowers us to do the things that Jesus wants us to do here and now. We are able to identify with Jesus because He was baptized. And we are able to love as he loved. We serve the poor, homeless, hungry because that’s what Jesus did and that is what he expects from us, who carry his good name as Christians. Like the men in the trench in WWI the man took the name of his dieing friend and had a new life. When we are baptized we take the name of Christ and we are forever called “Christians”. Because Jesus carried our sins to the Calvary. Such identification is life changing. That kind of identification shapes what we believe and claims us. It makes us not just the “in crowd” but the crowd who’s “in Christ”. Amen
Sermon on Sunday, June 14, 2020
The primary election is over now. The General elections is coming up. We’ll see countless campaign adds, campaign rallies, and politicians making promises but not really making commitments. Nothing new is it? Most do it and have for years. Just the way things are. It is said that Lyndon Johnson, in the course of his campaigning, told some small farmers that he understood their needs because he was a rancher himself. One cattleman asked, “How big is your spread?” “It's big,” Johnson replied in his Texas drawl. “I get in my car in the morning, and it's sunset before I cross my own property again.” Like most people, this cattleman knew politicians. “Yeah,” he replied, “I had that kind of car once, too.” I know some politicians who are good, honest, capable leaders who represent their constituency with faithfulness and courage. They are public servants working in a difficult environment that is often governed by pressure, compromise, bribes, and threats. Those who remain true to the principles upon which this country was founded are to be praised and commended. However, we as the public are getting so very tired of those politicians who promise, promise, and promise. Knowing all too well that they can’t or won’t keep any. Some politicians sound like Santa Clause when they tell the voter all the “freebees” they will receive if they vote for them. President George H.W. Bush gave a speech in which he said, “Read my lips: no new taxes.” He raised taxes. In the 1992 presidential campaign Bush’s broken promise came back to haunt him and he ultimately lost his bid for re-election to Bill Clinton after only one term in office. Incidentally, Clinton’s presidency is not particularly remembered as a time of truth, transparency, and honored promises either. The American people have become weary of false promises that flow from their tongues as smooth as water down a mountain Brooke. It isn’t just our politicians. It seems like every week we see some very sophisticated scams targeting the American public. A recent one is targeting the stimulus checks. Pyramid and ponzi schemes seem to be a part of our culture. In 2008 Bernie Madof who, through the defrauding of his clients, had created one of the most prominent financial firms on Wall Street, he promised 100% return on their investments (fast money) instead he defrauded to the sum of $65 billion. The day before his arrest Madof told sons that his investments were "all one big lie". I grew up watching Saturday morning westerns where the hard riding, six gun gun-tote’n, cattle rope’n cowboys were admired by young boys. The cowboy’s code (code of the West) was “a man’s word is his bond, you got my word on the partner.” In other words I keep my promises. We all make promises. Promise to honor and obey. Promise to uphold an oath, I promise to do a task, be at a meeting, to do the dishes on and on. Our lives are governed by the promises we make. Our character is defined by how well we keep those promises. We all make promises – some we can keep, others we cannot. The act of “promise making” should be viewed as a serious commitment, especially by the people of God. We ought to keep the promises we make. It’s that simple and it’s that hard. How well we keep our promises is a measure of our trustworthiness and character. People of faith have always been called “Promise Keepers.” Because our God is a keeper of promises. But, we too must strive to keep those we have made. The story of Exodus 19 is a story of two promises. One promise is from God to the Israelites. The second is from the Israelites to God. Allow me to set the scene for our text. The Israelites have escaped from Egypt. They crossed through the Red Sea. They were hungry God fed them with quail and manna. Then they were thirsty God had Moses hit the rock with his staff and water flowed from the rock. They are just three months into their wilderness journey. Now they are at the foot of Mount Sinai. Moses has not yet received the ten Commandments. Here at the foot of Mount Sinai we see two promises made. Promise One from God: “You will be my people - treasure”. Through Moses, God offers a promise to Israel. We see God speaking in v5, “Now then, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine.” God promised to make Israel a nation set apart from all other nations. They were to be “holy,” distinct, set apart. They were to be a nation that would receive the special presence and blessings of God. In return for His care, the Israelites were to obey his voice and keep His covenant. This is based on trust. Trust is not what it once was in our society. People are trying to cheat you all the time especially with scams and ponzi schemes. Years ago, deals were made with a handshake or simply a verbal commitment. Not so anymore. Not long ago I purchased my vehicle. It was not enough to simply promise the dealership that I would pay for the vehicle each month in a timely fashion. I counted as I signed my name or placed my initials at least eight different places before I was handed the keys. Over the years I’m sure the dealerships have had good reasons for doing this. Unlike us, God is always faithful and always trustworthy. What God promises, God will do. What God says, will be done. The Old and New Testaments are filled with the bright promises of God. We hope in them. We believe in them. We trust in them. We stake our eternal lives on them. That’s God’s promise to Israel. Then there is promise two.: “We will obey your word.” I imagine that the Israelites were caught up in the euphoria of the moment, the Israelites declare in v 8, “All that the lord has spoken we will do.” Would their promise be as secure as the promise of God? History and human experience would declare otherwise. Their promise is one not likely kept. And true to form, most of our promises to God are not keep very well either. Rather being trustworthy, we become troublesome to God. Maybe God ought to have us sign and initial more often. One of the great lessons of our faith is the realization that God is faithful to us even when we become unfaithful in our commitment to Him. Again, it is the Apostle Paul who states in Romans 5:8. “But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God knows that, because of our humanity, we will at times stumble and fail in our commitments. But our brokenness must serve as the impulse to push us to greater faithfulness, not despair. Should we even attempt to make promises to God? Of course. Should we strive with all our might to keep those promises? yes. Will we sometimes fail? Absolutely. But by His grace, patience and strength, we will be forgiven and renewed so that we might live for him. God still promises that we are His “special treasure,” that He will love us, nurture us, and give us everlasting life. Our promise must still be, “We will obey your Word.” God help us to keep promises. Sometimes we will fail. We’ll stumble and fall down on our commitment. When that happens God is there like the perfect parent that He is, to pick us up, dust us off. Dry our tears. As he says, that’s ok, I understand. Amen Let us pray the prayer our Lord has given us.
"Take The Plunge"
Sermon on Sunday, June 7, 2020
A young boy lived along the shore of the ocean. As the boy grew in years he loved going out on his skiff fishing, clamming, at times, on a hot day he would take off his shirt, wearing his cutoff blue-jeans dove in the refreshing deep blue ocean. The boy grew-up, married, and with family he needed to move to the Midwest for work. As the years passed his life on the shore and the ocean were never far from his mind. As his family and children grew he would tell stories about his carefree childhood. How he would fish, swim, and have nighttime cookouts on the beach. How he would see the dolphins jumping and dancing on the water with their tails. How he would eat fresh seafood and how the ocean was so good to him. For a little excitement although quite rare he would tell the kids about the occasional shark and jellyfish he encountered. Through the years man longed to go back the place of his youth and build a home for his family to have the same wonderful experiences he had. To that end, the man saved every dollar he could. He finally bought a piece of property in which to build his home. He was saving his dollars now to build the house. Time ran out, for the old man would never fulfill his lifelong dream, on his death bead, surrounded by his family, he asked if they would take the money he saved, and in his memory, build the house, and share his dream, after he was gone. With tear filled eyes his adult children agreed. Their father was now gone. They traveled together to shoreline their father bought. None of the adult children were ever at the shore or saw the ocean. They were excited! As they looked at their father’s seaside lot, they knew why he loved the ocean so much, it was beautiful. The waves came crashing onto the shore just how their father told them. The smell of the salt air! The seagulls were hovering around to greet the new arrivals. They would commence the building their father’s house immediately. They couldn’t wait to get into the ocean but agreed they would wait until the house was built to enjoy the refreshing plunge into the water. It was a labor of love, the adult children and the grandchildren all pitched in and helped. It was agreed that Uncle Pete would head the building project. Uncle Andy and Bart did the carpenter work. Aunt Judy was in charge of the finances purchasing the building materials and the money would stretch for the entire project. Aunt Mary and Aunt Martha they made lunches for all the workers. Work went on day after day. As they were working they would stop to watch, as the occasional school of dolphins would swim past. Or watch in awe as a sailing schooner gracefully glides over the water. In the evening they watched as the sun set and seemed to disappear into the ocean. One day the house was finished! A day of celebration! Today, out of respect for their father, they were going fishing, clamming, and swimming in the ocean. As they gathered in front of the house, bathing suits on, inner tubes and fishing poles in hand they posed in front of the house for a group picture. Uncle Pete, Phil, and Nate were going fishing, “fish for dinner tonight- just like dad use to do!” Parents with children in tow, made it to the water’s edge and stopped. Aunt Martha saw seaweed in the water and didn’t want to go in. Aunt Mary said there might be a shark out there. Uncle Bart stepped out to his knees, when the wave came crashing in and knocked him down, spitting out the saltwater said I’m not going in there. Uncle s Pete, Phil, and Nate finally launched their boat, but then realized the waves were rocking them and they were afraid to venture out where the water was calmer. They came in. All the children sat on the beach, looking out onto the ocean. Watching the dolphins happily swim by. The sailing schooner glides over the ocean and disappear over the horizon. They watched as neighbors walked past carrying their clams and fish. They turned around and looked at the house they built. Since they weren’t doing any of the activities the house was intended for suddenly it wasn’t as impressive any more. When someone is dying or leaving us, his or her last words are very important. As a matter of fact the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a “dying declaration” can be admissible in a court of law. Now Jesus wasn’t dying but Jesus left the disciples with these last words of instruction: under His authority; they were to make more disciples; they were to baptize and teach these new disciples to obey Christ; Christ would be with them always. Whereas in previous missions Jesus had sent his disciples only to the Jews, their mission from now on would be worldwide. Jesus is Lord of the earth, and He died for the sins of people from all nations. We are to go—whether it is next door or to another country—and make disciples. It is not an option, but a command to all who call Jesus “Lord.” We are not all evangelists in the formal sense, but we have all received gifts that we can use to help fulfill this Great Commission, we have comfort in the knowledge that Jesus is always with us. The disciples were to baptize people because baptism unites a believer with Jesus Christ in his or her death to sin and resurrection to new life. Baptism symbolizes submission to Christ, a willingness to live God’s way, and identification with His covenant people. The last request of Jesus was to go and make disciples of all nations. Are we? Are we sitting on the sand and looking out? We have built beautiful churches but are we leaving our churches and engaging in activities of making disciples. I often hear of how well other churches are doing. Pastor they have a huge youth program. They have a huge Sunday morning attendance. They have wonderful social ministries. They raise money for the poor. Their Sunday school has lots of kids. If this is happening its because these disciples of Jesus are taking the plunge and getting wet. They are actively engaging in ministry or discipleship. Listen, you have so much to offer. You have love here. Share it. It’s a tough world out there. Today, our nation is on fire. Wuhan virus has been relegated to secondary news having been replaced by the rioting in our cities. Small business owners are seeing their life’s work their dreams literally going up in smoke before their eyes. When defending their property they are bragged out and beaten in the streets. Thousands of people in cities across the nation are walking the streets protesting. There are different mindsets in the crowd. There are those who are violent, they sociopaths. They will beat people and kill, loot, destroy, attack police they see this as an opportunity to act out their evil ways – Satan’s soldiers. Then there are those who are not so much looking for a change in police tactics but are searching for a change in their lives. There is something missing in society – in their lives. They need a casue – any cause. These are the people (many of which) who need to hear the message of Jesus. These are the people who need the stability of God’s love, grace, and mercy. These are the people who need to feel a sense of belonging, a feeling of fulfillment, which they find with the crowds in the streets. These are the people in the cities, towns, neighborhoods, our next door neighbor. Who seem to be empty inside. There is a 1969 Peggy Lee song titled “Is That All There Is” Is that all there is If that's all there is, my friends Then let's keep dancing Let's break out the booze and have a ball If that's all there is Sad song, tells a story of an empty life, a life without purpose. These are the people walking the streets who couldn’t care less why they are walking in the crowd but the crowd gives them belonging, purpose. If you know of a person who just moved into your neighborhood invite them to worship with you. Statically they are the easiest people to witness to. Encourage them to engage in the youth activities mission trip this summer. Invite your family and friends to our dinners. Support the mission work of Food for the Poor to help drill a well, buy a goat, or cow, a stove. Their life can have purpose in the Gospel. Our past generations told about the days in our town where neighbor knew neighbor. Where we never had to lock our doors. Where churches were full, choir lofts packed, Bible studies well attended. Where prayer was in our schools! We long for those days given by their last words - their testimony. The family of the father/old man, built a house to be a place to operate from not to hide in and peer out the windows and enjoy the scenery. Their father wanted them to engage into the life of the seashore. They were afraid. Some thought it was too dangerous. Well meaning people will tell us it is dangerous, some with evil purpose will demand we don’t engage in discipleship. Stay in your churches and peer out at the scenery. That isn’t what Jesus wants form us. We need to take the plunge, it can be scary, but then again. If we disobey and refuse to serve the King faithfully, we are disloyal subjects, fit only to be banished from His kingdom. Amen
"Someone Had Tripped the Switch"
Sermon on Sunday May 31, 2020
Bishop Bob Morgan in his book Who’s Coming To Dinner? Tells a powerful story about a Dutch pastor and his family who during the Second World War got into big trouble with the Nazis. The Dutch pastor and his family had been hiding Jewish people in their home to keep them safe from Hitler’s forces. They were eventually found out. And one night in the darkness, they heard the sound of heavy boots and the loud impatient knocking on the door. They were arrested and loaded into a cattle car to be taken to one of the notorious death camps. All night long the Dutch pastor and his family rode along in heart-breaking anguish, jostling against one another and against the other prisoners who were jammed into the train cattle car. They were stripped of any form of dignity and absolutely terrified. They knew they were being taken to one of Hitler’s extermination centers. But which one? Would it be Auschwitz, Buchenwald, or Dachau? Finally, the long night ended and the train stopped. The doors of the cattle car were opened and light streamed into that tragic scene. They were marched out and were lined up beside the railroad tracks, resigned to unspeakable pain, as they knew they would be separated from each other and ultimately killed. But in the midst of their gloom, they discovered some amazing good news… good news beyond belief. They discovered in the bright morning sunlight that they were not in a death camp at all, not in Germany at all. Rather, they were in Switzerland! During the night, someone through personal courage and daring had tripped a switch… and sent the train to Switzerland… and to freedom. And those now who came to them were not their captors at all, but rather their liberators. Instead of being marched to death, they were welcomed to new life. In the midst of his joy and relief, the Dutch pastor said, “What do you do with such a gift?” This past March it was like someone abruptly tripped a switch. We were enjoying an economic boom, stock market was soaring, and housing market was coming back strong. The economic train was barreling down the tracks of prosperity. Then suddenly a switch was thrown, our nation was diverted on a set of tracks heading to a destination unknown. With the nation coming out of our nation’s pandemic shutdown. We are told that we can not just flip a switch and turn the nation back on. They use an analogy of a light switch we just can’t “throw a switch and bring it on drastically. They say its like a dimmer switch, we must bring it up in increments. Slowly. Cautiously. From red to yellow to green. I feel much like the Dutch Pastor in my story. I came here every Sunday delivered a message on Face book. I preached to empty pews. No one here. I missed all of you. I missed you so much. But today someone seems to have thrown a switch. We are on a different track, a different destination so to speak, it seems we have new life. I believe we have something in common with the Apostles in our lesson from Acts chapter two. Now allow me to set the scene for our lesson. Approximately 40 days prior Jesus was crucified, died and was buried. Then the Resurrection. During the season of Easter (40 days) he was scene and interacted with his disciples. After these 40 days we have the ascension From the Ascension to today’s lesson is about 7-10 days. Now we see a confused ragtag group of followers back in the upper room confused, terrified. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles. It was a dramatic experience – sounds of wind, commotion! As a result of the Holy Spirit’s manifestation a crowd had gathered to see what was happening. There are two movements in this text: 1st in the “Upper Room” and 2nd Peter’s message in the Square. Some thought that the men were drunk! Peter upon receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit began to address the crowd partly to defend the apostle’s character that they were not drunk and also to proclaim the Gospel! Notice: Peter took his new “Spiritual gift” and used it by sharing it! Subsequently, they went from the death of fear. Hiding in the upper room then it was suddenly quite dramatically like a switch was thrown on. Something quite amazing happened to the disciples at Pentecost. A few minutes before they were cowering in the upper room, they were afraid, confused, unsure, overwhelmed… who could blame them? First they saw Jesus crucified, buried, risen Jesus appearing them. Then they see Jesus taken up in a cloud! Now they are back in the upper-room again! Then came this incredible gift… the gift of the Holy Spirit! The church was born with life – New Life! It turned their lives around… and empowered by this amazing gift, they went out and turned the world upside down. One of the nine spiritual gifts we receive is the gift of knowledge. They took that gift and shared it with others. What did they do with this gift? They took the gift and shared t! They went out to the market place and shared the gospel the Good news of Jesus Christ! For us today, it is like someone has flipped the switch, in the beginning of the pandemic we were asked to stay home, we were all staying safe in our “upper rooms” now suddenly today we are now assembling. There is new Life back in our congregation! What do we do with this new life? The apostles received the new life of God the Holy Spirit. They could very well have said ok, Pentecost is nice, now we have this new life in this Church. Well let’s just go back to the upper room. They did not! The Church was meant not to sit in our upper rooms of our lives but to take our gifts into the market places of opportunities and tell people about Jesus the Christ! Sometimes we seem to be captors on the fast track of life. We’re like locomotives barreling down life’s tracks, having tight schedules to keep. We don’t have time to stop for regular worship, for prayer, for scripture, for devotion. We crowd our lives and pack our schedules with so many “commitments” that we feel like we can’t move! We often feel spiritually void and empty like we are marching to our own destruction. This Wuhan Virus this pandemic has given us a wakeup call. It has caused us to pause and to evaluate our lives. It has shown us what is really important and what is not. My brothers and sisters in Christ in our life crisis we need God’s closeness. Sometimes we need someone through personal courage to trip a switch… and send our life train to the open arms of Jesus… and to ultimate spiritual freedom. Peter said who ever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. The Holy Spirit is standing at the switch, to divert your life’s train to Jesus – the greatest gift of all. Maybe you need to be at the switch so to speak directing people from a life of destruction to a changed life in the Lord. In baptism we proclaim the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, if so…then I ask you Like the Dutch pastor said, “What have you done with such a gift?” Amen
“The Four Chaplains”
Sermon on Sunday May 24, 2020
A beautiful weekend God has made for us. This is traditionally the “kick off weekend” for our summer. Of all three summer holidays, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, I appreciate this one the most. Not because it is the first in a series of the three. But because of what it represents. Where Independence Day we celebrate our freedom from the tyranny of King George of England. Veterans Day we celebrate and give thanks to living Veterans. Memorial Day is a day set aside to honor those who have died protecting our freedoms from foreign aggressors. Unfortunately, stories of those who made the supreme sacrifice often fade from the collective memory of our nation. Unless their story is told so that the future generation not take their sacrifice as trivial or meaningless. I’d like to share one such story that should never fade from our nation’s collective memory. An article in the American Legion Magazine (Jan. 2015) recounts the events of one such story. On 23 January 1943, the US Transport Ship Dorchester left New York Harbor bound for Greenland carrying 902 officers, servicemen and civilian workers. The Dorchester was escorted by three Coast Guard cutters. Six ships were traveling in a convoy through the icy waters of the North Atlantic. All was well, Germen U-boats named Wolf Packs prowled these waters searching for Allied Ships. On February 2, one of the cutters detected the presence of a submarine but failed to find the submarine’s position. The C.O. of the Dorchester ordered the men to sleep in their clothing, with life jackets close at hand. They were only 150 miles from Greenland and daylight would bring air cover from the American base. Down in the old converted cruise ship’s stifling hold, four U.S. Army chaplains circulated among the frightened young men, some lying wide-eyed in their bunks, others nervously playing cards or shooting dice. Those chaplains were Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Catholic; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, Reformed. Chatting with the troops, the chaplains eased tensions, calmed fears and passed out soda crackers to alleviate seasickness. During the early morning hours of February 3, 1943 the Germans spotted the convoy. Through his periscope the Captain of German U-boat U-223 targeted the Troop Transport Ship Dorchester, its torpedoes found their mark, a direct hit. The chaplains were still up just before 1:00 when the torpedo struck. The torpedo exploded in the boiler room, destroying the ship’s electrical power and releasing suffocating clouds of steam and ammonia gas. The tremendous explosion threw soldiers from bunks and the lights went out as the stricken ship listed to starboard, sinking fast. There was inadequate steam to sound the full 6-whistle signal to abandon ship. Some of the crew didn’t realize how sever the damage was. Those not trapped below rushed topside. Amid the shriek of escaping steam and frantic blasts of the ship’s whistle, dazed men stumbled about the dark crowded decks. Some gripped the rails, too struck with horror to head toward the lifeboats. The four chaplains quickly moved among the bewildered men, calming them, directing them to life rafts, urging them to escape the doomed ship. Many had forgotten their life jackets. The chaplains located a supply in a deck locker and passed them out. When the bin was empty they pulled off their own lifejackets and made others put them on. A severe list prevented launch of some port side lifeboats, and some lifeboats capsized through overcrowding. Only two of the 14 lifeboats were successfully used in abandoning ship. Soldiers leaped into the icy sea. They clutched the gunwales of the two overloaded lifeboats, clung to doughnut-like rafts or floated alone. Some men were insulated by the thick fuel oil that coated them and floated in lifejackets for eight hours. Loss of power prevented the crew from sending a radio distress signal (S.O.S.), and no rockets or flares were launched to alert the escorts. When rescue vessels arrived survivors in the icy water were so stiff from cold they could not even grasp the cargo nets on rescue vessels. Survivors recount, the four chaplains remained on the ship’s slanted aft deck, standing together, arms linked, heads bowed in prayer, the men floating in the icy waters could hear the prayers of the chaplains, as the Dorchester slipped beneath the waves. They took off their life jackets and gave them to the terrified men knowing they would not have a chance in the Icy waters of the North Atlantic. When additional rescue ships arrived on February 4 hundreds of dead bodies were seen floating on the water, kept up by their life jackets." That night in February 1943 when nearly 700 men lost their lives in one of the greatest naval tragedies of World War II. This story is a fitting tribute to a Rabi, a priest, and two protestant pastors - four clergymen – four chaplains - four men who gave their lives so that others could live. Jesus said, “No greater love has he that he gives up his own life for his friend.” But I believe that it would be good for us to consider what Memorial Day really represents, for its very name calls us to remember. Memorial Day is a day to set aside a single day for our nation to remember those who made the supreme sacrifice for their country. In most churches especially liberal churches Memorial Day is ignored because it is not one of the holy days on the church calendar. I was told by one very liberal Professor in seminary that I should ignore all national Holidays, never sing any patriotic hymns, and if given the chance remove the American Flag from the sanctuary. As you can see I didn’t put much credence in that advice. That seems to be the direction of the more liberal churches are going. I think how sad. I am not a pastor who cares to travel with them down that cold and lonely road of abandoning Memorial Day. For I believe any nation that losses its gratitude and indebtedness for the sacrifice that men and women have made for this great country – then this nation has lost its soul. There are many grateful Americans who refuse to allow Baseball Games, backyard BBQ’s, trips to amusement parks to steal this day from men and women who have fallen to win and protect the freedoms that we enjoy albeit often take for granted. Its easy for us to forget about the 1,354,664 men and women went off to war never to return home again. My dear brothers and sisters in Christ I submit to you there is another number that you’ll never be able to find recorded anywhere but I believe it is equally important: the number of wives and mothers whose sons and husbands never returned home, whose sons and husbands -wives and daughters rest in the cold graves of Yorktown, Gettysburg, Anzio, Wake Island, still unrecovered in the Jungles of Viet Nam, or whose graves are the cold waters of the Oceans. Or husbands or sons killed at Fallujah, Baghdad, Ramadi. These women often died of a broken heart of grief yet their number isn’t found on any list. We must never forget. In fact, every American ought to recognize this day out of their patriotic duty to their country and in honor of those who spilled their blood to make America what she is today--free, strong, and a nation worth fighting for and saving. Because men and women have died for this country, we have the right to preach God’s word freely. We have the right to live at peace in our own homes. We have the right to pursue peace, prosperity and happiness. Thank God for those who died to make us free. We so often turned this day into nothing more than a “kick off to the summer” with little thought as to its meaning. Little thought as to their sacrifice. How little we think of those who sacrificed for us. Sacrificed. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice on the cross so that we might be spiritually free. Like Memorial Day, so many people don’t even give that a second thought. He fought and defeated Satan, but in the process he died for you. Each Sunday morning the faithful gather to remember his sacrifice and his Easter triumph! So many others take the day for granted. As we prepare to enter into a day to remember those who died for liberty, it is fitting to remember the one who died to set us free from spiritual tyranny. The One who saved our souls from Hell’s damnation! Jesus fought the armies of Hell that we might have liberty in his holy name. We celebrate Memorial Day once a year to remember those who died for freedom, but every week is a celebration of the Memorial of Christ. Let’s parallel our nations Memorial Day with the Memorial Day of Christ. Because for the Christian, every Sunday is a memorial day to gather and worship the Christ. Moreover, everyday we ought to have gratitude not only those four clergymen- four chaplains –those four men aboard the Worchester who gave up their life jackets for others to survive but all those who have died for freedom’s sake in all our nation’s wars. May God bless you and may God bless America. Amen
“Jesus In The Market Place Of Ideas”
Sermon on Sunday, May 17, 2020
Some of my earliest ideas of Jesus came from my Sunday school teachings at my church of St Paul’s in Summit Hill. PA. We children gathered around, sitting in miniature chairs singing “Jesus Loves Me”. I use to love watching the teachers move cutout figures across a flannel graph board. I recall listening to stories about a Jesus who cared for and loved his children. But to be frank, I associated Jesus with homemade cookies and chocolate milk delivered by Mr. Henry our town milkman. A picture hung on the basement wall of the church that pictured a Jesus with long flowing hair, face thin and handsome. His robe scarlet as he held a small sleeping lamb in his arms. In another room was a picture of Jesus as a “lamb toting shepherd” retrieving the one lamb that strayed away from the flock. These were my ideas of Jesus through my childhood years. A loving placid Jesus. Time passed. At eighteen years of age, while in the military I found myself stationed in San Diego CA. Often times on weekends my friends John, Charlie and I would leave the base and spend the day in Balboa Park throwing the Frisbee and just hanging out. More often than not we would be approached by a person who would have a pleasant smile and strike up a conversation. Eventually we realized that they would be associated Zen Buddhist, Hare Krishna , cults of all flavors. They would often invite us back to their headquarters/temple/church. We would go, not that we were looking for “Jesus” or a new religion but we were genuinely interested in what they believed – their belief system. Besides, it was a pleasant and inexpensive way to spend a day. Over time, we heard chanting, tambourines and saw dancing. We heard about a god that was foreign to me and a Jesus unrecognizable to the Jesus I knew as a child. These were strange ideas to me. I believe I can speak for Charlie or John when I say we were never tempted in the slightest to join in their philosophies or faith system. For some of the people that was ok, for others they would exert pressure. In the early 70’s in Southern California if you were shopping for a religion, a philosophy there was no shortages especially in Balboa Park– it was quite the market place of ideas. Looking back they were the forerunners of the “New Age Movement” here in America. One of the great challenges for Christians today is holding fast to what we believe in the great marketplace of ideas present in the World of the twenty-first century. It’s like living in a Wal-Mart superstore of beliefs. That’s really nothing new. For that is exactly the situation the Apostle Paul found himself in as we read our lesson from the Book of Acts. I must set the scene for today’s scriptures. The Apostle Paul is arguably the greatest missionary recorded in Holy Scriptures. Paul had three major missionary journeys. This is Paul’s second missionary journey. This is now 51-53 AD. This missionary journey lasted about 18 months. Paul just left Thessalonica and Brea. Now Paul has arrived in Athens and is waiting for Timothy and Silas to arrive. He must have been wandering around the city like a tourist. Far from being impressed by the glory that was Greece like the great Parthenon, “he was distressed” because the city was full of idols. The sheer beauty of Athens receded from his mind’s eye as he saw nothing but idolatry. The Athenians prided themselves on the superabundance of temples, statues and altars dedicated to mythological gods – male and female. Athens was the marketplace of ideas. Just about any philosophy or religion known to the Western mind could be found there. Paul had been sent to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ in Europe. His practice was to speak in the Jewish synagogues of the cities he visited. Paul and the Jews spoke the same language, literally and figuratively. Paul could show his fellow Jews how Jesus was the fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy, the culmination of God’s promises to Abraham. They had a common starting point, and they worked from the same Scriptures. Not so much so in Athens. But, Paul was struck with how religious the non-Jews were. They were what we might call seekers. They were looking for something to fill that empty place in the spirit of every person, and they gave every religious or philosophical option a fair hearing. So Paul began to speak in the agora (marketplace) about Jesus. Some of the leading philosophers of Athens were so intrigued by what Paul said that they invited him to go with them to the Areopagus (Air/re/op/o/gus ), also known as Area’s Hill by the Greeks and Mars Hill by the Romans. Now this is a big deal! Its like going to the Supreme Court and congress and arguing your ideas! But now here in Athens Paul wasn’t talking to the Jews. The Ten Commandments didn’t mean a thing to the Greeks. They didn’t have a clue what the prophets had said. Paul couldn’t appeal to a tradition they had grown up with—one that their grandparents taught them. Paul had brought Jesus to the ancient marketplace of ideas. What does Paul have to teach us - who follow Christ in an increasingly diverse world that we find ourselves in today? First, Paul saw there was a connection between the questions the Athenians were asking, and the answers provided by the teachings of Jesus. Athens was full of statues of gods the Greeks worshiped: Zeus, Athena, Ares, etc. Among those statues, Paul had noticed one labeled, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” The Greeks wanted to be sure they hadn’t offended some god by overlooking him/her, so this statue covered their bases. Every religion and every philosophy—every human endeavor—seeks to satisfy the longings of the heart. So that’s where Paul started, with what every human being has in common—that need for forgiveness, for acceptance, for love, for purpose, for meaning, that need to be validated – that you matter. Paul then explained to them that what we hunger and thirst for is God. The Good News of the gospel for us today is that we don’t have to wander through the marketplace of religions. We don’t have to travel to Balboa Park in San Diego to find meaning/fulfillment for our life. God sent Jesus to bring us home to Him, to that one in whom we live and move and have our being. The proof of that love is that Jesus died for us and that God raised him from the dead so we can share that eternal life. This is what struck the Athenians as so novel. They had never heard of anything like the resurrection. Paul identified the need the Athenians shared with people of every time and every place. He proclaimed the good news that Jesus Christ fills that need. But Paul started with what everyone has in common: our need for spiritual fulfillment. Things haven’t changed. There are people that we know who are very much like the Athenians. They long for fulfillment, they long to feel genuine love, they long for acceptance. Like the Athenians they look for it in false gods. They look for acceptance by joining the wrong kind of groups. They go along to get along. They have a spiritual emptiness inside them that they try to fill with alcohol, drugs. They worship material things, bigger car, bigger house, fancier clothes – but this materialist god never satisfies. Paul is telling Athenians and us that there is a God that they are searching for. Paul explained you won’t find him in gold, silver, or stone. You will find him in Scripture, waiting to be revealed to you anew. This God can meet your needs and desires his name is Jesus. Open your heart to him. Allow him into your life. You will be spiritually filled and satisfied! Amen