"The Power of Love"
Sermon on Sunday, July 26, 2020
The theme for our lesson from Roman’s is love. I thought about this subject of love. Suddenly songs of love came flooding into my thoughts. Musical artists like Nat King Cole, Bobby Vinton, and Barry Manalow. To songs like Endless Love – Diana Ross, “I will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston. “The Power of Love” by Hewy Lewis is a song that describes love’s awesome power. How many songs were written about love? 4 This question is impossible to answer because love is one of the most common themes in music. Thus, there are millions of songs about love: losing love, finding love, missing a loved one, wishing for love, searching for love, being grateful for love, etc. Love is a powerful emotion, so powerful that it has been recorded in Homer’s Odyssey that love for Helen of Troy “launched a thousand ships” its no wonder because love can drive us “Crazy” sings Patsy Kline. I ask you, can there be a more overused term in the English language than love? It shows up not only in popular songs but in movies, television has dedicated entire networks to it like Lifetime and Hallmark Channels, even commercials use love as a catchword, you’ll love the car, shoes, food, etc. It is used to describe how you feel about your spouse, your kids, your cat, your new car, and the way the new and improved detergent takes care of the “ring around your shirt collar.” Don’t you just love it? Tragically, the term love is tossed about in our culture that many of us may have little real understanding of what it truly 5 means. A wonderful starting point for such knowledge is our scripture – particularly verses 31-39 – in which the Apostle Paul affirms the awesome, remarkable power of God’s love for us, His children. What does God’s love mean for us? The Apostle Paul suggests three remarkable promises that are ours because of God’s awesome power of love. Have you seen the commercials for Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes? The “Prize Patrol” visits people’s homes to deliver the good news that they have won the $1,000 a week for life sweepstakes! Or have you seen the ads for the state lottery that imply that investing just $1 in a lottery ticket could provide everything you’ll ever need. Now there is a TV show on TV called “My Lottery Dream House” where the average everyday person is shopping for a mansion spending their lottery winnings on their dream home. If only it was that easy! My friends the only real source of true provision is found in God’s love. God the Father – the creator of the vast universe – 6 loves us so much that He willingly gave his own Son to die on our behalf. Now that’s love! If our heavenly Father provides for us this ultimate provision, should we worry about His willingness to provide anything else we truly need? Holy scripture is filled with examples of God’s provisions for His children, but one such example is found in the earlier portion of this lesson (Vv 26-27); God’s provision of the Holy Spirit, who ministers on our behalf. Whatever you need, our God will supply it “according to His riches in glory”. God’s love offers the promise of His provision yes. God’s love offers the promise of His protection. Jesus Christ is the grantor of our protection; his death and resurrection are the basis of his intercession on our behalf. As Paul noted in v, 31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” I remember a show in which a small boy in the neighborhood has grown tired of being constantly abused by the bigger boys, and the day came when he finally stood up to them. Unknown to the small boy, his big brother quietly came up and stood a few feet 7 behind him, and when the neighborhood bullies saw the older brother they took off running! In a sense, Jesus is like that older brother who protects us, keeps us safe, and in his care. That doesn’t mean we won’t encounter problems or tough times, but it means that nothing can take us out of God’s protective love and care. God’s love offers the promise of His provision and the promise of His protection. God’s love offers the promise of His Presence. Our lesson from the book of Romans tells us that nothing, absolutely nothing can take the believer out of the loving presence of God. Paul goes through a list of potential hazards – both physical and spiritual – and assures us that God’s awesome love is greater and more powerful than anything that might try to remove us from His presence. Paul had certainly experienced opposition in his own life – critics, beatings, imprisonment – and eventually he would face execution. Yet he knew that God’s love was greater than anything 8 he would ever encounter, and that knowledge gave him confidence to serve Christ with boldness. God’s love is a force more formidable than any other. Although, it is at times invisible - it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could. The power of love is amazing. Anytime someone (or something!) comes from a place of love and compassion, the ripple effect is incredible. Sometimes you can actually see it, such as when some of our youth got together and delivered meals on wheels. Other times you feel it. The energy of God’s love is one of the highest energies I believe we’ll ever experience. Hewey Lewis in his Song “The Power of Love” sings that love is so powerful it can change a person forever. That is so true when it comes to the power of God’s love. Once you experience you’ll be changed forever. 9 Have you experienced God’s love in your own life? That remarkable journey can begin today. Allow Jesus to come into your life, don’t just know who Jesus is but know Jesus as your savior. I promise the love that you feel will change you forever. Amen Let us pray the prayer our Lord has given us. LORD’S PRAYER C Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our sis, as we forgive those who sin against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen. Now as we depart from this gathering. ….May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the lord’s shine on you and be gracious unto you may + the Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace. Bless you my friends.
“Which Wolf Will Win?”
Sermon on Sunday, July 22, 2020
One of my favorite theologians, Mr. Rogers, used to say: “Have you ever noticed that the very same people who are bad sometimes are the very same people who are good sometimes?” It reminds me of a story called, “Two Wolves.” It goes like this: “An old Cherokee once told his grandson about a fight that was going on inside of him. He said it was between two wolves. One was evil: Anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, gossip, resentment, and false pride. The other was good: Joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The grandson thought about it for a moment and then asked his grandfather, ‘Which wolf do you think will win?’ The old Cherokee replied, ‘The one I feed.’” 1 We seem to live in a world of absolutes a dichotomy of society. Yes-No, Up- down, right-wrong, good-evil, us-them. We have seen riots in our major cities like Chicago, Portland and Seattle, police officers attacked, mobs traverse the streets looting, burning attacking property owners all the while these mobs claim peace but all we see is violence. Seattle mayor said these peaceful protesters are having a “summer of love.” Meanwhile they took over portions of the city of Seattle, barricaded themselves inside, would not allow police or emergency medical personnel inside. As expected inside their “zone” during this “summer of love” there were assaults, rapes and murders. When will they stop? Which wolf will win? The old Cherokee replied, “The one I feed”. New York City seems to have the worst of it. This week the Chief of police while trying to enforce the rule of law was twice hit in the head with a baseball bat! Since their Mayor seems to not only to condone this but his policies foster a climate for this behavior to flourish! Is he feeding the evil wolf? What should be done? I thought about an old science fiction movie starring Kurt Russell, Ernest Borgnine and Adrienne Barbeau should we model the 1981 move “Escape From New York”. Seal off Manhattan make it a maximum security prison, have the military secure the bridges. Allow these people to rule their little kingdom all by themselves? In the movie New York City became filthy, trash in the streets, buildings falling into disrepair and collapsing. Rapes, murders, assaults, the strong taking advantage of the weak. Much like the CHAZ zone in Seattle. These people deserve each other. Am I being serious about locking these rioters/anarchist in a city all to themselves? No of course not I’m just being fatuous. What would Jesus have us Christians to do? Jesus said in verse 30, “Let both grow together until the harvest…” Jesus makes it clear in today’s gospel that the people of the Church and the people of the world are going to progress through this life together. Knowing this is instructive for both groups. First, it is a warning to the Church to avoid two extremes: the Church must avoid compromise with worldly philosophies that are unacceptable to God. Many Denominations, Christian’s institutions and colleges, pastors and individuals have abandoned Biblical truths and witness. They go along to get along. They seem to seek the accolades of the PC Culture more than they fear and love God. Then there are other churches, pastors and Christians who seek to completely isolate themselves from society for fear of P.C pollution or even retribution. My friends, the Church must avoid seeking isolation from worldly people but we must be faithful to the Biblical standards God 1 Philip W. McLarty, The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares expects from us. The idea is to be in the world but not of the world, just as Jesus modeled with His own life. This is a warning to the church to avoid either of those two extremes. Second, it is a wake-up call for the people of the world. There needs to be understanding that togetherness does not mean sameness. However in today’s society there seems to be little room for conversation. This week a young girl told me that because she supports Christian/Conservative ideas her friend shout at her, call her looser, a bigot! She said they don’t even want to hear what I have to say, my thoughts and reasons. The conversation must begin. But one side just wants to shout down the other. Are their goals a homogeneous society? It is clear from our gospel that although coexistence is a reality, people of the world and we, the people of the Kingdom are very different. We must co-exist but in today’s sociological climate it is difficult for practicing Christians. Jesus goes on to say (verses 38-39) that externally Christians and Non-Christians often look alike. They may work at the same office or factory. They may attend the same school. Live in the same neighborhood and be involved in many of the same community activities. This is true because both groups are affected by the norms of their culture. But internally, they are totally different. We have two wolves fighting inside of us. Luther called this “the Old Adam” inside. Jesus tells us in spite of their similarity in appearance, one has a Kingdom relationship a good wolf, and the other has a relationship with the evil one the evil wolf. Therefore, external can be very deceptive. We need to look into our own hearts to discover with whom we have a relationship. Which wolf will win? Which wolf will you feed? It is clear from the apocalyptic theme of our gospel that Christians and non- Christians will not coexist and look alike forever. A separation is sure to come. It will be like Kurt Russell’s “Escape from New York.” The wicked will be all in one place – no escape. The wicked will suffer eternal destruction while Christians will, “shine like the sun”. The final reality of Kingdom life helps one realize what is most crucial is a new citizenship that comes through a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. As we watch the nightly news it may seem like the evil wolf is winning. After all the evil wolf is constantly fed with a steady diet of acceptance, tolerance and favor served up by the news outlets and liberal city governments ironically whose very cities they are burning. It seems to me that the old Cherokee man had a good point when he told his grandson that there is an evil and a good wolf fighting in each one of us. Which one will win? The one that we feed. Feed the good wolf by because its not enough to look like a Christian; we must act and live like one. We must feed the “good wolf” that is inside each one of us. Feed him God’s Word, block out time for prayer, and gather together and worship the God who says all lives matter, white, black, Asian, rich poor, young old. Jesus willingly paid the price at Calvary because to Jesus all lives matter yours mine, black lives and white lives, Latino and Hispanic lives, women and men young and old all lives matter. Amen This is the Gospel of the Lord Praise to You O Christ!
"Our Heart Condition"
Sermon on Sunday, July 12,2020
Our assignment for the very first week of our first semester in our Systematic Theology class was to form groups of five students and prepare to do a presentation to the class describing “The Kingdom of God”. At first I thought this is pretty easy, for me the Kingdom of God is Sunday morning where the word is proclaimed and the sacraments are administered. One student said, “The Kingdom of God is in the basement of his home church where they set up a soup kitchen and serve the homeless. One student said for her the Kingdom of God was when she first held her newborn baby in her arms. Everyone had their own idea of what the Kingdom of God was. Precisely defining the Kingdom of God is difficult. Indeed, even Jesus himself was often illusive about it. He did not speak in absolutes; rather, he spoke in parables. Such is our gospel for this morning. Jesus compared the Kingdom to a sower going out and spreading seed. Some of it falls upon hard ground and is unable to take root. Some of it falls on shallow ground, and although it initially sprouts it later withers away. Then some seed falls upon good earth and comes to fruition and produces a harvest. We are to understand, of course, that the sower is God, the seed is the Word, and the various types of soil represent us--you and me. On the surface it doesn't sound as though God is a very good farmer. After all, most of the seed that is strewn about never takes root. But this is not really a story about the Sower or the seed. It is a story about different types of soil, or to put it another way, the responses of different types of people to the Word of the God. The question for us this morning is: what is the state of our hearts when the seeds of the gospel are sown with us? With that in mind, let us examine the various conditions mentioned in this parable. The parable of the Sower has been called the parable of parables. Like a marquee, it stands at the beginning of the 13 th Chapter of Matthew. Allow me to set the scene: earlier in the day Jesus and his disciples were plucking grain from a stalk because they were hungry problem was that it was on the Sabbath. They were accosted by the Pharisees because they did a type of work on the Sabbath. They then went to the synagogue, there they found a man with a crippled hand, Jesus healed the man’s hand – again He was berated. Then the Pharisees asked Jesus to do a miracle for them – He refused. The Pharisees were so indignant to Jesus they practically ran Him out of the synagogue on a rail. Now, I don’t know if this is historically accurate and it is only my guess, but I think that maybe Jesus saw the pain and humiliation in his disciple’s faces. As though you were a child and you just witnessed your parents doing a good deed, then being yelled at by someone in authority. You would feel terrible. They accosted Jesus, belittled His ministry, and discredited Him. It seems that Jesus is offering today’s parable as a way of saying it’s ok, don’t worry, you will run into all types of people when you do ministry. Ok, but I believe we can go a little further and say, each one of these fields can be the condition of our individual hearts from time to time. As the story goes, a farmer sows his field with seed. Unlike modern farming techniques that plow and disk the ground before sowing, first-century farmers cast seed over unplowed ground and then turned the seed into the dirt. The farmer in Jesus’ parable has a particularly pesky plot of land In my judgment, our Lord’s interpretation gives clear focus to the many kinds of people in the Gospel story who, having heard the Word, respond in a variety of ways. But I ask you to think about this? Could the field represent just one person in whom we find all four types of soil? Could the soil represent the condition of our heart at various times in our lives? It seems that we can find within all of us the path, rocky ground, thorns, and good soil. How so? Let me explain… The path could represent the worn roads of life where, because we travel them so much, there is not much chance the Word will grow. Jobs, hobbies, habits, social and service organizations, long-term loyalties both political and social organizations often find little place for God’s Word. Hence, these become a distraction to our faith. We volunteer to work on the Sabbath, we head for an amusement park on Sunday mornings, for whatever reason that we just got out of the habit of worshiping, of praying, of studying scripture. These people don’t want to hear about the Gospel. They have better things to do. We can go deeper than this. I recall a mother who had a terminally ill child. I was with her, in the child’s last hours. As the mother and I sat by the hospital bed, I was nothing more than a quiet presence. The mother’s heart was hardened through the months of questioning God, yelling at God, arguing with God, being mad at Him. I knew although she wanted me with her, she wasn’t open to hearing about a God of Grace, mercy or love. Our hearts can be hardened to the seed of the Gospel – even temporarily hardened by our circumstances. The rocky ground might well be those parts of our lives that quickly welcome the good news. In personal crisis we long for good things to happen where there has only been difficulty. Perhaps losing their job due to corporate downsizing. You haven’t studied for a test in school, “help me get through this test and I will go to church for the next 5 weeks. Or Lord if you get me out of this mess I promise I will serve you”. When life’s storm clouds pass and the sun is once again shining, we forget our desperate prayer and its business as usual. I believe we all experienced the rocky spots of life or the rocky fields of our hearts. The thorns may be the parts of our lives where sin manifests itself as perhaps prejudice towards people who are of a different race, culture, opposing political views this bias worms its way into our lives. We develop a distain for others and this tends to overwhelms us like weeds taking over a neglected backyard garden. I submit to you my friends that at various stages of our lives we all experienced the different type of fields, but my brothers and sisters in Christ please hear me when I say that in our hearts there is far more good soil than we can imagine. We are made in the image of God. Like any farmer, sometimes we must prepare the good soil to be receptive of the seed. How would we prepare the fields of our hearts? We can prepare our hearts for the seed of the gospel through prayer, worship, and service. Then in that good soil, God can bring forth in our lives a good and bountiful crop. What’s the parable saying to us this morning? There exists within us all a field of good soil that. Because of what life has thrown at us, some of our fields may be a little rocky, or hardened or might have some thorns here and there. Like any good farmer we must cultivate that soil or “condition our hearts” and watch the gospel grow in your life. Will there be droughts yes, will there be the occasional weed that springs up in our midst, yes. Allow God to plant the seed, He will water it, and watch – there will be a great harvest of faith in our lives. Amen