I Must Stay at Your House!

 

Merritt Island Presbyterian Church

slide07

“He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 

slide08

 

2A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief toll-collector and was rich. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.  4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 

slide09

 

5When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him , ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’  6So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’8Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ 9Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, For this man, too, is a son of Abraham.  10For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’”

slide19

***

I arrived at the Fall Festival at 6 last night–and I could hardly believe my eyes! Children were roaming all over the church grounds, dressed as Tinker Bells, Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, princesses and witches.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

I even saw a little baby in a stroller dressed as the Flash!

slide25

 

 

The adult costumes were great, too! Jim asked me, “Have you seen Pat Smith? I saw Sterling, but I don’t see Pat.” He had walked right past Pat in her witch’s get up, without realizing who she was!

witch

 

I talked to parents as little Trick-or-Treaters wandered from car trunk to car trunk in our circular drive, cautiously accepting candy from strangers and whispering, “Thank you,” as their mothers prompted them.

slide26slide27

I stepped into the fellowship hall, and I am sure my jaw dropped. It was packed!! I greeted children, parents and grandparents–many of whom I recognized from Kids Klub and the MIPC Preschool and Childcare center. Our members were busy serving in a variety of ways! Greeting, cooking and serving hotdogs and chips, helping kids decorate bags and cupcakes, taking photos, cleaning up, and running the games–ring toss, ping pong ball toss, fishing, and needle in a haystack. Courtney was painting faces. Caitlyn gave me a Hello Kitty tattoo.

slide28slide29slide30slide31slide32slide33

 

noah

We ate through 104 hotdogs–and would have eaten more, but the dogs were gone before the people stopped coming!

All I could think was, “Wow, thank you, God! And thank you to all our hardworking volunteers!” We prayed for children and families to come. And they came. And our church was there–loving, giving, and serving–sharing our joy.

What our congregation did last night for the community, the church and the Lord was to be a good steward of our gifts and talents, time and energy and other resources–all that we have and all that we are. All that God has made us to be. For Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.”

I am excited to see what the Lord is doing in and through us! I can’t wait to see how God will use us next to build His Kingdom!

***

The story of Zacchaeus is something that children sing about–the “wee little man… (who) climbed up sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.” And though it IS a HAPPY story, a JOYFUL story, don’t be distracted and miss that it’s about stewardship– giving of ourselves TO the Lord, giving what we have FOR the Lord. The example of the good and faithful steward is a person of low status, employed in a job that makes his neighbors LOATHE him. As a toll collector, he takes money from the Jewish community and pays it to the Roman Empire. Jewish people who worked as toll collectors came from low status backgrounds; they weren’t born to families with land and money. This man– Zacchaeus– is a kind of entrepreneur, a self-made man. He is a “chief toll collector”–an expression only Luke uses and only found in this one NT passage. He supervises other toll collectors.

At this point in Luke, when his audience learns that he is a) a toll collector and b) rich, they are prepared to hate Zacchaeus, too! Up to now, though, Luke portrays toll collectors as people who are Jesus’ friends–people who are receptive to the Good News and are faithful. But Luke does NOT normally portray rich people favorably. In Luke 18:18, Jesus encounters a ruler who asks, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus recites some of the 10 Commandments. When the ruler answers, “I have kept all these since my youth,” Jesus says there is one thing lacking. “Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When the man hears this, “he became sad; for he was very rich.” Jesus looks at him and says, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”

After we learn he is rich, we find out that Zacchaeus is short–another mark against him in his competitive, macho, Greek society that worships beautiful, muscular, big, powerful bodies.

slide44

Luke continues to startle his first audience when the short, rich, chief toll collector is willing to humiliate himself and his family by running and climbing a large tree –something that wealthy, adult men did not do! His behavior reveals Zacchaeus’ heart– he is eager not only to “see Jesus” but to know him!! He yearns to meet the Lord who eats and drinks with and befriends outcasts– “sinners” like him.

 

slide45

Then comes the personal invitation–and the revelation that not only is Zaccheaus looking for Jesus; Jesus is looking for him!! He knows his name, even though Jesus has never met him. And I love this thought–the Son of God wants to come into his home. What an intimate thing we do when we enter into another’s home and eat their food! Jesus, though he is only passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem and his life-giving sacrifice on a cross–will take time away from his public ministry to lodge with Zacchaeus overnight. Jesus wants a relationship with Zacchaeus! Jesus wants to personally bring Zacchaeus–and ALL sinners–his salvation!

Jesus says, “Zacchaeus. Hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”

***

Zacchaeus joyfully obeys and is “happy to welcome him” or literally, “rejoicing, he welcomed him.” He is the opposite of the crowd that grumbles, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”

The next scene is when Zacchaeus is standing–presumably in his home–and sharing his heart with the Lord. The verbs in this passage aren’t future tense, as the NRSV translates! They are present tense. What he really says is, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor.” This means he is already going way beyond the Old Testament tithe of 10% of the increase. Zacchaeus gives 50%! He goes on, “And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I pay back four times as much.”

Hearing of Zacchaeus’ integrity and generosity to the poor, Jesus declares, “Today, salvation has come to this house!” It isn’t because of what Zacchaeus does that earns him salvation, just as it isn’t our good works that earn us God’s forgiveness and eternal life. Zacchaeus’ giving reveals his faith! He knows to whom he belongs–and that his life is not his own. Jesus holds him up as an example to those who profess to be God’s children because they are descendants of Abraham, but fail to live by faith. They don’t give; they don’t love. This is what Christ means by, “For this man, too, is a son of Abraham!” Zacchaeus embodies all the qualities of those fit for the Kingdom of God.

Friends, make sure the Lord really is number one in your life! Does your giving reveal a strong faith? With God’s help, let us seek to be good stewards of all God’s gifts to us! Let us keep on revealing our faith not just by our words but through acts of lovingkindness and generosity. We will be blessed, as we were last night!

slide55slide56

We are still sinners, in need of God’s grace. We are far from perfect! The Good News is that Christ loves sinners and desires to be in loving relationship with us! God knows our names! He wants to GIVE us ALL salvation through His Son, who gave himself for us!

slide58slide59slide60

 

Will you welcome him into your home?  Will you welcome Him into your heart?

Seek the Lord eagerly! You will find that Christ is eagerly seeking you!

He calls out to us, like he did to Zaccheaus, “I must stay at your house today!”

slide61

 

Let us pray. Holy One, thank you for seeking us eagerly, for knowing us so well and calling us by name. Thank you for forgiving us for our sins and for desiring to live in our hearts and in our homes and be in loving relationship with us! Thank you, Lord, for using us to serve the community through wonderful outreach events such as our Fall Festival and for stirring many children and families to come and be blessed. Thank you for the kind volunteers who willingly and faithfully give of their time, talents, hearts and minds, money and other resources so that we may continue our ministries through this congregation. Help us, Lord, to touch the world by giving and loving, more and more, sharing the joy of your salvation–a free gift to all who believe, accept and receive it. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, Redeemer and Lord. Amen.

 

 

“God-breathed”

slide06

 

Merritt Island Presbyterian Church

10 Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11my persecutions,

slide08

 

and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch,

slide09

Iconium,

slide10

and Lystra.

slide11

What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.

slide12

 

12Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. 14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it,15and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

slide13

 

16All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

slide14

4In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: 

slide17

 

2proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. 3For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. 5As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

***

   The 4-year olds smiled as they filed into our activities room one Tuesday morning not long ago. They sat down criss-cross applesauce on the rug.

slide23

 

Cheryl Carson and I had eagerly anticipated the arrival of the two VPK classes from the MIPC Preschool and Child Care Center.

slide22

 

It was our second “chapel” worship of the school year. At the first chapel, Cheryl, our Faith Formation Ministries Director, and I had introduced the song–“Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah! Praise Ye the Lord!” After our greeting at the second chapel, one little girl–Sophia or Reina– called out, “Aren’t we going to sing a song???” It was a perfect segue. “Yes, let’s sing!” we said. This time, Cheryl taught them the motions to “Hallelu, Hallelu” while I played the piano. One side of the room stood up when we sang, “Hallelu, Hallelujah.” The other side stood up at “Praise Ye the Lord!” Even one little boy, who didn’t want to sing at first, fell in love with the song when he got to jump up and down. “Let’s do it again!” he said, giggling. Then, Cheryl read the Creation story from a children’s Bible storybook.

 

The children joined in when Cheryl read, “And God saw that it was good.”

When we got to the creation of the animals, Sophia asked, “What about the people???” “Yes, they come next,” Cheryl said. She told them about God creating human beings in His image and breathed life into them. Cheryl led them in a simple prayer in which they echoed the words.

slide29

     We ended both chapel services by leading the children to make a “prayer train” that began with the words, “We pray for…” Then the children, one at a time, would stand up and call the name of another child.

slide31

 

 

Soon everyone, including the adults, had been prayed for and were on the “train” that carried them back to their classrooms.

slide34

 

 

Along the way, we passed Miss Dolly and her little “bus” of 1-year-olds exploring God’s great world.

     It’s hard to leave the children once we’re there. They want hugs. They want us to stay and play. I always spend a little time talking with them. It’s good for them to get to know “Pastor Karen,” though they probably don’t know what a pastor is! It’s also a blessing for me just to be with them. And this is one of the many reasons I knew God was calling me to serve this church when I began to serve here a year ago–because of MIPC’s ministries for children and our desire to serve more families. I want to serve more families, too! I am uplifted when I see the young children’s joy for God’s Word and their enthusiasm to sing God’s praise! But the way they understand and accept God’s love and parts of the Bible that adults sometimes question, such as the story of Creation, is a mystery to me! The only way I can explain it is that it’s a supernatural thing!

 

***

     Christians were not the first to believe that ministry to young children was important. It goes back at least thousands of years in Judaism– to Abraham, when children are included in the covenant with the Lord and are circumcised, according to God’s command.

slide39

Orthodox Jewish families, from ancient times, are expected to teach Scripture to their children beginning when they are 5 years old, but they hear and sing God’s Word long before that. Psalm 8:2 says, “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.”

       We know how Jesus feels about the young children’s importance in the Kingdom. He lifts them up as models for believers!

slide42

 

“And they were bringing even their babies to Him,” says Luke 18:15-17, “so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

     Jesus himself is a child, in Luke 2:42, when we read how he engages in serious study of the Scriptures. He is just 12 years old when his parents accidentally leave him behind in Jerusalem after the Passover Feast ends. They find him days later at the Temple, “sitting amongst the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”

slide47

     Paul’s first “school” for faith is his own Jewish family. His father, he says in Acts 23:6, was a Pharisee. Timothy, however, lives in an interfaith family; his father is a “Greek”- not Jewish or Christian, as far as we know. His mother and grandmother are Jewish when they accept Jesus as the Messiah, risen from the dead. Paul says his friend has “sincere faith” (in 2 Timothy 1:5) “… that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.” Timothy, though we don’t know his age, answers the call to church leadership as a youth, urged on by his mentor, who says in 2 Tim. 4:12, “Let no one despise your youth (or look down on your youthfulness), but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”

     Timothy’s is not a traditional Jewish upbringing; he is not circumcised until he is at least a teenager. Paul wants him to accompany him on his missionary journey in Acts 16 and fears the Jewish people will not accept him unless he is circumcised.

slide51

But Timothy has a firm foundation in Scripture and sound teaching nurtured from childhood. In 2 Timothy 3:14-15– we read, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it (meaning Paul), and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

   Are you wondering what Paul means by “sacred writings”? The OT is the only Scripture for Christians during Paul’s time and throughout the age of the apostles, though Paul’s earlier letters, such as his letters to the Thessalonians, are ranked with “other Scriptures” as early as 2 Peter 3:15, “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.” Paul’s letters are written in the 50s or very early 60s– before the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John and probably Mark, which is the oldest gospel. The expression of “sacred writings” (in Greek–hiera grammata with no definite article–no “the”) is found only here in the Bible; normally the word for Scripture is graphe, which can mean a book of Scripture or Scripture as a whole.

     So how does studying the OT lead to salvation through Christ Jesus? The word translated “instruct you” is literally “make you wise” or “provide you with wisdom”– something lacking in the false and deceitful teachers espousing erroneous doctrine that Paul warns Timothy to avoid. What Paul is saying is that the key to understanding Scripture is faith in Christ Jesus, a faith that is made alive by the Spirit of God.

slide56

       Paul goes on. “All scripture (now Paul uses graphe for scripture ) is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The Greek word translated “inspired by God” — theopneustos–doesn’t appear anywhere else in the Bible! It means literally “breathed into by God” or “God-breathed.” Isn’t that beautiful? Scripture is opened to our understanding and given personal relevance to us when God breathes into it and gives it life, much like when He breathed life into us at Creation.

***

     Cheryl and I ran into cute little Sophia from the MIPC VPK class on the evening after our morning chapel. Sophia was the one who wanted to know when God created the people. She may also have been the one to say, “Aren’t we going to sing?!!” Sophia was with her parents at the Tuesday night church supper.

slide59

She entertained Cheryl and me with conversation throughout the meal. She is so smart! Before we began to eat, her mom said it was OK for me to take her picture, but be prepared for silly.

And here she is with her parents.

slide63

Afterward, Sophia enthusiastically helped us sing our grace for the gathering of adults and some children from the preschool and childcare center. With us extending personal invitations to the students, staff and families of the childcare center and passing out flyers to them with the menus each week, sometimes as many people from the center attend the meals as people from our congregation. Wouldn’t you like to join us next Tuesday night? Don’t you want to meet Sophia and her family–and the other families, too, and show them God’s love?

     For our grace, we sang the song Sophia learned in chapel when we had read about Creation and how God made human beings in His image– and breathed life into us! And I thought to myself, that day–the chapel, the meal with her family and her singing the song–it was a supernatural thing.

    Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah! Praise Ye the Lord!

Let us pray.

Holy God of mercy and grace, thank you for your God-breathed Word–our Old Testament and New– that teaches us all that we need to know for our salvation in Jesus Christ and shapes us into the people you want us to be. Help us to study your Word every day and encourage one another to dig more deeply into Scripture, welcoming the transformation of our hearts and lives and world. Lead us to gather around your Word in small groups in church, such as our women’s Bible study, adult Sunday school, and meetings inside and beyond our church walls. And teach us to pray–and to persist in prayer and never lose hope. Thank you for entrusting us to care for the children at MIPC. Please bring us more workers and leaders for your sake for our session and committees, preschool and childcare center, Sunday school, Kids Klub and youth group. Please bring us more children and youth to nurture in the faith and reveal your grace. For your Son says the Kingdom of God is “such as these.” Bless our teachers, assistants, directors and volunteers with joy, energy, creativity, patience, and love. Move us to give generously to support and improve our ministries for children, youth and young adults, to take risks, trust in you, and truly be good stewards of all that you have given us. In Christ we pray. Amen!

slide72

 

A Life of Joyful Thanks and Praise

 

slide01

Merritt Island Presbyterian Church

       On the way to Jerusalem,

slide02

Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him.

slide03

 

Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. 

slide06

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.  And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’

***

So, it has been an interesting week. I have now experienced my first hurricane with you.

slide11

When I was offered the call to Merritt Island last year, the one question I failed to ask the PNC was, “What about the hurricanes?”

slide13

 

I learned that everything in the yard that isn’t rooted or cemented needs to be brought inside or otherwise secured. I was advised, if we didn’t have windows covered with hurricane shutters or plywood, that we should at least tape them so glass wouldn’t fly everywhere if the windows broke.

 

These are what some of the houses in our neighborhood looked like before the storm.

 

We planned on being without power and water for several days, stocking up on batteries, candles, matches and drinking water. Melvyn the cat wasn’t worried at all!

slide20

 

On Wednesday–a few hours before the evacuation of the beaches and barrier islands–Leslie and I finished the bulletins for today. Then I stood looking around my office, wondering what I should do next to protect it from hurricane Matthew. I took all that was stored close to the floor and put it up on shelves or tables, including the stuffed animals I keep for visiting children.

slide21

 

I packed and took home my computer, my wedding picture

slide22

 

and children’s baby pictures, and all my garments for worship–my stoles, gold cross, and white alb.

slide23

I left everything else! I knew that whatever happened, I would be leading worship somewhere, somehow, on Sunday and every Sunday after that. We would, whatever happened, lift our voices in joyful praise, giving thanks to the merciful God who loves us and sent His Son to die for us. For there is nothing more precious than our salvation–the promise of new, abundant and eternal life in Jesus Christ.

slide24

To live as people of faith means that we live lives of joyful thanks and praise–to the glory of our God. To fail to be grateful for what God has done for us is to fail to be faithful to the call of Jesus Christ!

slide25

 

***

Our gospel lesson in Luke today reminds us of what is truly valuable for all eternity. On the surface, the account of the 10 lepers seems to be another healing story. And it is. But it’s also about the power of faith and the mercy of God, who loves even those whom society has deemed worthless. And there’s another important lesson here.

But let’s start at the beginning. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem–meaning not just the place, but His destiny–suffering, dying on a cross and being resurrected from the dead–to fulfill God’s purpose– redeem the world from its sins.

slide26

 

Samaria, the home of those who are enemies of the Jewish people, is mentioned alongside Galilee, the region that was home to Jesus and his disciples.

slide27

 

He is about to enter an unnamed “certain village,” which could be a Samaritan village, like the one Jesus sent messengers to in Luke 9:52. They refuse to welcome him because he is on his way to Jerusalem, the Holy City for the Jewish people.

slide28

 

The Samaritans didn’t worship God at the Temple in Jerusalem; they worshiped God on Mt. Gerizim.

slide29

As Jesus and his disciples enter the village, 10 people with leprosy “meet” him and call out to him from a distance.

slide37

They call Jesus “Master”–so they must know his identity and his reputation for miracles. Jesus cleansed a leper in Luke 5:12-14: 12 Once, when he was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” 13 Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do choose. Be made clean.” Immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he ordered him to tell no one. “Go,” he said, “and show yourself to the priest, and, as Moses commanded, make an offering for your cleansing, for a testimony to them.”

The 10 lepers don’t ask for healing or to be “made clean.” They ask for mercy–an act of kindness and grace; forgiveness that is undeserved. Leprosy is seen as a divine curse. The leper or his or her parents must have sinned against God to be afflicted with the disease. Leprosy would mean social isolation and poverty, for they could not live or work amongst other people, including their own families; they could not worship in the Temple or synagogue. They remain at a distance not just because they are contagious but because they are “unclean” and could defile others if they come too close. The priestly ritual for the leper to become “clean” after they are healed of their disease is detailed in 32 verses in Leviticus 14.

Jesus doesn’t touch the lepers as he did in chapter 5; he looks at them and simply tells them to “go, show themselves to the priests.” Their act of going is an act of faith and obedience, for they would not present themselves to the priests unless they had already been healed. As they go, they are not just healed, they are “made clean,” without any priestly sacrifice or rituals. Faith in Jesus will become the only sacrifice anyone will ever need to be made clean. Only one of the lepers, when he sees that he has been cured, turns back and falls at Jesus’ feet, praising God in a “loud voice” and thanking him.

slide38

 

That’s when the audience of Jesus’ time is stunned to learn that this one who has turned back to Jesus in gratitude and joy isn’t Jewish; he is a Samaritan! “Were not 10 made clean?” Jesus asks his disciples. “Where are the other nine?” “Can it be that none has been found to come back and give praise or glory to God except this foreigner?” Or, as some translations say, this “outsider” or “stranger”? The disciples say nothing. They are dumbfounded at what Jesus has just said about a Samaritan being the only one to do what is right. This challenges their view of their world where they are the good ones–and everyone else outside their religious community is “unclean.” Strange, how people nowadays can think the same way, even though God loves ALL people of ALL faiths, just the same! Jesus turns to the Samaritan. “Get up and go on your way,” he says, leaving us to wonder where the Samaritan’s way will be–now that he has experienced Christ’s healing and has a new understanding of God, who isn’t just far off, waiting on a mountain or in a Temple to be worshiped, but is in the person of Jesus Christ, standing right in front of him, caring for a stranger, an outsider, in his time of need.

slide42

 

Would this Samaritan be like the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, whose encounter with Jesus leads her to tell everyone in her village, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” Many Samaritans come to believe in Jesus the Messiah because of her testimony.

slide43

The final phrase of this passage: “your faith has made you well,” has often been misunderstood. Over the years, some Christians have told people who fail to experience physical healing that the problem is that they don’t have enough faith. This can’t be further than the truth! The man’s healing was a gift from Jesus to all 10 lepers who sought his mercy. The faith that made the one leper “well” was not faith for a physical healing, for all 10 lepers received that! The words translated “made you well” literally mean “saved you.” The Samaritan’s faith that brought him salvation was demonstrated with his grateful, joyful response to God’s mercy, revealed in Jesus Christ.

***

slide45

After the storm, I worried what we might find when we went outside in our yard.

slide46slide47

What we found was evidence that, yes, a fierce storm had come through, but without damaging our home at all.

Today, we worship in a beautiful building that did not sustain major damage. Praise the Lord! Thank you, God!! But if we had sustained damage or even lost our worship home, we would still come together to give thanks to the God who loves us and sent His Son to die for us.

slide55

For there is nothing more valuable to us than our salvation–the promise of new, abundant and eternal life in Jesus Christ.

slide53

To live as people of faith means that we live lives of joyful thanks and praise–to the glory of our God. To fail to be grateful for what God has done for us is to fail to be faithful to the call of Jesus Christ!

slide54

 

The day of the storm, a friend asked that I post something on Facebook to encourage people who were feeling afraid. I wrote this:

“Dear friends, Hope you are in a safe place and are prepared–or getting prepared–for the storm. Please remember that wherever we go, whatever we do, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are always “at home” with Jesus, though we may have had to evacuate our homes on the island or beach, for now. Remember how God has always been faithful to care for you and your families in the past. That although the storms may rage around us, Christ Jesus is always our peace.

 

This is the God who commands the wind and the waves, “Peace! Be Still!” The Spirit that lives within us will remain with us and strengthen us with wisdom, love and even joy during the most difficult trials. The Church is not the building, though we love our worship home. The Body of Christ is eternal. We will never die! And now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep,

slide62

equip you with every good thing to do His will. And may He accomplish in us what is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Let us pray. Holy One, we praise and thank you for your love, mercy and grace for a world of sinners, in need of your salvation. Thank you for your precious gift of a saving faith to all who seek you and trust you as their Lord. Forgive us for fretting over small things when we have all that we need with your Son, Jesus Christ, and our promise of new, abundant and eternal life in Him. Thank you for sparing our church buildings and our homes, Lord, from serious damage. Thank you for protecting us and our loved ones from harm. We ask that you would be with those who are suffering from great loss in the wake of hurricane Matthew–lost homes, belongings, family and friends. Comfort and heal them. Provide for their needs through friends and strangers, like us. Lead us to help our neighbors and to live lives of joyful thanks and praise, no matter what our circumstances, shining your light and sharing our hope with the world. In Christ we pray. Amen.

Rekindle the gift!

slide01

 

World Communion Sunday

Merritt Island Presbyterian Church

   Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 

slide02

 

I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 

slide03

Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. 

slide04

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of fear, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

slide05slide06

 

Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me, his prisoner,

slide07

but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 

slide08

slide09

For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do.

slide10

But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. 

slide11slide12

Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

slide13

***

My friend, “Sis,” gestured for me to come to her table after our church supper on Tuesday. She was holding a blue bag and a wicked, sweet smile. “I have something for you,” she said.

slide15

She had found a treasure while shopping and thought of me–a hand towel embroidered with Matt. 19:26, “With God, all things are possible.”

slide16

I thanked her and gave her a hug.

How did she know I needed encouragement? But then, we all do! Can you recall a time this week when someone encouraged you? A card or note? A small gift? Gentle word? A phone call? A hug? How did you feel? What did you do? Did you pass it on–and encourage someone else?

slide17

 

As we headed home that night, thunder boomed. Lightning flashed. Raindrops splattered our car. Soon, it began to pour! The windshield wipers couldn’t keep up with the water flowing down; we could barely see the road.

slide18slide19

I felt afraid. Silently, I prayed for safety and comfort in the storm. As I prayed, I looked down and saw that I was still holding my gift from Sis. Suddenly, the familiar scripture took on a deeper meaning.

slide20

 

This is the God of power who calms the wind and the waves and the storms of our lives, with, “Peace. Be still.”

slide21

This is the God of love who calls us beloved, who is ALWAYS with us, closer than we think.

slide22

His Spirit lives in you; it lives in me.

slide23

It’s this same God, God the Spirit– with and in us, changing and empowering us, uniting us in Christ–with whom all things are possible!

***

This is Paul’s message of encouragement to young Timothy, his friend and co-laborer for the gospel. Did you ever wonder why Paul’s letters were kept, hand copied and shared for thousands of years?

slide29

Why would Timothy, first of all, keep Paul’s letters after he read them? One reason is because they attest to the apostle’s approval for his ministry, if anyone might question Timothy’s qualifications and call. This would be particularly important for a young man like Timothy having to stand up to older men teaching wrong doctrine in his church. Paul, in v. 1, attests to his own authority, saying he is “an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God” and that he was the one to “lay hands” on Timothy at his ordination to empower him for ministry (v. 6).

But why would Timothy keep the letters throughout his lifetime? Have you ever kept any cards or letters people have sent you? I kept all the cards and notes people sent me after my surgery. Why? They lift me up, warm my heart and make me smile, especially on a hard day or in a tough week. They strengthen me to endure, persevere, and even be joyful during trials in this “holy calling,” as Paul calls it in v.9 — serving the Lord, seeking God’s purpose for me and the church and always God’s grace. For we are not saved “according to our works,” but by grace given to us in Jesus Christ, Paul tells us, “before the ages began.”

slide31

Paul is an encourager. He speaks with affection, calling Timothy, “my beloved child,” (v. 2) with echoes from the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:11), when the Spirit descends like a dove and a voice from heaven says, “You are my beloved son…”

slide32

 

He reveals his sorrow at their separation, saying he is praying for him “constantly”–“night and day” and remembering Timothy’s tears at their parting. He longs to see Timothy, (v. 4), and be “filled with joy.” He speaks of Timothy’s “sincere faith,” which isn’t just a set of laws, traditions, and rituals devoid of meaning, done without thinking and feeling. Timothy’s faith is in sharp contrast to the Pharisees and scribes, whom Jesus calls “hypocrites” (Matt. 23:27): “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”

slide35

 

Timothy’s faith “lives” in him just as it “lived” in his mother and grandmother.

It’s important to know that Paul is writing these encouraging letters when he is prison in Rome, awaiting execution.

 

He is not feeling sorry for himself; he is not ashamed, he says in v. 12, “for I know the one in whom I have put my trust.” Jesus is the one he continues to serve and obey, calling himself the Lord’s “prisoner” (1:8). Paul urges Timothy not to be ashamed of him or the testimony of the Lord. He says, in essence, follow my example; prepare to die. (v. 8) “Join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.” He is passing on the mantle of leadership, much like Moses and Joshua,

slide40

 

and Elijah and Elisha.

slide41

 

Paul says (v. 7), Don’t be afraid! God didn’t give us a spirit of fear! The Spirit is “power, love and self-discipline” or self control.

Paul (v. 6) reminds Timothy to “rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands.” The gift of God can be understood differently; it may mean a spiritual gift that God has given Timothy or you can see it as the gift of God, meaning God IS the gift. Paul means it both ways. For the Holy Spirit is God, we confess in our Nicene Creed, come to dwell with us, “the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.”

Paul’s reminder to “rekindle” the gift puzzled me at first. What does Paul mean? The word translated “rekindle” is literally “fan into flame” or “stoke up the fire.” Building or stoking a fire is something people in Paul’s time did every day for cooking, warmth and light, or to refine and shape metal or silver and bake clay into bricks.

slide44

 

But Paul isn’t referring to every day uses of fire.

Fire is a symbol of the Lord and His presence throughout the Bible. Hebrews 12:29 says, God is a “consuming fire.” In Exodus 3:2, God appears in a fire that burns on a bush, without consuming it.

slide45

 

Fire is an instrument of God’s judgment (Numbers 11:1, 3; 2 Kings 1:10, 12) and a sign of God’s power (Judges 13:20, 1 Kings 18:38.) Religious sacrifices were lit by God and burnt by fire (Lev. 9:24). Priests were charged to keep the altar fire burning (Lev. 6:13). In Matthew 3:11, John tells those he baptizes with water that Jesus will baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

slide46

In Acts 2, the disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit and “tongues of fire” rest on each one.

slide47

Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 6:11 that the Spirit cleanses us from sin and makes us holy, And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” In Luke 24:32, two disciples travel the road to Emmaus and encounter the risen Jesus, though they don’t recognize him until the breaking of the bread. Later they say their hearts were “burning within us.”

slide50

With “rekindle the gift of God,” I believe Paul is telling Timothy, “Stoke up the holy fire that is burning within you and use it for all its potential to do what God is calling you to do.”

slide51

 

***

I was blessed to attend our annual Women’s Retreat at Riverside Presbyterian in Cocoa Beach yesterday.

slide52

The theme was, “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” but it was really all about encouragement for women of God, weary from the struggles of this world. As I entered the fellowship hall, I received smiles, hugs and a white gift bag decorated with a cross.

slide53

Attached was a diamond-shaped card with a quote from Charles Spurgeon: “The entire person of Christ is like one diamond, and His life in every dimension leaves one lasting impression.” Inside was a large, plastic “diamond” ring, a blue and gold pompom,

 

Hershey kisses that said, “Keep calm and sparkle on,” and a devotional called, More Precious than Diamonds.

slide60

We talked, ate, worshiped, and some shared inspiring personal testimonies about “Diamonds in the Rough.” We laughed at Lorrie’s stand-up

slide61

 

and a hilarious skit called “Diamonds are Forever.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

I was truly sad that I had to leave before making Pat’s candle craft and enjoying the liturgical dance and evening worship with Communion by candlelight. How did the women who planned and prepared for this wonderful event know that this is just what we need? I sensed the rekindling of the Spirit burning in our hearts. Now I hope to encourage you!

slide70

Friends, don’t forget the real treasure–the Spirit of God–with and in us, changing and empowering us, uniting us in Christ–with whom all things are possible!

slide71

Let us pray.

 

Holy Spirit, thank you for dwelling with us and in us, changing us and empowering us to walk by faith and love and serve you and our neighbors each day. Thank you for giving us your Spirit, so that we may have the power, love and self control to do your will and use for your glory. Help us trust you throughout every storm of our lives and to cast all fear aside, for it is not from you. We ask that you rekindle the gift of your Spirit and help us to share the gospel with all we meet and to be encouragers, like Paul was for Timothy. Thank you that your Spirit unites all believers as One Body of Christ, in every time and place, something we celebrate especially today on World Communion Sunday. Help us to truly live out the vision of Kingdom–when all Creation will be renewed and at peace, when your work of reconciliation will be complete. In Christ we pray. Amen.

 

 

 

 

The Good Fight

 

slide11

 

       “Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 

slide12

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 

slide13

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

slide14

But as for you, O man of God, shun all this (or flee from these things); pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. 

slide15

Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for 

slide16

which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

slide17

slide18

In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession,

slide19

I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 

slide20

It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

slide21

      As for those who in the present age are rich,

slide22

 

command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 

slide23

They are to do good,

slide24

to be rich in good works,

slide25

generous,

slide26

and ready to share,

slide27

 

thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.

***

We were on our way to Cocoa Beach on Monday–my day off– when we pulled into the drive at Lori Wilson Park.

slide29

 

A creature was stepping out into the road as our car rolled past. Jim and I both said at the same time, “A turtle!”

slide30

slide31

 

I begged him to turn around and go back–so I could see the turtle up close. He was moving pretty fast for a turtle. We were back in a jiffy, but he had already crossed the paved driveway and made it to the grass. He was heading towards the playground.

slide32

 

I jumped out of the car and tried to take his picture without getting too close and frightening him as he moved along purposefully–this turtle on a mission.

slide33

 

Like us, he was headed to the ocean–or at least, the green, wild area that borders Cocoa Beach. He had a long way to go, with his little stubby legs, carrying his house with him. But he knew where he was going and why.

 

He wasn’t afraid to journey alone. I smiled as the old saying came to mind, “Slow and steady, wins the race.”

 

slide36

We parked and walked to the beach entrance.

slide37slide38

Jim led the way. I paused on the wooden ramp to adjust my flip flops that would carry me across hot, mid-day sand. It was my first time at the beach since before my surgery– several months or more. I was still moving slow, plodding along, like a turtle, but enjoying my surroundings, stopping to look around at children playing, people lounging in chairs, birds flying or tiptoeing on the sand, catching fish in their beaks.

 

 

I stopped to take pictures with my phone–and Jim was soon far, far away. I motioned for him to stop, so I could catch up. He did, but soon he was far off, again, leaving me to meander and poke along.

 

I watched water rush around my feet and let my toes sink in the sand. I looked for pretty rocks and shells and saw little fish caught in pools the tide carved out. Then I watched a wave come to their rescue and carry them back out to sea.

 

 

I was content, though I was a gopher turtle, still moving slowly in my recovery, but moving steadily, sure of where I wanted to go–and why I wanted to get there. Not worried about how far, aware of every step I was taking. Not concerned that I might be the only one going that way.     Isn’t that what our Christian journey is like, friends? And along the way, we do ministry as the Lord leads us.

Watching the water swirling at my feet, I thought about starfish. Where had all the starfish gone? When I was little girl, visiting Daytona Beach with my family, we would find starfish on the sand.

slide48

 

I could tell when they were still alive and when they had been out of the water and in the sun too long– dry and hard, devoid of life. Like the starfish tourists bought for 75 cents at souvenir shops. I thought of the old story about starfish. Hundreds, no thousands, of starfish washed up on a long, lonely stretch of beach–drying out in the sun.

slide49

 

An older man, who had a habit of walking the beach each morning, watched as a young woman picked them up, one by one, and threw them out to sea. Smiling, he said, lightly mocking her, “There are stranded starfish as far as the eye can see, for miles up the beach. What difference can saving a few of them possibly make?” Smiling, she bends down, picks up another starfish and tosses it far out over the water. She says, I imagine, with gentleness, “It certainly makes a difference to this one.”

 

 

***

slide50

 

The Apostle Paul tells Timothy, “Fight the good fight,” in our epistle reading today. But it’s not what you might think. He is talking about a spiritual battle fought with love and faith, clinging to the promise of eternal life. The occasion is Timothy’s commissioning for ministry to the people of Ephesus. Paul, perhaps writing around 62-67 CE, is concerned about “certain people” and their teaching in the church at Ephesus. They desire to be “teachers of the law without understanding what they are saying,” Paul says. They are busy with “myths” and promoting “speculations rather than divine training that is known by faith.”

Paul meets Timothy in Lystra (in modern day Turkey) on his second missionary journey.

slide53

They become friends, and co-workers, along with Silas.

slide54

 

Timothy’s name in Greek–Timótheos–means “honoring God” or “honored by God.” His father is Greek and not a Christian. Timothy’s faith, says Paul in 2 Tim. 1:5, comes from his grandmother, Lois, and his mother Eunice–Jewish women who believe in Jesus the Messiah.

Timothy is younger than Paul, who encourages him to be a strong, confident leader, despite his youth. He says in 1 Tim. 4:12, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”

What strikes me is how relevant Paul’s observations and instructions to Timothy are for today. Could it be that our society struggles with the same problems, sins and temptations that the people of Paul and Timothy’s time struggled with nearly 2 thousand years ago?

Paul tells Timothy to be content, for “we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out it.” Doesn’t that sound like, “You can’t take it with you?” But that is exactly what people believed back then–that you take your wealth and status into the next world. Egyptian pharaohs’ remains were laid in elaborately painted caskets and adorned with golden death masks.

slide58slide59

 

They were entombed with jewels and other belongings, food, and offerings to the gods in the afterlife. Paul isn’t completely anti-wealth, however. Recall he did work for a living; he wasn’t like John the Baptist dressed in camel’s hair and a leather belt, living like a hermit in the wilderness. In verse 10, Paul says it’s the love of money that is “a root of all kinds of evil”–that pursuing wealth and accumulation of things is what plunges people into ruin and destruction. Wealth also leads to haughtiness, Paul suggests in verse 17, and to people setting their hopes on the “uncertainty of riches” rather than “on God who richly provides for us and everything for our enjoyment.”

When Paul, in verse 11, calls Timothy, “man of God,” and tells him to shun “all this,” or “flee these things,” he points back to a list of sinful behaviors and attitudes that begins in verse 4 with conceit and ends in verse 10 with the love of money. The good fight is the struggle to pursue what is good — to be faithful to be what the Lord calls us to be– faithful to our baptismal vows, as Paul suggests in verse 13, as Timothy made the “good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all things…”

slide61

Christ’s fragile humanity and suffering for our sakes is emphasized here, without even mentioning his death. The cross looms over us as we read, “and of Christ Jesus who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession.” And with the image of the cross and Paul’s encouraging words in this ancient letter of commissioning, we have the promise of eternal life–not far off in the future, waiting for us when we die, but right here in this world, to be grasped. “Fight the good fight of the faith,” Paul says, “take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called.”That list of good pursuits Paul urges on young Timothy?

This list is for all who seek to follow Christ. Paul says, “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.” The word that stands out is gentleness because of its position at the end of the sentence. Paul means to emphasize this to Timothy and all who would hear his instructions. Gentleness was in short supply in Paul’s “manly” world.

Gentleness is in short supply in our world today.

 

***

slide65

Friends, going back to the starfish stranded on a beach and one woman’s efforts to save them, I recall that the story doesn’t end where I left it, though I can’t find a different ending on the Web. The story I remember ends with the man watching the woman for a while–and then joining in–following in her loving, gentle example. Though there were thousands needing rescue, and they would gain nothing in this world, but contentment, perhaps even joy. The older man reached down, ever so gently picked them up, and threw them back.

slide66

One by one.

Will you pray with me?

 

Holy One, we seek your face, grateful for your Son’s suffering on a cross for our sake. Thank you, Lord, that you have done all the work for our eternal life–that we only must reach out and accept this precious gift. Thank you that this life isn’t something far off in the future, waiting to be grasped, but something we can hold onto in this world as we struggle to shun or flee from sin and pursue the good works you lead and strengthen us to do. Teach us how to be righteous, godly, faithful, and loving, enduring temptation, trials and persecution until you come again. Stir us to be gentle in this world of anger, hatred and violence. Help us to make a difference as we seek to reach out and rescue this broken, hurting world, one soul at a time. In Christ we pray. Amen