Thursday, December 6, 2018

December 2, 2018 Come to Jesus, Bring Your Fears

December 2 2018 “Come to Jesus – Bring your Fears” Luke 21.25-36 Pastor Jacqueline Hines
In the last few years, more than ever, people have asked me, “Pastor, do you think that we are living in the last days?” It surely feels like it. The terrible things described in the bible about the end of the world and Jesus’ return are happening now. Jesus said it himself in this morning’s text:
25“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 
Now more than ever, for more reasons than ever, we are afraid for our lives. Now more than ever, I recall the saying of the elders as I was growing up, “You better keep your bags packed, because you never know when you will have to leave this world.”  Now more than ever, when disastrous things happen to us, especially when bad things happen to good people, we remember the answer to those who say “Why me?” is “Why not me?”  We remember that the bible says “The sun shines on the just as well as the unjust and rain pours out from the heavens upon the just and the unjust!”
One of the most memorable stories that teach that awful things can happen to anyone is the tragic story of the Jerusalem tower that fell   and killed some Galileans. Jesus told that story and reminded his listeners in Luke 13 that just because a person suffers does not mean that they are a worse sinner than someone who is not suffering. That is worth repeating. Just because a person suffers does not mean that they are a worse sinner than someone who is not suffering the same way…Jesus went on to say that everybody needs to repent. Everybody needs to turn from wicked ways. Everybody does well to have holy intentions regardless of whether you are suffering or not suffering. In the end, everybody is accountable to an almighty, all-knowing, all–powerful God.
If we are going to fear anything in this world, we ought to fear falling into the hands of an angry God as Jonathan Edwards preached during the Great Awakening – a Christian revival that impacted Britain and the Colonies between 1730 and 1740. Folks were following a trend and wanted to know all about Hell and damnation. One source says that Jonathan Edwards preached this famous fire and brimstone sermon several times in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and even to a group of miserable pirates on July 10th 1726, before they were to be executed. He formed his sermon title in part from Hebrews 10  verse 31 that says:   It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
This time of revival was said to be a time when the Holy Spirit was going dramatic work. Historians say many things happened during those revival services. Sometimes people would cry so loudly and shout so happily or repentantly that Pastor Edwards could not even finish his sermons. He just went from person to person and prayed or encouraged. Some could be found in a corner in a trance-like state, fixated by God’s love.
Historians also note that if you did not come early, you were not going to get a seat in most churches. It was that exciting. Some of the drama that people were drawn to was definitely the work of the Holy Spirit, some was from people showing off due to ego and pride and some undoubtedly demonic. Whatever the case, the work of the Holy Spirit in Jonathan Edward’s life did not stop his church from arguing and splitting over who should receive Holy Communion. Jonathan was hard core on the issue. He believed the bible taught that only baptized, repentant believers could receive communion. He did not affirm like we do as Methodists, that Communion is an act of grace. Thus, all are welcome to the table and God is our judge. That God is in the heart and life of men and women boys and girls and longs for us to come to the table freely and respectfully.
We all are invited to come to Jesus and especially in these days we are to bring our fears, whether they be personal fears or private fears or public fears. We can bring them to the table, where the communion is holy, where God is waiting to heal and deliver and strengthen and restore and refresh, not just to juge.
Our United Methodist theology affirms six New Testament reasons we come to this table, this sacrament: Thanksgiving, fellowship, remembrance, sacrifice, work of the Holy Spirit, and eschatology which means a study of the end times.
The Greek word for sacrament is mysterion translated as mystery. [slide # 1 mysterion = mystery] A sacrament reflects a moment in the bible when Jesus is and was especially present in all his mysterious ways, in all the ways he comes to us now past our finding out. Now a priest or pastor or ordained elder are obligated to officiate in order for the sacrament to be legal.
Our Catholic sisters and brothers have 7 sacraments – baptism, communion, confirmation, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, marriage, and ordination. We Methodists only have two sacraments – communion and baptism.
There are many teachings and cultural nuances that shift and change through the years and within each culture, so much so that we have to be very careful. It is ok to be different. I grew up with anointing of oil. Every Sunday my pastor would invite people to come to the front pew and have special prayer and every Sunday he would make the sign of the cross on the forehead using anointing oil made of frankincense and olive oil. Oil in the bible is a symbol of God’s grace that is always with us, a reminder of God’s mercy that surrounds us, and a way to get close to God’s healing hand.
When I became ordained, I would anoint myself and my mother every week. Anointing with oil is not the experience of every Christian. Not long ago, someone asked me if I would offer anointing of oil when I do communion. A couple months ago, it was received comfortably in our 8 30 service. Ed helped me by laying hands on people and saying prayers for everyone and I anointed each worshipper with oil. On the other hand, I quickly learned that all those whom I visited at home had not experienced an anointing with oil. It was strange and awkward for some. Some even thought a pastor only does this for those who are getting ready to pass away, confusing anointing with oil with the Catholic teaching of last rites. We need to be very careful. We never want the mystery of the sacrament to become a mess.
While the Greek word for sacrament is mysterion, the Latin word for sacraments is sacramentum [ slide # 2 sacramentum = vow] which means a vow or promise. When we agree to come to the table we come in covenant, we come as children of the living God, loved and loving.
We can appreciate our Episcopalian and Catholic and other sisters and brothers who often use the word Eucharist when they talk about Holy Communion. Eucharist is from the Greek word eukharistia which means thanksgiving. [slide # 3 eukharistia = thanksgiving] We come to this table for thanksgiving – to give God thanks, for giving thanks heals us and sanctifies us, setting us apart for God’s special purpose. We come to this table for fellowship because scriptures tell us it is good for us to be together in unity and harmony and minister to one another.
We sometimes wonder if we Methodists eat too much. Gathering around food is a universal human desire for every culture and every age. The English words companion and company according to the late Laurence Stookey author of Eucharist - Christ’s Feast with the Church are both formed from two Latin roots meaning “those who share bread” with each other.
From the Garden of Eden and its freedom to eat of everything except the forbidden fruit, to the feeding of the 5,000 to the wine at the wedding of Cana, to the many Passover Feasts, including the last supper, there is no shortage of examples of gathering together and being spiritually fed and emotionally nurtured. 
We gather to give thanks, to fellowship and to remember who Jesus is – the one who came bringing the good news of God’s love, even though he knew some did not want to hear it and it would cost him his life.
The scriptures tell us that not everyone wants good news and that we may be punished and persecuted just for being a Christian, just for bringing another viewpoint than others. We see persecution around the world. I read Charles Stanley’s story of the day a man came into his service to kill him and recently I heard of John Hagee being shot at five or six times because someone wanted to kill him.
We come to this table to give thanks, to fellowship, to remember, to give – offering ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. We come to this table to plug into the work of the Holy Spirit. We labor in prayer, we sing praises knowing that God inhabits the praises of God’s people, we come seeking the God the father, son and Holy Spirit diligently, we come to serve faithfully, and we come to obey quickly.
We come to the table with our eschatological views in sight - that is our views of the end times. Eschatos is the Greek word for last. Eschatology is the study of the last days, the end of time. [slide # 4 eschatos = last] A few years ago we did a bible study with two books. One was called Divine Revelation of Heaven. The other was called Divine Revelation of Hell. Church history often focuses on the punishment and judgment that the bible talks about regarding Hell. That is real, but the grace and mercy and comfort are just as real. Heaven is for real.
We try to wrap our minds around the ideas of Heaven and Hell and life eternal. We can trust God’s word that there will come a day like no other.
Lately, we have seen many days that are like none that we have seen before. All the tsunamis, rain, and flooding we have heard about around the world makes the story of Noah seem closer to home. The fires that have come suddenly bring Hell to our mind more often. One man said he was put on alert that fire was near. Three minutes later he said he was running for his life. Eighty eight people died trying to escape, 11,000 homes were destroyed, a whole town burnt to the ground. The distress of nations aiming nuclear weapons at each other and the incessant newsfeed of foreign and domestic terrorism, caravans and cataclysmic # movements has turned the whole world upside down.
Nothing in this world is as unbelievable as it may have been in the past, not even the thought that Jesus will return in a cloud of glory. As verse 27 tells us -
27Then they will see ‘the Son of Man [another name for Jesus] coming in a cloud’ [slide # 5 …coming in a cloud] with power and great glory.
God’s word reminds us that so much of what we know in life is unfathomable and inconceivable. Life is a mystery. Death is a mystery. Sleep is a mystery. Dreaming is even more of a mystery. Some have visions and premonitions that warn or predict things that touch on the matters of the heart. We have moments that we call miracles when we are saved or provided for in ways that are unusual or against the odds. Have you ever experienced an out of the body experience, or Déjà vu, that feeling that we have been somewhere or done something before, but you know it couldn’t be true? There are so many inexplicable situations in this life, Jesus return is one more to add to the list.
Jesus closes his conversation with these words in verse 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength [slide #6 pray for strength] to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
So it is for us to meet Jesus at the table, to bring all our fears and to pray for strength. Strength to give thanks, to fellowship, to remember that Jesus is love, to understand he sacrificed his life and calls us into a covenantal promise, to move when the Spirit says move and to be alert to the day finally coming that will be a day like none other. Amen. [slide # 6 prepare your heart]

November 25, 2018 Free Stuff

November 25 2018 Pastor Jacqueline Hines Free Stuff Joel 2.21-27, *Matthew 6.25-33

A comedian went on and on about how we humans get carried away with stuff….he noted that we have a house, just so we can keep our stuff…we buy a bigger house because we have more stuff…we lock up the house so no one can get our stuff…stuff is so ridiculously important…some days. [slide #  1  closet bursting]

You may remember the Band-Aid commercial…. [  slide # 2   ]

We humans are stuck on stuff. Typically, our closets are full of things we do not wear. Habitually, we fill our pantries so full that hundreds of dollars’ worth of food can go years past their expiration date.

My high school Spanish teacher was from Cuba and she told the wartime story of rationing. Gas was rationed, sugar was rationed, (what else? – ask congregation). Years after the war, my teacher found a five pound back of sugar in the back of the pantry. It was a reminder of the war, and it was a reminder of the insecurity we feel when there seems to be a lack. We deal by gathering more goods rather than gather together in the name of God. [slide #  3   dealing with too much stuff…]

God can handle any season of lack. If God is all we have, God is all we need. We may lack some things, and we surely in many cases have more than enough, even after we have shared with others.

I had a light bulb moment   [slide #  4  aha…]  after hearing a sermon in New Haven…. As always, God helps us to see the light and grow.      [ slide #  5   several bulbs ]  

   The lesson I learned is simple - We do well to purge….  [slide # 6  baskets/bins]

The Holy Spirit can help us to let go and let God, to be secure rather than insecure, to trust God will provide what we ultimately need, to trust God to be enough instead of being afraid of not having enough, instead of trying feverishly and recklessly to take care of ourselves. [slide #  7 children taking bags out]

We can trust God to take care of us. Jesus tells us not to worry…about what we eat, drink, wear,…worry does not help, worry does not make anything good happen. “Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere” so says Erma Bombeck. [slide #   8  rocking chair]

And Christians know, the more you pray, the less you'll panic. [slide 9 pray more…] The more you worship, the less you worry. [slide #  10 worship more…]
The Holy Spirit will help us to get past our issues and move by faith into freedom from stuff. The Holy Spirt can fill us until we are overflowing with trust and care and we have less room for fear and worry and the desire for more and more stuff. [slide #  11   letting go..forward]

The stuff God gives us is free and it makes us free and it frees us up to give more and be more and value the most valuable things in life – doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. God is faithful and powerful enough to guide us to a better place. [slide #  12  I made all this….]   

The hardest thing we can do is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, and be ready to let go and let God. We may never be perfect disciples, but if we follow, there will be little doubt in anyone’s mind that we are disciples, even if we are like the cracked pots in the story you probably heard about at one time. [slide # 13 cracked clay pot]

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years, this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water in his master’s house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you”.  The bearer asked, “Why? What are you ashamed of?”  The Pot replied, “For these past two years I am able to deliver only half of my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you don’t get full value for your efforts”.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion, he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”  As they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it somewhat.  But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. [slide #   14  water pots…flowers] For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”

We are all on a journey to fulfill God’s purpose and plan. Whether we are weak or strong, God makes us beautiful and blesses us to make this world beautiful, too. [slide #  15  beautiful by the hand of God.] Amen. [slide # 16 pray more, worry less]

Friday, November 23, 2018

November 18 2018 Free to Choose

November 18 2018 Free to Choose *I Samuel 1.4-20, Mark 13.1-8 Pastor Jacqueline Hines
I heard a part of a story on the wbyn - 107.5 radio station this week that can give us pause to think or smile. Two men were having lunch and one of them bowed his head down and whispered a prayer. The other man looking on with concern asked, “Do you have a headache?”
The man replied, “no”. Is your food o.k.?
The man answered, “My food looks fine.”
“Well then, why did you put your head down?”
The man explained that he was just giving thanks.
The other man said, “Oh, I never give thanks. I just dig right in.” “Oh,” noted the man who had given thanks, “That’s what my dog does. He just dives right in.”
This story reminds us that giving thanks somehow humanizes us.
Did you notice in the scripture reading from Samuel that there is a whole lot of holiness going on? The name of the book itself – Samuel directs us to God, for the name has the “el” in it. In Hebrew “el” is the word for “God”. [slide #  1 “el” means God in Hebrew] Samuel means “God has heard”.  In the first verse, of this chapter in the book of Samuel, a husband and father named Elkanah –   meaning “God has created” makes a sacrificial offering to God. That’s what Godly men do; they make holy sacrifices and offerings to God. They are leaders in giving to God and creating an atmosphere that is generous and kind. Praise God for Godly men and women!
Elkanah’s wife, Hannah had it going on, too. “Hannah” means “grace.” [slide #  2  Hannah means…] We all appreciate God’s grace. Hannah presented herself to the Lord by the grace of God. She did not just enter the temple to worship with her friends and family. She went to God to spend some quality time. She sat in the sanctuary in order to have a private conversation and some personal one-on-one time with God. That’s what Godly women and men do; they nurture a personal relationship with God, so that their public persona will personify the purposes and plans of God, more perfectly. Godly men and women of the bible were a work in progress, just like the rest of us. [slide #  3 keep calm…]
Verse 11 tells us that Hannah was holy enough to make a vow, a pledge, taking a risk to make a promise and commit something so BIG to God that only God could make it happen. This is how we make our stewardship pledges; we make a promise so big that we could never accomplish it without the power of God. [slide #  4  Hannah promised…]
Verse 19 is also a reminder of the continual holiness that illuminates this text. Hannah rose early in the morning – not to put her makeup on, or to get breakfast ready for her family, or to get a head start on the camel traffic to go on vacation. Hannah rose early – like we do on Easter morning – to worship God, and her husband rose with her. They went to worship God together. [slide # 5  They rose early..]
It was in the sanctuary that the priest Eli saw Hannah whispering her prayers to God. He thought she was intoxicated. Most churches would find it unusual to find a drunk person in the pews, but there are always exceptions. [slide #  6  Hannah seated in prayer] When I was a student, trying to make a great impression one Sunday, in downtown New Haven, just when the service was about to begin or end…I do not recall, a man came stumbling in the front doors, disheveled and wreaking with alcohol. I was trying to show him the way out, but one of the members tucked her head underneath my arms as I was holding the door and told him where he could get food. She had her holy ears on and heard what I could not hear. She heard him ask for food.
The scripture is dotted with a lot of holy activity throughout this passage. At the same time, Elkanah was a product of his culture. He had two wives, which was not God’s plan. Hannah and Peninnah competed anxiously for the same husband. God’s people do well to pray and reflect on our religious as well as our cultural traditions and conditions. When we think about what we do and say rather than simply follow the crowd, when we promise God we will do what God guides us to do, we come out better, even when it is not easy. [slide #  7  think…]
Since the culture was set up for women to get their basic needs for food and water through men, and men could only be men if they had a lot of women, clearly the writer’s inspired purpose of this scripture is not to put a spotlight on the fact that Elkanah was torn between two lovers. It was not to tickle our ears with the drama of two women in a dog fight for one man. What our spiritual ears hear is the conversation between God and a woman who had the courage and conviction to take her burdens to the Lord and a man who held her close through the thick and the thin or life. [slide # 8  Elkanah and Hannah]
His other wife, Peninnah – whose name means “jewel” was a shrewd cookie. All that glitters is not gold. Peninnah was very noticeable for her acting like the wicked witch of the west. She was indeed, God’s diamond in the rough.
Peninnah knew the glory of every man and woman was to have a son. She knew Hannah was barren, and she teased Hannah to death, putting her down instead of lifting her up. [slide #  9  Hannah’s despair] Peninnah knew how to bring a grown woman to her knees. She had a quiver full of choice words, toxic tones, shrieking laughs, and cruel gestures that could keep you crying all night long. And Hannah did cry. It was by the grace of God that Hannah did not fall apart and run away; instead, Hannah rose and went to worship the God who could save her. And save her, God did.
God not only saved Hannah from being laughed at, embarrassed and ashamed because of the culture’s rejection of her, God did it in a surprising way. Everyone understood that she was physically unable to have children. They thought it was impossible. The scriptures encourages us to think big, and pray big [slide #  10  pray big] because with God all things are possible. It was a welcome surprise when she did get pregnant. [slide #  11 …God surprises…] And it was a boy. She named him Sam u el which means “God has heard”. Perhaps she was less stressed and worried after deciding to trust God and less stress made it easier to conceive as is often the case.
We too, do well to make the choice to present ourselves to the Lord, to let go of the stress –if only for a moment – and to think big and pray big, [slide # 12 think big…trust God] to refuse to cry when the world rubs us the wrong way. Prayer is the only way to survive in this world. Prayer opens the door to hear the wisdom of God, to receive God’s care and comfort.
Prayer is planting seeds for a spiritual harvest. There are no guarantees what that harvest will be. We may have to let go of some blessings as Hannah did when she dedicated Samuel to God as we do when we have our children baptized. We will surely gain other blessings along the way, for God’s mercies are new every  morning, but it is always a good thing to pray big  [slide # 13  pray big…listens] and expect to be surprised like Hannah and give thanks to God for every blessing that comes our way. Amen. [slide # 14  light is greater than darkness…]

Thursday, November 15, 2018

November 11 2018 Free for All

November 11, 2018 Free for all Psalm 127 *Mark 12.38-44 Lou Dolente playing both services Pastor Jacqueline Hines
A father tells the story of before his son could start going on job interviews, he needed to dress the part, that, he decided, he required a $500 suit.
"What!?" I answered, gagging at the price tag. "I've bought cars for $500!"
"That's why I want the $500 suit," he said. "So I don't have to drive $500 cars."++
Poverty is no joke. One of the prayers that has flowed through my heart every morning for the last twenty years is “Lord, deliver our children from ill health and poverty.”  [slide #  1   children] Children are more vulnerable to poverty than adults. Children depend on us to do the RIGHT thing, to take care of them, so that they can take care of themselves and eventually help to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.
The riches of God’s kingdom are free for all creation. Still, we must seek God with all our heart, all our mind, all our strength because everything good comes from God. The spiritual life is not a free-for-all. It is not a lifestyle where anything goes, no matter how hungry we are for our needs to be satisfied or for our will to be done at all times.
The riches of God’s love and mercy are free to all who treasure them. There are times when we could not care less about being blessed, when we trash God’s treasure. Such moments come naturally for us. Still, the spirit-filled life calls us to live super-naturally. [slide # 2  super naturally]
Jesus noticed a widow who gave a small amount in the offering. She is usually pictured as feeble and unimportant because she is poor. Yet, Jesus lifts her up as an example of great importance. The widow’s great stewardship offers three keys for us to unlock the treasures of living supernaturally.
The first key to unlocking spiritual treasure is to look in the faces of poverty in the mirror [slide # 3  mirror] as well as in the world around you. There will always be a need in our lives or the lives of others around us. Oprah Winfrey once said, “You can have it all in this world. You just can’t have it all at once.” That puts all of our lives in perspective to some degree. No matter who we are or where we come from, we do not have all we want or everything we need all of the time. So, God fills in the gaps. When God is all we have, God is all we need.
When Apostle Paul asked God to take away his suffering, he said God told him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” [slide # 4  my grace…is all you need.] Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
In this life, there is an equal opportunity for all humans to be in need or to have a deep, unfulfilled longing for something great or small. Our needs and wants are very, very personal and very subject to being judged by ourselves and the rest of the world. God knows it all.
Last week we heard Jeanne share that she thought her grandmother’s ring was so beautiful and she prayed it would be hers someday. God heard the desire of her heart. One thing led to another and she got exactly what she wanted. As Amy and Elaine were setting up the Attic Treasures for the bazaar, Mike DeMarco came in, spotted a tin canister, and lifted it up, saying I saw this being sold on EBay for $10,000. It was missing a lid so he concluded it might sell for $5,000 – maybe...but probably not….What one person barely notices or even sets aside as trash, another will long for and greatly treasure. Our needs and wants are personal.
No matter who we are and where we have come from, God treasures us. We may be carrying a load of trash, we may talk trash, we may trash a person, a place, a thing, but still deep down in God’s heart, God longs for us because God sees each one of us as deeply treasured, as valuable and worth a million.
In Monday night bible study, we discussed how God wants us to be in harmony with one another, whether rich or poor. God wants us  to be compassionate to others whether living in abundance and luxury or living in dire need; and to be humble whether you’re in charge or wishing you were in charge. We are all to be cherished, beloved, and valued. Only the power of God can make us cherish, love, and value one another when our feelings of fear, hatred, and superiority are so deeply rooted in the hearts of us Christians. I often think of how the night before the Columbine shooting, the murderous teens had spent the evening in their United Methodist Youth group. Things are not always as they seem.
Jesus noticed a poor widow. She was precious in his sight. He saw her for who she was, beloved and treasured. Such beauty can only be seen when we dare to look and see each other’s needs as well as blessings and know that the Lord is good even when life’s situations are not good.
It is not easy to see the truth about someone’s struggle when we are living in abundance and luxury. God helps us. Our eyes are open after being on a mission in a place where people are literally starving for food or freedom. So, the first key to unlocking God’s treasure is to see poverty in the mirror or in the lives of the 43 million Americans around us, nearly two-thirds of this country, and the billions around the world, including those who die in poverty or those who wish they were dead, rather than poor.
God’s treasures are revealed to those who are willing to see the truth and be set free. The treasured fruit of the Spirit is made richly available to feed hungry hearts, the gifts of God, like diamonds and gold, are unearthed, stirred up and displayed. The joy of the Lord flows like precious oil from heart to heart and mind to mind, bringing strength to the weak. There is no need to worry and fret about every need or all who suffer. Just trust God to guide you to do what you need to do.
If we want God to tell us if we are our brother or our sister’s keeper, we should at least look at him or her, and see them as the dear one as God sees them.
The second key to unlocking God’s treasure is to give to God no matter what, no matter who sees or does not see; who credits or does not credit; no matter how much or how little you have to give; no matter how the future looks, no matter how mad or afraid you are, give to God, give a tithe, or give the widow’s mite, but whatever you do, give. If you are worried about whether your giving is in vain, remember the scripture promise from Romans 6. 38 – “38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
You may have read Wednesday’s Upper Room where a husband says he and his wife read the Malachi scripture and began tithing though they thought they could not afford it, but when their resources increased, they were convinced it was because they had obeyed God’s word.
Growing up, I was reminded often never to come to the Lord’s house empty-handed, which is direction taken from the book of Deuteronomy. Even if it is a penny, or a smile, I need to give something. God is always worthy to receive some gift from us.
The third key to unlocking God’s treasure is to let your light shine. The widow could have stayed home and missed coming into God’s presence. She came and she was a shining light. She also received the blessed sunshine of God’s love. We need the sunshine of God’s love in order shine our own lights.
Solar lights shine at night without batteries. [slide # 5  solar lights] The more sunlight that they are exposed to during the day, the brighter they shine. The only way our lights can shine is if we have been in the presence of the SON. May you walk in the light, today and forever! Amen. [slide # 6  the light in you…]

November 4 2018 Free to Weep

November 4 Free to Weep Isaiah 25.6-9 *John 11.32-44 All Saints Day- Pastor Jacqueline Hines  

It happens often enough. When we see or hear someone crying, it stirs up our own tears. [slide # 1 baby crying]
We are wired to care and to create a world of compassion. We are designed to sympathize! What a beautiful world God has created, and there are people throughout the world trained by the Holy Spirit, whether they know it or not, specifically to help us maintain compassion in this world.
Though our world may be marked with death and destruction, God’s plan for us is to be surrounded by compassion and beauty. God’s plan bring us relief and new life. We cannot eliminate all the bad things in this world. We can, by the grace of God, cultivate goodness.
One of the passages that I find most inspiring is Romans 12.21 that says do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. [slide # 2…overcome by evil] There is another passage that stays with me when I am on high alert because of evil in this world. In Exodus 23 verses 29 and 30 God tells Moses that he will conquer the enemy but it will not be quickly [slide # 3 …in one year] because then the land would be desolate and wild beasts, like packs of wolves, would take over. [slide #  4  wild beasts] So Moses would have to teach the people to be patient in their warfare and to conquer the land bit by bit, [slide # 5 little by little] rather than all at once.
So when Mary fell at the feet of Jesus, weeping because sickness and death had slithered into her home, Jesus started crying, too. [slide # 6  Jesus wept] He may have been weeping for the physical loss of his friend Lazarus or he may have been weeping because Lazarus, like Jesus, was about to leave the glory of eternity and return to the troubles of this world…as Mahalia Jackson sang.
Bethel, like most churches, feels free to weep when others weep. When we weep with one another, kind deeds and gestures flow freely and form pools of unending love. [slide # 7 rain / tear drops] My mother has been gone for three years, now, but I will never, ever forget the spontaneous showering of prayers, affection, kind words, and deeds that kept me from collapsing in my grief. Someone or a couple someones prepared a large arrangement of fresh flowers; I can still see a variety of dewy white petals of lilies, carnations, and roses that seemed an endless reminder of the beauty and delicate nature of life. I still have one of the plants and the card with the loving words is still attached, though the ink is fading a bit. Three years later, it is just dawning on me that in the cafe where a few family and friends who had traveled a distance from other states were gathering and someone or a couple someones had prepared refreshments for them. To this day, I do not know who took responsibility for that. I just know that I was lifted up again and again by a group of Bethel angels, unnamed, but not forgotten.
Compassion and care create an atmosphere that raises us to new life or keeps us from dying before our time. Jesus weeps with us in our sadness and sorrow. We are not alone. That is the beauty of life that heals and empowers us and gives us life. If you have not experienced this kind of divine love and attention, you may be like many of us some days. We miss the forest for trees, we see the glass half empty instead of half full.
It takes all of our spiritual might to see life, when we are surrounded by death and destruction. That is why, I suppose we say so often with ease that our troubles make us stronger because unless we keep our eye on what God is doing, our troubles and temptations will definitely distract us and debilitate us.
It is important to learn that you are surrounded with the beauty that reflects God’s compassion and care for you. Just looking up at the sky and the clouds and the shining sun, the leaves of trees blowing with a gentle breeze, and the flowers delighting our sense of sight and smell, can give us pause to think and give thanks and remind us that God is with us, will never leave us and cares ever so deeply for us. We are refreshed and rejuvenated by nature and all of God’s creation, animals, and human kindness. And when the clouds are grey and the rain is fierce, we know that there is and always will be a silver lining, a bright side somewhere, a rainbow sign to cheer us and brighten our spirits, a seed whether gently planted or brutally buried that promises a future filled with hope. [slide # 8  plant growing through macadam ]
As Christians we know things that do not show up on the surface of situations. We know things that may only be found deep within a time of prayer, study of God’s word, and while serving obediently and faithfully. We see things that are not obvious when we are blinded by worldly ways and immoral habits. We do things in response to God’s love for us. We do not do just what we want to do or need to do. We act in faith knowing that our lives are not our own.
We have been bought with a price, purchased with the blood of the lamb. [slide #  9  lamb of God…] All that we have and ever hope to be we owe it all to God. Our money is not our own, our time is not our own, our family is not our own, our friends are not our own, our ministry is not our own. Whatever we buy, we buy with God’s money. What we do, we do with the strength God give us. What we say, we say in the name of Jesus whose purpose is to encourage, comfort, and strengthen anyone, especially the hopeless, the helpless, the heedless, the leaderless, and the scattered.
A Christian sister shared a wonderful lesson she received from the Holy Spirit. A male coworker and friend would on occasion ask to borrow her car. She allowed, but she soon understood that he was using it to cheat on his wife. She turned a blind eye because she thought that was the nice thing to do and she did not want to lose a friend. She did not want to cause conflict, or mind anyone else’s business. One day she heard the still small voice of God rebuking her, asking her a question, ‘Did I bless you with a car so it could be used to do this dirt?’
At that point she was given the choice to confront her own demons and the demons of her “friend.” The deeds that the Holy Spirit urges us to do may require courage and confrontation or “carefrontation” as I learned from my social work training. If we are going to confront an issue or a person, we need to care so that we can speak the truth in love as Ephesians 4.15 tells us so that we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Christ is the head. [slide  #  10  grow…]
If God is not the head of our home and our church, if God is not directing our words, our moods, our behavior on a day to day basis, let us not fool ourselves into thinking that we are in charge. Either God is in charge or Satan is in charge. There are only two ways about it. [slide  # 11 …in charge here]
Recently, I read an article online entitled 10 things healthy churches do well. The first on the list is that a healthy church expects to have problems. 2 They handle criticism well, 3  deal with problems promptly, 4 depend on lay leadership, 5 pastors stay in line with their divinely-given priorities, 6 the congregation chooses good and Godly leaders – not just those bearing treasured gifts, 7 the congregation supports the leaders, not hinders their work, 8 the solutions are models of Christlikeness, 9 the world is impressed with the way problems are dealt with, and 10 as a result of doing these 10 healthy things, 12 things happen: God is glorified, Jesus is pleased, the Holy Spirit is freed to do what is planned, the only one mad is the devil, the enemies are confused, the critics stop their nonsense, the church is built up and strengthened, members who are going through things are encouraged and instructed, outsiders and onlookers are impressed, the church and everyone is blessed, a reward awaits us in Heaven, and our church’s reputation goes through the roof as others are convinced that we are true Christians when they see our love for God and one another and we take responsibility for the little things before they get out of hand.
There is no perfect church, no one good but God, but since the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we are made righteous, we are acceptable to God, we are accomplishing the way and the will of God. As my colleague and civil rights worker Rev. Gil Caldwell would say, [slide # 12  Gil Caldwell and wife] We are the church in spite of ourselves.
Jesus is our source of new life. [slide #  13 Lazarus rising] He raises us to a new life, taking us beyond our temptations and trials. When Jesus told the crowd to roll away the stone, Mary said, ‘But, but, but…Lord he’s been dead too long. He stinks…’. But, praise be to the God who meets us in our stinky place!
There are moments that stink to high Heaven, but when Jesus calls us out like he called Lazarus from the dead, he has also already called faithful followers to roll away the stone that block God’s will for us to witness life. The only thing left to do is for us to listen to see if he is calling you or me to use whatever we have to unbind someone who is wrapped up and tangled up by something sinister and to get out of the way so they can move out into the light of God’s love. [slide #  14 Lazarus coming forth]
We cannot live life in this world alone. Lazarus’ hands were wrapped up and so were his feet and his face. We need each other to live. That is God’s design and plan. And, it is so beautiful! [slide #  15 God is beautiful] Amen. [slide #  16 I am beautiful…]

October 28 2018 Marriage Is Music, Knowledge Is Limited

October 28, 2018 *Mark 10.46-52, Job 42.1-6, 10-17 “Marriage is Music, Knowledge is Limited” Pastor Jacqueline Hines

Jesus and the disciples came to Jericho, [slide # 1 Jericho map] one of the oldest cities in the world. [slide #  2 ancient Jericho] It was a well-known city because, like Spring City, Pennsylvania, it was an area blessed by God to have lots of water, and we all know what a blessing it is to have lots of water. [slide #  3 aqueducts] Jericho was also known for its honey, [slide #  4 honey] roses, [slide # 5 rose bush] and Cyprus trees. [slide # 6 cypress trees] There were other cities named Jericho, but this Jericho was located between Jerusalem and the Jordan River. Like many densely populated areas, there were enough people coming and going that that there was a great incentive to sell and buy anything, good or not-so-good. [slide #  7 marketplace]
There was enough slimy and grimy stuff for any God-fearing family to be on alert and protect their children from negative influences. Joshua and his God-driven soldiers fought the battle of Jericho in order to reclaim the territory for the clean life. [slide # 8 marching around Jericho] They were marching around the walls until “the walls, the walls, the walls,” as that children’s song says, “came tumbling down.” [slide # 9 walls falling]
Now some are quick to say that Joshua should have been ashamed of himself for leading an army to conquer Jericho for no good reason. But, if you read the bible over and over enough, in whatever version, you can see that God does not ask soldiers to fight the innocent and powerless. God sends soldiers to fight in order to deliver people from evil. Joshua may have been fighting the evils of terrorism, pornography, prejudice, prostitution, kidnapping, slavery, drug cartels or pirates. The bible does not say what battle Joshua was fighting. We only know that it was in Jericho.
There was no detailed description of the evil that was going on. That is true of a few places in the bible. As Paul reminded the church in Ephesus, chapter 5.12, “It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret.” God does not always share the gory and disgusting details of the world’s wickedness. Even today’s evening news journalists refuse to say certain words and show certain pictures without a warning. Some things are so slimy as to be better left unsaid.
After Joshua destroyed and dismantled Jericho, he cursed the city and warned anyone who would try to rebuild the evils that they would suffer death and destruction. It was, unfortunately rebuilt 500 years later by the wicked, unruly King Ahab with the help of his overbearing, sacrilegious, blood-thirsty Queen Jezebel. Rebuilding something wicked is no real surprise, for the default of humanity is the reproduction of greed and hatred. We work to pull up a satanic root here and find seeds being nurtured over there. We simply have to do whatever Jesus asks us to do, the rest is in God’s hands.
So, over a thousand years after Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, cursed it and dared anyone to rebuild that evil, there it was as a stench in God’s nostrils again. Jesus and his disciples were in it, and as they were leaving, according to the gospel of Mark, they heard a man calling them from the side of the road of this sin-city, “Jesus, son of David. Have mercy on me.”
Hearing someone call him must have been music to Jesus’ ears. He was the savior of the world, but not everyone wanted to be saved. He was the lover of human souls, but not everyone was looking for love in all the right places. He gave his life to seal a new covenant for the forgiveness of all of our sins, but the human inclination was for the chaos of cacophony rather than for melody and harmony.
Humans make a lot of noise here on earth, but it is music to God’s ears when we cry out earnestly and lift our hearts and hands toward heaven expecting to receive the blessings and mercies that Jesus is ready to pour out for us.
Though Jericho was about 75 miles from Nazareth where Jesus was from, the man on the side of the road knew who Jesus was. He knew he was the son of the great King David, by 28 generations. On the other hand, Mark tells us some important things about this man on the side of the road. We know he is in a situation that anyone could find themselves in at one point in life. He is side-lined in society, he is a beggar, economically disadvantaged, he is visually impaired – like probably 95% of us in this room, but Mark thought it super important that we know who his daddy was. We do not know the name of the man himself. Mark simply called him BarTimaeus. “Bar” means “son of,” so we know he was the son of Timaeus, and in the Greek, Timaeus is translated “highly prized.” [ slide #  10 Timaeus means “highly prized”]
I find it particularly interesting that there is a man in the bible whose name means “highly prized” because that is the name the Holy Spirit gave me to call my son in the faith, the only male on this earth who calls me “mom.” He is a man who served a prison term and whose value the world can easily overlook, but whom God calls a “prize.”  [slide # 11 prized possession]
What we see is not always all that God is showing us. When our spiritual eyes are impaired, we may be blind to what is most precious to God. [slide #  12 you…special] Mark tells us that BarTimaeus was blind and blindness has two meanings in scripture. One meaning is to be unable to see physically, the other is to be unable to look up. Bartimaeus was not only able to look up toward the heavens, but his looking caused him to see Jesus and he cried out so loudly that he was disturbing the peace. When they tried to shut him up, he cried out even louder. He knew he was important to Jesus, that Jesus prized him, and that the desire of Jesus’ heart was that he be blessed. [slide # 13 God delights in you]
What we see is not always all that God is showing us. In the 90’s there emerged a trend for blind auditions for orchestras. As a result of musicians playing behind a curtain, of course, conductors could not see what they looked like that is why the number of female musicians has increased in orchestras as much as 30%.
We do not know much in this world, but there is one thing we know for sure. If we can see Jesus, our eyes will be open, and our lives will be changed forever. Amen. [slide # 14 we are God’s prized…]

October 14 2018 Marriage Is A MIssion, Greed Is Ghastly

October 14 2014 Pastor Jacqueline Hines *Mark 10.17-31,  Psalm 22.1-15 “Marriage is a Mission, Greed Is Ghastly”
You have heard the expression, “Never put all your eggs in one basket.” Still in matters of the heart, we tend not to hold back. We often give our all to love, so we can receive it all. It is true that the more we give, the more we get. But, when we realize that that is not true one hundred percent of the time, some of us become desperately disappointed, denigrated, and doggedly determined to never let it happen again. No one wants to be a loser. We do understand that we cannot win them all in this life, but we persist in trying.
Perhaps a certain young man thought of himself as a real winner when he knelt in true Middle Eastern style, approaching the great rabbi Jesus. [slide # 1 man bowing before Jesus] It was all over town that Jesus was offering a way to have eternal life, everlasting life, and this young man was wise enough to seek good things for himself, even if he had not experienced eternal life or could even comprehend it, he believed in it and he was willing to take a chance that it was worth his while to invest in it.
It is wonderful to know what is good and to make every effort to get all the good we can. For the more God gives us, the more God entrusts us to be a blessing wherever and whenever God guides us to be a blessing. Our marriage to God is a mission, wherein God is constantly pouring love and everything good into our lives, and we dare not hold it too tight, lest it become like sand. The tighter we hold it, the more it spills. [slide # 2 mission/generosity] Our mission is to pour into the lives of others, as God assigns us. Greed is ghastly – despicable, disagreeable, distasteful…Greed reveals my heart not totally trusting in God, a heart afraid that if I am left with nothing but God, God will not be enough. Greed, perhaps, reveals a lack of appreciation for the blessings I have and a lack of hope that God will provide what I need, even if it is not what I want. Greed reveals my longing for some other love – the love of stuff and status – even though I have pledged my allegiance to an all-loving God. Greed is ghastly, despicable, disagreeable, distasteful…
The young man was smart enough or perhaps impressed enough to compliment Jesus. He called him good teacher, but Jesus pointed him to God. [slide # 3 player pointing to God] Perhaps Jesus was like those football players who make an amazing play and while everyone is excited and tells them how good they did, the player points toward Heaven, letting the crowd know that it’s is not about their being good, it’s about God who is good.
Jesus was known around the region as a good teacher. In every age, there are those who when we hear their names, we think of their sermons, their books, their programs that we call exceptionally good. Jesus was known as a good teacher.
Jesus gave this student a very significant and affirming piece of information. No doubt the young man did not have to take notes, he would remember for the rest of his life what Jesus was about to say.  “You know the commandments, Jesus told him.” Every serious student appreciates knowing that the teacher notices that they are smart. In fact, students remember every word their teachers and those in authority say about them. “You know the commandments,” Jesus said to him. Knowing the commandments is not something that Jesus could say about every student.
At the same time that Jesus was giving him kudos for knowing the Ten Commandments, [side # 4 good job] Jesus had some lessons for this student to learn. Jesus listed only gave him credit for six of the ten. It was the last six, the six that direct us how to relate to other people: honoring mother and father, do not murder, no infidelity, no stealing, no lying, and no fraud (which is coveting to the point of cheating). Intentionally, Jesus left out the first four commandments, those commandments that deal with how to relate to God: no other Gods, no idols images, no taking God’s name in vain, and honoring the Sabbath.
How is it that we can have good relations with our neighbors and not with God? Isn’t it one and the same? Perhaps in some ways, doing right by our neighbor reflects our right relationship with God. In another since, we do right by our neighbor because it pays off immediately. The chaos in our neighbor’s house can easily impact our own house. It is worth it to have good relations, to be nice, to share and care. If we smile at our neighbor, our neighbor smiles back then all is good. If not, we know the rules for working things out until all is good again.
God is more patient and merciful than our neighbors. If we make God our top priority, if we make things right with God first, then our priorities will be in the good order rather than upside down. It is not easy to give our all to God. It [slide # 5 God is top priority]  is not easy to surrender our loved ones, our dreams, our comfort, or our money. C.S. Lewis wrote that Christian charity is neither Christian nor charity unless our giving “cramps our style” and causes us to sacrifice some needs as well as luxuries. And that sort of giving, he added, is just the starting point of the Christian Journey, not its end.
One Christian talked said “When I get my check at the beginning of each month, the first thing I do is give a tenth to God. Then I pay my bills. If there is anything leftover, I spend it on myself.” Of course, giving to God is not always that simple for there are crises and overbearing economic restraints to take into consideration, but he has the basic idea, and we all do well to count our blessings and pray for God to guide us.
We all have different perspectives of what God has before us to do. You may have heard the story of three people looking at a tree; One may see the tree as so many boards and feet of valuable lumber worth so much money. The second sees the tree as so much firewood to be burned, to keep a family warm in the winter. A third may see the tree as a masterpiece of God’s creative art, given as an expression of God’s love and enduring strength, with a value far beyond its worth in money or firewood. We all see a vision of what God has before us and if we are willing, we can be the church united, with one purpose, one goal, one vision, to be and do whatever the father, son, and Holy Spirit  stirs us up to be and do. For, without a vision, God’s people cannot be the church, passing the baton on to our neighbors, our family, our friends, or our children.
I heard one of the men of God of Bethel say this week – “The world is in such chaos, but I am not concerned about myself. I am concerned about my grandchild.” That Bethel father’s heart is like the heart of God and if we all are just as concerned about the next generation, we will be willing to ask God to guide us to not only to see the chaos that surrounds us but to see God’s will and to be willing to follow where God leads us, to surrender our all and put our all in the hands of an almighty God – our loved ones, our dreams, our comfort, our gifts, our talents and our money. May it be so today! [ slide # 6 giving God our whole heart ]