Sunday, February 18, 2018

February 18 2918 “Love Cleanses”

February 18th  2018 2 Corinthians 5.20b-6.10 *Psalm 51.1-17  “Love Cleanses” first Sunday in Lent Pastor Jacqueline Hines
If you have ever gotten a blood transfusion or [slide # 1 blood transfusion] had any type of heart procedure or surgery, then you know what it is to get a new start with a clean heart. [slide #  2 heart surgery] Psalm 51 is King David’s prayer for a clean heart because he knew he definitely needed one. [slide # 3 ...clean heart…] 
The heart is the only muscle that never stops working. It can beat over 4,000 times per hour, pumping 2,000 gallons. What a working machine we have, and with every job comes some trash that has to be eliminated. Our spiritual hearts need to be cleaned and cared for in the same ways as our physical hearts do.
Sometimes our hearts need - what advertisers are now calling - a heart-healthy diet. The heart is healthier when we eat a substantial amount of vegetables and decrease our intake of sugar to 28 grams a day and salt to 1500 milligrams per day. [slide # 4 healthy hear foods]
At all times our hearts are hungry for 150 minutes of exercise a week or for a solution to hurry up and come to fix a hard problem or some help to come and help us carry the heavy load [slide # 5 heavy load] of some heartache or heartbreak that has become our cross to bear.
The Lenten season is a time to examine our hearts [slide # 6 heart in eye] and ask God to show us something that we need to do or say to make our heart healthier. A healthy heart makes a healthy life. The Lenten season is a time to open our hearts and wait quietly for God to fill us with whatever God sees we need to be filled with. [slide # 7 glass filling]
We may come to God ready to receive one or two things that are very, very important to us. We may come wondering if we will leave empty-handed, though God never leaves us empty-handed. Still, during the Lenten season we need to come for God’s sake if for no other reason! [slide # 8 Grow in love with God]
In verse 4 of Psalm 51 David confesses his sins. He comes clean about his wrongdoing. He admits that he needs a change of heart. So, he takes the first step to becoming spiritually healthy. He confesses his sins, his limits, his weaknesses. Confession also effects his physical and emotional health.
King David chooses the best way to deal with an issue, which is to acknowledge that an issue exists. It takes most of us many years and many tears before we can admit to ourselves that we have an issue that may from time to time gnaw at our hearts and tear our guts out.
David confesses, and confession is good for the soul. Healing of hearts begins with confession to ourselves and to God. Like a child who has been caught with frosting all over its face when asked did you eat the cake, we have a choice to confess or to deny. [slide #  9 frosting face] God already sees the evidence against us, still it is good for us to confess and build good character instead of bad character.
Confession is an important part of prayer. [slide # 10 don’t be afraid….confession…] Would we really expect to have a good relationship with God when we are holding on willfully to some evil we are doing that breaks God’s heart or makes God mad?
Every family and every church gives some thought as to what is good character and what is bad character. Every family and every church winks at wrong or pretends not to see certain misbehavior. Most Christians do not keep a spotlight on each other’s sins. We leave that to the evening news. When we talk about each other, we want to do it in order to remain aware of our strengths and weakness so that the church can become as strong as we can be. When we speak, our motivation is to carefully build one another up, to speak for God -  words that are encouraging, comforting, and uplifting. When we begin to sound rough, contemptuous, bullyish, or resentful, we need to back up and let God fill us with gentleness and calm.
Sometimes, we do not want to talk about people because we say they are not our business. But, if the person claims to be a Christian, it is our business to take care of Christian business. Sometimes, we do not say anything because a person might act angry and bitter or cold-hearted toward us. They may try to get revenge and do something to us that is unpleasant or threatening.
Still, we cannot get away with ignoring our issues or the issues of other Christians. [slide # 11 hands on ears] According to Corinthians 5.12, God will handle non-Christians, but we are to make wise judgments regarding Christians. If we ask, God will provide the answers as to what we are to do. [slide # 12 never give up…] Wise counselors say that relationships stay stronger when we speak or gesture 9 times more positive communication than negative. That is a tall order without depending on the Holy Spirit.    
Sometimes more than others, we are glad when God’s answers seem to be slow in coming because we may not want to do anything anyway because we do not want to experience negative fallout. In the end, though, doing what God tells us to do regarding Christian misbehavior leads to good results. Proverbs 10:10 (NLT) says, “People who wink at wrong cause trouble, but a bold reproof promotes peace.” Lent is a time to rededicate ourselves to being peacemakers instead of troublemakers. [slide # 13 …peacemaker…]
The Lenten season is the 40 days [slide #  14 ..return to God] we set aside to ask God to show us [Slide # 15 God reveals] whatever we need to see in order to get our hearts right with God and right with each other. It is a time to clean house, for cleanliness is next to Godliness, which is one of those relevant sayings that is not found in the bible.
Lent is a good time to deal with any issues, problems, bad habits, fears, anxieties. It is a time to take heart and take initiative for things which matter most to God, for they matter to us more than we know.
What a privilege it is to go before the God of the universe and get a loving consultation and strong support in our journey to change. [slide # 16  hugged by Jesus]  It is so good to get a cleansing blood transfusion or heart surgery to jump start our way to a healthier heart. [slide # 17 happy heart]

We can think of Lent as a spiritual spa, a wondrous time of refreshment, [slide #  18   I will refresh….] dinner out with royalty, a vacation from sin. In any case, it is good for us as Christians to think and not just emote, to reflect and not just react, to pray and not just stay where we are, but to grow more spiritually healthy. May this Lenten season be a blessing to you and all those around you. Amen. [slide # 19 Make Lent…]

Friday, February 16, 2018

February 11, 2018 Mark 9.2-9 “Love Shines” (Scout Sunday)

February 11, 2018 Mark 9.2-9 “Love Shines” (Scout Sunday) Pastor Jacqueline Hines

Today is Transfiguration Sunday and it is also scout Sunday! There is always a lot to celebrate in the house of God. God always has a reason to have a party.
The word transfiguration is from the Greek word Metamorphoo (met-am-or-fo'-o ). [slide # 1 metamorphoo ] It means to transform, to change. [slide # 2 transform, change] On this Transfiguration Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ transformation, for even Jesus was changed when he went up on a mountain top with his bffs – Peter, James and John. [slide # 3 Jesus and the 3] They felt closer to God in the beauty and serenity of the mountaintop. They felt the awe-inspiring peace of God. Have YOU ever felt God’s presence while standing on a mountain top [slide # 4 girl on mountain] or sitting in a flower garden [slide # 5 boy on laptop in garden] or walking along a sandy beach? [slide # 6 beach]
We often hear God’s love for us very clearly in the woods and everywhere in nature where birds sing their melodies [slide # 7 birds singing] and wolves howl at the moon, [slide # 8 wolf /moon] where fallen leaves crunch beneath our feet and a warm fire glows just right for our hotdogs and marshmallow treats. God’s presence fills us with those good feelings that help transform us into good, even great, boys and girls, men and women.
Like Jesus, [slide # 9 Jesus multicolors].  We are changed right before the eyes of those who see us. Those who have eyes to see notice that we have changed for the better and that we are overflowing with light and love, and motivation. Those who have spiritual eyes and insight can appreciate that we have been changed and we have the wisdom to know certain things that make this world a better place. We have the power to use our God-given gifts to be a blessing, to save lives and rescue those who are in dire need and great distress. [slide # 10 girl sad in corner] We ourselves may be in trouble or maybe it is a stranger or someone close to us that we love and care about that may be in trouble. [slide # 11 man with head down]
It has been said that when young people have at least three adults that they trust and can talk to, they are stronger than so many others that are having a hard time. Young people have confessed that they sometimes feel concern because they believe they are addicted to their phones and computers. These are things to pray about and ask God’s help.
Jesus was changed on that mountain. Verse 3 says his clothes suddenly looked dazzling white. [slide # 12 Jesus surrounded by light] It was a brightness that was not like the brightness they had seen before. It was a brightness that was heavenly. It was supernatural.
What is supernatural? I do not have a good definition for supernatural anymore. In my experience, everything that we call natural no longer seems ordinary or common to me. Every breath we take, [slide # 13 taking breaths] every star that shines, [slide # 14 star] every wind that blows, [slide # 15 wind blown tree] [slide # 16  wind blown dog] and every seed that grows [slide # 17 seeds] are unfathomable to me. It seems EVERYTHING is above and beyond my comprehension and therefore, I find myself always looking up toward God as the power that is higher than anything and anyone. [slide # 18 child looking up in prayer]
Jesus’ clothes turned brighter than day. In that bright spiritual light, they saw something sort of weird. They could see two ancestors who lived hundreds of years ago. They saw Elijah and Moses talking to Jesus [ slide # 19 …talking with Jesus] .
It is a good thing to connect with our ancestors who have gone before us. (It is good that Troop 4 is celebrating 50 years of scouting at Bethel. They are looking back to the dedicated men and women who served and sacrificed in order to maintain values that were honorable and worthy to be called Christian.) Moses appeared on the mountain with Jesus, though he was born 1500 years before Jesus. Moses’ job was to inspire any lawbreakers to become promise keepers. He gave us the Ten Commandments to help us.     
Peter, James, and John not only saw Moses talking to Jesus, they saw the greatest prophet of all times, Elijah. Elijah was born 800 year before Jesus. Elijah was a great prophet who spoke strong and forceful words on God’s behalf. Elijah’s words were sharper than a double-edged sword. They cut right to the point of everything that mattered to God.
As James, Peter, and John watched Jesus talking to Moses and Elijah, they were trembling with fear, they looked as if they were seeing a ghost and in some sense, they were! The memories of these two greats in the faith brought were shining with extraordinary spiritual light. In the bible, people in heaven who have helped us accomplish great things are called a “cloud of witnesses.” They have been first-hand witnesses of God’s wonderful ways and they look on us from above and smile when they see the good that we are accomplishing! We should remind ourselves often that they are the ones God used to get us where we are today [slide # 20 Jesus talking  (brown background) ] We do not want to be blind to their existence because they do matter.
Sometimes the world is an upside down place. Still, even the smallest good we do makes more of a difference than we can imagine. God gives all of us something that has the power to transform the world! [slide # 21 hands on globe]
We all know that even one smile can light up an entire room, [ slide #22  children smiling] [slide # 23 cat smiling] that a little laughter is contagious, [slide # 24 child laughing]that it feels good to receive a blessing and it feels good to pay it forward. [slide # 25 pay it…]
There is great power in all the good we do, so we do well to do all the good we can in order to change the atmosphere and make the world a better place.
Someone who visited Philadelphia last week noticed that the city was filled with happiness, and unity, and laughter that was refreshing. The city had high hopes of becoming a city of champions. Hope had them dancing in the streets. Hope did not disappoint them, even though there were some very, very tense moments. Like that last touchdown.
Slide # 26 video
[video- ttps://   - show first 57 minutes]
Carson Wentz  [slide # 27 Wentz ],  has led the Eagles team in prayer [ 28 slide # Eagles huddled in prayer] and when given the chance to speak after the game, players and coaches gave thanks and credit to God. Nick Foles, Jay Ajayi, Zach Ertz, Corey Clement among others are names that won’t be forgotten for a long time. They may not all claim to be Christians, but they were all in the prayer huddle as far as I know. They are in the light, even if the light is not all the way in them. Praying and giving God thanks is light that leads to positive changes in the atmosphere.
Prayer may not seem to make a difference at all, but we know better. Some of us may be like the man who fell off of a cliff. He was hanging on to a branch and he decided to pray. He looked up to the Heavens and yelled. Is anybody up there? Can you help me? He heard a voice say, “Jump! Just Jump!” The man, looking up again and yelled “Is there anybody else up there?” Finally, he jumped and realized he was only two feet from the ground. Prayer makes a world of difference. Try it for 30 days and see for yourself. Try it for 10 days. Try it for 5 days.
As Christians we shine just like Jesus. [Slide # 29 dazzling light…] Our spiritual disciplines of prayer and doing good help us shine as champions. We fervently love the God who made us.  We love those upon whose shoulders we stand. We make a difference in this world. As champions of the faith we work hard and play hard to win so that others too can shine with the light of God’s love. [slide # 30 Jesus hug] We work hard so that everyone can celebrate the brilliant light that makes life good, for isn’t it a terrible thing to live this life, without the light that shines from above? Amen. [slide # 31 Lord….(prayer)]  [slide # 32 Eagle player] [slide # 33 Touchdown]

Monday, February 5, 2018

February 4 2018 Love Heals Mark 1.29-39

February 4 Isaiah 40.21-31   *Mark 1.29-39 “Love Heals” – (Super Bowl Sunday) Pastor Jacqueline Hines
Our scripture this morning is packed with action everywhere you turn. Faithful worshippers are going into the synagogue. When they leave the synagogue they stay busy, sharing God’s word and healing people.
The first verse tells us “As soon as they left the synagogue, “they” -that is – Jesus and his disciples whom he had just called together earlier in chapter one – [slide # 1 two disciples with Jesus] “entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.” [slide # 2  two disciples together]
They left the house of worship and crossed the threshold into a Christian home. Two brothers lived in this house. They happened to be Simon and Andrew, disciples of Jesus. They were not the only ones who lived in the house. Simon’s mother-in-law lived there, too. We can assume that Simon’s wife lived there, too. It is reasonable to assume also that one could often hear the pitter patter of little feet and the squeals of happy children in the house with all the others. In a multifamily house it was no surprise that at least one of them was sick. [slide # 3 woman sick in bed]
When they told Jesus that his disciple’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever – it could have been the flu. There may have been an epidemic in the area like we are experiencing this winter - verse 31 tells us this happened: Jesus came to her, and that is what we do. When people are sick, we come to them. Then Jesus took her by the hand and that is what we have learned to do as we have followed Jesus. We touch the sick, with encouraging words, with warm hands, with hot meals, with beautiful flowers. Then Jesus lifted her up and that is what we do. [slide # 4 Jesus lifts her…] We lift one another up, we help each other in every way we can. We wash clothes, we do errands, we stir pots, we vacuum floors, we wash faces, we give hugs, and we pinch cheeks.
After Jesus did all that, verse 31 says, “Then the fever left her,…” when we do good things, good things happen. Healings happen, prosperity happens, favor happens. When we do good things, loneliness subsides, depression decreases, danger takes a dive. When we do good things, we reap the good we sow. The good we do and the good that is done in us and around us affects every area of our life – our mind, our body, our soul – which is our will and our spirit –which is our relationship with God.
That is why the scriptures tell us to worship in spirit and truth. We do not want to just show up as just another warm body and just go through the motions. We want to worship with our all our heart mind, soul and spirit. God wants a real relationship with us; we ought to be honest about how real a relationship we have with our God.
There is a special hip hop dance move called the wave [slide # 5 ] It resembles our connection to God; the Holy Spirit moves powerfully like a wave of electricity from one to the other and back again. That is what the Holy Spirit does with us. We are the conduit of God’s healing and helping power. [slide # 6 electric plug]
When the fever left Simon’s mother-in-law, she began to serve them. She was back to doing what she did best, serving the hungry crowd that gathered in her home.
Word got around that people were being healed because of Jesus. The next thing you know people were at Simon’s door, hoping to be healed, too. We do the same thing. We research the internet for which hospital has the most five-star reviews and which doctor has the most successes. There is always a reason for choosing the medical care we choose. It may be convenience or cost, reputation or referrals, friendly manner of the doctors or a fancy office. We have our reasons.
The crowd that came to Jesus had their reasons. He healed them. The word the gospel of Mark uses for “heal” is the Greek word “Therapeuo[slide # 7 therapeuo  =  therapy] which is kin to the words “therapeutic” and “therapy”.
A healer is one who attends therapeutically, who cares for someone in a therapeutic manner, who uses a variety of therapies to save someone from physical or emotional distress. A healer is a servant, even a slave, bound to the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm, which was inspired by God 400 years before the birth of Jesus. In one source, the Greek word for “therapy” is associated with the word “worship” and humble submission to God, which is also a way to get some healing.
Most of us have had some type of therapy. You may have had physical therapy, vitamin therapy, massage therapy, cognitive therapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, antibiotic therapy or other medical or behavioral therapy.
Being in therapy means to be in the process of getting healed, being served, being cared for. At times, whatever Jesus did or said made an immediate difference. At other times, the cure would come in stages. Jesus was known as a healer.
You remember a man who ran up to Jesus and asked for mercy. He was a believer. He had faith in Jesus as the son of God. That man got mercy and more. Jesus called him and asked him an awesome question, “What do you want me to do for you?” What more can anyone ask for? If Jesus called you aside and asked you, “What do you want me to do for you?,” what would YOUR answer be?   [slide #8  what do you want?]
Many came to Jesus for a healing touch, a therapeutic intervention. They did not all go away with a body that never got sick again, but I believe they were a whole lot better with Jesus than they would have been without him. I believe their faith was stirred and strengthened until they could see important ways to improve their health. I believe Jesus looked into their hearts and spoke a truth that served as a prescription for more satisfying relationships, more meaningful goals, and a healthier lifestyle.
One woman in the bible who had been traumatized and kidnapped by a bunch of men, was protected by Jesus. Protection healed her. Then he warned her, “go and sin no more.”
Speaking to another woman in the bible who was divorced five times, Jesus encouraged her to worship God, to show up, not only nonchalantly with her body in the pew but with an intention to have a pure relationship with the living God. The truth Jesus spoke to her set her free and she brought others to be healed and helped as well. Healing did not turn them into saints, but they did become followers, [slide # 9 lamb following Jesus] which means they were willing to learn and grow as Christians.
We do ourselves a disservice when we expect our healing of heart or body to be easy or perfect. We do ourselves a disservice when we doubt our worth because we are not as healthy as the perfect people those perfect commercials tell us we can be.
Jesus our healer, never promised perfect health on earth, and those who were healed and cured were just like you and me, living a life with ups and downs, with plenty of headaches and heartaches that they were wise to bring to Jesus who never left them empty-handed. We are never left empty-handed either.
Verse 34 says that Jesus not only healed people, he cast out demons, [slide # 10 Satan wrestling…] those evil influences, those messengers of Satan. The Jesus in us helps us to shut out and shut up the thoughts in our minds and the voices in our ears that seek to steal, kill, and destroy our blessings. Jesus takes the wind out of Satan’s sails. After a while, Satan does not even dare to whisper his negativity and doubt into our lives.
Sometimes the enemy is stronger than we are, but with time and a few doses of Jesus’ healing in our lives, we become stronger. [slide # 11  Jesus, Jesus, Jesus]
Dove Award winner, Natalie Grant [slide # 12 Natalie Grant] has a song that has captured my attention these days because it helps us Christians keep our perspective on healing.
Her song is a prayer: [slide # 13  pray (purple)]
 Help me want the Healer more than the healing
Help me want the Savior more than the saving
Help me want the Giver more than the giving
Oh Help me want you Jesus more than anything.

So, may this be our prayer, to want the healer more than the healing, to want Jesus more than anything. Amen. [slide # 14 Jesus still heals]

Sunday, January 28, 2018

January 28, 2018 Fresh Voice : New Rules

January 28 2018 *Deuteronomy 18.15-20; Mark 1.21-28 “Fresh Voice: New Rules” Pastor Jacqueline Hines
While I was at Yale seminary, [slide # 1 Yale Divinity School] I worked in an Episcopal assisted living guest house with about 20 residents. My job was to help set the dinner table, sleep overnight three times per week and be prepared in case there was an urgency that required some assistance.
One night there was a very dramatic occurrence. Even though I was not on duty that night, the telling of it remains vivid in my mind. A woman woke up in the middle of the night screaming, “I am dying…I am dying….I am going to hell.” She did die, and I have no idea what happened to her. She may have had been thinking about dying and had a bad dream that brought on a heart attack. Her cries may have been the result of delusions brought on by medication. We may never know, but this we do know, we will all one day leave this body and exit to our eternal home with Jesus.
I John 3.2 talks about the afterlife in eloquent terms, saying “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” [slide # 2 we shall be like him,…]
Until our time comes, we have some important things to do and say. Some of what we have to do and say is routinely important in day-to-day life. Everything we do matters just as a ray of light, a drop of water, a breath of air, a moment in time makes a difference in the whole scheme of things. We have been designed by God to matter in every way- each human cell- though invisible to the naked eye builds upon another and another and another until something great appears for all to see. Scripture tells us we belong to God. We are the sheep of God’s pasture; [slide # 3 sheep] it is God who has made us. We have not made ourselves.
Scripture also tells us that we have been bought with a price. The blessing of being a child of the living God is not a free blessing. God pays a price. A preacher told me once that his church was in the middle of a drug infested neighborhood. It was not unusual to have drug deals and paraphernalia on the steps of the church. One day the church van was stolen. He saw it a couple blocks away and standing near was a drug dealer he knew. Pastor told the drug dealer that the van belonged to him, but the dealer said the man who stole it needed drugs and he sold it to me, so now it was his van and if the pastor wanted it back, he would have to buy it. The pastor bought back the van…that was the end of what I heard about the story.
Sometimes in this topsy turvy world, Satan takes us for a ride. We may get caught up in some unfortunate, unpleasant, immoral, and destructive circumstances and God finds us and pays a price so that we can get back on the road of righteousness once again.
God is very serious about communicating to us, through prophets, whoever and wherever they are. There are some very serious matters in our lives, aren’t there? It is often we who need to pay some very serious attention to what God is speaking. That is why we need to pray, to sit quietly for a minute or two or three and wait and listen to what God has to say and tell God all about whatever is on our hearts and minds.
It may seem silly to talk to God who does not appear in person, whom we cannot hear with our human ears. Yet, we have come to understand that there are many things in life that cannot be seen with the naked eye or that are imperceptible to our ears but plain as day to our hearts. We cannot see a flower grow, yet we constantly plant seeds, grow them or enjoy their beauty. [slide # 4 flower/butterfly ] We cannot hear a dog whistle above certain decibels, yet dog ears perk up to listen. [slide # 5 puppy] We cannot withstand the pressure of air above certain altitude without a pressurized airplane, yet we trust the pilot to take us thousands of miles from home. [slide # 6 pilot ]
Though we neither see nor hear God, we are surrounded by the presence of love and miracles that speak volumes and inspire our belief and faith.  [slide # 7 heart shaped tree]
Throughout the bible, in the late night news, and throughout our lives, we see the results of not paying attention to the many prophets and prophetic messages of guidance and encouragement that are constantly being sent our way by God through teachers, preachers, leaders, missionaries, medical practitioners, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. The Holy Spirit speaks to us more than anyone else. As humans we are easily distracted and have to be reminded again and again to focus and stay connected to our God.
Our connection to God is our hope to turn back the tide of animosity and cruelty that turns teenagers into terrorists and housewives into addicts.
This morning’s scripture warns those who speak for God to do it right or else! Or else you will die, says verse 20. [slide # 8 ‘… that prophet shall die.’] That is, even though everyone leaves this life as we know it, we are dramatically discouraged with the threat of death from doing or saying anything that would seriously jeopardize our lives or the lives of others.   
If we speak blasphemously and disrespectfully, if we speak without God’s authority or under the authority of some evil, we are done for, we are cutting off our nose to spite our face. We are dead on arrival.
Of course, there are many ways to die. In one of my rare prophetic modes I told a gentleman who was a womanizer that God said, “If you ever hurt another woman, I will kill you.” He did not die a physical death, but he did do a significant amount of time in a prison worse than hell. I spoke to another person, with whose personal life I was not at all familiar – two words: stop fornicating. I never saw that person again, but I was told a year later that they were unemployed and on a city corner asking passerby’s for money, dying of a serious infectious disease that he may have contracted or passed on by fornication.
We do not need to know the details of another person’s life to speak whatever God has for us to say that encourages, comforts, strengthens or warns. All we need to do is, as the hymn writer says, is ‘to move at the impulse of God’s love.’ [slide # 9 at the impulse of God’s love]
Of course, life can be full of many deaths that have nothing to do with sin but everything to do with God getting the glory out of our lives. Death is not always a God-forsaken moment. You may have read about a woman in the Upper Room [slide # 10 Upper room] this week who married her childhood sweetheart. They had known each other for decades and after less than three years of marriage, she was separated and facing divorce. She felt as if she were going to die, but she came to understand that whether she was living the good life on cloud nine or down in the dumps, God always had a spoon full of sugar to sweeten her day and a wonderful blessing always came her way to lighten her load.
It is not always easy to let the Spirit move us. It is not natural either. It is supernatural and that is where we want to be in this challenged world. No matter what our circumstances, whether we are facing the consequences of our own actions or carrying a heavy, inexplicable cross while wading through the deep waters of someone else’s misbehavior, we too will always find, and hopefully, will always give thanks for the one who sweetens our days. Remember to always give thanks for the wonderful blessings great or small that come to lighten our load.
Thanksgiving primes the pump of God’s blessings, inspiring an outpouring of God’s spirit for all who will receive it. [ slide # 11 Receive God] Receive more of God today. You won’t regret it. Amen. [slide # 12 man with bible]

Sunday, January 21, 2018

July 21 2018 Fresh Voice - New Words

January 21 2018 *Jonah 3.1-5, 10; Mark 1.14-20 “Fresh Voice: New Words” [New words lead to new paths] Pastor Jacqueline Hines

Jonah was a prophet. Jonah’s job was to speak for God, to tell of God’s love to everyone, to help everyone get right with God. But, when it came to the great city of Nineveh, Jonah seemed to drag his feet. [slide # 1 Jonah sitting] You wonder if Jonah did not want God to love on them. He probably was not one of those prophets who prayed for the entire community and visualized God’s loving arms around the strangers, the homeless or those who hurt him. Jonah may have been glad that the people of Nineveh were living in the muck and mire of their sins; he may have thought they were getting what they deserved. He did not want to see them get the sweet rewards of right living. [slide # 2 Jesus hugging]
God always has a purpose and a plan. God sent Jonah 500 miles east from his home base in Jerusalem to preach to the people of Nineveh. You may remember that east is to the right; in order to get to God, you always have to go right. [slide # 3 sign to go right] It is a symbol. The story or Jonah, like the rest of the bible is filled with symbols. Scholars debate whether the story of Jonah is real. It could be real, but even if it is not real, it is still true.
Instead of going to Nineveh where God directed him, Jonah bought a ticket in Joppa and boarded a ship headed west to Tarshish, 2500 miles in the opposite direction, [slide # 4 map ]. The first century A.D. Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, wrote that Tarshish is the same city as Tarsus in Turkey, where the Apostle Paul was from. Some scholars think Tarshish was another city even further west, to the left in Spain, in the wrong direction.
Whatever the case, Jonah took a detour from the will of God and wound up in the belly of a big stinky fish. It is quite human to at least one time in our lives to be in or near some kind of deep situation that is sticky and stinky. [slide # 5 Jonah near fish]
Verse 1 tells us that Jonah got a second chance to escape the mess he made and do what God wanted him to do. 3The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2“Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”  [Slide # 6 word of the LORD came to …]
If you have been to Iraq, you have probably been to Nineveh. You could have looked on the side of the Tigris River and seen the city of Mosul which some natives call Nineveh.
In ancient times, for about 50 years, Nineveh was known as the largest city in the world. Today, the largest cities in the world in terms of land area, population, and density would be Tokyo, New York, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Seoul, Korea.
God called Nineveh “that great city” in verse 2, [slide # 7 that great city Nineveh] just like we know New York as one of the greatest cities in the world. We call it the Big Apple. The Big Apple is rumored to have been named for a woman named Eve who ran a brothel in the city. Novelist Edward Martin referred in his novel of 1909 to New York as ‘a greedy city… a big apple inclined to get a disproportionate portion of the nation’s sap.’ For most, the Big Apple has come to represent a city that is proud of its culture and its accomplishments.
So it was for ancient Nineveh; it was a great city, a city that was not without its issues, a city that God wanted to speak to. We know the job of the prophet is to speak for God to encourage people, strengthen them, comfort them, and warn them. Nineveh was a city at risk! God wanted to help them out, to encourage them, strengthen them, comfort them and warn them. We are all at risk. God wants to help us out, to protect us, to make us stronger than the people, places, and things that threaten us.
On June 4th of 2014 the area of Mosul called Nineveh by the indigenous people, was attacked by Isis. [slide #  8 several men in rubble]
Three long years later, in 2017, with the help of the U.S., the Iraqi prime minister declared that Isis no longer dominated their country, though they still have a ways to go to get to stability.
Sometimes reading the bible is like reading the newspaper. The more things change, the more they stay the same. There is plenty of good news as well as plenty of trouble everywhere. The ancient city of Nineveh had the same blessings and challenges as any city might have today and any day.
Did Jonah want to go to a big city? Probably not. Did he want to tell strangers of the love of God and the need to do the right thing? Probably not. When he finally got around to doing what God wanted him to do, Jonah got quite a surprise. The people of Nineveh listened. They not only listened, they prayed. They not only prayed, they fasted.
Last week, Bethel leaders gathered to make plans for the year. It was a blessing to hear that everyone had been praying and that some even fasted in preparation for the planning meeting. It was clear that God was present and did help us.
When the people of Nineveh listened to the love of God, and talked to God, and even sacrificed some time in a fast, God helped their hearts and they were able to change from their evil ways, whatever those evil ways were.
On more than one occasion, I believe God was guiding me away from paying attention to someone else’s wicked ways, or the wicked ways of a country or a certain people. I have been guided to pay more attention to God’s ways, to hear where God was leading us. We become stronger children of God when we spend more time blessing and praying for one another than when we blame and label each other. It’s true.
God has a purpose and a plan and every move we make in the right [slide # 9  right ] direction helps someone’s heart to move toward something good and away from something evil.
So as we keep our hand in God’s hand, [slide # 10 In God’s Hands] let us remain confident that every word, every step, every kindness, and every connection God guides us to, MATTERS, and matters more than we may ever know. Amen. [slide # 11 church matters]

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

January 14, 2018 Fresh Voice-New Job

Jan. 14 *I Samuel 3.1-20 “Fresh Voice: New Job”  Pastor Jacqueline Hines

Our scripture begins with glaring words in verse 1. The boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. [ slide # 1 The boy Samuel….] Eli was the head priest and Samuel was a boy in the service of the Lord. Samuel was serving, not for self, but for God.
This week I was asked to do a ten minute devotion for the Board of Ministry of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and I immediately felt like a heavy burden had been placed upon my shoulders.
Instead of continuing to feel overwhelmed, I prayed and asked God to help me make the right decision. The first thought that came to my mind was that I was being asked to serve and I should do just as I was asked. There have been plenty of times when I believe God was asking me to be still and say “no” and lighten my load and rest even when I wanted to serve, but in this instance, I was feeling like God wanted me to say “yes.” And of course, I felt God was rubbing it in because the next two devotionals I read that morning were both about being a servant.
I had to decide whether those devotionals [slide #  2 Upper Room] were coincidence or confirmation that God wanted me to do something that I felt was more than I wanted to handle. We all have such decisions to make; that is a part of being a Christian, making decision after decision after decision, knowing God will guide us and the Holy Spirit will teach us and Jesus will walk beside us, not to make us perfect or act like robots, but to strengthen, encourage, and comfort us, no matter where we go or what comes our way.
Samuel was ministering to the Lord. That was his job. He was being trained and educated by God’s priest, Eli.
You may recall learning about Samuel in your Sunday school lessons. Samuel’s mother Hannah [ slide #  3 young woman/ red head covering] was a young woman who wanted to be like all the other women. Everyone her age was beginning a family, but year after year, she produced no “baby bump.” [slide # 4 pregnant woman] No doubt people began to look at her as if she had two heads.
It was strange in an era of few birth control options for a real woman not to have a house full of children. Who would help her with all the work that had to be done in the hill country? What would she have to talk about in the women’s circles [slide # 5 women with clay pots] when all the other wives were talking about their husbands and the mothers mentioning the special meals and cute outfits that everyone else would be making for their little ones? And, oh those teenage years….
Hannah was growing more and more uneasy with this strange predicament God had allowed in her life. Still, she continued to ask God to give her a baby, even though she must have wondered if God was working against her. She was full of faith and no matter how miserable she felt, and no matter how many times she felt God was doing her wrong, she still bowed herself before God and asked for help. [slide # 6 Hannah praying] She must have believed God loved her and was listening and would give her something good in the end. Finally, Samuel was born. It was just what she wanted. And, whatever she wanted, her husband, whose name was Elkanah, wanted too. [slide # 7 Hannah and family]
Hannah could not have been happier and grateful to God. Now people would stop laughing at her and gossiping behind her back. Those months of misery would finally come to an end and the neighborhood would know that she was somebody special, that she was loved and important enough for her prayers to be heard and answered.[slide # 8 Hannah near pillar]
Hannah was so grateful that she did what could easily be done in her time. She gave Samuel away. She sent her little one to a monastery or seminary of sorts to be trained to live a life only for God. [slide # 9  little Samuel] God knows we can always use a hand in the service of the Lord.
Eli was the priest in charge. Eli had sons of his own who were priests, but Eli wasn’t good at setting rules for his sons to follow, so they wound up just serving selfishly and greedily. [slide # 10 Eli and two sons] It was a hot mess; little Samuel gave Eli a second chance in using his fatherly skills. It is good to have a second chance.
Samuel was being trained to serve God and help God’s people so they could grow to understand the ways of God and live a righteous life. [Slide # 11 little Samuel and Eli]  In order to help God’s people understand God, Samuel had to get to know God.
One wonders how many people were having conversations with God in Eli’s day because verse 1 says the word of the Lord was rare; visions were not widespread. [slide #  12 word of the Lord was rare]
We so appreciate hearing from friends and staying in touch with those we love and care about. We do not want our conversations to be rare or to occur only every blue moon. We want regular conversation and connection, don’t we?
I am from a family of five. The two youngest of us always seem to require five calls and ten texts before we hear from them. A word from them is rare. We cannot often envision what they are doing and how they are doing. When we care, we are hungry to hear from those we love and care about. Our hearts can break over the distance that may come between us.
During Annual Conference, when 800 people gather, it is not unusual to hear someone say, “So and so walked right by me and did not even speak.” It hurts to be dismissed, ignored, forgotten, and at the very bottom of someone’s priority list.
The word of the Lord was rare in Samuel’s day. Some must have wondered if God was ignoring them, not answering their prayers, had something more important to do, or perhaps some understood it wasthe people who were ignoring God.
Whatever the case, there was little documentation of anyone’s connecting to God and enjoying the blessings of a warm, rewarding spiritual relationship. It must have been rare for priests and disciples to speak about the hopes and dreams that God had in mind for others. The record shows a clear disconnect between God and the rest of the world.
At times our world may seem to be disconnected and out of touch with regard to issues that are important and weighty in the heart of God. In the last several months and years, things have changed in our world. Many voices are being heard now that were not heard as loudly before, such as the #me too and # times up movements. The voices of those who have survived assaults are joined in with many others and a tide of changes are taking place, some changes are, as Oprah would say, “on the horizon.” We are now, more than ever, more conscious of the need to create and maintain an atmosphere of equality and safety for all.
So Martin Luther King [slide # 13 Martin Luther King] reminded us, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
The black lives matter movement and PARI – the Phoenixville Area Refugee Initiative all join forces so that there will be one ounce less of hatred and one pound more of compassion in this world where fear and violence are having a heyday and where it has been “prophesied” on Janet Parshall’s radio show that the gap between the haves and the nave nots will widen in 2018.
The voices we hear today, were rarely heard out loud in the past. Certain words were rare and visions of hope for justice and decency were not very widespread. That is the way it was in Samuel’s time, too.
It is good to always have a voice and a vision for the good that God has for us to do. I spoke to a woman who felt alone and isolated and had several temporary needs after her surgery. [slide # 14 every one matters] Her family was on the other side of the country, but when our compassionate care team and others get moving for as God has guided, people are no longer alone. The Church matters! [slide # 15 church matters]
It is a new day, and like Samuel, we too have been dedicated to God. The prayers, dedicated service, and sacrifices of our mothers and fathers have been a force for generations, moving Heaven and earth on our behalf. We too are being trained for an important job serving the Lord.
Samuel was sleeping in a room in the Temple; that’s where he was being trained. He was young and he heard a voice calling his name. He thought it was Eli. We do not know exactly what time it was, but we have some indication from verse 3 that says “3the lamp of God had not yet gone out,…” [slide # 16 lamp] Priests were instructed to keep a lamp lit from sundown to sunrise, so we know it was before the sun came up. It may have been as early as 3 a.m. in the morning. That is a common time of morning when others have said that God awakens them for a particular conversation. Three a.m. is known as the hour of prayer in the bible and in several traditions.
Samuel thought Eli, the head priest, was calling him so he got up and ran to Eli to be of service. Eli said, “No, I did not call you. Go back to bed.” [slide # 17  Eli and Samuel out of bed] It happened a second time. Samuel heard his name being called. He thought it was Eli, so he got up again. By the time it happened the third time, Eli was wise. Verse 8 [slide # 18 Eli perceived…]  says, “Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy.9Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” ’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.’” Sure enough he heard God call his name again and Samuel listened even though he was a boy. [slide # 19 Samuel listening to God] Maybe he listened because he was a boy.
What Samuel heard in his conversation with God was not pretty. It was a judgment call on Eli who had not held his two sons [slide # 20  Hophni and Phinehas] accountable for their ungodly treatment of God’s people. [slide # 21 Eli’s  two sons] Eli had sense enough to just accept the consequences from God for his disobedience and lack of courage and faith. Sometimes it seems too hard to do the right thing, and we do not always want to take the time or the energy to change the way we should. We have to make a decision to accept or reject God’s strength to fight any battles that come before us. Only God can make us as strong as we need to be in any situation.
It takes a miracle to make an important change in our life. Change is a supernatural phenomenon. We cannot change without accepting the power of the Holy Spirit to help us.
If you have something that God is calling you to change today, this is as good a day as any to whisper into God’s ear, “Send your Holy Spirit to help me make the next step forward.” Listen quietly and faithfully for God’s voice. Then you can get the job done at last. [slide # 22 spend time with God…] Amen. [slide # 23 church matters]