Monday, December 11, 2017

December 10, 2017 Christmas Comfort

December 10   2017 “Christmas Comfort” *Isaiah 40.1-5, Psalm 85. 8-13 Pastor Jacqueline Hines

The prophet Isaiah hears God’s command to comfort, not once but twice, comfort, Oh comfort, my people. Comforting is a human reflex, for those who are human. Have you ever had your doctor take a little hammer, hit you in the knee, testing your reflex. [slide # 1 hammer/knee]
If the doctor sees a knee-jerk reaction, an automatic response, the doctor is pleased because it means that the segments of the spinal cord - L2, L3, and L4 are functioning in a way that they should. If your leg does not go up when the hammer goes down or if the leg goes up more than once, or if the leg stays up, then the doctor will conclude there is a problem.
Comforting others is a human reflex. Every day we are apt to run into someone whom we can comfort, whom when we hear God’s emphatic voice, “Comfort, Oh Comfort” my people, we move. It is then that our reflexes are tested and we find the right nerve to ask God to help us respond in ways that bring relief, that help someone bear their burden as we share kindness, tenderness, laughter, and joy. Comfort is what makes us human and defines us as Christians.
When God calls us to comfort someone, we draw closer to them, close enough to see their brow wrinkled in pain, tears trickling down their cheeks, their hands clenched in fear, their eyes looking down at the floor, their chin low to the ground. When we are comforted, we are comforted by someone who is able to hear the sadness in our voice, the despair in our heart, the gasping in our lungs, the longing in our life, and God’s word crying out, ‘Comfort, oh comfort me…comfort her, comfort him, comfort my people…in their distress.’
Thankfully, comfort can be contagious like crying, [slide # 2 baby crying] or laughing [slide # 3 laughing lady] or yawning, [slide # 4 yawning baby] or a sports wave. [slide # 5 sports fans]
Isaiah hears God’s call to comfort the people. We all hear that call and we all answer. We saw that at Bethel last week as we showered the veterans with Christmas Carols, gifting them with 100 scarves with a patriotic emblem; they shared their grateful smiles and tears of joy that God had not forgotten them and that their service and sacrifice were honored and appreciated. [slide # 6 two veterans embracing]
We heard the call Wednesday to comfort when we shared a community meal with persons most of whom we had not met before, but who are clearly known by God, precious and beloved. [slide # 7 community meal]
Our kindness brings comfort. A couple from Central New York lost their home after Hurricane Irene in August of 2011. [slide # 8 destroyed house] They returned to what was left, slipping and sliding from room to room in the mud that was everywhere; their refrigerator had blown over and was blocking the door between the kitchen and the living room. An antique organ and sewing machine used for quilting were part of the rubble, bringing tears and feelings sadness.
The couple prayed to trust God. When the pastor assured the congregation “God is at work even now,”   [ Slide # 9 God is…]  they wanted to believe that but questioned - what exactly was God doing? A neighbor told them about a community café that was especially set up in a hall in a hall for this emergency situation. People would go there and bring food for those who had come to clear out some of the wreckage of their homes.
The community café served lunch daily for months and months. Countless people who heard God’s call to comfort came with an endless supply of food. All could see that the hand of God was working even in the midst of chaos and despair. The couple knew they were going to be ok. Kindness comforts.
Verse 2 tells us a particular way we should show comfort. [slide # 10 speak tenderly] “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry out to her that she has served her term that her penalty has been paid.”
Words comfort. You may have read the story in this week’s Daily Bread of a high school sophomore who worked in a bowling alley. The custodian called out sick and the young man mopped the muddy tile floors and did not tell the boss. He wanted his good deed to be a surprise.
The next day he showed up for work, he stepped into the door and saw several inches of standing water with bowling pins, rolls of toilet paper, and boxes of paper scoresheets bobbing on top. It turns out that when he mopped the floor, he left the faucet on and water was running all night long. He was amazed and no doubt relieved when his boss met him with a smile and a big hug. “That’s for trying!” he said.
Words comfort.
In verse 3 another voice cries. It specifically cries out in every wilderness – [slide # 11 cries in the wilderness] you know – the wilderness of disease, divorce, death, treason, betrayal, and aborted promises. A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, [slide # 12 prepare…]
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God…”
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all people shall see it together,

When our souls are languishing in the wilderness of disease, divorce, death, treason, betrayal, and aborted promises, we don’t think of preparing the way of the Lord. The first thing on our minds is not always straightening ourselves out – morally, emotionally, physically, psychologically with the help of the Lord. Much of the time, what we do in the wilderness is wander around in circles and listen to ourselves cry and complain and carry on. We may do so for many years. Sounds familiar.
If we want to comfort each other in the wilderness and if we want to receive God’s comfort, we must just do it. Like Nike says, “Just do it.” Make the time, make the sacrifice, make it happen. Comfort, oh comfort! That’s what I see when I see you all going from person to person on Sunday morning to see how someone is doing. That is what I see when I know someone has gone to a widow’s house to bring Thanksgiving dinner and a family is planning to spend Christmas Day making a wonderful meal and bringing it to a homeless shelter, sitting down with them and feasting together on the goodness of the Lord.
If we want to comfort and be comforted with the guidance of the God of ALL comfort, we are taught not only to comfort but to ALSO do something that is not always so comfortable – that is to prepare the way of the Lord no matter overwhelming it seems. Those of you who are preparing for families and guests coming at Christmas probably have an impossibly long list of washing, cleaning, baking, and shopping to do.
Our need to prepare, cries out to us as we journey through the deserted wilderness. [slide # 13 desert wilderness] The cries are unsettling reminders of our urgent need to get ready and get going to the place God has for us. It is not always comfortable because the journey is not about us. Our comfort alone, is not God’s highest priority. In this world, Jesus says we will have tribulations, but be or good cheer, for I have overcome the world.
When we come to God’s word and meditate and pray and come to worship and to bible studies and study groups, [slide # 14 bible study] the Spirit moves in us, through us, around us and we hear God’s voice in multiple ways. We hear where we need to prepare ourselves for more blessings that we need to receive and give, more wisdom to maneuver through the pitfalls or more emotional and spiritual fortitude to climb the mountains that we must climb to reach the promises of God.
In this season of Advent – we prepare because Jesus is NEAR. At Christmas – we will celebrate because Jesus will be HERE. [slide # 15 Advent candles]
May we find all the comfort we need to receive and to share and may we be prepared and ready for Christmas. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.  Amen. [slide # 16 Amen…]

December 3 2017 "Christmas Light"

Dec. 3, 2017 “Christmas Light” Mark 13.24-37   Pastor Jacqueline Hines
Just when things seem like they cannot get any worse, there are those days that things do get worse. On television, radio, Facebook, twitter, and emails, we hear news that goes from bad to worse in the world. Sometimes we hear news that goes from bad to worse among our friends and family, our neighbors, from our doctor, job, our spouse, our children.
The gospel of Mark says, “In those days after that suffering…” Mark is referring to a spiritual season of dire needs and great distress that is yet to come. Mark’s references suggest a time of terror and tribulation that is on its way. This terrible time may be caused by corrupt politics, poor economics, or tumultuous emotions. As if it were not bad enough to have one’s world turned upside down, Mark is describing how even the earth itself will reflect, will mirror, humanity’s struggle with evil.
“In those days after that suffering,” verse 24 continues, “the sun will be darkened, [slide # 1 “…the sun will be darkened…” ]and the moon will not give its light, 25and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”
Unsettling situations are no real surprise to Christians. Just like the coming of spring and summer, [slide # 2 flower bud] we see the signs of trouble. We feel anguish coming just as we may feel rain coming when our joints ache. We see warnings in our dreams [slide # 3 warning signs] to obey good and not evil. When we keep our weather eyes open, we can often see the enemy lurking in the spiritual atmosphere and we know to call upon our God for help and direction.
Mark reminds us that there are signs in our natural lives that help us see and prepare for what is coming in our spiritual lives. Verse 28 says [slide # 4 fig tree] 28“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. [slide # 5 good sign] 29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 
Again, as verse 24 says, “the sun will be darkened, [slide #6 dark sun] and the moon will not give its light,…”We do not know when trouble will come or when the final Tribulation will come before the end of all time. Mark tells us :32“But about that day or hour no one knows, [slide # 7 no one knows] neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 
We do not know the exact moment when troubles will come or when the time of Tribulation before the end of the world as we know it will begin. What we do know is what the Apostle Peter says in chapter 2: that God brings us out of darkness into a marvelous light. [Slide # 8 he has called you…]
No matter how grey the clouds get, no matter how low and fast they swirl around threatening in our direction, we know God will send the light of Christ. [Slide # 9 light of Christ] The Christmas light shines so we can see our way to God’s promises of peace and joy. 
We have all seen days when clouds covered the sun. Before a storm, light may disappear and the darkness seem foreboding; it is as if evil is in the air.  
Well, whenever evil seems to be in the air, by faith we know that God is greater than evil. [Slide # 10 blue lighthouse] Here is a riddle for you: What is greater than God and more evil than the devil. The poor have it, the rich need it and if you eat it you’ll die. What is it?
The answer: Nothing. Nothing is greater than God, nothing is more evil than the devil, the poor have nothing, the rich need nothing and if you eat nothing you’ll die.
By faith, we know that God is greater than evil people, evil diseases, and evil actions. God is greater than anything.
When hunger comes, [slide # 11 soup bowl] we do not like it, but God provides food, even if it is a crumb that we can share. [Slide # 12 bread basket]. When drought comes, we do not like it, but God sends water, even if it is not the 80 gallons that we Americans are used to every day for flushing, showering, washing clothes, cars, and dishes. [Slide # 13 gallons of water]
When warfare comes, we do not like it, but God sends peacemakers, even if God uses us by helping us to let go our resentments and grudges and to make a choice to love in ways that repair the brokenness of others. We may be the ones God uses to bring peace when we forgive our trespassers [Slide # 14 two in a gap] and show kindness to those who spitefully use us.
Some of us do not appreciate winter and our time change that makes darkness comes so early. Fortunately for us, we can count our blessings, one of which is that the light always returns in the morning. [slide # 15 bright sky white clouds]
Even for those around the world who live with more dark times and dark situations, [slide # 16 mother with child after bomb] God provides light for which to be grateful and for which we are praying that all will have. [slide # 17 with Jesus at the cross]
There are those who live in parts of the world that literally have fewer hours of daylight than we are accustomed. During certain winter days, Iceland, Greenland, and Canada may see no light or as little as 4 or 5 hours of daylight which is hard for many of us to imagine or accept. [slide # 18 dark street]
There are those who endure spiritually dark days with not enough food and water, or their home is in a battle zone, or they are responding to disease and distress that takes all their time and most of their money…
Most of us would prefer more light than darkness. I would not mind spending time in Yuma Arizona where all year round there are 11-13 hours of daylight and every day has a 90% chance of being a sunny day! [slide # 19 Yuma]
Whether we are living in the darkest days of our lives or the sunniest, God promises to be our light. It’s Christmas and we are happily surrounding ourselves with all kinds of glowing reminders of the light of Christmas. [slide # 20 Christmas tree, red bow]
We put Christmas lights everywhere; they are bright candles, shiny ornaments, stars glimmering and trees toppling over with an abundance of light. Christmas light is a powerful light because we light them passionately. We light them religiously in preparation for Good News. We light them in anxious anticipation of the coming of Christ, the coming of light, the coming of love….mmm….love!
Russian-born Irving Berlin wrote the song “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” He wrote it in 1942 during World War II for a movie with Bing Crosby singing. Crosby’s character was a New Yorker stranded in sunny California during Christmas. [slide # 21 snow scene/house] He was dreaming of the winter snow he knew in the North, the snow that made it really feel like Christmas, the snow that reflected the beautiful lights and reminds us of precious Christmas memories made year after year after year.
The song ends with the blessing: “May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.” We can understand how the words of that song and many other Christmas songs      brought hope during the darkness and fear that came with World War II. Christmas songs are a part of what lights up our lives before, during, and after Christmas. [slide # 22 several lit trees and couple walking]
In every season, we need Christmas lights, for it is the light of Christmas light that always comes and makes the darkness vanish. It is the light of Christmas that helps us see our way through anything and everything![slide # 23 man walking in light] Amen. [slide # 24 lights]     [slide # 25 lights/church/snow]

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

November 19 2017 Let's Go to Court

November 19 2017 *Judges 4.1-7, I Thessalonians 5.1-11  “Let’s Go to Court” Pastor Jacqueline Hines
According to the first verse of our scripture from the book of Judges, Ehud died. Who was Ehud you might ask. The name Ehud means “united”. [ slide # 1 Ehud] He was a hero because he united God’s people in a victory by liberating the city of Jericho from the Moabites.
The people we remember the most in life and in death are those who deliver us from some enemy and those who don’t. When Ehud died, the people lost hope and the scripture says, once again, they did evil in the sight of the Lord.
What evil did they do? Perhaps they gave up hope. After all who could do as good a job as Ehud did. Rather than turn to God, they may have let go of the reigns of their faith, they got deeper and deeper involved in having a good time enjoying themselves and they went farther and farther away from the important things, the things that demanded hard work and sacrifice to build a future worth living.
When Ehud died, they knew other enemies would take the place of the one that Ehud had gotten rid of, so they probably got discouraged and thought there was no use in doing the right thing anymore.
Doing the right thing always pays off. [slide # 2 Do the right…] Doing the wrong thing never pays off, and it did not pay off for the children of God in Israel. Soon another enemy came to their doorstep and that enemy was stronger than them because they had become so weak. The commander in chief of the enemy’s army was named Sisera [which could mean horse or bird – it is unclear]. Sisera was harsh and cruel and the children of God felt threatened and no doubt could barely sleep in peace because instead of preparing and training for battles that were sure to come, they were having parties and doing their own thing, and they became spiritually weak and that made them militarily weak! They were too weak to fight.
When they finally had enough of the enemy creeping around their borders with weapons and climbing overhead in their treetops as snipers, they were wise enough to do what verse 3 says, they cried out to the Lord for help even though they had not done anything to help themselves. [slide # 3 cried out to the Lord for help]
God heard their cry and sent them another hero to do great things like Ehud had done.  Her name was Deborah. Deborah means “honey bee”. [slide # 4 Deborah…] She was sweet yet she could zap you with her words. The scripture tells us that she was the wife of a man named Lappidoth. The name Lappidoth means “fiery torch”. [slide # 5 Lappidoth…] No doubt she was inspired and emboldened by her husband who lit up her life.
Deborah was a prophetess. She spoke for God and could tell you what you needed to do to get right with God, whether you wanted to hear it or not. Deborah was also a military leader. She was strong and brave and trained to know when God wanted her to fight and when God called her to make peace.
We read about Deborah in the book of Judges because she was a judge in Israel. The bible says she would meet people in her office under a certain palm tree –the Palm tree of Deborah. [slide # 6 Deborah at the palm tree]  She was so notable that the palm tree was the palm tree of Deborah – a neighborhood that was named after her just as Spring City is named so because of the many springs in the area or Kulp Road and Buckwalter Road and Bethel Church Road are named because they are known for something or someone significant.
The palm tree of Deborah could be found between the towns of Ramah and Bethel. Ramah which means “high place” or “eminent place” was famous because many highly esteemed prophets lived there. Bethel means “house of God”. Besides Jerusalem, no other place is mentioned in the bible more often than the town of Bethel.
People came to Deborah’s office near the big palm tree between Ramah and Bethel for her official judgments. She ruled on civil and criminal disputes for all those who came to her because she was a judge. slide # 7 Deborah in a crowd]
The bible tells us to judge not lest we be judged. That does not mean we should not judge. It means that we should have our act together if we are going to judge others. It means that our judgments should help and not hinder. Our judgments should be righteous, Godly and build people up, not tear anyone down. [slide # 8 righteous judgments]
Deborah was known as a good judge for her time. In our time, the world is a better place when Christians make right judgments. We just had an election a few weeks ago. God saw everything that went on in each voting booth. Hopefully, there were some right judgments that were made.
I hear the museum of the bible opened up in Washington, D.C. [ slide # 9 bible  museum] It cost $500 million dollars, it is 17 stories tall, opens up to a digital ceiling, a flying simulation, and there is a room that lists all the scriptures that can be found on all of the federal buildings in the country. Fifty thousand people made private contributions to the museum. The main contributor was a company known for good, but also known to be critical and judgmental – that is rejecting and contemptuous to persons who are gay, lesbian, or transgender. Is that what Jesus would do? You be the judge.
We are told that the life expectancy in the U.S. is declining for the first time in many years. The opioid epidemic is killing us. Twenty million Americans are addicted. Two million of them are addicted to opioids. Thirteen addicts die every hour. How do we judge wisely in the face of all kinds of circumstances surrounding such epidemics? [slide # 10 life expectancy chart]
In the last few weeks we have heard an avalanche of accusations against men in high places, admitting to inappropriate behavior, victimizing women, men, children and their families. God rules and reigns. God judges. We want our judgments, whether in casual conversation or official juries to be judgments that reflect God’s justice for all. That is he Christian value that our country is built on – justice for all.
There are days when we judge ourselves too harshly. When something bad happens to us and we have done everything we know to do right, we wonder: what is God thinking? How could we have escaped this or prevented that? Sometimes we can see clearly what needs to be corrected. At other times, we have no clue as to why God allowed something terrible to come our way. What we do know is that God is with us and has a purpose and a plan that is worth waiting for. [slide # 11 trusting God]
We must rely on God to help us make right judgments. If we don’t we will wander off into ideas informed only by our culture, our experience, our prejudices, our temptations. We must pray for right judgments. [slide # 12 ask God for wisdom]
We all have what I call our “pet sins”. There are many sins, many ways to offend God and God’s people. There are many ways to hurt others and ourselves, but humans naturally, for a multitude of reasons, will focus on one or two sins, “pet sins”.  [slide # 13 pet sins]
Even pastors have “pet sins.” Two of my pet sins are smoking and drinking because I do not smoke or drink. But you will rarely hear my talking about how many chocolate chip cookies I can eat in a day, because I do not want to think about the ways I am guilty. We all have certain sins committed by others that we think about more often than we do our own shortcomings. We all need to judge ourselves with a right judgment before we judge others. [slide # 14 righteous judgement ]
That is what the prophet and military leader Deborah was called to do when she led the battle against the invading enemy Sisera. The battle was won with the help of God because she stayed on the winning side. She did not get weaker with each day. She was strong because she exercised her faith and worked to build herself and others rather than to tear down, and that is what we need to do as well!
We need to exercise our faith and strengthen our spirits so when the enemy comes, we will be ready. [slide # 15 lion] Let it not be said of us like it is said of others in a time of trouble: Again, they did evil in the sight of the Lord. Let it be said of us that when we fell down, we got back up. When we were going in the wrong direction, we turned from our wicked ways. When we were discouraged we prayed until we got a breakthrough. Let us be able to say with the songwriter: [slide # 16 Sweet hour of prayer] Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer that calls me from a world of care and bids me at my father’s thrown makes all my wants and wishes known. In seasons of distress and grief, my soul has often found relief and oft escaped the tempter’s snare by thy return, sweet hour of prayer. Let it be said of us that we are the children of God, beloved and faithful. Amen. [slide # 17 god loves each of us]

November 12, 2017 The View from Poverty

November 12 2017 Nehemiah 8.1-3, 5-6, 8-10; * Luke 4.14-21 “The View from Poverty” Pastor Jacqueline Hines

Just like many of you, Jesus read the scriptures to those who gathered to listen. [slide # 1 scroll]  In verse 18 he reads from Isaiah saying that he was anointed or chosen and equipped to bring good news to the poor.
Our preschool director sent me an email invitation from United Way for a poverty simulation. [slide # 2 Bethel Christian Preschool] Most of the participants helping were students from West Chester University who were in classes to help them learn to serve lowest income families. We broke down into groups of all kinds of families. [slide # 3 families] Some had children- some great, some winding up in big messes. Some family members had jobs, others were on disability. Fortunately, there were social services. There were medical struggles and opportunities to make money legally and illegally.
We were given four fifteen minute sessions to do whatever we could to survive the system. Each segment of fifteen minutes represented one week. After that representative “month,” if we did not already know, it became clear that at the level of poverty, there is rarely enough time or money or opportunity to get out of poverty. [slide # 4 poverty ]
On Wednesday, I was inspired to ask the Administrative Council in my report, “What can we do for the homeless?” By Thursday during the poverty simulation, an answer was emerging.
We were told that in Chester County there are over 500 persons who are homeless every night. , Lauren Campbell from Chester County’s Decade to Doorways asked the audience what is the average age of a homeless person? The answer was a shocking nine years old. Twenty-five percent of the homeless are under age 17. The next level of homeless are between the ages 45 to 61.
So what is the good news Isaiah and Jesus have for the poor? The answer is: we are the good news. Decade to Doorways has a goal to end homelessness by 2022. While they know that the poor will be with us always, this organization’s goal is for every person to be healthy, housed and stable and if they are homeless, for such seasons to be rare, brief, and non-recurring. The idea that someone has a goal to be a blessing to someone so poor that they have become homeless is indeed, good news!
This weekend Bethel spent thousands of hours to create our annual Christmas Bazaar. People came from far and wide to serve, to sacrifice, to help, to join in for one purpose to raise monies, not to keep the money toward our budget which has been showing a 14% shortfall, but to send the money through the United Methodist Women who under the leadership of Mrs. Sonia Kulp, will send it to agencies so that men and women, boys and girls will hear the good news that someone cares enough to provide for their needs.
Bethel is a community of missions. We have so many missions that we cannot name them all. We have Ian’s boots providing shoes to the poor, we support a poor youth in South America, the Spring City Food Pantry, the free Clinic of Phoenixville is part of our mission through the Union of Churches, Fran Schrader is our medical missionary in Zambia, a couple came to the door a few weeks ago – hungry and thirsty – but they did not leave empty handed. Our latest mission is the Bethel Christian Preschool has helped children with special needs, physical needs, and spiritual needs. Bethel is a community of missions. [slide # 5 hands] Certainly, God has directed us. Certainly God has blessed us to be this blessing. Certainly God will continue to lead us.
When I asked the Council the question, “What can we do for the homeless?” there was no immediate answer from the group, but we can be sure that God will speak to us loudly and clearly. As for every mission, we will pray, we will organize, we will harmonize and we will unite as one on whatever mission to the homeless that God has for us to fulfill. Perhaps one of the 570 persons who are homeless tonight will be blessed because we have obeyed. Perhaps one unsettled 9 year old will smile as we bring the good news, as we become the good news that Jesus cares, that God provides, that the Holy Spirit will bring forth a mighty wind of change for the better. [slide # 6 lighthouse in storm] There will be an answer to what can I do? What can you do? What can we do to bring good news to the homeless? There will be an answer, let it be through us – according to God’s will. Amen. [slide # 7 God comforts]

Monday, October 30, 2017

October 29 2017 Enemies Under Our Feet When

October 29, 2017 Youth Sunday – Deuteronomy 34.1-12, * Matthew 22.34-46 “Enemies Under our Feet When…”
A guy was crossing the street to visit his neighbor. As he started, a car was bearing down on him, so he stopped and backed up to the curb. The car stopped, so he started to cross, and the car started to move toward him again. He changed direction and went back to the curb and the car moved toward him. Then he moved to run across the street and the car swerved in that direction. He moved left and the car moved left. He moved right and the car moved right. Finally, he just stopped in the middle of the road. The car screeched to a stop right in front of him. He walked around to the driver’s window and the window rolled down. The man was surprised to see a squirrel behind the driver’s wheel. The squirrel said, “I just wanted you to know what it feels like.” *
In this day and age, whether we are a youth or an elder, we toss and turn every which way so that the other can know what it feels like to live whatever life we are living. [slide # 1 squirrel]
We do live in a wonderful world. It is a different world from what many of us grew up in. It is still a wonderful world. The beauty of nature surrounds us and brings us comfort and joy. The humanity of others brings us inspiration and the will to live and build a future worth living.
On this youth Sunday, we are reminded that Jesus is here for everyone, no matter what our situation, our age, our experience. Jesus is a valuable treasure for anyone who will accept him. *There was a family that had an interesting old rock that they used as a door stop [slide # 2 rock of gold]. The rock was so interesting that they passed it on for three generations. One of the grandsons became a geologist, he saw the rock and identified it as the largest pure gold nugget ever discovered in the area. It is a blessing when we can at last pass down to the next generation how valuable Jesus is in our lives.
Since 1844, 173 years ago or about 9 generations, Bethel has been in continuous operation on behalf of our Lord and savior Jesus the Christ. Every generation found its own way to fulfill the will of God, to follow the vision. Every generation finds a way to equip and empower the next generation to hear God’s voice and to do the mission and the maintenance that the Holy Spirit puts before them.
We are like the Pharisees and the Sadducees of Jesus’ day; we try to figure out the best path for our faith. We question Jesus in order to decide if we will go along with his program. The Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew asked Jesus some basic questions regarding his authority compared to the authority of King David. We raise questions about the authority of Jesus versus some pastors, some Bishops, some Conference decisions, or the Book of Discipline. It is good to think and question ideas and traditions before we make final decisions.
For a thousand years before Christ, it was a Jewish tradition to study the Psalms and teachings and history of King David, especially. David was a hero. He started out as a lowly shepherd who became a king because God was with him. David killed the enemy of God’s people. With one sling shot, he killed Goliath, a giant Philistine bully. Getting rid of that bully was considered a miracle. It was an act of God to be relieved of Goliath’s tormenting and demeaning forces.
David was a hero like Martin Luther [slide # 3 Martin Luther] who in 1517 dared to debate whether the Catholic Church had any God given authority to ask people to pay money as a way to wash away their sins. It no doubt occurred to some church leaders that it was very easy to take advantage of people and profit from their guilt. This tradition can still be seen at work over 500 years later among our Catholic brothers and sisters today. It is very common to hear of families paying $500 for a baptism or thousands of dollars to remarry after divorce. (At the same time, I and others have been super blessed by the Catholic church.)
Martin Luther protested these “guilt” offerings, and the protests led to a reformation. Today we call ourselves Protestants because we were organized around Luther’s protest.
Martin Luther King civil rights leader [slide # 4 MLK] was named after Martin Luther in order to embrace the authority and tradition of heroes like Martin Luther who took a stand for peace and justice. Our Latin American neighbors have the same idea when they name children after Jesus.
The Sadducees and Pharisees knew about the greatness of King David, but they did not want to acknowledge that Jesus was the great Messiah, the one to come and bring eternal salvation from sins – even their sins.
So, Jesus asked them, . 42“What do you think of the Messiah? [that you hear is to come into the world] Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” ‘Well’, Jesus says in verse 44 that Kim read - “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord,” and Jesus quotes David’s Psalm 110 verse 1 where David writes that Lord God-Yahweh told Lord Jesus to sit at God’s right hand until God puts Jesus’ enemies under his feet. [slide# 5  St. Michael]
The Sadducees and Pharisees knew the famous Psalms of David, so when Jesus quoted David’s Psalm 110 verse 1, the Spirit illuminated their minds. There they had it on good authority. Now they could not help but see Jesus for who he was, the Messiah. They were speechless. There was no other argument. We can imagine that the day would come when they would sing with conviction that chorus that comes to mind: I need no other argument, I need no other plea, It is enough that Jesus died, And that He died for me.    
Jesus had enemies, but staying at God’s right hand meant that his enemies would be put under his feet. We have enemies in this world. For our young people there are at least three enemies that will wind up under our feet, by the authority, influence, and power of almighty God. Those enemies are drugs, violence, and greed.
This week our president declared the opioid epidemic a national health emergency. Drugs ruin lives. White collar as well as blue collar greed is out of control and we all pay the hideous price of billions of dollars. One specialist says that drugs feel like a hug for our brains. It is up to us to realize that what feels like a hug is really a thug. It is time to get right, right with God.
Violence is a second enemy for young people. You’ve heard the poem Children Learn What They Live.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
When we teach children to be peacemakers, violence finds fewer hiding places. It is time to get right, right with God.
Finally, a third enemy for young people is greed. We all want nice things and more of them. When we ask God for help to make choices about what to give and take, to whom and when, God is faithful and will guide us in the direction that is good for old and young, rich and poor. When youth find ways to tithe, give generously, do missions, make sacrifices, as well as open their hearts to God’s wonderful blessings in the church and out, the church remains for the next generation.
Young people have enemies – drugs, violence, and greed to name a few. But, that will not stop the Holy Spirit from doing great things with our youth just like God has done with the generation before them. Nothing will stop God from getting to them with love, leadership, tenderness, and blessings above and beyond what any of us can imagine. We are beginning to see those blessings as our youth worship, serve, and share testimonies.
We cannot imagine what great things God will do with the younger generation, just like the first generation at Bethel which started as a bible study did not imagine 173 years later what the current generation has accomplished to glorify God.
In time, every enemy is under God’s feet. When we get right with God, we see it firsthand. Amen. [slide # 6 hands raised]

*David Dykes August 20 2012 Sermon Central