Sunday, September 9, 2018

September 9 2018 Rally Day Perfect Love : Choose Joy

September 9 2018 Pastor Jacqueline Hines Rally Day –8 30 service and 10 45 a.m. service begin -  Mark 7.24-37, * Proverbs 22.1-2, 8-9, 22-23 Perfect Love: Choose Joy
It is a very good thing that we have access to God’s heavenly joy in this world where we have much sorrow. Last week, we looked at the love song of Solomon and we talked about the joy of the Lord being our strength as we join together to build great good for God. [slide # 1 joy]
This week we look at the book of Proverbs also said to be written by Solomon, who is often called the wisest man in the world. Verse 8 tells us - Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail. [slide # 2   verse 8 ]
Every day the news media fills our brains with examples of anger gone awry. Road rage, shootings, hate crimes, and brutal assaults. It is wonderful to have God’s good news that lifts our spirits. [slide #  3 good news] Good news encourages and inspires us no matter what. Good news creates an oasis in our desert moments. [slide #  4 oasis] So our weekly worship with joyful songs and laughter and amazing testimonies lighten our load. The giggles of children in the nursery [slide #  5 baby laughing] and Junior Church make us smile and we need that. [slide # 6children laughing] Our monthly brunches and regular committee and building committee meetings and youth group getting ready to start up again are all food for our soul and allow us to use the many God-given gifts and talents. We have many sources of joy.
We need the joy of the Lord to overcome our sadness and sorrow. I hate the thought of where we would be without the Lord on our side, providing joy. Joy distracts us from demons and centers us in Christ. Joy relaxes us and repairs the rough places that run riot in our lives. [slide # 7 choose joy]
I heard a doctor describe the human joint as the smoothest surface that any engineer has seen. He says that two joints together are as smooth and slippery as ice on ice. [slide #  8 ice] Our joints are made to move with ease. When damage sets in, our joints begin to look rough like cauliflower instead of smooth as ice. Joy makes our rough places smooth. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
In his book entitled Surviving in an Angry World, Baptist preacher Charles Stanley contends that if we are going to survive this angry world, we must leave room in our lives for the Holy Spirit to guide us. [slide # 9 joy team]
Stanley defines anger as a strong, intense feeling of displeasure, hostility, or indignation resulting from a real or imagined threat, insult, injustice, or frustration to you or others who are important to you.
We ought to choose to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit called joy because the bible reminds us that anger does not help us fulfill the righteousness of God. Or as Ecclesiastes says “Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools.”
Anger may grow out of some real hurt or abuse, but if the Holy Spirit helps us with self-control, we will be less likely to exhibit negative, hurtful, or criminal behavior, or angry words and other misdeeds. When we choose joy, we choose peace and prosperity. [slide # 10 today…joy]
Part of choosing joy is being careful about what we see and what we allow our children to see. The eyes are a part of the brain by way of the optic nerve. [ slide  # 11 brain] What we see effects our physical and our emotional wellbeing and the way we think and then the way we act.
The Sadducees and the Pharisees believed that the Law of Moses allowed them to get their ox out of a ditch on the Sabbath, but when Jesus went about making a simple mineral mud pack to heal or directing a lame mad to take up his bed and walk, they tried to crucify him. Getting angry at the nonsensical ways that we try to fulfill God’s will makes God and God’s people angry. The only justified anger is anger at injustice or anger at things that hurt people.
If we seek, the Holy Spirit, will help us to get all the facts and forgive, and even understand ourselves and others who are angry. The story is told of a little boy who lived with his mother and grandfather. The grandfather was not that old, but he was confined to a wheelchair and couldn’t use his arms and his face was scarred. It was the little boy’s responsibility to feed his grandfather. As he got older, he got tired of the responsibility of feeding his grandfather and he stormed into the kitchen and declared to his mother, “Mom, from now on, you can feed grandfather.” His mother then sat him down and told him you are old enough now to know the whole truth about your grandfather.
She told him about the day there was a house fire and both the mother and the father thought that the little boy was with the other, but he was not with either. The grandfather who was visiting at the time figured out what was happening and he made a mad dash through the flames and saved the little boy’s life. After getting the facts, the little boy never complained about feeding his grandfather again.
Having all the facts can help us forgive and let go of our rights to blow a gasket, be vindictive or get revenge. After all, vengeance belongs to the Lord, especially because when we take matters into our own hands without consulting God, things always get worse.
We learn important lessons from Adam and Eve who had enough shame and blame to keep them angry and in trouble, or King Saul who wasn’t even trying to control his temper, but chose rather to nurture his anger and until it exploded into violence. It was Job who understood that there is nothing to be gained from embracing anger, whether out of fear, pain, or habit. Rather it is good to please God and let God’s healing love cleanse us from our hurts, our injuries, and our damage.
Ephesians 4.32 reminds us to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. When we forgive ourselves for getting into a mess, God can lead us out of it.
A certain spouse was married to a military officer who was prone to angry outbursts. The children and spouse would whither in this person’s presence. There was fear of physical violence in the home, so one day the spouse decided to have a talk with the offender. They set boundaries and made it clear that angry behavior would no longer be tolerated. The offending spouse was told that if there ever was another outburst, the family would leave and never return. That is how serious out-of-control anger should be taken.
Sixty years later, the spouse is a new person, a person who changed for the better by the grace of God, a person whom few could ever believe had such a hateful temper. Both spouses chose joy and everyone is better for it. For the bible warns us to AVOID provoking anger, being angry, and associating and doing business with angry. God intends for us to have joy that strengthens us to build great good. [slide # 12 hammer…]
Charles Stanley said his father died when he was a baby and his mother who had a sixth grade education insisted that he go to school. She remarried to John, whom Charles describes as the angriest man he has ever known. Charles felt so loved and cared for by his mother that he saw no need for a father figure which is the reason his mother remarried.
His stepfather never hit him, but he felt wounded emotionally and suffered for years. One day he came home to find his stepfather’s hands around his mother’s throat and he defended his mom. When John pointed a knife at Charles, his mother put her foot down, but the house was still filled with great tension all the way to the day Charles left to go college and eventually into a television ministry [slide #  13 Charles Stanley]
Charles believed his mother did not fully see the kind of man she was marrying. If we put our trust in God, and let the Holy Spirit work in us, we will eventually see what we need to see and we will do what we need to do to be free to choose joy. [slide # 14 welcome…]
Everything that is in the world is also somewhere in the church and affects all of our families from one degree to another. The church can take the lead in responding to every issue. Controlling our anger and all other good work is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our part is not always easy, but the rewards are immeasurable. May we invite the Lord in our hearts today and every day to help us choose joy! Amen. [slide #  15 need a savior]

Saturday, June 23, 2018

June 24 2018 “Working from the Wind and the Waves” Mark 4. 35-41

June 24 2018 “Working from the Wind and the Waves” I Samuel 17.1a, 4-11.19-23, 32-37 *Mark 4. 35-41 Pastor Jacqueline Hines
1. An elderly lady was well known for her faith and for her boldness and talking about it. She would stand on her front porch and shout, "Praise the Lord!"
Next door to her lived an atheist who would get so angry at her proclamations he would shout, "There ain't no Lord!!"
Hard times set in on the elderly lady and she prayed for God to send her some assistance. She stood on her porch and shouted, "Praise the Lord!! God, I need FOOD!! I am having a hard time. Please, Lord, send me some groceries!!"
The next morning, the lady went out on her porch and saw a large bag of groceries and shouted, "Praise the Lord!!"
The neighbor jumped from behind a bush and said, "Ha Ha!! I told you there was no Lord. I bought those groceries. God didn't."
The lady started jumping up and down and clapping her hands and saying, "PRAISE THE LORD!!! He not only sent me groceries, but He made the devil pay for them!!"  
Our gospel lesson begins with the three words, “On that day…” It brings to mind the idea that each day is marked with particular events and happenings. That is why we often ask one another, “How was your day?” [slide # 1 How was your day?]
News headlines mark the days that stand out as special or noteworthy. We hold on to our history day by day to comfort us and remind us to move forward in our journey, to put one foot in front of another, knowing that tomorrow is yet another day, full of promise and potential. So the question, how was your day, helps us to recall highlights and events that inspire and teach us what can be so helpful! [slide # 2 lessons learned]
Verse 35 tells us “On that day, when evening had come,…” Jesus said to the Disciples,” ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ [slide # 3 On that day…] Jesus’ invitation to take a boat ride was just the beginning of a day that they would never forget. It was the day the disciples thought they were going to die. Verse 37 says “A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.” [slide # 4 boat in a storm]
Have you ever been on a boat or water vehicle of any kind? [slide 5 # Have you ever…?] Have you ever been on a boat that was leaking? Have you ever been on a boat that was in jeopardy because it had plumbing problems or engine problems? Have you ever been on a boat in stormy weather?
Have you ever been on a boat and you had problems with sea sickness or some other physical or emotional challenge or something was worrying you?
[slide # 6 lots of people in a boat]  I attended a training workshop once and the focus point was that as human beings we should think of ourselves as being in the same boat together. [slide # 7  MLK quote re boat] By faith, we believe that Jesus is in the boat with us. [slide # 8  we are all in the same boat]
On this day, there was a gale, a wind so strong that it pushed waves of water into the boat! They thought this would be they day they would die, and Jesus was sleeping. [slide # 9  Jesus sleeping in boat] They woke him up and asked him if he cared that they were dying?
That is not a very common question: Do you care that we are dying? We are surrounded by people who care about us in general. [slide # 10  line of people caring] We know people who would give us the shirt off their backs. There are even strangers who are trained to put their lives on the line for us.  
Can you begin to count the persons in your lifetime who have labored diligently and made great sacrifices for you or your loved ones? We are so grateful that someone cares, especially when we are in dire need, desperate and despairing, when we are terrified by our troubles and anxious about our future. We want to be reassured that someone cares. And someone always does! As God cares for us, we learn to care for others. [slide # 11  cared for people care]
We need others to care for us and we need to be ready to care for others as God leads us because, like the disciples in the boat with Jesus that day, there are many waves to handle. There are at least 3 waves that often come our way in life.
One wave is the wave of weather. Weather is something we do not control for the most part, though there is a conversation going on about global warming and our taking care of the earth so it can take care of us. We cannot control when the weather is hot and hazy, cool and cloudy, or sunny and stormy. We cannot put even one snowflake in the air or plant one rainbow in the sky. We are not in charge. [slide # 12 sailboat at sunrise]
We cannot control the weather, so we need to care about each other in all kinds of weather. We need to do our best to care for each other and the earth, so that it will not have to vomit up an ocean of recycled plastic and caustic chemicals that are regularly tossed into the sewers by humans. We want to think twice about our care for the earth, as our United Methodist Book of Discipline urges us, so that it will not be forced to spit out acid rain until it burns our produce and prohibits bees from pollinating beautiful flowers. We need to care about each other and the earth when the waves of weather come before us.
A second wave is the wave of worry. So many times, Jesus reminds the disciples: “fear not.” Even to this day, the message echoes in our hearts: fear not. The healing work of the Holy Spirit wants our brains to register the truth that we can trust God, that God cares, that God will send who and what we need to walk with us and to take care of us.
Conversation with God, praying about everything, keeps us from drowning in our worries and wailing in our anguish and whimpering in our waiting. God’s word is wisdom that overcomes our worries. [slide # 13  pray more, worry less]
There are days that our little boats may be full of water and we wonder if we will make it alive to shore, nevertheless, behind the roar of our ocean of worries is the blessed assurance that we need not worry or fear, because God cares and is working everything out for us, even if we are momentarily inundated by a wave of worry.
A third wave that comes our way in life is the wave of weakness. There are days that we are not strong at all, days that we fail over and over and over again. We fail to regain our health. Our relationships do not succeed. For the life of us, we cannot produce not even one good solution to some nagging problem that is giving us nightmares. [slide # 14  Alone I am weak…Jesus...]
We are weak, but our God is strong. When the disciples encountered powerful winds that rocked their little boat until their lives flashed before them, they went to Jesus who was sleeping soundly. He was not disturbed at all.
They went to Jesus and they asked Jesus if he cared about them. Those who care about us, do what Jesus did when the disciples asked him if he cared. Jesus rebuked the wind. He stopped the storm in its tracks. [slide # 15 Jesus rebuking the wind] At first, Jesus did not answer them with words. He answered them by doing something about the storm. Those who care, do something and say something by the power of God that makes the storm less threatening.
Jesus proved he cared by doing something. He did what he could do. He did what God asked him to do, and so should we. Suddenly their fear was eclipsed by the dawning of their faith, the internal storm within their souls subsided, as Jesus spoke to the sea, saying ‘Peace! Be still!’ The wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.
They were in awe of Jesus’ ability and willingness to calm the restless sea. They were filled with a feeling of reverence and respect and wonder. “Who is this that even the winds and the waves obey him?”
We are made in God’s image and when we do what God wants us to do and say what God wants us to say, others see Jesus in us and are filled with awe, because what we do when the waves are threatening, makes a world of difference. [slide # 16 together we make a difference]
When the waves were calm, Jesus asked the disciples like he asks us, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ Jesus was not necessarily waiting for their answer. Perhaps the question is really an invitation for us to calm down. [slide # 17 calm down…blow up] Perhaps we are being asked to trust God in every storm, to have at least enough faith to speak up and dare to say to Jesus, “We’re dying here. Do you care?” [slide # 18 can trust God no matter what]
If we dare to keep our eyes on Jesus long enough, we will see the awesome things that he is doing. We miss the peaceful presence of Jesus if our faith is focused solely on a special someone, or our bank account, or our church, or our government. [slide # 19 peace in the boat] And those who are in the know, know that Jesus will not always still a storm on our terms, but if we stick with him, if WE are faithful, then we too will be filled with awe.
Whatever wave that is in your life today – a wave of weathering something that you cannot control, a wave of worry that has shaken you to your core, or a wave of weakness that reminds you that you need God’s strength, dare to call on Jesus and know that something awesome and wonderful is about to happen. And you may be the one God uses to bring it about. [slide # 20 you were born…] Amen. [slide # 21  It’s ok to be awesome]

June 17th 2018 Father's Day

June 17 2018 “Seed Sown to Save” Psalm 20, *Mark 4.26-34 Father’s Day Pastor Jacqueline Hines
A little boy was asked to define Father’s Day. He said, “It’s just like Mother’s Day, only you don’t spend as much on the present.”
After tucking their three-year-old child Sammy in for bed one night, his parents heard sobbing coming from his room.
Rushing back in, they found him crying hysterically. He managed to tell them that he had swallowed a penny and he was sure he was going to die. No amount of talking was helping.
His father, in an attempt to calm him down, palmed a penny from his pocket and pretended to pull it from Sammy's ear. Sammy was delighted.
In a flash, he snatched it from his father's hand, swallowed, and then cheerfully demanded, "Do it again, Dad!"
Our scripture lesson talks about growing things. [slide # 1 verse 27 …we do not know how] Though God is the ultimate maker, creator, and designer, we humans are definitely a part of the plan.
God has planted in the human heart a strong desire to participate in the things that are living and growing. [slide # 2 sprouts growing] Some of us plant seeds. Others water and fertilize and make sure there is enough shade and sunshine as needed. Many weed and watch to protect and support the underground roots and the burgeoning blossoms. [ slide # 3 cherry blossoms ] We all have a role in making something good grow and flourish.
It is a divinely human quality to nurture a seed and help it grow, and sit back and enjoy the fruit of our labors. Often what we have grown together is so beautiful, it takes our breath away and soothes the beast in us. Sometimes what we grow feeds us and satisfies our need for survival. What we grow can be used to make our lives comfortable. [slide # 4 Mike’s cabinet ] like this beautiful entertainment cabinet that Mike is making for his son’s wedding gift.
On this Father’s Day, we remember the very special role of the   Godly father to help children grow healthy and strong. Psychology Today notes four special things that Fathers do that are important. First, is developing a toddler’s a sense of adventure by playing and wrestling with them while mom may be doing practical nurturing things, like feeding. [slide 5 father daughter fishing]
Secondly, a father shows children high standards and healthy ways to treat females. When a wife or ex is hard to deal with, a father does well to exhibit behavior that takes the high road instead of the low road, for the sake of the children, so says child advocate Dr. Mark Banschick. [slide # 6 Dr. Banschick] He advocates a bill of rights for the well-being of children, particularly when parents are not getting along, [slide # 7 Intelligent Divorce] when parents cannot get over their anger, when they want to retaliate and punish each other, which does not help at all. The points of Banschick’s Bill of Rights for Children include:
1. Please do not ask me to choose sides between you.
3. Stop “bad mouthing” each other in front of me.
9. Leave me out of your fighting.
Thirdly, girls need fathers. Successful women more often have had a father that believed in them, could identify their strengths, and who adored them for who they were. Such a relationship makes girls understand how special they are, which can protect their hearts from men who offer less.
Finally, according to Dr. Banschick, sons need a father. A father can especially help a son deal with aggressions and move into responsible manhood in ways particular to men.
Many experts agree that in spite of the fact that Hallmark sells twice as many Mother’s Day cards than Father’s Day cards, fathers are very important in God’s plan of salvation, to save this generation from some unnecessary hardships of life. [slide # 8 baby hand in father’ s hand]
As Jesus said, God’s plan, God’s kingdom begins with seeds as small as mustard seeds. Even the smallest Godly things that a father does and says will lead to great blessings for his children. Even the tiniest first steps can lead to a wonderfully long journey of faith and wisdom that leaves children, bearing much fruit of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness (generosity), faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Jesus said in verses 31-32 “The small mustard seed when sown…grows big enough to enable birds to nest in its shade.” [ slide # 9 verse 31-32 ] When fathers sow Godly behavior, they will reap what they sow. They will grow something great. The children will have it made in the shade! [slide # 10 happy children]
Godly fathers do not make children’s lives perfect, [slide # 11 Godly father] but more often than not, children of a father who is growing spiritually and allows himself to be nurtured by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, will experience the rewards and satisfactions that are intended for all children. [slide # 12  father and baby] May it be so today and every day! [slide # 13 Jesus hugging…]  Amen.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

June 10 2018 “Cramped in a Crowd” *Mark 3.20-35

June 10 2018 “Cramped in a Crowd” I Samuel 8.4-20, *Mark 3.20-35 Pastor Jacqueline Hines

We all appreciate a good crowd. You may have been a part of a crowd recently at the Pottstown Memorial Day parade, [slide # 1  parade] the Elverson Blues festival, [slide # 2 festival] the royal wedding, [slide # 3  wedding] or the funeral of Rev. Billy Graham. [slide # 4  Graham funeral] There is a crowd at church depending on what we are celebrating or what the menu is. We certainly have the finest cooks around! [slide #  5 good cooks…]
We do not mind being in a crowd if it is a good crowd. There are crowds we would prefer never to be a part of – such as crowds on the expressway, or in a grocery store before a storm, or when a couple is arguing in a restaurant. We rather be in a good crowd.
Some who heard about the royal wedding wanted so much to be a part of the in-crowd that they gave nice gifts. They wanted to be remembered as being a part of something big. The royal couple, for ethical reasons returned 9 million dollars’ worth of gifts – gifts that were apparently given perhaps by businesses and wannabee famous persons who hoped for some gift or favor in return.
Every now and then, we may find ourselves wrestling with what donations we should give to get the most “bang for our buck.” Like any good steward of the blessings God gives us, we do not want to drop money into a bottomless pit, we want to make a difference. We want what we give to produce good things and to multiply blessings.
Meda Maron is the director of Project Outreach with which Bethel has been one of the 26 churches involved for about 35 years. [slide # 6  Project Outreach] They serve 180 families per week with food, (for the 9 % of Chester County families that are food insecure); they help with temporary housing, oil bills and anything else they can. When I asked Meda this week how things were going she said they were going very well. She said we never have to say “no” to a need. How amazing is that. We all want to be part of a crowd where the work is so blessed, that it is a blessing to many.
We all want our spiritual cups to overflow. There are three spiritual states that we may find ourselves: We either have not enough, just enough, or more than enough. Of course, we pray and work for God’s mercy and grace to have more than enough of what we need so we can share, rather than not enough or just enough for ourselves. 
When Jesus was hanging out and helping the crowds, the scribes, writers of the law, claimed that Jesus had a demon. Verse says “‘He has Beelzebub” [slide   7   verse  22 …He has Beelzebul] which means “Lord of the flies – where the nasty, infectious, infested, refuse piles can be found. The scribes were determined to make a case against Jesus. So they depended on diagnosis and labels to prejudice people against him.
Demonic influences and mental disorders are often blurred in our minds, in our churches, and perhaps a bit less in the minds of psychotherapists and psychiatrists. One thing is for sure, whether in mind or body, when we are not well, it is a blessing to have a crowd of family and friends who care about us, and to have well-researched treatments that can restore us.
There are seasons when neither our mind nor our bodies find much balance, only chaos and confusion. It is in those times that we are left with our faith in God alone. When God is all we have, God is all we need. Whatever our health status, prayer makes a difference. Prayer creates good energy. Prayer opens our spiritual eyes. Prayer opens our spiritual ears. Prayer opens our spiritual heart to feel compassion, our hands to do good deeds, and our arms to hold on to one another. Prayer changes things. [slide #  8 prayer changes things]
We know from particular bible passages that at one point, Jesus’ brothers probably spent more energy being jealous of Jesus and trying to get rid of Jesus than they spent praying for Jesus. When we stop praying, the devil starts preying on us and we become more like him.
Jesus’ family wondered about the crowd that he was hanging around. It seemed he was so involved that he did not even get a chance to eat. They did not think that was good. My mother used to tell the story of how worried she was that my baby sister would go for an unusually long time without eating, so she took her to Doctor Hadadd, who said, “She’s fine. She will eat when she gets hungry and that is exactly what she did on her own terms.
Jesus had said to his disciples that his bread, his primary sustenance, was doing the will of God, but that did not fly with his mother Mary. She thought he was losing his mental and emotional balance. Perhaps they thought he was too young to be so fanatical about religion, that giving 100% to God was too much for anyone to give, much less a young man. His family sent for him and tried to bring him home, but Jesus refused, claiming that his family were those people who do the will of God, not just what they wanted to do.
That is why we in the church we call ourselves “family.” We focus on God’s will above our own. God gives us 100% love and guidance and we want to give God and God’s people 100% of what God asks and nothing less. That is not easy.
I recently listened to a couple men who had visited the Middle East. They were unnerved by the lack of love, the willingness to hate, and the ease at which they could kill. They were happy to return and set their feet on American soil, for God has blessed America.
We have done enough peacemaking in order for many to live in peace, at least more peace than many countries. If we do not want to become like other countries, we must continue to do the work of dialoguing, getting to know and love one another, and daring to pray for one another. Otherwise, war and distress will find us and sneak up on us like a thief in the night.
In spite of much sad news, there was good news this week in the Middle East. A woman in Saudi Arabia was the first female to be issued a driver’s license [slide #  9  Saudi driver] since the ban against women drivers was finally lifted beginning June 24th. This is progress, even though at least four women who were arrested for protesting the ban, are awaiting trial. Other protesting women have been killed, detained for months, and had to take refuge in other countries. Now they won’t have to hire drivers or depend on their husbands and sons for a right that we Americans have free to exercise since cars came on the scene in the 1900’s.
We need to stop acting like the Spirit is not calling us to pray or do something to bless someone when God is calling us. That would be the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that verse 29 refers to; [slide #  10 verse 29 whoever blasphemes…forgiveness] to dismiss the presence of the Holy Spirit urging us to care about each other as human beings who laugh and cry and suffer, whether they be across the street, across town, or across the ocean, is unforgiveable.
We may be doing all God is asking of us today. [slide #  11 God is pleased] If not, there is a price to be paid in our hearts and in one another’s lives. The cost of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, disregarding, disrespecting, disapproving, dismantling, disengaging with the Holy Spirit is not forgiven. Consequences will ALWAYS be incurred. We need to care. Hate and ignoring one another’s needs is too high a price to pay for any person, family, country, or church. I cannot always tell you what God wants you to do; God will speak to your heart if you are listening.
It is not easy, but we have Jesus as our model to give our all, all that God asks. Giving our all begins with being grateful. When I bring in a bag of groceries and forget to thank God for the bounty or when I pray for something as simple as a nice parking spot when I am in a hurry and I get one and I don’t think about saying thank you, I often say to myself, it is good to remember to say, “thank you, God.” I say to myself, “Would I want to live without all those blessings that I take for granted and gobble up without breathing a word of gratitude to God? Which of the blessings that I can’t remember to give thanks for, would I want to live without?
I will never forget one of my Confirmation students long ago who during a discussion about tithing ten percent of our income, explained, “Giving God, ten cents for every dollar we get, that is not much at all!” [slide # 12  giving to God]
No, ten percent is not a lot compared to the 90 percent that is ours to keep. Even though, we only keep it long enough to hand over 35% to the government [slide # 13 couple viewing bills] and another percentage to the mortgage broker or our children’s education fund or that supplementary health insurance plan, not to mention groceries and a couple dollars to go out to dinner or an annual get away to vacation or be with family and friends living far away.
Ten percent is not much; it is a test; it may be the source of temptation to hold back our grateful giving out of fear of having a need, rather than having faith that God will provide. Ten percent is a reminder of the time to pray and ask God what we can best give and how we can best serve, though we may not want to have the conversation with God out of fear that we may be called to share or sacrifice.
Nevertheless, our lives are crowded with blessings. When we are blessed, we can bless God. We can bless one another. We are blessed to be a blessing, a blessing to many. [slide # 14  thanking and giving to God] Amen. [slide # 15 …more in return]

Saturday, June 2, 2018

June 3 2018 “Simply Social Sabbath”

June 3 2018  “Simply Social Sabbath”  I Samuel 3. 1-20,  *Mark 2.23-3.6 Pastor Jacqueline Hines
How many of us growing up remember the days when none of the grocery stores were open. If you did not get your milk and bread on Saturday, you had to wait until Monday morning. There were no 24 hour grocery stores. As Sonia told me last week, there were no restaurants to eat at after church. You ate Sunday dinner at home. [slide # 1 family dinner]
In my generation, we were ironing Sunday dresses and cooking dinner even on a Sunday, something many in the generation before us would never think of doing. We can think of each generation as getting slack on the rules of Sabbath or we can think of each generation coming to grips with the reality that some rules need not be adhered to blindly and rigidly, but reflectively, flexibly, respectfully, and prayerfully. [slide # 2 remember the Sabbath…] Once when I was studying the Sabbath, I was preparing to do as little common work as I possibly could. It was a challenge when my mother asked me to drive her to the grocery store. I asked the Lord what I should do and I heard God speak to my heart in clear, but simple and paternal tones, “Of course, you better take your mother to the store.” That put an end to any notions I had of thinking I had to choose God over my mother. [slide # 3 law of love]
Sometimes we are frantic about following God’s law. Sometimes we are afraid we will miss our blessings and bring the wrath of God down on our lives. Rather God wants us to see the Ten Commandments – and particularly the 4th [ slide # 4  fourth commandment] one that tells us to honor the Sabbath - as a loving hug that binds us to a wise God and binds us to one another’s affections rather than being a rope that restricts us from enjoying life! [side # 5 the greatest commandment, heart]
In our scripture from Mark, Jesus gives the example of a time when David and his refugee buddies were hungry and ate the bread that was to be kept constantly at the altar. It was called the bread of presence. It represented the nurturing, providing presence of our God. Eating the bread was against the religious, cultural, and spiritual laws. Since David and his soldiers were hungry, they had good reason to eat the bread and put the law on hold. They were close enough to God to reason that eating the bread would not violate the Spirit of the law.
Jesus emphasized the spirit of the law when he said in verse 27, ‘The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath;” God did not make us so we could follow certain rules of the Sabbath like robots. God made the Sabbath for us so we could find rest and relaxation and joy in worship and joy in each other’s presence, and not work ourselves to death. [slide # 6  Sabbath rest]
One of my colleagues mentioned that his wife had a very high profile job. She was making good money, but she was so stressed out by the long commute, the inconvenient hours, and the intensity of the personnel matters that she was under a doctor’s care for high blood pressure and high glucose levels and other symptoms. As soon as she retired, her health changed for the better.
One of my relatives has vascular issues and developed an ulcer on her lower leg. She got a second job full-time job, planning to make some extra money for a few months and transition into deciding which job she was going to keep. It has been nearly a year that she has been working two full time jobs. Family members have grown accustomed to having her pay for dinners and other goodies. But, she still has two full time jobs, and now instead of having one ulcer on her leg, she has two. God made the Sabbath to bless us not to hurt us.
Breaking laws, religious or otherwise, can be very tempting. It is tempting to roll through a stop sign when there is no traffic in sight. [ slide # 7 stop sign] We are often in a rush and can justify doing our own thing. Still, establishing healthy boundaries and obeying safety rules are good habits that are a blessing for many reasons. [slide # 8 obedience…blessings]
It is important to rest and not work ourselves to death. Even more important is it to rest in the Lord after we have done God’s good and holy work. I love the Isaiah 30 verse where God says, “In returning, repenting and rest you shall be saved. In quietness and trust is your strength.”
One thing that has made us especially rest-less these days is the type of incident we witnessed in a Starbucks coffee shop. [slide # 9 Starbucks] It amazes me and gladdens my heart to know that in such incidents, people of many different races take videos with their phones and speak out against hatred. It was Melissa DePino [ slide # 10 Melissa] who videotaped the Starbucks incident.
A few months ago, an incident of the same ilk was discovered at our own United Methodist Albright College in Reading. Also, it is not unusual to find hatemongers driving persons to catastrophe because of their sexual orientation or transgender identity. No human being should be mistreated for any reason. It is good when God sends somebody to help us see the changes that need to be made for the better.
Our work is to always be about the mission of helping others find the light of Jesus and having their lives transformed. [slide #   11  mission of the church…]  Our work is to welcome all who enter into God’s presence with us, to share outrageous hospitality no matter where they have come from or where they are going. Our work is to be the hands and feet of Jesus wherever we go. It is not always an easy work, so God provides rest for our souls.
Pastor Clif Christopher author of Rich Church, Poor Church tells the story of going to a new church, having a wonderful first Sunday service and returning to the church that evening to lead the youth group only to find out that there were no youth, so he went out through the neighborhood and to the schools and invited the youth to play basketball and eat hotdogs. After a while, a few members called him in for a meeting and told him that having all those kids around was causing too much mess to clean and the money being spent for snacks was not in the budget, so they wanted to make a new rule: only those kids whose parents were members could come to the group. That attitude is a far cry from that tells us to show hospitality without grumbling as I Peter 4.9 instructs us. [slide # 12 show hospitality]
The pastor said now let’s think about this. What would Jesus do? One member shouted out, “Now you leave Jesus out of this!”  We do well to remind ourselves on a daily basis that our journey of faith is not about us, it is about the mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world, it is about diversity and dialogue and daring to pray trusting God to guide and provide.
Fortunately, we do remind ourselves daily as the United Methodist Church that we are all about the mission of making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world. That is why we encourage bible studies, VBS, preschool, and camp where children and youth can get a year’s worth of Christian education in one week. [slide #  13 VBS, Preschool dates] That is why I work hard to make sure everyone’s gifts and talents are being used and sharpened, because we need all hands on deck to equip and strengthen each other to make the journey, to follow Jesus everywhere he leads. That is why we train and equip ourselves to have good boundaries so the bullies and perpetrators remain outside and the peacemakers feel safe as they do God’s work within and without.
We want peacemakers more so than peacekeepers because peacemakers sometimes have to speak the truth in love and stir up the pot while peacekeepers tend to keep the peace, even when others are suffering. Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.
Our Bishop Peggy Johnson reminded all her pastors one year to work hard to keep an eye out for those who need Jesus and those who have never been a part of the church before. It is one thing to work to add members to our rolls from one church to another. It is another thing to work to welcome those who have never professed their faith or never belonged to the church before.
The story is told of one church that had a budget of almost 2 million dollars, and they had two persons join who were new Christians. One expert noted that $800,000 was invested and only two persons professed Jesus as their savior. He questioned whether they had their spending priorities in order. The question was raised, should they spend more money on a mission to encouraged outsiders to follow Jesus? One member chimed up saying, “Why would we count those who are just now professing their faith?” It was said as if outsiders do not matter, but outsiders are the very ones we are called to include in the sheepfold. [slide # 14  calling God-starved…]
What is the work we need to do to reach those who are outside the walls of the church? We received a generous community grant to help us with the elevator. We were encouraged to apply for the grant again, but this time we were asked to work as hard as we could and make a conscious effort to invite persons to serve on our boards who represented a more diverse population.
As a global church, we are in competition with many other businesses, like Starbucks that nurture diversity as a means of keeping the peace and providing good for others in this world. They too are working hard, doing God’s holy work, even though they cannot call themselves religious, much less Christian. Such businesses and organizations, like non-profit hospitals, schools, etc. are financially supported and being called good by many non-religious folks, while some days, churches are left behind, wondering why we should even bother to count the outsiders.
Starbucks gave up millions of dollars to see that their staff was trained to avoid another inhospitable incident. [slide #  15 hands…diversity] Perhaps they were inspired by the church. The United Methodist Church has deep roots in education and training. Yesterday, a diversity training was held at Cedarville UMC. At least two from Bethel attended. It is not the first training that Bethel has been a part of. The Spirit leads me to pray for teachers and students every day. Education and training is the key to eradicate slavery, poverty, hunger, illiteracy, unemployment and many other forms of oppression in our world today. [slide #  16 key on bible]
Education is the key to promote peace, development and well-being. For two Wednesdays in June on the 6th and 20th, staff and leaders of Bethel will gather to attend an in-house training designed to benefit our ultimate mission of equipping and making disciples who are in the business of transforming our world.
The United Methodist Church has close to a thousand, if not more, schools, academies, and universities around the world - Asia-Pacific, Africa, North and South America. Education is an integral part of the Methodist Movement led by John Wesley and Charles Wesley in 18th century England. Kingswood School was the first Methodist school, founded by John Wesley on June 24, 1748, and is still in existence today.  [slide #  17 Kingswood school]
After we pray for guidance, educate ourselves, and unite as one body in Christ, we will surely know what work we must do to reach those who are outside our walls, those who need our Jesus. [slide #  18 welcome home]
We will do as one of Allen’s songs reminds us to do, “So you bring the one next to you, And I’ll bring the one next to me; In all kinds of weather, we’ll all work together, And see what can be done…”
For many reasons working hard at welcoming and inviting others to follow us as we follow Jesus is an overwhelming task. There are so many needs and so many new ideas and cultural meanings with which to dialogue and digest. It can be exhausting, sometimes humiliating, and sometimes uncomfortable. Still, it is only after doing God’s good and holy work that we can find rest! [slide # 19 prayer…God’s rest.] Amen. [slide #20  rest..salvation]  [slide # 21 make disciples…]

Friday, May 25, 2018

May 27 2018 “Come Holy Spirit, Come: Send Us”

May 27 2018 “Come Holy Spirit, Come: Send Us” *Isaiah 6.1-8, Romans 8.12-17 Jacqueline Hines

The prophet Isaiah records in the 6th chapter that the King of Judah who reigned 700 years before Jesus was born in Judah, had died. The year that King Uzziah died was like any other time when a prominent leader dies. The whole world knew that things were about to change, and everyone was watching and waiting and wondering what was going to happen next.
Uzziah had reigned for over 50 years and things had gone very well. The military was stronger, food was plentiful, and there was a good measure of peace and security in most communities. King Uzziah made his mistakes along the way, but they were nothing compared to the great things that had been accomplished by the grace of God.
Today, if we flip through all the editions of the 2018 Mercury, we would see obituaries of the lives of well-known persons whose deaths have changed our world. There are names such as scientist Stephen Hawking, who studied the black hole and relativity [slide # 1  Hawking], Dorothy Malone [slide # 2  Malone] an Oscar-winning actress, Barbara Bush [slide #  3   Bush] former first lady, and Winnie Mandela [slide # 4  Mandela] anti-apartheid activist. We take notice of important people in our lives who die, and for years, we remember how their lives mattered to us.
On the day that King Uzziah died, Isaiah, the prophet took a special note of what a blessing he was, and he knew life could change drastically. Isaiah was the king’s prophet. Now that Uzziah was gone, Isaiah must have wondered if the next king would pay attention to his spiritual guidance.
Every king had a prophet, just like every U.S. president has a Godly adviser like a Billy Graham, [slide # 5 Graham] like every U.S. senate has a chaplain like the current chaplain Barry Black [slide # 6  Chaplain Black] a retired Navy Rear Admiral and former Chief of Navy Chaplains.
Isaiah was God’s messenger of wisdom and comfort for king Uzziah and on the day that the king died, Isaiah says he saw the Lord. The king was gone, but with his spiritual eyes, Isaiah saw that the Lord was still on the throne. Certainly, we take comfort in a loving God ruling and reigning over our lives. We do not like everything that happens in this world, but the idea that God’s ultimate purpose and plan is love and justice gives us a reason to keep the faith. The idea that love never fails gives us strength to continue our journey.
Isaiah saw three things in chapter 6 that we all must see if we are going to survive when it seems that all is lost and terrible things are about to happen. First, verse 1 says that Isaiah saw the Lord, high and lifted up, sitting on a throne. We all need to see God for ourselves. We all need to be aware of God’s presence. We may never have a dramatic or mystical experience in our life, but we should all see God constantly in the scriptures, or in the situations in our lives, or in the lifestyle of someone who lets their little light shine.
If we cannot see God, we cannot follow. Without a vision, the bible says we cannot live. Jesus also said, we cannot live by bread alone, we need God’s word, through scripture or example or testimony. Otherwise, we wither on the vine, that is, we bear no spiritual fruit - no love, no joy, no peace, little patience, barely any kindness, hardly any goodness (generosity), we lack faithfulness, and self-control is not in our vocabulary. We need to see God’s word through scripture or example.
Isaiah, not only saw God on the day that King Uzziah died, Isaiah says he saw the hem of God’s robe, and it filled the temple. I like the New International Version that says “…and the train of his robe filled the temple.” [slide # 7 the train of his robe….].  We have seen trains worn by royalty and those with status and power. The world just witnessed the very public wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Meghan’s train was 16 feet long. [slide # 8 Markle’s wedding gown].
In this season of graduations, we see robes worn by those who have earned positions of power that come with certain academic degrees. [slide  #  9  putting on academic hood] Their dress is also a version of a royal train. [slide #  10  gathered with academic hoods ]
Bishops, priests, preachers, and those in religious orders wear capes, long and short to symbolize the wide reach of God’s presence and power. [slide # 11  cardinal robe]  There have been linen, wools, furs, [slide # 12  fur stole] and silks that drape around, and down and long and wide, signifying a certain position with God and with God’s people. [slide # 13  group of clerics]
St. Martin of Tours, is known as the military saint. [slide # 14 St. Martin of Tours] He looked past the expense and luxury of his cape, that draped like a train to represent his high status. St. Martin cut his cape with his military sword and shared it with a beggar who had little to wear in the dead of winter. It is good in our moments of celebration and luxury that we find a way to remember those who are suffering.
Isaiah’s saw God as a ruler with status and power and we need to see God in that way as well.
The second thing Isaiah sees that all of us need to see on our faith journey is in verse 5. He sees where he falls short and he can admit it. “I am a man of unclean lips, [ slide # 15  I am a man…] and I dwell with a people of unclean lips.” Isaiah understands that there is at least one place in his life where he needs God to help him and strengthen him if he is going to go to the next spiritual level. Then he will be able to witness to God’s power and love in at least that one area – whether it is great or small.
Thirdly, Isaiah sees the altar of God. Isaiah is so close to the throne of God that he can feel the warmth of fire from the altar. In order to get close to the throne of God, one must be able to take some heat, the heat of confession and repentance, the heat of trials and tribulations. Isaiah is also close enough to the altar to hear the angels known as cherubs. They are God’s front line security guards, and they are singing praises to God, for praising God protects us from many enemies. They cry “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
Isaiah can even see the second round of God’s security force, the seraphim. The word “Seraphim” means “burning ones.” Seraphim are on fire for God. The seraphim remind me of a story of a preacher who was on fire for God. People would fill arenas and fields to listen his sermons. He was heard to say, “I set myself on fire, and people come from miles around to watch me burn with my passion for God.”
A seraph can be considered God’s closest source of security, the highest order of angels. They were very close to the altar. They had access to the fires of Heaven and, no doubt, the fires of hell. Bishop Tutu in his fight against apartheid, would thank the world for their prayers and he reminded everyone that their prayers were not in vain. He knew their prayers created a wall of fire against the enemy. Prayer brings us as close to God as we can get.
Isaiah saw the seraphim flying down from that high and lofty place, bringing a hot coal from God’s altar. They placed it on his lips. [slide # 16  seraphim with coal] The coal was so hot it had to be carried with tongs, yet it was not too hot for his lips. Whatever work God has to do in us may seem like it could damage or destroy us, but God has the right amount of fire, the right timing and the right touch that can free us of our sin and guilt.
Isaiah was able to see God for the great God that God is, admit his weaknesses, and stand in the divine presence of God long enough to become free of his sin and guilt. After all of that, Isaiah hears the voice of the lord asking, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Isaiah was not hiding. He spoke out, ‘Here am I; send me!’
It is not easy to listen to God’s voice, especially when you know God wants something. After all, we are not really trying to listen to the God who wants to intoxicate us so we will be forever under the influence and control of the spirit of love, yielding what author Richard Foster names as the places we find hardest to surrender to God: money, sex, and power!
We cannot answer God’s call us unless we see what Isaiah saw: A Holy God who is high and lifted up, a God who loves us with a passionate fire, [slide # 17  fire of God’s love] and a God whose altars are secured with many angels to serve us as we serve God. [slide  18 …don’t grow cold.] Amen. [slide #   19  William Penn]