Friday, April 13, 2018

April 15 2018 "Peace Be With You!" luke 24. 36-48

April 15 2018 Luke 24.36b-48 “Peace Be With You” Pastor J. Hines
+++The story of Jesus’ surprise visit to the disciples during their prayer meeting is one of the most mystical and mysterious in the bible. [slide # 1  Jesus in the room] Luke writes as if Jesus just appeared like a ghost out of nowhere. They did not see him open the door because it was locked and dead bolted – according to the gospel of John.
They must have looked as if they had seen a ghost. [slide # 2 Thomas open-mouthed] They were already pretty shook up. The reason they had the doors locked tightly was because they were afraid that the chief priests and the Pharisees were going to send thugs to arrest them and persecute them and hang them high like they had done to Jesus.
They were traumatized, having followed Jesus even though those so-called Godly men were constantly hunting him down to harass him. They were jealous of all the attention he was getting. The more attention Jesus got for doing good, the less the establishment received in their offering plates while doing evil.
The disciples had gone through so much with Jesus. Now he had gone and got himself killed and left them behind, grieving and floundering, confused and distressed. Worst of all, their lives were in danger. They were at risk, daring to meet to pray and come up with a plan of protection for their families. They needed a plan to defend themselves or maybe even to disarm the enemy before the enemy had a chance to attack them.
They talked, maybe even argued about what to do next and….. in walks Jesus. [slide # 3 Jesus in center] The atmosphere was filled with anguish, but Jesus dared to speak, and this is what he said: “Peace be with you.”
You would think that they would be relieved knowing that he had just the answer they needed most. But, no. Verse 37 says “They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.”
There is an important lesson that we can take from Luke’s text this morning. The lesson is that when Jesus brings peace, it can be a very unsettling experience. [slide # 4 man walking tightrope] Our first reaction may be to be scared out of our minds. Peace comes from God. Peace is a product of Heaven. God provides it. Angels deliver it. We receive it. Peace comes from a place that is out of this world. Peace is precious and divine and holy and we may not be used to it. [slide # 5 peace]
There are children in this country who are not used to the peace that others are used to. Some children do not know what life was like before cell phones, computers, or monthly school shootings in the news. More than ever, we are all living on edge! We need to grow together that fruit of the Holy Spirit among others – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness (generosity), faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Some children, here and abroad, are not used to families and governments and friends who consciously cultivate the things that make for peace. [slide # 6 child / peace sign]
Isn’t it ironic? Sometimes, we have to fight in order to get peace. Parents have a fight on their hands when they try to get their kids off the computer. [slide # 7 baby on computer] Parents know that too much time on the computer can leave children restless and agitated and without sufficient exercise.
Teachers have to fight with parents who feel safer when their kids have their own cell phone with them at school. Teachers need student’s full attention to get them to absorb advanced material. [slide # 8 student on cell phone] Peace has a price.  [slide # 9 Peace has a Price]
I heard a father sharing that he and his wife had learned life-saving information through nar - anon – the narcotic equivalent to al-anon where families gather in a group to discuss their experiences with an addict. [slide # 10 nar-anon] This father learned that they were enabling their drug addicted son. They would give their son what the son wanted because they felt guilty and whenever the son wanted something, he would just keep pushing their buttons until they felt so guilty that they would give him anything – even a path for more drugs. [slide # 11 guilt]
When they stopped the cycle of guilt and giving in, [slide # 12 cold turkey] it was not a pretty picture. [slide # 13 sitting on floor] It was not at all peaceful. However, when they stopped parenting by guilt, the father says, the son began to heal and their story ends with joy just as it did for the disciples. Verse 41 says “While in their joy - the disciples were disbelieving and still wondering…” They didn’t understand what was going on, but they had joy! [slide # 14 joy]
We all have things we may not see until Jesus that moment when Jesus comes to us in our distress and speaks peace into our lives, [slide # 15 peace... sunrise] even though it may be unsettling at first. I was listening to a book about emotional and cultural blind spots that humans have. One well-known example comes from the Innocence Project that has determined that about 70% of [slide # 16     71%...] convictions overturned because of DNA evidence were initially convicted because of an eyewitness who misidentified the suspect. [slide # 17  jail cell]
We pray the Spirit would open our eyes because what we see is so crowded with our own biases, beliefs, and buttons. We want the Holy Spirit to work in us to help us see past whatever walls are blocking our view of all that God is guiding us to. [slide # 18 child looking into scope]
As the saying goes, things are not always what they seem. Skim milk often masquerades as cream.
In one research study on how the mind works, participants viewed a video of an automobile accident. One group was asked how fast they thought the car was going when it was hit and they answered with a certain speed that they thought the car was going. A second group that saw the same video was asked how fast the car was going when it was smashed.   Researchers concluded that just because the word “smashed” was used in the question asked to the second group, they answered with speeds that were much higher than the first group.
Another study about emotional blind spots asked three groups of young technology students to write down the last three digits of their social security number. Next they were asked to write down what price they would pay for a keyboard and a mouse and a book. Normally, there would be no correlation between anyone’s social security numbers and the cost of merchandise, but what researchers found is that the higher their social security number, the higher the price they wrote that they were willing to pay for each item. Researchers conclude that what is close to us, culturally, visually, audibly, etc. often bends us in a certain direction. We need to pray and focus on God’s ways because we are surrounded by so many other ways that influence us.
I took a communication course once and on the first day the professor asked us to write down the grade we thought we would get. I wrote a B, my friend wrote an A. I got a B, my friend got an A. On the last day of class, the professor said he gave us exactly what we said we would get. He did that to remind us that our mind has been shaped by a multitude of factors and we need to pay attention to how we think about ourselves and others.
The other thing that I remember most about that communication course was the lecture on magazine advertising. He showed us a picture of an elegant woman in an advertisement for Virginia Slims cigarettes. She was beautifully dressed and the smoke swirled around her like a friendly ghost as she savored the tobacco. When we were instructed to take a closer look, the professor pointed out that the throne that she was sitting on was not a throne at all but an electric chair and the bracelet she wore as her hand lay on the arm of the chair was not a bracelet at all but a handcuff. The subliminal message was the lie that life is beautiful when you do what I do.
That is why we pray. We want the Spirit to work in us to help us focus on where God wants us to go rather than on any lies or limits of our own hearts and minds and cultures and conversations. We pray because prayer brings light that helps us to see the path that leads to peace. Now more than ever, we need the light. [slide # 19 prayer brings…]
As Jesus says to each and every one of us, to our friends, our family…. “Peace be with you!” Let the unsettling journeys begin?  [slide # 20  prepared for war…peace]  [slide #   21  Thomas looking at Jesus scars]

Sunday, April 8, 2018

April 8 2018 Holy Humor Sunday Acts 4.32-35

April 8 2018 Holy Humor Sunday*Acts 4.32-35 “Unity”  Pastor Jacqueline Hines+++
Today is Holy Humor Sunday and we are starting and ending the message with humor. [ slide # 1 humor… blessing / M. Twain]
Humorous…Prayer p 52 Humor from the Heart
Why didn’t Noah trust the ocean?  He knew there was something fishy about it.
Why didn’t they play cards on the Ark. Noah was standing on the deck.
+++       The book of Acts tells the story of the very first Christian churches. Verse 32 says they were of one heart and soul! [slide # 2 they were of one heart] They had a heart [slide # 3 hearts] for each other and their souls were united as one. It is so nice to share moments when we get along, when we agree, when conversations are as smooth as silk! When there are plenty fun times and laughter that help us make it through the day. That is the way the early church has been described. Not only were they united as one, verse 32 also says they shared their possessions so that everybody had everything they needed. Everything they owned was held in common. [slide # 4 Everything they had….]
One can imagine that there was a concerted effort to see that everyone’s basic needs for food and shelter were met. It had to be a part of their culture, a part of their value system and training. It is a great society that cares for you whenever you are either the least, the last or the lost in a community. It is a Godly society that cares. Rev. Thomas Davis-Chapelle led our Staff-Parish Relations Committee workshop on Conflict Management this week and in it he reminded us that the church is not a democracy, it is a theocracy. [slide # 5 theocracy] In the church, God’s ways rule and human rules are secondary.
The rules and laws were fresh in the minds of the early church. Jesus had lived among them and taught them first hand all they needed to know. God’s people were very inspired to do the right thing. For the most part they delighted in the things of God, blessing one another and taking care of God’s business.
On a good day, every church delights to do God’s will. When we work together to make the good happen, we celebrate. Meeting anyone’s need glorifies God. We celebrate by doing what the church did in verse 33. We give testimonies. [slide # 6 …vs 33 testimony] We give money and anything else we are led to give. [slide # 7 writing a check] Verse 34 [slide # 8 verse 34…] says they sold property and shared the profit with those in need. [slide # 9 cash in hand / house ] The members of the early church also cooperated with godly leadership. They laid the proceeds of their property sales at the Apostle’s feet and the apostles distributed them to whoever had a need. [slide # 10 verse 35 …had a need]
Several of you have breathed a sigh of relief knowing that your duty to the IRS has been fulfilled and you have done your taxes, early. [slide # 11  IRS] As Christian stewards, our resources are under the same scrutiny and demand as our government. Since our ultimate rule is by a theocracy rather than a democracy, [slide # 12 scroll] we pray we will obey God’s rules for tithing, sharing, sacrificing, giving, receiving, and cooperating with the leading of the Holy Spirit. [slide # 13 leading….]
When I was a college student, I only had a few bucks from a work study assignment, but I felt led to share a hundred dollars or so to one of my classmates who, unbeknownst to me had been praying for money for a very special Christmas gift. There have been many such occasions along the way, when I have felt led to give someone money. Several of you have shared similar stories.
While we are wrestling with our own needs and financial issues, we smile, even laugh at our challenges around money. There is a lot of tension around money. Money is at the top of the list of things we worry about. Worries about money can make us angry or they can keep us awake at night. Humor helps to keep us calm. For example, “Money talks, it has been said, but all mine ever says is goodbye.”
This year I am working to reflect more diligently on money but also on stuff that I accumulate. I earnestly want to let go of things I do not need. I want to pay attention to what is most valuable in life. I want to clear the clutter. I want to leave room for God to put into my life things that I really need.
I invite you to come with me on this journey of letting go and letting God, of making room for more of God. [slide # 14 room for more] There are probably things we have that we do not need, or perhaps God is calling us to share with someone who needs it more. Can we believe that if we let them go, we will have more room in our hearts and in our homes for the things for which God sees we have a more urgent need? [slide # 15 pitcher…to be filled]
Perhaps we need more sensitivity, more understanding, more organization, more responsibility, more patience, more awareness, more discipline, more friends, more quiet, more humility, more love, more strength, more power. Whatever we need, God would be pleased to provide it. [slide # 16 …God wants to bless you]  I would bet that as we go deeper in our time of prayer, we would certainly see that we have at least one need that God is trying to bring to our attention and provide for us.
So here are some humorous lines about money – the thing that concerns us most - that can make the journey of letting go and letting God a little easier: [slide # 17 laughter heals]
The first humorous line is- I have one of those unlimited cell phone plans. There is no limit to what they can charge me.
The best things in life are free - plus shipping and handling.
If you think nobody cares whether you are alive or not, try missing a couple payments.
People say money is not the key to happiness, but I always figure if I have enough money I can have a key made.
Why did a certain husband not report his stolen credit card? The thief was spending less money than his wife.
Money isn’t everything but it sure keeps you in touch with your children.
Nothing says you love dogs, like spending more on a dog’s hair cut than you do on your own.
Finally, a bank is a place that will lend you money when you can prove that you don’t need it.
The early church worked together to make sure everyone’s needs were met. Each of us has a need that God wants to meet. This is a day to begin to let go and let God meet that need. [slide # 18 God wants to meet…]
If you are like me, you might wonder just how complicated and out of the ordinary life will get if we invite God into the neediest and most worrisome areas of our lives. [slide # 19 my way/god’s way signs] God’s work can be a bit challenging and even intimidating!! Nevertheless, I invite you on this journey of being a church where we worship and serve a God that is big enough to meet all our needs and to guide us in directions that are more meaningful and magnificent than all the stuff in the world. Amen. [slide # 20  let go…balloons]

Friday, April 6, 2018

April 1 2018 Easter Sunday Service

April 1 (Easter) 2018  Acts 10.34-43 “New Life Calling” Pastor Jacqueline Hines
There was a religious woman who had to do a lot of traveling for her business. Flying made her very nervous, so she always took her Bible along with her. One time, she was sitting next to a man. When he saw her pull out her Bible, he gave a little chuckle and smirk and went back to what he was doing.      After a while, he turned to her and asked, "You don't really believe all that stuff in there do you?"
The woman replied, "Of course I do. It is the Bible."
He said, "Well, what about that guy that was swallowed by that whale?"
She replied, "Oh, Jonah. Yes, I believe that, it is in the Bible."
He asked, "Well, how do you suppose he survived all that time inside the whale?" The woman said, "Well, I don't really know. I guess when I get to heaven, I will ask him." "What if he isn't in heaven?" the man asked sarcastically. "Then you can ask him," replied the woman.
In our Easter bible readings this morning, we find the most famous disciple of Jesus, besides Judas. [slide # 1 Judas] His name is Peter. Peter was invited to a city called Caesarea. [slide # 2 Peter] He was invited to the home of Cornelius (a nice Greek name – from Roman society). Cornelius wanted to hear what Peter had to say about this Jesus who was supposed to have risen from the grave. [slide # 3 Cornelius welcoming Peter]
Cornelius was a highly spiritual man, and he was a military officer. [slide # 4 Cornelius] Of course, the military was also a part of the police force and they knew all about this Jesus and his followers. [slide# 5 Jesus surrounded] There were constant calls about him. Jesus was in the news every week for some controversial issue around money or power. Outstanding things happened when he showed up. Some felt he was getting too much attention, drawing it away from those who thought they deserved it more. Finally, they nailed him to a cross, Roman style. The Romans were known for being sadistic and cruel. [slide # 6 Jesus arrested]
It is a blessing that we as Americans make laws against cruel and unusual punishment? We even support Humane Societies that advocate for tender, caring treatment of people and animals and speak against behaviors that cause suffering. [slide # 7 humane society]
Jesus was murdered in a most cruel and hateful way. Yet, death did not stop him from loving the whole world and rescuing all who were willing to be saved from their sins. Somehow, a lot of people still felt his presence and heard his voice. [slide # 8 Jesus and child]
Some even said they saw him after he was killed on Golgotha’s hill on Calvary. [slide # 9 Golgotha] A few saw him while they were walking on the road to Emmaus, not too far from Jerusalem. [slide # 10 road to Emmaus] The 11 disciples saw him come into their underground prayer meeting, [slide # 11 Jesus walks in the meeting] as they were hiding from the Chief Priests, who probably wanted to do to them what they did to Jesus.
All who saw him after he had risen had no doubt that he was still alive. They began to share what they witnessed.. [slide # 12 He’s alive!] The stories spread like wildfire. Death was only the beginning. It was not the end as some had believed. [slide# 13 he lives]
Jesus’ Spirit seemed to overflow from the grave, causing earthquakes and shivers in unexpected places. Believers from everywhere were flooded with a sense of victory. They saw visions, [slide # 14 Jesus rose ] they felt an inexplicable tingling in their spine, powerful dreams rocked their world, awesome and unimaginable things happened like being at the right place at the perfect time.
The first century Christians experienced the same thing modern-day Christians experience today over 2,000 years later. In the last few weeks, we heard the stories of how we see the power of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit working in our lives. In every service, we heard a testimony. [slide # 15 testimony]
We started with our music director who shared how God gave her a new husband and what a blessing he has been to her along with so many mind-blowing blessings she has received. A father talked about his recovery from opioids and how at last he has seen the light, that will guide him to being the best father and husband he can be. A historian talked about praying to God as conversation during his sister’s illness rather than simply reciting the prayers he had learned in his faith journey.
A senior citizen shared her gratitude that she survived a Florida hurricane and returned home to Pennsylvania with nothing but $2,000. She says God paved a way to get to Bethel Church who welcomed her with loving and open arms. A fourth generation member at Bethel, testified to the blessing of joining church the same day as his paternal grandfather. One of our favorite cooks answered a phone call from a stranger and saved his life. He was preparing to commit suicide. A member of SPRC told of feeling God’s supernatural peace and calm when she went through cancer treatment and answering God’s call to serve on the mission field.
One liturgist talked about God giving her the love and strength in family matters, especially the children, and especially, her granddaughter Scarlett who was just baptized. A ten year old told how she saw God blessing her family and when one of her classmates saw her praying for God’s help during a math class, she explained what she was doing, and the classmate started praying also. 
A trustee shared a light bulb moment when a prayer he had prayed for 6 years did not seem to be answered. Then God revealed to him a not-so-perfect side of himself that would lead to many answers. Our church decorator blessed us with details about how God used Bethel in a superb mission to our sister church in Philadelphia.
These are the stories that keep us together as a family of faith, passing the torch to the next generation. These are the stories that remind us that Jesus is alive. He lives within our hearts. We see him everywhere, and the more we work and grow together in harmony, the more we experience the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and around us.
Jesus’ name meant trouble for those who were jealous, but comfort for the believer. [slide # 16 Jesus comforts man on floor] Peter was invited to come and tell stories about Jesus, to share evidence that could prove that Jesus was still speaking to hearts that cared and guiding those who were willing to walk in the paths of right living. [slide # 17 follow Jesus]
Peter was known around town as Simon – Bar - Jonah, or Simon “Bar” – [slide # 18 “Bar”…] and “Bar” means “son” as in, Bar Mitzvah – son of the law. [slide # 19 Bar Mitzvah…] The man we call Peter, Bar Jonah, is the w “Son of Jonah” [slide # 20 Peter – son of Jonah] (Not the prophet swallowed by the whale, of course.)
Peter was very much a family man. By trade he was a fisherman. By night he followed Jesus into the gardens of Gethsemane or a certain olive grove to pray privately, protecting themselves from the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were sad you see. That’s where Judas knew to find him to turn him in to be arrested. That’s why Judas brought lanterns and torches. It was at night.
We call the most famous disciple, Peter, but his real name in the Greek translation is “Petros.” [slide # 21 “Petros” ] The New Testament was written in first century Greek. “Why Greek? You say? I thought you’d never ask! Why would it not be written in Hebrew, using the word “Tsuwr”  [slide # 22 Tsuwr = Tsoor]  from the common language of the ancient Jewish communities? Why was it not written in Aramaic, a language Jesus spoke from his home region? Everyone knows that the Aramaic word for “rock” is “Cephas” [slide # 23 Cephas.]
But, the New Testament wasn’t written in any of the languages with which Jesus was most familiar. It was written in Greek, the more common language of the ruling government, the Roman Empire. It was perhaps, especially common among journalists and government officials.
Language is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. That is why the language of social media matters. The language in our homes matters; in our church, language matters. Lobbyists are at this moment trying to keep words such as “Pepsi” and “Coke” away from the television screens when children may be watching. They hope it will discourage them from drinking unhealthy sugary drinks. Language spreads like wildfire from heart to heart and mind to mind and quickly becomes infused into our brains and lifestyles for better or for worse.
Words and stories and testimonies can be like gentle breezes to soothe and comfort, or they can be like dynamite. God wants to use all of our words for powerful purposes. As a guest in the home of Cornelius, Peter says in verse 38 that Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with “dunamis.”
The Greek “dunamis” is used 120 times in the New Testament. It means “strength, power, or ability.” [slide # 24 “dunamis” means “power”] It is the root word of our English words dynamite, dynamo and dynamic. There is power in the name of Jesus. When we hear the name Amazon, Google, America, or Bethel, there is a reputation and expectation that comes to our minds. Peter’s message to those in Cornelius’ home that day was that if we get to know Jesus, he will guide us to a power that has a dynamism which brings life to our lives where we need it most and it defeats death.
God’s power is not a power that makes us 100% perfect or prosperous or pious or pain-free or anything. The power of Jesus simply makes us a child of the living God, loved and adored every step of the way. [slide # 25 father’s love] What can be better than that! Amen. [slide #  26 child of God]

April 1 Easter Sunrise Service

Sunrise service meditation April 1 2018  Jacqueline Hines Bethel UMC, Spring City, Penna.

We made it to another Easter sunrise service, celebrating the risen savior. We positioned ourselves in the last 40 days of penitence and self-denial.  We spent the last several weeks traveling to special services, doing special missions, and offering special prayers all in order to reflect on our weaknesses, humbling ourselves before the only one who can make us strong again.
Now we begin the joyous journey of Easter. It is good to remember that the Lenten season is about 40 days, but the Easter season is 50 days. The time set aside to celebrate new life in our lives is longer than the time set aside to fast and repent of our sins. I also always remember that Job’s story in the bible is followed by the Psalms so full of joy and celebration!
Like Mary, we journey through darkness looking for Jesus, to pay our last respects. When we see that the heavy stone that takes four men to move has already been rolled away, we think the worst. After all, the disciples just borrowed the tomb for a couple nights. Perhaps the owner needed to reclaim his property sooner than expected and put Jesus’ somewhere else.
“Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away,” Mary says. Lord only knows how she planned to lift a thirty year old carpenter who was accustomed to walking several miles in a day. Though finding Jesus was a daunting task, we do resonate with her determination to be find Jesus even though we may not believe that he can do anything for us.
Like Mary, we may resign ourselves to the idea that he is not here until we hear the angels say as they said in the Matthew version of the resurrection story: “He is not here, he is risen just as he said he would… now go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and he will meet you Galilee.”
We may resign ourselves to the idea that he is not here until we hear Jesus call our name like he called Mary in the reading that Terry shared a few moments ago.
It’s absolutely, positively Easter. So whatever darkness or dawning or danger or dream or delight you are journeying through, journey like Mary did. Journey with a determination to show your respect, even if you think there is nothing in it for you. Journey knowing that angels might show up with life-changing news and specific directions on how you can bless the church. Journey, rejoicing more often than you weep, knowing that Jesus has your back and knows you by name. It’s absolutely, positively Easter; let the journey begin. Amen.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

March 25 2018 Palm Sunday "Whose Calling"

Mark 11.1-11 March 25 2018 (Palm Sunday) Mark 11.1-11 “Whose Calling?” Pastor Jacqueline Hines

In our mobile society, we cherish the precious times when we can get together with friends and loved ones. We celebrate one another with smiles, kind gestures, sharing and caring in countless ways. It is a joy to be in fellowship. Whenever two or three are gathered together for God’s good purpose, God fills our cups with blessings until they overflow. [slide # 1 cup]
That is what it was like on the first Palm Sunday. Jesus was being celebrated and the crowd was excited. All his fans were cheering enthusiastically. There were definitely others there who were not on Jesus’ team. They were there representing Jesus’ opponents. [slide # 2 Palm Sunday]
When we gather every Sunday, we make a loud and joyful noise! We are happy to be together. We celebrate our victories. We cheer each other on. We bow at this altar in adoration of Jesus, we lift our voices from the depths of our hearts, and we pray in unison declaring our faith in a loving God.
Jesus is here as he was on that first celebration of his entrance into Jerusalem, the city of Peace and Justice! Verse 9 says the crowd cheered for him, for he had been a blessing to many, just as he has taught us to be a blessing to many. [slide # 3 palm/Jesus on donkey] They were using their outside voices, wishing Jesus well, celebrating the many joyful moments they had experienced with him. They had experienced Jesus within their families. Jesus met with them during biblical studies and voluminous debates in the Temple. They ate together at many suppers, a couple with over 5,000 attending. They excitedly shared many miraculous moments of their healings and the magnificent incidents in which they were helped, which they so appreciated.
In verse 9 we see that they shouted “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (For they all knew that there are several layers of heaven beyond this earth. Each heaven has their own rules and laws by which they operate. There is the sky full of clouds where planes can fly. Next is the home of the moon, stars and other planets. Beyond the stars and moon is the realm where spiritual powers reside. Blasphemous principalities and evil influences rule with lies and deception. Above all is the highest heaven, where the throne of God can be found.)
We align ourselves with those cheering Jesus sending praises past the mundane to the highest heaven. They cheered as he rode into Jerusalem after 3 years of controversial ministry that led to questions and conflict.
We understand this crowd, not because Scriptures tell us whether they were either democrat or republican, liberal or conservative. We understand this crowd, though Scriptures do not say that this crowd had spent the year praying and reflecting on LGBTQ issues like we United Methodists have been doing this year as we meet to create a decisive document called the “The Way Forward” [slide # 4 Way Forward]
We do know that the crowd was very religious. Only religious people could say as they said in verse 9 “God bless this Jesus who is bringing our people into the kingdom – not the U.S. kingdom of President Trump, President Obama, President Bush, President Clinton, President W. Bush, President Reagan, President Carter, President Ford, and so on.
This Palm-celebrating crowd was not cheering for the kingdom of Israel, Egypt, the Pharaoh or the Caesar. At the top of their voices and number one in their minds was the name of the Lord and a blessing for the kingdom of King David – God’s kingdoms, a spiritual kingdom.
“Hosanna, Hosanna” [slide # 5 Hosanna] they said over and over again. We say it today, in our songs and our prayers, though culturally speaking it is not our first language.
“Hosanna” was an expression of joy, praise, adoration, like we express when we clap our hands, hoot, howl, whistle, roar with delight, or enthusiastically say things like “Thank you Jesus!” [slide # 6 Thank you…] or “Go Eagles.” “Hosanna” is a happy expression that reflects hearts full of joy with rosy thoughts, optimistic ideas, favorable outcomes, high hopes, promising possibilities, providential guidance, and heavenly advantages.
It was along with this affirming applause and standing ovation that Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Then verse 11 says “…he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” [slide # 7 he looked around…]
He went into the temple and he looked around at everything.
He went into the temple just as we go to church. Verse 11 says Jesus did something I find quite interesting. He looked around…… at everything. It is not unusual to look around. It is unusual to look around at everything. One reason you might look around at everything is when you are preparing for something big.
Jesus was preparing for something big. [slide # 8 big] Jesus is always preparing for something big in God’s house. There is so much to see when we look around the church. Big things are happening. In the global church we see more people than ever with clean water. Clean water is a good mission. There are countries where children become blind and die simply because they do not have clean water. That is unimaginable for us.  [slide # 9 without love, without water] Because of missions and good government, and nations working united together for a common good, hundreds of millions more people have access to clean water than they have ever had. When we look around, we see that missions matter.
Have you ever looked around the Bethel café around 9 30 on Sunday morning? Have you seen the two guys that meet in the café during the Christian education hour? The two guys represent two generations. There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is working in them and through them to create something big. Scripture says that iron sharpens iron. So when Ron and Tyler get together in the café, there is no doubt that they help each other to be the best preachers. They have both preached the word of God more than once at Bethel. They both let their lights shine in this world of shadows.
There is also a team of folks at Bethel who look around inside and outside of the sanctuary and make big plans to make taking care of God’s house a very high priority. They go about painting and planting, scraping and scrubbing so that God’s house is ready for each royal visit, for every human being that crosses that threshold is a guest to be honored. We maintain God’s house as well as our own homes because God is worthy of our very best!
Others at Bethel gather monthly, governing the Church in big ways. They gather weekly to reflect on the bigness of scriptures, they come together during Advent and Lent with Aubrey’s bigtime opportunities to reflect seriously on spiritual principles, our latest being Made for a Miracle [slide # 10 Made for…]
After soaking in the applause and being fanned by the Palms, [slide # 11 Jesus on a donkey] Jesus went into the sanctuary and looked around. [slide # 12 Jesus in Temple] He was preparing for something big, his biggest mission. He was preparing for at least three things: He was preparing to welcome God’s people, to remind them that they are wanted, to do whatever it takes to make it well with their soul. Verse 11 says he left the Temple and went to Bethany, which was the home of his devoted family of friends -  Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. [slide # 13 Jesus leaving the Temple]
We have learned to do what Jesus did. We gather, we look around at everything, and we prepare for something big. [slide # 14 Jesus leaving the Temple again] We too welcome all into God’s house. We want to remind them that they are wanted. We want to do all we can so it will be well with their souls. May we always be the church God intends us to be. Amen. [slide # 15 Don’t think….]

Sunday, March 18, 2018

March 18 2018 "God Calling"

March 18 2018 (Fifth Sunday in Lent) John 12.20-33 “God Calling” Pastor Jacqueline Hines
I  was given a Fishwrapper a few weeks ago and there are some humorous lines of plays on words that I want to share and bring a smile before I begin the more serious Lenten message this morning.
To write with a broken pencil is pointless. A boiled egg is hard to beat. The batteries that were given out were free of charge. A dentist and a manicurist got married. They fought tooth and nail. A bicycle can’t stand alone. It’s too tired. A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months. Smiles are good!
In this season of Lent, we focus on the idea of making sacrifices for God’s sake. Most of us know about making sacrifices in life, whether great or small. We have made sacrifices for a stranger or a neighbor or a member of our family. Simply defined, “to sacrifice” is to give up something for something else that is considered more important. For the Christian, nothing is more important than whatever God has for us to do. [slide # 1 God’s will] God’s will brings the best results. [slide # 2 seek God’s will]
Verse 25 of our text declares that those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. “Hating one’s life in this instance means willing to give your life totally to God, not caring for our life on our own terms, but always letting God lead us in taking care of ourselves because God’s plan is bigger and better than we can ever imagine. Hating one’s life in this text has nothing to do with evil. Hating one’s life has everything to do with loving God’s good will more than loving ourselves and loving anything we dream of, anything we plan for, anything we cling to, and anything we own, including ourselves. [slide # 3  …life in God’s hands]
Jesus says something in verse 26 that I never noticed before after all these years of reading the gospel of John. He says in verse 26 whoever serves me must follow me, [slide # 4 whoever serves me…] and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
It never occurred to me that serving Jesus is a separate idea from following Jesus. In other words, if we make ourselves available to do good works, God is pleased! Most often it is our availability not so much our a- bility that puts us in a position where God can use us to be a blessing.
In the world today, some reject religion, the church, Christians, or God. Sometimes, religion, the church, Christians, and God seem to be rejected with more good excuses than good reasons. Nevertheless, there is so much work to be done to make this world a good place that even people who are not at all religious are inspired by the grace and mercy of God to serve as Jesus calls humanity to serve. Many serve Jesus. Not everyone intends to follow Jesus.
A few weeks ago, I spoke with an OJR high school student. She was preparing to join the following of students from around the country on Walk Out Wednesday, which was held this past week. [slide # 5 school banner…walk out] They decided they wanted their voice heard around the issue of gun violence, especially in schools. Their actions were controversial and brave. History tells us that student movements may be messy but they change lives for good, they change the world.
I was in a graduate level counseling class with a woman from China not long after the protest in the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests in Beijing. [slide # 6 Tiananmen Square] The students called for democracy, greater accountability, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech. About million people followed the path to the square and gathered to protest. The government was threatened by the crowd and 10 thousand people were arrested, [slide # 7 Beijing crowd] some were executed.  Guns and tanks were deployed in order to stop the protests. Though the Chinese government maintained that no one was killed, other reports say thousands were killed. One man known as “Tank Man[slide # 8 tank man] stood boldly in front of the tanks. His was a symbol of courage in a fight for justice; there is only speculation of what happened to him.
We remember the 1960’s student sit-ins at Woolworth lunch counters. [slide # 9 spraying mace over protesters] Though it was messy, their actions were controversial and brave, helping to eliminate segregation laws. They changed lives for good, they change the world. [slide# 10 integrated counter]
Every generation of students has some injustice to protest. They do not all profess to be Christians; they are at least standing up and standing out preparing to serve and sacrifice, to do something and not simply sit back and complain or do nothing.
In recent months we have also seen a surge, a wave, of men and women protesting sexual assault in the #me-too movement. [slide # 11 me-too] I like to think that those protesting are not only serving the Lord by speaking truth to greedy, corrupt, power mongers, but that they are also following the way that Jesus is leading, whether or not they are conscious of Jesus presence with them.
Just like life can be stressful, following Jesus can be stressful. A man told me last week that he was having a serious bout with insomnia. I assumed his insomnia was stress related. His solution was to take a double dose of one of those over-the-counter sleep aids, like Nyquil or something. Instead of responding to his alarm for a morning meeting, he woke up in that afternoon.
My doctor loves to give me the latest research on how stress effects the body. Stress is hard on the heart she tells me. Mindful meditation – that is filling our brain with positive thoughts has proven to be more effective in maintaining good heart health than surgery. Filling our brain with good, hope-filled and positive thoughts, leaves less room for fear, rage, discouragement, and negativity that stresses the body in every way.
The doctor gave me her favorite mindful meditations: breathe in “peace,” breathe out “love”. She asked me if I practiced mindful meditation and I said “yes”. I consider my morning meditation and prayers throughout the day as a way to be less stressed and more confident that God will guide me in the ways of peace and love. I want to serve, but I also want to follow Jesus, I do not want to spend an hour without him by my side, much less a day. Some days I know I should take the advice of Rev. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church who said when he has an extra busy day of serving the Lord, he added extra time in prayer!
Jesus said “Whoever serves me must follow me.” It is good to serve. We love to serve. We are good at serving. Often we serve Jesus without even knowing it! It’s all good, but serving Jesus and following Jesus are not the same. Many of us serve in many ways, but when we follow him, Jesus does at least three things for us. He changes us for the better, he challenges us for the better and he chooses us for the better.
Jesus changes us for the better. Following in the footsteps of Jesus leads us to be better, holier, healthier people, families, communities, and countries. Any changes we want to see that will make America great again, begin with following Jesus. We used to know what it was like to have peace in most schools. Now that more schools have become war zones, we are even more anxious to find peace.
War zones spread like a wild fire [ slide # 12 wildfire ] or a contagious flu both of which we have experienced as an epidemic this year. [slide # 13 flu] First responders [ slide # 14 first responders] and the World Health Organization follow a strict plan and path in order to save lives and make changes for the good to stop the spread of things that harm and begin the spread of things that heal. [slide # 15 flu shot line]
If we as Christians follow Jesus in the paths that make for peace, we will see a change in us and around us, we will see peace spread far and wide, too. We are serving and that is good. But, following Jesus, is even better. 
Jesus changes us and he also challenges us for the better when we follow. None of us here are ready to lift a 500 pound barbell, [slide #  16 red barbell]  but there are those who do. Jesus knows how much we can bear and challenges us, treating us softly and tenderly. There is an old hymn that says - Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, Calling for you and for me; Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised, Promised for you and for me! Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon, Pardon for you and for me.Come home, come home, You who are weary, come home. [slide # 17 …you who are weary…]
We are challenged to listen and hear the voices of love that surround us. We are challenged to be obedient to the scriptures and respectful and responsive to our traditions, experience, and reasoning. We are challenged to get along with one another, to love and care for one another, to set healthy boundaries for one another and speak the truth in love to one another. We are challenged to make commitments and keep them to the end. Jesus challenges us for the better. When we follow him, we become stronger and more able to bear and share life’s burdens. [slide # 18 bearing one another’s …]
Jesus changes us for the better, he challenges us for the better, and finally he chooses us for the better. You are chosen by Jesus for good reasons. You are the best God has. You are the best choice to do the great work that the Holy Spirit has to do. [slide # 19 …Gods best]
Each one of us is created uniquely and designed with sheer awesomeness. [slide # 20 …creator not duplicator] You are gorgeous. You are special. Every breath you take, every move you make, every beat of your heart is majestic, even miraculous. You are not a mistake. God made you on purpose. You are a masterpiece. [slide # 21 ...masterpiece] You are extremely important. You are multi-talented. You are breathtakingly beautiful. You are an unforgettable rose in God’s beautiful garden. God smiles at the thought of you. [slide # 22 Maker…factory…] You were intentionally shaped with care in your mother’s womb. You are the apple of God’s eye. You are forever beloved by the maker of the universe. You are highly treasured and honored by the king of kings. You have been purposely made with God’s wonderful and plan in mind. [slide # 23 God made you on purpose]
God loves you just the way you are, past, present and future. You have an open invitation to always follow Jesus in an adventurous journey that leads to unspeakable love, joy and peace. And all this is true for each one of us that God has made. As we each follow Jesus, we discover him to be our rock and our shield in the time of trouble. It does not get better than that. We are chosen for the better.
In order to serve best, we must also follow. When we follow, we see the good in ourselves that God sees and we hear answers to prayers that will take us to places of peace and love.
I heard a man tell the story of one of his friends who lost his son. During the funeral one man waited in line for three hours to offer comfort. When he got two or three people away from approaching the father, he lost control of his emotions and could not speak a word, so he got to the end of the line and waited another hour. Soon he was again at the front of the line, and again he wept uncontrollably and could say a word.
Years later the father would recall that that man, though he never said a word, was his most treasured comforter. Could it be true that we hear God most when we are quiet? With Jesus by our side we serve; let us also quiet ourselves enough to know where he is leading us and follow. [slide # 24 Follow Jesus] Amen. [slide # 25 Dare to be a disciple]