Sunday, February 17, 2019

February 17 2019 Blessed Love...Cursed Love

February 17 2019 Ellene Brandt *Luke 6.17-26, Jeremiah 17.5-10 “Blessed Love…Cursed Love” Pastor Jacqueline Hines
Instead of being high on a hill, verse 17 says Jesus came down with the people and stood on a level place, level ground. [ slide # 1 Jesus teaching] Level is good. Jesus comes to us on level ground, insisting on the justice of a level playing field. Level is good. When things are on the level, we are blessed. [slide # 2  not level playing field]
When we are blessed, even poverty is overcome by the riches of the Kingdom of God which are righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. How can we be poor if we live right, if we have a peace that surpasses all our understanding, and if we have the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in our hearts? Even the richest person on earth is poor if they do not live right, or do not treasure the peace and joy of Jesus. [slide # 3 joy of Jesus…heart]
When we are blessed, we may be hungry, but we need never be food insecure. We know that it is just a matter of time before our faithful God will provide a feast for us. We know that we are not forsaken or forgotten, but that God will fill us.  We know that God has a purpose and a plan that is not only tasty, but sweet and satisfying. [slide #  4 taste and see…]
When we are sad and have suffered loss after loss after loss, we know that weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning. [slide #  5 weeping….] Though a sorrowful and broken spirit can dry up our bones and sap our strength, a joyful heart is good medicine; the joy of the Lord is our strength. Joy is a blessing of the fruit of the Spirit.
In verse 22 Jesus tells the leveled crowd “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man, on account of Jesus who is as human as can be. Mark such days on your calendar because those are windfall days. Those are days when you win the lottery, when your ship comes in when you are rewarded a special gift from Heaven, from that vault in the sky where good and Godly things come to light and a higher power is working out justice and mercy beyond our imagining. [slide # 6 great is your reward…]
Jesus continues the conversation in verse 24 with some tough love through woes and warnings. A woe is a warning of the consequences. A woe is a reminder that certain paths are risky, cursed, unproductive, unfruitful, and that traveling in that direction leads to heartache, misery, distress, failure, and unhappiness.
Jesus warns us that if we choose to find our comfort in money and fail to comfort others who have no money, that comfort we give ourselves will not be sustainable; it won’t be deep enough to diminish the inevitable pains of life.
“Woe unto the one who is full, for later they will be hungry.” Let not the eloquent poetic language distract you from Jesus’ directive in verse 25. “Woe unto the one who is full for later they will be hungry.” It is a blessing to be full and overflowing with good food and the goodness of all things good. It is a curse to be full of ourselves, to be full of it, to be full when others are hungering and thirsting for light and love, not to mention hungering for food and safety.
“Woe unto you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.” Laughter is medicine. [slide #  7 Norman Cousins]
Norman Cousins was a longtime editor of the Saturday Review, global peacemaker, receiver of hundreds of awards including the UN Peace Medal and nearly 50 honorary doctorate degrees.
In 1964 following a very stressful trip to Russia, he was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (a degenerative disease causing the breakdown of collagen), which left him in almost constant pain and motivated his doctor to say he would die within a few months. He disagreed and reasoned that if stress had somehow contributed to his illness (he was not sick before the trip to Russia), then positive emotions should help him feel better. With his doctors’ consent, he checked himself out of the hospital and into a hotel across the street and began taking extremely high doses of vitamin C while exposing himself to a continuous stream of humorous films and similar “laughing matter”. He later claimed that 10 minutes of belly rippling laughter would give him two hours of pain-free sleep, when nothing else, not even morphine could help him. (Wikipedia)
Filmmaker Anthony McCarten of New Zealand (slide #  8 McCarten) suggests that laughter indicates our primitive recognition that animal danger has passed! Laughing together is awesome because it makes us Inducers of hope, embracers of strangers, eradicators of hopelessness, physicians and peacemakers. If we can laugh together, we can live together because jokes connect us, embrace us and in sheer and spontaneous gratitude, our mouths open, our chest fills with air and we make a sound made by no other creature in the universe.
He affirms that comedy is the clash of one point of view colliding with another…one sensibility with another…high with low, east with west, light with dark, old with young; a collision of two world views, of two civilizations, and like two pieces of flint being struck together, a life-giving spark is given off, and with this spark, you can light a fire.
We all can agree: Laughter is good and our meetings and minds do well to be filled with healing laughter. Not all laughter is healing as we know. There is a laughter that hates, hides, humiliates, and horrifies. Jesus warns that mourning and weeping come with that kind of laughter.
Finally, the last of Jesus’ warnings can be the most perplexing. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” We want to be liked. We want to be showered with compliments. The day comes, however, when we as three-dimensional human beings, see a side of ourselves that needs work and repair, healing and help. God sees and loves all of us. Others may see us and love all of us. We need to see ourselves and love ourselves.
If those closest to us only know one side of us, they are not in a position to really care about us. Flattery is fraud, designed to use and abuse. False prophets are prophets /messengers/ leaders who do not accept that they may be in error. When we do not want to hear the truth, those who do not want to fight may just settle for telling us what we want to hear.  False prophets may hear the truth spoken in love about their lives but they do not work to change.
I am curious about the shooting this week in Arora Illinois. During the 15 years he worked he was a felon. Did management implement healthy boundaries? Was he spoken the truth in love. It is a new day in this world and I am appreciating the boundaries that I see. A basketball player was fined $25 thousand for cursing. A hockey player was benched one game as a penalty for …was it fighting?
Ted Bunch tells the story that his neighbor beat up his wife and while she was in the hospital, he and a couple guys went over and said, we heard what you did to her. We don’t do that here, so don’t do it again. He says if guys would do that on their jobs…and on the golf course saying, we do not do that here and this is the last game we will play with you if you do that again. Giving a dose of Jesus’ woe unto you brings mercy and justice.
Those who care, see all sides of humanity and prayerfully become agents of healing and hope, learning to speak the truth in love until our love is strong [slide # 9 heart] enough to make a difference! Amen. [slide # 10 …lacking no good thing]

February 10 2019 More Scouts...More Love

February 10 2019  *Luke 5.1-11, Psalm 138 “More Scouts…More Love” Pastor Jacqueline Hines
There is something enjoyable about a nice crowd. Jesus attracted a crowd of nice people who were hungry for a word from the Lord. [slide# 1 crowd around Jesus] Perhaps you have been to a Christian concert or an arena for a conference taught by Joyce Myers, [slide # 2 Joyce Meyer] T.D. Jakes, [slide# 3 Rev. Jakes] or David Jeremiah. [slide # 4 Rev. Jeremiah] Perhaps you visited Christian Cathedral with the capacity to seat over 2500 people –the largest glass building in the world – [slide # 5 Crystal Cathedral] in California when Robert Schuller was pastor before it went bankrupt. There is something enjoyable about a nice crowd, especially if Jesus is there. So the crowd was there, enjoying Jesus teaching, taking mental notes, selfies of sorts, and memorizing memorable quotes of the master. It was so crowded that Jesus decided he had to manage the crowd to avoid chaos. He politely, got into a boat so eager listeners couldn’t suffocate him or trample each other. It is nice to have friends and associates with a boat. Simon Peter was a fisherman and he let Jesus use his fishing boat. [slide # 6 Peter and his boat] It wasn’t necessarily a yacht, but the folks gathered were not necessarily into yachts. There were several other boats around taking care of one business of another, fishing for one thing or another, out to have a nice time enjoying the shore, preparing dinner. Maybe even a little fishy business was going on as there often is in a crowd as all the boats were sprinkled throughout the area. [slide # 7 two boats]
If you are accustomed to riding in boats, you probably would not make the mistake a few of us made on a boat ride one day. We could not understand why the hosts gently encouraged us to wait to go ashore before using the facilities….
After Jesus finished his teaching and the crowd had dispersed, it seems a few hours had passed by and Jesus asked Simon to take him for a boat ride. He urged Peter to go into deep waters and let down his nets. Apparently, Peter wasn’t deep enough. Perhaps Peter, like some disciples who are called to be fishers of men and women boys and girls, think that the shallow waters are where they ought to be and all there is to fishing and finding. It takes Jesus to help us see beyond where we are to where we need to be.
This is as good a day as any to wait for Jesus to show up and do for us what he did for Peter. It is as good a day as any to ask Jesus to forgive us for arguing and defending ourselves like Peter did when he said, “Lord, we’ve been here all night long and haven’t caught anything.” Of course, Peter seemed to be implying that Jesus did not know what he was talking about and that Peter knew it all. Nevertheless, Peter wisely decided to obey the master, anyway!!
There are days when we have done all that we think we should do and when we do not get the results that we think we should or that others get for doing the same or less than we do. It is still good to serve and love as Jesus asks us to do. What we do matters more than we think, even if we do not perceive it.
You may have heard the story of a certain church goer who wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday.
He wrote: "I've gone for 30 years now, and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons, but for the life of me, I can't remember a single one of them. So, I think I'm wasting my time, the preachers and priests are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all".
This started a real controversy in the "Letters to the Editor" column.
Much to the delight of the editor, it went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:
"I've been married for 30 years now.  In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals.  But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals.
But I do know this:  They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work.  If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today.
Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!"
When you are DOWN to nothing, God is UP to something!
Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible & receives the impossible!
Thank God for our physical and our spiritual nourishment!
B. I. B L. E.  simply means:  Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth!

I got that story from a Bethel Den Mother who will be sharing in the second service her family’s story of how faith overcomes her fears of her daughter’s undiagnosed illness.
The scouts at Bethel bring lots of love to Bethel. We need all the love we can get in this world. Without love we are like that annoying gong on the gong show, [slide # 8 red / gong ] we are nothing, we gain nothing.  But love, love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love is as good as it gets, love is the greatest thing of all. Love never fails!
Jesus said, if you love me, you will obey my commandments. [slide # 9 If you love me…] Peter understood this, and despite the fact that he thought he knew all there was to know about catching fish that night, he humbled himself and respectfully proved his love and respect for Jesus by obeying his command to go deeper and to let down his precious nets – which they had probably spent hours that week mending.
Not only did Jesus instruct Peter to go deeper, he was told to put the net on the right side of the boat. If we are going to go into the deep, we need to be on the right side. [slide # 10 calm…go right] God is waiting for us on the right side. What we need and long for can be found on the right side.
This is as good a day as any to listen for the voice of Jesus. Is he calling you to go deeper? To pray before you speak. To meditate before you take action? To pause before your pride gets the best of you. To serve without complaining, criticizing, or making excuses. Is he calling you to go deeper?
Do you want to go deeper even though you do not hear Jesus calling you to go deeper? Then dare to ask him to lead you and wait for an answer. [slide # 11 Jesus said ask…]
Make sure you cast your net on the right. For, when Peter and the disciples cast their net on the right, they were amazed at the catch. They had so many fish. They went from nothing to something just by going deeper and getting on the right side. It was scary, but Jesus said to them in verse 10 as he says to us “Do not be afraid. From now on you will be fishers of men.” [slide # 12 do not be afraid]
This is as good a day as any to be courageous and go deeper and get on the right side, to prove your love [slide # 13 yes/no]  so that we too will go from nothing to something in amazing ways. Amen. [slide # 14 go deeper…]

February 3 2019 Loving Words

February 3, 2019 *Jeremiah 1.4-10, I Corinthians 13.1-13 “Loving Words” (Super Bowl Sunday) Pastor Jacqueline Hines

We all love to hear words that are loving and kind. [slide # 1  One kind word…] In spite of that little rhyme that declares “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,” sometimes, words do hurt our feelings deeply. God’s words heal us and help us along our journey.
Verse 10 tells that God puts words in Jeremiah’s mind and mouth because Jeremiah was not a bullfrog. He was a prophet.
What is a prophet? A prophet is a person whom God chooses officially to speak for God. A prophet may be a prophet for a lifetime or for just one time. [slide # 2  prophet]
Jeremiah summed up the purpose of the prophet in verse 10 where God tells him -  See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.’ Being a prophet is serious business.
Besides Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel are prophets for whom books in the bible is named. [slide # 3  Jeremiah, Ezekiel,…] Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet because he cried like a heartbroken parent at the sight of God’s children who had strayed so far away from a path that anyone wants to see their children go.
Isaiah was a prophet among the upper class and royalty who needed a word from the Lord regarding foreign affairs and all the other cultures migrating and immigrating among them.
Ezekiel spoke a word of God’s wisdom to those exiles who though victims were also guilty of many things and were reaping the disobedience they sowed.
There are twelve other books in the bible named after prophets. They are called Minor Prophets because they consist of fewer pages than the majors. 
Prophet Hosea has a short book referring to his unfaithful wife who made him an expert in speaking about God’s love to those who had lost their way. Prophet Joel lived in a day of plagues and droughts like today’s flu epidemics and fires. Minor Prophet Amos was a breeder of sheep who spoke God’s word to all who would listen in what we might call today – the red light districts full of slimy saloons and sales of sordid goods and sex slaves.
Obadiah was a prophet of doom and gloom and smarting judgment. Micah spoke to common, every day people, reminding them that God requires them to do justice and love mercy. Jonah got sinners to repent of their evil deeds and when they did humble themselves, Jonah got terribly mad because he wanted God to punish them severely for their wickedness. Instead God had mercy on them, forgave them and spoke lovingly and tenderly about them.
Micah spoke God’s truth in the reign of king Jotham who was dubbed a good king because he was not as corrupt as some of the other kings; Nahum prophesied to the Ninevites like Jonah did, but it was 100 years later and they had fallen back into the same bad habits of which their ancestors had repented 100 years earlier.
Habakkuk known for his love of God, prophesied to those who were in love with money and murder. We see such people in our daily news. Prophet Zephaniah may have had it easier than other prophets because he was of noble birth and prophesied, not during a time of decline, but during a revival when things were on an upswing under the good King Josiah. Haggai, a contemporary of the Chinese teacher and philosopher Confucius, 520 or so years before Jesus was born, was the first to prophecy after the exile and spoke inspiring words from God that helped them to complete the renovations in four years, though repair of the Temple had been hindered for 15 years due to permits and politics. (Bethel Trustees and Building Committees know all about that.)
The Prophet Zechariah’s name means “God Remembers” and just so we never forget, there are at least 27 other people in the bible named Zechariah. Zechariah’s  grandfather was the great priest, Iddo, an esteemed leader in the synagogue. Good leaders are always remembered.
Malachi is the prophet named for the last book of the Old Testament. He prophesied after the Temple renovations and wall were complete and God was no longer the focus of attention. God’s children slacked off on worship and began robbing God of tithes and offerings.
Those are the prophets who have books of the bible named after them, the three major prophets -Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and the 12 minor ones. [slide #  4 Minor Prophets listed] Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
There were numerous women prophets who, though there is no book named after them, they are named in the Bible like Deborah [slide # 5 Deborah] who led an army with General Barak, Moses’ sister Miriam [slide# 6  Miriam dancing] also a singer and liturgical dancer, and Anna [slide # 7 Anna elderly] an octogenarian who spoke up about Jesus to all who wanted to hear.
Scriptures promise that every servant of God has a word to say about what God’s love and work in our lives. We see the depth of Bethel’s spirituality whenever a testimony is given. The prophet Joel predicts that God’s Spirit will be in all men and women and they will prophecy.
[slide # 8  Joel 2.28 ….ALL people.. ] “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.“ It does not get better than that. Everyone, even our children, speaking the word of the Lord. How fabulous!!  [slide # 9 sons and daughters]
Prophets, those who speak for God’s sake, speak words that are loving and kind. God’s word is loving and kind, even when they are words that are hard to hear. They are words soaked in prayer and deepened by the righteousness of Jesus, not our righteousness, but the righteousness of Jesus.
The children of God were very accustomed to having prophets among them. Prophets helped them to fight the good fight of faith. [slide # 10 strike back ] Today we usually hear of prophets in other denominations. The reason is partly cultural and partly our way of avoiding false prophets of which there have been plenty. Jim Jones was a notorious minister who had a large following back in the 60’s. He was charismatic and believable, though very disturbed. He attempted to become a United Methodist Pastor, but he was rejected. One might consider him a false prophet.
People claimed to speak for God when they were really political, self-serving, unaware of their biases [slide # 11 blind spot] and wanting to be popular, like those young men eager to be married on the campus of Eastern Baptist College when I was there. Every semester more than one claimed that God had given them a dream that prophesied that the prettiest and sweetest girl on campus was who God had chosen to be their wife. There were also those who would insist that the one blind student should come to a prayer meeting so he would gain his sight.
As Christians we are in a learning process to discern the way and will of God and separate it from our own will and way. [slide # 12 know…coffee cup]
In verse 10 Jeremiah declares 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.’
We too can speak for God. We too are called to pluck up and pull down that which God calls is to pluck up and pull down. You and I are called to destroy evil and overthrow wickedness in whatever way God guides us! [slide # 13 God’s Word…Satan]
You and I are called to speak for our God. On this Super Bowl Sunday, we know that we cannot always be champions in our speech. We will never be able to speak perfectly on behalf of a perfect God. But, it is not about us, is it? It is about letting God’s goodness and mercy flow through us all the days of our lives. It is about planting the fruit of the spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness (generosity), faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It is about plucking out the hatred and hostility from our own lives before we work on somebody else’s. It is about building one another up in the open rather than tearing each other down behind closed doors and wailing walls.
We are all given what it takes to speak for our God. Men, women, boys, and girls. At the end of the game, may we hear the voice of God in our hearts saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant, well done!”  [slide # 14 “Well done!” ] Amen. [slide # 15 the Word works]

Saturday, February 2, 2019

January 27, 2019 LIght-Filled Visions

January 27, 2019  Light-Filled Visions *Nehemiah 8.1-3,5-6,8-10, Luke 4.14-21 Pastor Jacqueline Hines
The book of Nehemiah records a time when Israel is coming back into their homeland after spending 70 years in captivity in Babylon, 900 miles away from home. Even today, we hear of underground thugs kidnapping people for ransom, servitude, or power trips. The Israelis were gone for 70 years. Three and a half generations in a foreign country changes a lot in a culture. They had been scattered and terrorized in ways that most of us could never imagine. They were traumatized, perhaps victimized, no doubt they were overcomers of the deepest inhumane situations. Thank God they had memories of food and fun, stories worth telling and retelling through the years like any family would.
Though they wished they had never had such an awful experience, they could not deny that they were still blessed with God’s strength to make it through. Like any other culture, they were fortified with natural gifts, unique gifts, spiritual gifts and talents that helped them continue their journey and survive in spite of their difficulties. [slide # 1 renovating team] They survived, they came back home, and they started from scratch to renovate the temple that had been vandalized and they rebuilt the walls that had gone into disrepair. It was like coming home after war or natural disaster, but it was still home, a place where God had blessed them to raise families and work and worship. It was bittersweet.
We can understand what it was like for these children of God. When we feel threatened or we run for our lives because of some danger, or become homeless for even part of a day due to financial worries, if we have been in a fire, a flood, an accident, some catastrophe or endured a health issue that turned our lives upside down, we, too, could have returned to God and been listening to Nehemiah read God’s word at the Watergate that day. [ slide # 2 Nehemiah reading]
We too may have cried tears of repentance for our bitter complaints against such a kind God, for secret sins, for daring to defy God when we have been taught to simply and gently and maturely bring our burdens to the Lord, and leave them there. We could have felt the sting of guilt for neglecting to teach and preach the word of God, for being too busy to help maintain the house of God. Any of us at one point or another could have found ourselves weeping at the Watergate as we remembered how far we had gotten away from all that God had for us. [slide # 3 man bowed on floor]
The Watergate was one of the 12 gates, which were more like walls that surrounded the temple. There were many gates of varying names and functions throughout the years – [slide # 4 Jerusalem gate]  the Watergate obviously was a place where water was brought in. Water was an even bigger deal in an ancient time when water sources were underdeveloped – much like our sister church in Kenya where John helped us to help them access water. In this area, we have a taste of the need for development. We hear from time to time when a well runs dry after so many years or a well’s water pump needs to be replaced and there is no source of water because the city water source is not yet developed here – and why should it since the city charges would probably be much greater than the maintenance of a well.
They were at the Watergate, but the Temple had twelve gates. There was the Horse Gate that led to the stables, the Fountain Gate near the pool of Siloam, and the Fish Gate. There was the gate named the Beautiful Gate where a lame man was made to walk again when Peter and John prayed for him in the book of Acts. There was the Dung Gate where animal waste, sewage and garbage were to go through. There was a Sheep Gate which was an inspection gate, also called Lion’s Gate, where soldiers were to enter and protect the city, even if it meant sacrificing their lives. The Lion’s gate was famous during the Six Day War when Israeli paratroopers took back the city in June of 1967. The Lion’s gate was an entry way to the Pools of Bethesda, the Via Dolorosa, and many markets.
There is also the Golden Gate also called the Gate of Mercy or the Eastern Gate, because God is said to enter our reality from the East, which is on our right. God comes from the right side, the holy side, the side of the righteous. The entrance to the golden gate is said to be blocked and some pilgrims believe God will open that gate and miraculously return.
Interestingly, I have often wondered if the Watergate Complex in Washington, DC got its name from the bible. I can’t trace it back to a Jewish person, but I did discover that the complex was initiated by Italians and part owned by the Vatican until 1969. So a religious connection might partly explain the name. [slide # 5 Watergate complex]
The DC Watergate complex included fancy office buildings, a hotel, restaurants, a spa, and apartment complex for the rich and famous who lived there like the Bloomingdale and Dole families, former United States Attorney General John N. Mitchell, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.
It had been a long time since God’s chosen people were able to gather. No wonder they were crying like families cry when they find each other at the airport after a long separation, after war, or after the Holocaust as this picture shows. [slide # 6 reunion of siblings after Holocaust] In some sense gathering at the Water Gate was a family reunion, a bittersweet moment because they never wanted to be separated and taken from their homeland in the first place. They did not intend to forget about their God who had delivered them and loved them, pouring out blessings upon them while their captives were hating on them and using them. Things just happened; now they were sorry and ready to start fresh and obey the word of God.
Some may have started out with great fervor in their renewal of the covenant with God, like we do in the beginning of the year with our new year’s resolutions. By Valentine’s Day we are back to eating more potato chips and cookies than salad and paying a monthly fee not to go to the gym. Others no doubt were able to take God seriously and stay on track.
Life coaches have been known to train people to envision themselves in a positive light, to see themselves running toward a goal, winning instead of losing, succeeding instead of failing. [slide # 7 …dream it..] With God’s word before us, we can see ourselves as God sees us, beloved, precious, a fountain of care and compassion for the people and situations God places in our paths.
Seeing is believing! [slide # 8 word of God is powerful] Let this be the season we look at God’s word, prayerfully and conscientiously, interpreting with reason rather than rage using the model that John Wesley taught us – considering the scripture, but also taking into account cultural and religious traditions, reasoning, and experiences. Let this be the season that we envision God’s will and way so that we will be a part of God’s  kin-dom coming on earth as it is in Heaven. [slide # 9 …in the word is God’s Spirit]

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

January 20 2019 LIght-Filled Gatherings

January 20 2019 Light-Filled Gatherings Isaiah 62.1-5, *John 2.1-11 Pastor Jacqueline Hines

Weddings are always special, always meaningful, always talked about and always a focal point on our calendars. Weddings bring to mind the song sung by Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. known to us as John Denver. He co-wrote the song “Sunshine.” [slide # 1 John Denver]

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high…
Weddings are a time we are happy, we weep for joy, we see the lovely, and we get a spiritual and emotional high. [slide # 2 wedding ]
So it is when we remember the wedding at Cana. Jesus and his family was there, his disciples were there. It was a day of joy. We do not know anything about the happy couple, but we know some other important things about their special day. We know there were about 180 gallons of water miraculously turned into wine. We know there were enough servants there to handle the matter. We know that the wine was not just good, it was exceptionally good, and we know that the wedding was held on the third day. [slide # 3 third day]
When the third day is referenced in the scriptures, it is not a particular day of the week. The third day is a reference to a moment in our history with God. Mentioning of the third day signals a moving from death and destruction to new life, hope, and healing.
Not only do we declare that after three days in the grave, Jesus arose from the dead, there are over a dozen references to the third day in scripture.
1) On the third day — "The earth brought forth vegetation: seed-bearing plants of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit." (Genesis 1:12)
2) On the third day — Abraham looked up and saw Mount Moriah from afar where he was to offer his son Isaac in sacrifice. (Genesis 22:4-5)
3) On the third day — Pharaoh releases his chief cupbearer from death-row. (Genesis 40:20-21)
4) On the third day — Joseph releases his brothers from prison in Egypt. (Genesis 42:17-18)
5) On the third day — The Israelites request Pharaoh's permission to make a three-day journey to offer sacrifice in the desert to God, preparing their way to FREEDOM. (Exodus 3:18)
6) On the third day — Plague Nine, the Plague of Darkness, in Egypt ends, "though the Israelites enjoyed light in their dwellings." (Exodus 10:22)
7) On the third day — God descends to Mount Sinai in fire with the sound of a shofar. He then reveals The Ten Commandments to his people resurrected from the death of slavery in Egypt. (Exodus 19:16-19)
8) On the third day — Israelites are to purify themselves with water after being in contact with the dead. (Numbers 19:12)
9) On the third day — After coming to the river and preparing themselves, the Israelites cross the Jordan "to enter and possess the land that the LORD [their] God is giving to [them] as a possession." (Joshua 1:11; 3:2)
10) On the third day — Joshua's spies emerge from hiding from the Jerichoites, then return to their commander. (Joshua 2:16, 22)
11) On the third day — After asking God for release, King Hezekiah is healed of his fatal disease and offers thanks in the temple. (2 Kings 20:5)
12) On the third day — Jonah is expelled from the belly of a fish.  
13) On the third day — After fasting, Esther puts on royal apparel and enters the palace of the Persian king in order to thwart a death-plot against her people, the Jews. (Esther 4:16; 5:1)
A wedding on third day meant that a dramatic change was about to happen, an important transition was ready to be made. John starts off by telling us this good news: on the third day there was a wedding in Cana.
Now the bad news: they ran out of wine. Wine is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. We never, ever, ever want to run out of wine. We need the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the heart of all that matters. Wine is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. Wine is typically made from grapes. Grapes are delicious and nutritious, and the fact that grapes have to be crushed is a well-known symbol of human suffering and endurance that always leads us to the joy of the Lord.
Though the Holy Spirit may lead us to places beyond our comfort zone, scriptures tell us not only to be filled to overflowing with the Spirit but the progressive tense is used, meaning we are to be constantly filling up over and over again, just like keeping our gas tanks filled. To run out of gas is a problem. To run out of wine is a problem. Not having the Holy Spirit within our lives is a problem. The Holy Spirit is what energizes us and drives us to our place of healing, strength, possibilities, peace, and joy. Worshipping, serving, praising, doing justice and loving mercy keeps our tanks full!
When they gathered to wine and dine at the wedding, they were not just enjoying fun and laughter, they were building the kingdom of God. They were preparing for a miracle, for change, for transformation, for growth. [slide # 4 leaves]
Jesus promises that even where two or three of us gather, he is there, shining the light of his love for each of us. The Father is there, the Holy Spirit is there. And when we show up obediently as vessels, haven been filled with cleansing waters, filled with pure and holy intentions, miracles happen. Jesus turns us into wine that has the power to heal, restore, and illuminate paths to endless possibilities, bringing peace and joy, defying death and destruction.
Every servant knows about vessels that are pure and holy. [slide # 5 vessels pouring] Every servant knows about taking orders, being obedient, singing when the spirit says sing, shouting when the spirit says shout, praying when the spirit says pray, filling vessels to the brim with water…cleansing…pure water…every servant knows that Jesus transforms us so that healing and restoration, peace and joy are the order of the day. Verse 9 makes a special point of saying that the servants knew where the wine came from. When we are servants we know things. We know how to be transformed, we know how to heal and restore and build; we know how to bring joy and peace. We know because we learn from the master. [slide # 6 at table with Jesus] Amen. [slide # 7 Jesus the master teacher]

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

January 6, 2019 "Light-Filled Nations"

January 6 2019 Light-Filled Nations *Isaiah 60.1-6, Matthew 2.1-12  Pastor Jacqueline Hines
What a precious blessing it is to have light in our lives. We so appreciate the physical light that we have. Wondrous things have been done with Christmas lights. [slide # 1 Christmas lights] Landscapers and architects are always creating new atmospheres with special lighting. You recall our architect Casaccio Yu’s [slide# 2 Casaccio Yu on right] emphasis on lighting when we did the groundbreaking ceremony on Communion Sunday May 3rd 2015. At sundown the lights are programmed to come on automatically. [slide # 3   drawing of Bethel] We notice lights everywhere from the grocery stores to roadways. Through the generations, God said, “Let there be light.” And light continues to be a blessing in so many ways.
Light in an incubator is warming and healing in ways that help a newborn to develop. [slide # 4  baby in incubator]. Bethel Christian preschool has incubated baby chicks for the last several years. [slide # 5  eggs incubating] Light warms, it heals, helps life to grow; light protects us by revealing hindrances within our surroundings, light illuminates our environment so that we can see the good and choose to avoid any evil options.
Yesterday, I committed to meet a Quaker named Carol who is involved with the Salvation Army and United Methodist Women in providing resources for women who have survived the horror of human trafficking. On January 10th I will participate in what is being called a Labyrinth of Light and Hope. [slide #  6 masterpieces…] It is a celebration of human trafficking survivors of all races and nations, and creeds. They are being called “Masterpieces of Broken Pieces”, which is what we all are, God’s masterpieces of our many broken pieces. Candles will be lit along a path where women’s stories of survival are written with every step. Anyone is welcome to join me. Light is what we use to celebrate, as well as to warm, develop, heal, and protect.
Light is also fast and energetic beyond what we can imagine or fathom. Light can travel at the speed of 6 trillion miles in a year or 186,000 miles per second. Light can be powerful and even forceful. When the sun is strong, we shield our eyes so we can avoid an encounter with damaging rays.  [slide # 7 night driving] While driving at night, when the LED lights are on a high beam, I often feel physical discomfort, even pain in my eyes until the forceful light has passed. [slide # 8  driver shielding eyes]
Thus far we have been talking about physical light, but the presence of spiritual light has similar qualities. Spiritual light is also energetic, fast, powerful and sometimes forceful. The presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit comes as a light that warms us, heals us, protects us, helps us, nurtures us and can be so strong that we are inclined to shield ourselves, as so many like have done, like Paul, when he encountered the light of God before his dramatic conversion from brute to believer. [slide # 9  Paul blinded by Heaven’s light]
A world without light is a world without hope. God knows that. So God created light and provides it for us. In John 8.12, Jesus tells us that he is the light of the world and whoever follows him will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. In Matthew 5.14 he tells us that we are the light of the world and that we should let our lights shine that others can see our heavenly father’s good deeds and glorify God which means to give God the praise and honor.
So it is our task for the year as it has always been, to let Jesus shine through us that every person of every nation will find in us a light that provides whatever warmth, protection, development, healing and help that God intends.
Then we will see as the Prophet Isaiah foretells in verse 3: [slide # 10 Epiphany…Nations shall come…]
 3 Nations shall come to your light,
   and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
We have seen it before, and we will see it again. People of all nations come to you, to me, to Bethel. Even royalty – those of means and power and status, come to you, to me, to Bethel, because our light shines! Let it be so forever. [slide # 11 Arise and Shine for Jesus] Amen. [slide # 12 Arise…your light has come]

December 25, 2018 Christmas Eve Meditation - "Breathe"

Christmas Eve 2018 Meditation “Breathe!!” December 24th Pastor Jacqueline Hines

How wonderful it is to celebrate, to rejoice, to be glad in the house of the Lord! We gather with family and friends, loved ones who give us a reason to live and who are a source of God’s greatest blessings to us. [slide # 1 family is a blessing]
Christmas is a time, in spite of the hustle and bustle, it is a time to relax, to take a holiday, to take a break and rest, to take a much needed breather and let all the joys of the moment sink in, and let the peace permeate our minds, and let our love grow stronger and richer.
The joy, the peace, the love of Christmas all begin one breath at a time. Every breath counts and moves us forward to the place we need to be. Especially in these anxious times, we need to remember to breathe.
Interestingly enough, the word for “breath” in the bible is the same word used for “spirit” and “wind.” The first thing doctors want newborn babies to do is to breathe, to show signs of life, to clear pathways, allowing the Spirit, the air of God to flow to and through the body.
Clinicians like Harvard trained Dr. Andrew Weil [ slide #  2  Dr. Weil with his dogs] remind us to take deep breaths when we are under a lot of stress. We need to be as calm and carefree as a little baby, learning that God provides, growing confident that we are loved and held precious and dear.
Baby announcements are always special [slide # 3  baby announcement] and they are just as special in the bible. Scriptures tell us that an angel appeared to shepherds watching over their flock in the cool of night. [slide # 4 shepherd…terrified] Encounters with God often leave us trembling with emotion and falling to our knees. So, the first thing the angel said to the shepherds were the first words angels usually say before they speak to us humans, “Don’t be afraid!...I have good news…news for everyone. A savior is born today. [slide # 5 shepherds in awe ]
God entered this earthly realm in the form of a little baby. [slide #   6  manger scene] God crashes through our fears and chaos with a baby. A baby is the least scary of all humans. A baby is the greatest symbol of hope and happiness in the midst of our economic evils, [slide # 7  happy baby] our political problems, [slide # 8  two babies ] and our violent vicissitudes. [slide # 9  baby with a peace sign] God gives us years to tend to the new hope that God sends into our lives. God gives us time to learn how to care for the word made flesh that has come to dwell among us. [slide # 10   growing chart] God gives us all the love we need to nurture good news until it is strong enough to overcome our worries. What do we worry about? We worry about having the right job, the perfect marriage, the most lucrative degree, good health, plenty of money, and when we do get the things we long for, we may worry about losing them.
Rather than worry, we need to calm down and breathe. [slide #  11  just breathe] Each breath comes from God as a wonderful gift. Breathing does not cost anything and it pays off in so many ways. Breathing gives us energy, calms our nervous system, improves our respiratory system, releases muscle tension, helps our heart, relaxes the mind to help focus and learn, and makes us look young and alive. Breathing also detoxifies, increases endorphins that put us in a happy mood, lowers our blood pressure, and brings more oxygen to the brain which helps our whole body function better. [slide #  12  hands up in field]
When we sing, let out a sigh of relief, or go for a run, we are breathing, connecting to the Holy Spirit and embracing the start of a mighty wind that carries us to good places. The breath that God has given us is designed to make our lives better. Whether we are living in the best years of our life, the worst years or somewhere in between, just breathe. Just breathe. [slide #  13  just breathe]  Amen. [slide #  14  Merry Christmas…]