Monday, June 24, 2019

The Real Demon June 23, 2019

June 23, 2019 The Real Demon Luke 8.26-39 Pastor Jacqueline Hines

You have no doubt heard your share of stories about demons, devils, and derelicts who are down on their luck, devastated with dire needs, self-destructive, treating people like door mats and chaining daughters in dungeons or downtown begging and living under damp bridges. We all have our stories, too numerous to tell.
In pristine parlors we dare not believe in demons. They are certainly to be named “fake news”, “false stories”, and “frivolous tales”. But the gospel of Luke would beg to differ with us. For he tells the real story of a man in the country for whom demons were very real and even vicious to the point that he could be found naked in the streets  just like my good friend’s daughter few years ago. She was living in Manhattan working on a Master’s Degree, attending high society events, even took photos with   when she suddenly slid of the grid. They called it schizophrenia. Her mom, my friend, had hid the raucous for years as long as she could. She brought her daughter home to live with her in Baltimore and lo and behold one day the police picked her up after police reports were made about her walking through the neighborhood naked, her long wooly hair covering only her face.
This was certainly not the work of God, but the work of misfired DNA, the evolution of lack of care for the environment, chemical chaos, the evil of the life and death medicines being marked up for profit for some crazy CEO rather than the wellbeing of those who need it, refusal to budget treatment for the mentally imbalanced. Why blame God, when WE can do something!
The gospel writer Luke is said to have been a physician and his care for pertinent details is particularly poignant. For this pitiful man in the country of the Gerasenes that Luke tells us about was soon detained and put on heavy guard like Jesus was one day, but even the chains that bound him could not hold him. He would escape detention again and again.  He was indeed a very scary man like our neighbor on Ellis Wood Drive who would sit at the curb side looking lost and lonely and livid, not at all luscious. People were afraid and then one day, he disappeared and neighbors felt safe again.
Somehow this Gerasene Demoniac, a city boy from the Country of the Gerasenes, met Jesus at the shore – probably near the Lake of Gennesaret or the Sea of Galilee – though not really a sea – but really associated with Jesus walking on water and feeding the five thousand and now meeting a scary man.
Strangely, Jesus did not run away from him. Jesus, who sees all the people, immediately took charge and ordered the demon to come out of him.
The demon that had taken over the life of this now helpless child of God, caused him to fall down at the feet of Jesus. What a fall that must have been. The man was not himself. Because of the evil working in him, he was disturbing the peace. He was loud and argumentative, asking questions, demanding answers, saying “What have you to do with me.” In other words, “What business is it of yours that a life is being ruined?”
That is a question that comes to all of us when we witness trouble. What business is it of ours? Sometimes, Jesus makes it our business. Trouble is not always our business, but sometimes, Jesus makes it our business!
Once I frequented a grocery store in a low income neighborhood. In the evenings, all the seafood was regularly removed from the display area and kept in the back, otherwise it would be stolen. It was common to see a police officer escorting adults into the back of the store because they had a couple steaks tucked under their jackets. Besides prayer, it seemed to be none of my business.
One day, however, while checking out, I witnessed two uniformed security guards – a man and a woman – arguing outside the window. I prayed and went to the window, got as close as I dared to distract them. They did not know me, but just by poking my nose in their business, God was able to distract them and interrupt their senseless arguing that was disturbing the peace. Arguments are often demonic according to 2 Timothy chapter 2.
When Jesus saw the scary man with a demon, according to Luke’s gospel of the good news, Jesus was not there answering any questions, he was there asking questions. Jesus interrupted the demon and asked, “What is your name?” He answered, “My name is legion for we are many.” The name told Jesus something important. His name was legion. The name indicates that he suffered from many arguments, many disturbances of the peace, many chains, many wounds. That was what identified him, and he knew his name.
Real demons have real messages from the devil. Real demons communicate and instigate real chaos and rough news for no good reason. Real demons can look like and act like angels and preachers and teachers and terrorists and hair stylists. They can float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.  That is why we must pray all the time about everything. Because we depend upon God to guide us day and night.  
This world has some bad demons. They have numbers rather than names. They are anonymous statistics, mere numbers on the edges of manila folders, characters on computer files, and many diagnosis – but few names. But the good news is that Jesus is in the world to extinguish arguments, create peace, deliver us from chains, heal our wounds, make miracles of our messes and unite us in our separateness.  
When I was in seminary with a room full of ministers-to-be, green behind the ears, ready to rule the world, ready to conquer evil and cast out demons, the professor burst our bubbles real good when he said, “If you want to see the devil, look in the mirror.” The whole class was shocked. We Christians do not think of ourselves as having negative or demonic attributes.
In reality, to the degree that our lives do not reflect God’s light and love, we easily become pawns for evil.
But, in order to be in the world and not of the world, we must stay in God’s presence through prayer and soaking in God’s word. We must be thankful every hour and repent every day. We must remember that it is God who has made us, not we ourselves.
We must confess that we have not loved the lord with our whole heart.  We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done God’s will. We have broken God’s law. We have rebelled against God’s love. We have not loved our neighbors. We have not heard the cry of the needy.
Even good Christians need to be forgiven so that we can be free for joyful obedience through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that we can tell the world the good, good news that while we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us, that proves God’s love for us. That proves God’s love for US. Amen.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

June 2 2019 The Real Lord's Prayer

June 2 2019 John 17.20-26 “The Real Lord’s Prayer” Pastor Jacqueline Hines
At one point in my faith journey, it occurred to me that there is more than one Lord’s Prayer. There is the Our Father that Jesus taught the disciples, then there is the prayer Jesus himself prayed that is recorded in this morning’s gospel lesson John 17. In each case, the prayer of Jesus is good for us to have in our hearts and minds. We ought always feed our souls with all the good we can in order to dilute all the not so good.
We are surrounded, inundated by all kinds of ideas that we must weigh and pray about whether we should allow them into our lives. Our technological age has us reeling with opportunities, entertainment, and access to whomever and whatever around the globe. At the same time, parents walk a tightrope to help children and youth keep a proper balance in their lives when screen time is so much a part of our lives. We have to sift out the inappropriate and unhelpful ideas that are pushed toward our brains and our hearts.
The American Academy of Pediatrics tells us that on average kids spend 7 hours a day on electric media, which is more than any other activity. [slide # 1 child with remote]
It is important that parents monitor what goes into children. Jesus’ prayer is a prayer that God’s children would have love inside of them, a love that would pour out of their being for all the world to experience, a love that would make a difference, make peace, make joy; a love that would unite humanity, demolish division and create harmony.
Jesus prays in John 17 that we have love in us, not just around us. The world has other ideas. Marketing has no morals. Marketing works to convince us to take in medicine whose side effects are worse than any disease. Marketing convinces us when cigarettes come into our lives, we come out cool and guzzling down soda with high fructose corn syrup refreshes us. Marketing has no morals.
Morals come from the master, Jesus. We Methodists market morality and we nurture our souls with that which is holy and wholesome. So when the research tells us that when children have less screen time they are less aggressive, sleep better, get better grades, have more opportunity to exercise and deepen relationships, we listen, we learn, and we pray that God would lead us in the way of wisdom.
British research challenges American researchers saying that the only restriction that should be made for screen time is an hour before bedtime. In order to sort out the details, of which research we should pay most attention to, we must pray. Every child is different. Every family is different. God gives wisdom to all who seek it. [slide # 2 God gives wisdom]
The world is so very complex that if we do not pray and wait on the Lord for insights and ideas, we will be missing the most important guidance ever. There is no way we can see all we need to see with our natural eyes. No prayer means no power, little prayer means little power, much prayer means much power.
Jesus prays in verse 20 for those who believe, those who put their faith into action – who work together – individually and collectively by the grace of God and by the power of the Holiest Spirit. Bethel has a compassionate care Team that seeks to walk with those who need a helping hand, whether it be providing a meal as they recuperate, or a ride to the doctor or the hairdresser. There are over a dozen persons at Bethel who have said, “Yes! I will be on Bethel’s Compassionate Care Team so I can be a blessing where needed.” Such helpfulness has always been a part of the Christian culture and the Bethel culture. The Team works together. [slide # 3  …Team] 
In last week’s Daily Bread devotional reading, it was shared that the Indonesian culture had similar caring teams. They have an attitude called gotong royong. [slide #  4 gotong royong]  which means mutual assistance. Indonesia is over 9 thousand miles from us; a 16 hour plane ride. Australia is to the south of Indonesia. To the north is Viet Nam and China. The Indian Ocean is west, the Pacific Ocean is on the east. Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and 10 percent of its 264 million people are Christians, a little smaller than the US with 327 million. Their primary language is Indonesian – which sounds very much like the Chinese language to me,  for good reason I am sure. “Gotong royong” sounds Chinese.  The word for “hello” is “Halo” [slide # 5  HALO] which looks like our greeting. So often we find similarities among those with whom we are different in so many ways.
Indonesia is not a place where I would want to vacation to, but the devotional reminded me that the Holy Spirit nudges people to act compassionately anywhere and everywhere. I imagine our United Methodist Church has churches and missionaries in Indonesia. [slide # 6 Indonesian praying] We have dedicated and daring missionaries in countries such that we cannot even tell you their names or where they are serving. It is amazing that there are missionaries who choose to serve under strange circumstances, and they serve with God’s peace and joy in their hearts.
I was so sorry I did not get the chance to see the play at People’s Light Theatre that shared the story of the Diary of Anne Frank [slide # 7  Frank family] because everyone who saw it was blessed. This week a colleague who saw it said that though Anne and her family were in hiding from the Nazis, their suffering was undergirded by God’s persistent and enveloping joy. [slide #  8 annex]
There are blessings everywhere and good in all of us, but even more so when we are intentional about letting Jesus into our lives. Our spiritual life blossoms when we let go and let God. We also do well to let God guide us into letting other Christians into our lives. That is when unity happens. And when we step past our comfort zones and accept the invitation to bring the Jesus in us into the lives of others, we are more apt to become one family.
Recently a Christian grandmother shared some good news about her relationship with her grandsons who are also Christian. She dared to follow the Spirit’s leading and relate to them in a fresh way. She bridged the gender gap. She bridged the generation gap. She invited her grandsons into a deeper oneness with her, a unity, and a harmony that is intended for all God’s creation. Perhaps the Lord has put it on your heart to do or say or be something new for your grandchildren or for someone. Continue to pray and talk to other Christians and see where God leads you.
When we believe in the goodness of Jesus, when we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, when we humble ourselves before our creator, we become one with the Spirit and with one another. When we put our money where our mouth is, when we submit ourselves to the idea that Christian actions and attitudes speak louder than the most pious and politically correct words; when we turn our hearts to loving mercy and doing justice, we are  in harmony with God’s purpose and God’s people. In spite of the fact that we are miles or generations apart, we are constantly drawn to each other in magically magnetic ways. We bring a unity, a oneness, a harmony to all the places God leads us. Things start to click. [slide #  9 magnets]  
Jesus prayed in verse 23 that we would be one. [slide #   10  completely one] Rev. Dr. Eric Law, founder of the Kaleidoscope Institute [Slide #   11 Eric Law] taught us an important lesson on unity during Annual Conference a couple years ago. He told the story of two persons standing on a street corner when a police car drives up. One person on the corner believes that the police are coming to help. The other person believes the police are coming to harass. When Christians agree on what the story is, unity happens.
In our Methodist conversation about LGBTQ issues, [slide #  12  rainbow] we did not even agree with our esteemed episcopal leaders about what the story could be going forward. After spending a couple million dollars and many months of dialogue and debate, many fear for the future unity of the United Methodist Church.
Some remember how our other stories ended: the story of accepting nonwhites in the Church, the story of accepting women, the story of allowing alcohol in moderation instead of total abstinence, we have many stories. The stories are not always easy to live into, but we are yet alive. If we seek God faithfully, God will help us live to tell new stories that we can share that the world will become a better place.
Our story may even be like the story of the 23 million dollar Millennial Bridge over the Thames River in London. [slide #  13  Millennium Bridge] The thousand foot long footbridge opened on June 10, 2000 and came to be called the Wobbly Bridge because as thousands of people walked over it in just a couple days, it began to wobble and wave. Engineers weren’t worried about the bridge falling, but walking on the bridge was as uncomfortable as walking on an ice rink. [slide #  14  Millennium Bridge lower view]
The problem was that the bridge was a suspension bridge. Parts of it hung by heavy cables, but the engineers did not realize they needed some type of shock absorbers. When you walk across a suspension bridge it sways naturally. Soldiers who march in sync know that when you walk across a suspension footbridge you can’t walk in sync. You can’t walk in unison. Just like a driver sliding on an ice patch knows you have to turn your wheels in the direction the car is sliding – which is counter intuitive, a trained soldier knows that in order to get across a suspension bridge together without losing one’s equilibrium, everyone must step forward in their own way.
There are many such situations in our spiritual life when, as the song Many Gifts, One Spirit reminds us, “In our difference is blessing, from diversity we praise one Giver, one Lord, one Spirit, one Word known in many ways, hallowing our days. For the Giver, for the gifts, praise, praise, praise.”
The Millennium Bridge was closed just two days after it opened and engineers took two years and fixed the problem. After all, there was no way to train pedestrians to walk in counterintuitive ways. Unless they were soldiers with training, they would always play it safe by going with the flow and following whatever wave that came there way.
So it is a good thing for us to walk by our own faith, to pray our own prayers, to listen with our own ears, and make our own moves and our own choices at the impulse of God’s love. Then regardless of our differences, we will walk in harmony with God and we will become united and one another in amazing ways! May it be so today. [slide #   15  Millennium Bridge] Amen. [slide #  16   if God brings you….]

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

May 26 2019 Thousands of Healings

May 26 2019 Psalm 67 * Revelation 22.1-5 "Thousands of Healings" Pastor Jacqueline Hines

So we have spent the last few weeks wading through the book of Revelation.  Even when the meaning of the book of Revelation escapes us and puzzle us, the symbolism enchants us.  The colors are vivid and illuminating with red horses, black horses, pale horses, gold bowls, blood dripping, the dramatic movement of earth, wind, and blazing fire;  larger than life angels with wings spanning more majestic than an eagle; lions and tigers and bears that take our breath away.  In the midst of all that, God is speaking in thunderous tones as lightning flashes and trumpets blast. If nothing else is clear, God’s sense of urgency is clear.  The persistence of evil is undeniable while God’s presence is undaunted.
The message shakes us up and messes with our heads. We are tossed to and fro. We may even find ourselves a bit bruised and broken at the possibility that we are guilty in some way. We ask ourselves, are WE being judged or warned or is this terrible message for those whose sins are greater than ours. Either way, whether we are guilty or mere witnesses, we always need healing, renewal, and restoration. 
Verse 2 tells us that God has healing for the nations.  God has created us in such a way that we are constantly in a healing mode. Every day healing happens. Life is restored from the smallest cell to the massive waterways. For example, trees drop their seeds so new ones will grow, replacing those lost to insects, fire, or disease. Our bodies regenerate new skin cells every 39 days, new red cells every 120 days, new liver cells every 300 days.
We are designed for constant healing. We need healing from at least three things: from war, from wandering, from witchcraft. We need healing from war. War may be in our mind, our heads, our thoughts. Joyce Meyers became well known for her book entitled Battlefield of the Mind. She uses scripture to correct Christians who think negatively, who condemn and judge themselves until they are overwhelmed with worry, confusion and doubts about God’s and other’s love and care for them. War may begin with the battles in our minds. We need to stay in God’s healing presence until the war in our minds turns into an oasis of peace and quiet. God’s healing presence comes to us as we pray, serve, abide in God’s word, and when we do justice and love mercy.
Our relationships may be a battlefield. From nitpicking, negativity, naysaying, and knee-jerk reactions in the nasty zone, relationships can be a burden wherein we are done if we do and done if we don’t. Struggles and strains, whether in our marriage or in the marketplace can mess up our day, make us mean, and make us miss the mark.
Like any war, there will be casualties – breakups, breakdowns, beat downs, back stabbing, blasphemy. At their best, relationships make us rich and royal and righteous rather than ragged on the edges. We need God’s healing presence and wisdom to direct us out of troubling situations into a place of peace and justice. War is not the answer! We need God’s healing if we are going to have any peace. Again, God’s healing presence comes to us as we pray, serve, abide in God’s word, and when we do justice and love mercy.
John the Revelator’s declaration for the healing of the nations  reminds us that all of us need healing from our wanderings. From nation to nation, we are more alike than we are different. You have heard of many a child who wanders into a well or the woods or a corn maze or some city street. All children can get lost. Young people have told me that they avoid certain people and situations because those certain people are surrounded by trouble. Trouble can happen to anybody. They stay as far away as they can because they do not want to get what they call, “caught up” or “swept away”. Sometimes, things happen and we do not know what hit us. Sin is like that sometime. Before we know it, we are caught up and swept away by enemies stronger than us.
We want to avoid as much as we can wandering or being “caught up” by the violent winds of sin and temptation. At times when we are finally found, we may be in bad shape like the toddler known in the news as the mud baby  who was snatched out of her mother’s arms in the very sudden 1999 Oklahoma tornado that left 1600 people homeless overnight. In such times when we are afraid, we can trust in God and walk with God through every storm.
It is not easy to be a Christian and trust God. A very wise and spiritual person told me of a very deep and surprising experience they had. As they were boarding a plane with a group of ordained ministers going on a professional trip years ago, she felt the Holy Spirit whisper sadly that none of them are really following me. Another time, I worked in a math lab where a minster worked and I announced to a Jamaican student that a certain tutor was an ordained minister. The student responded, “But, I don’t smell him.” Meaning, there is no evidence that he is consciously communing with the Creator. Christianity is a lifestyle for which there is plenty of evidence, isn’t it?
We need healing for the warfare that wreaks havoc in our lifestyles and the wanderings that waylay us like a ton of bricks. We also need healing from the effects of witchcraft. 
The person in the bible most noted for witchcraft is the stubborn King Saul who was always trying to compete with the mild-mannered shepherd boy David who later became King in Saul’s place. One day King Saul abused his power by doing what only priests were designated to do. So he was called on the carpet with these words: Rebellion is witchcraft –  Rebellion is an attempt to control something or someone that is not yours to control. Saul was also told, obedience to God is better than making a big sacrificial donation. And stubbornness is idolatry.
We all want to be in control, some times more than others. We do well to learn a lesson from racehorse Maximum Security and stay in our lanes lest we become disqualified from the race and be forced to leave the winner’s circle.
Though he was king, Saul took authority that did not belong to him. Someone with authority over him accused him of being a witch – a very sacrilegious label for a God-appointed king. Most humans do not listen well when others tell us the error of our ways. Most humans reject negative feedback. We resent it and are generous with our revenge and defensiveness. At our best, we would not wait for others to correct us, rather we repent on a daily basis and wait for God to shape us and mold us into loving people with good character.
It is our constant lesson to learn that God is God and we are not. How wonderful it is to be able to take all of our burdens to the Lord and leave them there! It is indeed wonderful, yet I do not know about you, but there are some things I want to be control in case God has a different idea in mind and I may not appreciate it.
That is what the faith journey is all about, letting go and letting God that we might be blessed and be a blessing, that we might be healed and become healers.  All of us are in need of healing. All of us have the Holy Spirit within us that gives us power to heal in thousands of small ways and big ways. May today be the day that we are healed from war, healed from wandering, and healed from witchcraft in the name of Jesus. I invite you now into a quiet space and God’s healing presence as you pray, serve, abide in God’s word, do justice and love mercy. Let it be so today. Amen. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

May 19 2019 Thousands of Tears Wiped Away

May 19 2019 Psalm 148 * Revelation 21.1-6 "Thousands of Tears Wiped Away" Pastor Jacqueline Hines
In our continuing conversation of John’s revelation in the book of Revelation, [slide # 1 John…writing] he talks about a new heaven and a new earth. Experiencing something new means more to most of us these days than it did 20 years ago. 911 was a radically new experience for our world. Mass shootings perpetrated by foreign terrorists is new. American teens gunning down fellow students and young adults speeding through a crowd with a car is a new experience. Three million immigrants fleeing for their lives into this country is new. Floods and fires have emerged with record devastation destroying crops and homes. Greed and ignorance have filled the air with cancer-causing agents and our oceans and waterways are overwhelmed by islands of plastic and debris. [slide # 2  island of plastic]  
Growing up in Connecticut, our family regularly enjoyed playing in a beautiful park in walking distance from where my paternal grandparents lived. The lake was ever so clean and the trees were tall and stately with paths filled with adventure and there was no thought at all for our safety. One year I returned to find that the lake had not been cared for by the city. It was full of trash. An old bicycle tire was sticking out on top. It was sickening. A few years later, however, I expected things would still be the same. But, they weren’t. The lake was all cleaned up and beautiful again. Something new had happened and things had changed for the better.
So much in this world has made a turn for the worse. We long for a something new and good to happen. Many are weeping. You better believe that God is weeping, too. [slide # 3  eye of God] At the same time God has a plan for new things to happen. It is a new plan. Scripture tells us “Eyes have not seen, and ears have not heard the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” [slide #  4   …God has prepared…]
There are constant efforts in this world to defeat hunger and homelessness and some of them have already shown good results. All is not lost. Meda Maron is a social worker for Project Outreach that provides for those in need living in Spring City and Royersford. and Bethel is grateful to have provided many volunteers that help with Project Outreach. Meda reports that this is a season where there are 20% fewer people coming to the pantries for food. Meda believes the decrease in the requests for food is because more people now have jobs in the community. When I spoke to her this week she had just received a pressing call from an employer looking for someone to do landscaping.
On a global level, the United Nations [slide # 5  United Nations] has made the world a better place as the 193 countries in the world work toward 8 goals. Those goals are to:
Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger....Achieve universal primary education....Promote gender equality and empower women....Reduce child mortality. ...Improve maternal health. ...Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. ...Ensure environmental sustainability. ...Develop a global partnership for development.
This global work is critical if we are going to create and maintain peace and development as a civilized society.
Global work sees and hears and responds to the many around the world who are weeping, weeping because of war and catastrophe and tragedy. Many around the world are weeping like the families of the 12 opioid deaths at OJR high school a couple years ago, or the hungry and homeless who’ve spent time under that bridge in Pottstown, or those who work for less than $15 an hour and die by suicide, or those incarcerated in an Alabama prison with the highest rate of suicide in the country. Some are weeping silent tears, but they are still weeping. God weeps with them. We have shed many a tear for them and with them, too.
Still, God has a plan. We are the answer to somebody’s prayer. We are a part of God’s plan. God’s plan is to wipe those tears away that John talks about in verse 4 saying [slide # 6 wipe every tear…] ‘he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’
God is always in the business of turning our weeping into joy. Instead of the sting of salty tears, God gives us what John says in verse 6 ‘water as a gift from the springs of the water of life.’ [slide # 7  gift of water]
When I was teaching children, I learned a very important lesson. That is - God speaks personally to all of us, no matter where we have come from and where we are going, no matter how old we are, or old we ain’t, what we have or do not possess. God speaks to everyone.
After substitute lessons were over, I asked the children to share their dreams since I wanted to test my skills as a dream interpreter haven attended the Karl Jung dream institute in Switzerland. It was so very obvious that God was speaking through dreams. One young man in a special needs class was a remarkable artist. He told of a dream he repeatedly had - a dream of climbing a beautiful grassy hill and just before reaching the top, he heard a voice telling him to “draw, draw.” I asked many questions and was surprised to learn that he did not go to church, he had no sense of whom the voice belonged, and did not think of his God-given gift as special. I have had so many of that type of conversation with young and old alike that I am led me to believe that God speaks to everyone.
God is speaking to me and to you. The question is what do we hear? Are we listening? What are WE saying to God? What are we doing?
[slide # 8  pic of Matthew West] Forty-two year old singer Matthew West wrote a song entitled “Do Something”. [slide # 9 do something…] We ought to at least pray and do the good we can while we can until we know differently. [slide # 10  do what you know…]
West’s song is a conversation with God about the terrible things happening in this world. He writes:
I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now, thought
How’d we ever get so far down, and
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, yeah, I created you” (now listen)
If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something, yeah
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
Oh, it’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

It’s a new world with situations that we would never have believed could happen in just a few short years. Still, John the revelator’s word makes us know that something new is on the horizon.
If nothing else, we are called to pray and see all people as God’s people. Even our faithful prayers will yield a harvest for the soul in need. Prayer will stir up spiritual gifts and unique gifts that can be used to bless the masses. Our prayers may even move a few mountains. Near and far, thousands of tears will be wiped away as we do God’s will partnering with God to create something good on earth that makes heaven rejoice.

No matter how much good we can accomplish or what we have to offer a certain cause, we do well to have a little talk with Jesus and listen for the direction that the Holy Spirit is leading us to fulfill God’s will. [slide # 11  …do what God tells us…] Amen. [slide # 12  faith requires action]

Sunday, May 12, 2019

May 12 2019 Mother's Day - Thousands of Mothers

May 12 2019 Psalm 23 *Revelation 7.9-17 "Thousands of Mothers" [Mother's Day] Pastor Jacqueline Hines
We can all agree - God created mothers. [slide # God created mothers] During his exile on the Isle of Patmos, John the revelator had vision of worshippers all around God’s throne, I am convinced that there had to be some mothers. He writes that he saw a great multitude which no one could count. For once, the multitude is not described as all male. Mothers from across the globe have worshipped God forever. The text is quite thorough. These were mothers from ALL tribes and ALL nations and ALL languages. No one was left out. It was not just about our Jewish brothers and sisters this time. It was not about gentiles this time. It was about ALL tribes and nations gathered around the throne of God. [slide # gathered in white robes]
Recently, someone asked the question – are there any diverse churches in our Methodist Conference? Is there any place to worship where we can see what John saw in his vision of Heaven? Is there a Methodist church that looks like the United Nations? Around the year 2000, there were about 1000 churches in our Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. Today there are about 415 churches in our conference – 106 of them are in our South District and there is one that looks like the United Nations- that church is called Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia. [Slide # Arch St. UMC – serving food] They seem to be multicultural as well as multiracial. [slide # Arch St. at banquet table] So, it can happen.
In the book of Revelation, there are a multitude of people standing around God’s throne – people from all tribes, all nations, all languages? There is no doubt in my mind that mothers had to be at or close to that throne.
John says in verse 13 the elders addressed him,   [slide # … the elders addressed me], asking two questions that he knew he could not answer. They were rhetorical questions, questions designed to force him to think about some things and to prepare his mind to receive important answers. The first question was who are these thousands of people robed in white? The answer: those who had gone through the ordeal, the hard time, the upset, the turmoil, the unspeakable. What ordeal? It does not matter what their ordeal was. An ordeal is an ordeal.
Who among us has not had a hard time at one point or another? What mother and father has not endured some type of struggle with children? [slide # mother and child] Whether it is nurturing their faith in a faithless society, caring for their safety and well-being, daring and riskingletting them go out on their own, leaving you with an empty nest, or suffering some unspeakable heartache, catastrophe or tragedy? What mother, or father who has had to take on the role of mother and father, has not gone through one ordeal or another?
The second question was where have they come from? The answer: They have come from having their robes washed in the blood of the lamb. Blood is serious business. Being related by blood has serious legal and permanent meanings. Blood tests reveal serious information that speak truths otherwise hidden. Blood transfusions save lives while exposure to blood can cause serious harm. [slide # transfusion] Whether in a bank or on a murder weapon, blood is not to be taken lightly.
To be washed in the blood of the Lamb is to be impacted and inundated by a love so steeped in sacrifice that one is changed for the better at one’s core. One is healed by the blood of Jesus and transformed and uplifted in ways that matter deeply! To be washed in the blood of the Lamb is simply to be saturated in the sustenance of Jesus, our Source of all things that sustains and satisfies. The songwriter asks an important question - “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus,” nothing but the immeasurable, sacrificial love of Jesus, that can be found in each and every one of us here today.
Mothers are known for their sacrificial love. [slide # A Mother’s sacrifice] They get it from Jesus. Mothers have a love that sacrifices, to the point of blood, sweat, and tears, to the point of suffering without counting the cost. Mothers give of themselves whether or not they get anything in return sometime, like Jesus. They are made in the image of God. That is why we are compelled to honor them today even as we worship the God who created them.  
Verse 14 tells us the crowd that gathered around the throne had been through THE turmoil, THE ordeal. [slide # …out of the great ordeal]  We can look back in our own lives and remember THE trial or THE tribulation that stands out most in our minds from time to time. Because these people, these thousands of people – including mothers - who had been through some ordeal and were drawn to the presence of God and loved to the very core of their being, for this reason, the scriptures say, they became grateful worshippers, crowding around the throne of God; and they worshipped God day and night.
The love of God can bring you to your knees in awe, humbly bowing down in gratitude. Experiencing the blessed life can bring you to your knees with tears in your eyes and joy bursting in your soul. [slide # bowed in worship]
Oh for such a love that all should have for God that we would be compelled to worship day and night. Last week we noted the word for worship is the Greek  “pros-koo-neh'-o”. [slide # pros koo neh o] It has a derivative meaning to kiss someone as humbly as a dog licking its master’s hand.
For it is around God’s throne where we will be nearest to the Good Shepherd, as verse 11 tells us, we will be guided again and again to the springs of life, and the tears of sadness that we have shed because of THE turmoil or any turmoil, will be gently wiped from our eyes. May the truth of God’s love permeate your soul this Mother’s Day![slide # parents on cane] Amen! [slide # tulips]

May 5 2019 Thousands of Angels

May 5 2019 Psalm 30 *Revelation 5.11-14 "Thousands of Angels" [Native American Ministries Sunday] –Pastor Jacqueline Hines

The biblical book of Revelation is known as the most mystifying and bigger-than-life book of all. Revelation is also a super dramatic book. It depicts things we have little knowledge of such as angels, [slide # 1 angel on bridge] and strange heavenly creatures, [slide # 2 creatures] after all Heaven is out of THIS world. There is constant reference to gigantic beasts, wings, ferocious armies, lightning and thunder. They somehow invade our calm reality and puzzle us and distract us into a frenzy.
The bottom line of the book of Revelation is that there is an outrageous spiritual battle going on. In every battle, we sing with Martin Luther [slide # 3 Martin Luther] that daring preacher who was not afraid to speak out against injustice. He wrote around 1527 the words in German - Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. [slide # 4 A Mighty…] Martin Luther read the bible and understood that there is a spiritual battle going on. He was so clear on being a good soldier of the cross and a good soldier of the Lord that others, who understood that spiritual battles are real, named their sons after him.  
Many of God’s people understand that in every battle where justice and peace are being protected, God is a mighty fortress, as the song goes - “and though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed, his truth to triumph through us.”
There is no end to the issues and the spiritual battles both great and small with which the Church is called to contend. There is no end to those whom God prepares and equips to enter spiritual battlefields. [slide # 5 army of the Lord]
Scriptures remind us that we win battles with truth and faith. We win with weapons that are not physical automatic guns and bombs, though there are instances, I suppose, that God may use them, too. Our weapons are mighty. According to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, our weapons have the power to knock down arguments and any other thing that exalts itself against God’s knowledge. The power God gives us has the ability to force into submission every thought to obey God’s will. One thing we have learned in our journey of faith is that God asserts God’s power in God’s timing and in God’s way. Even when we think we are losing the battle, we do well never to go ahead of God and use our own power in our own way. No matter what, God’s way works best. [slide #  6 good wins….over evil]
This month the issue that we United Methodists are called to respond to is the well-being of our brothers and sisters who are Native Americans. [ slide #   7 Native American…] Each year all of us are invited to gather at Camp Innabah and learn something new about what is happening among the Native American community. Last Sunday, we were reminded that Native Americans are often missing in the media. The hundreds of Native Americans that are missing or murdered are not reported as often as others. In order to help us Methodists remember all of God’s children, we were asked to wear a red dress and several red dresses were displayed around the room as we worshiped. [slide #  8 red dress] One of the most notable red dresses was near the altar and it represented a missing three year old named Teekah Lewis from Tacoma, Washington. We called her name in worship along with dozens of others to remind ourselves that each of us is just as important as the least, the last, the lost!
Seeing one another as opposed to looking past one another is critical to our spiritual well-being and the spiritual well-being of the world. Knowing that God sees all of us as precious and valuable jewels honors God and honors us. Seeing anyone as less than beautiful in God’s eyes dishonors and disrespects God and God’s people.
In this morning’s text, we can feel a respect and honor that goes so deep. [slide #  9 John writing ] John, said to be the writer of Revelation, tells us of a mystical, spiritual experience he had. We do not know anything about the writer except his name is John and that he was in exile on the Island of Patmos because of his faith. This John is probably not John the Baptist nor John the beloved disciple, so we call this John, John the revelator or John of the island of Patmos of Greece.
No matter who he was, he gives us an urgent message. In verse 11 he says he looked….it is good to look….it is good to see…when John looked, he could hear better and what he heard was the voice of many angels; there were thousands of angels and they were singing, and they were singing in full voice!  We can envision the energy, the melody, the constancy of purpose as the angels were singing. There were a few shepherds who have firsthand experience of what John witnessed. As they were tending their flock by night they testified  – angels we have heard on high sweetly singing over the plains and the mountains in reply echoing their joyous strains, glory, glory, in excelsis deo, glory to God in the highest, in excelsis deo.
The voices get our attention because they are beautiful and they are good. Good voices speak peace to our hearts and minds, bring us joy and laughter. We can believe that hearing the voices of angels singing leaves us speechless, makes us cry, gives us goose bumps, gives us hope, lifts our hearts and takes us to a good place, and most especially, the voices of angels - draw us closer to our loving, creating God!
Thousands of angels singing is a message in itself. Thousands represent a superabundance, an over the top moment, more than enough of that which is good and Godly. Seeing and hearing thousands of angels singing is a very intense experience, such intensity just like the most subtle moments, often change us forever.
These Thousands of angels were not just singing, they were singing praises to God. [ slide #  10 angels singing] Of course, the purpose of praise is to protect a connection between the praiser and the praised. The purpose of praise is to perfect love so that it will last. The purpose of praise is to fulfil God’s purpose and dilute the danger of demonic destruction that allows the spilling out of irritation, anger and pride. The scripture is full of praise to God as well as praise to God’s creation, including us humans. Psalm 139 praises humanity saying we are fearfully (meaning respectfully) and wonderfully (meaning awesome) made, Psalm 17 says we are the apple of God’s eye. Jeremiah says we are loved with an everlasting love, we have been drawn with unfailing kindness. Human love and kindness is intermittent, God’s love and kindness is unfailing. No wonder the psalmist demands, Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord.
The sound of a thousand angels is just as powerful as a thunderous waterfall. Sound is a force to be reckoned with. Shouting to the Lord, as Psalm 98 encourages us to do, can lead to the falling down of our walls of Jericho that the enemy has raised against us. As Darlene Zschech wrote in 1993 - Shout to the Lord all the Earth, let us sing, Power and majesty, praise to the King Mountains bow down and the seas will roar, At the sound of Your name. I sing for joy at the work of Your hand, Forever I'll love You, forever I'll stand, Nothing compares to the promise I have In You.
Sound changes the atmosphere and creates something new. When we listen to the voice of God, good things are stirred up and created in us. When we make a joyful noise of praise to God, good things are stirred up in the atmosphere and good is created in our world and beyond. God knows, we need the good.
Praise is contagious. That is why John tells us in verse 13 that he heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, ‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!
When we praise God, we become worshippers like the living creatures [slide #  11 living creatures] and the elders John describes in verse 14 that says - And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the elders fell down and worshipped. [slide # 12 they said “Amen” and the elders worshiped]
Worship means to bow down in one’s heart, to humble oneself, posture oneself below God rather than above God, [slide #  13 man bowed in worship] to put it even more vividly – to worship is to pros-koo-neh'-o – a Greek derivative meaning to kiss someone as humbly as a dog licking its master’s hand. Hearing God’s call to worship and praise and to bless one another with lowliness and humility, makes the world a better place for all of us.[slide # 14 globe  hands] Amen. [slide # 15 red dress]

Friday, May 3, 2019

April 28 2019 Do You Know Where the Holy Spirit Is?

April 28 2019 service  * Acts 5.27-32, Psalm 150 “Do You Know Where the Holy Spirit Is? Pastor Jacqueline Hines
A famous evangelist known for her spectacular miracles, had meetings throughout the country in the 70’s. Her name was Kathryn Kuhlman. [slide #  1  Kathryn Kuhlman]  God chose her to do so many good works. She attracted crowds, busloads from several states. Many church would want that kind of crowd and attention. Miracles were said to happen at every service and the crowds kept coming. The services were talked about and news reports captured them. Perhaps the most challenged were the ushers who greeted those crowds anxious for a miracle and the trustees who made sure the plumbing and parking facilities were always adequate. Crowds require much hospitality and care. [slide # 2 crowd] 
Kathryn Kuhlman was much like the disciples in the book of the Acts of the Apostle. She was not an ordained minister, but she had a life-changing message that she taught. Some were skeptical of her services as they were associated with Oral Roberts and Benny Hinn.  The services tended to be what we have called Pentecostal, dramatic and unfamiliar, people shouting “Amen” or dancing in the aisles. Some felt uncomfortable. Some were indignant. There were, and still are, those on both sides of the issue of believing that the behavior was appropriate or even that it was led by the Holy Spirit. It was a divisive issue in the church! So most Pentecostals go one way and the more subdued worshippers go another way.
A few weeks ago, I worshipped at a Friends / Quaker Meeting House a few months ago. [slide #  3 Meeting House] It was such a blessing, though there was no music, no sermon and lots of silence. A few years ago I went to DC to a Benny Hinn meeting. The crowd was so large, I could not get in, so someone started a service on the sidewalk and people fell out – in the spirit. The Holy Spirit can do dramatic or subtle works wherever and whenever, with or without whatever.
At the same time, as we listen and learn, we discover that evil spirits are also at work wherever and whenever. A retired police officer was forced into early retirement due to diabetes. He sought healing at a crowded evangelism meeting. Somehow he got behind stage and witnessed very ugly things happening. People whom the preacher had declared healed were back stage crawling for their crutches and others were knocked in feigned fainting and pushed down as opposed to collapsing lovingly as the Spirit did a special work in someone’s heart.
Kathryn, I believe, was doing the work of the Holy Spirit. Not everyone understood her or credited her for doing God’s work, and they, no doubt, tried to stop her, but she having the mindset of the early disciples, decided to obey God rather than humans. She preached and was praised and became popular. She was on television and the financial gains were impressive. Lots of people considered it a feather in their cap to be in one of her services or to work the stage with such a well-known minister. It was all good.
Yet in her biography, she talked about a point in her life when she stopped paying attention to the Holy Spirit. She was distracted and became disobedient. She started pretending. She started to put on an act in from of the cameras. That miracles left, the crowds were confused.    In verse 32 Peter says God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey God, [slide #  4 …obey God]  if we do not want to grieve the Holy Spirit, we must obey God.
If you are like most Christians, you may be ambivalent about allowing the Holy Spirit to control your life. If we drink enough of a wine or a spirit, we are said to be under the influence because at a certain point of drinking, we have less control. When we are under the influence of an evil spirit, such as pride or anger, we give Satan a license to steal, kill, and destroy. When we humble ourselves before God and pray for God’s will to be done in our lives, we are letting the Holy Spirit take control of our lives. [slide # 5  …thy will…]
The Holy Spirit is described in the bible as water, and wind, and fire, never stationary like the earth. The Spirit is always moving and making a difference to one degree or another. The Holy Spirit is in us to love us and guide to acts of love inasmuch as we are willing to relinquish control, to bind Satan, to let go and let God.
We are challenged to allow the Holy Spirit into our lives because we know as Isaiah 55 tells us, God’s ways are not our ways. [slide # 6 God’s ways…] God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. We may prepare for our crown, but God may lead us to a cross. We may dream of being a jeopardy champion like 35 year old James Holzhauer in his days of winning streak, but our lot may be to work a 40 hour per week gig and use Google to make us smarter. We may want to be like Wisconsin’s 24 year old Manuel Franco who won a 768 million dollar Powerball jackpot on Tuesday. But our lot may be to be a part of the United Methodist Church that is anti-gambling. We do well to bloom where we are planted, to talk to God about everything.
Scott McDermott is the pastor of Washington Crossing UMC. [slide # 7 Washington Crossing] He told a group of pastors a few weeks ago that the Holy Spirit wants us to pray “Big”. One pastor who was there thought he would take that word to heart and he prayed for the hearts of God’s people to move and raise $17,000 for a minister who was ill and ready to lose his house. The money was raised in a few days. While we are thankful for blessings that come quickly and dramatically rather than with tears, we want to be thankful in whatever results we find ourselves in.
Just like Bethel has a ministry with children and a hospitality ministry with an elevator for accessibility, a welcoming lobby and much food around the table in addition to home and sanctuary communions, Washington Crossing has a ministry of healing. Of course, we all affirm the healing virtues of our God. Pastor McDermott and his congregation have been led a step further from affirming God’s healing to developing a school for the ministry of God’s gifts. There are a dozen members who have been trained to pray for healing and share God’s word. Through the years they have acknowledged their need for healing. They have asked God to heal them and they have heard God guide them to a healing ministry that blesses many people.
It is good for Christians to begin to perceive where the Holy Spirit is working. Whether the Spirit moves as an invisible or forceful wind, or water that hides in the crevices, or a fire that burns to purify, we do well to know where the Holy Spirit is. We want to be ready to respond at the impulse of God’s love. We do not just want to be aware of the evil that is working in our lives. We want to be aware of the good that the Holy Spirit is doing. We want to obey God’s word that tells us not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. [slide #   8  overcome evil…]
During one of the recent Annual Conferences a representative from the Upper Room ministries did some teaching and shared a way to deepen our awareness of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. He suggested that spending time in silent prayer for an extended period of time was extremely beneficial.
So, I want to invite us to do just that, to set aside three solid minutes of silence to listen in the case that the Holy Spirit would enter this sanctuary and enter our hearts. [slide # 9  invite the Holy…] It does not matter if children talk during this silence or someone comes in talking because they are not aware that we are in silent mode, or someone who talks for other reasons. What matters is that we listen in the silence and know that something good will always happen as we open ourselves to God’s goodness through the Holy Spirit that is just as present as the not so holy spirits.
In these three minutes, it will be no surprise to me if the Spirit moves in a specific way. When my timer runs out, I will say “amen.”
===3 minutes===  [slide # 10 silence -  left on for the  three minutes]
May you always be able aware of the work of the Holy Spirit within you and around you. Amen. [slide #  11 let my spirit move…]