Archive for March, 2017


Calming the Storm

The-Way-Sermon-Slide-wk4I don’t know if there are any other objects which offer a microcosm of all emotions in life that a boat can offer. I can think of many joys as I reel in that record setting largemouth bass, or times of exhilaration of skiing behind a huge wake, feeling the breeze and the coolness of the water on a hot summer day.

I sense the peace and stillness of watching the sun rise over the other shore as it reflects of the mirrored surface, all the while slowly breathing in and out, focusing my attention of the awesome power of God who created all of this. But I can also feel the anxious worry that comes with not having complete control as a boat tends to drift and also has no brakes, even the steering is not as controlled as a car or bike.

In Mark chapter 4, we find the disciples in a boat, crossing over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee after a long day on the preaching circuit. Jesus had been healing so many in his early ministry that people were gathering in great crowds to hear him speak, hoping for more signs and miracles. So this huge crowd is starting to gather and Jesus, not wanting to miss this great opportunity, gets into a boat and has his disciples take him just off shore so that everyone could see and hear him.

Jesus preaches all day, and evening is coming, so Jesus tells his disciples “let’s go to the other side.” Exhausted, the disciples begin the journey, and Jesus was so tired that he fell asleep in the stern of the boat. Somewhere on this trip across, a storm whips us, threatening to capsize the boat and kill them all. So they decide that it’s time to wake up Jesus. Their comment is “don’t you care that we are going to die?” There’s no request for Jesus to do anything, but I’m sure that it was implied.

I love Jesus’ response, “Peace, be still.” Now I’m sure that we look at this as Jesus telling the wind, peace or quiet down. And then looking at the waves and saying, be still, calm yourselves. Immediately, the wind and the waves calmed down. The boat rested peacefully on the water and the disciples took in a deep sigh of relief. They weren’t going to die today.

But isn’t it interesting that those three little words could have been spoken directly to the disciples as well. In fact, those words could be spoken to us in many of our times of distress and storms. Peace, be still.

The disciples, like us in our storms, were probably running around, screaming, the sky is falling, the sky is falling. The storms raging all around them, but I’m sure there were storms raging within them as well. Peace, be still.

Are we not the same way? We just lost a job, we found out that our spouse has been cheating, our kids are experimenting with drugs or alcohol, we don’t have enough to pay our bills, and then you throw in the state of the world today. It makes us anxious, fearful, unsure of our future. Then we try to tell ourselves that all is well, that everything will be alright. What we really need to do is listen to Jesus in those times. Peace, be still. And these words may come from those whom he has sent, people who are close to us. Maybe, these are words you need to speak to someone you know. We need to be agents of God’s peace in the midst of storms.

Always remember this, Jesus may not calm the storm that you are in right now, or any that will come your way, but he will calm the storm in you. Listen when he tells you, “Peace, be still.” Let him hold you in his hands until the storm passes by.

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Proclaiming the Kingdom

The-Way-Sermon-Slide-wk3The gospel of Mark, chapter 1, verse 15 tells us “The Kingdom of God has come near.” This is the first thing Jesus focuses on as he began his ministry. But he didn’t stop there. He continued teaching this throughout his three-year ministry. So, we certainly must ask the question, what and where is the Kingdom of God? Jesus gives us five attributes of the Kingdom which we find in Luke 4:18-19. Here they are:

  1. Good news to the poor.
  2. Liberty to the captives.
  3. Sight for the blind.
  4. Liberty for the oppressed.
  5. Year of the Lord’s favor.

 

These attributes are signs of the Kingdom Jesus is proclaiming. The Kingdom that has come near. God’s Kingdom!

Now, if you remember from the past couple of weeks, we have been asking a question during this series of walking in the footsteps of Jesus. “How does the knowledge of this help us to become more Christ-like in our lives?” I think we can become more like Christ by participating in the Kingdom of God.

John Wesley has a rule which I believe fits so well with what we are called to do in this world. “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.”

This rule can certainly help in the attributes of the Kingdom of God. Helping the poor and the less fortunate, freeing those who are in chains of addiction, oppression, abuse, or even loneliness can be living in the Kingdom of God. Sharing the word of God, the gospel message with others, removing their spiritual blindness brings the kingdom even closer.

This is what Jesus was doing, and this is what he is calling us to do as well. This is participating in the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom is not abstract and well off in the future. The Kingdom is right here, right now. The Kingdom is here and it is there, ahead of us. It is already and not yet.

The Kingdom of God is for all people, regardless of where they live or what country they belong to. Jesus Christ begins his ministry, the ministry of bringing the Kingdom of God near, of bringing the Kingdom of God right here. But right here meant more than just “right here!” It meant here and there. It meant in the United States and Egypt, China and Indonesia, Africa and Syria, it meant all of this world.

If we are to participate in the Kingdom of God, we are to be in mission, making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This requires us to be reaching out to those who need to hear the gospel message, those who need to know they are loved, those who need to know they are wanted. Those who are the poor, the captive, the blind, the oppressed. Those who are lonely, lost, hurting, hungry, and in pain. The ones who are giving up, the ones who feel left behind or abandoned, the ones who’ve never met Jesus Christ, and even the ones who’ve rejected him over and over again.

It is for all of these that Jesus needs us to go, into the world and seek them out, speaking truth into their lives, showing them that we care and we love, as Jesus loves. Then we can say that we are participating in the Kingdom of God.

The Healing Ministry

The-Way-Sermon-Slide-wk2Here we enter the second week of Lent, as we focus on walking in the footsteps of Jesus. This is a time where we can focus on what it means to become more Christ-like in our lives. We turn our attention to the healing ministry of Jesus and what this says about living a Christ-like life. Jesus healed many, he healed little girls, young men, middle aged women, even people who were dead. Jesus healed Jews and Gentiles alike. Jesus healed lepers, paralytics, mutes, those who were blind and deaf, and certainly those suffering from mental illness. But Jesus also healed a centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother in law, Jairus’ daughter, Bartimaeus, the servant of a high priest, and Lazarus. But even with this list, and the many that are not on this list, we must also acknowledge that he also healed you and me! Jesus offers physical healing, emotional healing, and spiritual healing.

So now that we have this exhaustive list of who Jesus healed, we should ask the other question, why? Why did Jesus heal? What was the point of the healings? “So that.” A simple phrase that can complete our prayers as we respond with reasons, implications, or hopes we have in the outcomes. Jesus healed so that those who were healed would believe in him, so that they would follow him, so that they would become a disciple, and so that they would testify to the change in their lives. So that they would become a witness, proclaiming the good news of the Gospel.

All of this would certainly be true, but I think the number one reason of why Jesus healed these people, was because he loved them. He didn’t like seeing them in pain, hurting, depressed, or lost. As we walk in Jesus’ footsteps during our Lenten journey, we see that in this healing ministry, that there are many people, from many different walks of life, many different backgrounds, but yet all were treated the same by Jesus. Jesus shows compassion on those he encountered. Jesus loved all people. Jesus showed value to those whom he healed.

There was the time when Jesus was on his way to heal Jairus’ daughter. It would seem that this was a pretty big deal and one that he should have made a quick journey right to Jairus’ house, but as he is walking through a large crowd, a woman touches him. A woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years touches Jesus and is immediately healed. But instead of rushing on through the crowd, Jesus stops and looks for this person who touched him. He stops and shows the crowd that this woman has value. Jesus shows compassion on this woman whom he loved.

Do we ever slow down or even stop what we are doing? Do we ever put things aside? Do we ever put our phones away long enough to truly listen and show the other people in our lives that they have value, that they are loved by us, and that they are loved by God? We should love all people and show them they have value. The way we can do this by sharing our resources. We can give of ourselves, of our time, money, and prayers. We can spend some time talking with someone who seems to be having a rough day. We can offer to pray for people, listen to them, and advocate for them. Speak up when we see injustices. Stand up and encourage when it is needed.

This is what it means to be more like Christ. But there’s more. We are called to be healers. John 14:12 tells us that even though Jesus has come and done great things through his healings, we will do greater things. We are given the power through the Holy Spirit to participate in these healings, whether it be physical through doctors, nurses, and medicine; emotional through listening and conversations; or spiritual through participating in God’s salvation plan for this world.

We are called to be instruments of God’s healing. I encourage you to be the vessel that God uses today to bring healing to someone’s life. Pray that God will bring that person into your life, place them in your path, bring their name to your mind, so that you can participate in the miraculous healing that God wants to give. Let us continue to be more Christ-like as we travel this journey of Lent. Let us truly show compassion, love, and value to others around us. And finally, let us be instruments of God’s healing.

The-Way-Sermon-Slide-wk1Lanark United Methodist Church is beginning a worship series called: “The Way, Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus.” This will be our journey throughout this Lenten Season. I hope you can join me as we talk about many different parts of Jesus’ life and how they encourage us to be more “Christ-like” in our lives. The first theme we have is Jesus’ baptism and temptation.

I don’t really want to skip over Jesus’ baptism, but I would like to focus a little more on his temptations. So very quickly, Jesus’ baptism signified the beginning of his three-year ministry among us. For us, baptism is the initiation into Christ’s holy church, it is our beginning of the ministry God has called all of us to as well. This should never be taken lightly. But it is what happens right after the baptism that I want to focus on today.

We must notice that just because we are baptized, does not mean that life will be a bed of roses. Jesus shows us this when, just after he was baptized, he was immediately driven out into the wilderness where he was tempted for 40 days.

Now this wilderness that is spoken of in scripture, was not a place that we might have in mind. It is not a place of thick lush forests, waterfalls, campfires, and s’mores. This was more like a desert. If you have ever been to South Dakota and seen the Badlands, you might have an idea of what I’m talking about. Desolate hills, almost nothing green, just about everywhere dusty, that is the Judean wilderness. Not a very happy place to be. In fact, it is said that the wilderness spoken of in scripture is also a metaphor for all those places we don’t want to go. Our own spiritual Nineveh.

Seminary was one of my wilderness’. Not sure about going, about how well I would do, about what I would learn, even how I was going to pay for it, were some of the questions that I was bombarded with. I guess you could say that even before I entered in this process, I was experiencing temptations. “Don’t do it, it is going to be too hard, it’s too expensive, are you sure you want to give up everything you have built up to this point? Temptations from many sides. But these wilderness experiences are helpful in strengthening our faith and relationship with God.

Jesus is tempted and we hear about three of those temptations, but let’s just look at the second one. We can see this temptation in a few different ways, but I want to look at it from an angle that you might not have seen before. Jesus is tempted to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple.

Jesus knows the plan for his life, he knows how the story is going to end, and yet, here is the devil telling him to throw himself down, end it right now. Don’t go through with the plan, it’s going to be too hard, too painful, just quit. I heard some of those temptations as I was beginning this calling of ordained ministry. It’s going to be too hard, too expensive, it will take too much time, just quit. Don’t go through with it. I am so glad I did not listen to those temptations.

Jesus shows us how we can fight temptation, knowledge of scripture. But even more than that, we need a relationship with scripture, a relationship with whom scripture is all about. Through our relationship with Jesus Christ, we can fight temptations.

Will you pray with me? Heavenly Father, surround us with your love this day and throughout our journeys as we strive to become more Christ-like in our lives. Help us to grow in our relationship with you so that we can resist temptations. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.