“How do you want to be remembered?”
2 Timothy 4:6-8
October 23, 2016
Rev. David Goode
There is an old story told of a woman’s husband who had died and she wanted to let others know about the funeral. She called the person in charge of funeral notices at the paper local paper. The widow asked, “how much do funeral notices cost?” The response was, “$5.50 per word, Ma’am.” “Good” the widow said; she then asked, “do you have a pencil and paper handy?” “Sure do Ma’am,” the response came. The widow then said, “okay, please write this: ‘Fred Dead.’” The person on the other end was puzzled and said, “I’m sorry, Ma’am, I might have forgotten to mention there is a five-word minimum.” “Hmmmmm…” the widow said as she thought. Then she asked: “Still got your pencil and paper?” “Yes, Ma’am.” came the reply. Okay, print this: “Fred dead, Cadillac for sale.’”
Paul writes, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” How do you want to be remembered when you die? What five words do you want on your tombstone? If you were at your own funeral and people from the most important parts of your life (family, friends, work, and church or community organization) were speaking about you, what would you want them to say?
Now, maybe I am thinking about this because we have had four funerals in the past few weeks. However, as we read Paul’s words to Timothy this morning, it seems to me that he is writing his own obituary: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” How do you want to be remembered?
Paul wants to be remembered joyfully as a servant of God, who offers himself up as a sweet fragrance. Even though the New Revised Standard Version translates Second Timothy 4:6 as saying “I am already being poured out as a libation”, it is best translated “I am already being poured out like a drink offering”. A drink offering was a type of sacrifice. Both Old Testament Jews and their non-Jew counterparts were familiar with drink offerings. A worshiper would approach the altar of hot coals with a goblet of wine. As a prayer or special vow was spoken; the wine would be poured on the coals. The wine instantly evaporated, giving off a cloud of smoke and a sweet rich fragrance. The drink offering was a symbolic way of saying, “I gladly give all that I have to the Lord. The sacrifice that I offer is symbol of my wholehearted commitment to God. I hold back nothing. All that I have, I gladly give to my God.”
Paul also calls his death a departure. This too pictures a concept common to his readers. It refers to a ship hoisting the anchor, raising the sails, leaving the harbor, and setting sail for a distant port. It also refers to an army that has made camp near a battlefield. To “depart” means to break camp, leave the battlefield, and head for home. Paul joyfully lays down his whole life and is ready to go home with no regrets. Paul has fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.
The phrase “I have fought the good fight” was the description of a wrestling match. Life can be tough. However, finishing well is worth the effort. Finishing well does not mean living primarily for your own comfort and spending your time and money on your pursuit of the American dream. You may attend church every week. You may profess to follow Christ. However, if your purpose in life is to be as comfortable as you can, then you are not seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. If, on the other hand, you live for the purpose of building up the body of Christ and extending God’s kingdom through your labors, your time, and your money, in accordance with the gifts and opportunities that God has given you, then you are involved in that goal of finishing well. Let me tell you, there is no retirement from church life and work.
Paul says I have finished the race. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Winning means not quitting. It means not finding excuse after excuse to stop working for the church and falling short of the finish line. Life is not so much about how fast you go, but do you finish well?
Finally, Paul says I have kept the faith. This simply means Paul refused to compromise the truth. When other people fell away, Paul preached the Word. He did not back down, he did not compromise, and he would not preach what people wanted to hear. Paul never retired from following God and building the church. He fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. Paul never stopped fighting, never stopped running, and never stopped believing!
How do you want to be remembered? How do you want to be remembered in regards to Hamilton Park United Church of Christ? “I got tired and stopped fighting for church renewal and growth.” “I stopped running for the cause of church renewal and growth.” “I stopped believing in a bright new future for the church.”
Do you know that there are five committees here at Hamilton Park United Church of Christ that does not have a chairperson? Finance and personnel, Property, Fellowship, Care Giving and the newest committee Preschool. When the new pastor arrives next year, do you want them to bring renewal and growth to Hamilton Park Church; or do you want them to run committees? When it is all over for you, will you hear the words: Well-done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your lord. Or, “you didn’t finish well, but come on in anyway.”
How do you want to be remembered? What five words will you be remembered with? “I killed Hamilton Park Church” or “I saved Hamilton Park Church”? Keep on fighting. Keep on running. Keep on believing.
*Hymn “O Jesus, I Have Promised” #493
Sermon: 10-16 Sermon
Don’t Quit–Pray Persistently!
October 16, 2016
Rev. David Goode
A newspaper comic strip showed a little boy kneeling beside his bed for his bedtime prayer and saying with some measure of disgust, “Dear God, Uncle Jim still doesn’t have a job; Sis still doesn’t have a date for the prom; Grandma is still feeling sick – and I’m tired of praying for this family and not getting results.” Praying is a problem for this little boy and I think that he is not alone. Prayer is a problem for many modern people, especially when our prayers do not produce what we want. When we take prayer seriously, we do not hesitate to be persistent and consistent in our times with God.
In today’s parable, the poor widow kept on begging the judge to grant her justice. She did not just ask once and say, “Let me know what you decide.” She peppered his ears with persistent petitions. Have you ever asked God for something, and when God did not answer your prayer immediately, you quit praying? That is a big mistake.
The most effective prayers in the Bible are those that were prayed persistently. In Psalm 55:16-17, David wrote: “I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning, and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” David was not one of those one-a-day vitamin prayers. He was an all-day pray-er! Remember, Paul tells us to pray without ceasing.
In the Old Testament, Hannah desperately wanted a child. For many years, she prayed and prayed to have a child. And after her prayer went unanswered for years she didn’t say, “I give up!” Or like that little boy in the newspaper comic strip, talking to God with disgust. She kept on praying for years, and eventually God gave her a son – Samuel, the mighty prophet.
Even Jesus prayed persistently. On the night before the crucifixion, He was in the Garden of Gethsemane pouring out His heart to God His Father. His prayer burden was so intense there were drops of blood, like sweat, on His forehead. He prayed, “Father, take this cup from me – but not my will but yours be done!” He prayed it repeatedly. Three times Jesus cried out to His Father who heard Him, gave Jesus the strength and resolve to face the cross.
Paul had some kind of painful affliction that he called “a thorn in the flesh”. He begged God to remove the pain. He asked not once, not twice, but three times before the God answered. And when God answered, it wasn’t the answer Paul was wanting. God did not take away the thorn; instead, God gave him the grace to cope with the pain. Therefore, Paul began to give God glory in the midst of his pain.
Persistence is an important factor in prayer. However, persistence is a valuable commodity for every area of our Christian life, not just prayer. God blesses those who persist. Therefore, whatever you may be facing right now, do not give up! This parable of Jesus concerning the widow and the dishonest judge is a story about encouragement. Jesus is saying, ‘Take heart. Don’t give up praying just because the times are hard’. ‘Keep on praying!’ Why? Because of the relationship that we have with God. Keep on praying because God is gracious and kind. Keep on praying, even if the whole situation looks hopeless in our eyes. Keep on praying because God loves us and is waiting to answer our prayers in a way that will be for our benefit. Keep on praying because God is willing and waiting to hear from us, and wants to apply his loving answer to every request we bring to him. Sometimes we may doubt, we may be angry, we may be upset, we may question “why?” but God is always there ready to listen.
One of the largest organizations in America is the Quitters Club. The reason you have never heard of the Quitters Club is because they never meet, the members quit coming. There are no dues, the members quit paying them. The Quitters Club is comprised of people who faced a tough job, a tough marriage, a tough sickness, or a tough failure; and they quit. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. However, when the going gets tough, the quitters get going…away. What we need in the church are people who will exhibit good, old-fashioned “sticktoitiveness.” That’s probably not even a word, but it needs to be!
My younger son Jon played football for years. I remember one game when he recovered a fumble and headed towards the goal line. He was carrying a couple of guys from the other team with him. He did not make it to the goal line; but he demonstrated persistence or “sticktoitiveness.”
Even the best of people get knocked down in life, but what sets them apart from the quitters is that they get right back up. Life is full of adversarial people who will tackle you. You will face difficult circumstances that trip your feet out from under you. The poor widow in Jesus’ parable was knocked, but she refused to stay down. She got up and persistently made her request to the judge.
Sadly, many Christians pray, but they really do not expect any answer. I heard about a Sunday School teacher who had her children write letters to a missionary they had been praying for. The teacher explained that the missionary was very busy and would not have time to send a reply to every child, so they should not expect to hear back from him. One little boy wrote this letter: “Dear Mr. Smith, I am praying for you. I am not expecting an answer.” Are you like that? You pray, but you are not really expecting an answer?
I have known people who have quit praying because they did not seem to get an answer. If I walk into a room and flip on the light switch, I expect the light to come on. If it doesn’t, I don’t curse Thomas Edison and say electricity is a lie. I start looking for the problem. Maybe the light bulb burned out, or a breaker has been tripped, or the power is out. If it seems your prayers aren’t answered, don’t quit praying, start looking for the reason. It may be the wrong request, or you may have un-confessed sin in your life, or the timing may not be right. God always answers prayer. God answers prayer in different ways: yes, no or wait. Or god may answer our prayers quickly or later or better or simply no.
God may answer your prayer QUICKLY. Jesus used the word “quickly” in verse 8 to describe how God answers prayer. The word “quickly” is a relative term. If someone was injured, I would say, “Call 911 quickly!” However, if a couple gets married only four months after they first met, I might say, “They sure got married quickly!” The word Jesus used means “suddenly.” Your prayers may seem to be unanswered for months, and then BOOM! You get the answer.
I heard about a person who was rushing to the mall to buy something. It was pouring rain and she did not have an umbrella. As she drove into the parking lot she said, “Please, please, Lord let me find a good parking place near the front door.” Just as she said those words, she saw the back-up lights of a car as it backed out the best parking space in the entire lot. She said, “Never mind, Lord, I’ve found one myself!” What a joke! God answered her prayer so quickly she did not even have time to understand it was God at work. God may answer your prayer QUICKLY.
God may answer your prayer LATER. God always answers prayer immediately, but sometimes it is later. When your prayer is heard in heaven, God acts on the request immediately, but it may take awhile before you get the answer. If it seems God hasn’t answered your prayer yet, don’t quit! The answer could be just around the corner. God’s delays are not God’s denials. Our sense of timing is flawed, but God’s timing is impeccable. So pray persistently, and then wait patiently for God’s answer.
God may answer your prayer QUICKLY or LATER or maybe even BETTER. Sometimes we do not get what we ask for, because God has something better in store for you. Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of Billy Graham once said, “If God answered every prayer of mine, I would have married the wrong man seven times!” Sometimes when you ask God for something, He has something better in store for you!
God may answer your prayer QUICKLY or LATER or BETTER or simply NO. When we get a NO, that is still an answer to prayer. Do not ever stop praying until you hear God say, “No.” At that point, stop making that request and start praying in a different way. When my mother was dying of cancer, I prayed and asked God to heal her. I did not stop praying, I prayed persistently. After years of praying for God to heal her, one day I felt in my heart that God was saying, “David, I’m not going to heal her the way you want her healed. I’m going to totally heal her by bringing her home to be with me.” At that moment, I stopped praying for her healing. I changed my prayer to, “Dear Lord, keep her free from pain and help her to enjoy the days of physical life that she has left” and God answered that prayer. Do not give up on prayer because God will never give up on you.
Bulletin: October 9th, 2016
Sermon: Be Thankful
October 9, 2016
Rev. David Goode
There were ten of us there that day. Each of us needed healing from the leprosy that ravaged our bodies. We were outcasts; other people wanted nothing to do with us. In fact, we were ordered to stay away from the public and we were forced to cry out “unclean, unclean” if anyone came near us.
Then, we saw this man. He did not avoid us like the rest; in fact, He came forward and called to us. We saw that it was Jesus. We had heard about this man. Some said He was the Messiah. Others said a great teacher. But one thing they all agreed on was the fact that He had a healing touch. That’s what we needed, so we cried out, “Have mercy on us.”
I’ll never forget what happened next. He told us to go show ourselves to the priests. That could only mean one thing; we were going to be healed! We all looked at each other in disbelief and my friend turned and started towards the temple. We all followed, excitedly discussing the possibility of being cleansed.
Then, it happened. We hadn’t gone very far and I felt kind of warm, even tingly. I could hardly believe my eyes! My skin dried up. I was healed. I looked in disbelief at the others and they too were clean. It was a miracle! Just like they said, this man Jesus was a healer!
My friend turned around and headed back. We called out to him, “Where are you going?” He said, “I’m going to thank Him. I’m going to thank Jesus.” Well, I thought about turning around and going with him, but then one of our group said, “I’m not going to thank Him until I make sure that this healing is permanent. I might get leprosy again tomorrow, for all I know.” The others murmured in agreement. “We would have been healed anyway,” another one said. “Yeah, we suffered enough, we were owed a blessing.”
“But, don’t you see, Jesus healed us. He is the one who…” and I was interrupted immediately. “You’re the one who doesn’t see,” another man said rudely. “I’ve got to get home and tell my family and friends the good news. I’ve got to make up for lost time. Maybe I can even get my old job back.” “Yeah, let’s throw a party tonight.” a younger man said.
“But, don’t you think we should at least thank Jesus,” I continued. “Thanks, shmanks,” the younger man said. “Jesus knows that we appreciate it, now let’s move on.” It shames me to say it, but I never went back that day.
In fact, I never did say “thanks.” I got so caught up in the healing and the comments of the others and wanting to start my life over that I never did tell Jesus that I was grateful. I never told Him how much I appreciated Him taking a chance on me. I never told Him how much His blessing meant to my life and to the lives of my family and friends. I never told Him how wonderful I felt and how He changed my life that day.
Today, we want to be the one out of ten who gives thanks to God. You may be thinking, but I didn’t receive a healing like they did. What do I have to be thankful for? There are so many things in this world that needs healing and my life needs help as well. Then add to that our bodies getting older and falling apart due to sickness, disease, and death. However, in spite of all of this, we can still be thankful!
How can we be thankful for a car accident? Be thankful that there are hospitals that can provide immediate care. Be thankful for cell phones to call for help. Be thankful for insurance companies. Be thankful for the times you did not have an accident. Be thankful that we have transportation. We do not understand why accidents happen and diseases kill people; or why bad things happen to good people.
However, we can either be a complainer or we can be a contender. You may have heard of Kyle Mayner, also called, “The Contender”. When Kyle Mayner’s mother was pregnant, the doctors said they could not find his legs. He was born without hands or legs, and yet his mother was thankful for him. Despite his handicaps, he eats with a spoon, played football while in High School and graduated with a 3.6 average. Two months after his High School graduation, Kyle was a keynote speaker at a forum for the disabled. “Anyone,” he told the crowd, “can overcome their boundaries and achieve their dreams.” Being a thankful person and a contender in life, he was content with who he was. That is the power of thanksgiving and we learn to be thankful in all things.
Like that one leper, we can be one of the thankful people today. Be thankful for God becoming one of us in Jesus Christ, the healer and savior. And if forgiveness and salvation isn’t enough for you to break into your happy dance, just think:
- If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head, and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.
- If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish somewhere, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.
- If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the thousands who will not survive this week.
- If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.
- If you can attend church meetings without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are blessed.
- If anyone in this world has a reason to be Uncommonly Thankful – It is us!
We take our privileged American life for granted. We are used to having so much, that like the 9 in our story this morning, we do not stop and say thanks. We simply assume that we will have all the good things of life. Maybe to be like the “one” in our story, we can show our thankfulness by writing a list of the specific blessings, which we are thankful for.
- Thanks for the warm bed in which I awoke.
- Thanks for the roof over my head.
- Thanks for the food I ate and the water I drank.
- Thanks for the air I breathed.
- Thanks for my family.
- Thanks for my job.
- Thanks that I can see, hear, and talk.
- Thanks for my health.
- Thanks for my computer.
- Thanks for the TV.
- Thanks for the newspaper.
- Thanks for the beauty of the day.
And that’s just the beginning. If you had to list all your blessings, you would have to list all of the bad things that did not happen to you today. How long would that take?
Sermon: Jesus Brings Us All Together
October 2, 2016
Jesus Brings Us All Together (World Communion)
Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12; Matthew 26:26-28
Rev. David Goode
Each Year, on the first Sunday of October, we gather around The Lord’s Table with all our sisters and brothers in Christ around the world. We celebrate Jesus and what Jesus did for us and for all. We celebrate what Christ does today for everyone, through the power of Holy Spirit. We celebrate Jesus, who prays that all of us will be one. We celebrate Jesus, who welcomed the little children into his arms. We celebrate Jesus, who took time to bless everyone – no matter who they were and no matter what others thought of them. Jesus Christ – savior and our Lord of the world. Jesus Christ – the promised one of God for all. Jesus, the son of God – and yet human:
- human like us….
- a human who struggled to be faithful to God,
- a human who was called to love his neighbors as himself,
- a human who was tempted like we are in every way,
- a human who suffered as we suffer.
The letter to the Hebrews speak of Jesus in exalted terms – calling him “the radiance of God’s glory” and “the exact representation of God’s being”, and “superior to the angels”. And this is true – our whole faith speaks of it, but the letter to the Hebrews also remind us of something else that our whole faith speak of. It reminds us that here, on this earth, Jesus was made like us. That he was made like us a little lower than the angels and was one with us; born of a woman, born as our brother to walk as we walk through this life. Jesus was one with us, able to sympathize with us, able to identify with us, able to rejoice with us, able to suffer with us. And, because of what he suffered in faithfulness to God, Jesus is able to intercede for us – pray for us – before God.
The signs before us today — the bread and the wine, they remind us of how he came to be our Savior, they remind us of what his love and his faithfulness cost him. There is plenty of room around this table, for the young and the old, for the rich and the poor. For people from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Finland, Germany, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Namibia, Panama, Russia, Slovenia, Thailand, Zimbabwe, the United States and everywhere in between – Plenty of room for all.
“Practice Generosity Now”
1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31
September 25, 2016
Rev. David Goode
How many of you would like to be remembered as someone who was selfish and greedy? Ok, how many of you would like to be remembered as a generous person? Most of us would like to be remembered more as a generous person than a selfish person. This morning we are going to take a look at our bible readings and consider how to be a generous person.
There is a story about a mother preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5 and Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake; I can wait.” Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you should be like Jesus! Give me that first pancake!”
In a telephone survey, people were asked, “Do you consider yourself to be a generous person?” An overwhelming number said yes. What about you, do you consider yourself generous? The follow up question was, “Describe the last time that you did something that was generous.” Can you think of the last time that you were generous?
Now, the surveyors did not consider the details of the answer to be important. Instead, they had a stopwatch and they were timing the respondents to see how long it took them to remember their last generous act. Guess what the average time was? Twenty seconds. Twenty seconds – that’s a long time. First, there would be a few seconds of silence. Then they would hem and haw for a moment slowly saying, “Welllllll, let me seeeee.” If it takes us that long to remember the last time when we were generous, then are we TRULY generous people?
Think of the story of Lazarus and the Rich man for a moment. Lazarus, a poor beggar ends up in Abrahams’ arms, while the Rich man ends up in hell. The rich man was selfish, failing to share even the crumbs that fell from his table with the beggar who lay at his gate. The Law and The Prophets tell us: feed the hungry, look after the widow and the orphan, do justice for the alien and the stranger in your land, take care of those who are suffering, love God and love your neighbor as yourself. The rich man knew the law and he chose to be selfish and uncaring. This beggar at his gates was not even worthy of the leftovers from his feast. How about us? Do we notice the under nourished, the widow, and the orphan? Do we provide justice for the alien, the refugee, and the ones who our society choose to discriminate?
We do not want to be self-centered like so many people in our society today; we want to be like Jesus, generous and caring people. So how do we become generous? Today’s second scripture lesson has some suggestions. Paul instructs Timothy: do not trust money; put your trust in God; and practice generosity.
First, generous people do not put their trust in money. If we look at the lesson from first Timothy, Paul has many things to say about this. “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” “As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God.” On American money, there is a motto, “In God We Trust.” Unfortunately, too many do not trust the words of the motto; they trust the money that these words are printed on.
We just finished watching the final show of the season of “Americas Got Talent”, were the winner receives a million dollars. The first of these types of shows was “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?” Now there are several shows that give away lots of money. The sad thing is, these are some of the most popular shows on TV today. On the other hand, we are told to buy a lottery ticket and win more than a million dollars. Most of us would say “yes”; I want to be a millionaire. Why, because we think that money will solve all of our problems? We believe that money will give us happiness. We believe that money will give us security.
Money does not add up to security. Ecclesiastes 10:5 says this: “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” Trusting money is trusting in something that does not have the power to make us secure and happy. We cling to money thinking it will give us the things we need in life. However, if we are to become a generous people, we have to learn to stop trusting in money as our source of happiness and security, so that we can be able to let go of it and give it away. Andrew Carnegie, who amassed a fortune, ended up giving away 99.5% of it. He said, “The man who dies rich, dies disgraced.”
You may be aware of the movement called “The Giving Pledge” launched by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates in 2010. It is a campaign to persuade billionaires to give at least half of their fortunes to charity. As of June 6, 2016, 139 individuals from 14 different countries have pledged more than $365 billion dollars. Some of you may be thinking, I am not rich – I do not have a billion dollars. However, wealth is a relative thing and most of us are rich beyond measure compared to 90% of the world’s population. In addition, we are not doing too bad compared to about 40% of our own society.
As I was preparing for today, I stumbled upon an interesting website that allowed me to find out how rich I am on a world scale. (http://livingwage.mit.edu/articles/19-new-data-calculating-the-living-wage-for-u-s-states-counties-and-metro-areas). I entered my yearly income and it told me exactly where I fit in. To give you an idea, I am richer than about 5.4 billion people and there are only around 600 million richer than I am. That means I am in the world’s top 11% of rich people. Now I do not know what you earn, but to give you more of an idea, if you earn more than $10,000 a year you are still in the top 14% of the world’s richest people.
Generous people do not trust money, they trust God. When we trust God, we become generous and are able to share with others. Stop trusting in money and trust in God.
Then we can practice generosity. Generous people become generous, by developing the skill of generosity. Paul is trying to teach generosity, because generosity is not in our human nature. Generosity is a skill, which we must work at. Singing is a skill. Cooking is a skill. Serving community meals is a skill. We all have skills. If you stop and think about something that you are good at, you are good at it because you take the time and energy to develop that skill. And if we practice that skill, then we would certainly improve that skill.
Generosity is the same thing. It is not something that comes naturally. It is something that we have to work at and develop and practice. Our faith constantly offers us the challenge to be generous and giving: Giving to the church, giving to our neighbors, giving to strangers, giving our time, talents, and money.
Generosity should become the way of life for the Christian. In Hebrews 13:16, the Bible says, “Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Galatians 6:9-10, says, “Let us not become tired of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Practice generosity. Be generous to your church, to your neighbors and to strangers. What was the last thing you did that was generous? What are two or three things you could do this week to practice generosity?
Why Did Jesus Come?
Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10
September 11, 2016
Rev. David Goode
Why did God become one of us in Jesus Christ? This fact is central to our Christian faith. Paul said this morning in our second Bible lesson “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. (Timothy 1:15). In our gospel lesson, the Pharisees were upset with Jesus because he welcomed sinners. Jesus replies to them, the angels of God rejoice over one sinner who repents and turns to God. Jesus came into the world to make us all one with God.
Some say Jesus came to be a teacher, teaching about God and godly living. Some say He came to be our example. Some say He came to be a miracle worker. Some say He came to make the world a better, kinder, and gentler place. Some say He came to be servant of all. Some say He came to be a social and political revolutionary. All of these explanations of why Jesus came have only a part of the truth.
I believe we need to get back to the basics of our faith and hear Paul’s answer: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Jesus came to look for the one lost sheep and bring her back into God’s Kingdom. This is why God became one of us. God spoke through Jeremiah in our Old Testament lesson this morning:
“For my people are foolish, they do not know me;
they are stupid children, they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.”
One of the very basic understandings of our Christian faith is that we cannot live this life or the next without Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Lord. The heart of the Gospel and the central message of the good news we proclaim is, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” This statement is equally clear to the young and the old, the educated and the uneducated, the wise and the foolish. Christ Jesus came into the world to save anyone and everyone: the good, the bad, the ugly, you, and me.
Whenever we find our faith becoming weak: whenever we find ourselves becoming confused, whenever the actions of those around us make us question our faith, whenever we seem to have lost sight of what our Christian faith is all about, Then we should spend time thinking on the teaching that is in front of us this morning, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
In our Scripture reading, Paul calls himself the “worst of sinners” or public sinner number one. He tells us exactly why he calls himself this. In his past, he used to curse the name of Christ and kill the followers of Jesus. Paul says “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I cannot. I want to do what is good, but I do not. I do not want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” (Romans 7:18-20). Paul clearly identifies himself as one of the sinners that Christ Jesus came to save.
Why did God become one of us in Jesus Christ? To bring salvation. To bring redemption for the worst of sinners. To bring any and all us into oneness with God. To bring only what God can bring; agape love, undeserved, unconditional love called GRACE.
This story is an example of grace. A teen-age boy was driving his friend’s home from school, and wrecked the family car because he was driving too fast for the conditions. The car was totaled, but no one was hurt. Friday rolled around and he needed to get to the stadium for the football game. He put on his band uniform, got his horn and went out to the living room. He said to his father, mother, and sister, “It’s time to go to the game. Who’s going to drive me?” There was a moment of silence and then dad said, “I’m not going anywhere – Here are the keys – You can take my car.”
That is what grace is like. God gave us this life, but we go and wreck it. God could say, as he did through Jeremiah, “For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good…the whole land shall be desolated.” Instead, God says, “Here is a new life.” We do not deserve it. We had made a mess of what God had given us. However, God gives us new life!
John Newton is another example of grace. He was the captain of a slave ship. Newly enslaved Africans were just considered cargo on these ships. They were packed in as closely as possible. Many died and their bodies were unceremoniously thrown overboard. The shipping company considered them “acceptable losses”.
When John Newton realized his sin against humanity, he saw himself as he really was. A man with the blood of thousands of people on his hands. Learning that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” and experiencing forgiveness and love from God, he wrote about this grace of God. Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.
Bulletin: 9-4-2016 Bulletin – Website
“Where There Is Sadness, Joy”
Philippians 4:4-8; Matthew 6:26-34
Rev. David Goode
September 4, 2016
Jesus has great advice for us this morning about worry: Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (v34). Can you hear Bob Marley singing: don’t worry, be happy? Every life we have some trouble, When you worry you make it double – so don’t worry, be happy. Aint got no cash aint got no style, aint got no gal to make you smile, But don’t worry, be happy. Cos’ when you’re worried your face will frown, and that will bring everybody down, So don’t worry, be happy. Put a smile on your face, don’t bring everybody down like this, don’t worry it will soon pass – Whatever it is, don’t worry, be happy. Jesus says, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”
Think about it, what does worrying do for you? Many get anxious and then get sad. Today we are looking at the last line in St. Francis Assai (a-see-see) prayer; “Where There Is Sadness let me sow Joy”. Bob Marley’s song surely does that for me. Jesus’ message about putting off worrying also works for me. If I keep putting off worrying and keep putting it in the hands of God, times of worrying will not come.
Paul tells us in today’s reading “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4. Can you “always” be joyful? Some of us may try. And some of us are so filled with sadness that there is very little room for joy. This morning I want us to look at a strategy for dealing with sadness and stress to help us to move towards joy. Paul gives us four very simple and profound statements on how to manage stress in our life: worry about nothing; pray about everything; be thankful and change your way of thinking.
Step one: worry about nothing. Paul tells us in verse six of Philippians chapter four: “Be anxious for nothing.” We know some of the struggles Paul had in his life and yet he is able to say that worry should not be a part of our lives. Worry kills joy and is a major source of stress in our lives. The Smithsonian magazine has called the time we are living in: “The Age of Anxiety”. I’ve heard of one church that was offering a class to help manage anxiety. The sign outside of the church read: Don’t let worry kill you; let the church help.
Worry is worthless. It just leads to sadness and depression. It cannot change the past or control the future – all it does is mess up the “right now”. It uses up an incredible amount of energy and places a tremendous amount of stress on us. We are encouraged in Scripture: “Do not worry about anything.” Philippians 4:6. This is probably the hardest command to obey. It was such an important subject that Jesus even taught about it in our Gospel reading today.
“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? …Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? … Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Jesus tells us that we are to rely on God and approach life one day at a time. It really works for those who work it. Talk with anyone who is managing their addiction by living one day at a time. Worry does not need to have any place in our lives.
Step two: pray about everything. Paul says in verse six: “In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 (NKJV). Paul is saying – don’t worry – pray. When you stop worrying, you free up a lot of your time. And just think of what can you do with all that free time! Pray. Have you heard people say: “I don’t have time to pray.” My question is: “Do you have time to worry? Well, if you have time to worry, then you have time to pray. You know – if we filled our worry time with prayer – we would have a lot less to worry about.
The Bible says: “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that God may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon God, for God cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV). Take your problems to God – pray instead of worry. You probably know that prayer is a tremendous way to release pressure. A life insurance company did a study about this. They learned that people who attend church once a week live an average of 5.7 years longer than the general public. Why? Perhaps, people who attend church every week are more likely to pray than to worry. Worry destroys our health. And here is another fact: There is no problem too big for God’s power or too small for God’s concern.
Step three: be thankful. The story is told of a man who found the barn where Satan stores the seeds he sows in the human heart: envy, greed, anger, hatred, lust, and so on. The man soon noticed that Satan had more seeds of discouragement than of any other kind of seed. He learned that those seeds could be made to grow almost anywhere. When he questioned Satan about this, he reluctantly admitted that there was one place he could not get the seeds of discouragement to grow. “And where is that?” asked the man. Satan replied sadly, “In the heart of a thankful person.” Think again about what Paul says in verse six: “In every situation let God know what you need while giving thanks.”
God wants us to be thankful. Life is best lived with an attitude of gratitude. If you are sad today – here is a suggestion of something that may help – make a list of ten things you are thankful for. When you start going down the list, it will help you stop focusing on your problems and help you to start focusing on all the good in your life. We have so much to be thankful for, but often we take those things for granted. The healthiest human emotion is the attitude of gratitude. Each of us needs to have a grateful heart and a thankful spirit. Ungrateful people tend to be unhappy people. Proverbs tells us: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22. Develop the attitude of gratitude and see how it affects your stress level. A joyful heart is good medicine for the soul. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” God’s will for our life is to be thankful. If you realize all the blessings that God has given you, how can you not be thankful?
Step four: change your way of thinking. Paul says us in verse eight: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV). We are to meditate on the good things in life. Christian meditation is very different from eastern religion meditation. Christian meditation involves filling yourself rather than emptying yourself. Paul talks about filling our self with thoughts of the good things in life.
The meditation that the Bible talks about is a focused thinking. The word for meditation in the Greek means to “attend to carefully”. In other words, to look it over in every aspect, to examine it from one direction then turn it and examine it again. That way you get to know it completely. Meditate on God’s Word; think about the good things in your life.
How many of you are good worriers? If you are good at worrying, you can be good at meditation. Worry is just negative meditation. When you are worrying about something, what are you doing? You are thinking about it over and over and over again. You lie in bed and think and think and think, going over it in every way you can. However, if you think about the good things in life and the promises of God, you are involved in the kind of meditation that scripture recommends. To reduce sadness and stress in your life, you must change the way you think. You CAN choose what you think and you CAN think about the good things in life from God.
That is why the scriptures tells us: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV).
What dominates your thinking? What do you think about most? Turning our sadness into Joy happens when we are worrying about nothing; pray about everything; and being thankful for all that God has provided for us.
Where There Is Despair, Let Me Sow Hope Psalms 46:1-11; Matthew 7:7-12
Rev. David Goode
August 21, 2016
The rainbow was God’s promise to Noah that God would never flood the earth again. It was a promise given during a time of rebuilding from the waters that damaged the earth. We all encounter damaged lives that have lead us to despair and sometimes even cause us to lose hope. We struggle to overcome these devastations and with God’s help there will always be hope. After each storm, God sends us rainbows. Where there is despair, let us sow hope.
Some of you may remember the song written by Buck Owens and Roy Clark from the TV Show Hee-Haw (1969-1992):
“Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all
Gloom, despair, and agony on me”.
Despair: to be hopeless; to have no hope; to give up all hope or expectation for a better tomorrow. We can feel that way. Others around us can feel that way. We pray: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is despair, let me sow hope.”
A man approached a little league baseball game one afternoon. He asked a boy what the score was. “It’s 18 to nothing; we’re behind.” The man said, “I bet you’re discouraged, aren’t you?” “Why should I be discouraged?” the little boy said. “We haven’t even got up to bat yet.” Now that is a boy who sows hope!
We cannot live without hope. When life hurts and dreams fade; nothing helps like hope. Without hope, prisoners of war languish and die. Without hope, students get discouraged and drop out of school. Without hope, athletic teams slump and keep losing. Without hope, addicts return to their habits; married couples decide to divorce; inventors, artists, entertainers, and entrepreneurs lose their creativity. Without hope, we are doomed to a dark, dismal existence of despair.
The good news is that we can find hope in God. When we are trapped in a tunnel of misery, hope points us to the light at the end of the tunnel. When we are overworked and exhausted, hope gives us fresh energy. When we are discouraged, hope lifts our spirits. When we are tempted to quit, hope keeps us going. When we struggle with a crippling disease or a lingering illness, hope helps us persevere beyond the pain. When we fear the worst, hope brings reminders that God is still in control. When we say our final farewell to someone we love, hope in the life beyond gets us through the grief.
We desperately need the substance of hope in our lives! We have all heard those words; “There’s always hope!” However, sometimes we find it hard to believe them. All of us suffer through bouts of discouragement. In fact, to that “D” word, we could add doubt, doom, dishearten, defeat, and despair. The mind dwells on them and life makes us an emotional wreck. One Church sign said, “Don’t give up: Moses was once a basket case!”
The Bible has a lot to say about hope in what seems like hopeless situations. God does not give us a false sense that “everything will be perfect.” The Bible tells us that discouragement, despair, and defeat are all a real part of life.
Let me tell you one story from the Bible when God’s people were feeling hopeless. They were building a wall around their city as God had asked them, and they were losing hope. In Nehemiah 4:10 we read: “word was going around in Judah, the builders are pooped, the rubbish piles up; we’re in over our heads and we can’t build this wall.”
Those losing hope are experiencing fatigue, frustration, and failure. Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue will make cowards of us all.” Here they are, rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. When they got halfway through, fatigue was catching up with them. And when energy runs short; so does courage and hope. I have found out that if I push too hard for too long, I am going to see diminishing returns on the investment of my time and talents; and the flood of discouragement will begin. The people were weary, they began to lose hope, and they became discouraged.
Fatigue has come for some here at Hamilton Park United Church of Christ and frustration has followed. Some have worked so hard and given their all to build the church. Now they are stepping back and wondering if all our efforts have any significance today. That is what happened to the workers on the wall. All they began to see were broken bricks, the mud, and the debris. Nehemiah 4 tells us that they were frustrated with the ever-present rubbish and rubble of heavy construction.
They were suffering from what we would call Burnout. Some people think that burnout means that they have been working too hard. However, that is not exactly true. Many people work hard and never burn out. The difference is that some work hard with hope, with a vision, with a purpose; while others have been fatigued and frustrated and have lost the focus of their efforts. Burnout comes when we are working too hard at the wrong thing, or when we are doing the right thing the wrong way. When our efforts seem worthless and ineffective, we get burned out; we get frustrated with the fact that we have “wasted” our time, our talents, and our energies.
First fatigue, then Frustration and then comes feelings of Failure. The Israelites threw up their hands and pronounced their failure. “We’re tired, we are fed up and we can’t do it anymore.” Negative thoughts become negative talk, and negative talk is infectious, spreading like a virus through the community. If you listen to them, it will poison your purpose. The Bible says, “All have sinned…” therefore, in one sense of the word, we have all failed. The difference is how we deal with failure or those feelings of failure.
Jesus says, “Come unto me you who are weary and fatigued, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28-30). Paul says to the frustrated, “My dear friends; stand firm and don’t be shaken. Always keep busy working for the Lord. You know that everything you do for God is worthwhile.” (1 Corinthians 15:58). For those who feel like a failure, we know that God is a God of a second chance. With God, all things are possible and there is always hope.
There are also enemies of hope, who war against hope, but God is a God of hope. Peter expresses it this way, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Because Jesus lives, hope lives. Perhaps it has never been better said, than by Bill and Gloria Gaither when they wrote the words:
“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; Because He lives, all fear is gone; because I know, He holds the future; so life is worth the living just because He lives.”
When you are in despair and feeling hopeless, remember the words of that song. Or, pray the words of the hymn we are about to sing, “Precious Lord, take my hand”. There is always hope, because of God’s great love for you and me and for the entire world.
Bulletin: August 14th, 2016 Bulletin
Where There Is Doubt, let me sow Faith
Hebrews 11:1-40; John 20:24-29
Rev. David Goode
August 14, 2016
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…where there is doubt, let me sow FAITH. Doubt IS NOT the opposite of faith. Disbelief is the opposite of faith. Doubt is merely a part of how we live a life of faith. Nowhere in Scripture does God express disapproval of a believer who has doubts.
Just look at Jesus response to doubting Thomas. Jesus did not condemn Thomas for his lack of faith; Jesus showed him his hands and his side and said, “Stop doubting and believe.” Do you think Doubting Thomas ever really stopped doubting? NO WAY – Thomas was one of the seven disciples who gave up following Jesus and went fishing shortly after seeing Jesus hands and side. This is good news for all of us doubters.
Doubt means we ask questions, we voice concerns or we may even want to walk away from God and Christ’s church. Doubt is probably a permanent part of the faith. Just as life is a permanent battle against disease, so a life of faith is a permanent battle against doubt. Doubt about our relationship with God reminds us that we are in need of growth in our walk with God. This morning I want us to consider how to feed our faith and starve our doubt. We are going to look at six characteristics of what it means to walk by faith. These printed at the end of this sermon.
Walking in faith is believing when we do not see it. Faith is different from proof. Proof is a human desire. Faith is a Gift from God. We heard at the beginning of the Hebrews reading: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, RSV). Faith believes even when we do not see it. Some things in life have to be believed before they can be seen. We tend to think, “Seeing is believing.” Faith says, “Believing is seeing.”
Walking in faith is obeying even when we do not understand it. Saint Bernard said, “I believe though I do not comprehend, and I hold by faith what I cannot grasp with the mind.” By faith, Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt, having no idea where they were going and how they were going to get there. All the saints mentioned in Hebrews 11 stepped out in faith when they did not understand: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Joseph, Rahab and many more. Sometimes God will tell us to do something and we will think, “There’s no way this is going to work!” Yet, God says, Do it! And guess what? When we do it works it works!”
Walking in faith is giving even when we do not have it. “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings” (Hebrews 11:4). Isn’t that interesting? Giving and faith go together. God uses our time and talents and treasures to test our faithfulness. God watches our giving in determining our faith. Walking in faith is giving even when we do not have it.
Walking in faith is persisting even when we do not feel like it. How do we keep going despite all the problems, difficulties, and obstacles? How do we develop the kind of persistence that keeps us going when every bone in our body says, “Quit?” Where do those Olympic athletes get the kind of determination that we see? They have their eyes on the finish line. Moses is our example. By faith, he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he was able to do this because he had his eye on the One who is invisible. Notice the key to persistence in that last phrase – he could see the invisible. Only as we see the invisible God, the finish line if you will, can we accomplish the impossible. The key to persistence is keeping our eyes on God. Corrie Ten Boom says, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.” So it all depends on where we have our eyes.
Walking in faith is thanking God even before we receive it. A good illustration of this is Joshua. By faith, the walls of Jericho fell after the people had marched around the walls for seven days. Jericho was the most fortified city in the world at that time. God said, “There’s no way a bunch of slaves are going to take this thing, but here’s what I want you to do: March around the city seven times a day for seven days and then I’ll cause a miracle.” So, what were they doing seven times a day for seven days? Thanking God in advance! Praising God before the miracle happened as they marched around the city!
Faith does not mean that you believe God can do something. God can do it, whether you believe it or not. Faith believes God is doing it! That God has already put into action the solution to our problem. That the answer God has for us is already on the way.
Finally, walking in faith is trusting even if we do not get it. Elton Trueblood says: Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservations. Walking in faith does not mean we do not have problems. We all have personal problems, some more than others. Our Hebrews passage ended: “All of them pleased God because of their faith! Still they died without being given what had been promised. This was because God had something better in store” (Hebrews 11:39-40). Anybody can trust God when things are going good. Real faith trusts God in the valleys of life, when the situation looks impossible, when the people look hopeless, when the tide has turned against you, and when you are tempted to ask yourself, “Why is this happening to me?” Faith is trusting even if we do not get what we want.
We are people, who pray;
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, let me sow pardon,
And where there is doubt, let me sow faith.
Six Characteristic Of What It Means To Walk By Faith
1. Walking In Faith Is BELIEVING When I Don’t See It
2. Walking In Faith Is OBEYING When I Don’t Understand It
3. Walking In Faith Is GIVING When I Don’t Have It
4. Walking In Faith Is PERSISTING When I Don’t Feel Like It
5. Walking In Faith Is THANKING Before I Receive It
6. Walking In Faith Is TRUSTING If I Don’t Get It