“Joy: It’s a Matter of Vision”

Sermon – 12-15-19 – Advent III – Joy – Cycle A
Scriptures: Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 1:46b-55; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11
Sermon Title: “Joy: It’s a Matter of Vision”

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. Isaiah is announcing God’s declaration of joy as his people come home from captivity in Babylonia and they would be accompanied by nature having a field day of rejoicing.

You see, joy always existed. This I believe. Before God ever separated the waters from the land, there was joy. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit were full of joy – so much in fact that they needed to share it. So gradually there was light and land and sea, and plants, and creatures, and humans! Joy bouncing sometimes mildly and contemplative; sometimes in a wild frenzy when those ocean waves had to be coaxed to stay; something like asking a happy, healthy, galloping giraffe to calm down. The joy of the waves, the joy of the giraffe being excited with the feeling of freedom.

So you see, joy was already; and joy is now; and more joy is yet to happen. Not just to people and animals but to all of creation. The earth rejoicing? The Bible has many images of nature rejoicing. Trees clapping their hands! Mountains doing something, maybe dancing!

But . . . volcanoes erupting. Earthquakes cracking the earth! In recent days we had these two outbursts of nature at the same time in the same world. There is not much joy there! Rather pain, suffering, severe disruption of lives, death. Many of us have relatives in severe pain and dysfunction. Where is the joy? Is this judgment instead? John the Baptist expected this Jesus to judge when he arrived on the scene.

John the Baptist is thrown into prison – long story – sometime after he baptizes Jesus. He is waiting for news that Jesus is ranting and raving in judgment on the people. Is this not the real Messiah, the one he has baptized? Was it all a hoax? Has he baptized the wrong person?

John sends a messenger to Jesus to ask “Are you not the Messiah? How come you are not judging the sinners?” Jesus replies, “Go and tell John what I am doing instead of judging. You have seen me heal people; you have seen the lowly lifted and the hungry filled; you have seen how the poor receive good news. Go tell John; tell him that I am the long-awaited Messiah.”

Not only does Jesus send that message to John in prison, but Jesus praises John to the crowds. Yes, indeed, John was born to announce the coming of Jesus. He was born to baptize Jesus, sort of like making Jesus’ appearance and ministry on earth official and blessed by the Father who declared, “This is my beloved son. In him I am well pleased.”

Even though John does not appear to exude joy, there is joy bursting forth from this particular event. When John is in prison, there does not appear to be joy until Jesus says, “Look! There is healing, there is new life; I am lifting the downtrodden, I am seeing that the hungry are fed!” He may as well have been declaring, “Don’t miss this joy! This is why I came. I came to be a model. I came to show the way to the joy of the Lord.”

But it is very natural for us to be vocal about the seeming contradiction. “Wait Jesus!” Isn’t joy for all people or at least for all believers? Where is the joy in suffering? Where is the joy in cruel treatment of people and animals not to mention the earth?”

Could it be that God is asking us to take a look at all of this from a different angle? Are we the ones who are causing the earth to become dysfunctional? Are we the ones who look the other way as the prisons are bursting and joy is totally buried under the hard cement in the prison cell? Oh, Lord, is it impossible for humans to control joy? Don’t we have any influence with this essence, this phenomenon that can’t be captured and held so it won’t escape.

Ah, here we are. Joy must be something like love. If we try to capture it, we will stifle it. But I still don’t know why bad things happen to good people and there is supposed to be joy somehow. James, the brother of Jesus, and the supposed author of the book of James near the end of the New Testament, tells us that we need to be patient, that we need to wait.

Using Jesus as our model, while our loved ones are suffering; while we wait in hope; while people, we don’t even know but whom we pity, experience earthquakes and sudden eruptions of volcanoes Jesus commands us to minister to them, to provide for them, to pray for them from afar or close-up. Some of us are natured to physically care for ill loved ones; some of us are natured to pray and provide companionship; some of us are good with administration – taking care of legal matters and other paperwork. Are we to use our gifts with sour faces and grumpy manner? Here is where God is saying, “Do you feel this spark of joy just now? Do your words click with the mind of the other? Do you come with just the right gift? Do you bring water when water is needed? Do you help to remove water where water is not wanted?”

One day I met a person named Beth Anne who was missed when joy was distributed or so it seems. She complains about this and about that. There is not a drop of joy noticeable. One day a co-worker named Joyce just lets it slip. Joyce finds herself saying to Beth Anne, “Beth Anne, do you know there is something called joy in this world?” Beth Anne stops complaining and actually thinks about this question. She says, “How does joy look? Where or how can I get joy? Is it expensive? Is it a pill? If I start taking it, how long will it take to work?”

Joyce smiles with joy. “Great questions.” she says to Beth Anne. “It usually does not cost anything. It is free. You just need to use your eyes a bit differently.” My eyes,” said Beth Anne, “Like getting different glasses?” “You could say that or just wear your glasses backwards, like inside out, always looking at the other side of things, the good side. There is usually a good side to every situation. Sometimes it takes patience to find the good side. Or we just need to look from a different angle. Jesus can help us and will help us if we ask. Just swallow the complaining and see what happens. See if your feet will start dancing. See if the people around you just got nicer. See if your work gets easier. Then you will know that you have found the joy that is like the ripples in the brook; the sky that is a perfect blue with pretty clouds. Even when the electric goes off, or the copy machine is jammed, or the computer has been compromised, there will be a spark of joy if you look hard enough. When there is a traffic jam, you will notice things you never noticed when you are flying past; some pretty yards and houses, some awful houses; a business for which you have actually been seeking. Even if you are ill for years, there will be a spark of joy waiting for you to find. God will help. All joy is a gift from God. Let us give thanks, Beth Anne,” says Joyce!

Let us rejoice, congregation of Zion UCC in Womelsdorf! In these days of uncertainty, let us find the joy and share it” Let us welcome Emmanuel with joy!

“Thinking About the Second Coming While Celebrating the First Appearance”

Sermon – 12-01-19 – Advent I – Cycle A
Scriptures -Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-13; Matthew 24:36-44
Sermon Title – “Thinking About the Second Coming While Celebrating the First Appearance”

Waiting! Alice was standing in line on Black Friday for hours before the doors opened. Brad stood in line waiting for his marathon to start. Clinton stood in line waiting to vote in the last presidential election. Charles stood in line for everything, absolutely everything. He was in military service. Little Christopher was counting the days until Christmas. Angelina counted the days until her birthday.

Baby Louise didn’t know she was counting. She just felt that something was missing and that her mother and grandmother and brother were not happy. She could sense this until one day her daddy appeared. Yes, here was this man she really did not remember until he held her in his arms, close to himself. Then she knew goodness and joyful contentment. Happiness was all around her and her mother and grandmother and brother and the many relatives who poured through the door until the house was full, really full.

Was this young father home from across the ocean or was he home from across the state in a penitentiary or finally healed from a very bad accident? We don’t know. We do know that homecoming happened. What was hoped, finally happened. The missing person arrived into the waiting place.

Our Jesus was expected for centuries. Our Old Testament, the Hebrew part of the Bible, is full of references to this person who is expected. But when? Generations came and went before this hope became fulfillment. Students of the Bible may try to have us believe that these prophecies referred to prophets who came, did their job reluctantly but obediently, and then disappeared either by death or by being swooped into the skies. I stubbornly believe that these references may have included temporary people sent by God to do specific announcing and to become involved in frightening ways but ultimately these references to one who will come were vividly pointing to our Jesus.

When the century actually was right, this obscure baby in a manger in a stable in a little town called Bethlehem, came like a shadow in the moonlight. It is so important to believe that this future king was born to parents who had loving natures and who loved each other. God surely chose these parents who fell in love while they were neighbors and became the parents of the Savior of the world.

Is the world saved yet? More centuries are needed. More centuries of waiting. Just as God was working behind the scenes in the times when God’s people were Hebrew (also called Jewish), and God was working to arrange these two people to be the parents of our Savior, God is still working to arrange the nations and the people of the nations to be hospitable with each other until just the right time; the right time for this second coming of the son person of the Trinity to appear. Will it be in a stable? Do you think that our ubiquitous (meaning “being everywhere”) media people will sense this coming ahead of time? Will God even give a news advance to our sometimes too nosy newsgivers? Will it go viral on facebook?

Or, will the little boy who is quietly sitting at the edge of a stream fishing, be the first to see Jesus coming again? Or will Jesus come at midnight to quietly call those of his people who are ready – you know – with oil lamps filled with oil; the people who are waiting and watching with hope.

Where will we be? We may already be in heaven having died while we waited. Otherwise, where would we want Jesus to find us? Doing Black Friday shopping? Sitting with our computers or phones shopping on-line? At a carnival buying chances? Serving in a food pantry? Planting grain and vegetables? Volunteering in a nursing home? Mowing a neigbor’s lawn or shoveling snow? Sitting in a holy place just waiting? Sitting in a bar just drinking away the time while we wait? Being at home with our family, if we have a family? Making a fine meal and inviting people so we create a family?

How will the word spread? How will Jesus gather his people? Will he really only gather the people who have been in relationship with him? Or will he gather everyone in one big circle and everyone will feel loved and wanted? That is my hope.

Is that a foolish hope? Should I really deny all the judgment notices in Scripture? Then there is the comical story about a person who died and was surprised to see who was in heaven when she arrived there. I don’t know where my original copy is. I will try to say this well. When our person noticed the person who had pulled her pigtails unmercifully in grade school she said, “I never expected to see you here.” When she saw the person who cheated on tests in school and then was found guilty of stealing from the business where he worked, she said, “I never expected to see you here.” When she saw the fellow school board member who always argued against her, she said, “I never expected to see you here.” On it went. Then she noticed that everyone was silent but they looked astonished.. She said, “Why is everyone so quiet?” Everyone shouted together, “We never expected to see you here!”

My version is surely a variation of the original but the idea is the same. We judge each other whether we realize it or not. We forget that other people are doing the same to us. When it comes right down to the truth, none of us is worthy to be called to heaven. That is what is so very special about the Son and the Father. We do not need to be worthy! None of us would find ourselves in heaven if worthiness were taken into account.

Even though our own bodies and minds and souls might wallow in the darkness of complaining or talking about each other in a negative way or hoarding our money if we have money or hoarding our smiles by freezing our straight lips or declining to join a church group or a community group because we like to do our own thing, there is this little flame of light inside us. God put it there. The darkness of our daily living is no match for this flame of light. God’s light triumphs in the darkest corners. Nothing can escape that light. We can fear that light for what it may reveal or we can revel in that light because it is right and it brings assurance. It is not the fiery light of hell that may or may not be real. This light that Paul explains in his letter to the Romans is the light in which we may walk to end wars, to have swords beat into plowshares, to have spears turned into pruning hooks. We heard Isaiah saying, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord! Do we need to wait until the second coming of Jesus to dwell and walk in this powerful yet peaceful light or can we bring this light into existence now by claiming the love of the Savior in our hearts and being watchful of our thoughts and actions?

“King as Shepherd”

Sermon – 11-24-19 – Christ the King & Thanksgiving – Cycle C
Scriptures: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 46; Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43
Sermon Title: “King as Shepherd”

Last week we investigated experiencing joy despite the doom and gloom of the end times. The expectation of Jesus coming again was worthy of rivers clapping their hands and the hills ringing with joy; trumpets blowing, harps floating melodious music, singing to the Lord with uplifted voice. Yes, a loud and happy celebration. We can picture our king coming through the clouds on a magnificent white horse. Through Malachi, we were assured that true believers, who revere God’s name, will be saved; we will gain our souls; not a hair on our heads will perish.

Will someone please tell my head that news? I don’t think it is getting that message. Or maybe I am not believing enough. Maybe I am not courageous enough to defend the name of God and the name of Jesus loudly enough and in the right places.

We do need to be careful that we do not align our physical changes and problems with sinning. That needs to be a personal conversation with God. If things are going wrong for us, no one, including ourselves, should assume our physical condition or our life situations are caused by a weak relationship with God. Maybe they are. Maybe they are not. It is recommended that we do an assessment about our relationship with God when things go wrong. Is our humility at a good level or is our pride gauge rising?

But, this is a matter between ourselves and God. We don’t know why God lets affliction happen to devout believers. This could be a separate sermon with no answers in the end. If you have gone through, or are going through, trials and tribulations and feel closer to God all the while, consider sharing your story with us. It is time we starting sharing stories with each other during the service, in small groups or with each other.

We can be a witness of God’s love and caring by sharing our stories. We can be drawn into a closer-knit body when God speaks to us through each of us. We become vulnerable as we truly listen and share. We are lifted on wings above the daily grind. We become more caring and loving.

What is happening to our picture of Lord as king with crown and robe and sceptre? This picture is dissolving. As we listen to each other’s stories, the king slowly moves from the throne and does a subtle change of clothing. The sceptre is lying on the throne in a lifeless manner. The fancy robe is lying on the floor of heaven. I guess that would be clouds.

Emerging is a lowly, soft-natured person with shepherd’s clothing and yes, there is a sheep in his arms. At first, it seems to be a lamb, but look closely. This is a sheep that has known hardship; this sheep may once have frolicked over the meadow in joy at being alive but not now. We can sense that this sheep needs to be carried; it is saying, “I can’t do this by myself. Thank you Jesus the Shepherd for holding me, for loving me, for carrying me through this hard time in my life.”
Jesus is the Savior for this sheep. He is saving this sheep.

Figuratively, I like to think that Jesus can hold as many sheep in his arms as need to be carried. Realistically in earthly terms, that is impossible. But, there is no limit to the ability of the Father and the Son to care for each of us; even the unbelievers!

For the uncountable sheep in the kingdom, we can walk on our own most of the time; we do not always need to be carried in the arms of Jesus. But we do need an overseer. We need a guide, We need a model. We need someone to warn us of approaching trouble. Now it may be said that sheep are not intelligent. They need a shepherd more than most of us do and more than other animals. Well, let’s see.

I have a feeling that even humans with umpteen degrees and high degrees need to be guided and loved as much as the humble sheep Human beings are not robots. We need to be loved, we need to be encouraged and praised. Enter Jesus the Shepherd who has shed his disguise as a king. He has shed his nature of teacher and disciplinarian. His shepherd-self is non-threatening, just loving; it is not pushing but receiving. It is going out on a limb for us, otherwise known as the cross.

The loving shepherd says, “My sheep know my voice; I know my sheep by name,” he says in John 10. The Jesus Shepherd says, “I am the gate.” “The gate to what?” we say. The gate to the everlasting, wonderful life when it is truly our turn to be received in real time and real location in the heavenly home of forever and ever. That home. The home where there will be a table spread. The home where the meadows are green and the streams are clean! The home where the rod and staff are protection and guidance, not punishment, not discipline, but safety and love.

How did Jesus learn this nature and how does Jesus maintain this nature? He says, “The Father loves me . . .” Yes, love begets love. From parents to children to their children and to their children. What if somewhere along the way a mutation takes place and love gets lost. There is chaos. Who will step in to restore the love in the chain of human nurture and behavior?

Being human, do you think more might be expected of us than of sheep? Do you think we are charged with being the restorers of love into the chain of children to children and on for decades and even centuries? Do you suppose that God is waiting for us to be little shepherds; to see the lack and lead the little ones to pure water, to green healthy grass and furthermore to the table that is ready, not only heaped with food but also heaped with love and acceptance; of nourishment of the soul and of the personality.

Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I must gather the sheep who are still outside the fold. I must gather them in so that there will be one flock of sheep and one shepherd.”

Are we going to let Jesus do that all by himself? Amen

“Doom and Gloom, Here Comes the Joy”

Sermon – 11-17-19 – Christ the King & Thanksgiving
Scriptures: Malachi 4:1-2a; Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-19
Sermon Title: Doom and Gloom, Here Comes the Joy”

When ransomware strikes it’s already too late! Protect yourself before it attacks! Get protection now! I was turning on my computer to write this sermon when those words appeared on my screen covering everything that I normally see. Ransomware is apparently one of the dreaded “things” that can invade the inner workings of our computers and cause our day to become one of doom and gloom.

“Protect yourself before it attacks!” it said. “Get protection now.” Let’s slide this wisdom over our lives. We catch ourselves complaining about loud noises, detours, cold weather or hot weather, or snow, or fast-growing grass or sloppiness of other people. We find ourselves gossiping. We find ourselves using God’s name in a nasty way or other offensive language. We pass by someone who might need help. We turn our thoughts from people suffering in prison, in drug-infested neighborhoods, in detention centers, in hospitals because we don’t have time, we don’t know how to help, the job seems way over our heads.

“Protect yourself” our head screams. “Don’t get involved” our defense mechanism cries. “You could be sued!” we hear from somewhere in our brains. “I don’t even know how to start,” peeps a little voice in our souls whose volume increases the longer I try to ignore it. This “protect yourself” is not the “protect yourself” that we will think about today. Our “protect yourself” today is against the day of judgment that is announced in the Bible. We need to look at ourselves – our personality, our actions, our money – to notice if God may be displeased with any of it.

This ignoring other people and the help they may need, or even hurting other people with our own actions, is the doom and gloom that invades our lives. Somewhere in the distance we are taught and we read in the Holy Book that Jesus is coming again. That King Jesus is coming again. Is he coming on a large white stallion with cape blowing in the wind behind him? Well, this rider is not here yet! So when I suddenly have a flat tire or even a slow leak, and I become angry and unpleasant and distraught and say all kinds of bad words, I probably am not seeing that rider out of the corner of my eye. I am rightfully angry. How else are we supposed to be when trials and tribulations come our way? When someone we love is stricken with a dead-end health problem, when the one we love, and on whom we depend, suddenly has found a new fake light and he or she disappears into the wild, fiery sunset, should we not be overwhelmed with grief? Should the world not look dark and depressing and fearful?

We can be like that if we don’t know better or if we enjoy being that way. If no one has told us or shown us the other way to handle life. But we have heard; we have read. “See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you. who revere my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.” Yes, from Malachi 4.

Hallelujah! A new way of living is a choice. We can look for God’s appearance in each day. We don’t need to worry if we will be ready when Jesus, the King, comes suddenly one day because each day he comes to us. Each day he comes to me. Things happen! I have had my share of heartbreak. I have not yet had my share of poverty or fear of being killed or illness.

However, each day the King appears, shows up. Sometimes the King calms me, sometimes the King energizes me. Sometimes the King saves me from disaster. Sometimes the King reminds me that his judgment for me on that particular day is a zero or even a minus. So I get to change. I get another chance. Each new day brings new possibilities. How will I react? How will I feel as the sun sets and I want to know peaceful rest? More and more, the King places people in my path who are extraordinary while looking ordinary. I am pleasantly surprised and want to be more like the new person. However, sometimes this person needs me. “Oh!,” I say. “God help me.”

Last week in my sermon, I promised to continue with the happiness idea. Well, here it is. Here comes the joy! “Shout with joy, all you lands; lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.” But how and why can we do this? If we are “glass half-empty people,” how do we switch to the top of the glass where we drink the goodness and the joy of the water and still the glass is not empty? Well, we can notice other people who may have harder lives than our own, yet they are looking actually happy, they roll with the punches. Another way is to think about our own faces. Maybe we could practice a big smile; maybe the smile could actually stay there. Think of our eyes. Do you know that, when we are very happy, our eyes sparkle? It may be a slow process, or it may be the right time when Jesus has prepared our hearts and minds and we are ready to “Clap our hands like the rivers; to be joyful like the hills.”

One person in a family can influence the whole family. Do you know families of gloom and doom? If only one person in that family catches a glimpse of this joy, that person can think before speaking and phrase what he or she says in a lighter way; a non-critical way; a “God will help us solve this problem” way and uses a light-hearted tone of voice, this family could actually change to a family that pleases the King each day and forever.

We do not need to live lives of fear – wondering if hell is real. We don’t need to spend our empty minutes or even turn our lives into agony being fearful, sometimes to the point of dysfunction. We can open our hearts and let the joy of the Lord flow in. It is a wonderful kind of freedom! Being happy! We can look for the good in each day and ask God to help us deal with the not-good. God will even help us to find the good in the bad.

In our United States of America Declaration of Independence we read, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It is like we shall chase happiness. Happiness is a funny animal. It is always elusive if we chase it to catch it. We need to take little steps to allow happiness to find us. Watch our tongues; meet new people who are models of joy and happiness; constantly expressing thanks to God for little and big occurrences; watch our tone of voice; look for ways to be helpful to bring smiles to people’s faces, to brighten someone’s day; not criticizing but instead asking God to guide a change in attitude for ourselves and the person who is annoying us.

Above all else give thanks to God all the time, even when things are overwhelming. And sing, sing, sing, especially our hymns from today. There is a new life waiting for us. Let us not delay! Let us greet the approaching King with joyous sounds from our hearts and souls! God will not only judge our work ethic and our behavior but our attitude while we work and play! Let the happiness begin!

“How Does Resurrection Look?”

Sermon – 11-10-19 – Proper 27 – Cycle C
Scriptures: Job 19: 23-27a, Psalm 17: 1-9, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17, Luke 20:27-38
Sermon Title: “How Does Resurrection Look?”

Last Sunday, we listened to writings by family members who were resurrected to new life with Jesus in heaven. Gradually, I realized that something was missing. We did not hear the reflection from a close friend of one who was lifted into transformation. The friends are Robert R.C. (Klip) Morris and John Harvey Grimes. I now share the story by John about Robert.
______________________________________________________________________________

Remembering Robert R.C. (Klip) Morris
I was wondering what to say about Bob (Klip) after hearing Rev. M. read his brother, Richard’s, remarks during last Sunday’s sermon. Klip and I were born three days apart in September of 1947 and fully expected to grow old together here. We would not connect for the first time until the 4th grade when my parents moved the family back to Womelsdorf. Our families were already known to each other as Klip’s Mom had been a student of my mother at Womelsdorf High School. After high school we would be separated again by his military service (Air Force) and my educational wanderings. Upon my return to Womelsdorf we would be best friends for the next 40 years.
In some respects we were very different people, with his love of antique cars . I did enjoy riding in the rumble seat of the “31 Model A,” alien to me and my love of mineral collecting foreign to him. He was a vegan for many years, I was not. I loved watching sports on TV; he was mostly disinterested. I always felt like a member of his family when I was visiting him, his Mom, and late Grandma Leiss. He in turn was also connected to other members of my family, cycling long distances with my brother, David, sharing kayaking and cycling trips with my brother, James, finding colonial costume suppliers with Harriet, and taking Harriet and Genny to the seashore when it became intolerable for me due to heat intolerance and now loss of skin pigmentation. He was there for me in Boy Scouts, moving my family from Canada, and in supporting several local historical societies to which we both belonged.
I have thought at length about what thread held us so closely over these years. We both had serious concerns about the finances of some of the institutions to which we both belonged, but I believe at heart it was our shared love of family, Zion Church, the Boy Scouts, local historical societies, the Womelsdorf area community, and our Pennsylvania Dutch heritage that held us together.
I will look to my right in the balcony at the Christmas Eve candlelight service and very much miss the sight of my best friend.
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Losing friends to the final resurrection is not fun. It does not lend itself to happiness unless the person was suffering. But letting the good memories float to the top of our mind and heart is an antidote.
But, how does resurrection look? What is it like? Job, the character in the Old Testament, is sure about God! He declares, “I know that my redeemer lives!” He believes that God is real despite the suffering caused by Satan because Satan has God’s permission to torture Job. You wonder why God would do such a thing? Most people wonder that until they get to the end of this long book just before the book of Psalms in the Bible. Job learns that declaring himself righteous, having done no wrong, is not what pleases God. When Job acknowledges that he has flaws, that he does not have God’s almighty power, then resurrection happens to him. But, not in death. Before death! Once the sin of pride has been confessed, life turns around. The world is once more a happy place for the changed Job. Job had to let the seed of pride die, come apart, break open, so that new life can spring forth.

Yes, the seed must die before new life can happen. Yes, our selfish desires and thoughts must die before something better can happen to us or be given to us. Yes, we must die before we can be resurrected.

Resurrection can be a feeling, a change for the better, a new life. It can be our transformation from our earthly condition to our heavenly condition. Some people find resurrection in the earthly life such as finding God in religion, or through nature, or through person-to-person relationships. We claim new life through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. What does new life look like?

We could be carrying a heavy weight of some sort – be it guilt or oppression or anger or the burden of a loved one’s illness or the grief of watching our world collapse because of anger and revenge by rulers or by our selfish habits which are eroding our planet. Whatever our burden, we can let God remove it from us. Or maybe we are just drifting, watching things come at us but letting them pass by. God will help us to change our expectations. Even if circumstances do not change, the way we feel about them and react to them can change if we invite God to do this for us. It becomes a resurrection of our souls. It becomes a new way of living, new life in reality. It is seeing our lives in a whole different light.

When we emphasis Christ’s resurrection, we are welcoming our own transformation. We can no longer think of ourselves as a seed. We will be thinking of ourselves as the sprouting plant, the sprouting new life, the living into the reality that our God is a living God and our God is the Lord of the living. That is us! We are living, alive people! We are God’s people. Our God is not a leader of lifeless robots. Is that us? Lifeless robots. It cannot be! No we are not lifeless robots. We are not wandering sheep, either. We are here to be an influence in the world for our Savior, Jesus Christ. As we, a congregation of believers and worshipers, are moving into a new life, a new way of being the body of Christ in this community, let us do it as resurrected people!

Sermon – 11-10-19 – Proper 27 – Cycle C
Scriptures: Job 19: 23-27a, Psalm 17: 1-9, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17, Luke 20:27-38
Sermon Title: “How Does Resurrection Look?”

Last Sunday, we listened to writings by family members who were resurrected to new life with Jesus in heaven. Gradually, I realized that something was missing. We did not hear the reflection from a close friend of one who was lifted into transformation. The friends are Robert R.C. (Klip) Morris and John Harvey Grimes. I now share the story by John about Robert.
______________________________________________________________________________

Remembering Robert R.C. (Klip) Morris
I was wondering what to say about Bob (Klip) after hearing Rev. M. read his brother, Richard’s, remarks during last Sunday’s sermon. Klip and I were born three days apart in September of 1947 and fully expected to grow old together here. We would not connect for the first time until the 4th grade when my parents moved the family back to Womelsdorf. Our families were already known to each other as Klip’s Mom had been a student of my mother at Womelsdorf High School. After high school we would be separated again by his military service (Air Force) and my educational wanderings. Upon my return to Womelsdorf we would be best friends for the next 40 years.
In some respects we were very different people, with his love of antique cars . I did enjoy riding in the rumble seat of the “31 Model A,” alien to me and my love of mineral collecting foreign to him. He was a vegan for many years, I was not. I loved watching sports on TV; he was mostly disinterested. I always felt like a member of his family when I was visiting him, his Mom, and late Grandma Leiss. He in turn was also connected to other members of my family, cycling long distances with my brother, David, sharing kayaking and cycling trips with my brother, James, finding colonial costume suppliers with Harriet, and taking Harriet and Genny to the seashore when it became intolerable for me due to heat intolerance and now loss of skin pigmentation. He was there for me in Boy Scouts, moving my family from Canada, and in supporting several local historical societies to which we both belonged.
I have thought at length about what thread held us so closely over these years. We both had serious concerns about the finances of some of the institutions to which we both belonged, but I believe at heart it was our shared love of family, Zion Church, the Boy Scouts, local historical societies, the Womelsdorf area community, and our Pennsylvania Dutch heritage that held us together.
I will look to my right in the balcony at the Christmas Eve candlelight service and very much miss the sight of my best friend.
__________________________________________
Losing friends to the final resurrection is not fun. It does not lend itself to happiness unless the person was suffering. But letting the good memories float to the top of our mind and heart is an antidote.
But, how does resurrection look? What is it like? Job, the character in the Old Testament, is sure about God! He declares, “I know that my redeemer lives!” He believes that God is real despite the suffering caused by Satan because Satan has God’s permission to torture Job. You wonder why God would do such a thing? Most people wonder that until they get to the end of this long book just before the book of Psalms in the Bible. Job learns that declaring himself righteous, having done no wrong, is not what pleases God. When Job acknowledges that he has flaws, that he does not have God’s almighty power, then resurrection happens to him. But, not in death. Before death! Once the sin of pride has been confessed, life turns around. The world is once more a happy place for the changed Job. Job had to let the seed of pride die, come apart, break open, so that new life can spring forth.

Yes, the seed must die before new life can happen. Yes, our selfish desires and thoughts must die before something better can happen to us or be given to us. Yes, we must die before we can be resurrected.

Resurrection can be a feeling, a change for the better, a new life. It can be our transformation from our earthly condition to our heavenly condition. Some people find resurrection in the earthly life such as finding God in religion, or through nature, or through person-to-person relationships. We claim new life through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. What does new life look like?

We could be carrying a heavy weight of some sort – be it guilt or oppression or anger or the burden of a loved one’s illness or the grief of watching our world collapse because of anger and revenge by rulers or by our selfish habits which are eroding our planet. Whatever our burden, we can let God remove it from us. Or maybe we are just drifting, watching things come at us but letting them pass by. God will help us to change our expectations. Even if circumstances do not change, the way we feel about them and react to them can change if we invite God to do this for us. It becomes a resurrection of our souls. It becomes a new way of living, new life in reality. It is seeing our lives in a whole different light.

When we emphasis Christ’s resurrection, we are welcoming our own transformation. We can no longer think of ourselves as a seed. We will be thinking of ourselves as the sprouting plant, the sprouting new life, the living into the reality that our God is a living God and our God is the Lord of the living. That is us! We are living, alive people! We are God’s people. Our God is not a leader of lifeless robots. Is that us? Lifeless robots. It cannot be! No we are not lifeless robots. We are not wandering sheep, either. We are here to be an influence in the world for our Savior, Jesus Christ. As we, a congregation of believers and worshipers, are moving into a new life, a new way of being the body of Christ in this community, let us do it as resurrected people!

Sermon – 11-10-19 – Proper 27 – Cycle C
Scriptures: Job 19: 23-27a, Psalm 17: 1-9, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17, Luke 20:27-38
Sermon Title: “How Does Resurrection Look?”

Last Sunday, we listened to writings by family members who were resurrected to new life with Jesus in heaven. Gradually, I realized that something was missing. We did not hear the reflection from a close friend of one who was lifted into transformation. The friends are Robert R.C. (Klip) Morris and John Harvey Grimes. I now share the story by John about Robert.
______________________________________________________________________________

Remembering Robert R.C. (Klip) Morris
I was wondering what to say about Bob (Klip) after hearing Rev. M. read his brother, Richard’s, remarks during last Sunday’s sermon. Klip and I were born three days apart in September of 1947 and fully expected to grow old together here. We would not connect for the first time until the 4th grade when my parents moved the family back to Womelsdorf. Our families were already known to each other as Klip’s Mom had been a student of my mother at Womelsdorf High School. After high school we would be separated again by his military service (Air Force) and my educational wanderings. Upon my return to Womelsdorf we would be best friends for the next 40 years.
In some respects we were very different people, with his love of antique cars . I did enjoy riding in the rumble seat of the “31 Model A,” alien to me and my love of mineral collecting foreign to him. He was a vegan for many years, I was not. I loved watching sports on TV; he was mostly disinterested. I always felt like a member of his family when I was visiting him, his Mom, and late Grandma Leiss. He in turn was also connected to other members of my family, cycling long distances with my brother, David, sharing kayaking and cycling trips with my brother, James, finding colonial costume suppliers with Harriet, and taking Harriet and Genny to the seashore when it became intolerable for me due to heat intolerance and now loss of skin pigmentation. He was there for me in Boy Scouts, moving my family from Canada, and in supporting several local historical societies to which we both belonged.
I have thought at length about what thread held us so closely over these years. We both had serious concerns about the finances of some of the institutions to which we both belonged, but I believe at heart it was our shared love of family, Zion Church, the Boy Scouts, local historical societies, the Womelsdorf area community, and our Pennsylvania Dutch heritage that held us together.
I will look to my right in the balcony at the Christmas Eve candlelight service and very much miss the sight of my best friend.
__________________________________________
Losing friends to the final resurrection is not fun. It does not lend itself to happiness unless the person was suffering. But letting the good memories float to the top of our mind and heart is an antidote.
But, how does resurrection look? What is it like? Job, the character in the Old Testament, is sure about God! He declares, “I know that my redeemer lives!” He believes that God is real despite the suffering caused by Satan because Satan has God’s permission to torture Job. You wonder why God would do such a thing? Most people wonder that until they get to the end of this long book just before the book of Psalms in the Bible. Job learns that declaring himself righteous, having done no wrong, is not what pleases God. When Job acknowledges that he has flaws, that he does not have God’s almighty power, then resurrection happens to him. But, not in death. Before death! Once the sin of pride has been confessed, life turns around. The world is once more a happy place for the changed Job. Job had to let the seed of pride die, come apart, break open, so that new life can spring forth.

Yes, the seed must die before new life can happen. Yes, our selfish desires and thoughts must die before something better can happen to us or be given to us. Yes, we must die before we can be resurrected.

Resurrection can be a feeling, a change for the better, a new life. It can be our transformation from our earthly condition to our heavenly condition. Some people find resurrection in the earthly life such as finding God in religion, or through nature, or through person-to-person relationships. We claim new life through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. What does new life look like?

We could be carrying a heavy weight of some sort – be it guilt or oppression or anger or the burden of a loved one’s illness or the grief of watching our world collapse because of anger and revenge by rulers or by our selfish habits which are eroding our planet. Whatever our burden, we can let God remove it from us. Or maybe we are just drifting, watching things come at us but letting them pass by. God will help us to change our expectations. Even if circumstances do not change, the way we feel about them and react to them can change if we invite God to do this for us. It becomes a resurrection of our souls. It becomes a new way of living, new life in reality. It is seeing our lives in a whole different light.

When we emphasis Christ’s resurrection, we are welcoming our own transformation. We can no longer think of ourselves as a seed. We will be thinking of ourselves as the sprouting plant, the sprouting new life, the living into the reality that our God is a living God and our God is the Lord of the living. That is us! We are living, alive people! We are God’s people. Our God is not a leader of lifeless robots. Is that us? Lifeless robots. It cannot be! No we are not lifeless robots. We are not wandering sheep, either. We are here to be an influence in the world for our Savior, Jesus Christ. As we, a congregation of believers and worshipers, are moving into a new life, a new way of being the body of Christ in this community, let us do it as resurrected people!

Sermon – 11-10-19 – Proper 27 – Cycle C
Scriptures: Job 19: 23-27a, Psalm 17: 1-9, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17, Luke 20:27-38
Sermon Title: “How Does Resurrection Look?”

Last Sunday, we listened to writings by family members who were resurrected to new life with Jesus in heaven. Gradually, I realized that something was missing. We did not hear the reflection from a close friend of one who was lifted into transformation. The friends are Robert R.C. (Klip) Morris and John Harvey Grimes. I now share the story by John about Robert.
______________________________________________________________________________

Remembering Robert R.C. (Klip) Morris
I was wondering what to say about Bob (Klip) after hearing Rev. M. read his brother, Richard’s, remarks during last Sunday’s sermon. Klip and I were born three days apart in September of 1947 and fully expected to grow old together here. We would not connect for the first time until the 4th grade when my parents moved the family back to Womelsdorf. Our families were already known to each other as Klip’s Mom had been a student of my mother at Womelsdorf High School. After high school we would be separated again by his military service (Air Force) and my educational wanderings. Upon my return to Womelsdorf we would be best friends for the next 40 years.
In some respects we were very different people, with his love of antique cars . I did enjoy riding in the rumble seat of the “31 Model A,” alien to me and my love of mineral collecting foreign to him. He was a vegan for many years, I was not. I loved watching sports on TV; he was mostly disinterested. I always felt like a member of his family when I was visiting him, his Mom, and late Grandma Leiss. He in turn was also connected to other members of my family, cycling long distances with my brother, David, sharing kayaking and cycling trips with my brother, James, finding colonial costume suppliers with Harriet, and taking Harriet and Genny to the seashore when it became intolerable for me due to heat intolerance and now loss of skin pigmentation. He was there for me in Boy Scouts, moving my family from Canada, and in supporting several local historical societies to which we both belonged.
I have thought at length about what thread held us so closely over these years. We both had serious concerns about the finances of some of the institutions to which we both belonged, but I believe at heart it was our shared love of family, Zion Church, the Boy Scouts, local historical societies, the Womelsdorf area community, and our Pennsylvania Dutch heritage that held us together.
I will look to my right in the balcony at the Christmas Eve candlelight service and very much miss the sight of my best friend.
__________________________________________
Losing friends to the final resurrection is not fun. It does not lend itself to happiness unless the person was suffering. But letting the good memories float to the top of our mind and heart is an antidote.
But, how does resurrection look? What is it like? Job, the character in the Old Testament, is sure about God! He declares, “I know that my redeemer lives!” He believes that God is real despite the suffering caused by Satan because Satan has God’s permission to torture Job. You wonder why God would do such a thing? Most people wonder that until they get to the end of this long book just before the book of Psalms in the Bible. Job learns that declaring himself righteous, having done no wrong, is not what pleases God. When Job acknowledges that he has flaws, that he does not have God’s almighty power, then resurrection happens to him. But, not in death. Before death! Once the sin of pride has been confessed, life turns around. The world is once more a happy place for the changed Job. Job had to let the seed of pride die, come apart, break open, so that new life can spring forth.

Yes, the seed must die before new life can happen. Yes, our selfish desires and thoughts must die before something better can happen to us or be given to us. Yes, we must die before we can be resurrected.

Resurrection can be a feeling, a change for the better, a new life. It can be our transformation from our earthly condition to our heavenly condition. Some people find resurrection in the earthly life such as finding God in religion, or through nature, or through person-to-person relationships. We claim new life through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. What does new life look like?

We could be carrying a heavy weight of some sort – be it guilt or oppression or anger or the burden of a loved one’s illness or the grief of watching our world collapse because of anger and revenge by rulers or by our selfish habits which are eroding our planet. Whatever our burden, we can let God remove it from us. Or maybe we are just drifting, watching things come at us but letting them pass by. God will help us to change our expectations. Even if circumstances do not change, the way we feel about them and react to them can change if we invite God to do this for us. It becomes a resurrection of our souls. It becomes a new way of living, new life in reality. It is seeing our lives in a whole different light.

When we emphasis Christ’s resurrection, we are welcoming our own transformation. We can no longer think of ourselves as a seed. We will be thinking of ourselves as the sprouting plant, the sprouting new life, the living into the reality that our God is a living God and our God is the Lord of the living. That is us! We are living, alive people! We are God’s people. Our God is not a leader of lifeless robots. Is that us? Lifeless robots. It cannot be! No we are not lifeless robots. We are not wandering sheep, either. We are here to be an influence in the world for our Savior, Jesus Christ. As we, a congregation of believers and worshipers, are moving into a new life, a new way of being the body of Christ in this community, let us do it as resurrected people!

Sermon – 11-10-19 – Proper 27 – Cycle C
Scriptures: Job 19: 23-27a, Psalm 17: 1-9, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17, Luke 20:27-38
Sermon Title: “How Does Resurrection Look?”

Last Sunday, we listened to writings by family members who were resurrected to new life with Jesus in heaven. Gradually, I realized that something was missing. We did not hear the reflection from a close friend of one who was lifted into transformation. The friends are Robert R.C. (Klip) Morris and John Harvey Grimes. I now share the story by John about Robert.
______________________________________________________________________________

Remembering Robert R.C. (Klip) Morris
I was wondering what to say about Bob (Klip) after hearing Rev. M. read his brother, Richard’s, remarks during last Sunday’s sermon. Klip and I were born three days apart in September of 1947 and fully expected to grow old together here. We would not connect for the first time until the 4th grade when my parents moved the family back to Womelsdorf. Our families were already known to each other as Klip’s Mom had been a student of my mother at Womelsdorf High School. After high school we would be separated again by his military service (Air Force) and my educational wanderings. Upon my return to Womelsdorf we would be best friends for the next 40 years.
In some respects we were very different people, with his love of antique cars . I did enjoy riding in the rumble seat of the “31 Model A,” alien to me and my love of mineral collecting foreign to him. He was a vegan for many years, I was not. I loved watching sports on TV; he was mostly disinterested. I always felt like a member of his family when I was visiting him, his Mom, and late Grandma Leiss. He in turn was also connected to other members of my family, cycling long distances with my brother, David, sharing kayaking and cycling trips with my brother, James, finding colonial costume suppliers with Harriet, and taking Harriet and Genny to the seashore when it became intolerable for me due to heat intolerance and now loss of skin pigmentation. He was there for me in Boy Scouts, moving my family from Canada, and in supporting several local historical societies to which we both belonged.
I have thought at length about what thread held us so closely over these years. We both had serious concerns about the finances of some of the institutions to which we both belonged, but I believe at heart it was our shared love of family, Zion Church, the Boy Scouts, local historical societies, the Womelsdorf area community, and our Pennsylvania Dutch heritage that held us together.
I will look to my right in the balcony at the Christmas Eve candlelight service and very much miss the sight of my best friend.
__________________________________________
Losing friends to the final resurrection is not fun. It does not lend itself to happiness unless the person was suffering. But letting the good memories float to the top of our mind and heart is an antidote.
But, how does resurrection look? What is it like? Job, the character in the Old Testament, is sure about God! He declares, “I know that my redeemer lives!” He believes that God is real despite the suffering caused by Satan because Satan has God’s permission to torture Job. You wonder why God would do such a thing? Most people wonder that until they get to the end of this long book just before the book of Psalms in the Bible. Job learns that declaring himself righteous, having done no wrong, is not what pleases God. When Job acknowledges that he has flaws, that he does not have God’s almighty power, then resurrection happens to him. But, not in death. Before death! Once the sin of pride has been confessed, life turns around. The world is once more a happy place for the changed Job. Job had to let the seed of pride die, come apart, break open, so that new life can spring forth.

Yes, the seed must die before new life can happen. Yes, our selfish desires and thoughts must die before something better can happen to us or be given to us. Yes, we must die before we can be resurrected.

Resurrection can be a feeling, a change for the better, a new life. It can be our transformation from our earthly condition to our heavenly condition. Some people find resurrection in the earthly life such as finding God in religion, or through nature, or through person-to-person relationships. We claim new life through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. What does new life look like?

We could be carrying a heavy weight of some sort – be it guilt or oppression or anger or the burden of a loved one’s illness or the grief of watching our world collapse because of anger and revenge by rulers or by our selfish habits which are eroding our planet. Whatever our burden, we can let God remove it from us. Or maybe we are just drifting, watching things come at us but letting them pass by. God will help us to change our expectations. Even if circumstances do not change, the way we feel about them and react to them can change if we invite God to do this for us. It becomes a resurrection of our souls. It becomes a new way of living, new life in reality. It is seeing our lives in a whole different light.

When we emphasis Christ’s resurrection, we are welcoming our own transformation. We can no longer think of ourselves as a seed. We will be thinking of ourselves as the sprouting plant, the sprouting new life, the living into the reality that our God is a living God and our God is the Lord of the living. That is us! We are living, alive people! We are God’s people. Our God is not a leader of lifeless robots. Is that us? Lifeless robots. It cannot be! No we are not lifeless robots. We are not wandering sheep, either. We are here to be an influence in the world for our Savior, Jesus Christ. As we, a congregation of believers and worshipers, are moving into a new life, a new way of being the body of Christ in this community, let us do it as resurrected people!

Sermon – 11-10-19 – Proper 27 – Cycle C
Scriptures: Job 19: 23-27a, Psalm 17: 1-9, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17, Luke 20:27-38
Sermon Title: “How Does Resurrection Look?”

Last Sunday, we listened to writings by family members who were resurrected to new life with Jesus in heaven. Gradually, I realized that something was missing. We did not hear the reflection from a close friend of one who was lifted into transformation. The friends are Robert R.C. (Klip) Morris and John Harvey Grimes. I now share the story by John about Robert.
______________________________________________________________________________

Remembering Robert R.C. (Klip) Morris
I was wondering what to say about Bob (Klip) after hearing Rev. M. read his brother, Richard’s, remarks during last Sunday’s sermon. Klip and I were born three days apart in September of 1947 and fully expected to grow old together here. We would not connect for the first time until the 4th grade when my parents moved the family back to Womelsdorf. Our families were already known to each other as Klip’s Mom had been a student of my mother at Womelsdorf High School. After high school we would be separated again by his military service (Air Force) and my educational wanderings. Upon my return to Womelsdorf we would be best friends for the next 40 years.
In some respects we were very different people, with his love of antique cars . I did enjoy riding in the rumble seat of the “31 Model A,” alien to me and my love of mineral collecting foreign to him. He was a vegan for many years, I was not. I loved watching sports on TV; he was mostly disinterested. I always felt like a member of his family when I was visiting him, his Mom, and late Grandma Leiss. He in turn was also connected to other members of my family, cycling long distances with my brother, David, sharing kayaking and cycling trips with my brother, James, finding colonial costume suppliers with Harriet, and taking Harriet and Genny to the seashore when it became intolerable for me due to heat intolerance and now loss of skin pigmentation. He was there for me in Boy Scouts, moving my family from Canada, and in supporting several local historical societies to which we both belonged.
I have thought at length about what thread held us so closely over these years. We both had serious concerns about the finances of some of the institutions to which we both belonged, but I believe at heart it was our shared love of family, Zion Church, the Boy Scouts, local historical societies, the Womelsdorf area community, and our Pennsylvania Dutch heritage that held us together.
I will look to my right in the balcony at the Christmas Eve candlelight service and very much miss the sight of my best friend.
__________________________________________
Losing friends to the final resurrection is not fun. It does not lend itself to happiness unless the person was suffering. But letting the good memories float to the top of our mind and heart is an antidote.
But, how does resurrection look? What is it like? Job, the character in the Old Testament, is sure about God! He declares, “I know that my redeemer lives!” He believes that God is real despite the suffering caused by Satan because Satan has God’s permission to torture Job. You wonder why God would do such a thing? Most people wonder that until they get to the end of this long book just before the book of Psalms in the Bible. Job learns that declaring himself righteous, having done no wrong, is not what pleases God. When Job acknowledges that he has flaws, that he does not have God’s almighty power, then resurrection happens to him. But, not in death. Before death! Once the sin of pride has been confessed, life turns around. The world is once more a happy place for the changed Job. Job had to let the seed of pride die, come apart, break open, so that new life can spring forth.

Yes, the seed must die before new life can happen. Yes, our selfish desires and thoughts must die before something better can happen to us or be given to us. Yes, we must die before we can be resurrected.

Resurrection can be a feeling, a change for the better, a new life. It can be our transformation from our earthly condition to our heavenly condition. Some people find resurrection in the earthly life such as finding God in religion, or through nature, or through person-to-person relationships. We claim new life through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. What does new life look like?

We could be carrying a heavy weight of some sort – be it guilt or oppression or anger or the burden of a loved one’s illness or the grief of watching our world collapse because of anger and revenge by rulers or by our selfish habits which are eroding our planet. Whatever our burden, we can let God remove it from us. Or maybe we are just drifting, watching things come at us but letting them pass by. God will help us to change our expectations. Even if circumstances do not change, the way we feel about them and react to them can change if we invite God to do this for us. It becomes a resurrection of our souls. It becomes a new way of living, new life in reality. It is seeing our lives in a whole different light.

When we emphasis Christ’s resurrection, we are welcoming our own transformation. We can no longer think of ourselves as a seed. We will be thinking of ourselves as the sprouting plant, the sprouting new life, the living into the reality that our God is a living God and our God is the Lord of the living. That is us! We are living, alive people! We are God’s people. Our God is not a leader of lifeless robots. Is that us? Lifeless robots. It cannot be! No we are not lifeless robots. We are not wandering sheep, either. We are here to be an influence in the world for our Savior, Jesus Christ. As we, a congregation of believers and worshipers, are moving into a new life, a new way of being the body of Christ in this community, let us do it as resurrected people!

“What to Do About Satan?”

Sermon – 10-27-19 – Reformation Sunday – Cycle C
Scripture: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 46; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36
Sermon Title: “What to Do About Satan?”

Is Satan, otherwise known as the devil, real? Is there really a hell? Why do bad things happen to good people? All questions of the ages! Each of us present in this holy space at this moment, have different opinions and experiences with these questions.

Scripture tells us that Satan once lived with God but Satan tried to be more powerful than God and God chased Satan out of heaven. Don’t you wonder why God did not obliterate – get rid of – Satan completely? Not only did God not obliterate Satan, he did not take power from Satan. God gave Satan permission to have his way with people. Remember Job?

God specifically gave Satan permission to test Job. One by one, Job lost property, animals, family, health. Job’s friends urged Job over and over to confess something he had done wrong so God could forgive Job and restore his goods and kindred. Job insisted that he had done nothing wrong. So the misery continued chapter after chapter. Job is a rather long book just before the book of Psalms in the Bible. Finally, God explained the situation to Job in no uncertain terms, even though the words are beautiful.

These words of God spoken to Job take us back to the story of Creation in the book of Genesis. God asks Job if he could have handled creation. Could he have separated the land from the water? Could Job have done this? Could Job have done that? We get the point. Only God could have created the planet earth. None of us could have done that. The Satan part of this story for us is that we need to resist thinking of ourselves as being righteous and in control. That is just when Satan moves in and starts to cause trouble – a little at first, then bigger and bigger.

Thinking that Satan has no power is risky. Satan lost his place close to God but he did not lose his power yet. Will he ever lose his power? Yes, the Bible says that when Jesus comes again, Satan’s power will be gone. There will be no more Satan. Meanwhile, we need to close our lives to the power of Satan wanting to claim us for his own. We do not need to fear Satan. We belong to someone else. We belong to the one who has the winning power. Satan’s power will never exceed the power of God.

Satan cannot claim us if we believe in the power of God. If we accept the fact that we are already claimed. In our baptism, we are claimed by God. God sent Jesus Christ, his only Son, to earth to take our sins upon himself. Jesus has the power to rebuff Satan. We need to claim Jesus as our Savior. Jesus saves us from temptation. Jesus is the saving power when we fail to resist temptation. We say to God, “Let us not fall into temptation.” We say it every Sunday.

Many of you tell me that you pray the Lord’s Prayer at least once each day. You are claiming the power of Jesus over Satan. “Deliver us from evil,” we say. And Jesus will. But we can’t just sit back and watch Satan and Jesus battle over our souls! We have to be actively engaged with Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the Father.

So the next time that luscious piece of chocolate cake appears in front of our eyes, we can ask Jesus if we could please just enjoy that cake or is it going to take our blood sugar count way up or will the scale continue to be our enemy. I think the scale is a tool of Satan. Who wins this temptation? Will Jesus help us to resist something that would temporarily make us feel so good?

If Satan got his way with us in a bigger, more disastrous way, is it too late? It is never too late to come to Jesus. So if we hurt someone big time and the price we are paying is our own ruined health and ruined peace of mind; if it is not well with our souls, we need to turn to Jesus. Jesus may lead us to apologize or to make recompense to the person or persons we have hurt. Ouch! “No! No!.” we say.

Seems impossible at first thought. We need to keep thinking and then think again continually. The needed action is becoming clearer. But, how will this apology or recompense effect our family? How will making recompense effect our jobs? And, how will this action effect the life of the one we have hurt? Take it to Jesus! Jesus will guide the way. Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit will have things fall into place. . By taking this dilemma to the Holy Ones, we come closer to God. The wall that had been between ourselves and God is gone. We can accept the love and forgiveness that is waiting for us through Christ Jesus. He paid the price. It is ours to claim.

Yes, the price is paid. We do not even need to do good works for the grace and peace of God to fall upon us. It is free. Then we go forth in thankfulness for our unbound hearts. We go forth in the midst of our families. We go forth into the world sharing this good news. Keeping it to ourselves would be more sinning. Satan be gone!

Please find the last hymn in your bulletin. First verse, third line: For still our ancient foe does seek to work us woe with craft and power great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal. Second verse: Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, But there is one who takes our side, the One of God’s own choosing. You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus sets us free! With mighty power to save, victorious o’er the grave, Christ will prevail triumphant. 3rd Verse, last phrase: One little word shall fell them (meaning the powers of evil).

It is God’s truth and God’s reign which matter; not our goods and possessions. Even kindred. It is God who must have our foremost attention. Even our own earthly lives. We seek the holy prize.

Paul explains “the prize” in Romans 3:22-25a: “. . . the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.”

That is when we can truly say, “It is well, it is well, with my soul.” Though evil should tempt me, though trials should come, let this blessed assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and has paid life and blood for my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul!”

“A Blessing for Persistence”

Sermon – 10-20-19 – Proper 24 – Cycle C
Scripture – Genesis 32:22-31, Psalm 121, 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5, Luke 18:1-8
Sermon Title – “A Blessing for Persistence”

Kicking a football again and again until it goes just where it is supposed to go. Hitting the golf ball endlessly until we achieve a hole-in-one. Practicing the organ until the organist finds extreme satisfaction with the experience. Welcoming students into the classroom day-after-day, honing the skill of dispensing knowledge so that the classroom becomes an eager learning space with happy, well-balanced students. Practicing the art and science of medical expertise and genuine care. Reading the Bible until it is no longer tedious but becomes an addiction as God leads and the Holy Spirit inspires.

All persistence. Never giving up. Or giving up but coming back for more. Quitting smoking. Quitting an alcohol habit or a drug habit. Asking forgiveness. Wrestling with a relationship. Wrestling with God! What do I mean? God values persistence. Sometimes it is a real challenge to prove to God that we are capable of persisting, of sticking with something until we can’t continue and then coming back to try again.

The funny thing is that we can’t persist without God’s help. We think we are proving our ability while all the while it is proving our faith. Just trying to make sense of the Hebrew scripture takes persistence. But all the while it is God who is working with our minds and hearts to wade through verse after verse, chapter after chapter, episode after episode until all the gruesomeness shapes itself into meaning; until we get the bigger picture. It is a life-time of absorbing and molding, not by ourselves, but by being the project of the Holy Spirit.

It may be difficult to detect the Holy Spirit in our New Testament Gospel. A woman wants justice and pleads and pleads, never giving up. Finally the judge grants mercy. He does not believe in God, he is not granting the woman’s request as deserved justice, but simply because he cannot stand her nagging anymore – her persistence. He needs to stop the effect on himself. Therefore, he grants her whatever she is seeking. In this story, Jesus is questioning the amount of faith we have. Is our faith enough to keep our persistence fueled?

Meet Jacob or re-meet Jacob. Twin brother of Esau. Sons of Isaac who is son of Abraham. All is not well with Jacob and Esau. Here again is another example of the shrewd action being rewarded. Shrewd – meaning watching for opportunity and using it for mostly selfish advantage. We have been meeting these shrewd people in our scripture lessons in recent months. We read along expecting punishment for these people. Instead, God praises this attitude, this practice, this way of being.

Today Jacob manages to be alone. Wait. Jacob does not manage it, God arranges it. No caravan of servants and wives and children. No caravan of animals. No caravan of supplies and equipment. These parts of Jacob’s life are sent ahead, away. Jacob is alone. A person alone with God.

God has a purpose for this time of aloneness. A man comes to wrestle with Jacob. The scripture says “a man.” As it happens, this man is not human, but “a divine adversary.” In the end, God himself is revealed as the adversary. The point is that Jacob does not give up. All night Jacob does not give up. At one point the other wrestler, this divine adversary, attempts to be free by striking Jacob’s hip so that it is put out of joint, but still Jacob keeps resisting.

This is not the only time Jacob has resisted. He resisted his father, Isaac. He resisted his brother, Esau. He resisted his father-in-law, Laban. Now he is resisting God. Let’s substitute the word “tricked” for resisted. Jacob tricked his father, Isaac, at his mother’s instruction. He tricked his brother, Esau. He tricked his father-in-law, Laban. Can we say that Jacob is tricking God? Well, strangely enough, Jacob is the one who is persisting in this wrestling match with God in the form of a man. This wrestler wants to be free; he wants to stop this hours-long contest. But, God is also helping Jacob to continue.

Once again, God is baffling us. Once again we are confronted with God’s actions which do not make sense to the human mind. Once again we feel like walking away from this God whose actions and words we do not understand.

In our own lives, what is puzzling us about God? Is someone not being healed? Is a relationship becoming sour? Is a certain career eluding us? Are we living from one big bill to the next big bill and it seems that persistence is not “paying off.” Where is God? Why has he abandoned us? Even, we wonder why God seems to be wrestling with us.

Now is when we really need to look at the hills. We read together that our help comes from God, not the hills. Let’s question that thought. Going alone to a place where nature is still intact, breathe in the raw, clean nature. Breathe out the torment of our souls. Breathe in the sky. Breathe out the pollution in our minds. Breathe in the Spirit of God. This Spirit of God is everywhere.

Let us remove ourselves. temporarily probably, from the wrestling position with God. Let God wrestle with someone else for awhile as we listen to music that speaks of the gentleness, the positiveness that is God through the Holy Spirit. We don’t worship a clear, running, babbling brook but the Holy Spirit is present in that brook. We don’t worship birds as they appear at our window or soar through the sky, but the Holy Spirit is tuning our souls to accept surrender as we notice the naturalness of the soaring and the gentlenss and the trust in that robin or that sparrow that appears when we least expect.

You know the song we sing, “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.” “His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.” Does that resonate with God watching over our going out and our coming in? Think of Jacob and this God-man wrestling all night matched to the words from Psalm 121, “Behold the keeper of Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Let us place our bodies on our beds, our heads on the pillow and give all the anxiety to God. Let us be peaceful in the trust that God is watching over us. Invite his presence into every cell in our bodies. Let slumber settle over us like a chiffon scarf or a curly cloud. The Lord will preserve you from all evil and will keep your life. The Lord will watch over you. This Creator of the earth, this Creator of heaven. This awesome presence is everywhere! Let us not resist but accept. Amen