“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.
__________________________________________
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

“Naaman, Elisha, and the Ten Lepers”

Sermon – 10-13-19 – Proper 23 – Cycle C
Scripture: 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c; Psalm 111; 2 Timothy 2:8-15; Luke 17:11-19
Sermon Title: “Naaman, Elisha, and the Ten Lepers”

A servant girl knows the solution! In this Old Testament or Hebrew scripture, we find this delightful story of healing. Naaman has the skin problem. Elisha is God’s prophet. The King of Israel gets mixed into the story and goes berserk. The servant girl is the most important character in the story.

First, you may have noticed an awkward break in the Hebrew lesson that George read. We are going to tell the missing part or it does not make sense.

Syria is in our present-day news. Syria is part of our story today. Naaman is a commander in the Syrian army although the translation we heard today – the New Revised Standard Version – uses the name Aram for the country instead of Syria. The Contemporary English Version uses Syria. Whether we call it Aram or Syria, the leaders of that country did not get along well with the leaders of Israel.

In fact, God helps Naaman to lead the Aramean army in victory over the Israelite army. So the King of Aram respects Naaman highly. Winning over Israel and being respected by the King of Aram does not prevent Naaman from being tormented by a skin problem, referred to as leprosy.

Here is where our main character comes into the picture. This servant girl had been captured in Israel as part of the spoils of war. She became a servant to Naaman’s wife. One day, the girl could not refrain from declaring to Naaman’s wife that she knows a person who can heal Naaman. She is referring to Elisha, prophet of God, who is presently in the Samaria section of Israel.

Wife tells Naaman. Naaman asks King of Aram for permission to go to Israel in the hope of being healed. The King says, “Go. I will give you a letter to the King of Israel.”

Naaman packs silver, gold, clothes and the letter. The letter says, “I am sending my servant Naaman to you. Would you cure him of his leprosy?” When Naaman arrives in Israel, he finds the king which is probably King Joash. Naaman gives the letter to one of the king’s servants and waits. Well! The king thinks he is supposed to heal this army commander from Aram who has just defeated the King of Israel’s army. The king tears his clothing in fear and says, “That Aramean king believes I can cure this man of leprosy! Does he think I am God with power over life and death? He must be trying to pick a fight with me.”

Somehow, Elisha hears about this predicament – I think God told him – and sends word to the King of Israel that he, Elisha, can heal Naaman. “Just send him to me,” says Elisha. So Naaman left with his horses and chariots and went to Elisha’s house. Instead of Elisha coming from his house to actually touch Naaman or wave his hand over Naaman, Elisha sends the instruction that Naaman shall go wash in the Jordan River seven times. If Naaman does that, his flesh will be restored and he will be clean.

Instead of Naaman saying “thank you,” Naaman has a fit of his own. Naaman is expecting more drama. He thinks he is owed more respect from Elisha, this man of God.

It also happens that the Jordan River is not a clean river. Naaman knows other rivers in his own country that are cleaner and nicer. So Naaman is angry. Why should he lower himself in a muddy river! But his servants suggest to him that he would have done something much harder or more expensive to be cleansed. Why won’t he just dip himself seven times in this dirty river and see what happens? So Naaman becomes meek. He gives in and immerses himself into the dirty river until he is covered . His flesh is restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he is clean.

Now does Naaman give any kind of thanks to anybody when he sees the good result? You probably caught the end of the Hebrew lesson that George read. Naaman finds Elisha and stands before Elisha saying, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.”

Now, moving forward into the time of Jesus, we have this story of the ten lepers who happen to be where Jesus is walking. They are careful not to come too close to Jesus because this skin problem called leprosy is very contagious. You probably know that, in those days, lepers needed to live at a distance from the town, like near the garbage dump.

When they see Jesus, they call to Jesus and ask to be healed. Instead of waving his hand over them from afar, Jesus just says, “Go to the priests and be declared clean.” They follow his directions. They go. That is what Jesus says, “Go to the priests.” It is the priests, not doctors, who declare the person healed of leprosy. It is like permission to re-enter society, to move home with family, to shop, to work. They follow the directions of Jesus.

It is strange then that the one who does not continue directly to the priests, who does not strictly follow the directions of Jesus, gets the praise and the blessing of Jesus. We read that this one leper, who happens to be a Samaritan and not a pure Jew, gives thanks to Jesus, prostrating himself in front of Jesus, not doing this quietly but in a loud voice. Jesus blesses this one person and says to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Where else do we know that a Samaritan receives praise to this very day for doing the good and right thing? Yes, we have the account of the Good Samaritan going out of his way, spending time and money to help someone who is in trouble. The Samaritans were a mixture of races. They did not have pure Jewish blood. They were ostracized by pure-blood Jews. But Jesus brings them into favorable light with his stories.

Can we possibly stop here and not get the whole picture? The idea and practice of ostracizing people because of skin color, because of religion, because of place of birth, because of economic levels, because of language or accent or inability to speak well because of a deficiency in development, because of physical differences, and mental differences are not new with us but we could make a big difference by changing our own attitudes and actions. We could! We could bring these people into a favorable light in society. After all, Jesus will probably be blessing these “cast-offs” more than he will bless ourselves unless we shape up and welcome these blessed ones into the light while we recede into the shadows. “Blessed are those who are meek.” We don’t read “Blessed are those who are proud and arrogant.” It is a choice. Meekness and inclusion or arrogance and exclusion. Lord, help us! Amen

“In the Darkest Hour: Blind Faith”

Sermon – 10-06-19 – Proper 22 – Cycle C
Scripture: Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4; Psalm 37:1-9; 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10
Sermon Title: “In the Darkest Hour: Blind Faith”

Jesus says astonishing things! You may remember that, sometime in past weeks, I mentioned that Jesus’ style of teaching and preaching was exaggeration, hyperbole. Why would this God-man not stick to straight-line truth? If we think about it, we may catch the most profound wisdom that is hiding inside the startling ideas.

Today’s gospel passage is one such example. First, Jesus is saying that faith the size of a mustard seed – extremely small – will enable a mulberry tree to be uprooted and move through the air into the sea and be re-planted in the sea! Incredulous as that seems, we move from the antics of Disney-like film making into the reminder of cruelty being the status quo of human interaction. Just reading verses 7 through 10, leaves me exhausted and fuming that we as fellow humans expect such raw servanthood from other humans or even animals.

Those verses tell about servants or slaves working in the field all day in who knows what kind of weather; then coming into the house and heading straight for the kitchen – not to eat – but to prepare the meal and serve the meal and much later get to eat whatever is left. I added the “whatever is left.” Surely, they were not allowed to put aside food for themselves before they served the master and his family. This was called “duty.” I call it “cruelty.”

Upon researching mulberry tree, I learned that we should not expect fruit for ten years. That is a lot of patience, seemingly endless waiting! It is strange then that the reference to the mulberry tree by Jesus produces the idea of waiting for fruit followed by the master of the servants who thinks it is okay to make servants wait for a meal and for rest, but the master is not willing to wait. In that culture it was expected that servants had a duty to serve the master before any deserved rest for themselves. In the language of Jesus, we shall be like the servants in waiting.

Hearing from the long-ago Psalmist inPsalm 37, we have, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently. Do not be provoked by the one who prospers, the one who succeeds in evil schemes. Put your trust and delight in the Lord, who shall give you your heart’s desire. Commit your way to the Lord; put your trust in the Lord, and see what God will do.”

Over and over, I find myself saying, “We’ll see what God will do.” We do our homework. We serve with servant attitudes. We do the leg work. We do the research. Then we wait! Wait patiently for him. This waiting business is hard! Especially hard if we have minds that race ahead the minute a faint possibility appears. “Go for it!” I tell myself. It is my nature. Seasoned and wise people say, “Wait!” Take it easy. Be patient. See what God wants us to do. See what God will produce. Before our eyes we will see the mulberry tree being lifted from the soil and being moved through the air into a new home – an unexpected new home for a tree. From Proverbs 3:5 6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not onto your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.”

If you feel a strange stirring in your minds or hearts or both when you hear and think on these words, don’t shush it away. Let it build, let it blossom. At this moment in time, when Zion United Church of Christ in Womelsdorf is seeking God’s guidance, we need to trust in the Lord, we need to do our homework, we need to do the research, we need to imagine all sorts of possibilities. But we also need to multi-task. While we are like spiders or centipedes trying to go in all directions with our many legs, in the middle of that there is a center for quietness, for checking with God, for being so quiet that we might hear God’s breath whispering to us.

The biggest trust we have in God is that he loves us with an everlasting love. A deep everlasting love. Yes, sometimes we find that love in a whisper. Sometimes we find that love in action on our behalf. Sometimes God needs to scream at us to get our attention. Something like the hyperbole of a mustard tree moving across our vision in the air or even scooting across the ground leaving a ditch as it goes. What is that ditch?!?! Oh, it is our injustice to people around us. It is our injustice to the earth. It is our unloving ways with the people we love the most. That is what that ditch is. Expecting the world to revolve around us, when, in fact, we need to be the wave of love that moves through the air or digs protective nurturing places for the mulberry trees in our lives, and in all people!

Picture this wave of love as a scarf, flowing in the breeze, circling the world. Sometimes that scarf is a filmy, light material, saying “God loves you. Go share the love.” Sometimes that scarf is a very heavy wool to smother the evil that increases until God can stand it no longer. Sometimes the scarf is a medium texture to keep things steady. This scarf moving before our eyes looks for injustice to change it to justice and kindness, looks for imbalance of wealth, imbalance of freedom and bullying, imbalance of knowing, and not knowing, the salvation in Christ Jesus and the power of God’s love.

As we receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ, may we wait patiently upon the Lord and be open vessels for God’s love and wisdom.

Prayer
O God of love and solutions, stay with us, help us to wait patiently. Help us to picture the scarf of love as it encircles the globe, especially today as we celebrate world communion All the people of this world are involved with each other whether we want to be or not. In the dark places and times of this world, may our faith witness the mulberry trees being moved where God needs them to be so that all people equally have access to the fruit of justice, to the fruit of rest, to the fruit of wholeness and wellness. This shall be your kingdom on earth – a taste of heaven. Yes, God! Amen.