Eternal Comfort and Good Hope

November 9, 2016

cropped-nerdcore-theology-2

Eternal Comfort and Good Hope, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17

Posted on November 7, 2016     by grantimusmax

Brothers and sisters, we have a request for you concerning our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming and when we are gathered together to be with him. 2 We don’t want you to be easily confused in your mind or upset if you hear that the day of the Lord is already here, whether you hear it through some spirit, a message, or a letter supposedly from us. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. That day won’t come unless the rebellion comes first and the person who is lawless is revealed, who is headed for destruction. 4 He is the opponent of every so-called god or object of worship and promotes himself over them. So he sits in God’s temple, displaying himself to show that he is God. 5 You remember that I used to tell you these things while I was with you, don’t you? …13 But we always must thank God for you, brothers and sisters who are loved by God. This is because he chose you from the beginning to be the first crop of the harvest. This brought salvation, through your dedication to God by the Spirit and through your belief in the truth. 14 God called all of you through our good news so you could possess the honor of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold on to the traditions we taught you, whether we taught you in person or through our letter. 16 Our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and a good hope. 17 May he encourage your hearts and give you strength in every good thing you do or say. –2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17

hurricane

Today, brothers and sisters, is a day we find ourselves in the eye of a hurricane.

Today is a Holy day. One of the holiest days of the Christian year. It’s the day we celebrate the Saints. We sing in memory of their lives. It’s the day we join hand-in-hand and remember. We remember who we are. Who we have been. And we also rejoice in who we will become, who we are becoming.

And yet… it exists as a small island of light and hope in the midst of a maelstrom of activity, chaos, doubt and uncertainty. We have weathered one of the most difficult years on record, I think we can all safely admit that. In fact, one would not be mistaken in thinking that the end is near.

ballot

Tuesday of this week, our nation reaches the final culminating day of the past 18 months: Election day. And though I am hesitant to speak about it, I cannot deny the tremendous and tumultuous chaos this political season has caused in our church, and in our nation. There has never been a race like this before, not in most of our lifetimes. Our base fears have been tapped in ways that have long since been dormant. Anger has risen between sister and brother over candidates, issues, and beliefs. We stand as a people rent in two by political difference, in a season unlike any other.

I cannot tell you who to vote for, as some may want me to do. To do so would be a breach of my pastoral covenant with you all. If I did, I would risk my ability to minister to all people. Effectively, if I make my political inclinations known, I alienate a vast swath of people who may or may not ever meet Jesus any other way, or who seek guidance from a ministerial presence. What I can do is to vote your conscience. Vote with your values. And vote with the kingdom of God in mind.

I mention God’s kingdom because that is what have to look forward to today. All Saints’ Sunday is when we look back on the faithful who have influenced, and forward to the life in Christ that is promised to us.

This is our focus today, on the eternal hope and good comfort that God promises us in Jesus Christ, found only in the kingdom of heaven. Such comfort, however, only comes after the troubles of the present age, troubles that were known all too well in the days in which this letter was written.

Concerning The Day of the Lord

saints

The early Christian community was all too aware of the problems of the world. In fact, most of the time, they were often the victims of the worst of what the world could offer.

Christians were a community of outsiders, both religiously and politically. Religiously, they were often antagonized by Roman and Greek religious groups, but also the Jewish community from which they had their roots. The story of Christ is rooted in the Jewish scripture and theology, as Jesus and all of the disciples were all Jewish. And yet they were reviled by all camps, ousted as cultists and even atheists, in their days’ reckoning.

Not only that, politically they were seen as anarchists, because of their refusal to call Caesar Lord. For them, there was only one Lord, and that was Jesus Christ. As a result, they were frequently targeted by political authorities, and disenfranchised as citizens.

This resulted in quite a bit of suffering on the part of the Christians of the first few centuries.

Public stoning, burning at the stake, fed to lions, imprisonment, and much more were faced by the saints. Their witness stood as a testament to their faith, however. The did not waver, nor did they fear for their own lives. They lived for Christ, and that Christ had given them new life. They were a strange but powerful group on their own.

And yet… that left many questions for the saints who were not martyred. What would happen to them? And are all these persecutions signs of the end times, the coming Day of the Lord? Would Jesus return, and were the sitting authorities in reality the Anti Christ?

These were very real questions that they faced, and so the writer of 2 Thessalonians takes them seriously.

The writer very clearly acknowledges their fears, but also in a way puts them to rest. He says to not be deceived, and that the Day of the Lord will only happen at an appointed time. In the meantime, however, he gives them–and us–these words:

Thank God for you. Yes you! You, the ones left behind to share the witness with those who will come after. Thank God for your lives, because you are loved by God. God made you to be the first crop of the harvest, the first fruit that will be shared for all time.

So, live up to your example, and stand firm. It’s not time for the day of the Lord. This isn’t the end. Rather, this is the beginning. God loves you, so let that love give you eternal hope and good comfort. God will do amazing things through you for centuries to come.

Saints Living the Gospel

I am happy to report that, as a matter of fact, the Saints did just that. They lived the Gospel.

They lived the Gospel, and many died for the Gospel, and in the kingdom of heaven they live again. They endure. Their witness endures throughout the generations. And today, we celebrate that witness.

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That’s the great thing about All Saints Day. We get to remember the lessons of the past, the traditions that were shared, and joy that echoes the love of God through the ages. God loved them, and God continues to love us. Though saints may live in glory, their glory lives on in us as well. These saints never quit being a part of the church. Their story lives in us.

So think about the saints today, and remember them. Not just ones from history books, but from your history. Think on them, and give thanks for them. They give thanks for you, because you continue the tradition of sharing the love of God with the world. We rejoice in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Easter Sunday – March 27, 2016

March 30, 2016

Jesus died … and on Easter we celebrate:

 He is risen!  He is risen, Indeed!

He lives! He is with us today.

cross

The beautiful Easter Cross,

decorated early Sunday morning with flowers from home/wayside,

adorned the sanctuary

as Charlotte North plays the prelude.

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Worship on Easter Sunday

We were blessed to have family, visitors, and guests worship with us.

 a

The children sit spellbound by Pastor Grant as he retells the Easter story during the Children’s Sermon.

Congregation members entertained children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren as well as friends and cousins (several times removed) this weekend. Many attended services as part of their celebration and enjoyed the egg hunt that followed.

d

Agape Class members Brenda Corley, Janette Young with Arlie Boadaway watch and help as the children gather their egg bounty.

c Kari and Whitley enter the playground area looking for the bright solid-colored eggs.

eParents, grandparents, and great-grandparent Bonnie Rach look on as youngsters race for another egg!


UMW Sunday, October 16th

October 16, 2011

Scripture:  Luke 13:18-21

Message    ” The Mustard Seed and the Yeast Grow and Provide for Many”


The Sower

July 14, 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011   Sermon Synopsis

Matthew 13: 1-9 

July 10 – 24  we will be looking at the kingdom parables of Jesus found in Matthew 13.

Let us reconsider or re-imagine the parable of the sower.  Is this parable really about the sower? If it is about the sower then this parable is about God’s indiscriminate and extravagant love, mercy and grace.  The sower casts the seeds liberally on the bad soil as well as the good. And I believe the sower expected the seeds to produce fruit.

If this parable is instead really about the seeds and not the sower, then we need to understand that all the seed was good seed.  It all tried to put down roots.

Imagine with me that the parable is really about the soil.  If you read Matthew 13: 18-22, Jesus tells us that the parable is indeed about the dirt.  Many scholars today believe that this was added later by the early church to help Christians understand this kingdom parable.  If this parable is about the dirt then the point of the parable is the receptivity of the soil. What kind of reception do we have to the Word of God as individuals and as a church family? What kind of soil amendments and care does our life need?

Sometimes in our lives have our hearts been like the beaten down path where there is no space for roots to be put down?  Have you ever felt as though there is little depth in your spiritual life? How often have the cares of the world choked out the word of God in our lives? Are you now feeling as though the seed of God’s love, mercy and grace have taken deep hold in your life? Are you producing fruit?

Remember: 

God can open the hardest and most impenetrable heart.

Fertile soil exists where Jesus’ story intersects our story.

 

What kind of soil does God’s word find in your life?

What kind of soil exists in Sabine County?

What kind of soil do we at FUMC offer?

Where do we need some hoeing and weeding?

What kind of harvest are we producing for the Kingdom of God?

 


Christians Are a Peculiar People

May 27, 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Scripture: 1 Peter 2:2-10

One afternoon I was walking with a group of women from the sanctuary building of the church to the education building. I was walking a little ahead of the 3 women but walking with me was Lindsey, the 4th grade daughter of one of the women. I don’t remember what Lindsey and I were talking about but in the course of the conversation Lindsey turned to me and said, “You’re weird.” I took that as a compliment and congratulated her for knowing me only a few months but already seeing that I was weird. Lindsey’s mother must have heard that word, weird, and asked what we were talking about. So I explained that normally it took a year or more before someone thought I was weird and here Lindsey had already zeroed in on it.

The Bible particularly the New Testament wants us to be weird. I read our Scripture for today from the NRSV. But if you read that famous line in verse 9, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people. That phrase, God’s own people, in the King James Version, is, a peculiar people. I guess since I’m weird already, I like that idea of being a peculiar people.

Chris Andrews has written that there is a town in central Missouri that is named, Peculiar. What kind of reactions do people get when they say they come from a town called, Peculiar. They truly are peculiar people.

Now I understand that most people don’t want to be called weird, or peculiar. But that is what this part of the text of the Bible wants us to call ourselves. Two weeks ago the sermon was about Christians having a different perspective. Last week we took from lessons from an ant. Now we call ourselves peculiar and even a little weird. And we truly are. We love our enemies. We do good for those who persecute us. And we believe the last shall be first. It is truly a different kind of community that arises out of the pages of the New Testament.

Christians are different. We show grace because of what God has shown us. We want to cooperate rather than compete with our neighbors. We have tasted that pure, spiritual milk that Peter talks about and that Jesus offers. That spiritual milk makes us a different people, a peculiar, weird people, who dare to live a life of love in a world that often doesn’t see things in the same way.

I heard that at some baseball games on that Sunday night two weeks ago, there was cheering when the news was announced that Osama Ben Laden had been killed. There was no such cheering when I heard the news for the first time. For a long time I had been doing what Jesus said I should do, pray for those who persecute you. It is hard for me to cheer for anyone’s death for whom I have prayed. If God loves them then I’m going to try to love them too. So yes I am definitely weird and peculiar.

But it’s not just me. Did you know that Sylvester Stallone’s faith in Jesus Christ influenced his writing the script for Rocky back in 1975. The success of that movie brought him fame and new temptations that separated him from his family and friends. The bad choices he made left him with an empty feeling. He had been raised in a Catholic home and had gone to Catholic schools so he had faith up to that time.  The Hollywood world drained him of his faith. But not all of it.  Sylvester knew the key was the church so he started going again. In his words, “The more I go to church, the more I turn myself over to the process of believing in Jesus and listening to his Word and having him guide my hand. The church is the gym of the soul.” He knew that the church is composed of all those peculiar people who are living according to a divine plan.

I know that Peter calls us Christians, a peculiar people, but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell the whole story. Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is the famous doctor who first articulated the stages of dying. She was Swiss and after World War II ended, she went into Germany to help the sick and injured among the Germans. Helping her was a nurse whom Dr. Kubler-Ross find out was Jewish. She was amazed that this nurse could minister to the very people who had in gruesome and cruel ways murdered so many Jews. When the doctor asked about this, the nurse said that in fact she hated the German people. But she knew if she was ever going to get over that hatred and truly forgive them, she would have to be in contact with the very people she abhorred. Eventually she said, that hatred will turn to love. Is that weird or what? So God’s weirdness and peculiarity is evident in more that just the royal priesthood.

I guess God’s spirit is active in ways we can not believe.  The world looks at us and says, “You’re weird, you’re crazy.” But we know better, for our weirdness is born of love and grace. It points us to a new way and invites others to come share in the peculiarity. If you continue to yearn for the pure, spiritual milk of Jesus Christ, you had better be prepared to live a different way, and to be called all sorts of wonderful names like weird, strange, and peculiar.

Pastoral Prayer,

Almighty and Loving God, you sent your Son to bring us life and forgiveness.  Even though we don’t know for sure, I suspect that Jesus was considered a little weird when he lived two thousand years ago.  When he ascended you did not desert us, but rather were with us in a new way.  You have empowered us with your Holy Spirit.  You have made us a royal priesthood, to do the work of your kingdom.  And so like Jesus, we may expect to be called weird.  Give us the courage to see that that is a good thing, that our hands and feet are doing things that others will not do.  Give us the courage to see your power at work in us.  Help us to believe in ourselves as much you believe in us.

Hear our petitions as we lift up others for prayer and for your blessing.  This we pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.