Gone Fishing

Last week I said Christianity wasn’t for everyone that only the perfect didn’t need to worry about sin and death. That Jesus only came for the sinners, for the broken and the lost. I see that most of you returned this week so I can safely say that none of us are Saints, but sinners, and truly that’s good. Because the Lord came for us and died for us. And while I said Christianity is tough it’s also a blessing to those of us who accept it. True it’s hard and there’s rules and things like love your neighbor and that one can be tough, believe me. And I mean love God with all your heart and mind and soul, how tough is that? I mean this Christian stuff has got to be the toughest job on the planet. So, I’ve decided that from now on we’re going fishing. Now I know that some of your going awesome we’re going fishing. Cool water, cold beer, and a fish fry that sounds good right. Maybe your thinking too good to be true your thinking there’s a catch to this there’s gotta be right. Because there’s always a catch, and you would be right there is. Jesus told us so many times, there’s always a catch. Do you want to be first? Well then you have to be last. Do you want to gain the world? Ok, but you’ll lose your soul. Do you want to live forever well first you have to die? Let me ask you a question and then we’ll go fishing. I want you to think about something you really enjoy. Something you would rather be doing right now. If it’s fishing great or hunting, gardening, painting, reading, whatever it is you fill in the blank. It has to be something that you pursue relentlessly, passionately, that you absolutely love to do. OK, now you’ve got that picture in your mind…right. It’s there, you can see it, you can feel it, you can taste it. Now tell me; what is the mission of the United Methodist Church? Not exactly what you were expecting. “The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” But pastor, we don’t know how to make disciples.

I know, I’ve heard it a thousand times and said myself a thousand times. But, listen this if you would. The Process for Carrying Out Our Mission—We make disciples as we:

—proclaim the gospel, seek, welcome and gather persons into the body of Christ;

—lead persons to commit their lives to God through baptism by water and the spirit and profession of faith in Jesus Christ;

—nurture persons in Christian living through worship, the sacraments, spiritual disciplines, and other means of grace, such as Wesley’s Christian conferencing;

—send persons into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Christ by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the stranger, freeing the oppressed, being and becoming a compassionate, caring presence, and working to develop social structures that are consistent with the gospel; and

—continue the mission of seeking, welcoming and gathering persons into the community of the body of Christ. That is straight from the Book of Discipline Section 122. You know I used to think that the Methodist mission was crazy, because everyone I ever asked. Did not know how to make a disciple. Oh! They were clever in their answers. Like, what exactly is a disciple? Or, define what a disciple is and then I’ll give you a process for making one. I should have known better, how to do what Jesus told us to do is in the bible. How to make disciples is in the bible, in Luke as a matter of fact, Luke chapter 10 verses 1-16, don’t worry we’ll get there because this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. We have known all along how to make disciples and John Wesley certainly knew how to make disciples, the Methodist church knows how to make disciples, why is it that the people who call themselves disciples of Christ don’t know how to make disciples for Christ? Discipleship…what is it? Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. Do you remember when Jesus came to Peter and told him do you love me Peter, do you? And Peter said of course Lord. I love you, why would you ask such a thing of me? And Jesus said to him feed my sheep. Feed my sheep. And what do you think Jesus is doing sitting in a boat on a lake with a couple of fishermen who don’t know Him. He is Feeding His sheep He is teaching them.

What is it that we’re supposed to do as disciples? Teach by example, lead as examples. Feed the sheep. The book of discipline says proclaim the gospel, seek, welcome and gather persons into the body of Christ. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” You know of all the disciples many people always wondered why Jesus picked Peter to build his church on. I think it was because Peter was a stubborn pain in the butt. I mean he is obviously being condescending here. Sure, you’re a great Rabbi with all these people following you. It’s not like I’m a master fisherman, who hasn’t caught anything, it’s not like I’ve been up all-night fishing and want to go home and get some sleep. But, because you said so, I guess we’ll do this. Just this once. Now if Jesus can use a pain in the butt like Peter as a disciple there’s no reason why He can’t use your neighbor or you, or anyone else you encounter in this world. The Lord built his church on that stubborn pain in the butt. I’m pretty sure he can do even more miraculous things with whatever it is you have to work with. When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So, they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. The miraculous, sometimes we forget just how big God really is. It’s like we can’t believe that he can do these things. But let me ask you this. If they don’t believe this and I have to assume that many Christians don’t believe this, why do they pretend? Because if they did, if they truly believed in their hearts that Christ was the Lord and savior of the universe. That we will live forever through grace and faith in Jesus. Wouldn’t you tell everybody? I mean how can you keep it to yourself? How much of a spiteful hypocrite can you be to keep this good news all for yourself? How utterly selfish and hateful Christians must be. No wonder people don’t like us. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.  Go away from me Lord, For I am a sinful man. Did Jesus leave him?  No, He did not. Jesus never abandons us. Look at it this way. Do you know why you were made a disciple? Because you were made a disciple by Christ. You were chosen by Christ. You may have thought you were making the decision, but you did not. Jesus made that decision. Jesus brought you to Him. Jesus sought you out, not the other way around.

So, why do you think you were made a disciple at that particular time and under those circumstances. You know I think it’s because the Lord seeks us at the lowest points in our lives. Peter said it, Lord I have fished all night and caught nothing. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were on the verge. They were getting ready to call it quits because they had nothing and it’s so much easier to give up and go home, call it a day, forget about all the hard work you put into it and just give up. But the Lord came into their lives. Jesus came into their lives he commandeered their boat. He commandeered their livelihood, their very lives …for just a moment and that moment became a lifetime. Because just when they were at the bottom at the very bottom. God came into their lives and said no, I am going to turn this around for you. Give me a moment of your time and I will change your life forever. I will make you a disciple and you will go forth and you will make disciples for me and you will transform the world as I have transformed your world. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.  That is what we are called to do. Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Protestant…Christian. We are called to Make disciples. Jesus tells us to not be afraid He says I’m gonna send you into the world to fish for people. And it’s time that we left everything else behind except for our poles because if we are truly going to follow him. Then were gonna go fishing. Amen! Now normally I would say a prayer and we would sing the final hymn and sending forth and go to lunch. And we will. But first I ask that you take the insert that is in your bulletin and recite with me the covenant of the worldwide united Methodist church.

A Companion Litany to Our Covenant for the Worldwide United Methodist Church

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we affirm our unity in Christ.

People: We will take faithful steps to live as a worldwide church in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we commit ourselves to be in ministry with all people.

People: In faithfulness to the gospel, we will cross boundaries of language, culture, social or economic status as we grow in mutual love and trust.

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we participate in God’s mission as partners in ministry.

People: We share our God-given gifts, experiences, and resources recognizing that they are of equal value, whether spiritual, financial, or missional.

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we commit ourselves to full equality.

People: We uphold equity and accountability in our relationships, structures, and responsibilities for the denomination.

Leader: In covenant with God and each other, we enter afresh into a relationship of mutuality.

People: With God’s grace, we joyfully live out our worldwide connection in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

It’s Not For Everyone

I don’t usually preach sin. I don’t preach consequences. This is an adult congregation and we have no youth. I know that each of us are aware of the wages of sin. Romans 6:23 tells us everything we need to know: For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. I don’t have to tell you these things because even if you’ve never read the bible and have no idea that Romans is a book in it. Even if right now your going “Oh yeah! I know all about Romans, I watched Spartacus on HBO.” It doesn’t matter because Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or atheist we all know when we don’t hit the mark. Are you following me here. No matter how much you believe or don’t in sin we all have a moral and ethical compass that points us in the right direction. I’m also not going to stand here and insult your intelligence and define what is and what isn’t sin. I don’t think it’s up to me and I won’t pretend that I am capable to make judgement on another person, because I too have missed the mark. As Paul said to the Romans in chapter 3 verse 23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”  and I am no exception and if you are then this message is for you, because this message is about those who have no sin and those who are perfect and those who don’t need Jesus. Luke tells us in the next chapter that the disciples were complaining because He was not establishing his ministry with good people but rather tax collectors and prostitutes. In verse 32 Jesus tells them  “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” You see the Word, It’s not for everyone.

Now do not take that to mean that the Lord does not welcome all to His table, He does and as I have noted He seems to be particularly fond of us sinners praise God. It’s not so much that, It’s not for everyone as not everyone is for it. I know it make my brain hurt too. Which is why Jesus spoke mostly in parables. However, on this occasion He was very clear. “Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” O course He was reading from the book of Moses and Isaiah’s prophecies for the children of Israel.  And Jesus said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Jesus has just declared that He is the long-awaited Messiah and people are not too happy about this. It’s not even something that I can give a proper analogy for. You see in that time and place there would have been no one who did not know exactly what Jesus was referring to. Think of how David and Goliath have become the example of the right over might or the little guy triumphing over huge adversity. This scripture would have been immediately recognizable as a messianic proclamation. Here I am, The Messiah. Relax I got this. See “all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” They were amazed and you think wow how wonderful, but I read something a little more different in this verse (isn’t it wonderful how the gospels are so alike yet different) Because none of the four relate this episode the same. And, I don’t read it as they showed great wonder, but rather surprise. In other words, they were being just a little patronizing. Kind of like when your five year old comes back with some off the wall statement and then you suddenly realize that it wasn’t, that it was in fact beyond their capabilities and you want to immediately know where did you get that from, whose authority are you borrowing, because it cannot have come from a five year old. And it didn’t, in this case it came from God and “He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’ ” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. And how can He be, they were not being deliberately patronizing or nasty, remember this is Jesus’ home town and he had lived there for years, both as a child and an adult with an occupation.

Which is part of the problem, we all have with our children, it’s always hardest to see the man or women a person becomes, because you can never forget the child that they were. But the truth is our children often surpass us. So, when Jesus came back to His hometown as a famous Rabbi with disciple, that was great and everyone wanted to hear how a carpenter with no formal training could possibly be the great healer and teacher that all Judea was talking about. They just could not conceive of it, and no matter what He said, or did they would be skeptical. Much like people are today when you witness  to them. Even when they see a miracle, they rationalize it away or simple don’t believe. And that’s ok. The way isn’t for everyone. And not everyone is called as Elijah proved in 1st and 2nd Kings when He was the sole priest of Yahweh and he defeated the entire priesthood of Baal. He is right up there with Moses as one of the most revered prophets of Israel and Jesus uses Elijah and his protégé Elisha’s struggles with Jezebel and a newly reborn Israel as an example of why His words are not always for everyone. Jesus points out that “the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” Salvation is not for everyone. Matthew 22:14 Jesus tells us point blank  “For many are called, but few are chosen.” This life isn’t for everyone and there’s no shame in it. There is no need to be angry or like the Galileans were. When they heard this, all in the “synagogue were filled with rage. You see we are a fast food society and for the most part the things that really anger us are petty. Like, someone taking our parking space or any of a dozen things that really aren’t any great inconvenience. We save our hatred for people who are mean to puppy’s and politics, really important things like that. This is not the case in Jesus time, there was nothing more important to these people than God and they were more than willing to kill someone whom they believed was mocking them or irreverent to Yahweh; and they got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. This is how mad they were at Him, this is how seriously they believe in God and they still do too this day.

If you have an opportunity to go to the middle east, please remember that it has been continually occupied by people for millennium for thousands of years, not just a few hundred years and this is an old argument for them. Still, Jesus was one of them and loved by them and I am sure that He too loved them just as much, even though they were perfectly willing to sacrifice him, still He is not for everyone and “he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.” Has He passed through your life? Is he just one of the guys in the neighborhood? Here today and gone tomorrow. Is Jesus the most important thing in your life? Because this life is not for everyone. Jesus is “The Spirit of the Lord and he has been anointed and He brought the good news to the poor. He has proclaimed release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, He has let the oppressed go free, and proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor.” Still if you’re perfect and have no sin it’s OK. If you have no need of forgiveness and repentance is something only the guilty do, don’t worry, it’s not mandatory. Christianity isn’t for everyone and if we reject the Lord, He will simple pass through our midst and go on His way and we will never realize how close salvation was. It’s ok. It’s not for everyone.

One Please

Just one please. You ever get the feeling that you and the rest of the world just aren’t in sync. And not just the rest of the world but even at home, at church, everybody has a different opinion, everybody has an agenda, everybody seems to be going in a different direction and it’s not the direction you want to go. There is no consensus. I mean look at our own denomination within the next month we’re basically going to vote to split the denomination in half. Personally, I don’t think god’s will let that happen but that is my opinion and I do not know the mind of God. But I do know what God said through His servant Paul. He said, for just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. One spirit, the Holy Spirit. One body, no matter who we are, we are one body collectively. I know that we are indeed individuals. In fact, each of us has certain gifts and abilities that others don’t. We often don’t feel that we are appreciated for what we do or give to the body of Christ. We may feel left out, rejected, or maybe we feel underappreciated or that we’re being taken advantage of.

Perhaps it’s the other way around maybe we feel that we’re the only ones who know the true direction of the church and perhaps we’re frustrated that no one else can see what we see. Regardless of which portion of the body you see yourself in, please remember that it’s God that is in control of the body of Christ and not us. There are many parts to the human body, and we share many similar traits as a Christian body to a real body. While our strength in unity is undeniable it is our unity in diversity that is truly remarkable. Just like the real body the Christian body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  As He chose. That’s the key. He chose He designed, and we are designed to be who and what we are. And none of us are insignificant, none of us are worthless, and certainly there are none of us that have the right or the ability, to determine who should or should not be called a member of the body of Christ. That is solely up to the creator. I am going to assume that everyone here is not familiar with genetics, even though we have several people here whom I know are more than a little familiar with genetics. Still I’m going to err on the side of caution and give a simple explanation. Simply put genetics is the study of heredity, or how the characteristics of living things are transmitted from one generation to the next. Every living thing contains the genetic material that makes up DNA molecules. This material is passed on when we reproduce. So, the basic unit of heredity is the gene and all the gene’s together make up our Walmart. No wait they make up our DNA and every cell in your body has the DNA blueprint to reproduce you completely and identically, down to the last hair on your head. In fact, I just read a story that says scientists can use stem cells (which are essentially blank cells that act like sticky note) and you can write whatever you want on them and stick it onto a bad spot in the blueprint and correct it, any part of the blueprint, it doesn’t matter. Stem cells can be programmed to be any type of cell.

Well scientists are programming them to regrow new teeth. Adult teeth. Pop in some stem cells and poof you have a brand-new smile, no more dentures. Amazing right! And they still think we are descended from apes and God doesn’t exist. I didn’t need to see the awesome complexity of life through genetics or stem cells, to know that God exists, I already had that faith, but I don’t see how a scientist, particularly a geneticists can look at the perfection that is life and not believe in the Creator. It just boggles the mind. But I digress. All of this is to make a very simple point. Each of us as a member of the body of Christ carry the DNA so to speak that allows anyone of us or just one of us to recreate the church universal. And whether we know genetics or not, we are aware of this fact within ourselves, even if we have never given it a thought it’s always there. We sometimes say things like God is everywhere, so the church is everywhere. Or my personal favorite, I don’t need the church because I am the church, so everywhere I go so does the church. And there is truth in these statements, but they are also misleading because it was Jesus who embodied the Church not us alone. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Folks we can’t do this alone. It takes all of us to be the body of Christ. Let be specific, we need the poor, the rich, married, the singles. We need the broken and the whole. We need the Democrat and the Republican, the entrepreneur, and the blue-collar worker. The sinner and the saved. We cannot exist in a vacuum or as an island within the church. We can no longer afford to deny the existence of others within the body of Christ simply because we don’t agree with them. We must except each other for who we are and deal with it.

Because each of us is precious to God. Not just the hands or just the feet, but the whole body of Christ is precious to the Lord. And because we are precious to the Lord, he has given us great gifts with the expectation that we will use them for the betterment of the Kingdom rather than ourselves. As members of the body of Christ we are expected to love our neighbors as much as we love God. We are expected to follow His will faithfully and joyously. We are gifted with the power and majesty of Christ through our baptism and acceptance into the Kingdom of Christ.  So that now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Theanswer is no, and it’s always been no and no matter how great we think we are. No matter how wise, or pious, how strong, or intelligent we think we are. We can never be more than God, but strive for the greater gifts… He tells us, put forth the effort and show the world what we can do together as the body of Christ and not individually as parts of the body but together as a whole, and I will show you a still more excellent way. Amen!


Need…I know you’re probably going pastor did you forget your meds today? But stay with me. I know that no where in that passage is there even the word need. Not in English, Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic is the word need in this passage. Yet it’s every word a whisper of necessity, every sentence a conversation about the essentials and the whole passage an impassioned cry for the needs of the world. On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” (NRSV John 2:1-3) The needs of the world seem a bit extravagant when it’s obvious all they really need is some more wine. I know it’s hard to see the needs of the entire world in a beer run. Excuse me wine run. But I see more than just a need for something to drink. The first thing that comes to my mind is the wedding, a joyous time for all. It’s a party. I know we’re Christians and…we never party. Right? Why not? As a child of God, do we not have a right to be happy? You know I’m taking a class in personal relationships this semester and happiness is not only something that everyone desires. In fact, it is not just a desire but a requirement for a long and healthy life. So why does your average Christian go around like he’s attending a funeral when he’s pronouncing the word of God. People don’t like to go to funerals, they do like to go to weddings. The great theologian “Charles Spurgeon once wrote to his students: “Sepulchral tones may fit a man to be an undertaker, but Lazarus is not called out of his grave by hollow moans. … I commend cheerfulness to all who would win souls.”. Happiness is needed in our lives and not just at weddings because they aren’t very common and even then, as today weddings were very expensive.

So, I see a lot of needs here, I see a need for good weather, for food, for health, and of course wealth to pay for all of the food and the wine. I see a need for family and friends to help celebrate. I see a lot more need than just some wine. We all need more than what is apparent on the surface, we need more than others realize and it often feels that God is not giving us what we need. And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” (NRSV John 2:4) This may seem a little callous even disrespectful. However, woman is a common way to address someone at this time in this context and it’s correct, much like we would address someone as lady or madame. You see even Mary had a need. The need that every mother has. The desire to see her child fulfill their destiny. Do not do like some and put Mary on a pedestal of holiness. She was first and foremost a woman and a mother. She had needs and desires the same as you and I. The need for the love and respect, for the understanding of her child and the community. Everything that you want and need that is important to you spiritually and physically on a personal level would have been just as important to Mary. Maybe Jesus senses this or perhaps like any good son when your mother tells you it’s time to go to work you get up and you go to work. Whatever the reason Mary didn’t take no for an answer. Instead she “said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So, they took it.” (NRSV John 2:5-8) Tell me did you think that Jesus had no needs. The difference is that Jesus has different needs than we do, that makes sense after all he is the living God, the Messiah come to earth to save us from ourselves. Jesus is asking us for our obedience and our faith just as he asked the servants and the steward. When I say Jesus has different needs, I don’t mean for you to take that to mean obedience and faith are a requirement for Jesus to operate in our lives, it’s not. If we have no faith or even if we fail to obey Him. Our sins are paid. We are forgiven. But Jesus does not need our authority to operate in our lives. Indeed, His needs are not our needs and yet our needs are his. Doesn’t make much sense does its Jesus does not need us. God does not need us. Still He desires us and came to us as one of us with those same needs and wants, to experience our need because Jesus said “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. (NRSV John 6:44)

God desires us, we are drawn to Jesus, and we need Jesus. And we have to be drawn by the father to be saved by the Son. Fortunately, he desires a relationship with us, and it is our needs that draw us closer to him. Because we have found that we cannot satisfy our own needs. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” (NRSV John 2:9-11) Everybody has a need. The steward needed to prevent his boss from becoming a disgrace. You see in those times parties would go on for days which is one reason they cost so much. But in the beginning when everybody’s sober they would bring out the good wine so that you could praise the host and tell him how wonderful he is and how generous he is with his wealth for buying such good wine to commemorate the occasion. Now the more you drink and the longer that you drink the more taste buds you kill and by the second day I would think that no one would have known the difference between a fine wine and mad dog 20/20. So, it was the custom in those days to do exactly that towards the end of the feast you were not bringing out those expensive bottles of wine you were bringing out wine coolers. And this was acceptable it was expected. What was not acceptable was to run out of wine completely. The host would have been shamed and lost face and probably position in the community. It was the job of the steward to make sure that that did not happen. So, when the wedding party ran out of wine it was a serious thing indeed and while I may have made a little bit of a joke about making a beer run it was far more serious than that. I won’t say that people’s lives would have been ruined but certainly their reputation and standing in the community would have been damaged which would have translated into even greater problems and possibly financial loss down the line so you see it was not just the guests that needed Jesus it was everyone at the wedding feast. Even his disciples had a need. Their need was to have faith in Jesus. Which is why “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” (NRSV John 2:12) So now you see why I see the need of the world in a wedding party that does not have the word need in it. Because everything at that party everyone at that party needed Jesus to fulfill their purpose. And we are no different.

Our lives are no different than that wedding party and no matter where you wanna be in that wedding party as a guest, the steward, the host, the servants, or the disciples none could serve their purpose until unknown to most of them Jesus had transformed the water to wine and their entire lives at the same time. At that very instant in time nothing would ever be the same as Jesus transformed the wine, he would soon transform the world. So, as you leave here today ask yourself what is it that you need from Jesus and are you sure that he has not already provided it for you. Be patient you won’t always see the miracle. You may never know how close you come to disaster and it may seem that your needs are being neglected. But remember when we receive our inheritance it won’t be just a cup of wine it’ll be a 30-gallon jar filled to the brim and we won’t have any more needs, because all we really need, is Jesus. Amen!


Accepted…the common definition for accepted is as follows “generally believed or recognized to be valid or correct.” “Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.” (NRSV Acts 8:14) Accepted… “generally believed or recognized to be valid or correct.” You know I don’t believe that we actually know what accepted means in this day and age since we use it so much for so many things. You can’t turn your computer on or download a program or watch a movie without clicking on an agreement. And this agreement is usually so long and so complicated that no one reads them, but we still click yes, I understand or yes, I agree. Never really knowing what it is we are agreeing to, but we still agree to it. Why is that? And we all do it, it has become the norm. I mean we don’t even look at it anymore. It used to be that we actually read the first paragraph and then we would go…this is a complete waste of time…then we skipped to the end and signed it. Now we just go straight to the end and say I accept…sign me up. But that’s a dangerous practice. Accept is a dangerous word and we need to be aware of that. So, let’s take a closer look at the word accept. Accept is a verb, an action word and although it has multiple meanings it has a single form. Now the definitions for accept are many and we are going to look at all of them and put them into the context with your life and Gods word. The first of these is the “Consent to receive (a thing offered).” To accept…To receive, agree to receive, welcome, take, take receipt of, get, gain, obtain, acquire, or come by. “The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus).” (NRSV Acts 8:15-16) Have you accepted Christ? Have you accepted the word of God? For the Lord offered his son to us.

That if we agreed to receive Him to welcome Him, to follow Him, to accept Him, we would have eternal life. Another definition for accept is too “Give an affirmative answer to (an offer or proposal);” say yes to. Take on, take up, undertake, tackle, take on oneself, shoulder, bear, assume, manage, take responsibility for, be responsible for, engage in, become involved in, take part in, participate in, devote oneself to, concentrate on, address oneself to, go about, set about, approach, handle, get down to, deal with, and get to grips with. Wow! That is a lot. Give an affirmative answer. All of those words just say yes. Yes, is easier to say and more to the point but it doesn’t have as much meaning as the word accept. Yes, doesn’t bear the same meaning it doesn’t have the same responsibility, it doesn’t engage us, it doesn’t involve us. Yes, does not allow us to devote ourselves to or concentrate on the word of God. Yes, is too easy to say. It’s too easy to forget that you said yes. But it’s not the same when you say Lord, I accept you, I accept the gifts that you have for me. I accept the trials and the tribulation that will make me stronger so that your gifts will not overwhelm me. I accept the limitation that you place before me. The pace that you set for me from Lord because I know that you have plans for me and that only good can come from them. And then there’s one of my favorite definitions which is to “Say yes to a proposal of marriage. And I don’t want you to have any doubt in your mind, when you accept the Lord, you are excepting a proposal of marriage. It is the union of the Holy Spirit to us as our eternal counselor, confidante, friend, protector, and light in the dark. Once you receive the Lord you’re bound for eternity. Never to be abandoned or forgotten but “Regarded favorably or with approval;” we are to be welcome, greeted, let in, received, received favorably, embraced, offered friendship to, and adopted. When we accept Christ and we start to follow where God leads, we are regarded favorably with approval by God. Did Jesus have to accept being baptized? What did John say, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” In other words, to do as God instructed. Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (NIV Matthew 3:13-17) Just as Jesus followed where God lead so it should be with us. We should desire nothing more than to please the Lord. “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (NLT Ephesians 1:5) It is our purpose in life, to give pleasure to God. We were designed for that sole purpose and part of that design is also a definition of what it means to accept “(of a thing) be designed to allow (something) to be inserted or applied.” “Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (NRSV Acts 8:17) We were made to receive the Holy Spirit to be in union with Christ and through that union to abide in the presence of the Lord. Because we have accepted the Word of God, we accept “believe or come to recognize (an opinion, explanation, etc.) as valid or correct.” Believe, trust, give credence to, credit, give credit to, put confidence in, be convinced of, have faith in, count on, rely on, depend on; Jesus as our Lord and savior. And through all of these definitions of the word accept and what it is that we agree to and what we expect of God we skip over the fine print and go straight to the end without ever really knowing what it is that he did for us. There are two more definitions of the word except. These are the ones that we should know the best, the ones that are so self-evident, but they don’t really need a definition but still we forget that’s the original meaning of accept is to “Take upon oneself (a responsibility or liability); acknowledge.” “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (NIV 1 Peter 2:24) Christ alone excepted our sin the sins that we are so could not bear. He took them upon himself and died for us. Which brings us to the final definition of accept which is to “Tolerate or submit to (something unpleasant or undesired).” To endure, put up with, suffer, bear, take, stand, support, submit to, stomach, undergo, swallow. The only person ever to be born without sin, eternal. Still Christ submitted himself, humbled himself and came to us not as an eternal God but rather as one of us with the same hopes and dreams, the same love and compassion that we all share. He came and tolerated our sins and allowed us to nail him to a cross, to suffer and die in agony that we may live joyously free from pain for eternity. Praise his name above all the heavenly host. Praise his name in the highest. Give thanks that he loves us and protects us as His children. Amen!

The Gift

Today is the end of Christmastide and the beginning of Epiphany. The twelve days of Christmas are over and now we enter the season of Epiphany. This is the day that we celebrate the visit of the Magi bringing gifts of Frankincense, Myrrh, and Gold to the baby Jesus. Where the mystery of Christ is first revealed to the gentiles. We celebrate the coming of Jesus as our Lord and savior and give thanks that He came to save all of humanity, Jew, and Gentile alike. Like the Christmas season the season of Epiphany is longer than just a single day. As a matter of fact, because we are Methodists, we celebrate Epiphanytide until the beginning of lent which is approximately nine weeks and in the coming weeks we will celebrate the baptism of the Lord all the way through to the transfiguration on the mount where the glory of heaven is revealed on earth and the divinity of Christ as the Son of God is made plain by the Father. and behold, a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” But generally speaking this day is given over to the magi and how they represent the gentiles. But I want you to think about exactly who the magi are you have three guys from different cultures, travelling across many different lands also with different cultures, to worship “ The King of the Jews” and bring gifts to a baby they have never seen, in a land they had never been to, because of a vision they had while following a star in the sky. That is Faith. That is God’s plan working in fine detail. Amen.  

You see I think that the wise men had it wrong. They were bringing gifts, to honor Jesus but the Lord came as a servant to the world. God sent Jesus to the world as a gift, The Gift. As a matter of fact, the greatest gift that God could give the world was the gift of his only begotten son. And I say it’s a gift because Jesus not only came as a gift from God, but he brought us a gift. Jesus brought us the gift of the word, the good news, the Son taught us the wisdom of the father through the scriptures. And the gift of the Word is its own gift for it brings Salvation and redemption. The Word brings the cleansing flood and the forgiveness that only the peace of God’s grace can provide. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This one was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and apart from him not one thing came into being that has come into being. In him was life, and the life was the light of humanity. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. The true light, who gives light to every person, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, and the world did not recognize him. He came to his own things, and his own people did not receive him. But as many as received him—to those who believe in his name—he gave to them authority to become children of God, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a husband, but of God. And the Word became flesh and took up residence among us, and we saw his glory, glory as of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth. For from his fullness we have all received, and grace after grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the one and only, God, the one who is in the bosom of the Father—that one has made him known. Jesus is a gift to the world, to us, He is not set aside, just to be the Messiah for the people of Israel, but for all the people of the world and that is the true mystery of Christ. It is for that reason Paul suffers gladly as a prisoner for Jesus, for us. And I say for us because without Paul the gospel would never have been made known to the gentiles. The savior of the world would have been withheld from all but the Jewish people. Paul goes on to say how In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. The gift of the word of the gospel is given to us by Jesus and assures us that we to have a share in the promise of Christ. That even though we are not god’s chosen people, we are people chosen by God to share in the gifts and inheritance as his children. This same gift of god’s grace that is given to all of us, the power of god’s grace is his gift to us. And like Paul although he was the very least of all the saints it was that grace that gift from God, that gave him the strength to bring to us the news of the boundless riches of Christ. It is Paul that made everyone see the mystery that was hidden for ages in God who created all things; yet it is through the church that the wisdom of God in its rich variety is made known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places. There is truly no mystery about the gift that is Jesus, there is no mystery about the gift that is the word. The mystery is that God loves us enough to send his only son to die for us, the true mystery is why we reject that love and grace that is extended to us even as we are adding to His burden, and still, He loves us and wants us and forgives us. That is the real Mystery. This is in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory. And it is Christs gift to Paul, to us as well. As you leave today, I would like you to ask yourself one question. What will you do, with your gift?

Where Are You

Merry Christmas. Today is the sixth day of Christmastide and I pray that everyone had an awesome Christmas. Today’s sermon is titled Where are You and you may find it’s not exactly what you think it is. That is the point right. This particular scripture is almost always boiled down to verse 49. He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Clear cut to the point. I believe this is the first place in the Bible where Jesus actually refers to his divinity and that is why it is so popular. But I ask you to consider this from a different perspective. I’m gonna touch on the various topics within this passage but I want you keep just one thing in mind. I want to know where you are in this passage. Let me unpack that little bit first. Where do you see yourself in this passage? You have several different places you can be and several different people whose eyes you can see through. It says that every year Jesus’s parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. You can think of it from a parents point of view, the family vacation and how good it is to get out and away from Nazareth or you can think of the excitement from Jesus’s point of view as a young man he’s 12 years old which means that he is now considered a “Son of the Law” which meant that he was now under obligation to observe the ordinances and laws as an adult would observe them. Jesus would be expected to observe all 613 Rabbinic laws. It would be the precursor to his coming of age at 13. So, not exactly the same boring family vacation, it now had greater meaning and would have been a very exciting trip because Lord of the universe or not he’s still a 12-year-old boy. Or, maybe you see yourself somewhere in the middle of the story. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. Maybe you see yourself later after they leave and you’re tired and you’re wanting to go home and sleep in your own bed and it’s a long way home and when you get there you have to go back to the daily grind. You start thinking about all the things that you gotta do and places you gotta go and what you forgot to do, did I pay the gas bill, did I water the plants before I left? We’ve all been there. Now maybe you’re thinking what terrible parents Mary and Joseph were because they didn’t know that Jesus was missing but at that time it would have been normal for most of if not the entire village to travel together to Jerusalem for the Passover festival.

Partly because there is safety in number but also because it is a festival and everyone would have known each other, many would be related, and it was a time to have fun. Think about our community and the harvest festival only bigger. Your talking a huge caravan of people. However, they didn’t travel all mixed up or in small little groups instead the women typically went ahead first, and the men followed behind with children intermixed between the two groups. Now, anyone who’s had kids has had that moment when you look at each other and say, “I thought he was with you.” When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. Perhaps you can relate to the frightened parents who are anxious because they cannot find their child. The weary trip back to Jerusalem to search for the missing child dealing with the fear and anxiety, the anger. Getting angrier and angrier that not everything is going according to plan. The fear growing and feeding the anger, how many of us have been there? That crazy mixed up feeling that’s impossible to explain, it has to be experienced, the joy and the relief of finding your child alive and well and obviously unconcerned about your absence and having a great time. That overwhelming desire to strangle them and hug them at the same time, to never let them go again. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them, and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. Maybe you see yourself searching, always searching but never finding what you’re looking for and then amazed when you do find it. Jesus parents didn’t go straight to the temple because obviously they didn’t expect to find Jesus at the temple. Instead they expected him to be wandering around the streets.

What’s up with that, both Mary and Joseph know that Jesus is the Messiah and still they are amazed to find him in the temple and apparently the last place they looked. I think we all know how that goes.  Are you looking for Jesus where you expect Him to be or where He is? Now, any parent in the world would be extremely upset at this point. I know I would be I am certain that there’s not a person in this room that would not have said basically the same thing that Mary did only I’m sure we would have used a little bit stronger language than great anxiety (perhaps that’s bible code for just wait until we get home) I don’t know. I know I would have gotten more than a time out, that for sure. When his parents saw him, they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.”

Maybe you’re at the point your fear and anxieties has turned to anger, perhaps not everything is going according to plan in your life and you find yourself, mad at God. Maybe you’re no longer searching for God. Maybe the answer you got wasn’t the one you expected when your anger is turned into confusion because it’s no longer about where you are. Because it’s never been about where we are. We’re not talking about where we are any longer. We’re asking God, Where are You? And, you will find that the answer is the same for you as it is for Mary and Joseph. He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Often, I think that this is where we all are. But they did not understand what he said. Although Jesus has told us, God has told us so many times in so many places. In Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. He seeks us if we will only seek Him in return, you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul. Deuteronomy 4:29 I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 27:8. Where are you? Do you have that wonder and excitement like a 12-year-old who’s no longer looking at the world as a child does but with the excitement and enthusiasm of a new adventure with new responsibilities. Are you afraid that maybe you missed the moment, anxious that your just not where you expected to be or maybe you just wanna relax it’s been a long day and being a Christian is not easy. Living for God instead of for yourself, it’s hard and important things often get left behind. Maybe you’re searching for that something that got left behind and you keep looking in all the wrong places and your anger and fear is preventing you from seeing the obvious from seeing where you are. Maybe, it’s never been about where you are or what you’re looking for. The Bible tells us to seek the Lord with our hearts and souls, not our eyes. We don’t have to look for God because He is always here, always with us. We don’t have to ask Where are You? All we have to do is open our hearts and He will find us.  For thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. AMEN!

Glory To God

They say death and taxes are the only certainties in this life and if you’re a Christian it’s just taxes. In those days, a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. Of course, this was done at the dictates of the emperor not because he wanted to know or actually cared about how many people he governed, the census was taken to determine how much taxes each regional governor owed the emperor. Now each regional governor refused to pay any more taxes than he had to and certainly would not pay taxes for people that did not live or work in his region. The easiest way to do this was tell everybody to go back to their birthplace so they could be counted. Because Mary was now married to Joseph, she was now a member of his family. This is how Mary and Joseph found themselves back in a Bethlehem with no place to stay. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. So, our savior is born not in the house of his father but in the stable of an inn. there are no great declarations, no parades just His family and a stable full of animals to greet the birth of our savior. So, the Angels went to the surrounding area and spoke to the shepherds not to the King or his counselor but to the average person and proclaimed the good news. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” For peace is exactly what Christ brings us. He is is the word made flesh, He is the love of God for his people come to earth to die for us and our sins. We are the people who walked in darkness and we have seen a great light; when we read Isaiah, it is us that he speaks of and it is now in this time. We are those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. We have been called to Christ to be one of his chosen a child of God reborn to serve the Lord. We celebrate this day the coming of our savior.

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. And his authority shall extend to us as well, we are gifted with the indwelling spirit of Christ and it is our great joy to declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods. As you are going home today to be with your family to celebrate the birth of Christ tomorrow do not forget that he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth. Like I said the Lord is coming and it’s not what if he comes and it’s not what if I’m found wanting, because God is not about what ifs. God is not about possibilities, God is about certainty. The Bible says that all things are possible through God says it boldly and with certainty not with timidity not with what if. The bible doesn’t say what if the Lord comes it says he is coming it didn’t say what if he judges the world it says he will judge the world. So, go out today and declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one look down on you. You are children of God you will receive your inheritance as his children and part of that inheritance you have already received as the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit that you have received your authority to declare the Kingdom of God and to let the world know the good news. It is now our responsibility to make the way straight for the coming of Christ. So, I tell you this day go forth boldly declare your authority to the world declare the coming of Christ and let no one and nothing stand between you and the Lord. Amen.

Holy Is His Name

Today is the fourth Sunday of advent and this day we celebrate the coming of peace. The coming of our Lord and Savior. His name and His name alone will bring peace to the world. For His name is Holy. We know all these things because Mary was told by and Angel and “the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” And so, He was and is and is to come. This is the end of everything we put our faith and hope in. The peace of God and everlasting life to enjoy it in. But none of this would be possible without a very impossible circumstance. The story of Mary is one of great faith and absolute trust. Consider her circumstances, think a minute about the time that Mary lived in. Women especially young women who were unmarried or newly married had virtually no position in the community. They were entirely dependent upon their husbands or fathers and a young woman who found herself pregnant on her wedding night might be stoned in the morning by morally outraged townsfolk. While it was not common it was also not unheard of. Still, Mary accepted the word of God. The Angel said “For nothing will be impossible with God” because while Mary had total faith in God, she wasn’t blindly babbling either. Think about it when she asked the angel “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

Mary wasn’t denying the power of God instead she was questioning the intelligence of the Angel. Hello… Virgin…can’t get pregnant without some help, everyone knows this, especially young ladies and you would think Angels. Still Mary was right and after being told that it was God’s will, she had no more doubts, “then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Mary is at Peace. Not only is she at peace but she is so excited she can’t wait to go and tell her cousin Elizabeth. So, she takes off it says in haste she didn’t even pack a lunch or tell anybody anything she just took off, talk about fearless. That lack of fear, you can’t know that kind of peace without knowing the Lord and being fully committed to Him. By this I mean you’ll never know that kind of peace that fearlessness unless you abide entirely within the love of God. Until you have surrendered completely to the Lord, you’re always gonna have that little bit of a doubt in the back of your mind that what if moment, will it be OK, what if I lose my job, what if I fail that test. Maybe I should just hold back that little extra just in case the Lord doesn’t come through. Mary never doubted. And without that peace and joy that Christ brings to us we can second guess ourselves out of a relationship with God. We can second guess ourselves out of the peace that Jesus promised to us. That is why God sent Jesus to us in the first place so that we would have someone physical to place our trust in, someone we could relate to. Someone who could empathize with us but still be above us, a high priest that is truly Holy but accessible. The only way that that could be accomplished was for Jesus to be born as you and I. What qualities do you think that Mary had that the Lord should favor Mary above all others? What made Mary so special? I think and this is entirely my opinion it is not the gospel or rather it’s the gospel of Gene. But I think its Mary’s total faith and absolute trust in God that elevates her above all others. The Angel told Mary nothing is impossible for God. Jesus told us “all things are possible to him who believes.” James tells us we must ask in faith without any doubting for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. “And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” The blessings of the Lord always come from our own faith and that faith can be passed on to others. Just as Mary is blessed by God for her faith and that blessing is then extended to her cousin Elizabeth who will give birth to John the Baptist.

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spiritand exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” If you recall Zechariah was told by the Angel Gabriel that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit before he was ever born. “For nothing will be impossible with God.” The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and then passed to John the Baptist, only to return back to Jesus when he is baptized by John at the river Jordan. We too are to inherit a portion of the spirit as promised by Jesus and fulfilled on Pentecost. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” That is the reason for the season. It is to remind us that only through great faith and trust in Jesus can we hope for the blessings of eternal life. And make no mistake we are blessed, even if we don’t appreciate it or understand it for that matter. This is the time to leap for joy that our Messiah was born and will return, that we will receive the blessings promised us in faith as Mary was blessed because she “believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” Can we do no less? I want to leave you with this song of praise. Mary’s Song of Praise. In fact, I would like it very much if you would repeat it with me as our final prayer to Jesus. The praise of a mother for her son and Her God.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.

Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

The Good News

This is the third Sunday of advent and traditionally this Sunday represents the joy of the coming of Christ. It is called “Gaudete Sunday” which means rejoice in Latin as we light the rose candle, we recite the” Song of Joy” and we rejoice and exult with all our heart that the Lord has taken away the judgement that was laid up against us. He will rejoice over us with gladness and He will renew His love of us. No longer will we fear disaster. Worry will have no power over our minds. He will change shame into praise and renown, among all the peoples of the earth as he restores the fortunes of His children that is Good News, but not the Good News. We celebrate Joy in today’s Psalm as we drink from the only water that will quench our thirst for it is the scripture and it is drawn from the wells of salvation for God is our salvation and we give thanks to the Lord as we call on His name and exalt it to the nations. It is joy that we proclaim this day. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. I remind you of the joy of this day because John starts off with a warning and when someone gives you a warning especially this one you have a tendency to forget the real meaning behind the word so don’t let John’s words temper the joy of this day rather give thought to them and ask yourself have I done all that I can as a servant of the Lord. Listen. John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. What we need here is some context. We must remember where John was preaching.

This is not like in the movie in the middle of nowhere with a crowd of people next door to a river and he’s dunking them in the water singing hallelujah brother. This was not some tent revival. John’s ministry was on the I-40 of his day and remember also that travel was normally dusty and dirty and Jewish law required ritual washing. So, there would have been Pharisee and Sadducee as well as everyday rich and poor traveling to Jerusalem and it would have seemed like a good idea to stop and get some “insurance” just to be safe. John’s telling them don’t just come over here and get your fire insurance that won’t work if you don’t truly repent God will know that you’re wasting his time so be careful be watchful of your motives. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” it was a very common assumption during this time that because they were children of Abraham and God had made a covenant with them that they were favored so no matter what they did God loved them so much that God would forgive them and save them no matter how evil they acted. Sort of like the doctrine of once saved always saved that states that no matter what you do once you’ve been saved you can never lose your salvation. That just isn’t so. If at some point you’d like me to preach on the differences and similarities of Calvinism and Wesleyan theology and exactly what it is, we believe I’ll be happy to but not today. To get back to the context though the average person of faith did believe that it was not only acceptable it was perfectly logical. John wasn’t average and if you remember he was to be filled with the Holy Spirit and ‘Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.’ even Jesus said that he was Elijah come again in the spirit. “Elias truly shall first come and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they liked. Likewise, shall also the Son of man suffer of them.” John was telling them just because they were descended of Abraham and part of the covenant did not mean that they would not be judged individually on their own merit and not to rely on family ties. It’s not Grandpa Abraham that’s gonna judge you it’s God and he’s not gonna judge you on what your grandparents did He’s gonna judge you on your merits.

Now they’re worried, and the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” John tells him don’t be selfish help one another, give to those less fortunate than you, help those that are in need. This is a common theme in the bible and Jesus preaches this is well. We are always told as Christians not only to turn the other cheek but to give selflessly of ourselves, to love our neighbors as ourselves. We wouldn’t permit ourselves to freeze to death or starve to death why do we let our fellow brothers and sisters suffer. Where is the Good News in that? All are welcome at the Lords table, Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” You see in those days they had what’s known as tax farmers and that is how the Roman Empire collected their taxes by bidding out the tax bill for a region to the highest bidder. Now this individual who won the bid agreed to pay the taxes for that region to the governor. It was a set amount and the way that they made their money was everything that they could collect over and above that amount was their profit and they had to pay for such things as transportation and wages for the tax collectors themselves you see the individuals who were rich enough to bid for these positions never went and actually collected the tax they left that up to what were called publicans (tax collectors). The apostle Matthew if you recall was a tax collector and as such he was one of those that his boss would tell him to go to the town of Bethany and collect 300 drachma and Matthew would go and like any good businessman he would size up the area, determine what each individual household and farm could afford to pay he would do a risk analysis and adjust the amounts owed accordingly and the way they got extra money was to increase the amount owed and the government didn’t care because they had already been paid. The more the publicans were hated the more that they would try to squeeze out of the locals. Where’s the Good News in that? And because they were hated so much, they were forced to hire soldiers to protect themselves from the crowds which increased taxes further. These soldiers were not Roman soldiers who would not have cared less about the tax collectors or John instead they were likely Jewish temple guards and just as devout as their master’s and so the soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation and be satisfied with your wages.” John tells them they have an honorable job they are paid good wages don’t be greedy be honest and do your job with integrity.

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. In those days only a slave, someone whom is not possible to degrade would remove your shoes and wash your feet not even a rabbis followers who are expected to perform all of the menial work that was too good for the master, even they would not perform this duty because they were too good for it. Johns telling us that the one who is to come is so far above us that we are not even worthy to be his slaves and even though Jesus came to serve not to be served still He is the Master and He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” John is telling us the Lord is bringing fire with him he brought fire the first time the fire of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and it is that fire that burns the chaff away from us, for a Christian the fire is good thing (not the Good News but a good thing none the less) because it burns away the chaff and the dross for a Christian the fire tempers the steel within us. We are changed forever just as a simple clay pot won’t hold water, in fact turns back into mud, but firing that same pot transforms it into a substance that is waterproof and impervious to time. For those who are not in Christ the fire is a terrifying prospect because those who are not in Christ are the chaff and the dross. They are cast aside and forever lost, burned to nothing. Where’s the Good News in that? So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. You know I don’t think John is gonna proclaim the good news. At least not the good news that Christ proclaimed because for John the good news is the coming of Christ. Just as it is for us. So, repent for the kingdom of God is near. Amen!