Sermon: The Bread of Life Beyond All Things

August 05, 2018
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Ephesians 4:1-6; John 6:24-35

The Bread of Life Beyond All Things

The Daily Bread
Jesus Christ taught his disciples how to pray together; we call it “The Lord’s Prayer.” When I meditate on this prayer and visualize each line of it, I find that this prayer is so rich and clear for our faith’s journey in our earthly life.

Most of the petitions of the prayer are very spiritual sounding. They have to do with our trust in God. Even that political-sounding petition about “Thy kingdom come” is a prayer for our faith. God’s kingdom will come someday on its own for the sake of God’s final victory even though we don’t seriously seek it in our everyday life. Yet when we meditate on it, we may think about God’s kingdom and humbly submit ourselves to God’s reign.

But in this spiritual prayer, there is a mention about our physical reality: “Give us this day our daily bread.” What kind of bread are we supposed to ask in the Lord’s Prayer? Well, it can be simple bread we can bake at our home or buy at the bakery shop, or it can be anything we eat such as chicken soup, salad, rice, spaghetti, or stake, etc.

If I want to expand the concept of bread, it includes all the necessities that we need for our daily life. If I need to name the kinds of “bread,” it should be things such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, job (materials); garden, nature, neighbors, school, hospital, government (circumstances); upright spouse, good children, companionship (relationship); health, peace, vacation, safety (well-being), and the like. These kinds of bread would be far larger than we can imagine. The bread we eat or we look for is something to sustain our lives. Jesus realizes we need all those things and allows us to seek out them in our prayer. Based on Jesus’ teaching, I encourage you to go on your vacation and take rest there! What you are doing on the beach is to pray for the bread to refresh your body and mind!

But I still wonder how this physical bread has to do with God’s kingdom or God’s reign. Is it also something spiritual to deepen or strengthen our faith in God? It depends on which part you want to focus on when you seek out your daily bread? Are you willing to focus on bread itself or focus on who gives the bread?

The Bread of Life
Following last Sunday, today’s lectionary scripture from John 6 leads us to meditate on the theme, “the Bread of Life.” In today’s gospel lesson, we see Jesus dealing with the crowds who had continued to follow him; they followed Jesus because they saw his miraculous power to feed the multitudes in the desert. They challenged Jesus to show them more signs (v. 30), which means to give them more material blessings and satisfy their stomachs or desire. But when Jesus refused to show a miracle but only talked about something spiritual, they all turned away and never came back to him (v. 66).

What’s the problem with the crowds? They had seen and enjoyed all the spectacular miracles that Jesus had done for them, but they failed to see beyond those things. In other words, they were excited with all the bread Jesus provided for them but didn’t appreciate him as the source of life. I don’t want to criticize anyone in this hungry world who is looking for bread to eat. Nor do I want anyone in this hungry world to miss out on the Bread of Life. The church is available for all to experience the spiritual feast of Jesus.

In this story, Jesus was trying to lead people from the fragments of material bread to the Bread of Life, which is far better than anything else: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (v. 35). It includes everything in it and plus eternal life in God’s kingdom. Thus, the Bread of Life deserves to be our primary and ultimate concern.

Through this symbolic lesson, Jesus was trying to teach us to look beyond something temporal, put the first thing first, or build a deeper relationship with God if we want to be well enough for our daily life. Remember, Jesus says, “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and [God’s] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt. 6:33).

Facing the Giants
This Scripture talking about the Bread of Life reminds me of a Christian movie, “Facing the Giants.” It is based on the true story of Grant Taylor, a high school football head coach. This awesome movie made me laugh, cry, clap and cheer! But most of all, this movie was so inspirational, I was moved to seek out the Bread of Life.

In six years of coaching, Mr. Taylor had never led his team to win a game in every football season. Finally, his school government was considering demoting him to the status of ordinary coach. This wasn’t the only problem he was facing; his car was breaking down, the parents were trying to get him fired, and he discovered that he is the reason that his wife couldn’t become pregnant. Almost all things in his life had failed.

Devastated by his miserable situations, Mr. Taylor was now looking for solutions. He didn’t seek out any supplies or daily food but tried to build his own relationship with God, based on the Scripture, “God is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer in whom I take refuge” (Ps. 18:2). He then, along with his boys, he created a new coaching philosophy, that is, “if we win, we will praise the Lord; if we lose, we will praise the Lord.” From that point on, he experienced lots of changes in his life: all of his players respected him and followed his direction; their parents came to trust in him; and he even got a brand new car from an anonymous donor.

Yet, the real miracle happened in the football season. His team had never won even in the regional league, but they were now starting to win games. At the final match, his team made a dramatic reversal and won the game. It was the first State Championship that his high school won in their history. But this was not the end. His miracles continued; he and his wife had two children of their own.

We are like Grant Taylor facing the giants, facing all kinds of crisis in life. When we feel like we’ve hit the bottom of life, we don’t know where to start or how to rebuild our life again. This movie reminds us that our daily (temporary) bread can’t keep us from troubles, but the Bread of Life (our faithfulness in God) has the power to restore us, fill us up, and bless all of our life.

Labor for the Bread of Life
What kind of bread do we want to seek out? No matter what it is, there is nothing free. We have to pay for all the supplies and necessities we want to have. Likewise, the Bread of Life is not free. We have to “buy” it as we seek out God’s grace and power. (next Sunday, we will talk about what we can do to earn God’s grace).

If we really know that God is the true source of our life, then, let us labor for the Bread of Life which does not perish but endures to eternal life (v. 27), through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit now and f

Sermon: Jesus’ Temptations and Ours

Jesus’ Temptations and Ours
Matthew 4:1-11
RUMC 5 March 2017

Just before a very big military battle, three military chaplains–Protestant minister Reverend Robertson, Catholic Priest Father O’Toole and Jewish Rabbi Bernstein–sat together and solemnly discussed the possibility that one or more of them might be killed in the next battle. Father O’Toole said, “I feel like I need to unburden my soul and make a confession.  I must own up to a terrible impulse to drink.  O I fight it, I do; but the temptation haunts me constantly and sometimes I give in to it.”  Reverend Robertson chimed in, “I don’t have too much trouble with liquor, but I must own up to the terrible urges that I feel toward attractive women.  I do fight this temptation desperately.”  After that there was a pause.  Finally the priest and the reverend both turned to the Jewish chaplain and said, “And you rabbi, do you have any particular sin or temptation?”  And the Rabbi sighed and said, “I am afraid I have an irresistible impulse to gossip.”

A few years ago, Disciple Journal magazine asked its readers to list and rank in order the temptations that they struggle with. Here are the results in order:

  • Materialism
  • Pride
  • Self-Centeredness
  • Laziness
  • Anger
  • Bitterness
  • Sexual Lust
  • Envy
  • Gluttony
  • Lying.

I would say that all of us struggle with at least one of the temptations on that list. But what I have learned over the years is that the Lord understands my human nature.  If I do give in to temptation, He will forgive me and help me get back on track.

Today’s scripture is a familiar one; it took place when Jesus was tempted in the desert. My scripture text is Matthew 4:1-11.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, ‘and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ 7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him. 11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

This is one of those stories in the life of Jesus where there were no eyewitnesses; it must have been our Lord who told the story to Matthew of how He battled temptation in a showdown with the devil.

I would like to look at each of the three temptations for some common ground, similarities, or insights we can use as we battle our own temptations.

Temptation #1 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Here was the situation. Jesus had been in the desert and had not eaten in 40 days when the devil showed up.  He was weakened from hunger, and Lucifer tried to present a reasoned argument to get Jesus to submit to temptation.

Let me paraphrase his statement, “Jesus, you look like you are having a rough time and since you are the Son of God, why don’t you turn all of those stones into bread. You don’t have to suffer.”  Now on the surface, that didn’t sound too bad.

The temptation for Jesus would be using divine means for his own personal purpose. But for us, it is to take the easy way out.  That is by passing God’s natural order of things.  Instead of growing food, just change stones into bread.

Here is another thing: There is the tendency to get nourishment from the wrong places.  There are certain sins that will never satisfy and sometimes the best way to deal with temptation is to rule it out in advance.

According to Harry Truman’s biographer, David McCullough, President Truman was under incredible pressure, to preserve the peace while he attended the Potsdam Conference in Berlin, Germany. One evening, after a long day of difficult negotiations, President Truman prepared to leave to go to his lodgings.  A young US Army public relations officer stuck his head in the car window and asked for a ride.  Truman told him to get in and the two struck up a conversation which was overheard and later reported by Truman’s driver.  At the time, in Berlin, the black market was rampant and everything was available.  So the young Army officer told the President “If there was anything that he wanted, anything at all he needed, he had only to say the word.  Anything, you know, like women.”  Truman bristled and said, “Listen son, I married my sweetheart.  She doesn’t run around on me and I don’t run around her.  I want that understood.  Don’t ever mention that kind of stuff to me again.”

The temptation is this case is nourishment from wrong places. President Truman knew that and ruled it out.  In our struggles to do right, the Lord understands our human nature.  However if we avoid some triggering things or places, it will go a long way in our effort to overcome temptation.

Temptation #2 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

From the desert, the devil took Jesus up on the rooftop of the temple and suggested that he would prove God’s love if the angels caught him when he jumped off the roof. Now this temptation is like backing God into a corner and forcing him to act.  This temptation allows us to be irresponsible or unrealistic and at the same time, ask God to pick up the pieces from bad decisions.

For example, if we lived beyond our means and racked up credit card bills, should we expect God to bail us out financially? If we were to neglect or abuse our body, can we always expect God to perform a miracle.

When I worked as a hospital chaplain, we had a young soldier who got drunk and stupid at a party and fell out of a window. He broke several bones, suffered from serious internal injuries and brain damage.  His mom, who was deeply religious, somehow believed God was obligated to heal her son.  She placed him on all kinds of prayer chains all over the country, and she told me that God had to answer her prayers.  Her son did make some improvement, but not much.  Unfortunately, her son made some bad choices and there were tragic consequences.

Temptation #3 8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

The third temptation was that Jesus could have it all now, with no cross, pain, suffering or rejection if only he would worship the devil, which He quickly ruled out.

For us the temptation would be this: Do this and you will be happy.  Try this and you will have peace of mind.  Experience this and you will feel good about yourself.  Sometimes things on the surface look good, but in the end, they can be deadly.

Once there was a policeman who was sent to keep people away from downed power lines. The lines had fallen due to ice and snow build- up on the tree branches surrounding them.  While he stood there, the fallen power line cracked and popped with electricity and threw out sparks.  Those sparks reflected off the ice covered branches and sent out a rainbow of glimmering colors.  To the onlookers, it was a pretty sight, a good example of something that looks so beautiful, but is really deadly.  It is the same thing when we substitute the worship of God with something else; it can cause problems.

The worship of God is like buttoning a shirt or sweater. If we get the top button right, all the others will fall into place.  If we miss or get the buttoning sequence out of order, we will look odd.  It is the same thing for our spiritual life.  If we worship the Lord, things will go well.

Temptations don’t hit us when we are strong. They get us when we are stressed, feel weak, tired or spiritual low.  The good news is the Lord understands when we get tempted and fall.  He is not here to beat us up, but to help.

Let me close with the words of 1 John 1:9. If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness.

Sermon: Listening to the Voice

Listening to the Voice
Matthew 17:1-9
RUMC 26 February 2017

At the height of his fame, while on one of his world travels, Mark Twain met a shrewd and ruthless businessman from Boston. The proud businessman boasted that nobody ever got in his way.  Then he said to Mr. Twain, “Before I die, I plan on making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Once there, I am going to climb Mount Sinai.  And when I up there I am going to read the Ten Commandments aloud at the top of my voice!”  Unimpressed, Mr. Twain said, “I’ve got a better idea.  Stay in Boston and keep the commandments.”  Now Mr. Twain wasn’t exactly what we would call a devout believer, but he was on to something.

In our Christian journey we need more than religious belief; to back up our faith we need to obey the teachings of the Lord, to do the things the Lord would have us to do. This coincides with today’s scripture passage about the Transfiguration, when the voice of God said, “This is my Son the Beloved; with him I am well pleased. Listen to Him.”

Below is today’s reading from Matthew 17:1-9.
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
This is the Word of God.

The transfiguration was the most significant event between Christ’s birth and resurrection. It was a pivotal moment in history, a time when human nature met God.  It was a meeting of the temporal and the eternal with Jesus himself as the connecting point, acting as the bridge between heaven and earth.  And what the disciples saw had to be written down so that people of all ages could believe.

When traveling to Israel today, one of the places the tour busses stop is Mt. Tabor, the sight of the Transfiguration. From the top of this mountain, one can see the bluish, oval Sea of Galilee, the long windy Jordan River and the tiny villages that dot the landscape.  It is almost identical to the view that Jesus and his disciples had.

It was on that mountain where Jesus’ appearance changed. His face shone like the brightness of the sun, and his clothes radiated the brilliance of white light.  It was the Transfiguration; the moment, Jesus was in full union with God.  Two of Israel’s greatest historical figures, Moses and Elijah, joined Jesus on the mountain.  Their presence witnessed the promise of the future resurrection of the dead.  Yet there was more:  The voice of the Father, confirmed that Jesus was the true representative of God, and that we should listened to Him.

Let’s face it the voice, the vision, and the appearance of white were important because the disciples needed confirmation of who Jesus truly was. Everywhere they went they heard the constant drum beat of the Pharisees, scribes and the priests who said that Jesus was not the Son of God, but a false prophet.

Even today, all of us need confirmation of who Jesus really is. There are many voices who say that Jesus is nothing more than a good man, or a good teacher.  Others say he was an inspirational leader who provided us with an example of love.  But the transfiguration goes above and beyond, and to me makes a convincing argument that Jesus was the Son of God and that we need to listen to him.

Another way we can look at the transfiguration is like this. What Matthew had written down was like a movie trailer of a film that has not been released yet, a sneak preview of things to come.

When we read those words, “Listen to Him,” it involves faith and obedience.  They go together, and we cannot have one without the other.

This past week, I read an interesting article on the Internet. It is called:  Top 10 Things that Frustrate Doctors about their Patients. #1.  Patients who are late for their appointments:  We understand what that means.  #2. Patients who do not follow orders:  These are the ones who do not faithfully take their medication, who cheat on diets, who continue to smoke, who become lackadaisical in regards to follow up visits or fail to follow treatment protocols.

I see some similarities with response #2 of that medical study and our Christian walk. Do we completely follow the commands of the Lord or are we like some patients in the survey who pick and choose?

I think we would do well, if we would let the words of Christ become part of our body, soul and spirit. The voice of the Father is not just for ordained ministers and local pastors, but for all of us.

  • Obedience is when we seek God with our whole hearts.
  • It is when we find ways to let the Word of God dwell in us richly.
  • It is when we say yes to whatever God asks of us.
  • It is when we follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

In the movie, The Karate Kid, young Daniel had been bullied and was beaten up by some nasty characters; so he asked a man named Mister Miagi to teach him some karate.  Mr. Miagi agreed under one condition: Daniel must submit totally to his instruction and never question his methods.  Daniel showed up the next day eager to learn.  To his chagrin, Mister Miagi had him paint a fence.  Miagi demonstrated the precise motion for the job; up and down, up and down.  Daniel took days to finish the job.  Next, Miagi had him scrub the deck using a prescribed stroke.  Again the job took days.  Daniel wondered, “What does this have to do with karate,” but he said nothing.  Next Miagi told Daniel to wash and wax three weather beaten cars and again prescribed the motion.  Finally Daniel reached his limit of frustration.  He told Mr. Miagi, “I thought you were going to teach me karate, but all you have done is have me do your unwanted chores!”  Daniel had broken Miagi’s one condition and the old man’s face pulsed with anger.  Mr. Miagi said “I have been teaching you karate, defend yourself.”  Mr. Miagi trusted his arm at Daniel, who instinctively defended himself with a wrist block and with the same arm motion used in one of his chores.  Miagi unleashed a vicious kick, and again Daniel averted the blow with a circle block, a motion used in his chores.  After Daniel successfully defended himself from several more blows, Miagi walked away which left Daniel to discover what the master had known all along; skill comes from repeating the correct, but seemingly mundane actions.

Obedience to Christ is similar to what Mr. Miagi had taught Daniel. We may not totally understand all that is happening, but if we trust and obey in all circumstances, we will be better off because of it.

Speaking of trust and obey, let me close with the words of the first verse of this great hymn.
“When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word. What a glory he sheds on our way.
While we do his good will, he abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus is to trust and obey.”

God the Father said in the cloud, “This is my son, the beloved, Listen to him.” May we do that in all of our lives.

Sermon: Who’s Right?

Who is Right?
Luke 10:38-42
17 July 2016

Let me present to you this hypothetical situation. Let’s pretend that after this morning’s church service, you get into your car and go home.  For the sake of my illustration, let’s assume there are other family members who live with you.  When you get home, to your shock and amazement, Jesus is waiting outside your front door.  He explains that the purpose of his visit is to spend some time with you and the family and share some spiritual truths.

Since it is close to the noon day hour, one family member is given the task to entertain Jesus and make him comfortable while you work fast and furious to prepare lunch.  And once the meal is served, Jesus begins to eat and share the many wonderful truths about the Kingdom of God.

While this is going on, you who did the bulk of the food preparation are still on the job. In order to be a good host, there are other things that must be done, but you miss out on what was said.

What happened in my scenario is a lot like what happened in today’s scripture text. Martha was upset with her sister Mary.  The issue at hand was the question of service versus personal devotion.

My text is Luke 10:38-42. Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

This story took place in a small village called Bethany, which was about two miles from the capital city of Jerusalem. From what we can gather from the other gospels, Martha, her sister Mary and her brother Lazarus all lived under one roof.  There is some speculation that Martha might have been a widow and was the actual head of this household.

Of all the places Jesus had visited in the three years of ministry, this was a place where he could rest and relax and be himself. But it was in verse 40, where we find the first hint of trouble.  It seemed in the midst of all the food preparation; Martha reached the boiling point.  Martha felt she was doing all the work and her sister did not pull her fair share.

Now in Martha’s defense, perhaps she had done everything to get Mary’s attention. I think we all have certain ways to get a loved one’s attention.  We clear our throats, we make attention getting motions.  We make certain facial expressions, perhaps kick a leg under the table.  But I assume in Martha’s case, none of the things she tried worked, so she went directly to Jesus and complained.

Our Lord’s message to Martha and to all of us is this. Life is a series of choices.  There are good choices and there are better.  Martha served and worked in the kitchen.  That was a good choice.  Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and that was better.

Down through the ages, many have questioned the fairness of Jesus on this. And it all boils down to the issue of good choices vs better.  Again it was service versus devotion.  Actually you need both.  You can’t run a church without both, but it is knowing when.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church had many duties and responsibilities. In his 50+ years of ministry, he had ridden some 250,000 miles and preached some 40,000 sermons.  He had the oversight of thousands of Bible societies and lay preachers

But despite his many responsibilities, he felt his first and foremost duty was devotion. Every day before the sun came up; Wesley had his private time with God.  It was the only way he could experience the fresh presence of God.  After filling his soul, Wesley was able to serve.  For all of us Methodists, Wesley set the standard.  Devotion to God then service.  It worked for Wesley and it will work for us.

In our scripture text, what Martha did was a good and necessary thing; however in Jesus’ eyes, what Mary did was better. It is commendable to be busy for God, but it is not so noteworthy when we do not spend time with him.  The point is that we all need to make time in our relationship with God just as we do with other family members or spouses.

I think my natural inclination is to be like Martha. I find it hard to sit and reflect when lots of things need to get done.  Knowing that I am this way, I try to spend the first part of the day in personal devotions; otherwise I would never get around to it.  I would find something else to do and before you know it, it is already evening.

Several years ago, we took a three day trip into Canada to get a taste of a real Canadian winter. We drove up to Pittsburg, NH to cross the border.  I was a bit nervous knowing that the temperatures would plunge well below zero, and I was afraid our car would not start in the morning.

Fortunately, we were okay. However I noticed at the hotels where we stayed, many of the cars were hooked up to a trickle battery charger, which kept the battery charged and warm; the cars were able to start right up in the morning.

I see a correlation in the spiritual realm. If we do and do and do and do, but neglect the devotional aspect of our spiritual lives, we will eventually gradually grow cold in our relationship with God.  However if we stay active in our faith and have personal devotions, which is like having a trickle battery charger, then our faith will remain vibrant and alive; then our service will not seem like a chore.

Like I mentioned before, I have a tendency to be like Martha. Because there is always someone to visit, to call and to email.  There is always a newsletter article or sermon to write.  But in light of the many ministerial tasks, I need also to be like Mary.  If I don’t do that, I will become stagnant in my relationship with God.

So I would encourage all of us to keep the fires of God’s love burning. Don’t just rely on the Sunday morning worship service as your own spiritual connection of the week, but schedule a time for personal devotions.  If you have to, put it on your calendar and see what happens.

Prior to my ordination, I met with Bishop Peter Weaver and he gave me a framed inscription of a Covenant Prayer that John Wesley used for his personal devotion. It is in our UMH.  Consider this your prayer.

I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

Let me close with this thought. In the Kingdom of God and in the church, we need both sisters.  Actually we cannot have one without the other.  If we keep the perspective of Mary first, then Martha second, then we won’t become burnt out with our service to the Lord.  When we spend time with God and make it a daily habit, it will be a time we can look forward to and it will become the best part of the day and our service will be a joy.

Sermon: The Fox, the Furrow, and the Funeral

The Fox, the Furrow, and the Funeral
Luke 9:57-62
RUMC June 26, 2016

Several days ago, I went into the Military Recruiting Office in Manchester just to see what they were offering the new recruits. I picked up some brochures and from what I could see there are great incentives to join: a signing bonus, education assistance, the repayment of college loans, guaranteed salary, paid vacations, retirement benefits, free medical and dental and guaranteed home loans.  But with all these great programs, there is something that is never mentioned.  It is almost like the elephant in the room.  There must be the willingness for the person who signs the dotted line, to risk their life and even die for their country.

It is similar to Christian discipleship. If we are to truly enter into the Kingdom of God, we need to count the cost and make a total dedication, not a halfhearted commitment.

My scripture text is Luke 9:51-62. As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

In our scripture, Jesus had three conversations with those who wanted to follow him. To the first person he said, “Count the Cost.”  To the second, the message was “Leave it Behind,” and to the third he said, “Don’t Look Back.”

Count the Cost
(v57) As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  It seems the first person had a desire to follow Jesus. I think deep down, he wanted to be part of the adventure of seeing the Kingdom of God unfold in people’s lives, to enjoy the special position of being seen as a disciple.  It is as though he had seen the military travel posters and said, I’ll sign up.

But notice Jesus’ response. Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. It was as if Jesus stripped away the romance and excitement of ministry right before his eyes and showed there was a cost to following the Lord: to leave everything behind.

Jesus also said, “Whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it.”

Counting the cost of discipleship doesn’t mean “don’t go;” Marty Koonce counted the cost and found it acceptable. Marty was married, the father of four boys, and a successful manager at Walmart.  Marty was considered to be on the fast track of success when he felt God’s tug to do more with his life: that is to take God’s good news to people of Togo, Africa.  Marty asked, “How do you give up a six figure income and move your family across the world to live in a third world country?”  He counted the cost, quit his job, and became a missionary for a number of years, and he considers it well worth it.

We may not all be called to be a missionary nor called into full-time ministry, but we can as disciples of the Lord do his will in Connecticut. Again, there is a cost.

Leave it Behind
V59 He said to another man follow me. But the man replied, Lord first let me go and bury my father.  Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God. In this passage of scripture, some would say that Jesus’ response was harsh. However if the man’s father had just died, the son would not have been there.  He would have been at home because it was Jewish tradition to bury a person on the same day they died.

What we believe probably happened was this. It was the custom on the first anniversary of the death of a parent that the son would go into the tomb, gather up the bones, and put them in a special repository.  That was done to make extra space in the tomb.

In this instance, the son requested up to a year’s delay before he was to follow Christ. Here, Jesus does not accept second place, but demands immediate allegiance.

When Julius Caesar was the leader of Rome, he landed his army on the shores of Britain. He then took a bold step to ensure the success of his military campaign. Caesar ordered his men to march to the edge of the Cliffs of Dover, and he commanded them to look down on the water below.  To their amazement, they saw every ship in which they had crossed the English Channel engulfed in flames.  Caesar had deliberately cut off any possibility of retreat.  Since his soldiers were unable to return to the continent, their only real option was to advance forward. So they committed themselves and followed their leader. They went forward and conquered Britain.

When Jesus said follow me, we are called to figuratively burn our ships in the harbor, not to go back to our old way of life. To set ourselves free from any worldly entanglement and loyalties that might come between us and our Lord

Don’t Look Back
(v61) Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”  On the surface, the third man’s request seemed reasonable, but his farewell was probably a long series of good bye parties given by his friends.  Not just a simple handshake, hug or a kiss goodbye.

Christ does not call us to dishonor our parents or shirk our responsibility to our family. But if we are pressed into a choice between the two, our Lord must come first.  62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  In this situation, the one who ploughs the field must look straight ahead and devote their full attention.  In Christian discipleship, once we make a decision for the Lord, we are not to look back at our old way of life, but to move forward.

At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, the men’s 26 mile marathon had been over for at least one hour.   All the runners except one had completed the race:  John Steven Aquari of Tanzania.  Long after the previous runner, John Steven Aquari was the last marathoner to enter the stadium; his leg was bandaged and bloody.  Aquari had taken a bad fall early on in the marathon, and all he could do was limp the rest of the way.  When he entered the stadium for the final lap, only a small crowd was left, but they stood and applauded.  When he crossed the finish line, a reporter asked, “Why didn’t you quit?  Why didn’t you give up?”  Aquari said, “My country did not send me 7000 miles to start this race.  My country sent me to finish.”

And so it is with our Christian faith. We are to finish the race and not look back.

Let me close. Jesus had conversations with three individuals and we can extend those words to us.  To the first, and also to us, he said, “Count the cost.” To the second, and to us, he said, “Leave it behind.”  To the third, and to us, he said, “Don’t look back.”  Following Christ has a cost; it is a total dedication, not a halfhearted commitment.  We need to accept the cross along with the crown and allow nothing to distract us from following him.

Sermon: Jesus Heals the Gerasene Demoniac

Jesus Heals the Gerasene Demoniac
Luke 8:26-39
19 June 2016

St. Augustine once said, “The devil is like a mad dog that is chained up. He is powerless to harm when we are outside his reach, but once we enter his circle, we expose ourselves again to injury or harm.”

Certainly in this day and age, we can see Augustine’s words ring true, especially after the world has witnessed another mass shooting, this time in Orlando.

My scripture text for this morning is about a man who somehow got inside the devil’s circle and had become possessed. But this story has a happy ending when he was delivered and his life restored.

Our text is Luke 8:26-39.
26Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— 29for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

32Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

When Jesus arrived in the region of the Gadarenes, it was no accident. He knew there was once man who needed deliverance and our Lord traveled across the Sea of Galilee to find and deliver this man.  When they reached the shore, they were greeted by a scream that echoed throughout the hills.  Out of nowhere, a filthy looking naked man, with wild blazing eyes burst on the scene.  It appeared that the presence of Jesus upset him greatly.

I find it telling, that it was the supernatural forces of evil within the man who immediately recognized Christ’s divinity, but no one else did. Today evil, it is still with us, but it has changed its appearance.

  • What was once called demons is now called spirit guides.
  • What was once called séances is now called trance channeling.
  • What was once called reincarnation is now called regression therapy.
  • What was once called the occult is now called New Age.

The Bible speaks of evil spirits as a matter of fact without any excuse or apology. A lot of people have no problem with the supernatural forces of good, such as:

  • God
  • Jesus
  • Holy Spirit
  • Angels.

 

However when it comes to the supernatural forces of evil, it becomes a different story. We doubt the forces of evil with names such as these attached:

  • The devil,
  • Satan,
  • Lucifer
  • Demons or demon possession

 

There is widespread skepticism and even ridicule. That’s the postmodern world that we live in.

When I was stationed at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma in the late 1990’s, we lived about 5 miles from a small cemetery. There was one grave that had become a tourist attraction, the grave of the famous Indian, Geronimo; it was a 4’ pyramid of round stones.  People far and wide would come and leave coins, cigarettes, bottles of beer and other type of trinkets.  I later found out that Geronimo’s tomb was nationally known in psychic circles as a place to receive some type of “psychic energy.

The spirit world of today often takes on different forms and disguises. It appears innocent and harmless.  When a person begins to dabble in the “spirit world” it may seem interesting and fun, but depending on how deep you go, it could have an adverse effect.

In regards to the man of the tombs, we don’t know what he did or did not do, whether he was abused, had a bad childhood or had become involved in hallucinogenic drugs or participated in a form of Satanism. We do know he was forced out of the village.

Now I suppose if a psychologist or a psychiatrist had been present back then, this man could have been diagnosed with a variety of psychological disorders, but whatever the condition, this man was a total mess. No doubt he would have been hospitalized or given medication to control his behavior.

Root causes and diagnosis’ aside, Jesus arrived at the right time. Throughout the Gospels, when Jesus comes into a person’s life they are often challenged, upset or transformed, which was what happened in this case.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says: If any person is in Christ, they are a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things become new. 

Many of us have a testimony of how a personal relationship with Jesus helped or delivered us through difficulties, trials or temptation. There are others through the assistance of God, who have found their help through AA, the intervention of family and friends, medical doctors and counselors.  But the important thing is that God came into our lives and we were better for it.

There is one final thing that impressed me about this story.

Verse 39 Jesus sent him away, saying, 39“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

If they had Father’s Day back then, what a great gift Jesus gave to the man’s father. He probably had not seen him in years, but…

  • The man of the tombs was finally free.
  • Before he was violent, now he is peaceful.
  • Before he roamed naked in the cemetery, now he was fully clothed.
  • Before the evil forces possessed him, now he was in his right mind.
  • Before he was a terror, now he was full of gratitude.
  • Before he was hopelessly lost, now he was a child of God.

That’s the message in a nut shell. Do you need more of Christ in your life?  Jesus has the ability to change, release, or deliver a life for the better.  I have seen a bumper sticker that says, “Jesus is the answer; what is the question?”

Sermon: Fish for Breakfast

Fish for Breakfast
John 21:1-19
RUMC 10 April 2016

The great artist Michelangelo painted the many biblical scenes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.  To do this, he had to lie on his back on a scaffold (68 feet high).  It took five years to finish that great work of art in a space of 12,000 square feet. Centuries later, Michelangelo’s frescoes had significantly faded.  Because of this, Vatican officials decided it was time to clean and restore the entire ceiling.  So in 1981, the nine-year restoration work began.  Restorationists cleaned and restored the frescoes to their original beauty.  What is noteworthy is that it took twice as long to restore the ceiling as it took for Michelangelo to paint it.

Today’s scripture passage is also about restoration but it is not with furniture or artwork.  The scripture shows how Jesus restored the Apostle Peter.  This story makes it clear that one of the functions of the resurrection is restoration of relationships, deep forgiveness and subsequent service.

My text is the gospel story of breakfast on the beach, John 21:1-19.

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
This is the word of God.  Thanks be to God.

His name was Simon Peter.  We remember him as the disciple who tried to walk on water, but started to sink when his faith had faltered.  He was the one who testified that Jesus was the Son of God, yet denied him three times in a single night.

It was now the second week, Jesus had already appeared to his disciples on two occasions and here he stood on the shore.  It was in this third post resurrection experience that Jesus had some unfinished business to attend to.

In what may have been the first Christian prayer breakfast on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus turned to the fisherman and begun to question him.  You see, our Lord’s purpose was not to punish, but to bring Simon Peter back into a right relationship with God and the community of faith.

And that is what Jesus does with us; he will do all that it takes to get us back on track.  His desire is to restore us to the person he intended us to be.

One example of a person who needed restoration is Bill Wilson.  Bill’s problem was that he was an alcoholic who spent much of his time under the influence or in a hospital detox.  And it was in desperation that he cried out, “If there is a God, let him show himself to me.  I’m ready to do anything, anything.”  Then Bill experienced a sensation of bright light and a feeling of ecstasy and peace.  God answered his prayer and he was restored.  That experience changed Bill and in gratitude for this new life, he became the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Through this group, comes the grace of another day and countless people in 114 countries have experienced sobriety.  I would say that 99% of the AA meetings take place in churches.

Peter had denied our Lord three times, and it appeared he was at the point of no return.  To restore Peter, Jesus had to confront him; he did it through the method of question and answer.  Each question began with Simon, Son of John.  It sort of reminds me of when my mother wanted my complete attention; she would say in a rather demonstrative voice Paul Richard O’Neil.

  • Question 1. Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?  In other words, is there anything between us?  Such as position, title, spouse or child?
  • Question 2. Simon, son of John, do you love me?  In other words, will you deny me again at the first sign of trouble like you did a couple of weeks ago?
  • Question 3. Simon, son of John, do you love me?  In other words, have you placed yourself before me?  Am I first or second in your life?

The issue of what happened in Peter’s life had to be dealt with before he could move forward.  The questions were for Peter’s benefit.  And in the process, Peter was restored and was commissioned to take care of the souls of other people, to feed and tend to them.

A few years ago, Pastor Bob Ahlberg of the Hope Evangelical Church in Roscoe, Illinois faced a situation in his church that caused confusion and hard feelings.  A church member under their church polity and discipline was removed from church membership for repeated and unrepentant adultery.  I must say that something like this is extremely rare.

When the man heard of the church’s decision, he had become so angry that he said, “I know what you have to do, so do what you must, because I don’t care.  I plan to never darken the doors of this church again.”  The man divorced his wife in civil court and they went their separate ways.  However his ex-wife continued to attend worship services.  At cell group meetings and Bible studies, church members prayed for this man that he would be brought back into a right relationship with God.

Two years later, the ex-husband called the pastor and asked to see him.  In the office, the man deeply chastened, had said that the “Hound of Heaven” had been on his trail for nearly two years and he couldn’t take much more.  He wanted to confess his sin, turn from his wicked ways, and renew his marriage.  Even his ex-wife who said she could never trust him again, was amazed at the change in his life.

Let me explain what led to this.  After the divorce, this man who was in the Army Reserves was sent overseas and was assigned to the Graves Registration team.  His job was to process the remains of soldiers who died in Iraq.  Every day he was confronted with the brevity of life and the permanence of eternity.

When this man returned home after his tour of duty, he was guilt ridden; he decided to meet with the pastor and elders of the church.  There in the pastor’s office, he confessed his sin and asked to be forgiven of his arrogance and the impact that his life had on others.  He was warmly embraced and in time, his marriage was restored as well.  That is a true example of what happens when a person gets right with God; they often become reconciled with each other.

Today’s scripture is not only about Peter, but it is also about us.  We may not deserve mercy, but God loves us and it is in his best interest to get us cleaned up, straightened out and brought back into God’s good graces.

I believe most of us can testify to God’s forgiving grace when he restored us just as he did with Peter, Bill Wilson and the church member from Roscoe, Illinois.

UMC Hymn #394 is one that we sing from time to time.  It is called Something Beautiful.  The words are, “Something beautiful, something good; all my confusion he understood; all I had to offer him was brokenness and strife, but he made something beautiful of my life.” 

As Christian believers, we may be involved in helping those who have failed, whose lives have been ruined, shattered or messed up.  For those who have fallen on hard times, we need to be there for them, not to enable them, but to get them back on the right track.  When we do that, we do God’s work.

Sermon: Jesus’ Surprise Announcement

Jesus’ Surprise Announcement in the Synagogue
Luke 4:14-21
RUMC January 31, 2015

            In 1790, there was a mutiny on His Majesty’s Ship, the HMS Bounty.  To escape the arms of justice, the mutineers sailed some 8000 miles across the South Pacific Ocean to a deserted place called Pitcairn Island.  At the time, there were a total of nine mutineer sailors along with eighteen Pacific Islanders who were involved in the rebellion.  When the mutineers finally got to Pitcairn Island, they rammed the ship onto the sand, and they removed all the things of value that they could salvage.  Finally they burnt the ship to escape detection from the British Royal Navy, who was out on patrol for looking for the Bounty.

Once the mutineers were settled on the island, they began to distill alcohol and it wasn’t long before the little colony was plunged into debauchery and vice.  After a turbulent 10 years, the only survivors that remained on the island were one sailor and a handful of natives and their children, who were half English and half Pacific Islander.  As the story is told, the one and only surviving sailor found a Bible in a chest salvaged from the Bounty.  With nothing else to do, he began to read it.  He in turn taught it to others and the end result was that his own life and the lives of those on that little island were changed by the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now eight years after the time the old sailor found the bible in the sea chest, which was about 1808, the American ship, the USS Topaz, stopped at what they thought was a deserted island.  To the amazement of the captain and the crew, Pitcairn had become a prosperous island.  There was no jail, no whiskey, no crime and no laziness.  And it was reported that all the inhabitants on the island had a strong faith in the Lord Jesus.

What happened on Pitcairn so long ago is an excellent example of what God can do with the lives of broken people.  The early settlers on Pitcairn were guilty of many grievous sins, but the Lord saved them and transformed them by his grace.

Jesus said he would come to help the poor.  That is to help men, women, and children who are entangled in the things of this life see the truth of god’s way.

My text is Luke 4: 14-21. 

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.16When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18“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.”20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
This is the Word of God.  Thanks be to God.

In today’s gospel, Jesus was in the beginning phases of his ministry.  Already he had a reputation as a dynamic religious leader.  He got people’s attention when he was baptized by John.  Then he disappeared for a time in the desert to be tempted by the devil, only to emerge, 50 days later, in Galilee with a small band of followers.  And after what we would consider a successful preaching tour, Jesus finally came home.  Verse 16.  And he came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue.

In the first century, the synagogue did not have a minister as we would know it.  But what they had was a synagogue ruler whose job was to preside over the service.  In the worship service itself, there was the invocation.  Then a priest and levite read from the law.  This was followed by five laymen who also read passages from the first 5 books of the Bible.

After this, the synagogue ruler would invite any of the distinguished visitors or rabbi’s to read from the prophets and preach.  Since Jesus had recently gained a reputation as a preacher and since he grew up in that synagogue, had his bar mitzvah there, of course it was fitting that he would be asked to take a prominent part in the service.

Verse 17 tells us.  The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him.  As Jesus unrolled it, he found the place where it was written and read in the Hebrew language.

Ruach, adonoi, Elohim alee,ya ar mishach
Adoni oti kabsah anoyim, shetini shin
Namid phet alun anyol machiesch la nosh va reer
Leave ma ca re era she voim deroer releaf so reem
Pa ca ko heem
Recray shenar, ratson, radonoi, veyong nar keem
Elohaynew, leneehem kuhl avzalim

 

The spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners
and recover of sight to the blind
to release the oppressed.  To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 

             After Jesus read this passage of scripture from Isaiah, he rolled up the scrolls and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  In a Christian worship service, the minister, like myself, stands.  But in the synagogue, the preacher or rabbi sat.  The first thing that Jesus said after he wat was “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  And so Jesus ministry to the needy continues to this very day.

Jesus said he came to preach the gospel to the poor, to those who did not have anything and to those who were sorrowful for their sins.  Jesus said he came to bring deliverance to the captives.  To release people from any type of bondage and when we give our lives to Him, there is transformation.  Jesus said he came to bring recovery of sight to the blind, both physical and spiritual.  John Newton the author of “Amazing Grace” wrote, “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”  It is that type of thing that Jesus does in the heart of the believer.

Jesus came with good news for the world’s trouble people.  He came for those desperate people on Pitcairn Island with their all their vices.  They accepted the message and lives were changed.

Jesus said he came to preach the gospel to the poor, to those who are truly sorrowful for their sin, who are downtrodden or underprivileged.  .

Jesus said he came to bring deliverance to the captives.  To release his children who may suffer from any type of physical, psychological or political bondage.

Jesus said he came to bring recovery of sight to the blind.  To give physical and spiritual light to those who sought it.  John Newton, the author of the hymn Amazing Grace wrote that he was blind, but now he could see by the grace of God.

Jesus said he came to set free those who struggle.  To include the depressed, those who battle codependence and abuse, he will provide strength.

Jesus said he came to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.  To let the world know his Father was willing to be reconciled to them.  These are all the things that Jesus came to do.

With the Lord, we receive hope and dignity.
We receive freedom from bondage.
We recognize God’s perspective and new life.
In Christ, we receive freedom from forces holding us down.

            We need to receive before we can do.  What can we do?  Share the gospel with others.  Help others to be free to really live.  Perform acts of mercy.  Celebrate God’s grace to disheartened people.

Who are the people God desires you to care for?  How might you do so?

Earlier, I mentioned that it was a mutineer, an old seaman living in gross immorality, who found a Bible gathering dust in a sea chest.  As he read it, he confessed his sins and became a Christian.  Everyone else on the island followed his example and became a believer.  The island that once was a sewer of moral filth was now a safe haven of godliness.

Eventually Queen Vitoria heard about this little colony of believers and sent missionaries to help them with their new found faith.  If you were to sail to Pitcairn Island today, you would find an island that has not changed too much in the last 200 years.

There are currently 56 people who still live on the island.  There are few luxuries and according to recent books I’ve read, the people are friendly and the majority have a strong faith in God.