Monday, May 31, 2010

Sermon: A Gift Given

John 16:12-15 - 12“Many things I myself have to say to you, but you are not able to bear them now. 13But when this one might come, the spirit of truth, he will lead you into all truth. For he will not speak concerning himself, but what he will hear, he will speak. And what is coming, he will announce to you. 14This one will glorify me, because from me, he will take and will announce it to you. 15Everything that the father has is mine. For this reason, I said that from me, he takes and will announce to you.”

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I think today is an interesting day, because this Sunday is important for two reasons that, at least on the surface, really don’t seem to have much in common. But you know, if you look a little deeper, I believe they share something that’s profound and powerful. You see, today, the first Sunday after Pentecost, is Trinity Sunday, a day set aside to focus on what it means to say that God is actually three in one. You see, that’s one reason why this day is special, and it explains all the songs we’ve been singing songs about the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

And the other reason today is important, well, I think we all know that tomorrow is Memorial Day. And although, like so many other national holidays, this one now seems to have more to do with traveling and eating and shopping, this day was certainly intended to have a deeper meaning. I mean, just listen to what General John Logan, Commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, wrote when he issued General Orders No.11: “The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. ...Let us at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.” Now that was the intention of this day, and I think it’s spirit was captured well by the American poet Archibald MacLeish who wrote a poem entitled “The Young Dead Soldiers Do Not Speak:”

The young dead soldiers do not speak.
Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses.
(Who has not heard them?)
They have a silence that speaks for them at night
And when the clock counts.
They say,
We were young.
We have died.
Remember us.
They say,
We have done what we could
But until it is finished it is not done.
They say,
Our deaths are not ours,
They are yours,
They will mean what you make them.
They say,
Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope
Or for nothing
We cannot say.
It is you who must say this.
They say,
We leave you our deaths.
Give them meaning,
Give them an end to the war and a true peace,
Give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards,
Give them their meaning.
We were young, they say.
We have died.
Remember us.”

Wow, powerful stuff. You see, in this poem, MacLeish focused on what these young people had done, how they’d given their country the most precious thing they had, their own lives. This was their gift to us. And all they wanted from us is to give their gift meaning. Now regardless of the number of flyers you got in the mail yesterday or the amount of food you’ll consumer tomorrow, this is really what Memorial Day is all about. It’s about gifts given.

And I’ll tell you, I believe that’s also the meaning of the Trinity Sunday. You see, although we could talk about what the trinity means and use a whole lot of fancy, theological words, when you get right down to it, the trinity is really about a gift too, and I’m talking about the gift that the Father and Son has given us all. As Jesus said in the passage we read just a little while ago, “Many things I myself have to say to you, but you are not able to bear them now. But when this one might come, the spirit of truth, he will lead you into all truth. For he will not speak concerning himself, but what he will hear, he will speak. And what is coming, he will announce to you. This one will glorify me, because from me, he will take and will announce it to you. Everything that the father has is mine. For this reason, I said that from me, he takes and will announce to you.” You see, this spirit, this spirit of truth is the gift given by the Father and the Son; the gift that they’ve given to us.

And you know, brothers and sisters, it’s a gift that we can receive the minute we open ourselves to the glory and listen to what the spirit is saying and then decide to follow where he’s leading. Let me explain. You see, to receive this incredible gift, first, I believe we really do need to open ourselves to God’s glory, because remember, according to Jesus, this spirit of truth “...will glorify me, because from me, he will take and will announce it to you.” In other words, he’s going to show us the glory of God.

But I’ll tell you, that’s something we just may miss if our eyes are either closed or focused only on what we want to see. I mean, even though we don’t have the power to turn off the light of the world, we sure can live as though it doesn’t exist. You see, we can choose to look only into the shadows. And isn’t that what we sometimes do, and I’m thinking about when we choose to see only the dark cloud and never the silver lining? And isn’t that what we do when we look into our world and only see the problems and the pain and completely ignore the possibilities and the potential all around us? And listen to me, isn’t that exactly what we do when we look at our community and our congregation and see only what we were instead of what can become or look at ourselves and see only the reasons why we can’t make a difference. “Oh, we’re too old or we’re too weak or we’re too small or we’re too busy.”

And so we miss the glory of the Father and the Son made up-close and personal by the Holy Spirit: a glory that we’re going to see the second we just consider, one, the enormous, and I’m talking about enormous blessings God has already given to our country and, two, the opportunities God has given us as a church to change in a fundamental sense, the future of our community and, three, the gifts and talents that God has placed right here, when he called us into this body. Man, if we want to receive the gift given by the Father and the Son, we need to be open.

And second, after we’ve done that, I’m telling you, then we need to listen, to listen to what the Spirit has to say, to listen to the voice of God speaking first and foremost through his word, but also through his people. Man, we’ve got to listen, because didn’t Jesus himself say, “...he will not speak concerning himself, but what he will hear, he will speak. And what is coming, he will announce to you.”

And you know, that’s the reason I think we need to listen: to listen so that we can hear, hear all the stuff that Christ shared with his disciples when he was here on earth; and to listen so that we can understand, understand that, when you get right down to it, he’s commanded us to do only one thing, to love one another as we’ve been loved; and brothers and sisters, simply to listen so that we can believe, believe that no matter where we go or what we do, we are in the merciful and gracious hands of God. You see, this is what we need to do, and if the voice of God is coming in words or forms that we don’t understand or appreciate, then it may be up to us to learn a new language so that we can hear how the “old, old story” can impact a new and changing world. You see, to receive God’s gift to us, we need to listen.

And finally, if the Spirit that was given to us by the Father and Son is going to mean anything to us, we have got to decide that we’re going to follow him; in other words, that we’re going to get up and start doing what God has called us to do, but not just inside these walls. Man, we’ve got to follow, because, I’ll tell you, all the openness and all the listening ain’t worth a bucket of spit, if we’re not going to do anything about it. In other words, Jesus was just wasting his time when he said, “But when this one might come, the spirit of truth, he will lead you into all truth,” I’m telling you, he was just whistling “Dixie,” if we’ve already decided that we’re happy inside the stained glass because we really don’t want to see what’s happening in our world and we’re delighted to listen only to sounds and words we’ve heard before, even if they mean nothing outside these walls.

You see, if the Spirit is going to lead us anywhere, than I think it’s a better than even chance that God expects us to follow. And although that may seem really uncomfortable and scary, we have every reason to be confident, even courageous. You see, when we follow the Spirit out in to the world, we’re not alone. Through that spirit the Father and the Son is always with us. But more than that, we’ll be going out there together, shoulder to shoulder, to face whatever we have to face. And then, open to the glory and listening for the word, we’ll be ready to receive the gift we’ve been given and to follow the Spirit of Truth into all truth.

You see, when you get right down to it, both Trinity Sunday and Memorial Day are about gifts: gifts given and gifts received. But you know, there’s something else these two days have in common and I’ll tell you, this has to do with gifts too. Now do you remember the poem I read a little while ago, you know, the one by Archibald MacLeish? In it, the dead young soldier on behalf of all who have died, he asks us to give their lives and their deaths meaning, in other words, to make sure their gift isn’t forgotten or ignored or abused.

And I think the same is true of the gift the Father and the Son has given us. Although we need to receive it by opening ourselves to the glory and by listening to the words and by following the Spirit into our world, I really think we need to do more, you know, to give that gift meaning. You see, for a gift given to have real meaning it needs to be not only received, it also needs to be used.

Art Work from Saturday Evening


At our last Gathering service, we worshipped outside. The children drew pictures of the Trinity on the sidewalk behind the church. Below is a sample of their art work.

Ben Minor (God the Spirit, God the Son)


Arden Minor (The Trinity)

Maggie Rudiger (The Trinity)

Summer Wesie (The Trinity)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day

Below is an article on Memorial Day. Although we usually associate this day with the kickoff for summer, let's spend a little time this Monday focussing on what the day was intended to be: a time to remember those who have died in military service. In others words, sometime between the opening of the pool and the grilling of the burgers, let's thank God for those who literally gave themselves for the sake of their country.

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Following the end of the Civil War, many communities set aside a day to mark the end of the war or as a memorial to those who had died. Some of the places creating an early memorial day include Sharpsburg, Maryland, located near Antietam Battlefield; Charleston, South Carolina; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; Petersburg, Virginia; Carbondale, Illinois; Columbus, Mississippi; many communities in Vermont; and some two dozen other cities and towns. These observances coalesced around Decoration Day, honoring the Confederate dead, and the several Confederate Memorial Days.

According to Professor David Blight of the Yale University History Department, the first memorial day was observed by formerly enslaved black people at the Washington Race Course (today the location of Hampton Park) in Charleston, South Carolina. The race course had been used as a temporary Confederate prison camp in 1865 as well as a mass grave for Confederate soldiers who died there. Immediately after the cessation of hostilities, formerly enslaved people exhumed the bodies from the mass grave and reinterred them properly with individual graves. They built a fence around the graveyard with an entry arch and declared it a Confederate graveyard. The work was completed in only ten days. On May 1, 1865, the Charleston newspaper reported that a crowd of up to ten thousand, mainly black residents, including 2800 children, proceeded to the location for included sermons, singing, and a picnic on the grounds, thereby creating the first Decoration Day.

The first observance was in Waterloo, New York on May 5, 1866, and each year thereafter. The friendship between General John Murray, a distinguished citizen of Waterloo, and General John A. Logan, who helped bring attention to the event nationwide, was likely a factor in the holiday's growth. On May 5, 1868, in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans' organization, Logan issued a proclamation that "Decoration Day" be observed nationwide. It was observed for the first time on May 30 of the same year; the date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of a battle. The tombs of fallen Union soldiers were decorated in remembrance.

Many of the states of the U.S. South refused to celebrate Decoration Day, due to lingering hostility towards the Union Army and also because there were relatively few veterans of the Union Army who were buried in the South. A notable exception was Columbus, Mississippi, which on April 25, 1866, at its Decoration Day commemorated both the Union and Confederate casualties buried in its cemetery.

The alternative name of "Memorial Day" was first used in 1882. It did not become more common until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967. On June 28, 1968, the United States Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which moved three holidays from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The holidays included Washington's Birthday, now celebrated as Presidents' Day; Veterans Day and Memorial Day. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971.

After some initial confusion and unwillingness to comply, all 50 states adopted the measure within a few years. In 1978, Veterans Day was changed back to its traditional date on November 11. Most corporate businesses no longer close on Veterans Day, Columbus Day or President's Day, with the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and/or New Year's Eve often substituted as more convenient "holidays" for their employees. Memorial Day endures as a holiday which most businesses observe because it marks the beginning of the "summer vacation season." This role is filled in neighboring Canada by Victoria Day, which occurs either on May 24 or the last Monday before that date, placing it exactly one week before Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sermon: "Show Us the Father"

John 14:8-17, 25-27 - 8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the father, and it’s enough for us.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long and you don’t know me, Philip? Anyone who’s seen me has seen the father. How do you say, ‘Show us the father’? 10You believe that I am in the father and the father is in me, don’t you?

“These words that I spoke to you I didn’t speak from myself. But the father who is in me remains does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the father and the father is in me. But if not, then because of these works, believe. 12Amen, amen, I say to you, the one who believes in me, the works which I myself do, these he will also do, and greater than these he will do, because I’m going to the father. 13And whatever you might ask in my name, these I will do, so that the father might be glorified in the son. 14Whatever you might ask me in my name, then I myself will do.

15“If you might love me, then my commandments you will keep. 16And I will also ask the father, and another paraclete he will give you so that with you into eternity he might be, 17the spirit of truth, which the world isn’t able to receive because it doesn’t see him nor know [him]. You yourselves know it, because with you he remains, and in you he is.

25“These things I have spoken to you while with you I remain. 26But the paraclete, the Holy Spirit which the father will send in my name, this one to you will teach many things and will remind you of many things which I myself said to you. 27Peace I leave to you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives, I myself give you. Don’t let your hearts be troubled nor shrink.”

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“Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the father, and it’s enough for us.’” Now, I don’t know about y’all, but I find that statement really interesting for two reasons. I mean, first, I think it took a lot of guts for Philip to say it. My gosh, I know I wouldn’t have gone up to the guy who’d just said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” and demand that he “show us the father.”

No sir, I was the kind of guy in class who just took notes and waited for somebody else to make the demands. I was always worried that the professor would look at me and say, “What are you stupid?” I’ll tell you, if I’d been one of the disciples, even if I really wanted something special, I sure wouldn’t have had the nerve to demand anything from the Son of God. That would take more guts than I have, but obviously, not this guy.

But you know, the second reason I find what Philip said interesting is that, if you change the context and text a little bit, it really sounds like something might we say or at least think. In other words, we tend to want something a little extra maybe a special blessing or power before we go out and do what God has called us to do. I mean, as it stands right now, we just don’t have enough to accomplish the work of God, We don’t have enough money. We don’t have enough people. And we certainly don’t have enough time. Man, we just don’t have enough, now do we? We need more. And when we get it, that’s when we’ll start. And so instead of doing very much about the problems we can see all around us, we sit very quietly and comfortably in our pews and say, “Lord, bless us... Lord, empower us... Lord, move us... Lord, give us more, and it will be enough for us.” It’s like I’m experiencing deja vu all over again. And so you see, what Philip actually said isn’t all that different from what we often think.

But I’ll tell you, I believe the similarity doesn’t stop with just the statement. I’m telling you, whether we want to hear it or not, when we wait for God to do or to give a little bit more, in other words, when we make the same kind of demand that Philip made, like him, we’re really overlooking, maybe even ignoring what God has already done. You see, when you get down to it, if God never gave us one more thing, he’s already given us enough.

I mean, just think about God has already done. When the word became flesh, when the divine light cut through the darkness of sin, in other words, when Jesus was born, God himself came in a form that we could see and hear and understand. Put another way, God gave us the chance to see Father through the Son, because, as Jesus himself said, “I am in the father and the father is in me.” You see, God didn’t remain up in heaven, waiting for us to find him. Instead, he came down to our level, entering our time and space, to find us. We can see God when we look at Christ, and that’s what God has already done.

But you know, he didn’t stop there. After his resurrection, when Jesus returned to his father, God didn’t leave us alone. Instead he sent the paraclete, the spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit, so that we could understand what Jesus taught and came to do and then we could respond, by keeping his commandment to love one another as we’ve been loved. Man, that’s what we’re remembering on Pentecost, the coming of this spirit.

But again, God wasn’t finished, because through that spirit, he has given us a source of peace. Again, as Jesus said, “Peace I leave to you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives, I myself give you. Don’t let your hearts be troubled nor shrink.” You see, through that same spirit, not only do we have the ability to believe in the one who came, we also have all we need to go out ourselves, and I’m talking about all the confidence and courage we’re going to need to step out into our world. Now, that’s what God has already done for us: period, close the book, Elvis has left the building.

And for that reason, now may be the time to stop demanding more and to start using what we’ve already been given. In other words, as churches and individuals, it may be time to stop determining how much we need and to start recognizing that we have more enough to do what God wants us to do. And let me tell you exactly what I mean. If we haven’t done it already, right now may be the time to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son who came from the Father to establish a connection between God and us. And that’s certainly something we can do as a church. Man, we can move past those petty distractions that Satan throws at us and to concentrate on the one who came not to judge the world but so that the world might be saved, I’m talking about the one who shows both God’s authority and his eternal love. I’m telling you, that single focus can be a part of everything that we do, everything from our worship on Sunday mornings to our Bible studies to our fellowship activities to every single meeting that occurs in this building. Man, that’s a Christ-centered church.

And as individuals, as believers living in a new and changing world, as brothers and sisters facing the same kind of temptations and troubles all people face, man, we can believe that although everything around is temporary and that the time’s coming when we’ll all be called by the Good Shepherd, we can believe that Christ knows exactly what we have to deal with right now and that when we pray for help and support, the one on the other end of the line understands. You see, because we have more than enough, now’s the time to believe, to believe in Jesus Christ.

And I’ll tell you, I think it’s also the time to receive the one whom Jesus promised that the Father would send, and right now I’m talking about the Holy Spirit. “And I will also ask the father, and another paraclete he will give you so that with you into eternity he might be, the spirit of truth,... These things I have spoken to you while with you I remain. But the paraclete, the Holy Spirit which the father will send in my name, this one to you will teach many things and will remind you of many things which I myself said to you.” You see, for us, right now, this is a fulfilled promise; God has already sent his spirit into this church, giving life and energy to his body.

And brothers and sisters, he’s already sent that same spirit into us as well. Now I want to ask you: do you believe that? Do you believe the Spirit is in this place? Do you believe the Spirit is in your life? Because, I’ll tell you, if you do, if you do believe, it’s time to receive it. Man, It’s time that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and it’s time that the Cove congregation and it’s time each one of us tore down the barriers and watch the Spirit flow, and I’m talking barriers that we reenforce every time we allow ourselves to be shaped by prejudice and by fear and by arrogance and by ignorance. It’s time they came down, so that everyone around us can see what the Holy Spirit can do through the people of God. I’m telling you, because God has given us have more than enough, now’s the time to receive, to receive the Holy Spirit.

And finally, with faith that’s Christ-centered and lives that are Spirit-filled, now my friends, now it’s time that we move out into our world, out into our neighborhoods, out into our families; it’s time we move with confidence. And the reason we can do it; well, again listen to what Jesus said: “Peace I leave to you; my peace I give to you. ...Don’t let your hearts be troubled nor shrink.” This has been done. And for that reason, it’s time we claimed that divine peace and took our strong hearts and gather up all the courage we have from a source far greater than anything found in this world, it’s time we took what God has already given and then move out into our world. For example, it’s time that we finally came together to offer real hope to those who’ve been chewed up and spit out by our economy, even if that means we may have to invest some of our money and our energy to do it. And maybe it’s time we reached out to folks who desperately want meaning and purpose but don’t know where to look, maybe it’s time we embraced them even if it means that we’re going to have to do two things we may not want to do: first to start speaking in a language they can understand and second to stand up to the drug dealers and the pimps and all the other forces Satan’s going to throw against us.

And brothers and sisters, inspired by God’s spirit, maybe it’s time we really dedicated ourselves to study and prayer, because I’m telling you, when we’re moved by the spirit and filled with a new sense of confidence and courage, we’re going to need to put on whole armor of God if we’re going to stand toe-to-toe with the ruler of this world. But man, this is something we can do, the minute we recognize that God has given us more than enough, therefore, now’s the time for us to move, to move out into the real world with confidence.

Now, remember when Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the father, and it’s enough for us;’” Jesus responded with, “Have I been with you so long and you don’t know me, Philip?” Well, when we act like Philip, and demand more from God before we do his work, I think he’d probably say the same thing to us. But of course, that doesn’t have to be the case, because without our help or permission, God already come in a form we can understand and he’s already sent us the paraclete and he’s already given us a source of peace; therefore, we have more than enough to do what he wants us to do. And since that’s the case, maybe now is time for us to believe and to receive and to move.

Art Work from Saturday Evening


At our last Gathering service, the children drew things that God had given them. Below is a sample of their art work.


Ben Minor (an elephant, a tree, and a giraffe

Arden Minor


Maggie Rudiger (pets, past and present: cat, fish, worms)

Summer's Almost Here!

Although it won’t be official until June 21, as far as I’m concerned, summer begins on the day after school ends. Now when I was a kid, this was the very best time of the year. I mean, even though I didn’t particularly like hot weather and I’ve always enjoyed football and basketball more than baseball, summer was the time I didn’t have to go to school. After nine months of teachers trying to force information into my head, now at last I was free: free to play with Nicky Renesis all day long, free to catch minnows down at the creek near my house, free to sleep in (8:00 a.m.) and stay up (9:00 p.m.). In other words, summer was the time to kick back and relax. Now, that’s how I saw the season.

And I think that kind of perspective influences us all. I mean, even if we have to work, psychologically summer still is a season to relax and enjoy. It’s seems to be the time to take a break from some of the stuff we’ve been doing all year. And although in many ways that’s not bad, sometimes we apply it to God. You see, we’ve gone through all the big Christian days, like Christmas and Easter. And we’ve been really good in attending services, well, at least two of them. And we may have been reading our Bibles and praying religiously. Now that’s what we’ve been doing for nine long months. But then here comes summer: the time to relax and to enjoy. And so, like a kid getting out of school, we decide to take the summer off from church and religion and maybe God. And why not, it’ll all be there in the fall when we’re ready to come back.

Now I think that is how at lot of Christians feel. And that explains why, even though most people may have more “free time” during the summer, outside of Vacation Bible School, most churches shut down a lot of their programs and activities. The assumption seems to be that people just won’t come anyway.

And I think that’s a shame, because I believe it communicates a terrible message. It reenforces the idea that people won’t be involved in worshiping God if they have anything better to do. It also conveys this belief that, like school, we all really need to take a break from praising God. Worship is not a very positive experience. Now that is what I think some people think, and sadly, when I consider the structure and content of a lot of our standard services, there are times I’d agree with them.

But you know, that can change. If we work together, we can change this perspective. And this will happen when we make the decision to do two things. First, we all need to work as hard as we can to make worship a positive experience for as many people as possible. There’s no reason anyone should see worship as something to endure. It can be up-beat, interesting, exciting, and even fun. Now in saying that, I recognize that this represents a change, and it may mean intentionally incorporating both praise and mediation into our services and to blend the best of the traditional and the contemporary. And although this may be a challenge, it can be done when we see worship as our opportunity to love both God and one another. You see, if I really love the people on the other side of the sanctuary, I may be willing to do something that they enjoy even if it’s not my thing. And this same perspective can apply to every aspect of the church’s ministry. You see, summer can be the time we make our relationship with God and one another so exciting that we’d never want to be away for three months. That’s the first thing we can do.

And second, as individuals, we can change our attitudes. This summer we can rededicate ourselves to strengthening our relationship with God. You see, he already loves us, and that’s not going to change. And even if we never do one thing for him this summer, he’ll still love us in the fall. We don’t offer God praise because we have to; rather, it’s because we want to. And so, during these next three months, let’s focus on how we can thank God for all that he’s done for us through Jesus Christ. You see, that change in perspective is the second thing we can do.

I think summer vacation for children may be a thing of the past soon. Since we’re no longer an agrarian society, it really doesn’t make sense for schools to close for three months. And when children stop seeing the summer as the time to take off, maybe in the future, people will no longer carry that attitude to their relationship with God. But we don’t have to wait; we can change right now. You see, during the next three months, we can work together to make this the kind of congregation from which you don’t need a break , and we can decide that right now God has given us the opportunity to strengthen our relationship to him.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cove Spruce-Up Day

Below are some pictures of our annual Spruce-Up Day. We thank all the people who were involved, especially our Girl Scout troops who pitched-in.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Little More

There seem to be people who are constantly looking for a little more. I remember, when I lived in Indianapolis, I knew a guy who said he was right on the verge of doing something really big, but he just needed a little more: a little more time, a little more money, a little more support. Of course, during the ten years I knew him, he never did much of anything. I guess he was just looking for a little more.

Now I think most of us have known people like my friend. Of course, this kind of thing can be applied to many aspects of life, even faith. I mean, I've known people who seem close to believing in Christ, but they just need a little more proof. And there are many churches who are ready to do great things for the Kingdom of God, but they just need a little more money. They just need a little more. And as they wait, well, nothing much happens.

And I'll tell you, I think that's truly tragic, because according to Jesus, we really have all that we need. Therefore, during the services on Saturday evening and Sunday, we'll consider everything God has given us and start discussing how we might use it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

GoodSearch Has Hit Cove Presbyterian Church

GoodSearch is a search engine which donates 50-percent of its revenue to the charities and schools designated by its users. It’s a simple and compelling concept You use GoodSearch exactly as you would any other search engine. Because it’s powered by Yahoo!, you get proven search results. The money GoodSearch donates to your cause comes from its advertisers — the users and the organizations do not spend a dime.
All money earned will be directed to The Board of Deacons Outreach Programs. If you would like to follow the amount that is being raised, simply click on the amount earned box located below the charity.

Do all of my searches count toward donations?
All of your searches will count toward donations except for the following:
  1. image searches;
  2. video searches;
  3. “search this site” searches;
  4. searches for URL’s (i.e., search terms ending in .com, .org, .net, .edu);
  5. searches to sites for which the URL is well known such as HotMail, ESPN, MySpace, Facebook, GMail, AOL, etc.;
  6. searches for stock quotes;
  7. searches for word definitions;
  8. Yellow Pages searches;
  9. any searches generated from fraudulent use of the site.
Here’s an example of how much we could make:

Want to help?

Simply go to www.goodsearch.com and click to download toolbar and follow directions. Be sure to set Cove Presbyterian Church as your charity. Goodsearch also has a shopping called Goodshop. If you purchase merchandise online and you purchase thru goodsearch, a percentage of your purchase will come back to the church. For ex: Target donates 1.5% - 3.5%.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sermon: When Jesus Prayed for Us

John 17:20-26 - 20But not concerning these alone do I ask, but also concerning those who believe, through their word, in me, 21so that they all might be one, just as you, father, are in me and I in you, so that also they might be in us, so that the world might believe that you sent me. 22And I, the glory which you have given to me, I have given to them, so that they might be one just as we are one: 23I in them and you in me, so that they might be perfectly one, so that the world might know that you sent me, and I loved them just as you loved me.

24“Father, those whom you have given to me, I want that where I myself am there also they might be with me, so that they might see my glory, which you have given me, that you loved me before the foundation of the world.

25“Righteous Father, the world also doesn’t know you, but I know you and they know that you sent me. 26And I made known to them your name, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you loved me, in them, might be and I in them.”

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Before we do anything else, I’d like y’all to think about this. If you knew that Jesus Christ himself was going to pray for you, what would you want him to say? In other words, what kind things would you want him to bring to the father on your behalf?

Now, if I’m really honest with myself, I’ve got to admit that the answer would probably depend on some stuff that has almost nothing to do with my faith in Christ. For example, when it’s raining outside and the temperature is around ninety degrees and I’m driving to Pittsburgh in my 1991 unairconditioned Miata, with water dripping from a hole in the rag top, knowing that with every rain drop, a little more of my car is rusting away, well, on those days, I’ve got a good idea what I’d like Jesus to say. And after I’ve said something that I thought was really clever and Debbie is now mad, again the prayer I want is pretty obvious. And if the Colts are playing the Saints in the Super Bowl and I have a five dollar bet with Dar, daa.

Of course on more noble days, you know when I’m not sweating like a pig or in the dog house or have money on the line, I can see myself sounding a little like a beauty pageant contestant and asking for world peace or universal love or global faith. But that’s me. If you knew that Jesus Christ himself was going to pray for you, what would you want him to say?

Of course, one of the things that probably wouldn’t even appear on our radar screens is something like unity, and I’m talking about unity within the church universal and within our own congregation. Now, I’m not saying that we’re some how anti-unity, but I kind of doubt that it would appear on the top our list. And you know, why should it.

In fact, why should it appear at all. For crying out loud, we don’t exactly live in a society that encourages unity, and if you have any doubts, just think about how liberals are portrayed on Fox News or conservatives on MSNBC. We don’t even have political discussions any more, just people yelling at one another and doing their very best to distort and misrepresent what’s been said on the other side. Not exactly the kind of atmosphere that brings people together.

And when you combine that with the belief that God wants Christians to be comfortable all the time and wants them in places where they never have to question anything they believe or change anything they do, well, there’s no wonder that the body of Christ is being divided into smaller and smaller pieces, and it’s voice in the world is getting weaker and weaker. Eventually, if this continues, each person will be his or her own church and then we’ll all finally be completely comfortable, because everything will be exact the way I want it.

As a matter of fact, if you think about it, unity is about the last thing most Christians really want. My gosh, just imagine if God answered that kind of prayer. We couldn’t talk about one another any more, you know, gather in little groups to trash someone else. Take that away and you’ve eliminated an awful lot of Christian fellowship, haven’t you; to say nothing of prayer requests. And it would also mean we wouldn’t be able to get our feelings hurt at the drop of a hat and I’m talking about by another church people who don’t like us, and then to dwell on it and hold it until everybody knows how miserable we. And of course, with unity we sure wouldn’t be able to sort push out people whom we don’t think belong. Now we’re not blatant about it, that wouldn’t be Christ-like. Instead, we just find subtle ways to make them feel, well, feel uncomfortable so that they leave. No, if we gave it any thought at all, I seriously doubt that most of us would want Jesus to pray for this kind of stuff: blessings yes but unity, probably not.

And for that reason, I find this passage really interesting, because that’s exactly what Jesus prayed in these verses; that’s exactly what he prayed for us. I mean, as he prayed to God in this chapter and when he got to the part that really applies to people who weren’t with him but who come to believe in him through words of others, Jesus prayed, “but also concerning those who believe, through their word, in me, so that they all might be one, just as you, father, are in me and I in you, so that also they might be in us, so that the world might believe that you sent me. And I, the glory which you have given to me, I have given to them, so that they might be one just as we are one: I in them and you in me, so that they might be perfectly one, so that the world might know that you sent me, and I loved them just as you loved me.” You see, it’s amazing. In the last prayer he makes before going to the cross, Jesus didn’t pray that we be blessed or that we be happy or that we be successful or that we be comfortable, instead, that we be united, united with God and united with one another. Now that’s what he prayed for us.

And the reason, well, that’s here too. According to this prayer, Jesus knew the future we were going to face. I mean, he understood that after he’d gone, we’d be left with a pretty tough job to do, one that demanded all of us working together. Remember, in those verses I read just a little while ago, right after he asked that we be made one, he explained, “...so that the world might believe that you sent me,” and a little later, “...so that the world might know that you sent me, and I loved them just as you loved me.”

You see, right now we live in the same kind of world within which Jesus lived, a world that is both loved and lost. I mean, we know it’s loved; that’s pretty clear. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” I’ll tell you, it’s God’s love for the world and everything in it, this good creation he made in the beginning, that caused him to send the light, the word made flesh to literally “pitch his tent among us.”

And that’s a good thing, because without this act of God, the world would continue to be lost. I mean, right at the beginning of his gospel, John wrote, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.” And using Jesus’s own words to his disciples, “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you.” You see, God loves this lost world, and it’s now our job to show that world God’s love.

And I’ll tell you, for Christ, that can only be done by a united body of believers, inspired by the Holy Spirit. You see, people are going to judge God based on Christ’s church here on earth. Now I’m not saying whether that’s right or wrong, it just is. And for that reason, our unity isn’t just an option or a possibility, brothers and sisters, it is absolutely essential. And that’s why it’s the focus of Jesus’s prayer for us; it was just that important to him.

And I’ll tell you, because of that, it should also be that important to us. My goodness, it should be important enough to move us to make some changes. For example, maybe it’s time that we stop standing by and watching the church be divided by stuff that’s just plan ridiculous. I mean, maybe it’s time that we prayed for folks who, for some reason, seem to keep the pot perpetually stirred and who never saw a little tear that couldn’t be made into a big hole. Man, I think we should be praying for these folks, but not encouraging them.

In other words, maybe it’s time that we simply told Satan to shut-up, because I’m absolutely convinced that the last thing Satan wants to see is a united and active church and so he’s constantly trying to distract us. I mean, when he sees us coming together to do God’s work, he gets moving. And he starts whispering in our ears distractions, you know, things like, “Do you know what so-and-so said about you” or “why can’t the church be exactly like it was twenty years ago” or “how can you stay in a congregation that allows that kind of stuff.” I’ll tell you, Satan would love to see the train off the tracks, and we give him exactly what he wants when we allow ourselves to be distracted. Brothers and sister, it’s time to stand up and to say, “Satan, shut up.”

But along with that, I think we also need to spend a little more time focusing on what we share, a common faith in Jesus Christ. You know, it’s amazing, usually congregations don’t divide nor do Christians start church shopping because of Jesus Christ or to enhance the mission of his church, you know, like going to a congregation that desperately needs the gifts they have to offer. No, splits and moves generally involve personal feelings, like that wonderful desire to be comfortable, you know, surrounded by people just like them, or politics, you know that the church has become too liberal or conservative.

But you know, when you get right down to it, there’s something more important than whether you like singing certain hymns or agree with the denomination’s position on immigration. God has called us all here, with all our different opinions and perspectives, to show his love to a world that’s full of people with different opinions and perspectives. And he’s joined us together by the Holy Spirit and a single confession, that Jesus Christ is Lord. I’ll tell you, when it comes to our work in the world, our diversity should be viewed as a strength not a problem. But it’s only going to happen when our focus is clear.

And when it is, when we’ve shut up the distractions that divide and begin to praise God for the tie that binds, when, with the help of God’s spirit, that’s been done, now we’ll be ready to step out and do exactly what we’ve been called to do, to love God, to love one another, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. You see, that’s what unity will bring.

Now, I think if we knew that Jesus Christ himself was going to pray for us, we’d probably have all kinds of things we’d like him to take to his Father. And you know, that’s really O.K. I mean, as we live our lives, at any given moment, one need may be more pressing than another. Still, I believe it’s important that we remember that one of those things which may be pretty low on our prayer agenda was right at the top for our Lord’s. You see, we need to remember that our unity is going to enable us to do the works we’ve been called to do; therefore, it’s time to get past the distractions, focus on what brings us together and then get up and start loving as we’ve been loved. In other words, we should never forget that when Jesus prayed for us, he prayed for unity.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Artwork from Saturday Evening

During our Saturday evening gathering, the children draw pictures related to the Bible passage we read. Since we were outside, they drew on the sidewalk. Last Saturday we looked at John 17:20-26, Jesus's prayer for believers. Below are two examples of their work:

Jesus Becomes a Tiger, Tucker Smith

Jesus Praying, Wyatt Smith

Friday, May 14, 2010

"That They May Be One"

A guy pulls into a gas station in this very small town. He asks the attendant, "How many churches do you have around here?" The attendant says, "Three. We had two but they merged."

Now, that's one of my favorite jokes, because not only is it funny (at least to me), it's also true. Whenever churches try to merge, you can be sure that some folks in both congregations are going to be unhappy and will probably leave and go off on their own. But this doesn't apply to just mergers; nowadays it really doesn't take much for a person to pick up and go. Often it involves trying to find a place that's more "comfortable." And even though this idea that God wants all of us to do or hear nothing that might cause us to question what we believe or enjoy isn't exactly biblical, the body of Christ is constantly dividing and shuffling organs from one place to another. For example, there are 126 churches that have a listing in the Weirton/Steudenville AT&T Yellow Pages, with new congregations forming all the time, while the number of people actually attending services continues to decline. Using Paul's image of the body, for the sake of comfort, all the eyes go to one place while the ears go some where else. And instead of working together, they try to convert one another. And I haven't even mentioned people with congregations who use gossip to stir-up conflict and decent. Welcome to Christianity in America.

And that really makes the passage on which we're going to focus Saturday evening and Sunday morning interesting. You see, in his great prayer in John 17, Jesus asked God to give those who would believe after he'd gone unity. As he said, "And I, the glory which you have given to me, I have given to them, so that they might be one just as we are one: I in them and you in me, so that they might be perfectly one, so that the world might know that you sent me, and I loved them just as you loved me." In other words, to Jesus, our unity reflects the love of God, something that we may have forgotten. Therefore, plan to come to one of our two services, so that we might explore what unity means and how we might strengthen it in our church and community.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Christian Mothers Visit Myrtle McHendry

The monthly meeting of the Myrtle McHendry Class was held on May 4 in the fellowship hall at Cove Presbyterian Church.

President Betty Virtue read a poem, and Beryl Darby led devotions.

Vice-President Bonnie Nichols introduced the Christian Mothers of St. Joseph the Worker Parish, under the direction of Barbara Raynolds, who presented a skit entitled, "Adam and Eve, and the Apple" from "The Diary of Mark Twain."

Actors were Minnie Pazich, Karen Leyda, Lory Rosahac, Joanne Froats and Molly Mossor.

Following the program Virtue conducted a short business meeting.

Treasurer Rhadine Ross gave the treasurer's report, and announced 16 members and 11 guests.

Plans were made for the June 1 meeting which will be a luncheon held at 11:30 a.m. at Ponderosa Golf Course.

Prior to the luncheon, a salad smorgasbord, Julie Maine's children surprised her with birthday cakes in honor of her 80th birthday. Everyone sang "Happy Birthday."

Nichols said grace.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sermon: There's No Pleasing Some People

John 5:1-9 - 1After this there was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2And there is in Jerusalem, near the place related to sheep, a pool which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five colonnades. 3In these were lying a great number who were weak, blind, lame, withered. 5And there was a certain person who, for thirty-eight years, was weak. 6When Jesus saw this person lying and after he knew that it had already been a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to become well?” 7The ill person answered him, “Lord, I don’t have a person [here] so that when the water might be troubled, he might put me into the pool. While I’m going, another goes in before me.” 8Jesus said to him, “Arise, take your litter, and walk.” 9And immediately, the person became well, and he took his litter and walked.

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On Tuesday, when I first started working on this passage, I just couldn’t shake this scene I remembered from a movie I hadn’t seen for, I bet, twenty-five years. In fact, I had to consult with an expert to make sure I had the right film. Now, for y’all who get the bulletin e-mailed to you or who meander through Facebook every now or then, I gave y’all the link so that you could watch the clip (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf1xmUOB7Sk). But if you haven’t seen it, let me briefly tell you what’s going on. The movie is Life of Brian, and it’s about a man who’s born in Bethlehem on the same day Jesus was born. And in this particular scene, Brian and his mother, Mandy, are going down this street when they’re approached by guy who says, “Spare a talent for an old ex-leper?” Well after a little silliness about the amount they should give, Brain finally asks, “Did you say ‘ex-leper’?” Now understand, the beggar actually looks pretty good; he’s tan and moving around sort of like a boxer. In other words, he looks like he’s never the flu much less leprosy. Anyway, after he’s asked, the fellow begins to explain why he’s an ex-leper. He tells Brian that he was healed and it was a miracle. And when Brian asks who did it, the ex-leper says this. He says, “Jesus did sir! I was hopping along, minding my own business, all of a sudden up he comes, cures me! One minute I’m a leper with a trade, next minute my livelihood’s gone! Not so much as a by your leave! ‘You’re cured mate.’ Bloody do-gooder!”

Now that’s what he said. You see, even though he’d done nothing to deserve it, in fact, he didn’t even ask for it, Jesus still acted, he was healed the leper and now his life had changed forever. And although he didn’t want to go back to leprosy, he also didn’t want to give up his profession as a beggar. In fact, he thought about going back to Jesus and asking Christ to make him “a bit lame in one leg during the middle of the week. You know, something beggable, but not leprosy, which was a pain...” Now that’s what happened in the movie.

And like I said, as soon as got into the passage, this scene hit me, because I think the same kind of thing is going on here. I mean, just look at the story. We’ve got a man there by the pool at Bethesda who John described as weak, not lame or blind or withered, but rather the opposite of strong. And he’s been that way for thirty-eight years. And then Jesus entered the picture, and he asked a rather straight, unambiguous question, “Do you want to become well?” Now, for me, there’s one pretty obvious answer. My goodness, even if he didn’t know Jesus from Adam, I’d have still expected the guy on the litter to say, “Yes, yes I want to become well.”

But that’s not what he said, is it? Instead he starts making excuses to explain why he was still weak. “Lord, I don’t have a person [here] so that when the water might be troubled, he might put me into the pool. While I’m going, another goes in before me.” You see, in his mind, it wasn’t his fault that he was still weak. If he just had a friend and if those lame and withered people weren’t so quick... Man, it wasn’t his fault, right; therefore, what else could he do but lay beside the pool all day. Maybe he even saw that as his trade, his profession: pool watching, I don’t know.

But that all changed, didn’t it? That all changed when Jesus said, “Arise, take your litter, and walk.” And according to John, “...immediately, the person became well.” In other words, like the ex-leper, he was physically a new person. And that meant he was no longer weak and pitiful. His life had changed forever, because he now had the power to get up and leave the place that may have been his home away from home for thirty-eight years. But that also meant he didn’t have to be a pool-watcher any more; now he could be a walker. And right there, that ex-weakling had a decision to make. I mean, he could deny the change that had already occurred and take the comfortable route and try to act like nothing had happened. He could even course complain about not receiving what he already had been given. And with a little creativity, he could come up with some kind of excuse to justify him staying exactly as he’d been for 38 years. “Oh I tried to get up, but the tiles were too slippery and the litter was too heavy and the lame and withered kept pushing me around.” He could have done this.

Or, he could simply do what Jesus told him to do. He could arise, and he could take his litter and he could walk. And even if he didn’t know where to go or if he did, after thirty-eight years, he sure didn’t know what to do when he got there, he could still claim the power he now had and he could obey the one who’d healed him and move into an unknown future with new strength and confidence, knowing that his ability to move was an undeserved gift. And of course, that’s what he did. He arose, picked up his litter and walked. In other words, he accepted his healing and did exactly what he was able to do. Now that’s what I think happened in this story.

And you know, it’s amazing; I think the same kind of thing happens to us. I mean, without God, we’re really not much to write home about, either as individuals or a community. Good night, we’re a mess. I’ll tell you, left by ourselves, we often become either arrogant, domineering “know-it-alls” or frightened, passive little wimps. We’re jealous of people who have what we want and then when we get it, we paranoid that someone’s going to take it. We find excuses when we know we’re wrong and spread gossip when someone else won’t own up to their mistakes. But maybe worst of all, we put ourselves in the center of the universe, above and beyond everyone else, and even if we let God be our co-pilot, lucky God, we’re still the captain. Put another way, left on our own, we’re not just weak; we are screwed up.

And yet with Jesus, that all changed. You see, even though we did nothing to deserve it, good night, we didn’t even ask for it, we were still healed. It’s done; Elvis has left the building. I’ll tell you, Jesus acted on his own. And he did something for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves. He empowered us, and he strengthened us and then for reasons that are beyond my comprehension, he led us all to this place, at this time. You see, as individuals he breathed into us the Holy Spirit and just like when God breathed life into that lump of clay, that Spirit empowers us to live a new kind of life and to enter a new kind of relationship with both God and one another. Now, all that he’s already done; it’s already happened.

And then he called us to do one simple yet profound thing, something else we were never really able to do on our own. Jesus commanded us simply to love: to love God with everything we have and to love one another in the same way he’s loved us and to love our neighbor as ourselves. You see, instead of saying, “Arise, take your litter, and walk,” he told us to “Get up as individuals and communities and take what we’ve been given and show the kind of empowering love that can change lives.” And this is something we can now do, because Jesus has made us strong and united and able to face the future. In other words, thanks to Jesus, we have all changed.
And just like it did to that weak guy by the pool, right now we have a decision to make, and I’ll tell you, it’s the same kind of decision we’ve talked about the last few Sundays. Right now we have to decide whether or not we’re going to do what Jesus has called us to do. It’s as simple as that. I mean, now that we’ve changed, now that we’re different, now that we’ve been empowered we’ve got to decide what we’re going to do about it. But the choice isn’t as easy as it seems, because I’ve got to tell you, it’s a whole lot easier to pretend that nothing has changed at all and that we’re as weak as we’ve ever been and that, woe is me, things would be different if... I mean, things would be different if it weren’t for those stupid democrats or republicans. And things would be different if it weren’t for a parent who didn’t love or a spouse who wouldn’t listen. And we all know, things would be different if younger people loved the old favorites as much as we do or if older people would get the same kind of screen in our sanctuary that every new church has in their’s. You see, we can sit around and make all kinds of excuses for why we’re still weak and complain about the lousy condition of our world and our community and our church and then we can blame everyone and his sister, except of course, ourselves. In other words, we can just lie there by the pool and try our best to deny that Christ has done anything at all. And who wouldn’t like to longue around a pool. We can do just that.

Or just like the guy in the story, we can start doing what Christ has empowered us to do. In other words, right now, we can decide that we’ve been changed and for that reason together we’re facing a world full of possibilities and opportunities that we may not have imagined before. And it really doesn’t matter that we have plenty of grey heads in this place; because of Jesus Christ, we are no longer weak. He has made us strong. You see, we’re strong enough to worship him in ways that are both traditional and contemporary, what a radical thought; instead of keeping them separate, we’re able to blend them together so that we can all benefit by the truth they offer. And we’re strong enough to stand up to those who try to divide us by their gossip or distract us by their complaining; we can stand up and say, “Enough. Through the power given by God, Cove is going to be the kind of place where we’re dedicated to loving one another whether you like it or not. And you can’t do that if you’re harboring hatred or resentment or jealousy or bitterness in your heart. Man, let that weakness go, and claim the strength God has already given, and then get up and start moving forward with the rest of us.” That’s what we can say. And I’ll tell you, we’re strong enough to move out of this building and get involved in our community, to move into the neighborhoods right around this church and confront the drugs and the poverty and the hopeless that folks out there face every, single day, but also to move up on the hills where people are afraid about what’s going to happen to their jobs and their children and their values. You see, as brothers and sisters empowered by Jesus, our love can go up and around and outside, just what we’ve been called to do.

Now, remember that movie I was talking about at the beginning of the sermon, well after the ex-leper finishes his explanation, Brian gives him a coin. And after he looks at it, the beggar gets really mad and says, “Half a dinare for me bloody life-story!” And then, as Brian turns to leave, he says, “There’s no pleasing some people,” to which the ex-leper responds, “That’s just what Jesus said sir!” Brothers and sisters, whether we want to admit it or not, God has healed our weakness and given us the chance to respond. And when he sees what we’ve done with this opportunity, well, I just hope he says something different to us.

Art Work from Saturday Evening

During our Saturday evening gathering, the children draw pictures related to the Bible passage we read. Last Saturday we looked at John 5:1-9, the healing at Bethesda. Below are two examples of their work:

Maggie Rudiger

Mallory Rosnick

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Lastest from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance


Rhode Island flooding
Several counties in Rhode Island were declared major disaster areas due to the massive flooding in the ocean state in late March/early April. Most of the state has been affected by the heavy rain that caused rivers to rise and homes and businesses to flood.

PDA provided One Great Hour of Sharing funds to the Presbytery of Southern New England to assist with needs in the area. At the request of the presbytery, PDA National Response Team (NRT) members Isabel Santana-Rivera and Bill Neely have been working with local congregations as they help their community in assessing the needs and in the response. Some of the assistance by NRT members was helping congregations connect with the Rhode Island Disaster Long Term Recovery group, helping to identify training by FEMA and the SBA that would be benefit some of the affected families, and encouraging the churches to begin the process of helping identify persons in the community who need help with disaster recovery work that could be done by volunteers in neighboring states who have offered to help on the weekends.

PDA has also been in contact with the Presbytery of West Virginia to determine how we can be of assistance in that state’s response.

Mid-West Tornadoes and flooding
Tornadoes and torrential rains affected several southern states the weekend of May 1, 2010. Nearly 20 inches of rain in a two day period caused severe flooding and forced thousands of residents to flee their homes - by cars if possible, but often by rescue boats. At least 19 people have died as a result of the storms.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has been in contact with the Presbytery office in Arkansas and learned that the tornadoes hit in areas where there is no Presbyterian presence. The Presbytery will let us know of any identified needs that we can be a part of.

In Middle Tennessee, the Presbytery Executive indicates that the flooding is extensive, and probably not over yet. The presbytery is requesting PDA assistance and a National Response Team visit to the area as soon as the water recedes and access to the area is possible.

Information on Tennessee Presbyterian churches affected by flooding can be found on Synod of Living Waters online publication, The Presbyterian Voice.

Gulf Coast Oil Spill
Efforts are underway by many experienced organizations to minimize damage from the huge oil spill caused by last week's rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. A report from the Church World Service Emergency Response Committee states, “ This type of clean up needs to be carefully supervised by experts — no one should just go out and try to do something, as it is very dangerous to human health.”

The following phone numbers from the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) are provided to help area residents:
• To report oiled or injured wildlife, please call 1-800-557-1401.
• To discuss spill related damage claims, please call 1-800-440-0858.
• To report oil on land, or for general Community and Volunteer Information, please call 1-866-448-5816

LEAN has been established in Louisiana for many years. Following Hurricane Katrina, the United Church of Christ worked with the network on environmental issues related to an oil spill – everything from personal protection equipment for home owners to working with a scientist to test land impacted. Visit LEAN’s website (http://leanweb.org/).

The Environmental Ministries Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a blog, Eco-Journey, that includes information on the oil spill.

PDA will hold a conference call on Friday, May 7, 2010 with all affected presbyteries to discuss the situation and determine an appropriate Presbyterian response.

Ready or Not

I love this weather! The sun is shining. It's starting to get warm, but it's not hot yet. After a long, snowy winter, this is a wonderful change. In fact, it reminds me of some of the springs I remember when I was growing up. Now, back then, it would have appropriate to call this "hide and seek" weather, because that's what we played all the time. You see, there was a big tulip tree in the Tucker's front yard, a perfect base. And we'd spend every evening hiding and then running to that old tree before we were found. And the excitement happened right after we heard those wonderful words, "Ready or not, here I come."

And in a real sense, we have the same kind of thing going on in the passage that'll be the center of our service on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. You see, in John 5:1-9, we'll read about how Jesus healed a man who, even when asked, didn't make any kind of request or demonstrate any kind of faith. In fact, he didn't even say, "Yes, heal me." But Jesus did it anyway and then called him to "arise, take his mat, and walk." It was as though Jesus was saying to him, "Ready or not, you're healed. Now you've got to do something about it."

And when you think about it, we're in a similar situation. Even though we haven't asked for it, God has given us an awful lot and then called us to use what we have. Now this leaves us with a decision. We have to decide whether we're going to take advantage of what we've been given or to pretend that we're too weak to do much of anything. This is what we'll discuss on Sunday.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sermon: Coming or Going

John 13:31-35 - 31Then when he went out, Jesus said, “Now the son of man was glorified, and God was glorified in him. 32If God was glorified in him, then God will also glorify [the son of man] in [God’s self], and immediately [God] will glorify [the son of man].


33“Little children, a little while I’m with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I myself am going you are not able to come,’ I also say to you.

34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I loved you, you yourselves love one another. 35In this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

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When I was growing up, I had an unbelievably stable mother. Now maybe it was her nurse’s training, I don’t know for sure, but I’ll tell you, when I was a kid, she was a rock. And even though my dad was pretty good, he wasn’t even in my mother’s league. For example, I remember, when I was about eleven, I was out, riding my bike, and understand, this was back before kids had to wear helmets and pads and flak jackets. Anyway, I was out riding, and I was practicing my wheelies. Now looking back, that was probably a pretty stupid thing to do, because we didn’t have sidewalks where I lived, and the street had been asphalted only in the broadest sense of the word. Actually, it was covered with gravel mixed with glass shards and sticks, broken only by these sharp rock sticking out of the tar. And this is where I was trying to ride on one wheel.

And I was really doing fine, until I wasn’t. Down I went, and my knee, well, it opened like a flower, blood everywhere. (I still get chills.) I remember, I dragged my bike home, knocked on my front door, and watched as my dad turned white. But not mom, man, she packed me up, took me to the emergency room and twenty-five stitches later, I came back home. Mom was hard to fluster.

But you know, every now-and-then it happened. Usually it would be a whole bunch of things coming up at the same time. And then mom would say the exact same thing. She’d just stop, put her hands in the air and say to any living thing within earshot, “I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.” And that was our cue to get out of her way, because nothing good was going to happen to the ones who probably caused the frustration in the first place, not after she said those words.

And you know, I’ve got to admit, every now and then, I’m ready to say the same thing myself. In other words, when I look around and start thinking about everything that I need and am expected to do and compare it to the time that I have to do it, I’ve got to admit that sometimes I know exactly how my mother felt. And when you add to that all the stuff happening around me, some things that I’ll never understand if I lived to be one hundred and four, man, I’m ready to start tearing my hair out, something that I’ve obviously been doing. I’m telling you, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going either.

But what about y’all; do y’all know what I’m talking about? I mean, do y’all ever feel as though you were, as a cowboy might say about his horse, rode hard and put away wet, you know what I mean, that you’ve got a little two much on your plate? And if that’s not enough, do you ever feel frustrated by some of the stuff that’s going on in the world, that things have just gotten out of wack and that if something doesn’t change it’s going to get a whole lot worse? And because of that, do you ever want a place to kind of get away, just to take a break and to spend a little time with the people you love, as a Christian, maybe to go and spend a little time with God and Jesus, away from everything else? Now, how many of y’all ever feel that way? I know there are days when it applies to me.

And my friends, I think that’s what a lot of Christians try to do. They look for ways to go and be with Jesus, you know as a means to escape the mess that’s going on. Now, of course, different people try different things. I mean, some talk about having what they call “quiet time,” while others may walk a maze or meditate in front of a candle. And a lot of us, well, we see the church as a perfect place to go: a place that’s separated from the rest of the world, a place where we come into the presence of God. But for that to really work, the church needs to be separated from the world. And I’ll tell you, I think we try our very best to do that very thing.

I mean, that explains why, if we have windows at all, they’re often covered with stained glass and why we sing songs that are unique to this place and why we sing those songs to an instrument that you almost never hear played any where else unless you happen to visiting either Norma Desmond or the Munsters? My goodness, even our language here is different. For example, how many people out on the street do you think know what a prayer of supplication is or what it means to “pass of the peace.” They’d probably ask, “Piece of what?” And I haven’t said anything about The Doxology or the Gloria Patri.

No, when in the rest of life, we don’t know whether we’re coming or going, this is where we often go to get away for a little while and this is the place we come to feel comfortable and protected and secure. And although I think all this is natural and almost universal, unfortunately there’s a problem and I’ll tell you, it’s something we can see right here in this passage. I mean, as soon as I view a quiet time or a candle or a church as the way to go to God and to come to Jesus, we run right up against these words that he said to his disciples: “Little children, a little while I’m with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I myself am going you are not able to come,’ I also say to you.”

Now, if he’s saying what I think he’s saying, not only is he calling us a bunch of kids, but he’s suggesting that although we may seek until the cows come home, it’s impossible for us to come into the place where he went. And because it’s just not going to happen regardless of how much we want to do it; we shouldn’t even try. Now, in my book, that’s pretty shocking. “Where I myself am going you are not able to come.” That’s what he said, and frankly, that’s not what we really want to hear. I want to be with Jesus right now.

But you know, when you think about the rest of the passage, what he says here, well, it makes a lot more sense. I mean, first, think about where Jesus was about to go. Remember, he said, “Now the son of man was glorified, and God was glorified in him. If God was glorified in him, then God will also glorify [the son of man] in [God’s self], and immediately [God] will glorify [the son of man].” You see, when he said this stuff, Jesus’s work here on earth was just about done, and he was heading home. He’d already been glorified and God had been glorified in him. And now it was time for him to lifted up on the cross and return the perfect glory he’d left when he became flesh and dwelt among us.

That’s where he was about to go and that’s exactly where he went, and I’ll tell you, that’s why we can’t come too. And the reason, well, no matter how much we wish it were different, right now, we aren’t made for glory. And that explain why, in the Old Testament, people couldn’t even look at the face of God and live to tell about it. Glory’s not for us, at least not yet. And so, when he goes back to his father, we just can’t tag along. It just can’t be done by the likes of us.

And even though that sure sounds rough, you know, this glorification that Jesus is about to experience, well, it’s actually just about the best thing that could happen. A little earlier in his gospel, John wrote, “Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

Now that’s really good news for all everybody here, and I’ll tell you why. Simply put, if Jesus didn’t go home, a place we can’t go, if he wasn’t finally glorified, there would have been no Holy Spirit, the one “...whom the Father [sent in his] name,” I’m talking about the one whom Jesus said would “...teach [us] everything, and remind [us] of all that [he had] said to [his disciples].” You see, praise the Lord, we just aren’t able to come to the glorified son right now. That’s the first reason we can’t come to where he went.

But I’ll tell you, I think the second is even more important, at least for us right now. You see, I don’t think it’s an accident that right after, “Where I myself am going you are not able to come,” he said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I loved you, you yourselves love one another. In this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Now I want you to think about what that means. Although we may not be ready for glory, we sure have been made for love, haven’t we?

And that just makes sense, at least to me, especially after John wrote in his second letter, “I was overjoyed to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father. But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning — you must walk in it.” You remember that song by Tina Turner, “What’s love got to do with it”? Well, according to John and to Jesus, the answer is everything.

And that’s why he doesn’t want us wasting our time trying to seek out his glory, you know, to come to where he went. Instead, we need to go out to where he’s sent us. And instead to trying to escape from the world and isolate ourselves from the people around us, Christ has challenged us to make a decision. We have to decide whether or not we’re going to love others, even folks that we don’t particularly like or who may scare us a little bit. Man, we have to decide whether or not we’re going to show them the same kind of love God has shown us and we’re going to do that even it means we may have to feed them and care for them and at the very least speak in a language they can understand.

And I’ll tell you, right here and right now, we have to decide whether or not we’re going follow this new commandment both outside and inside these walls. And I’ll tell you, if we put our minds to it, we can do it. I mean, on the outside, we can work with other people to make a difference for those whom Christ called the least of these who are our brothers and sisters.

And inside this building, well, I think we can do two things. One, again working together, using the unique gifts and talents that God has given us all, we can address the needs of the people within our own congregation. And two, we can begin to equip ourselves to love others. I mean, instead of blocking out the world, we can use our time together to learn how we can become better at showing and living God’s love. You see, Jesus doesn’t even want us to look for ways to come to where he went because that’s going to distract us from what we’ve been called to do right here and now. And that’s the second reason he said don’t even try.

I’d agree that we live crazy lives and we live in a crazy world. That’s just the way it is. And from time to time, I think we’ll all feel overwhelmed and confused and frustrated, you know, like we just don’t know whether we’re coming or going. But before we try to withdraw into to some kind of other-worldly existence with Jesus, let’s remember what he said to this disciples, “You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I myself am going you are not able to come,’ I also say to you.” In other words, let’s remember that right now, our place isn’t in glory, instead, it’s right here on earth, loving one another as we’ve been loved. And with that as our focus, together, let’s do it.