Thursday, September 30, 2010

Commitment and Example

Matthew 10:27-33:

26-27 “Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now.

28 “Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.

29-31 “What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.

32-33 “Stand up for me against world opinion and I’ll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. If you turn tail and run, do you think I’ll cover for you?

A Devotion by Albert Brooks Drake (Indiana):

Many Christians pray before meals to thank God for the food they are about to eat. In the comfort of my home this was easy and routine. Yet for years I did not honor God with prayer before meals in public. I feared being ridiculed for this display of faith. Essentially, every time I ate without giving thanks, I said I was ashamed of being a Christian. I knew this was wrong, and over time my guilt grew.

Finally I made a commitment to honor God before every meal, no matter my surroundings. I now pray — head bowed and hands folded — before all my meals, private or public.

Recently I led a group of friends in prayer before our meal in a restaurant. Later a man approached me and said, “Thank you. We used to pray as a family before meals, but we stopped. Your prayer reminded me of what we must do. From now on we will again be praying before our meals.”

Each of us can make a commitment to thank God by praying before every meal. By doing this we honor God and, even though we may never know our influence on others, we will set a much-needed Christian example.

A Thank You to the Deacons

Thank you to those who helped out at the Spaghetti Dinner with either donating items or your time. I was very excited to have such great help in the kitchen! (& so many people) The total profit that we made (after expenditures) was $603.69.

It will be put to good use on Project Christmas Smile!!!

Thank you,
Crissy Fierro

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

After the Meeting

I hope fall has finally fallen, and we’ve been set free from hot weather. Although it’s been rainy the last couple of days, I can sure feel the change in the seasons. Before you know it, we’ll be moving through October.

As most of y’all know, a few weeks ago we had a meeting to discuss some concerns within the congregation. Personally, I appreciate everyone who offered ideas and opinions. I was at the meeting and heard every comment that was made, and I left feeling positive about the future. And that’s appropriate and right. We’re all brothers and sisters in Christ; therefore, we should be able to share our thoughts with one another in an environment of mutual respect and love. It’s important to remember that what unites us is more powerful than what divides. As a matter of fact, I’m convinced that nothing pleases Satan more than a divided, grumbling church.

I think it’s also important for us to remember that this kind of meeting represents only the first step. We’re not really doing the work of God by talking about what we don’t like or wish we had. Now that everyone has had the chance to speak their mind, we need to put negativity behind us and start moving toward positive action. In other words, we need to move from what’s wrong to how we can do things right.

Of course, to make this step, we’re going to need two things. First, we need ideas. Although we may all know where we want to go, we may need a map to get there. Please share your thoughts, and you have my word that every idea will be shared and discussed by the session. Second, we need your involvement, and all forms are appreciated. As a matter of fact, there are things we can all do. I mean, most of us can attending one of the two worship services we offer. And we can pray that God use Cove to proclaim his good news to the people in Weirton. And all of us can cut gossip and negativity off at the root. These are some things we all can do.

Again, I appreciate your willingness to be honest in sharing your concerns. Now that those feelings have been expressed, it’s time for us to be active in our response. And I’m absolutely convinced that working together, we can make an enormous difference in our community.

Complain! Complain!

Philippians 2:14-18: 14-16Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.

17-18Even if I am executed here and now, I’ll rejoice in being an element in the offering of your faith that you make on Christ’s altar, a part of your rejoicing. But turnabout’s fair play—you must join me in my rejoicing. Whatever you do, don’t feel sorry for me.

**********

The lines in the grocery store were long. There were only two cashiers, while six other registers stood unattended. It was the end of the workday for most of those standing in the lines. Frustration set in, and I stood there and complained like others. “They need more cashiers!” “Whatever happened to customer service?”

While relaxing later that evening, I watched the evening news. One of the stories was about a mission on skid row that was giving away clothing, shoes, and school supplies to children in need. Many homeless and low-income parents had camped out for up to four days on a sidewalk on behalf of their children. And I had complained about standing 15 minutes in a grocery store line! What kind of Christian witness did I show to others?

Our patience and peacefulness can shine like a light in a dark and perverse world. Are you shining brightly, or is your light clouded by complaints? Each of us can choose to shine brightly for God.
Jacqueline Leaycraft (California)
The Upper Room

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday's Sermon - Proving Abraham Wrong

Luke 16:19-31 - 19“A certain person was rich, and he clothed himself in purple and fine linen,
and he partied every day sumptiously. 20And a certain poor man who’s name was Lazarus was thrown before his gate, and he was covered with sores. 21And he longed to be satisfied with what fell from the rich man’s table. But also the dogs when they came continually licked his sores. 22And it happened that the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. And the rich man also died and was buried. 23And in hades, he lifted up his eyes, since he was in torture, and he saw Abraham from afar and Lazarus in his bosom. 24And he called and said, ‘Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus so that he might dip the tip of his finger into water and cool my tongue, because I’m suffering in these flames.’ 25And Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you received your good things during your life, and Lazarus likewise bad. And now he is being comforted and you are suffering. 26And if this weren’t enough, between us and y’all a great chasm has been established, so that those who want to go across from here to y’all aren’t able, nor from there might they cross over to us.’ 27And he said, ‘Now I beg you, father, so that you might send him into the house of my father. 28For I have five brothers, so that he might warn them, in order that they might not also come into this place of torture.’ 29Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ 30But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if a person from death might come to them, then they will repent.’ 31But he said to him, ‘If Moses and the prophets they don’t hear, then not even if a person from death might rise will they be persuaded.’”

**********

When I was younger, there was one thing that motivated me like nobody’s business. You see, all you had to do was tell me that I couldn’t do something, and then, oh my gosh, I’d do almost anything to prove that you were wrong. For example, I remember, back when I was in college, I had to take one more PE credit before I graduated. And so I took bowling. I figured it was something I could always do later in life, unlike flag football or water polo. And so, like I said, I took bowling 101, and the instructor said that our bowling grade would be determined by the progress we showed in the class, but not to worry, in the ten years or so he’d been teaching, no one had made less than a B; in other words, everyone got better as the class progressed. As a matter of fact, he said we’d only have to take a written exam if we ended the semester with a C or lower, and he’d never given a final exam. And so we started bowling, something I’d never really done, outside of birthday parties and stuff like that.

Anyway, on that first day of class, he used our first three games to determine the base average that would determine our improvement. And although that would have been fine, after that first class I had an average of 195, including a 200 game. I’ve got to tell you, I was pumped. But you know, when the teacher gave me the number, I remember him looking me right in the eyes and saying, “That’s the highest average I’ve ever seen in this intro class. I’m not sure you’ll be able to improve much on that.” Well, you tell me, is that a challenge or what? Man, that was all the motivation I needed not only to work my fingers to the bone during class, I remember staying at the bowling alley well into the afternoon, just working on my game. You see, tell me I can’t, and I’ll prove I can.

And you know, we’ve got something a lot like that in the passage we read a little while ago. I mean, think about what’s going on. Jesus was telling a story, right? And if we read what Luke wrote a couple of verses before, we’d know that he’s telling it to a group of folks “who were lovers of money,” people who were, in fact, making fun of him for saying, “You cannot serve God and wealth.” And so it was to that group that Jesus told the story of a guy who’d be less that prudent and trustworthy with how he handled his stuff, especially when it came to what he did for Lazarus, a poor, hungry beggar who hung around his front door with his sores oozing all over the welcome mat.

But I’ll tell you, that rich guy learned first-hand that Jesus wasn’t fooling around when he said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God, ...but woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” You see, according to the story, after they’d both died, the rich man ending sweating it out while Lazarus was chowing down at a heavenly banquet, sort of leaning on Abraham. And the reason, well, Abraham was pretty clear about that, wasn’t he? He said to the rich man, “Child, remember that you received your good things during your life, and Lazarus likewise bad. And now he is being comforted and you are suffering.” You see, during his life, the rich man used everything he’d been given to make his life as easy as possible, clothes, food, big screen TVs. He may have even owned the dogs that were licking Lazarus right on his front stoop. But now, after they’d both gone on their rewards so to speak, the tables had been turned; their fortunes reversed. God had simply balanced the scales, right? And so there was the rich guy, knowing that since it was too late to change his situation now, because he couldn’t go back and take a Mulligan on what he did with his stuff, he asked Abraham to help out his brothers. And even when Abraham said, “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them,” the rich man wouldn’t let it drop: “...he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if a person from death might come to them, then they will repent.’ But Abraham said to him, (and these are the words I really want y’all to hear). Abraham said, ‘If Moses and the prophets they don’t hear, then not even if a person from death might rise will they be persuaded.’”

Now that’s what he said, and I’ll tell you, in my book, that’s a challenge just as real as upping your bowling average. In other words, Abraham seemed to be saying that since people don’t pay attention to passage after passage in the Old Testament about how they should take care of folks like the widows and orphans, and since they don’t ever listen to Jesus Christ himself, when he said something as clear and focused as, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me,” since they just don’t seem to care about any of that, it doesn’t matter one iota that Jesus was raised from the dead. Now that’s exactly what he’s saying to us. To me, this sounds like a challenge.

And you know, if this really is what it seems to be, I’ll tell you, I think a lot of people give in without putting up any kind of a fight. In other words, they prove that Abraham was absolutely right in what he said, and they prove it every single time they ignore all the needs that are right on their doorsteps, and I’m talking about needs not just on the other side of the world but right in their own communities, maybe their own families. And they prove that he was right on the mark every time they spend their time and their attention, even their prayers focused on what they don’t have, acting like God is a cross between a magic genie and Santa Claus who exists only to make their lives. And I’m telling you, these fine, up-standing people prove that Abraham is one hundred percent correct when they start making excuses or blaming others for why they can’t do much of anything. In other words, when these folks start acting like the man in the story, ignoring the suffering of Lazarus so that they can go into their great big, protected houses and put on their fancy clothes and eat their swanky meals, you know, acting as though the song is right and it’s part of God’s divine plan that the rich get rich and the poor get children, ain’t we got fun, when they do all that knowing the one who was raised from death said “love your neighbor as yourself,” when that’s how they live, then give the patriarch a cigar, because by their actions, they’ve pretty much proved that they are no different from the rich man and his brothers. I mean, “if Moses and the prophets they don’t hear, then not even if a person
from death might rise will they be persuaded.”

But you know something, that’s them. It doesn’t have to be us. Although there are folks who are so tied up with themselves and what they have and want that nothing short of a “place of torture” will get their attention, we can be different. In other words, Praise the Lord, we can stand up on our hind legs and prove once and for all that Abraham is dead wrong, no pun intended. And the good news is that to do it, well, it’s just not all that hard. As a matter of fact, it may actually be easier than going the other way.

You see, we can prove Abraham wrong by simply taking the rich man in the story and doing the exact opposite. I mean, instead of stepping over the Lazaruses at our gate, we can simply open our eyes so that we can see the needs all around us. My gosh, we can see children suffering in the third world who’s only “crime” is to be born. And we can see elderly folks in our own community, maybe our own church, who’d love to get a card or a call. And we can see men and women, the young and the old who are, right now, facing the future without hope, because people are too busy serving themselves to share with them the good news of Jesus Christ. Man, we can open our eyes and we can see.

And then we can do something that I swear has become almost counter-cultural. We can recognize that God has been unbelievably good to us. I remember, years ago, I had a friend from Nicaragua tell me that in America, we have no idea what poverty is. And although I’m not sure I agree with him because I think you can be spiritually and emotionally poor even with a lot of stuff, I don’t think any of us can deny that America and Americans have been blessed, you know, that we’ve received more than our share. And as Jesus himself said, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”

You know, maybe if the rich man in the story had made different assumptions about himself and his stuff, maybe if he’d spent a little less time styling and stuffing himself and a little more appreciating just how much God had given, maybe if he’d done this, maybe things would have turned out differently. Because, if he’d been able to do that, maybe he’d have been more prudent and trustworthy with his blessings. Now that should bring back some memories from last week. My goodness, he might even have been willing to use some of his wealth to make a difference in the life of one another person. And I just wonder, if he’d been willing to take some, not all, but some of this “good things” and to give them to Lazarus, well, maybe the scale wouldn’t have ended up so out of balance.

And you know that can certainly apply to us. Do you realize that if everyone in this church gave one more dollar a week, less then the cost of one diet coke from McDonalds, I’m telling you, not only would all financial concerns be gone but we’d be able to do some pretty exciting things for the Kingdom? And I’m talking about one dollar. Or maybe one hour teaching Sunday School or one evening a month serving on a committee or board...? You see, by what we choose to do, we can show that as it comes to this one passage, Abraham is either right or he’s full of beans.

And I’ll tell you, if we do the latter, if we show ourselves and our Lord who’s we are and what we believe, not only will it make an enormous difference in the world around us, I think we’ll feel much better. I mean, it’s got to be a lift knowing that you’ve been given a challenge and you’ve passed with flying colors.


Which reminds me of what happened in that bowling class. Remember I was going to be graded on my improvement. I started with a 195 average, and the instructor (I don’t think he was a bowling professor) questioned whether I could bring it up. Well, that was my challenge. And let me tell you right here and now, I failed miserably. By the end of the class, I had an average of some where around 130, and I was the first person in ten years to take the final exam, which I aced. In bowling, I didn’t prove anybody wrong. But when it comes to this passage and whether or not I choose to see the needs around me and recognize that God’s been good to me and to use what I have to make a difference, well, I truly believe that we can and should prove Abraham wrong.

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's Just that Important

I hope you're having a wonderful Friday. Here in Weirton/Lillan, we've gone movie crazy. In case you haven't heard, Paramount is filming here. (If you want to see a trailer for the movie, go to http://www.super8-movie.com/. When my daughter saw it, she said, "Daddy, that really freaks me out." Maybe that can be the new city motto for Weirton.) By next week, things should be back to normal. But until then, "light, camera, action."

On Sunday, we'll consider the following parable:

19“A certain person was rich, and he clothed himself in purple and fine linen, and he partied every day sumptiously. 20And a certain poor man who’s name was Lazarus was thrown before his gate, and he was covered with sores. 21And he longed to be satisfied with what fell from the rich man’s table. But also the dogs when they came continually licked his sores. 22And it happened that the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. And the rich man also died and was buried. 23And in hades, he lifted up his eyes, since he was in torture, and he saw Abraham from afar and Lazarus in his bosom. 24And he called and said, ‘Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus so that he might dip the tip of his finger into water and cool my tongue, because I’m suffering in these flames.’ 25And Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you received your good things during your life, and Lazarus likewise bad. And now he is being comforted and you are suffering. 26And if this weren’t enough, between us and y’all a great chasm has been established, so that those who want to go across from here to y’all aren’t able, nor from there might they cross over to us.’ 27And he said, ‘Now I beg you, father, so that you might send him into the house of my father. 28For I have five brothers, so that he might warn them, in order that they might not also come into this place of torture.’ 29Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ 30But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if a person from death might come to them, then they will repent.’ 31But he said to him, ‘If Moses and the prophets they don’t hear, then not even if a person from death might rise will they be persuaded.’” (Luke 16:19-31)

Now, often this passage is approached as a lesson on life after death. And although, on the surface, that might appear to be the case, there are two problems with that interpretation. First, there's no mention of faith or dedication in the whole passage. In other words, there's no indication that Lazarus was more godly than the rich man. As a matter of fact, Abraham was clear about why one was in paradise and the other was in torment and it has nothing to do with faith: "Child, remember that you received your good things during your life, and Lazarus likewise bad. And now he is being comforted and you are suffering." Second, the earlier part of the chapter doesn't deal with life after death but rather how we use our possessions.

Now for those reasons, I think in this parable, Jesus is challenging us to consider carefully how we use the possessions we've been given by God. As we talked about last week, he expects us to be both prudent and trustworthy with what we have. On Sunday, we'll consider how we'll consider how we might do this.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sunday's Sermon: Money Is Like Manure

Luke 16:1-13 - 1And he also said to his disciples, “A certain person was rich. He had a manager, and there were charges brought to him concerning how [the manager] had squandered what belonged to him. 2And he called and said to [the manager], “What is this I hear about you? Render the account of your management. For you aren’t able to still be my manager.” 3The manager said to himself, “What will I do, because my lord is taking away the management from me? To dig I don’t have the strength. To beg I’m ashamed. 4I know what I will do, so that when I might be removed from the management, I might be welcomed into their houses.” 5And after he called to himself one by one those who were in debt to his lord, he said to the first one, “How much do you owe to my lord?” 6And he said, “One hundred measures of olive oil.” And [the manager] said to him, “Take the bill and after you sit down, write fifty.” 7Then to another he said, “And you, how much do you owe?” And he said, “One hundred measures of grain.” [The manager] said to him, “Take your bill and write eighty.” 8And the lord praised the manager who was dishonest because prudently he’d acted. Because the sons of this age are prudent above the sons of the light in their own generation.

9“And I myself say to you, make for yourselves friends from mammon which is dishonest, so that when it might fail utterly, they might receive you into the eternal tents. 10The one who is trustworthy in the least, also in much he will be trustworthy, and the one who in the least is dishonest, also in much he is dishonest. 11Now if in mammon which is dishonest, you’ve not been trustworthy, then that which is true who will entrust to you? 12And if in that which belongs to another you’ve not been trustworthy, then that which belongs to you who will give to you? 13No servant is able to be enslaved to two lords. For the one he will hate and the other love, or the one he will be attached to and the other he will look down on. You aren’t able to be enslaved to God and mammon.”

**********

Before we get started, does anyone know the guy who’s pictured on the cover of the bulletin? Now, I’ll give you a hint. He won three Pulitzer Prizes, one for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey and two for his plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth. I feel like I’m giving an English test or something. And if that doesn’t help, this should be the clincher; he had an older brother named Amos.

Now, just in case you still don’t know, the man on the cover is great playwright and novelist Thornton Wilder. Which of course, leads naturally to a second question: Why is Thornton Wilder on the cover of the bulletin? I mean, shouldn’t it be Jesus or Peter or somebody like that? Why Thornton Wilder? Well, as most of y’all know, I like to put a picture on the bulletin that has to do with my sermon, and since the sermon title mentions fertilizer,... Well, I remember all the problems I ran into when I put a guy wearing sort of a fairy costume on the cover because the tile of Frank’s sermon was, “You’re Ugly and Your Mother Dresses You Funny,” and I thought nothing good could come from a manure-themed picture. And it just so happened that in his play The Matchmaker, Thornton Wilder wrote, “Money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around encouraging young things to grow.” And that my friends, is why Thornton Wilder is on the cover of the bulletin. Amen.

Of course, having said all that, there’s a third and hopefully final question: Why is the title of the sermon, “Money Is Like Manure?” Well, to tell you the truth, that’s really the easiest of all. You see, I think that’s exactly what Jesus is suggesting in the passage we read this morning. I mean, even though he used the word mammon rather than money and never mentioned manure, the point is pretty much the same. You see, in this little passage, that includes one of the oddest parables in the New Testament, Jesus was challenging his disciples, which means us, to look carefully at how they handle their money, but actually more than that. That’s why I think he used a strange, Aramaic word that never appears in the Old Testament, mammon. I believe he was broadening the application beyond just money and possessions. In my opinion, he was including everything that God had given his disciples, which I guess would include such intangible things as time and talents, maybe even interests and attention; all this could be considered mammon.

And since it’s from God, in these verses I think Jesus reminds us that God has certain expectations about how this mammon is to be used. And I’ll tell you, as I went through what Christ said, two words seemed to jump off the page: prudent and trustworthy. Simply put, I believe God expects us to be both prudent, like the crocked manager who used his lord’s stuff to make friends for himself, and trustworthy, like the person who can be trusted with what is the least and what is dishonest and what belongs to another and because of that, receives what is much and true and belongs to them.

And you know, it’s interesting, prudence and trustworthness, well, they’re actually the characteristics of the ideal manager. I mean, just listen to what Jesus said a couple of chapters earlier in Luke: “And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the trustworthy and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says to himself, “My master is delayed in coming,” and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the trustworthy. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.’” You see, it seems pretty clear that when it comes to handling what we have from God, being prudent and trustworthy are big deals.

But you know, in these verses, I think Jesus offered more than just what God expects, he also gives us a pretty good idea about how to get there. As a matter of fact, if our goal is to be more prudent and trustworthy with what we have from God, I think we might want to remember three things that just may make it a whole lot easier to reach.

I mean, first, if we want to handle mammon in a more godly way, we may need to remember that what we have doesn’t really belong to us. Put another way, as long as I believe what is mine belongs to me and when I give anything to God it’s an act generosity and sacrifice for which he should be grateful, as long as that’s my attitude, it’s going to be tough to be truly prudent and trustworthy. And I think that’s really the point of the parable, a story in a which a manager skillfully and carefully used property that belonged to his boss to make friends for himself. Frankly, I don’t think he would have been so cavalier in marking down debts if they had been owed to him. But since they weren’t..., what the heck. You see, the manager could see the bigger picture, that given the situation, there was something more important than grain and oil that belonged to someone else, namely having friends he could sponge off of when he became unemployed. And you know, that’s why, even though he took a financial hit, “...the lord praised the manager who was dishonest because prudently he’d acted. Because the sons of this age are prudent above the sons of the light in their own generation.” Of course, this is easier to do when we’re not trying to protect what we’ve got.

And as it relates to being trustworthy, remember Jesus said, “And if in that which belongs to another you’ve not been trustworthy, then that which belongs to you who will give to you?” Now, to me, this would appear to be a test, to determine if we can be trusted to handle the real important stuff ourselves. But that test isn’t possible, unless we can be entrusted with someone else’s mammon. You see, if we want to be more prudent and trustworthy, we need to remember that what we have doesn’t belong to us. That’s one.

And second, I think we also may need to remember that what we have is like a tool, you know, to be used. In other words, what we have isn’t the end, but rather it’s the means to an end. And again, we have that truth all over the parable and the following explanation. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that the prudent manager used what he controlled for something he considered more important. And in actual fact, that’s why he was praised, wasn’t it? He’d been prudent with his lord’s stuff. And just in case we haven’t gotten it yet, I think Jesus made it crystal clear when we said, “And I myself say to you, make for yourselves friends from mammon which is dishonest, so that when it might fail utterly, they might receive you into the eternal tents.” Prudent people use their tools.

And what about those who are trustworthy? Well, “the one who is trustworthy in the least, also in much he will be trustworthy, and the one who in the least is dishonest, also in much he is dishonest. Now if in mammon which is dishonest, you’ve not been trustworthy, then that which is true who will entrust to you?” Nuff said. You see, even though we may not buy into the baloney that the one who dies with the most stuff wins, we can still assume that having a lot of money or stuff or time is an appropriate goal in life. But of course, to believe that we’d have to ignore the parable of the man who planned to build bigger silos to hold all his grain only to find that he was going to die that night. I mean, we’d really have to ignore completely the fact that Jesus called that guy a fool. No, if we want to be better managers of what belongs to God, we may want to see all that stuff as tools which can be used to accomplish a greater good. That’s two.

And finally, if we want to be more prudent and more trustworthy, we may need to remember that we belong to God rather than to the stuff he’s given to us. In other words, not only do the things we have ultimately belong to God, so do we. And I think that’s exactly what Jesus had in mind when he said, “No servant is able to be enslaved to two lords. For the one he will hate and the other love, or the one he will be attached to and the other he will look down on. You aren’t able to be enslaved to God and mammon.” You see, when we read this, we generally think that in this verse, Jesus is challenging us to choose between God and stuff. But before we jump to that conclusion, I want you to think about not only what he said but when he said it. I mean, he was talking to folks who knew all about being enslaved, and frankly, we don’t. They knew that an enslaved servant wasn’t in a position to choose much of anything, and he certainly wasn’t able to quit one master and decide to be enslaved to another. That’s how we see service, but that’s our world, not the world in which Christ lived. No, the reality is we are “enslaved” to God, like it or not. We belong to him. He is our one and only Lord. And although we might deny it until the cows come home, that doesn’t change one blessed thing. Therefore, only a stupid slave would act like someone else is his or her master. I’ll tell you, that’s a sure way to get a whipping. You see, if we belong to God, and we do, and if he loves and cares for us, and he does, and if the things we have are to be used to bring him glory, and they are, what do you think is the prudent, the trustworthy thing to do, if we’re enslaved to him? Well, that becomes a “daa” question the minute we accept that we belong to God and not to the stuff he’s entrusted to us. And that’s number three.

As I said a little while ago, Thornton Wilder really did say, “Money is like manure....” And I think Jesus would probably agree. You see, we have all kinds of things, and God expects us to be prudent and trustworthy managers. And to do that, well, it may mean getting past some of the stuff we’ve been taught to believe and accepting that what we have doesn’t really belong to us and that it’s actually like a tool to be used and finally, when you get right down to it, we belong to God and not to what he’s given us. And when we remember all that, we just might be better managers of not only the money, but all the mammon that we have.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Project Christmas Smile Spaghetti Dinner


Hi,


I hope you all have enjoyed this wonderful summer that we were given this year & are anxiously awaiting the beautiful changes we are soon to see with the fall season. Soon, it will be Christmas time and at Cove Presbyterian Church, we all know what a great deal Christmas can be for our community. Our congregation has always been so generous to a program called Project Christmas Smile. For the past two years, our community has come together in helping make the difference of the stressful holiday season for selected families in Weirton.

10 or more less fortunate families are carefully chosen to come to our church and celebrate Christmas with their children. The families receive a home cooked meal, groceries to take home, presents, games & fun for the kids and much more. The gratitude and excitement of this day is completely overwhelming. If you haven’t volunteered for this event, I strongly recommend attending this year. The joy you will feel in your heart after seeing the looks on these children’s faces is priceless.

The members of our congregation have given their time and effort to make this such a success. I am writing to you today to let you know that your help is needed again this year!!

The Deacons have been running fundraisers for “Smile” for the past few months and have a few more to go. With your help, we can make this event a huge success like it’s been in the past.

Please join us on Sunday, September 26th in the Fellowship Hall for a Spaghetti Dinner from 12-3. Tickets for the dinner have been mailed out to some members of the congregation. If you have not received your tickets or need additional tickets, they will be available for sale this Sunday after church or you can contact the church office. Tickets are $5.00. Take out IS available. Please invite your friends and family to join us to make a difference for the sake of the children in our community!!

If you are unable to attend on the 26th and would like to help out in any other way, please contact Sue Marsh, Mary Bohach or myself.

Thank You & God Bless,

Crissy Fierro, Board of Deacons

Monday, September 20, 2010

Reasons for Thanks from Sunday, September 19, 2010

During Sunday's service, we shared the follow reasons for thanks:
  • I'd like to thank the Myrtle McHendry Class for such a wonderful night Sept. 7th. They gave me a memory that will stay with me for the reast of my life.  --Sue Reynolds
  • Thankful for Janice and the fact she has agreed to stay with us for at least on more year. Her music soothes and inspires us all.
  • The wedding of Amy Hamp and Ron Baker was beautiful. It was wonderful to see two young people joined together in the eyes of God in this lovely church.
  • Thank you Lord for our church and our ministry with our pastor!!
  • To fulfill God's purpose for your life! Woot Woot
  • I'm thankful for fellowship and brotherly love...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cove's Vision Statement

During the meeting of the congregation, the following vision statement was shared. The session hopes this provides a focus for the work we'll do together.

**********

Vision Statement:
Cove Presbyterian Church and it’s membership are dedicated to loving God, loving one another and loving neighbor.

Explanation:
Jesus Christ commanded his disciples to love (ἀγαπάω/ἀγάπη). During his life, he identified three foci: God, neighbor (Mark 12:30-33), including our enemies (Luke 6:27-35), and one another (John 15:12). Jesus Christ is the definitive example for this love (John 15:12); therefore, his words, actions and relationships can serve as a guide to us. We can also find direction in the letters of Paul (e.g. 1 Corinthians 13) and the letters of John (e.g. 1 John 2 – 5). As the church and the membership function, we’ll rely on the direction of scripture as it applies to the situations we face within our community.

Application of this Vision:
The three-fold love commanded by Jesus will shape every aspect of our ministry as a church. As we approach every decision, this focus will initiate and guide the discussion. It will also inform the work of our ministry committees: worship, stewardship, evangelism, Christian growth, and fellowship. It should also inform the work done by the pastor, the staff, the deacons, the trustees, session administrative committees, and all groups affiliated and which use the church.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Four Important Announcements

Below are four announcements that you might find important:
  1. Saturday evening's Gathering will not meet this week due to the Baker-Hamp wedding. We'll next get together on Saturday, September 25 to praise God through songs, prayers and scripture.
  2. During the hour before the service, adult who aren’t already involved in another class are invited to attend a discussion of Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love. The discussion is held in the Fellowship Hall, with coffee and cookies served.
  3. The session has called a congregational meeting for Sunday, immediately after the worship service, to elect congregational representatives to the Nominating Committee.
  4. The session has also called a meeting of the congregation for Sunday afternoon, at 12:30 p.m. to discuss problems and issues within the congregation. All members are encouraged to come to both meetings.

Activities & Announcements for the Week of September 19, 2010

THE HOUR BEFORE . . .
the service begins, adult who aren’t already involved in a class are invited to attend a discussion of Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love. The discussion is held in the Fellowship Hall, with coffee and cookies served.

DON’T FORGET SUNDAY SCHOOL . . .
We meet every Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m. Think about trying out one of our classes. We have a variety of classes to chose from to fit your needs.

JESUS TIME OFFERS THE YOUNGER CHILDREN . . .
of our congregation, between the ages of 3 and 11, the opportunity to worship in a special experience just for them. The children are dismissed to Jesus Time after a Special Time for Children.

THE SESSION HAS CALLED A CONGREGATIONAL MEETING . . .
for this afternoon, immediately after the worship service, to elect congregational representatives to the Nominating Committee.

THE SESSION HAS ALSO CALLED A MEETING OF THE CONGREGATION . . .
for this afternoon, at 12:30 p.m. to discuss problems and issues within the congregation. All members are encouraged to come to both meetings.

TRUSTEES MEETING . . .
the monthly trustees meeting will be held tomorrow, Monday, September 20, 2010 Please note the meetings will now begin at 6:30 p.m. in the board room.

SESSION MEETING . . .
the monthly session meeting will be held Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room.

ADULT HANDBELL CHOIR WILL PRACTICE . . .
Wednesday, September 22, at 5:30 p.m. We have 1 position that needs filled. We practice from 5:30 - 6:45 from Sept. through May. We play once a month for Sunday services. If you are interested in joining, please contact Becky Korosec at 304-748-8449 for more information.

CHANCEL CHOIR WILL PRACTICE . . .
Wednesday, September 22, in the sanctuary. Please note practice will begin at 6:45 p.m. this year. Everyone who wishes to praise our Lord through song is invited to join us.

THE BROWN BAG BIBLE STUDY WILL MEET . .
Thursday, September 23, at 12:00 p.m. We’re studying the Book of Acts, and this week we will look at Acts 21:15 – 24:27.

OUR MEN’S CLC BIBLE STUDY CLASS . . .
will meet on Friday, September 24, at 6:00 a.m. in the board room.

MEDITATION CLASSES - SERIES 2
We’ve started a series of 6 classes entitled, “Meditation and the Five Senses.” They meet on Saturdays, from 10:00 - 11:00, in the Cove Presbyterian Church parlor. We’re discussing and learning about different techniques and of course there is a ‘hands-on’ portion for each class. The only thing you may want to bring with you is a small journal, pen, and your ‘sense’ of adventure! Please come and join us as we explore all of our senses and find the peace that resides within. If you are interested or have any questions, please call Becky Korosec at 304-748-8449.
• Week 2 - Scent (grind incense/use)
• Week 3 - Touch (prayer beads/objects from nature)
• Week 4 - Hearing (music/sounds in nature)
• Week 5 - Sight (incense stick/nature)
• Week 6 - Taste (fruit, chocolate, bread...)

OPEN HOUSE CELEBRATION . . .
Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 4:00 p.m. at 233 Greenbrier Road celebrating the upcoming marriage of Chad Marsh and Kara Miller. Friends and family are asked to RSVP to 304-723-1043.

SPAGHETTI DINNER . . .
sponsored by Project Christmas Smile will be held next Sunday, September 26 from noon til 3:00 p.m. Monies raised are used to aide local families in need with having a holiday meal and gifts for the little ones.

LIKE TO READ? COME TO BOOKMARKS. . .
Cove’s book club, will be resuming its monthly meetings beginning on Monday, September 27 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. in the church parlor. We invite you to join us on the last Monday of each month from September through May. If you are interested, please contact Becky Korosec at 304-748-8449 for this year’s reading list.

WORLD COMMUNION . . .
will be observed on Sunday, October 3, 2010.

PANCAKE BRUNCH . .
sponsored by the Deacons will be held on Sunday, October 3 immediately after the morning worship. Donations will be appreciated.

RIGHT SIDE VERSES LEFT SIDE FOOD CHALLENGE. . .
is scheduled for Sunday, October 10 to replenish the food pantry. Items in need: ramen noodles, cake or cookie mix, icing, jello, pork & beans, pie filing, canned potatoes, canned carrots, complete meal kits, hamburger or tuna helper, broth, stuffing mix, boxed potatoes, jelly, crackers, or macaroni and cheese.

WE ARE BLOGGING!
We now have six blogs that you can check out for information and on which you can leave comments. They're listed below:
• The Cove Community (www.thecovecommunity.blogspot.com) - This is for the whole church. I'll post sermons and announcements. I also invite y'all to send in material that you'd like to share with other members of the congregation. And please feel free to comment on anything you might read.
• Cove Kids (www.covekids.blogspot.com) - This is tailored for the preteen young people in our church. Again I'll post announcements. You're also invited to send in any writings, photographs and art work you'd like to post. And they don't have to all deal with the church. We also post artwork from The Gathering service and Jesus Time.
• Glue (www.cove-glue.blogspot.com) - Our teens are running their own blog site; therefore, I have no idea what will be posted.
• Bible Talk (www.cove-bibletalk.blogspot.com) - We've established this blog to give pastors and lay people the chance to discuss Scripture. The weekly passages are from the Common Lectionary, and we're posting the pastor’s translation of the Greek text. We want you to read any or all of the passages and to leave any comment or ask any question that you feel is appropriate. Please include any research you've done. As we share our ideas and insights, we hope that we'll all come to a better and deeper understanding of the Bible. Each passage is linked to a website that offers some informative information.
• Let Talk About It (www.cove-talk.blogspot.com) - Through this site, we hope to encourage a conversation on a variety of topics. Since this blog is sponsored by a church, we expect most of the issues to involve the Christian faith. Still we don't want to limit ourselves or you. If you have a topic that you'd like us to discuss, include it as a comment to a previous issue. Please phrase it as a question and offer a summary of at least two positions. We'll add a new item to discuss every three weeks. We hope this challenges you to apply your faith and values to issues that are important to you.
• The Bible in a Year (www.cove-bibleinayear.blogspot.com/) - Each day, we'll post passages so that you can read the Bible in one year.

MEETINGS ARE RESUMING. . .
we ask that you please contact the church office to have your date and time put on the calendar so that there is a room ready for you and staff available to assist you.

REMEMBER WHEN SHOPPING ON LINE . . .
use Good Search and Good Shop search engines to find what you are hunting for. Just list Cove Presbyterian Church as your charity and a percent of your purchase will come back to the church. It’s a simple way to raise money for the Cove Deacons while shopping for yourself!

IT IS OFTEN DIFFICULT TO HEAR PRAYER REQUESTS . . .
on Sunday mornings. If you would like to have someone added to the prayer chain please drop a short note into the collection plate with their name and any other information you would like to share.

PRAYER CHAIN INFO. . .
if you would like someone added to or removed from the prayer chain please contact Floy Fetty at 304-670-1561 or e-mail her at floyfetty@yahoo.com. Thanks to Floy’s dedication, the Prayer Chain is kept up to date.

HOMEBOUND? RECENT ILLNESS?. . .
if you are unable to attend services and would like to arrange for a visit by Rev. Ed Rudiger please contact the church office. Also if you would like to be included in our weekly bulletin mailings contact the church office.

WE CAN ALWAYS DO A BETTER JOB MINISTERING . . .
to the needs within this congregation, community and world. Please feel free to offer any suggestions as comments.

DUE TO BUDGET CONSTRAINTS . . .
the Board of Deacons has had to seriously cut back their outreach programs. Session has approved the Deacons collecting a “Loose Change Offering” that will be used to assist the Deacons with their utility assistance outreach program for Weirton residents or Cove Church members. We hope church members can help with the assistance program by donating some of their spare change. A container is placed in the Narthex each Sunday morning before church for any spare change you would like to donate. We thank you for your continuing support of our projects.

VASES OF FLOWERS, OR PLANTS . . .
can be purchased for a service. The cost is $15.00 a vase. Silk flowers can also be purchased for an additional cost. The flower calendar is located on the far wall in the church narthex or you can contact Sue Marsh or the church office to place your order. You may pick-up your flowers after the service.

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS. . .
newsletters from old friends or articles about or by members of Cove Church, check out the new bulletin board located in the hallway by the church offices. Items of interest and pictures of events at Cove will now be posted in that area.

WE’RE UPDATING OUR PRAYER AND DEVOTION LINE . . .
about four times a week. If you’d like to call and hear a devotional, please call 304-748-7900.

ONGOING MISSION PROJECTS . . .
• Used can tabs are being collected for the Ronald McDonald House. Deposit your tabs in the container located in the main hallway downstairs.
• Used postage stamps are being collected for Stamp Camp USA. Place your used stamps in the container located in the main hallway downstairs.
• Campbell’s Labels are being collected by the Presbyterian Women and can be dropped off in the church office.
We thank you for your support of these valuable endeavors.

FOR THIS SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2010. . .
the Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery asks that all churches join together to pray for:
  Hanoverton, New Lebanon - Donna Todd; Joseph Hendricks, Co- Pastors
  Harrisville- Covenant - Barry Hall, Pastor

Using What We've Been Given

I hope you're having a great weekend and enjoying the change in seasons. Personally, I love to see the leaves start to turn. I don't think there's anything prettier than the side of a hill covered with red, orange and yellow.

During the service on Sunday, we're going to focus on Luke 16:1-13:

1And he also said to his disciples, “A certain person was rich. He had a manager, and there were charges brought to him concerning how [the manager] had squandered what belonged to him. 2And he called and said to [the manager], “What is this I hear about you? Render the account of your management. For you aren’t able to still be my manager.” 3The manager said to himself, “What will I do, because my lord is taking away the management from me? To dig I don’t have the strength. To beg I’m ashamed. 4I know what I will do, so that when I might be removed from the management, I might be welcomed into their houses.” 5And after he called to himself one by one those who were in debt to his lord, he said to the first one, “How much do you owe to my lord?” 6And he said, “One hundred measures of olive oil.” And [the manager] said to him, “Take the bill and after you sit down, write fifty.” 7Then to another he said, “And you, how much do you owe?” And he said, “One hundred measures of grain.” [The manager] said to him, “Take your bill and write eighty.” 8And the lord praised the manager who was dishonest because prudently he’d acted. Because the sons of this age are prudent above the sons of the light in their own generation.

9“And I myself say to you, make for yourselves friends from mammon which is dishonest, so that when it might fail utterly, they might receive you into the eternal tents. 10The one who is trustworthy in the least, also in much he will be trustworthy, and the one who in the least is dishonest, also in much he is dishonest. 11Now if in mammon which is dishonest, you’ve not been trustworthy, then that which is true who will entrust to you? 12And if in that which belongs to another you’ve not been trustworthy, then that which belongs to you who will give to you? 13No servant is able to be enslaved to two lords. For the one he will hate and the other love, or the one he will be attached to and the other he will look down on. You aren’t able to be enslaved to God and mammon.”

For me, this is one of those passages in which the meaning is fairly clear, but the application is very difficult. I mean, it's fairly obvious that Jesus was talking about how we can use the stuff that God has given us and challenging us to be both prudent and trustworthy. Now, in a nutshell, that's the message.

What becomes a little confusing is this: how are we supposed to do? In other words, how can we handle what we have in a way that brings glory to our Lord, Jesus Christ? And how can we motivate ourselves to use our possessions as God intends? Although I think we know what to do, we're not as clear about how to do it.

Now if this is where you are, I think you're going to want to attend the service on Sunday, because we'll discuss how changing the way we view our possessions might enable us to put them to better use.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Project Christmas Smile Bowl-A-Thon

Saturday, October 2 - 6:15 pm - 8:30 pm

It’s that time of year again! The annual Project Christmas Smile Kids for Kids Bowl-A-Thon! This is such a fun and exciting event that allows your children to give of their time and energy for a great cause...kids just like them. These children are in economic situations right now that are beyond their control. Children are the future. Their childhoods mold them into adults in later years....memories and experiences play an important role in how they define their childhood. Project Christmas Smile made a Christmas wishes come true last year for many children and we would like to think that memory will help them remember a happy time in their childhood. Our own children can make a difference by bowling for kids just like them but suffering severe economic hardships. Please bring your child to our Bowl-A-thon and they will not only be in store for a good time ...they will also be making difference.

Our committee is asking each child to find sponsors for the Bowl-a-Thon. The form is below. Sponsors are asked to pledge a flat out contribution. Please collect the pledge at time of commitment, and bring it with you to the Bowl-A-Thon along with your pledge sheet.

We are also opening up the Bowl-A-Thon to friends and family again. The total amount viii be $8.00 per person. This will include bowling, shoe rental, and a good time! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Tina Viakley at 304-723-5558.

I hope this year is even more successful than last! Thanks!

Sincerely,

Project Christmas Smile

Meditation Classes - Series

Two years ago I taught a 10-week course on meditation. We covered such topics as relaxation techniques, goals & benefits, breathing techniques, and some of the different forms of meditation (i.e. Shamanism, yoga, Buddhism, T’ai Chi, the Western traditions, labyrinths, mandalas, and visualizations.). We not only discussed, but tried our hands at practicing these different techniques. The result? We had a lot of FUN! And now I am offering a second series of 6 classes that will be titled, “Meditation and the Five Senses.” These classes will begin on Saturday, September 18. from 10:00 - 11:00. We will meet at Cove Presbyterian Church in the parlor. Again, we will be discussing and learning about different techniques and of course there will be a ‘hands-on’ portion for each class. You don’t need to have attended the first series to join us. The only thing I ask you to bring with you is a small journal, pen, and your ‘sense’ of adventure! Please come and join us as we explore all of our senses and find the peace that resides within. If you are interested or have any questions, please call Becky Korosec at 304-748-8449.

• Week 1 - Introduction and Review / Explanation of Classes / Breathing exerc. and visualization
• Week 2 - Scent (grind incense/use)
• Week 3 - Touch (prayer beads/objects from nature)
• Week 4 - Hearing (music/sounds in nature)
• Week 5 - Sight (incense stick/nature)
• Week 6 - Taste (fruit, chocolate, bread...)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sunday's Sermon: Our God Is a Happy God

Luke 15:1-10: 1And many tax collectors and sinners were coming near him to hear him. 2And certain Pharisees and scribes started to grumble saying, “He himself receives sinners and eats with them.” 3And [Jesus] said to them this parable saying, 4“Any person from among you who has one hundred sheep and losses from them one would leave behind the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go to the one that is lost until you might find it, wouldn’t he? 5And when found, he lays it upon his shoulders rejoicing. 6And when he comes into the house, he calls together friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, because I found my sheep that was lost.” 7I say to you that thus there will be joy in the heavens over one sinner who repents then over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent.

8“Or any woman who has ten drachmas, if she might lose one drachma, would light a lamp and sweep the house and seek carefully until it might be found, wouldn’t she? 9And when she finds it, she calls together friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, because I found the drachma which was lost. 10Thus, I say to you, joy occurs among the angels of God when one sinner repents.”

**********

Let me ask you a question. If you were given a choice and with all things being equal, would you prefer to spend time with a happy or an unhappy person? I mean, if he or she isn’t a member of your family or a childhood friend or a person to whom you owe money, with whom would you rather hang, a person who’s positive and optimistic, without being silly about it or someone who has the uncanny ability to spot the dark cloud that surrounds every silver lining? Who would you choose? Now for me, this is sort of a “da” question, because the answer is so simple. Give me a break, the last thing I need is to be surrounded by downers. What about you? Of course, that’s not to say that I haven’t known my share of folks who could drain the joy out of any celebration. And although I know you’re going to find this shocking, there are some of those people even in the church.

But you know, one of the most negative people I’ve ever known was a colleague I had when I was teaching in Virginia; I’m telling you, an announcement hadn’t been written that she couldn’t criticize. And this time of year was the worst, because you see, school was just starting. Her mood got progressively better as we moved into the “snow day season” right to the middle of June. But in early September, I’m telling you, it was terrible, because for the five years I knew her, she approached each new year with a frown. I mean, any place on earth was better than Buckingham. And whatever changes the superintend made were bad. And the students she got in her classes, oh my gosh, the students were just a bunch of disruptive lunkheads, and that was before she got her role. I’m telling you, she was just a joy to be around, something I tried to avoid as much as possible.

But of course, she wasn’t the only unhappy person I’ve come across; I’ve certainly known my share, both outside and sadly inside the Body of Christ. And the reason I say that, well, I feel sad to see someone in the church sing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” with a frown on his or her face. I’ll tell you, there’s no “joy, joy, joy” down in their hearts, and that’s sad. But, you know, worse than the negative vibes that they seem to emit, unhappy people have a tendency to grumble a lot. Like the teacher with whom I worked, they tend to complain. And they gripe. And they murmur. Would you like some cheese with that whine? And I guess they do it so others will know that they’re not happy, as though the downward curve of their mouth wasn’t a give away. But before anybody thinks that I talking about someone else, I’ve got to admit that grumbling is a problem I have, because, you see, I think I probably spend too much time grumbling about the grumblers. And then, if they start grumbling about me grumbling about them grumbling..., it’s sort of like a perpetual motion machine, isn’t it?

And although in a way this would be funny if it weren’t really pathetic, all this unhappiness and grumbling can really take its toll, and I’m talking about on more than the eye of the hurricane. You know, it’s amazing, complaining is like a wildfire, the more there is, the faster is spreads. And like I said, unhappiness can drain not only joy, but also energy and enthusiasm from any group.

And when it happens in a church, ...well, speaking for myself, I don’t want to be in a place with a bunch of unhappy people who complain and gripe and murmur all the time, of course, using the technology with which they feel most comfortable, whether that’s cave paintings and smoke signals or tweeting and texting. Personally, I don’t think anything makes Satan happier than an unhappy, grumbling church.

But you know, unhappiness and grumbling isn’t new to us. My goodness, right here in this passage, Jesus faced the exact same thing. I mean, according to Luke, “...many tax collectors and sinners were coming near him to hear him. And certain Pharisees and scribes started to grumble saying, ‘He himself receives sinners and eats with them.’” You see, they were grumbling about what Jesus was doing and of course not doing. He wasn’t doing his job, because his job was to minister to them, right? And like it does right now, I think their complains had the possibility of interfering with Christ’s mission.

And I’ll tell you, that’s why I think he told his little sour group these two parables; you know, the one about the lost sheep and the other about the lost coin. I mean, think about it. Jesus really wanted them to apply these stories to themselves, that’s why he opened the first one with the words “any person from among you....” Man, he wanted them to relate to both the stories. And then, in both, he asked them a question that could only have a positive answer. They were no-brainers. In other words, any idiot would leave ninety-nine sheep in the safety of the wilderness, the place where God cared for this people a long time ago, and find the one that’s lost, right? And only a fool wouldn’t look for a really valuable coin that he knew got misplaced somewhere in the house, right? Daa. And when you find the sheep and coin that were lost, are you going to be happy? Double-Daa. Well, according to Jesus, that’s exactly how God and the angels of heaven feel when something as simple and basic as one sinner feels the presence of God and decides to change his life. And as they could see if they chose to look, that was happening right in front of their faces. Praise the Lord. You see, for Christ, this was something those Pharisees needed to keep in mind before they let loose with one more grumble.

And you know, I think it’s something that might be nice for us to remember too, that God really doesn’t want his church full of people who have made complaining and griping and murmuring an art form; no way, no how. It’s interesting, in the entire New Testament, there’s not one example of grumbling being used in a positive sense. In fact, it’s always done by folks who really don’t like Jesus or what he’s doing. They’re the ones who grumble. Simply put, I don’t think God likes grumbling and complaining and griping and murmuring, because simply put, I don’t think he wants Christians to be unhappy.

And although that sounds all well and good, if this is who you are, unhappy that is, how can you change? In other words, if for whatever reason you’re most comfortable being unhappy and if you didn’t grumble about something or someone you might not have anything to say at all, if this represents your identity, then saying you need to change without telling you how is a little like telling you to drive to Pittsburgh without giving you a car? But you know, for that reason, I believe we’re fortunate because in this passage, I think we can get a sense about how we can complain and gripe less and celebrate more. And let me briefly share with you what I’m talking about.

I mean, first, if we want to stop grumbling and be happier in our faith, I think we may need to focus intentionally on the positive, not the negative. I mean, I think that’s why Jesus had his grumblers put themselves into two stories, both of which had happy endings. You see, I believe he wanted them to understand that they could find great joy in something as simple as finding one lost sheep or one lost coin. And I’ll tell you, the same thing applies to us. I mean, although we may get lucky and win the lottery or be selected for that movie, we can find an awful lot of joy in things that are unbelievably simple but incredibly easy to overlook. My gosh, right now, one of my greatest sources of joy is just listening to my daughter observe her world. Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees difficulties in every opportunity. An optimist sees opportunities in every difficulty.” Frankly, I think we can do more for the kingdom as optimists than pessimists, what about you? And I’ll tell you, that’s possible, if we can focus on the positive. That’s one.

And second, I think we’ll grumble a whole lot less and celebrate a whole lot more when we decide to seek out happy people. And maybe that’s why, when he told his stories, Jesus ended each with a party, full of exhilarated friends and neighbors. You see, I believe both happiness and unhappiness are shared, and we tend to become just like the people we’re around. And I’ll tell you, from first-hand experience I know that’s true. My goodness, there are people in my life who can bring me down faster than WVU can overcome fifteen points. But then there are others who can really help me look pass the distractions and refocus on what God has called and equipped me to do. And it’s amazing, when I’m with them, I don’t feel like grumbling and complaining at all. If you want to be more happy, find happy people, just like if you want to be more godly, find folks who live the faith that others just talk about. To me, that’s a second way to feel more positive.

And third (you see, I told you this was going to be brief), and third, if we want to grumble less and rejoice more, it may help to remember that God, well, he feels joy all the time. I think that’s something Jesus wanted to remind his grumblers, that “...there will be joy in the heavens over one sinner who repents then over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent” and that “...joy occurs among the angels of God when one sinner repents.” You see, God’s joy holds this passage together. But I’ll tell you, it’s not something new, God feeling joy. I mean, I just love the one hundred, fourth Psalm. Just listen at how he described God and his creation, and I’m reading from Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase:
“Oh yes, God brings grain from the land, wine to make people happy,
Their faces glowing with health, a people well-fed and hearty.
God's trees are well-watered — the Lebanon cedars he planted.
Birds build their nests in those trees; look — the stork at home in the treetop.
Mountain goats climb about the cliffs; badgers burrow among the rocks.
The moon keeps track of the seasons, the sun is in charge of each day.
When it's dark and night takes over, all the forest creatures come out.
The young lions roar for their prey, clamoring to God for their supper.
When the sun comes up, they vanish, lazily stretched out in their dens.
Meanwhile, men and women go out to work, busy at their jobs until evening.
What a wildly wonderful world, God!
You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.”


Now, I’m not stupid nor was I born yesterday. If my colleague in Virginia read this sermon, she’d probably find all kinds of problems with it. That’s just the way negative, unhappy, grumbling people are. But you know, instead of letting them shape how we feel and what we say and do, let’s listen to what Jesus taught. And let’s turn away from complaints and gripes and murmurs so that we can hear his words. And then lets make the decision to focus on the positive and to seek out happy, positive people and remember that the one who probably has the best reasons to grumble feels joy all the time. In other words, let’s all feel the delight that comes when we affirm that our God is a happy God.
Now, you tell me that the one who made and supports all this isn’t smiling right along with the Psalmist. And the more we remember it, the more we’ll smile too.

Activities & Announcements for the Week of September 12, 2010

DEACONS MEETING . . .
the monthly deacons meeting will be held tomorrow. Monday, September 13, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. in the board room.

PRESBYTERIAN WOMEN WILL BEGIN A NEW YEAR. . . .
this week and are asking that you bring Migrant Workers Health Kits for Church Women United to their regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, September 15 at 10:00 a.m. in Fellowship Hall. The kit should include a bath towel, washcloth, soap, toothbrush, tooth paste, comb, nail file or emery board, safety pins and band aids. Please put all the items in the bath towel and secure with either a ribbon or safety pins. All ladies of the church are encouraged to attend the monthly meetings as their schedules permit.

ADULT HANDBELL CHOIR WILL PRACTICE . . .
Wednesday, September 15, at 5:30 p.m. We have 1 position that needs filled. We practice from 5:30 - 6:45 from Sept. through May. We play once a month for Sunday services. If you are interested in joining, please contact Becky Korosec at 304-748-8449 for more information.

THE PEOPLE OF OUR CONGREGATION AND COMMUNITY . . .
are invited to a community meeting, Wednesday, September 15, beginning at 6:00 p.m. We’ll hold the meeting in the Fellowship Hall and discuss the needs of those living in our neighbor.

CHANCEL CHOIR WILL PRACTICE . . .
Wednesday, September 15, in the sanctuary. Please note practice will begin at 6:45 p.m. this year. Everyone who wishes to praise our Lord through song is invited to join us.

THE BROWN BAG BIBLE STUDY WILL MEET . .
Thursday, September 16, at 12:00 p.m. We’re studying the Book of Acts, and this week we will look at Acts 18:18 – 21:14.

OUR MEN’S CLC BIBLE STUDY CLASS . . .
will meet on Friday, September 17, at 6:00 a.m. in the board room.

MEDITATION CLASSES - SERIES 2
Two years ago I taught a 10-week course on meditation. We covered such topics as relaxation techniques, goals & benefits, breathing techniques, and some of the different forms of meditation (i.e. Shamanism, yoga, Buddhism, T’ai Chi, the Western traditions, labyrinths, mandalas, and visualizations.). We not only discussed, but tried our hands at practicing these different techniques. The result? We had a lot of FUN! And now I am offering a second series of 6 classes that will be titled, “Meditation and the Five Senses.” These classes will begin on Saturday, September 18. from 10:00 - 11:00. We will meet at Cove Presbyterian Church in the parlor. Again, we will be discussing and learning about different techniques and of course there will be a ‘hands-on’ portion for each class. You don’t need to have attended the first series to join us. The only thing I ask you to bring with you is a small journal, pen, and your ‘sense’ of adventure! Please come and join us as we explore all of our senses and find the peace that resides within. If you are interested or have any questions, please call Becky Korosec at 304-748-8449.
• Week 1 - Introduction and Review / Explanation of Classes / Breathing exerc. and visualization
• Week 2 - Scent (grind incense/use)
• Week 3 - Touch (prayer beads/objects from nature)
• Week 4 - Hearing (music/sounds in nature)
• Week 5 - Sight (incense stick/nature)
• Week 6 - Taste (fruit, chocolate, bread...)

RON BAKER AND AMY HAMP INVITE THE CONGREGATION . . .
to attend their wedding on Saturday, September 18, beginning at 3:30 p.m.

THE SESSION HAS CALLED A CONGREGATIONAL MEETING . . .
for Sunday, September 19, immediately after the worship service, to elect congregational representatives to the Nominating Committee.

THE SESSION HAS ALSO CALLED A MEETING OF THE CONGREGATION . . .
for Sunday, September 19, at 12:30 p.m. to discuss problems and issues within the congregation. All members are encouraged to come to both meetings.

OPEN HOUSE CELEBRATION . . .
Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 4:00 p.m. at 233 Greenbrier Road celebrating the upcoming marriage of Chad Marsh and Kara Miller. Friends and family are asked to RSVP to 304-723-1043.

SPAGHETTI DINNER . . .
sponsored by Project Christmas Smile will be held on Sunday, September 26 from noon til 3:00 p.m. Monies raised are used to aide local families In having a holiday meal and gifts for the little ones.

TO ALL OUR FRIENDS . . .
Phyllis and Hugh Manley and their family wish to express their deepest appreciation for all the calls, cards, visits and prayers during Phyllis’ recent hospitalization. The love expressed and the power of prayers are the best medicine for recovery.
Thank you all, especially Rev. Rudiger for your support and love.
Hugh & Phyllis Manley and Family

OUR SYMPATHY IS EXTENDED TO . . .
Rob Starck on the death of his mother, Marguerite Starck on Saturday, August 28, 2010. Marguerite was a member of Cove Church before relocating to Florida; and Tracy Minor on the death of her grandfather, John Nestor, who died on Monday, September 6, 2010.




LIKE TO READ? COME TO BOOKMARKS. . .
Cove’s book club, will be resuming its monthly meetings beginning on Monday, September 27 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. in the church parlor. We invite you to join us on the last Monday of each month from September through May. If you are interested, please contact Becky Korosec at 304-748-8449 for this year’s reading list.

WE ARE BLOGGING!
We now have six blogs that you can check out for information and on which you can leave comments. They're listed below:
• The Cove Community (www.thecovecommunity.blogspot.com) - This is for the whole church. I'll post sermons and announcements. I also invite y'all to send in material that you'd like to share with other members of the congregation. And please feel free to comment on anything you might read.
• Cove Kids (www.covekids.blogspot.com) - This is tailored for the preteen young people in our church. Again I'll post announcements. You're also invited to send in any writings, photographs and art work you'd like to post. And they don't have to all deal with the church. We also post artwork from The Gathering service and Jesus Time.
• Glue (www.cove-glue.blogspot.com) - Our teens are running their own blog site; therefore, I have no idea what will be posted.
• Bible Talk (www.cove-bibletalk.blogspot.com) - We've established this blog to give pastors and lay people the chance to discuss Scripture. The weekly passages are from the Common Lectionary, and we're posting the pastor’s translation of the Greek text. We want you to read any or all of the passages and to leave any comment or ask any question that you feel is appropriate. Please include any research you've done. As we share our ideas and insights, we hope that we'll all come to a better and deeper understanding of the Bible. Each passage is linked to a website that offers some informative information.
• Let Talk About It (www.cove-talk.blogspot.com) - Through this site, we hope to encourage a conversation on a variety of topics. Since this blog is sponsored by a church, we expect most of the issues to involve the Christian faith. Still we don't want to limit ourselves or you. If you have a topic that you'd like us to discuss, include it as a comment to a previous issue. Please phrase it as a question and offer a summary of at least two positions. We'll add a new item to discuss every three weeks. We hope this challenges you to apply your faith and values to issues that are important to you.
• The Bible in a Year (www.cove-bibleinayear.blogspot.com/) - Each day, we'll post passages so that you can read the Bible in one year.

MEETINGS ARE RESUMING. . .
we ask that you please contact the church office to have your date and time put on the calendar so that there is a room ready for you and staff available to assist you.

REMEMBER WHEN SHOPPING ON LINE . . .
use Good Search and Good Shop search engines to find what you are hunting for. Just list Cove Presbyterian Church as your charity and a percent of your purchase will come back to the church. It’s a simple way to raise money for the Cove Deacons while shopping for yourself! Information/explanation sheets are available on the table in the narthex.


IT IS OFTEN DIFFICULT TO HEAR PRAYER REQUESTS . . .
on Sunday mornings. If you would like to have someone added to the prayer chain please drop a short note into the collection plate with their name and any other information you would like to share.

PRAYER CHAIN INFO. . .
if you would like someone added to or removed from the prayer chain please contact Floy Fetty at 304-670-1561 or e-mail her at floyfetty@yahoo.com. Thanks to Floy’s dedication, the Prayer Chain is kept up to date.

HOMEBOUND? RECENT ILLNESS?. . .
if you are unable to attend services and would like to arrange for a visit by Rev. Ed Rudiger please contact the church office. Also if you would like to be included in our weekly bulletin mailings contact the church office.

WE CAN ALWAYS DO A BETTER JOB MINISTERING . . .
to the needs within this congregation, community and world. Please feel free to offer any suggestions as comments.

DUE TO BUDGET CONSTRAINTS . . .
the Board of Deacons has had to seriously cut back their outreach programs. Session has approved the Deacons collecting a “Loose Change Offering” that will be used to assist the Deacons with their utility assistance outreach program for Weirton residents or Cove Church members. We hope church members can help with the assistance program by donating some of their spare change. A container is placed in the Narthex each Sunday morning before church for any spare change you would like to donate. We thank you for your continuing support of our projects.

VASES OF FLOWERS, OR PLANTS . . .
can be purchased for a service. The cost is $15.00 a vase. Silk flowers can also be purchased for an additional cost. The flower calendar is located on the far wall in the church narthex or you can contact Sue Marsh or the church office to place your order. You may pick-up your flowers after the service.

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS. . .
newsletters from old friends or articles about or by members of Cove Church, check out the new bulletin board located in the hallway by the church offices. Items of interest and pictures of events at Cove will now be posted in that area.

WE’RE UPDATING OUR PRAYER AND DEVOTION LINE . . .
about four times a week. If you’d like to call and hear a devotional, please call 304-748-7900.

ONGOING MISSION PROJECTS . . .
• Used can tabs are being collected for the Ronald McDonald House. Deposit your tabs in the container located in the main hallway downstairs.
• Used postage stamps are being collected for Stamp Camp USA. Place your used stamps in the container located in the main hallway downstairs.
• Campbell’s Labels are being collected by the Presbyterian Women and can be dropped off in the church office.
We thank you for your support of these valuable endeavors.

LAUGHLIN MEMORIAL CHAPEL SEEKS INTERIM DIRECTOR . . .
to oversee all operations. The Chapel provides daily after-school educational and nutritional programming to approximately 165 urban children as well as other related school year and summer programming. The position requires a Godly and college educated person with strong leadership skills. Experience in non-profit operations, including grantsmanship and fundraising, as well as some knowledge of educational and/or nutritional programming is helpful. Please respond with resume and qualifications to P.O. Box 483, Wheeling, WV 26003.

FOR THIS SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2010. . .
the Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery asks that all churches join together to pray for:
Follansbee - Colleen Molinaro, Pastor
Hammondsville, Grant Hill - Mary Anne Frischkorn, Pastor

Choir News from Cove Presbyterian Church

We are most appreciative for all the special music presented in July and August by: Sue Willson, Amy Hamp, Bill Stevens, Leesa Boyd, Cherish Orr, Chelsea Virden, Enid Williams, Allison Viakley, Mitchell Viakley, Tim Connell, Ruthann Dermargosian, Justin Taflan and Faith Bonyak. These talented people were a true blessing to the Sunday services.

The chancel choir resumed practice September 1st at 6:45. They presented their first anthem after a two month break, on Sept. 5th. Most of the choir has returned but there are a few faithful members that are unable to join us for various reasons. They will be greatly missed. This makes it even more pressing to recruit new members. If any of you would like to lift your voice in song to praise our God, please consider becoming a member of the choir. The choir has great fellowship along with the joy of music preparation for every worship service.

Currently the choir has begun working on a new patriotic cantata to be presented in November. As we focus on the importance of God and our country, this uplifting group of songs will certainly touch your heart. If you would like to only join us for the patriotic cantata, you would be appreciated. We'd like to see you this Wednesday at 6:45.

Choir Director, Janice Torrance

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Community Comes Out for Prayer Service

September 12, 2010 - By ANGELINA DICKSON, Staff writer, Weirton Daily Times

WEIRTON - "Pass it on" was just one of the messages brought forth in the community prayer service in front of the Millsop Community Center Friday evening.

Members of the Cove Presbyterian Church in Weirton attended a special prayer service where the Rev. Ed Rudiger read scripture asking for the members of the community be opened to listen to the will of God as well as each other.

Rudiger said churches throughout the community were invited to participate in the celebration, which included singing, prayer and reading scripture. Approximately 20 people attended the service and upon arrival were handed a pamphlet with scripture and music inside as well as a candle.

"As we sing this song, "Pass it On," I want you to pass your light on to your neighbor," said Rudiger.

Services began with prayer and a scripture followed by the singing of "Amazing Grace" which those in attendance sang a cappella.

During the ceremony, Rudiger read scripture from the book of Matthew asking the minds and hearts of the people in the community be opened to go where God would have them go, to listen to one another, love one another and pass on that love to one another.

(Dickson can be contacted at adickson@weirtondailytimes.com)

Friday, September 10, 2010

To Grumblers Everywhere

There sure seems to be a lot of stuff about which we can grumble. I mean, life is tough. Values and standards are changing. Things aren’t the way they were or should be, right? Yes sir, we have good reason to complain, to dwell on the dark cloud, and to assume that things are only going to get worst. Without question, we have good reason to feel bad, and because misery loves company, grumbling is more than understandable. I mean, why shouldn’t we let people know how we feel? Why shouldn’t we voice our opinions? Why shouldn’t we show our displeasure? We have the right, don’t we?

Sure we do. As Americans, we have the right to do whatever we can to make others feel as rotten as we. But as Christians, well, there’s an interesting fact about grumbling. In the Bible, the word is never used to describe a positive action or characteristic. In fact, grumblers are always those opposed to Jesus, and more often then not, they’re grumbling about something he’s said or done, especially his willingness to receive sinners and tax collectors. In other words, never are we encouraged to grumble. On the other hand, there are all kinds of verses about rejoicing, and people who rejoice generally have Christ as the reason for their joy. As a matter of fact, if we trust what Jesus said, joy seems to be a characteristic of God himself, while grumbling is not. During the services on Saturday and Sunday, we’ll spend some time considering how we can integrate some of that joy into our own lives. And the title of the sermon is “Our God Is a Happy God.”

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sunday's Sermon: Maybe We Can't Do It

Luke 14: 25-33 - 25And great crowds were traveling with him, and he turned and said to them, 26“If any person comes to me and doesn’t hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, even his own self, then he isn’t able to be my disciple. 27Whoever doesn’t carry his own cross and come after me, he isn’t able to be my disciple. 28“For everyone from among you who wants to build a tower first sits down and counts up the cost, if he has enough to complete it, doesn’t he? 29Otherwise, when he laid the foundation and isn’t able to finish it, everyone who looks at it might begin to make fun of him, 30saying, ‘This person started to build and wasn’t able to finish it.’ 31Or a certain king who goes to another king to engage in war first sits down and will take counsel, if he is able with 10,000 to meet one with 20,000 coming against him, doesn’t he? 32And if not, then even when he is far away, the king sends an envoy and asks for peace. 33Now thus it is; everyone from among you who doesn’t take leave of all that belongs to him isn’t able to be my disciple.”

**********

I thought the poster on cover of the bulletin this morning was perfect for the Sunday before Labor Day. Here we’ve got a woman who looks like she might be working in a factory literally flexing her muscles. And above her are the words, “We can do it.” And at the bottom, we’ve got who published the poster, the War Production Co-Ordinating Committee. Of course, I think most of y’all know what “war” we’re talking about, World War Two. And the reason for it, well, I think that’s pretty obvious as well. You see, in the Second World War our existence as a country was at stake. I mean, this was a global struggle where good and evil seemed very clear and in which losing or backing out just wasn’t an option. And so, as a nation, we had to come together and do the job that had to be done. But we also had to take up this challenge it with a very definite attitude, that no matter how difficult it seemed, no matter how many sacrifices had to be made, and no matter how discouraged and frustrated we might feel, working together, just like the woman said, “we can do it!”

And I’ll tell you, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have that attitude as we approached every demand that we face? I mean, just think about what it do for our morale, our sense of personal value, my goodness, our self-esteem, if we assumed that there was nothing that we couldn’t accomplish if we put our minds to it. That would be great, wouldn’t it?

And you know, on one level, I really think that’s what we’ve come to believe, if we work hard enough, we should be able to accomplish any task, cure any disease, answer any question. I mean, that’s certainly what we teach our kids, isn’t it; that they can do anything. Sure we do. And that’s why when I was teaching, I had guys who couldn’t make the eighth grade basketball team tell me that they planned to play in the NBA or girls who failed sophomore biology talk about how they were going to become pediatricians. Why did they say that? Because regardless of what the job demands, they can do it. That is, until they discover that they can’t.

But this attitude affects more than countries at war or young people in high school. I think most Christians at least want to have this “can do” attitude as they approach Christ. In other words, a lot of, maybe even most believers think that they should be able to do just about anything Jesus calls them to do. As a matter, this is exactly what God expects. My gosh, we all want to be disciples, right, and my gum, we can do it! Praise the Lord.

Now that’s often what we think, that is until we run into a passage like we just read from Luke. Then I believe, then we have our doubts. Maybe we can’t do it after all. I mean, just think about what Jesus said about the demands, the cost of discipleship: “If any person comes to me and doesn’t hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, even his own self, then he isn’t able to be my disciple. Whoever doesn’t carry his own cross and come after me, he isn’t able to be my disciple.” And then at the end, “now thus it is; everyone from among you who doesn’t take leave of all that belongs to him isn’t able to be my disciple.”

Now, does any of that sound easy to you? I mean, would it be easy to hate every single member of your family? And would it be easy to face the same kind of shame and ridicule faced by a person who had to carry his cross through town right before his crucifixion? And would it be easy to donate everything we have, and I’m talking about every stick of furniture and every stitch of clothing, to the Salvation Army this afternoon? Now if Jesus is right and this is what it takes to be a disciple, can we do it? I’m not sure. What about you?

Of course, I think most of us sincerely want to be able to say, “Yes, yes I can do it.” I know I do. There’s just one problem; as we saw, these demands are really, and I mean, really tough and extreme, maybe even impossible, at least for me. Therefore, to be sure that I can actually get it done, well, I’d better start tinkering with the rules. And even though I don’t like doing it, it’s just got to be done, because I already know that I’m not going to hate Maggie and I’m not going to make myself a laughing stock and I’m sure not going to give away all my stuff. But that’s want Jesus said I need to do, and so instead of taking the demands at face value, I’ve got to sort of spiritualize them, you know, take them out of the real world. For example, when Jesus said “hate,” he really didn’t mean “hate,” right? And when he talked about carrying your cross, he was actually talking about bearing whatever difficulties we have to face.

And let’s get real, when he said that a disciple has to say farewell to all that belongs to him, Jesus wasn’t talking about our houses or cars or even our televisions. We all know that he wants our lives, right? In fact, if I give him my life, which is easy because I can define it anyway I want, I can pretty much keep everything I have. And doesn’t it sound spiritual, “I gave Jesus my life,” and the good part is that I can do and still keep my cable. And then to make sure everybody, especially God, is convinced that I really am a disciple, I can start talking about what I’ve done, you know, like how I’ve found God and gotten saved and been baptized by the Spirit, you stuff like that. I can even say things that, when you get right down to it, probably aren’t true at all when you look at the facts. For example, I can say that God is first in my life; in other words, that I’ve put God before my wife and my daughter and certainly before me. Now tell me that doesn’t also sound spiritual. I just hope that God’s too busy with other things to hear what I’ve saying. I mean, imagine how embarrassing it would be if, on Judgement Day, I’m standing up before God, and he shows me an Excel spreadsheet with all the money I spent on myself and my family in one column and then all I’ve given to accomplish his work in another, my gosh, suppose he adds up all the time I’ve spent watching or playing a game that involves a ball, puck or some kind of senseless violence and compares that number with all the time I’ve spent in prayer and meditation and study... Now, even if I can convince him that I prayed during every commercial, I still think he’s going to ask me why I told people he was number one in my life? I guess I’ll have some explaining to do. But you know, maybe it’s worth the risk, if I believe that when it comes to discipleship, I can do it.

But you know, that’s not the only option, because we can choose another answer to the question can we do it, one that requires both courage and faith but that also can change the way we live our lives. You see, in the face of demands laid out by Jesus himself, we can decide that we’re going to be honest, that we’re going to honest with ourselves and with others and with God and we’re going to admit that maybe we can’t do it, in other words, that maybe we can’t be focused and sacrificial enough and maybe we’re not able to be disciples. In other words, we can decide that we’re going to stop pretending, that we’re going to stop twisting the Word of God so that the discipleship limbo stick is so high that anybody can slip under it and we’re going to stop claiming that we’ve done something that we know deep down we haven’t done.

You see, we can decide to stop this kind of nonsense and start listening to what Jesus said, especially in this passage; and I’m not just talking about all the hard stuff, but also the two parables he gave, you know, the one about the guy building the tower and the other about the king going out to battle. You see, the point is the same in the both, don’t start something you can’t finish, and it doesn’t matter whether your talking about construction or warfare or discipleship. In fact, it’s better not to start at all, than to find you have to stop with only half a tower or a defeated army or a lite and false version of discipleship. I’m telling you, we can listen to what he said, and then we can recognize that although we believe, we still need help with our doubt, although the spirit is willing, the flesh is still weak, although there’s a part of us that really wants to give everything to God so that he’s truly first in our lives, we’re just not there yet. You see, we need the courage to admit that to God. But we also need the faith to trust that in spite our weakness, in spite of our failures, in spite of our inability to do what we know we’re called to do, we can trust that God is still gracious and merciful. It’s sort of like the example I gave a little while ago, about me standing before God. I need to trust that before I have to explain anything, he’s going to ask me this question: “Ed, when you were out there pretending, you know, trying to fool me and impress others, when you doing all that stuff, did you ever realize just how much I loved you?” You see, we can be honest as we approach God.

And if we are, if we have the faith and courage to tell God the truth, that we simply fall short of his expectations, if we make that decision, I believe some remarkable things are going to happen. I mean, it’s got to change how we see ourselves. Not only will we become more humble, sort of what we talked about last week, but finally we’ll be able to relax, to stop trying to be what we’re not so that we can become everything God has created us to be. Imagine the peace we’ll have, not having to pretend anymore. And right along with that, this decision is going to change the way we see others. You know, if we can be honest with God, maybe we can be honest with one another, maybe impressing our neighbor won’t be important anymore, and maybe, when you get right down to it, I’m in no better position to judge him then he is to judge me. Who knows, maybe we’ll even be able to listen and learn from one another, even folks that we may have ignored or condemned in the past. It just may happen.

But you know, although the changes in how we see ourselves and others will be great, they fade in comparison with how a little honesty will change our relationship with God. I mean, let’s face it, when we were pretending, you know talking about giving our lives but not our televisions and saying that’s he’s number one in our heart but not even in the top ten when it comes to our money, well, anyone who believes that he can get away with that kind of stuff must assume that God is really, I mean, really stupid. And how can you trust a stupid God with your eternal destiny? But when we’re honest, I think we’ll realize that when we pretend, God’s not the one who’s stupid. Instead, he’s the one who loves us so much that he sent his son to live and to die and to rise for us before we were even born and that he sent his spirit to rest on his church before this building existed. You see, the more open we are with God, the more amazed we’re going to be by his love. But that only comes when we’re honest.

Now, remember that poster we talked about at the beginning of the service, the one that was designed to get us focused on the war effort and to remind us that “we can do it.” Well, guess what, both the Germans and the Japanese had the same kind of posters themselves. You see, just saying it doesn’t mean you can actually do it. And as it relates to discipleship and the high standards that Jesus himself set, instead of cheapening those standards or pretending we’re doing something that we may not be able to do, let’s try being honest with ourselves and others and with God. Because if we are, I think it can absolutely transform our lives, and I’m talking about when we can say, maybe we can’t do it.