“Notes for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost”


Here is a list of my sermons, messages, and posts for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost.

This list was originally posted last year as part of the post of “To Finish the Journey” but only listed the posts for Year A as well as those posts that were based on the Scriptures. I have edited that post to be just the sermon and added a couple of posts to this list.

As I complete this particular year of posts, I anticipate shifting from the Sunday to the Scripture readings (since they are actually tied to the calendar and not necessarily the liturgical calendar) at the beginning of the new liturgical calendar year. But in the meantime, here are the messages/sermons/posts that I gave for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost.

Sunday, October 03, 1999 (A), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “The Rules We Play By”

Sunday, October 22, 2000 (B), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “Ask Not What Your Church Can Do”

Sunday, October 14, 2001 (C), World Communion Sunday, Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “Saying Thank You”

Sunday, September 29, 2002 (A), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, “How did we get this far?”

Sunday, October 19, 2003 (B), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, “Serving the Lord”

Sunday, October 10, 2004 (C), World Communion Sunday, Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, Lay Speaker

Sunday, September 25, 2005 (A), Poughquag United Methodist Church, Poughquag, NY, “Who Goes First?”

Sunday, October 15, 2006 (B), Dover United Methodist Church, Dover Plains, NY, “Finding God”

Sunday, October 07, 2007 (C), What Are We Supposed To Do?

Sunday, September 21, 2008 (A), Dover United Methodist Church, Dover Plains, NY, “What Do We Need?”

Sunday, October 11, 2009 (B), Ridges/Roxbury & Springdale United Methodist Churches, Stamford, CT, “Can You?”

Sunday, October 03, 2010 (C), “What I See”

Sunday, October 16, 2011 (A) – Dover UMC, Dover Plains, NY, “Who Shall Feed My Sheep?”

Sunday, October 7, 2012 (B) – New Milford UMC, “A Matter of Integrity”

Luke 17: 5 – 10

“Notes for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost”


Here is a list of my sermons, messages, and posts for the 18thSunday after Pentecost.

This list was originally posted last year as part of the post of “Who Shall Feed My Sheep?” but only listed the posts for Year A as well as those posts that were based on the Scriptures. I have edited that post to be just the sermon and added a couple of posts to this list. To be honest, I had forgotten that I started off listing my notes for a particular Sunday as part of the post for that Sunday and that I had included a list of posts for the readings.

As I complete this particular year of posts, I anticipate shifting from the Sunday to the Scripture readings (since they are actually tied to the calendar and not necessarily the liturgical calendar) at the beginning of the new liturgical calendar year. But in the meantime, here are the messages/sermons/posts that I gave for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost.

Who Can I Turn To?” – a sermon given at Alexander Chapel UMC on September 28, 1997 (Year B)

The Final Exam”a sermon given at Walker Valley UMC on September 26, 1999 (Year A)

Who Shall Serve?”- a sermon given at Walker Valley UMC on October 15, 2000 (Year B)

“Meeting the Challenge”- a sermon given at Walker Valley UMC on October 7, 2001 (Year C)

“A Sense of Reward”- sermon given at Tompkins Corners UMC on September 22, 2002 (Year A)

Fair and Balanced”- a sermon given at Tompkins Corners UMC on October 12, 2003 (Year B)

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”- a sermon given at Tompkins Corners UMC on October 3, 2004 (Year C)

“What Is A Person Worth?”- posted on September 18, 2005 (Year A)

What Do We Say?” – a sermon given at New Milford UMC on October 8, 2006 (Year B)

The Good Life” – posted on September 30, 2007 (Year C)

“The Words We Use”- posted on September 14, 2008 (Year A)

A New Set of Rules” – posted on October 4, 2009 (Year B)

What Is Going To Happen?” – posted on September 26, 2010 (Year C) 

In the original draft of this piece I listed a piece for October 16, 2011 as being on the 18th Sunday after Pentecost.  Actually that piece (a sermon given at Dover UMC) was on the 19th Sunday after Pentecost.  The 18th Sunday after Pentecost in 2011 was October 9th and I am not sure what I posted that day.

“Notes for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost”


Here are my thoughts/messages/sermons for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost:

Sunday, October 04, 1992 (A), Laity Sunday, Grace United Methodist Church, St. Cloud, MN, “Who? Me!”

Sunday, September 12, 1999 (A), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “Forgiving and Forgetting,”

Sunday, October 01, 2000 (B), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “What Can We Do?”

Sunday, September 23, 2001 (C),Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “The Healing Process”

Sunday, September 08, 2002 (A), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, “A Sense of Community”

Sunday, September 28, 2003 (B), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, “Who Cuts the Barber’s Hair?”

Sunday, September 19, 2004 (C),Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, “The Great Tulip Boom and Bust”

Sunday, September 04, 2005 (A), Vails Gate United Methodist Church, Vails Gate, NY, “Lexington, North Carolina”

Sunday, September 24, 2006 (B), Dover United Methodist Church, Dover Plains, NY, “Upsetting the Apple Cart”

Sunday, September 16, 2007 (C),Dover United Methodist Church, Dover Plains, NY, “It’s A Journey, Not A Thought”

Sunday, August 31, 2008 (A), Stevens Memorial United Methodist Church, South Salem, NY, “What Does It Mean To Be Called?”

Sunday, September 20, 2009 (B), “A Simple Act”

Sunday, September 12, 2010 (C), “A Blog for the Weekend”

Sunday, October 02, 2011 (A), “I Don’t Like Rules”

“Notes for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost”


Here are my messages/sermons/posts for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost.

Sunday, September 07, 1997 (B), Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church, Brighton, TN, “And What Do We Do Next?”

Sunday, September 05, 1999 (A), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY,A New Start”

Sunday, September 24, 2000 (B), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY,The Order of Things”

Sunday, September 16, 2001 (C), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “Seeking The Truth”

Sunday, September 01, 2002 (A), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, not on file

Sunday, September 21, 2003 (B), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY,“The Value of Things”

Sunday, September 12, 2004 (C), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY,“Clearly The Choice Is Ours”

Sunday, August 28, 2005 (A), “Who Are You?”

Sunday, September 17, 2006 (B), South Highlands United Methodist Church, Garrison, NY Cold Spring United Methodist Church, Cold Spring, NY, “The Price of Wisdom”

Sunday, September 09, 2007 (C), “What Is The True Cost?”

Sunday, August 24, 2008 (A), Trinity – Boscobel United Methodist Church, Buchanan, NY, “Building On The Rocks”

Sunday, September 13, 2009 (B), “Searching for the Truth”

Sunday, September 05, 2010 (C), Dover United Methodist Church, Dover Plains, NY, “Hold On Now!”

Sunday, September 25, 2011 (A), Drew United Methodist Church, Carmel, NY (Saturday evening), “Choices”

“Notes for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost”


Here are my thoughts/messages/sermons for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost:

Sunday, August 27, 1995 (Year C), Altoona (KS), High Prairie, and Buffalo (KS) United Methodist Churches, “How Do I Get To Twin Valley?”

Sunday, August 25, 1996 (Year A), Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, Memphis, TN, “To Boldly Go”

Sunday, August 24, 1997 (Year B), Alexander Chapel United Methodist Church, Mason, TN, “You Knew The Job was Dangerous When You Took It!”

Sunday, August 22, 1999 (Year A), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “How Will You Know?”

Sunday, September 10, 2000 (Year B), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “Teach Your Children Well”

Sunday, September 02, 2001 (Year C), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “Choose Wisely”

Sunday, August 18, 2002 (Year A) – not on file

Sunday, September 07, 2003 (Year B), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, “A Cake Without Baking Powder”

Sunday, August 29, 2004 (Year C), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, “Who Will You Invite?”

Sunday, August 14, 2005 (Year A), “What Do You See?”

Sunday, September 03, 2006 (Year B), “What Does It Mean?”

Sunday, August 26, 2007 (Year C), Dover United Methodist Church, Dover Plains, NY, “Rocking The Boat”

Sunday, August 10, 2008 (Year A), Bellvale United Methodist Church and Sugarloaf United Methodist Church, “Which Way Will You Go?”

Sunday, August 30, 2009 (Year B), “Forgotten Books”

Sunday, August 22, 2010 (Year C), “But Where Does It Start?”

Sunday, September 11, 2011 (Year A), “This Day – 9 – 11 – 2011″

Sunday, August 26, 2012 (Year B), New Milford United Methodist Church, Warwick, NY, “What’s the Purpose?”

“Notes for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost”


Here are my thoughts, messages, and sermons for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost.

Sunday, August 29, 1993 (Year A), Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, Memphis, TN – “Another One”

Sunday, August 15, 1999 (Year A), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY – “Welcome Home”

Sunday, September 03, 2000 (Year B), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY – “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”

Sunday, August 26, 2001 (Year C), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY – “26 August 2001″

Sunday, August 11, 2002 (Year A), Nothing on file

Sunday, August 31, 2003 (Year B), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY – “Do As I Say? Or, Do As I Do?”

Sunday, August 22, 2004 (Year C), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY – “What Shall You Say?”

Sunday, August 07, 2005 (Year A), “To Change Dreams Into Visions”

Sunday, August 27, 2006 (Year B), “Are You Coming or Going?”

Sunday, August 19, 2007 (Year C), Stevens Memorial United Methodist Church, South Salem, NY – And What Will You Say? (sermon)

Sunday, August 03, 2008 (Year A), Dover United Methodist Church, Dover Plains, NY – “The Time And Place”

Sunday, August 23, 2009 (Year B), Red Hook United Methodist Church, Red Hook, NY – “Where Can We Go? And How Do We Get There?”

Sunday, August 15, 2010 (Year C), “What Will Be The Outcome Of All Of This?”

Sunday, September 04, 2011 (Year A), Dover United Methodist Church, Dover Plains, NY “A New Beginning”

Sunday, August 19, 2012 (Year B), Fishkill United Methodist Church, Fishkill, NY – “What Does the Future Hold?”

Sunday, August 19, 2012 (Year B), Grace United Methodist Church, Newburgh, NY – “Oppression or Freedom?”

 

“Notes for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost”


Here are my messages, sermons, and thoughts for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost:

Sunday, August 08, 1999 (Year A), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “WYSIWYG”

Sunday, August 27, 2000 (Year B), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “So We Built It. Now What Do We Do?”

Sunday, August 19, 2001, (Year C),Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, lay speaker

Sunday, August 04, 2002 (Year A), nothing on file

Sunday, August 24, 2003 (Year B),Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, “The Call to Duty”

Sunday, August 15, 2004 (Year C),Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, “What Does the Future Hold?”

Sunday, July 31, 2005 (Year A), “This Is The Place”

Sunday, August 20, 2006,(Year B), “What Have We Learned?”

Sunday, August 12, 2007 (Year C), “Listening Carefully”

Sunday, July 27, 2008 (Year A), Red Hook United Methodist Church, Red Hook, NY, “Know The Rules”

Sunday, August 16, 2009 (Year B), Dover United Methodist Church, Dover Plains, NY, “Wisdom, Power, and the Way of Life”

Sunday, August 08, 2010 (Year C), Van Cortlandtville Community Church (Cortlandt Manor), “The Answer to the Question”

Sunday, August 28, 2011 (Year A), Drew United Methodist Church, Carmel, NY (Saturday evening), “An Encounter on a Dusty Road”

Sunday, August 12, 2012 (Year B),New Milford United Methodist Church, Warwick, NY, “What’s the Next Step?”

“Notes on the 9th Sunday after Pentecost”


Here are my sermons/messages/thoughts for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost:

Sunday, July 31, 1994 (Year B), Grace United Methodist Church, St. Cloud, MN, “Journey To The Promised Land”

Sunday, July 30, 1995 (Year C), Mulberry (KS) and Arma (KS) United Methodist Churches, “We Gather Together”

Sunday, August 13, 2000 (Year B), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “Life’s Little Rewards”

Sunday, August 05, 2001 (Year C), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “A Vision of the Future”

Sunday, July 21, 2002 (Year A), No message or post

Sunday, August 10, 2003 (Year B), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, What Have We Been Taught?”

Sunday, August 01, 2004 (Year C), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, lay speaker from the Gideons

Sunday, July 17, 2005 (Year A), “Tending The Garden”

Sunday, August 06, 2006 (Year B), Mt. Hope United Methodist Church, Mahopac, NY, “The Life We Lead”

Sunday, July 29, 2007 (Year C), Dover United Methodist Church, Dover Plains, NY, “What Shall We Say?”

Sunday, July 13, 2008 (Year A), Dover United Methodist Church, Dover Plains, NY, “There Is A Choice”

Sunday, August 02, 2009 (Year B), Lake Mahopac United Methodist Church, Mahopac, NY, “What Do You Do With The Gifts You Have Been Given?”

Sunday, July 25, 2010 (Year C), Hankins United Methodist Church, Hankins, NY, “To Build a New Community”

Sunday, August 14, 2011 (Year A), See “Thoughts for a week in August”

Who Shall Feed My Sheep?


Here are my thoughts for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, 16 October 2011. The Scriptures this Sunday are Exodus 33: 12 – 23, 1 Thessalonians 1 – 10, and Matthew 22: 15 -22. . It is also Laity Sunday and I will be at Dover Plains UMC; the service starts at 11 and you are welcome to attend. 

I have edited this since it was first posted. As I was preparing a report, I noticed that I had this piece listed as the 18th Sunday after Pentecost when it was actually the 19th Sunday.

Yes, I know the title of my message is more attuned to what transpires in the Gospel of John following the resurrection (John 21: 1 – 19) than any of the readings for today. But in one sense, what Jesus asks Peter to do in that passage very specifically relates to what this day, Laity Sunday, is and should be about. So bear with me as we look at the three readings for today.

Let us first begin by remembering what this part of the country looked like some two hundred and sixty years ago. Route 9 from New York northward was, if I am not mistaken, first called the Albany Post Road and so it would have been the major land route north out of New York City. I would suspect that Route 22 would have been here, though obviously not paved. It would have been a well-worn path coming up from New York City. And when you look at the churches between Cold Spring and Carmel along NY Route 301, you know that there had to be a path there as well.

Those who had come to the shores of this country came seeking a new life, hoping that their future here held more promise than their lives in the old world ever would. Perhaps they came escaping an unpleasant past and/or present and just wanted the chance to start over. Others perhaps just wanted to start anew and fresh. Settlers to this part of New York would have followed these early land routes as well as sailing up the Hudson to find a place to live and begin their new life in this wondrous new world.

But starting over and beginning anew is more than coming to a new country and building a home. No matter how you want to romanticize it, it was and still is hard work.

Those who came to this new world knew that there was nothing here; nothing, at least, in terms of what they left behind in the old country. There were no towns; there were no schools; there were no churches. All that was once part of their life was left behind in the search for a new life in the new world.

And within the framework of each individual is a desire to know more about the world around them and there is a desire to understand and know that God is a part of one’s life.

So this new life required that you find a place to build a home and as people came you began to build a town, a school, and a church (especially when you came to this country to escape religious persecution in the old country). You built the school for the future of your community, though I sometimes think that we have forgotten that. And in many towns, especially in the mid-west, you know that the town is dying when the school closes or consolidates with another school.

Churches were and are an integral part of any town’s community. It is about having a place where one’s soul can be refreshed; it was about having a place where their souls could be feed. You built a church to give one’s soul a chance to recharge (and I will say that I know we have forgotten that). There is a great sadness in many communities across this country, not necessarily in the rural areas, when a church has to close its doors.

In those early days of this country, it wasn’t just a matter of building the schools or the churches; it was also finding the teachers and the preachers. When you look at the history of higher education, you see that the first colleges and universities were directed towards the training of ministers (which might surprise many of the alumni of those institutions). But those who were in school were not going to be in the pulpit for some time and the people were, if you will, very hungry.

It was a hunger that John Wesley understood and one he struggled to fill. His problem was that the Church of England was not willing to send ministers from England to lead the congregations that had aligned themselves with Wesley’s Methodist Revival. And Wesley was reluctant to appoint/ordain anyone. Ultimately, John Wesley will appoint individuals to lead the new Methodist congregations in this country. But, “The rise of American Methodism is largely the story of self-motivated laypeople whose experience of God’s redeeming grace compelled them to preach and organize societies, which later were linked together to form the earliest connection…” (From “That Dear Man of God:” Edward Evans and the Origins of American Methodism as quoted on http://www.methodist-motion.org/id43.html)

From the laity came the first circuit riders, those individuals (not always men) who traveled from location to location bringing the Word to the people. When one looks at the churches in this region of the Hudson Valley where we live, we see the sites and locations where they visited and preached.

But it does not matter whether we are talking about America in the early 18th century or America in the present time. People still feel the need to feed the hunger in the soul; they still need a place where they may find rest and comfort from their labors. And perhaps more so today than 250 years ago, they need to know that there is a reason for what is happening in this world. In a world of anger, hatred, violence, and war, they need to hear that there is an answer and it is not the answer of more anger, more hatred, more violence or more war.

The people know that the answer to this hunger, the place where they can find the answers, the place they can find rest and comfort is the church. But it is hard to find the answers at times when the world demands we pay more homage to Caesar than we do God.

We have become a society in which the weekend has become an extension of the workweek and we fail to realize that our soul needs rest as much as our body does. The Biblical notion of a day of rest every six days has somehow become the idea that everything not done during the previous six days must be done on the seventh.

And the church is as guilty of this as any other societal institution. Instead of being the place where we can find rest and comfort, it is another societal institution demanding our time and energy. We have forgotten what the church is and was about.

There is a balance between what we do for the church and what we do for God. It has become more of a social thing where we worry about paying the bills or the color of the carpet or when to have the next fund-raiser. If we were more in terms of what the Thessalonian church was doing, then the societal issues would be easily resolved. If the church today were more focused on providing that which the people truly need, then many of the issues that so dominate this world would probably disappear.

The cynic and the skeptic will tell me that this is all well and good but the church has to pay the bills or it cannot do the work. But people don’t talk about the church that pays its bills; they talk and they visit the church that welcomes them as Christ welcomed us. They talk and visit churches where the spirit of the Lord is alive and present in the thoughts, words, deeds, and actions of the members of the church. And I, unfortunately, know from my own experience that visitors to the church don’t want to hear about the financial problems of the church or the need to get involved in the next big church project/fund raiser.

Most of those words were written this past Wednesday afternoon. That evening, I received Dan Dick’s post. Hear what Reverend Dick wrote about the United Methodist Church in general,

As I prepare for General Conference I am reminded again that there are two churches in today’s United Methodism: one that is concerned with its own survival and existence that will spend exorbitant amounts of money to justify its own existence and a much smaller church that wants to serve God and Jesus Christ in the world. One is concerned with numbers; the other is concerned with lives. One is concerned with image; the other is concerned with integrity. One is concerned with power and control, the other with justice and service. We stand at a crossroads. We need to make a choice. Will we sell out to a lesser vision of church as social institution or will we rise up to BE the body of Christ? It begins with discipleship — and if our leaders are going to make this rich and wonderful concept meaningless, we are in deep, deep trouble.

(http://doroteos2.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/discipleshi)

There are many challenges facing the church, be it the church in general, a specific denomination or a specific church. The competition between Caesar and God will not be won by condemning Caesar nor will it be accomplished by making God the new Caesar. It will not be accomplished by marketing the church or finding ways to make the church seem like it is part of society.

There was another reason why I entitled the sermon what I did. There is a song by Jefferson Airplane entitled “Good Shepherd” which is based on the words that Jesus spoke to Peter in John.

If you want to get to heaven
Over on the other shore
Stay out of the way of the blood-stained bandit
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep

One for Paul
One for Silas
One for to make my heart rejoice
Can’t you hear my lambs acallin
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep

If you want to get to heaven
Over on the other shore
Stay out of the way of the long-tongue liar
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep

One for Paul
One for Silas
One for to make my heart rejoice
Can’t you hear my lambs acallin
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep

Interlude

If you want to get to heaven
Over on the other shore
Stay out of the way of the gun shot devil
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep

One for Paul
One for Silas
One for to make my life complete
Can’t you hear my lambs acallin
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep

I used that song as part of the basis for a sermon a couple of years ago (see “A Rock and Roll Revival”) and in preparing that sermon I found that the lyrics for a 60s rock and roll song came from an early 19th century Methodist preacher. More importantly, it was what Jorma Kaukonen, the lead singer for the Airplane on this song, said about singing passages from the Bible. For Kaukonen, such songs as this one have opened the door to the Scriptures for him.

And I truly believe that is what the church must do today in order to feed the sheep of the world. It must find avenues and doors in the world around us that will open the Scriptures to the people who have that hunger that only the church can feed.

We cannot feed the sheep with platitudes and good wishes nor will they eat when all they receive from the church is rejection and hostility. Right now, I fear that too many churches have taken the attitude that the world outside the church should be left behind, never to be seen again. But what will you do when people find God in the world of rock and roll songs? When Jesus told his questioners to render unto Caesar that which was Caesar’s and render unto God that which was God’s, he was telling them to put things in perspective and priority. God does come first, no matter how or where you find Him.

The question is a simple one, “who will feed my sheep?” Our task is to feed the sheep wherever they may be. The people did not come to the circuit rider; the circuit rider came to the people. So who shall we call upon?

Moses asked God who was going to lead the people of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land and God said that he, Moses, would. Not some highly trained preacher or minister but a simple shepherd. Of course there were no highly trained preachers or ministers back then; there was just a group of people leaving a life of slavery and toil to return to the land of their ancestors, to return to a land of hope and promise. Moses would have Aaron, his brother, to help him but all the work would be done by the people.

When the Methodist Church began in this country two hundred and seventy some years ago, there were no trained preachers but there were committed lay people, willing to undergo the trials and tribulations of traveling town to town on nights when, as the old saying goes, the only thing out were Methodist circuit riders and crows.

Now, in the 21st century, when the people of the world cry out in anguish and pain because they sense that they have been forgotten and abandoned, when the bodies of the people and the souls of the people cry out in hunger, both sustenance for the body and sustenance for the soul, we hear Jesus again calling to us, “who will feed my sheep?”

On this Laity Sunday, there can only be one answer. Are you prepared this day to answer?

A New Beginning


Here are my thoughts for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost, September 4, 2011. I will be at Dover Plains UMC; the service starts at 11 and you are welcome to attend. The Scriptures are Exodus 12: 1 – 14, Romans 13: 8 – 14, and Matthew 18: 15 – 20.

I will also be at Grace UMC in Newburgh for the final Sunday of the Vespers in the Garden series. We will start at 7 pm and you are welcome to attend as well.

There is something intriguing about this particular Sunday. There is in the Old Testament reading for today a celebration, a celebration that we understand in the context of an organized religious practice but, as we read today, began as a family gathering. And the calendar tells us that we are or should be celebrating the American worker and his or her role in the building of this country. There is also the looming shadow of next week before us as well.

I say that it is a looming shadow because I am certain that while speaker after speaker, preacher and politician alike, will speak of the honor, courage and sacrifice of countless individuals, there will also be those who call for more sacrifice. But I fear that the call for sacrifice will be from those who have already sacrificed while others who have gained and profited from the ten years of war will continue to contribute nothing to the effort. And with countless families being threatened with home foreclosures and the loss of work, with countless workers being told they must take pay cuts and a reduction in benefits for the sake of the company, all the time while company after company reports record profits and jobs are exported overseas I am not entirely sure that we need to hear those words this time.

There seems to be a mentality in today’s society that runs completely counter to the words spoken by Jesus in today’s Gospel reading. We are more than willing to confront those who oppose us but not in the style and manner that Jesus said; we want the confrontation, we want the chance to strike at our enemies and banish them from this world. We are not comfortable with the notion that maybe there is a solution in ways other than violence and war. There are alternatives to violence and war and yet we are not willing to look for them.

And if what is said between two individuals is eternal, be it a yes or a no, then we must choose our words carefully. When Patrick Henry rose before the Virginia House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775, he began the speech, for which he is best known by first saying,

We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

Yes, Patrick Henry would argue for war but his argument for war came from the evidence that was before him.

Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! 

But we entered a war ten years ago on our own. We have elected to walk a path that was fed by lies and deceit, not truth. We had a chance to do it right but we did not. And now we are paying the price. We have bought into the rhetoric of those who see power in the same way that the Egyptians and Romans controlled the Israelites, through slavery and oppression.

Countless individuals have accepted the argument espoused by corporation and political bigwigs that union rules work against them. History tells us what it was like for the American worker before there were unions. History also tells us that corporations have always used the notion that unionization would work against the best interests of the worker. Excuse me if I sound a bit cynical but I get the impression that we are going to bring back the good old days when twelve-year olds worked in the mills and the mines. And let us not forget that one of the reasons for the Passover Feast was to remind the people of the life they had lead in Egypt before the exodus; a life as slaves.

It is not that I have anything against corporations. After all, there has to be some sort of organization in order for individuals to have jobs. But, when the interests of the corporation overshadow the interests of the workers who toil for the corporation then there is something severely wrong in this country. I am reminded that John Wesley had nothing against anyone earning as much as they possibly could but it was not to be earned through the oppression of the worker. And John Wesley made it abundantly clear that though one could earn as much as they could, they were to save as much as they could and then give away as much as they could.

But we have bought into the words of the hucksters and the scammers, politician and preacher alike that the best possible outcome is to have it all. And then once we have it all, we are to keep it for ourselves. In our efforts to earn as much as we can, we somehow have forgotten those two other conditions.

I am not enough of a Wesleyan scholar to know the basis for Wesley’s financial statement but I am sure part of it comes from Paul’s words to the Romans, especially the part about not running up debts and then making sure that you are not absorbed and exhausted by day-to-day obligations. When the focus becomes such that we are more concerned with the day-to-day stuff, it is quite possible that we lose track of things far more important, such as family and home.

So maybe we should think again about that time when families gathered together and prepared a feast to remember. Let us remember that it was the Methodist Church, following John Wesley’s example that brought about a revolution that saved England and brought about true social reform. This will come as a shock to many who see the church in terms of a fortress with iron gates and a moat that will protect them from the evil of the world around them.

But what did the Israelites put on their door to protect them from the Angel of Death, sent by God, the night of that First Passover? It was the blood of the sacrificed lamb. We don’t need to mark our doors as they did because Jesus died on the cross for that very same reason. The blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, will protect us if we are willing to accept Him as our Savior.

But we must be willing to put aside our worldly concerns and live for Christ. This is what Paul wrote to the Romans; this is what John Wesley discovered that night in the chapel on Aldersgate Street. It is that opportunity for a new beginning that we are offered at this moment, this time, and this place. Three thousand years ago, the Israelite nation began its journey from slavery to independence. It was a new beginning for them. Today, through Christ, we are offered the same opportunity to escape slavery, slavery from sin and death, and have a new beginning, a new life. That is something worth celebrating.