As noted in the piece I put up earlier (“My schedule for the next few weeks”), this is the message that I am giving for the Friday Vespers in the Garden at Grace UMC in Newburgh, NY, this evening. The message tonight is based Colossians 3: 1 – 11 with references to Hosea 11: 1 – 12 and Luke 12: 13 – 21.
While I was preparing this message, I was looking ahead and thinking about the messages that I have to prepare for the next five weeks as well. On a couple of occasions the messages will essentially be the same though the venues will change (a listing of these messages follows this message).
But no matter what the venue or where the path that the Scriptures for each week lead me, the goal is, was, and will always be threefold:
What does it mean to be a Christian?
What does it mean to say that one is a Methodist?
What do these statements mean for your life today and tomorrow?
When I looked at what Paul wrote to the Colossians, I thought about the commercial that often ran right after the World Series or Super Bowl was completed.
One of the players for the winning team had been selected as the Most Valuable Player and, during the post-game interview, was asked, “Now that you are the MVP, what are you going to do?”
And the reply was, “I’m going to Disney World!”
Now, I don’t mean to equate Heaven with Disney World but I sometimes think that is the way that many Christians think about Heaven when they accept Christ as their personal Savior.
Now, I have been to Disney World and I don’t think that Heaven is anything like that. I also remember the scene from “Field of Dreams” where one of the ball players (Shoeless Joe Jackson, I think) asks the Kevin Costner character, “Is this heaven?” And Costner replies, “No, this is Iowa.”
I don’t doubt that pain and suffering will be non-existent in Heaven but I am not totally sure what type of life it will be. Heaven may very well be what we want it to be. I hope that when the time comes I will be able to enter Heaven but I also know that if I focus on that life, the life that comes after this one here on earth, then I miss the point about being a Christian.
I may have said or written this before but there was a time when I almost left the church. It still vexes me today when someone tells me, in no uncertain terms, that they are one of the chosen ones and will be in Heaven and that I, because I did not come to Christ as they did nor do I believe as they do, will not.
But doesn’t God tell Hosea, in the Old Testament reading, that He knew each and everyone as an individual? Does that say that our path can be different because we are each an individual?
What I fear is happening today is that same attitude, that a specific attitude and specific knowledge about Christ and Heaven, is the primary force driving people away from the church. More importantly, it is the hypocrisy of those who tell you what to believe and how to believe but whose lives are counter to the Gospel message that keep people away. You cannot say to a person “love your neighbor” when you yourself do not.
Paul’s words to the Colossians speak of a new life, one in which you have cast off all the old ways and begin a new life in and for Christ.
Now, I thought about those words and words that Paul has written to others before and how this type of life puts us outside the box. Our old life, trapped in the ways of society, limits our thinking. We do the same things each day because 1) we don’t know anything new and 2) we are afraid to try new things.
The parable that Jesus told the people in the New Testament reading for today speaks of how we measure our life. In today’s society, despite all the signs that massing immense wealth does little to insure the future, we still seek immense wealth. We fail to realize that 1) it does little good and 2) in doing so, we hurt others.
And we are so afraid of failure that we are unwilling to try new things. But consider this; in societal terms, Jesus’ mission was a total and complete failure. But that was because the people who persecuted Jesus could not see or understand what it was that He came to do.
Christ’s death on the Cross was the ultimate victory over sin and death. Death does not win nor does sin enslave us.
In Christ’s death we find a new life, one that frees us to do creative and wonderful things.
We have a choice today; stay in the present life, knowing that it only keeps us in slavery to sin and leads to death or choose a new life in Christ that frees us and let’s us find ourselves.
My schedule for the next four weeks looks like this:
August 9th – Grace United Methodist Church – Friday Vespers in the Garden (7 pm) – Message based in part on Isaiah 1: 1, 10 – 20; Hebrews 11: 1 – 3, 8 – 16; and Luke 12: 32 – 40
August 17th – Grace United Methodist Church – Grannie Annie’s Kitchen (doors open at 8 am) – Message based in part on Isaiah 5: 1 – 7, Hebrews 11: 29 – 12: 2 and Luke 12: 49 – 56
August 18th – Grace United Methodist Church – Sunday Vespers in the Garden (7 pm) – Message based in part on Isaiah 5: 1 – 7, Hebrews 11: 29 – 12: 2 and Luke 12: 49 – 56
August 23rd – Grace United Methodist Church – Friday Vespers in the Garden (7 pm) – Message based in part on Jeremiah 1: 4 – 10, Psalm 71: 1 – 6; Hebrews 12: 18 – 29, Luke 13: 10 – 17
August 24th – Grace United Methodist Church – Grannie Annie’s Kitchen (doors open at 8 am) – Message based in part on Jeremiah 1: 4 – 10, Psalm 71: 1 – 6; Hebrews 12: 18 – 29, Luke 13: 10 – 17
August 25th – Rowe United Methodist Church (Sunday service at 11 am) – “A New Calling” – Message based in part on Jeremiah 1: 4 – 10, Psalm 71: 1 – 6; Hebrews 12: 18 – 29, Luke 13: 10 – 17
August 31st – Grace United Methodist Church – Grannie Annie’s Kitchen (doors open at 8 am) – Message based in part on Jeremiah 2: 4 – 13, Hebrews 13: 1 – 8, 15 – 16 and Luke 14: 1, 7 – 14
September 1st – Fort Montgomery United Methodist Church (Sunday service at 9:30 am) – “Guess Who’s Coming For Breakfast” – Message based in part on Jeremiah 2: 4 – 13, Psalm 81: 1, 10 – 16; Hebrews 13: 1 – 8, 15 – 16; Luke 14: 1, 7 – 14
September 1st – Grace United Methodist Church – Sunday Vespers in the Garden (7 pm) – Message based in part on Jeremiah 2: 4 – 13, Psalm 81: 1, 10 – 16; Hebrews 13: 1 – 8, 15 – 16; Luke 14: 1, 7 – 14