“Pay Attention to the Details”


This will be the back page for the Sunday, June 03, 2018 (2nd Sunday after Pentecost, Year B) bulletin of Fishkill UMC.


For my doctoral work, I needed to synthesize two chemical compounds.  For the first compound, I was going to reproduce some work that had been done a few years before to confirm the structure of the compound.

The interesting thing about this synthesis was that one step in the process had to be done “backwards”.  Instead of adding “A” to “B”, I had to add “B” to “A”.  “A” to “B” was the traditional approach and the one taught to all students.  If you looked at the experimental method, this would have been the method you would have chosen.  But if you did this, all your work would have been destroyed in the process.  That you had to do this step in reverse order was discovered by the first group and their notes, which I had, noted the importance of changing the order.  But had I not had their notes, I would have noted there was a problem in the synthesis and worked out an alternative.  Either way, I had to be aware of what I was doing.

The Pharisees were hung up on the details about the sanctity of the Sabbath and felt that it was more important to uphold the sanctity rather focus on the meaning of the Sabbath.

For many people today, Christianity is superficial.  Some say they are Christian, but it is only on the surface and they lack the depth that shows the presence of Christ.

When we travel out into the world as representatives of Christ, we must be aware that we are showing the fullness and completeness of God’s Love.      ~Tony Mitchell

“How Will They Know?”


In a conversation the other day, someone noted that I was a liberal Christian. Now, in one of my earlier posts, I noted that I didn’t think that there was such a thing as a conservative Christian, simply because the demands of Christianity often times, in my view, conflict with conservatism.

I know that there are some who feel that religion and politics should not mix and there are problems with one side dictates to the other.  I also feel that many people today do not have a true understanding of what being a Christian, liberal or otherwise, means and that many people think that feel that the declaration that one is a Christian automatically excludes being a liberal and that the declaration that being a liberal automatically excludes one from being religiously active.

One of my favorite quotes come from the movie “A Man For All Seasons”. I do not recall the setting in which this exchange took place but it speaks to not only the aspect of being a Christian in today’s society but to a lot of what we need to do.

Sir Thomas More: Why not be a teacher? You’d be a fine teacher; perhaps a great one.

Richard Rich: If I was, who would know it?

Sir Thomas More: You; your pupils; your friends; God. Not a bad public, that.

The one thing that I think we have had a hard time with in our society today is, first, putting the others on that list, and second, making sure that they have priority. I think sometimes that many conservatives do not think about the others in the equation; it is all about what they do.

The more predominant voices of conservative Christianity tend to expound on what they think you need to do but do, in my mind, very little to do what it is that Jesus Christ wanted us to do when he first walked the back roads of the Galilee.

Many a preacher, in many a denomination, will state that the Great Commission is the sole purpose of Christianity.

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 16 – 20 in the New International Version)

But reread this passage as it translated in The Message,

Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”

Note how Jesus’ command changes from “make” to “train”. To further show this, read how Clarence Jordan translated the same patch in his Cotton Patch Gospel translation of Matthew,

Well, the eleven students traveled to Alabama, to the mountain which Jesus had selected for them. When they saw him they accepted him as their Lord, but some couldn’t make up their minds. James came over to them and said, “Every right to rule in both the spiritual and physical realms has been given to me. As you travel, then, make students of all races and initiate them into the family of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to live by all that I outlined for you. And you know, I am right in there with you – all the time – until the last inning.”

I think it is important to notice that the emphasis was on teaching. Teaching cannot be accomplished (as we are finding out) by simply forcing people to learn things. We are finding out that many people who proclaim themselves Christians do not have a firm understanding of the Bible in terms of the words written or the meaning and context of the words. (And study after study show that we are a Biblically illiterate society).

When Jesus began His mission, he proclaimed that He had come to bring the Good News to the people, to offer food for the hungry (and I think he meant both physical and spiritual hunger), to heal the sick, and relieve the oppression of the people. In the end, that is what one has to do if one says they are a Christian. Because if you are not actively involved in the ministries of Christ, then it becomes very difficult to teach others as Christ taught us.

Now, you may say that you do those things and that you don’t need a church, Jesus Christ, or for that matter, God to do those things. So why are you doing it? For what purpose do you do good?

Do you partake in acts of charity and kindness because it is the right thing to do (what was it that Spock said to Kirk that one time when Kirk asked if it was the logical thing to do? No, it was the human thing to do.) or do you seek justification for your own existence?

I know there are those who feel that to profess a belief in God is at time irrational and perhaps illogical (or even something worse). But I cannot help wondering from where we get our sense of good and evil. In Genesis we read of God commanding Adam not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And you know the rest of the story, which has several versions, depending on your point of view. But if you feel that this knowledge of good and evil does not come from God and our own actions, then where does it come from? And how will you deal with it?

In the end, I will profess to believe that there is a God. I do so, knowing that God created all I see in the physical world in which I live and the universe through which this planet travels. I also believe that my own abilities to think and create, to understand right and wrong, good and evil, come from this same Creator. I have chosen to walk the path that was first walked by Jesus Christ some two thousand years ago over the dusty back roads of the Galilee. I do not think that story is a myth because it is still told today and because of how it was told two thousand years ago (see my notes in “The Other Side Of The Universe” on this).

I do not think that my job is to make you believe as I do. I have come to know that there are many paths to heaven and that my responsibility is to show you the one on which I walk. And to show you is to teach you in the ways of Christ, as He asked me to do some two thousand years ago.

You may disagree with me and I know that many on both sides of the spectrum will. But when someone asks, “How will they know?,” I will reply through my words, thoughts, deeds, and action.

Society’s Goals


According to my records, this was actually the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost.


This was the message that I gave at Alexander Chapel UMC (Mason, TN) for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost (8 June 1997). The Scriptures for this Sunday were 1 Samuel 8: 4 – 20 (11: 14 – 15), 2 Corinthians 4: 13 – 5: 1, and Mark 3: 20 – 35.

Society today presents us with two contradictory goals. First, we are told that we are better off waniting what others have. But, second, we are also told that we are better off staying with what we already have. These contradictory goals come about because we, as a society, have forgotten where we have come from and how our goals should be set.

We are encouraged through the advertisements we see on television, hear on the radio, and read in the newspaper to seek what others have, no matter if what they have is what is best for us. These ads often imply that our lives will be better with these particular products. There is even a company that tries to determine what is “cool” so advertisers and manufacturers will know what to make and sell in the coming day.

On the other hand,, while we want what others have, we are not willing to let go of what we already have. Change comes difficult to society today. No matter the time or place, people get set in their ways. You should see the look on people’s faces when they find out that I hold a Ph. D. and have taught college but now want to be a preacher. To these people, I cannot be a preacher because my training and background are not of the church. Once you have set your career, you are not supposedly allowed to change.

Even Jesus’ own family had a problem with his ministry. As noted in the Gospel reading, Jesus’ mother and brothers came to take him home, convinced that he was crazy.

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

I won’t tell you what my brothers and sister said.

The reading from the Old Testament today shows us that the desire to have what others have is not a new phenomenon but one that has been with us for a long time. The elders of Israel come before Samuel and ask him to appoint a king to lead them. As stated in the commentary accompanying the scripture, this request is made in part because Samuel’s sons, who were the judges of that time, were corrupt and inept. Were that the only reason, then I think Samuel would have obliged and appointed a new king. But, the Israelites wanted a king so that they could be like the other nations in that area.

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

The conversation between Samuel and God at that time tells us a great deal about how we live our lives today.

And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as the their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.

As God told him to do, Samuel told the Israelites what God had said and what this new king would do.

Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maid servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

You can almost hear the Israelites crying like little children, “But Daddy! Everyone else has one. Why can’t we?” Are we not like that today? Do we not seek something that we believe will make us better but, in the long run, will lead us to ruin? Do we remember from where all our riches come from? Why do we seek in the material world around us that which we actually get from God?

Now it should also be pointed out that “going with the flow” as its own problems as well. Those in the “cool” business are quick to point out that what is “cool” today may not be so tomorrow so that it is possible that what you bought to be part of the “in crowd” today will make you part of the “out” crowd tomorrow.

There is the desire to make sure that we are comfortable with our lives. Anything which disturbs that comfort will always be met with resistance.

That was the case with the scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel reading today. They knew of all the miracles that Jesus was doing, healing the sick, curing the lame, helping the blind to see, and the deaf to hear, but they were not will to believe that such things could occur. After all, Jesus was doing things that they had been telling the people were impossible. So, instead of believing, they choose to defame Jesus’ character.

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub. By the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.”

In response to his acts, the scribes and Pharisees attributed his power to Satan. But Jesus, speaking in parables, asked the Pharisees and scribes how he could be an agent of the devil if he were casting out the same agents.

“How can Satan drive Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house. I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whosoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”

He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.”

In his parable about someone breaking into the strong man’s house, Jesus pointed out that you must tie up the strong man first. And the only one with the power to overcome Satan was the Holy Spirit, so how could Jesus be of Satan?

The problem for the scribes and Pharisees was that they had forgotten what God had promised. The scribes and Pharisees saw Jesus as a danger to them because they were not willing to see Jesus as a fulfillment of the law.

That is the same for us today. The contradiction of today’s society, the demands society puts on us each day come from our viewing society from within. The one thing that Jesus did was to change that viewpoint, to view life and society from a totally different viewpoint.

So what should our goals for living in today’s society be? The contradictions in society’s goals come because we view society from within. Jesus asked us to change that viewpoint. Remember that His mother and brothers came looking for him.

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

Some say that Jesus’ response to their search was a rejection

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

But what Jesus was doing was expanding the definition of a family.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and my sister and mother.”

If we come to Jesus in body and spirit, if we do God’s will as Jesus asks us to do, then we become a part of the heavenly family. We know that Jesus’ mother was present at his crucifixion and that his brother James, the author of the Letter of James, became a leader in the latter church so we know that they did understand what Jesus was doing.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians of the difficulty in keeping the Christian life. Yes, the road is tough, the life is hard but the rewards can be worth the struggle.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building form God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

Paul told the Corinthians; Paul is telling us today that the struggles that we encounter today are worth it if our goal goes beyond the limits of today’s society. Our frustrations in life today will never go away when all we try to do is hold on tightly to that which we have now or if we try to achieve things that cannot be ours anyway. But, if we accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior; if we understand that Jesus died to save us from our sins, then we understand, as Paul did, that nothing on this earth can ever be worthy of what we will gain in heaven.

Nothing we have will ever match that which Jesus did for us. The hymn “Just As I Am” tells us that we are accepted into heaven as we are, not as we would like to be. Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins so that we could be accepted into heaven.

All that He asks is that we accept Him into our hearts fully and without condition.

The Storms In Our Lives


I am preaching at Lake Mahopac United Methodist Church (map) this Sunday, the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost  (21 June 2009).  The Scriptures for this Sunday are

1 Samuel 17: (1, 4 – 11, 19 – 23) 32 – 49; 2 Corinthians 6: 1 – 13 and Mark 4: 35 – 41.  Services are 10 am and you are welcome to attend.

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As I was reading the Gospel passage for this morning, I recalled reading something about the weather on the Sea of Galilee and how it was marked by rapid and severe changes, the type of changes that occurred in the passage. And, if you were in one of the boats typical of that era, you were likely to be like the disciples, very scared.

Now, as you may or may not know I grew up in the Midwest and the South and while I have never spent much time on the water I am used to rapid changes in the weather, especially in the spring and summer. A good portion of my life has been spent in what is called “tornado alley”, a portion of the country spanning Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri. On spring and summer days, when hot, humid air moves up from the Gulf Coast and meets dry, cool area coming down from Canada, tornadoes are likely to occur and you spend your time watching the sky and paying attention to what is happening.

I would also add that growing up in Texas and the South made me also aware of hurricanes. Even though I have never experienced first-hand the consequences of a hurricane, I have lived through the aftermath and rain that accompanies a hurricane after it has made landfall and downgrades to ultimately a very large thunderstorm. Even in that state, it is important to watch the weather and see what is going on.

The one advantage that we have today that our counterparts some two thousand years ago did not have is that we can “see” the weather developing hours and days away. We see hurricanes developing off the coast of Africa and can track them day-by-day in order to determine where and when they may land. We know enough about the conditions under which tornadoes develop and our technology has and continues to develop so that we can issue watches and warnings.

Even so, there are times when the watches and the warnings are issued too late and towns and other locations are hard hit by tornadoes late in the evening. Still, if people heed the watches and the warnings, we can reduce the damage and the number of fatalities that accompany Mother Nature’s fury, be it tornadoes in the Midwest and South or hurricanes along the Gulf and Atlantic coastlines. But if the watches and the warnings are not heeded or if they are ignored entirely, then disaster truly strikes.

There are signs that storm clouds are threatening the church of today, both in denominational terms and for individual churches. The problem is that while many churches today do see the warning signs, their responses are inappropriate, ineffectual, or ineffective. It is somewhat comparable to Saul outfitting David in a suit of armor that was too large for him. David was both uncomfortable in the armor and unable to move. And while it may have protected him from the Philistine, it did little to help him fight him. David took off the armor and went into battle prepared in the way that he knew best.

The greatest threat to the church today, both at the denominational level and at the local level, is the loss of membership. It is finally hitting home for many people that the church in which they grew up in is a dying church and they are beginning to wonder what can be done to revive it. Some churches think that they can save their church by putting armor around the church and call for a return to traditional values. They feel that if they do so, the people will respond and every thing will be alright.

But too many people outside the church do not know what those “traditional” values are. They are either unchurched (that is to say, they have no idea of the language or history of the church) or de-churched (they used to come but something happened and they have left the church). Those who do understand the history and language of the church see a church which says one thing but does another.

Some churches respond with modern-day marketing techniques. They surveyed the market and decide to give the people what they want. This has led, in some cases, to modern worship services, services with guitars and drums and songs of praise, all designed to show the modern day churchgoer how “hip” the church is. But these packaged services, in my mind, have no feeling; there is no spirit in the worship. And if there is no feeling, if there is no spirit, and especially if the message doesn’t change, then the people will still not come; for they have seen and heard it before and they aren’t buying it.

Now, some ministers and some churches have changed the message. They have made the service “seeker-friendly”. They have taken away the trappings of the church (look at many of today’s television ministries and see if you can find a cross or an altar; they aren’t there) because it might frighten the people away.

Services were made shorter, fewer hymns were sung and the music sung was simplified, preaching time was cut down and the message made easier to grasp. The idea was to get nonbelievers interested in going to church because it would not take up too much of their time and wouldn’t challenge them too much. But what happened is that a lot of people who had been believers for some time suddenly found that the sermons were like milk instead of meat. They were so simplistic. Many were finding that what they were getting was pabulum.

The message in such churches is no longer the message of Christ who called for people to leave behind everything and follow him in service. It is no longer a message of hope for the downtrodden, healing for the sick, relief for the downtrodden and freedom for the oppressed.

It is now a message that Christ will give you everything you ask for. And the problems of this world are somebody else’s problems or the result of a sinful life on the part of the poor, the sick, the destitute, and the oppressed. The message of hope and promise has become a message of greed and self-interest. And while there may be many people who are a part of such churches, there are even more who are quickly finding out that such a message is a hollow message and that it will not quiet or calm the storms that rage in their lives.

The young who grew up in the church (and on whom the elders of the church counted on to keep the church going) are either leaving for another church or just plain leaving. And there are also quite a few individuals who have been in the church for most of their lives but they are also leaving. They are leaving because the message of the church no longer has any meaning for them (see http://www.rutherford.org/oldspeak/Articles/Interviews/Duin.html).

If anything is going to change this decline, it will be when the people look at what the church is and what it isn’t, what it can be and what it should not be. The people who are leaving or not coming at all are looking for something that no longer seems prevalent in the church today, decent preaching, a feel of community, and a feeding of the soul. They are seeking content to the message and a spirituality that is missing in their life; they want to find the truth to the life they live and answers to the questions that cause storms in their lives.

There is one constant in our life and it is the search for truth. The problem is that we often times do not know what the truth is and the messages that we get confuse us. So how do we find the truth and how do we know that it is the truth?

As I have read and re-read the passage from Corinthians for today, I went to a number of translations. Clarence Jordan, in his Cotton Patch Gospel translation, wrote “to keep people from making accusations against our cause, we are mighty careful to give them no openings. Under all circumstances, we conduct ourselves as God’s helpers.” In the New International Version, those verses are “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way.” In other words, if what we say and do is reflective of the way God is in our lives, our message will be true. It allows people to make up their own minds about what is the truth and what isn’t the truth.

If we speak of God, God’s message, or the truth in an absolutely finality; if we impose our version of the truth on others without exception, then they will not listen. I have come across two examples of how people have come to understand the presence of God in their lives. The first is from Cardinal Avery Dulles. Now, that name should sound familiar to many who grew up in the 50’s for Cardinal Dulles was the son of former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Cardinal Dulles converted to Catholicism after being raised in the Episcopal Church; it was a move that was not made without some controversy in his own family. But it was a move that was made by an examination of the information available. As Cardinal Avery put it,

The move toward philosophy was for me the presupposition of religious faith. I don’t know that it always has to go that way, but that is the way it went with me.

The first stage was Aristotle convincing me that the mind was a faculty that penetrated reality, so that when one was thinking correctly one was entering more deeply into reality itself. He helped me see that our ideas are not merely subjective but that they reflect the structure of the world and the universe. The so-called metaphysical realism of Aristotle was a first stage for me, and it gave me a confidence in human reason.

The second stage was Plato, who basically said that there was a transcendent order of what is morally right and wrong and that one has an unconditional obligation to do that which is right, even when it seems to be against one’s self-interest. That set me thinking about where that obligation comes from. It seemed to come from something higher than humanity. We don’t impose it on ourselves. And no other human being can impose it on us or exempt us from it. So there is an absolute order to which we are subject. This seemed to imply an absolute Being—and a personal being to whom we are accountable. And this set me thinking that there is a God who is a law-giver and a judge, who knows everything that we do and who will punish or reward us duly. In this way I found a basis in natural theology.

Then after that I read the Gospels, and it seemed to me that they taught all of this, and more. The revelation given in Jesus Christ was a reaffirmation of all these principles I had learned in Greek philosophy—but the Gospels added the idea that God was loving and merciful and had redeemed us in Christ, offering us an opportunity to get back on board when we had slipped and fallen overboard. That’s a very brief sketch of what I tried to lay out in greater detail in my Testimonial to Grace. (From http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=1851)

And a second such testimony is offered by Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project. Dr. Collins grew up agnostic but became a committed atheist while getting his Ph. D. in Chemistry. While in medical school he witnessed the true power of religious faith among his patients and his worldview began to change. In a recent interview, he noted that

As I sat at the bedside of individuals who were facing death and saw in many instances how their faith was such a strong rock in the storm for them, I couldn’t help but wonder about that. I couldn’t help but wonder how I would handle that situation if it were me lying in that bed, and I was pretty sure I would not be at peace the way these folks were.

And he continued

So it seemed like a time to perhaps look at the question a little more deeply because I realized my atheism had been arrived at as the convenient answer, the answer I wanted, not on the basis of considering the evidence. I assumed there probably wasn’t any evidence for the idea that God exists, but I figured it was probably time to look.

Later in the same interview Dr. Collins noted

So all of that information, I guess, really began to sink in as arguments that made the plausibility of God actually pretty compelling. Then I had to figure out, what is God like? That meant going and looking at the world’s religions and trying to understand what they stood for, and finding that they’re actually a lot alike in many ways as far as their principles, but they’re also quite different in terms of their specifics.

Never having really known much about Jesus and discovering that he was not a myth because the historical evidence for Jesus was actually much better than I had realized – some would say better than the evidence for Julius Caesar – I began to realize he was a person to take seriously. I encountered this particular verse, which I thought was interesting. Jesus is asked, What is the greatest commandment in the law? He replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” With all your mind! Boy, that doesn’t sound like faith and reason are disconnected. If you go back to Deuteronomy, which is where this verse is coming from, the quote is, “With all your heart and all your strength and all your soul.” But Jesus adds the word “mind,” which I think we were supposed to notice.

So I became a Christian on that basis. That was at the age of 27. Now, 32 years later, I find this to be an enormously satisfying way to be able to answer questions that science can’t answer – things like, is there a God, and what happens after we die, and why am I here anyway, which are questions that science basically says, not on the table for us. But they’re on the table, I think, for most of us as human beings. (Francis Collins in “Religion and Science: Conflict or Harmony?” – http://pewforum.org/events/?EventID=217)

The storms that rage in many of us are like the storm that raged within Dr. Collins. And, for many people, the answer that they seek, the calming presence that they desire is nowhere to be found because they do not know where to look. For Dr. Collins, his search began with a reading of C. S. Lewis’ works. But, for many, that is not a logical answer if for no other reason than C. S. Lewis can be very difficult to read. But more important to Dr. Collins’ search was that there was someone there to help him as he sought the truth.

And that is where each one of us comes in. We do not need to know the truth that others seek; we only need to know how to help them. And we begin to help them by offering them a place where they might find Christ.

When Wesley began the Methodist movement, he emphasized four things:

  1. A faith that was both informed and warmly experienced;
  2. A religion that was intensely personal but also shared with others;
  3. A concern for the spiritual, physical, and social condition of all persons;
  4. An affirmation of belief in one God as revealed through Jesus Christ, but with an appreciation for a variety of ways in which that affirmation can be expressed.

The Methodist revival was one of the first movements to bring education to all people. This was because Wesley and the early founders of the church felt and understood that one could not understand the Bible unless one was able to read it.

One of the things that I heard at Annual Conference last week was a redefinition of evangelism. To many people today, evangelism is literally forcing people to become disciples of Jesus. I have had a hard time with that approach. I cannot make you follow Jesus; you must want to follow Jesus and you will not want to do so unless you understand who Jesus was and is and will be and what Christianity is all about.

One of the early doctrinal battles of the church dealt with free will and the implications that it had for belief. If there is such a thing as free will, then it is our responsibility for understanding the message of the Bible and ours alone. If we allow others to tell us what the Bible means and we accept their interpretation without question, then we cannot find the truth that we seek and the storms that torment our soul will continue.

Methodism is historically an evangelical religion and it is time that we get back to that approach. It is about telling people about Christ and it is about teaching them about Christ and it is about letting them make their own decisions about Christ, without fear of condemnation or ridicule.

For each church today and for countless individuals, there are storms raging about them. The church today can do a lot to calm those storms. But they must ask themselves the following questions:

  1. Regarding the people you are trying to reach, what do we want to see happen as a result of their coming within the sphere of influence of our ministry?
  2. What are we offering, from their point of view that would make it worth their while to get involved with us?
  3. (And what I think is the most challenging question of all) What price are we willing to pay in order to be able to reach others?

There are storms in our lives; there are storms in the lives of our friends, our neighbors and the people that we come into contact each day. These storms come about because there are questions in our lives and the answers that we are given by society aren’t satisfactory. But we know that there are answers, we know that there are solutions. How shall we find them? How shall we help others find them? Who shall calm the storms in our lives?

The Tasks We Must Do


This is the message I presented at Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, 29 June 2003.  The Scriptures are 1 Samuel 17: 1, 17 – 27, 2 Corinthians 8: 7 – 15, and Mark 5: 21 – 43.

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I will be the first to admit that I am not a prophet. I do not possess the ability to see the future clearly or even have an idea of what might be the future. But, as we meet here today I fear that at this time next year we may well be seeing the end of the United Methodist Church. Next spring’s General Conference promises to be one of, if not, the most divisive conferences in the history of the church. The church that comes out of General Conference next spring will not be the church that went in. There will be a United Methodist Church, I am sure, but it will no longer be united and it will be only be a struggling remnant of what it once was with only a dim hope of being what it could be.

There are in the United Methodist Church a number of people who feel that the only way to revitalize the church is by returning to the original thoughts and desires of John Wesley. But many of these reformers use Wesley’s words to enact their own version of a Bible-based denomination. I believe that in their zeal to revitalize the church and with their desire to return to a more fundamental interpretation of church doctrine, their efforts will result in an irreversible split in the church.

But I am sadden and frightened, not by what might next year, but what is happening and has already happened. The United Methodist Reporter reports that more than 70 members of this church have decided to leave the Grove, KS, United Methodist Church and are being sued by the Kansas West Annual Conference. There is a restraining order on the front door of the church barring some from even worshipping there. The court hearing to decide the fate of the church was last Thursday and I am waiting to hear the outcome. This group has drafted a position statement saying that they support “original specified doctrinal standards of The United Methodist Church,” but believe that the annual conference and national leaders have violated these standards.

From what I read, the group’s actions were in response to the removal of the pastor by the Bishop. The district filed a court petition against the group claiming that the conference will suffer further irreparable harm without court intervention. The results of the court action are to determine who owns the church building and who can use the name “Methodist” in its name.

Now, there will be those in attendance at next spring’s General Conference who will seek compromise. When it comes to setting policy in the church, the United Methodist Church as a political body is second to none in compromise. All one has to do is read the minutes of past General Conferences and the policies printed in the Book of Discipline to know that on every issue that this church has dealt with, compromise has ruled and no effective statement of belief has resulted. True to its history, this church takes stands but they are always tempered with caution or fear of offending those who do not hold the same view.

But I do not believe that compromise will work this year. Those seeking reform are not willing to work for a common ground and hold those in opposition to their views with contempt and distrust. And in seeking change and reform, or more to the point, a return to traditional policies, those seeking change have caused others to view them with the same contempt and distrust. That is why I fear the outcome of next year’s General Conference.

Now, this is not the first time the Methodist Church has split apart. At the beginning of the 19th century, a group of Methodists split from the church in protest over the issue of lay leadership. Concerned that the episcopal form of governance and leadership ignored the wishes and desires of the laity, the Methodist Protestant Church was found. Though a serious question for church leadership, it was only a minor issue in the scope of things.

By the 1840’s, slavery was the foremost political and social issue in American society. And like other individuals and groups in the country, the Methodist church was forced to deal with the issue. Following his experiences in Georgia, John Wesley had come out strongly against slavery. He encouraged others to speak out and act in opposition to the traffic in human souls. Many of the early abolitionists, both in America and England, were Methodists and followed Wesley’s lead, denouncing participation in the slave trade and slave holding. But as the topic divided the nation, as economic and political pressures increased, the church sought ways to be against slavery while allowing members and church leaders to own slaves.

The issue came to the forefront in the 1844 General Conference. Bishop James O. Andrew of Georgia had inherited his deceased wife’s young female slave. Though forbidden by Georgian law, he sought ways to give this woman her freedom. But at the General Conference, the majority of delegates (mostly northern) voted to relieve him of his duties as bishop. Claiming that this action was against church law, the southern delegates essentially walked out. To settle the impasse, a Plan of Separation was enacted and two Methodist Episcopal churches, one North and one South, were created.

This schism in the church lasted until 1939 when the two branches of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Protestant Church reunited to form the Methodist Church. But the heritage of the split is still seen today over the doorways of the church. Even the church where I was a member in college, the 1st United Methodist Church of Kirksville, still has “Methodist Episcopal, South” carved in stone above the doorway.

We are faced with a dilemma. Whether it was the issue of slavery in the 19th century or some other issue in the 20th and 21st centuries, there are verses in the Bible that can be used to support our viewpoints. The supporters of slavery could use “Slaves, be obedient to your masters” while abolitionists would use the story of Exodus and the liberation of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt as a mandate to free the American slaves. So too does it seem that all reformers today use the Bible to justify their actions and desire to return to a more fundamental approach to religion.

We must first understand what the traditions of the United Methodist Church are. When Wesley began the Methodist movement, he emphasized four things:

  1. A faith that was both informed and warmly experienced;
  2. A religion that was intensely personal but also shared with others;
  3. A concern for the spiritual, physical, and social condition of all persons;
  4. An affirmation of belief in one God as revealed through Jesus Christ, but with an appreciation for a variety of ways in which that affirmation can be expressed.

The Methodist revival was one of the first movements to bring education to all people. This was because Wesley and the early founders of the church felt and understood that one could not understand the Bible unless one was able to read it. One of the early doctrinal battles of the church dealt with free will and the implications that it had for belief.

If there is free will, then it is our responsibility to understand what the message of the Bible is and not have someone else tell us. Somewhere along the line, this point has disappeared. The problem is that the Bible is full of contradictions and we must be careful how we apply the rules of the Bible because of that. And that I think is the fly in the ointment, as it were. Those who seek Biblical justification for their actions do not see the whole picture and take much of what they want done out of context.

If we are to say that we are Christian, then we must include both the Old and New Testament in our lives. Most of those who seek a fundamentalist approach to live only use the Old Testament. But in the Old Testament is the promise of a New Covenant and it is in the New Testament that the New Covenant is enacted. Christ’s death and resurrection give us a new life with a new set of rules. To use only the rules and regulations of the Old Testament is to ignore this very tenet of our religion.

If Jesus had lived according to the rules of the Old Testament, he would never have allowed the woman in today’s Gospel reading to come close to him, let alone touch him. She was considered “unclean” by society and those who came in contact with her were also considered “unclean”. And until such time that you were purified, if you were “unclean” you were barred from social contact with anyone. Normally, such periods of time were limited but this woman had been barred from social contact for over twelve years. One could only imagine the loneliness and isolation she must have felt.

But Jesus did not scold her, berate her, or enact any of the punishments that society would have imposed. He did not shun her or push her aside. Rather, he commended her for her faith and for her actions. Now, we would not have shunned this woman today, for we have a better understanding of what her problem was. But we do shun or ignore people whose own illnesses were acquired through behaviors or lifestyles that we do not approve. How is our judgement of others today in line with what Jesus was doing then?

I am reminded of the case of Ryan White, the young man in Indiana who got AIDS through a blood transfusion. He was only eleven or twelve when he contracted the disease. He was a hemophiliac and got the virus because one of the units of blood that he needed for survival turned out to be infected. At that time, we were still learning about the disease and were not aware that it could be transmitted in that manner. But he became infected and was treated by Indiana society as a pariah, as someone to be feared. But you cannot get AIDS by being in the same room with someone who has it. I have always found it curious that each healthy individual who might have met this young man was more a threat to his health, because of his diminished immune system, than he was a threat to their health. But he was still treated with fear and treated much like the lepers of Jesus’ day.

We are commanded in the Bible and as Methodists to be literate and understand what the world is about. Our fear of the world comes from our ignorance of the world and we cannot overcome that fear by condemning that which we do not understand.

I know that there are those who find fault with Paul. I am sure that one could find better role models. But no matter what he believed personally, he was always challenging the members of the churches with whom he was associated to find a path more in terms with the one Christ walked. All we have to do is realize that he was asking each reader to come to Christ individually, just as he did. As I mentioned earlier, it is the personal relationship with Christ that dominates our belief; it is not the imposition of how we came to believe but rather the simple fact that we came to believe in Christ that we should share. And that was what Paul did time and time again, challenge people to find Christ and to share that finding with others.

Now, each time you read one of Paul’s letters you find that he is trying to settle some issue threatening to divide the church. His solutions always challenge the reader to find the path that Christ would have walked, not the paths others would have walked. The letters to the Corinthians are prime examples of this. Paul was continually settling arguments amongst the members of the church, whether they were about the conduct of members towards each other or what the church was all about. And in many of his solutions, he pointed out that neither side was totally in the right.

Today, Paul has been forced to remind the members of the Corinthian church that they had promised to help the church in Jerusalem through a collection. At the time of the writing, they had not forwarded the money. What Paul was doing was reminding them that other churches in the area, churches that were not as financially viable as the Corinthian church, had already met their obligation. I think Paul was very subtlety suggesting that it was the pride of the church members that was stopping their efforts.

There was no doubt that the church has the resources. But it was also clear that they felt that such actions were beneath them, even if it was the right thing to do. Paul used the example of the Hebrews wandering in the desert to illustrate that all were a part of the same community. Each Hebrew, no matter how old or young they were, no matter if they were healthy or sick, was required to collect their daily share of manna. But one was not shut out from the sharing of the manna simply because they could not collect enough. All got their share, even if those stronger or healthier had to do a little more work.

I began this morning by expressing my fear that the denomination is in trouble. We cannot have churches closed by court order because of splits about how one believes. But we also must face the reality that, as a denomination, the United Methodist Church is dying. Each year the membership goes down and each year there are congregations that must face the reality that this will be the last year in their history.

And to some extent, it is the church’s fault that this is happening. Whether it is collectively or individually, each church has failed to meet the needs of those who most need the church. People come to church seeking the Christ that they have heard about or read about. The Christ they seek is one of peace. But if they come to a church where there is division or strife, caused by local differences or national issues, they will not find it. And if they do not find peace in the church, they cannot find peace in their own lives.

In the same newsletter that brought me the news about the church in Kansas was also a story about a United Methodist Church in Iowa. This is another church beset by internal strife and division. The district superintendent had attended a meeting of the church and heard differing views about the pastor. The district superintendent wrote a letter to all the members of the congregation in which he said, “When will you stop the blaming, negative and unhappy persons among you from tearing down the spirit of Jesus Christ among you?” He also wrote the members to acknowledge that there was “the spirit of Satan” at work in that church. The persons to whom those actions were attributed have filed a defamation suit against the church and district.

People will not come to that church because if there are fights among the members, there can be no peace. The growth of the more fundamentalist based churches comes more from the structure that people find in those churches. With structure comes a certain kind of peace but it is not a peace built from within. That peace can only come from Christ.

In the selection from the Old Testament for today, David speaks of the love that Jonathan held for him. It was a love based on loyalty and devotion and came because Jonathan knew that David was God’s chosen heir to the throne that Saul, Jonathan’s father, held. In today’s society, and perhaps even back then, Jonathan should have been bitter and angry that what should have been his was going to someone else. But that was not the way he lived and that was not the way he acted. And David wanted the people of Israel to know this and act accordingly.

We are not in a position to settle issues in churches elsewhere. All we can do in regards to the General Conference next spring is to let our delegates know what we feel and trust that they will act in a manner befitting the actions of Christ. (I would also add that I believe that our own Dennis Winkleblack is an alternate to the General Conference but I do not know who the others are or how one communicates with them.)

But in the meantime, there are things we can do. Those that came to the tomb that first Easter morning came expecting to find the body of Jesus for they still believed and lived according to the Old Covenant. But Jesus was not there and was in fact alive.

Today, Christ is found in the hearts and actions of all whom have accepted him as their personal savior. If there is to be a future for this church then it will be because we have taken the challenge of Paul to find that path of Christ. Certainly, there is no doubt that the path that each of us walk is different from the rest; it is not the path we walk that matters, it is the destination.

It is a path that is guided and directed by the Holy Spirit and shown to us in the actions of Jesus Christ so long ago. We are faced with many tasks, some of which we do not want to undertake. But it is those tasks that we must do if we are to reach our common destination. Like Christ, we should seek out those on the fringe and bring them in, not shun them just because they are different or because we disagree. Like Christ, we should find ways to help all people, not just the ones we happen to agree with at the time or who happen to disagree with the same people we disagree with.

And like Christ, we need to love all that we meet and work with, not just a select few. The tasks before us are great, it is true but the rewards for the completion of those tasks is so much greater.

The Sacrifices We Make


This is the message I presented at Walker Valley United Methodist Church for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, 2 July 2000.  The Scriptures are 1 Samuel 17: 1, 17 – 27, 2 Corinthians 8: 7 – 15, and Mark 5: 21 – 43.

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On this date in 1776, the Continental Congress completed the majority of work that was announced two days later, the 4th of July, as the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence was a statement outlining reasons why the British colonies in America had the right to be free and independent. No doubt there were those then who felt that the actions being taken that day were rash and irresponsible; that to declare independence, to take action against the British government was fool hardy and stupid. Every man who signed that document knew that, by fixing his name to it, he was signing his own death warrant. Should the fight for independence fail, they would be the first to be hanged as traitors to the crown.

But the writers, the signers, and those who support the cause of independence knew that freedom could not come without a price. If sacrifices were not made, freedom could not be won.

I think sometimes that we forget that there is a price to be paid for the freedoms we have.

But what is freedom? That may be one of the most difficult concepts one is every asked to define. Freedom could be considered one’s ability to choose and guide one’s own life. To a sixteen-year-old, freedom is a driver’s license. Freedom to worship at a church of one’s choosing, our very presence here today, was one of the reasons this country was founded. I really think that the political debates that we will listen to over the course of the next few months, nor matter what is actually said, will center on a definition of freedom.

What is the cost of freedom? That is the hidden question. As we have all discovered at some point in time, becoming freedom does not come cheap. To the sixteen-year old, having a driver’s license means nothing if there is no gas in the car, or for that matter, if there is no car. When we leave home and are finally free, we find out that we must still pay the rent and utilities.

I grew up on Air Force bases in the fifties and sixties where B-52 bombers sat at the end of the runways with their bomb bay doors open. . As long as those planes sat on the runway with the bomb bay doors open, we knew we were safe. For those planes were the alert planes, scheduled only to fly if we went to war with the Soviet Union. The cost of freedom in those days was eternal vigilance.

The cost of freedom sometimes calls for us to make sacrifices. Sometimes we have to give up the things that we hold dearly if we are to be free. That is another reason why we are here today. Because the ultimate freedom is the freedom from sin and death and to gain that freedom we must make sacrifices.

David asked the people of Israel to lament over the death of Saul and Jonathan. This is a most interesting passage because, at the time of Saul’s death, David and he were extreme enemies. Yet David knew that it was Saul’s military leadership that had raised the standard of royalty and enriched the nation. David was also asking the people to cry out for the death of Jonathan because of the great personal loss that represented. The death of Saul and Jonathan represent the sacrifices that Israel had to make if it were to remain strong and free.

The Gospel reading for today represents what it takes for us to gain freedom. The woman in the story had suffered from over twelve years from a condition that made her, in the eyes of the community, unclean. Literally, she would not have been allowed to come into contact with anyone that day. She had already, as Mark noted, given everything she had financially to the physicians of that day, only to have her condition grow worse. Against that backdrop, she sought out Jesus.

Somehow she had heard of Jesus; perhaps touching Jesus’ cloak had healed someone else. Surely, she must have feared embarrassment having her condition revealed to the crowd. But her faith that Jesus could heal her was sufficient enough reason to act.

And Jesus’ own acts show us that he sacrificed something as well that day. The story about the woman is inserted into another story about Jesus and his disciples going to a friend’s house. Jesus interrupts that travel and takes the time to find this woman and let her know how it was that she was healed. If he had not done so, that woman and others would have thought that the healing came from some magical quality found in the clothing, not His divine will.

Jesus sought enough of that woman to find her. This, of course, caused great dismay among the disciples, who were anxious to reach their destination. But Jesus’ actions and kind words eased the fear of the woman. Jesus showed that it was her faith in Him that healed her, not some other action or belief.

The idea of faith is continued in the rest of the Gospel as well. When Jesus and the disciples finally reached Jarius’ house, they find that his daughter had died. And the people around him are angry that he was late, for if he had gotten there on time, the daughter would have lived. But Jesus pointed out that there was nothing to be afraid of if they would only continue to believe.

What Jesus gives us goes far beyond anything that we might have to give. There is nothing we can do to match the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. But that is the point about freedom from sin and death, as Paul explained in the passage we read from 2 Corinthians this morning. Jesus gave up all that he had so that we could become richer.

This weekend, as we celebrate the freedoms that were won some two hundred and twenty four years ago, let us also celebrate the freedom that was won some two thousand years ago as well. Let us remember those whose sacrifices made it possible for us to be hear today and let us also remember what we are asked to do today so that others can enjoy the same freedoms tomorrow.

We may not like making the sacrifices that we are called to make. We may not want to be a representative of Christ. But as Paul pointed out to the Corinthians, it is only right that what you have gained through Christ, you should share with others. The writer Glen Clark points out

The first lesson God gives us in training our will is to make us go halfway with him. He first put us through a series of disciplines to se if we are worthy to make his team. After this lesson is learned we discover that there are many, many times that God goes all the way with us. Over and over again he gives us far more that we have any right to ask. We call this “his Grace,” which goes so much farther than “his law” requires that he should go. God’s mercy goes so much farther than mere human justice goes.

And then there are the many times when God gives us the opportunity to go all the way with him. He did that with Job. He did it with Abraham. He used it as a school for many of his greatest saints and leaders. One of the great privileges he may give to you — if he is preparing for you great leadership — is the opportunity sometime of going all the way with him. One of those who did this was Thomas à Kempis. Hear his profession of faith:

O Lord, thou knowest what is the better way; let this or that be done as thou shalt please. Give what thou wilt, and how much thou wilt, and when thou wilt. Deal with me as thou knowest, and best pleaseth thee, and is most for thy honor. Set me where thou wilt, and deal with me in all things as thou wilt. I am in thy hand; turn me round and turn be back again, even as a wheel. Behold I am thy servant, prepared for all things; for I desire not to live unto myself, but unto thee; and Oh that I could do it worthy and perfectly! (From I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes by Glenn Clark)

The call for freedom always carries a cost; to be free means that we must give up something. To be free from sin and death, we must give up everything. Yet in giving up everything, we gain everything. We don’t always see the gain in the sacrifice we make, but when we realize that when Christ gave His life for us on the cross, that sacrifice meant everything for us today.

Are you prepared to make such a sacrifice? Are you prepared to gain your freedom? Consider the sacrifices that you must make.



 

What Shall You Wear?


Here are my thoughts for this Sunday, the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost.
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Ordinarily, with the Old Testament reading of David and Goliath (1), one might be tempted to discuss sporting events and our own personal desire to see the little team beat the monolith (remember the movie “Hoosiers” with Gene Hackman?). But no matter how we may express empathy for the “Davids” in this world, we still would rather be the Goliaths in this world.

Even in the business world, we may call for the support of the small business man (the Davids of the business world) in their battles with the monolithic businesses (the Goliaths) (again, remember the movie “You’ve Got Mail” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan?). But in the end, the Goliaths are more often the stores where we buy our things.

We may like the idea of David opposing Goliath but we would much rather have the “armor” and the “protection” that David forsook when he entered the battle. We seem uncomfortable if we do not have some sort of large force protecting; we are not willing to put our faith in God as David did when he entered the battle.

Similarly, we are not always willing to do as Paul wrote, “through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, and hunger.” (2) We tend to think that suffering and anguish are left for those who are sinners, not for those who follow Christ. We are unwilling to accept the notion that we must, as followers of Christ, suffer in His name.

Yet, where would we be if those who were followers in Christ had not suffered? Where would we be if those who understood the meaning of the Gospel had stayed home and out of the way when the call for righteousness and justice was made?

On Sunday, March 7, 1965 John Lewis, then an assistant to Martin Luther King, Jr., and now a Congressman from Georgia, was among those leading a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. On the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers were met by Alabama law enforcement authorities who prevented them from moving forward. As the marchers knelt to pray, the lawmen fired tear gas and began beating them. This day has become known as “Bloody Sunday”.

Congressman Lewis had joined the civil rights movement because of his faith and belief in God; he had withstood the taunts and threats because of his faith. Congressman Lewis wrote, “without the example of Christ, who sacrificed for others, as the foundation of the movement, it would have been impossible for us to endure the setbacks, and to hope, and to go on.” It was his faith in God that allowed him to withstand the beating that day that almost took his life; the beatings that day shifted the mood of the people of this country so that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 could be passed. (3)

But too many of us today are not willing to hold to the course that was exemplified by those in the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. We feel that being a Christian enables us to avoid pain and suffering; we see Christianity in terms of rewards, not sacrifice.

There is much in this world that makes us want to shout. But we more often see things and say “why” when we should be dreaming things and saying “why not?” (4) We live in a time when the skies seem to be darkening and the seas threatening to swamp the boats that we sail in, much like it did for the disciples that day in the Gospel reading (5). But we are not willing or able to call on our Christ because we have been encumbered by the armor that we have put on to do battle in this world.

The only way that we are going to be able to fight the battles of this world, the only way that we are going to be like David and overcome the Goliaths of this world is to be like David and shed the armor that protects us.

Yes, the armor protects us but it also hinders us and slows us down. Such armor keeps us from moving forward, it restricts us and it does not allow us to freely move. We put on the armor of the world to protect us but it does not allow us to fight the battles that must be fought.

If we call on Christ, as the disciples did that day in the Sea of Galilee; if we put our faith in God, as David did that day on the plains of Israel, then we are in a better position to fight tyranny and overcome terrorism. If we put our faith in Jesus and answer the Gospel message, we will be better able to heal the sick, help the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, and the blind to see, we will be better able to bring justice and righteousness to this world.

We are called this day to move forward, to shed the armor that society insists we wear and which we wear in fear of the pain that it prevents. We are called this day to cast aside the framework of protection that society offers and accept the protection that comes from knowing Christ as our Lord and Savior. As David showed that day so many years ago, it is the faith we place in the Lord that will lead to the triumph of justice and righteousness in this world today.

So my question to you this day is very simple. Shall you wear the armor of society and be protected from the ravages of the world outside? Or shall you wear the faith of God through Christ our Savior and face the world so that righteousness and justice will prevail?


(1) 
1 Samuel 17: (1a, 4 – 11, 19 – 23), 32 – 49

(2)  2 Corinthians 6: 1 – 13

(3)  Adapted from American Gospel by Jon Meacham

(4)  During his 1968 Presidential campaign, Robert Kennedy often used the statement “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not? This was a paraphrase from George Bernard Shaw’s play Back to Methuselah – part 1, act 1 (1921), “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, “Why not?”.

(5)  Mark 4: 35 – 41