“A New Life”


Here are is the message I gave at Walker Valley UMC for the 7th Sunday after the Epiphany (Year B), 20 February 2000.  The Scriptures for this Sunday were Isaiah 43: 18 – 25, 2 Corinthians 1: 18 – 22, and Mark 2: 1 – 12.

As I was preparing my message for next Sunday (7th Sunday after the Epiphany (A), 23 February 2014, at Sloatsburg UMC) I discovered that I had not posted this message nor did I have some sort of summary for this particular Sunday in the liturgical calendar.  I think that part of the reason for this is that I haven’t preached on this particular Sunday that often (in the fifteen years that I have kept records there have only been six 7th Sundays after the Epiphany and only 2 of them have been Year A in the cycle).

But I have rectified that and have identified all the posts that are related to this particular Sunday in the liturgical calendar.

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Every Sunday, as I drive towards Walker Valley, I am always impressed amazed by the mountain as it rises from the plain of the Hudson Valley. It is hard to explain but, to me, there is a certain majesty and beauty in that setting. I suppose that part of that comes from the fact that my own background includes the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and the Appalachian hill country of Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee. With that in mind, I have a sense of the historical and geographical barriers that the mountains represented to the early settlers of this country.

Exploration of the country in its early days was pretty well limited to the land between the Atlantic Ocean and the Appalachian Mountains simply because there was no easy way to get over the mountains. And going around them was not as easy as it would seem, especially if you were in the middle section of the country where the mountains were the western borders. And, if I am not mistaken, there were also legal restrictions about who could go into the territories to settle.

But it was possible to get over, or rather through, the mountains at places called Cumberland Gap. This passage through the Appalachian Mountains in the southeastern most part of Kentucky from Virginia is as equally impressive as the mountains that it is a part of. For it is perhaps the widest valley and provides a relatively easy passage through the mountains rather than having to go over them. It was through this gap that Daniel Boone first took settlers from North Carolina and Virginia into the Kentucky heartland to settle the interior of the new territories, thus beginning the movement west and the settlement of the entire country. And, as settlers moved into these new areas, Methodist ministers closely followed them.

Why was it that people moved from the relative safety of the East Coast of the newly founded United States for the unknown parts of the territories west of the Appalachian Mountains? What did they hope to find? For the most part, I would think that it was to find a new life or to escape an old one. New territories bring new hope and new chances, especially when you seem stifled with your present life. Through time, people sought ways to find a better life. In the 1800′s, it was gold in California. Today, it is the stock market and the possibility of getting in on the ground floor of some new and exciting technology stock. We see the people and read about the stories of those who have made their fortune in the stock market and we wonder why we can’t do it as well.

Of course, the problem is that such solutions are not as easy as one might think. For those moving from the relative safety of Virginia and North Carolina into the relative unknown parts of Kentucky, they had to take everything with them for there was nothing waiting for them when they got to their final destination. And you couldn’t get on a wagon train from Kansas City to California unless you had everything necessary for the long, arduous journey. Even today, for those that think that day trading is a glamorous and exciting way to make money, they quickly change their mind when they find that a substantial cash reserve is needed before they can begin buying and selling. And, when you read the fine print for all the ads offering stock purchases with low commissions, check the fine print. They too require a substantial cash reserve to get the good bargains.

I think that the problem today is not that we seek a new life through monetary gains. I am not, as it might seem, against making money. Like Wesley, I would like to earn all that I could. But it should be done in a manner that does not exploit others and, having earned all you could, save all you can, and more importantly, give all you can. I think the problem is that many people do so because they are lacking something more central.

The paralytic in the Gospel reading for today came to Jesus to be healed. This paralytic wanted a new life and he had faith that Jesus would be able to give him one. The faith of his friends that this could occur was so powerful that they took the roof off the building in which Jesus was so that they could lower their friend down.

I find this passage of particular interest this week. Just as four people helped a friend come to Jesus, so too can each one of us, not just a select few, reach out to those we know who have not been to church in a while and make the offer to come and visit and perhaps stay awhile.

As the Gospel reading says, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”” Of course, this did not set well with the scribes and others present who did not understand who Jesus was. That is why Jesus offered the option of saying “Your sins are forgiven” or “Stand up and take your mat and walk.” As the paralytic got up and walk, to begin a new life, those who saw it were amazed.

It is relatively easy to start a new life. All you have to do is decide that is what you want to do. But, for all those who ventured into the uncharted wilderness, there were just as many that chose to stay at home, deciding that it was too risky.

There will always be a substantial risk to starting something new, being willing to risk all that you have for something unknown. When faced with the prospect of something new, there is always reluctance on our part to begin. Often times, as we try to move forward, we hold on to the past.

But as we heard in the Old Testament reading for today, “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.” God, through Isaiah, told the people of Israel that even though they had consistently forgotten to do what they were supposed to do, He had not. And even when they burdened Him with their sins, He forgave them and chose not to remember them.

As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, God’s promises are always a yes. God’s concern for this world was such that He sent Jesus to be our Savior, in the words of Isaiah, the new thing that was to be done.

God tells us today, just as He told Isaiah, that he blots out our transgressions and does not remember our sins. So why should we? There is an old hymn that speaks of surrendering all (#354), of giving everything to Jesus. To us, it sounds strange to surrender all, yet come away with a new life.

The paralytic came to Jesus with the aid of four friends and walked away with a new life. The offer is presented to you and, through you, to others as well. If the burden in your heart is great and the journey seems too long, remember that a new life awaits when you let Jesus be your Savior.

“Top Posts for 2012″


Here are the top posts for 2012. Since I really didn’t post much new stuff this year, the list looks a lot like last year’s list (“Top Posts for 2011”).

I am not sure what 2013 will look like from a blogging standpoint. We are continuing the Saturday morning devotionals at Grannie Annie’s Kitchen and if I give the devotional, then it will be posted. (Get in touch with me if you are in the Newburgh area and want to present the devotional some Saturday).

  1. The Chemistry of Bowling – July 26, 2008 (#1 in 2011)
  2. Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch – November 18, 2009 (#3)
  3. What is a part per million? – February 19, 2010 (#8)
  4. Why Do We Celebrate Palm Sunday? – March 13, 2008 (#2)
  5. Who Cuts the Barber’s Hair? – September 15, 2009 (#5)
  6. A Collection of Sayings – January 17, 2008 (#4)
  7. John Wooden – A Review of “A Game Plan for Life – the power of Mentoring” by John Wooden and Don Yager– October 9, 2009 (#7)
  8. What Does Stewardship Mean to Me – November 6, 2005 (#13)
  9. Hearing God Call – January 7, 2009 (#12)
  10. A Brief History of Atomic Theory – April 27, 2011 (#9)
  11. The Dilemma of Modern Christianity – April 18, 2009 (#6)
  12. The Twelve Disciples – Were they management potential? – October 3, 2008 (#14)
  13. A Child’s Book Report on the entire Bible” – November 6, 2005 (not ranked)
  14. What Does It Mean To Be Called? – August 30, 2008 (#16)
  15. The Difference Between Football in the North and South – October 8, 2006 (#10)
  16. A Cake Without Baking Powder” – October 8, 2006 (unranked)
  17. Just What Is The Right Thing To Do?” – June 28, 2008, (unranked)
  18. The Difference Between Republicans and Democrats” – November 27, 2008, (unranked)
  19. Describe Your Pastor” – March 11, 2008, (unranked)
  20. A Scout is Reverent – February 2, 2010 (#19)

My all-time list is

  1. The Chemistry of Bowling (#1 in 2011)
  2. Why Do We Celebrate Palm Sunday? (#2)
  3. Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch – November 18, 2009 (#4)
  4. A Collection of Sayings (#3)
  5. John Wooden – A Review of “A Game Plan for Life – the power of Mentoring” by John Wooden and Don Yager– October 9, 2009 (#5)

“Priorities For Life”


This was the message I gave at Walker Valley UMC for Christ the King Sunday, 25 November 2001 (C). The Scriptures for this Sunday were Jeremiah 23: 1 – 6, Colossians 1: 11 – 20, and Luke 23: 33 – 43.

Whether we know or it, this Sunday marks the end of the year. Of course, I am not talking about the end of the calendar year but rather the liturgical calendar. The church calendar is marked into four seasons — Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, and the Sundays after Pentecost (sometimes known as Kingdom Tide). This Sunday is called the Christ the King Sunday to mark the end of Kingdom Tide and the beginning of Advent.

It is one of those quiet Sundays on the calendar since we really don’t do anything big or spectacular with it. Perhaps we should. After twenty-five weeks in the Kingdom Tide, perhaps we should do something to celebrate. But then again, our celebration of Christ’s birth begins next week and to celebrate this week might be shade bit too much.

But we should stop and reflect what Christ’s presence in our lives means, for if nothing, that is what this Sunday is really about. What does Christ’s presence mean in our lives and what are we going to do because of it?

Jeremiah warns the people of Israel to beware of those who would not do what is required of them. What kind of shepherds would neglect their own flocks? At the time that Jeremiah spoke, the people of Israel were going through bad times. The government of Israel had essentially forgotten what its mandate was; it had forgotten what it meant to lead the people.

But God had not forgotten His covenant with the people; He had not forgotten his people. At a time when hope was needed, God would send them a leader, a shepherd who would take care of His people.

This passage from Jeremiah points out that God would finish what He started. For a people who needed love, God would see that they had it. If it were forgiveness that they desired, it would be given. If it were power for living that was needed, they would discover it.

God would keep the promise of the covenant he made with them. God would right the wrong, defeat the power of evil, and bring peace and joy and life to them all. The people of Israel would have a kingdom where all would be equal and would treat each other with love and justice.

In a time of darkness and fear, God would save them. No longer would they have to fear other nations. God would keep them secure. No one or no nation could ever destroy them. The protection of God would never be defeated. They would be safe in God’s arms.

The people of Israel sought a king would could make them safe and secure. We know now that the King that Jeremiah spoke of, the shepherd who would watch over his flocks and protect them from danger and trouble was the Christ. In Christ all the prophecies could be seen. Christ would deal wisely with the people, even when the earthly kings did not. He came to meet our needs, to provide lave and forgiveness and grace for our lives. Chris was, is and will always be sufficient for our needs.

Jeremiah pointed out that Christ would execute justice and righteousness. He opposed injustice, mistreatment of others, sinful living. He would call on the people to love one another, to meet the needs of the less fortunate, and to live as disciples of His Kingdom.

He provided salvation for all. If we put our lives in the hands of Christ, nothing can pry us loose from them. Christ will hold us tightly, keeping us secure through eternity.

Today we are faced with a decision. Which king shall we serve? There are plenty of earthly kings who promise much. Sometimes they carry names like materialism, pleasure, success or fame. All promise much, all promise to bring safety and security; but, in the end, none of these deliver what they promise. Yet Christ delivers what He promised.

Paul pointed out to the Colossians what it is about Jesus that truly makes Him the Lord of all people. Paul pointed out first that only Jesus had the power to rescue people from the darkness of sin and bring them to the Kingdom of light.

Second, in our desire to find security and safety, we seek that which we can know. There have been many attempts to describe God, to know what God is like. As our Savior, Jesus came to this world to give us a glimpse of God. God is revealed to us through the heart and mind of Christ Jesus. Through his acts of compassion, his merciful forgiveness, his sufficient grace, and his sensibility to human need, Christ reveals a portrait of God different from the one of a powerful agent of wrath, far removed from this world. Jesus showed us God as a loving Father who cared for us all.

Finally Paul reminds us that Jesus has authority over both the church and the individual. No matter what we may think or feel about the power of an individual, no person is the sole captain of their own soul; all are called to live their lives under the control and authority of Christ Jesus.

Paul concluded his letter by reminding us that Jesus came to reconcile us with God. As our Savior, Christ is involved in bringing everyone into a right relationship with God. He is the device by which we can communicate and move into fellowship with God.

To me, one of the most dramatic moments of Christ’s live here on earth was that moment depicted in the Gospel reading for today. For it showed what Christ was all about; why he came to this world and lived among us. Two criminals were hung by Jesus to die the same long, slow, painful death of crucifixion that Jesus would die. One of the two thieves still saw the world in earthly terms, seeing the power of the Messiah in selfish terms, only in terms of what it could for an individual.

As Paul pointed out, we are not the captains of our soul. To see power in terms of what it can do for us limits what that power can do. And the thief who mocked Jesus along with the soldiers could only see power in terms of what it would do for the individual. That thief was like a lot of people today who see power in terms of what it can do for the one.

But the other thief understood that he was on the cross for what he had done; he was on the cross because he sought to security through his own devices. And he realized that it was all of naught; that nothing he could do would save him from the punishment he received. But he also understood, even in the throes of pain and death that Jesus was the Messiah and that salvation was his for the asking.

As we begin the celebration of Advent we are asked to think about what Jesus means to each of us. We are asked to think about the role of Jesus in our lives. What are our priorities? How shall we live our lives?

The message for today is one of hope and promise. At a time when things look darkest, when we feel that there is no hope, we are asked to consider what our priorities are going to be. If we put aside all that this world around asks us to do, if we understand that our celebration of Advent is a celebration of the hope and promise embodied in Christ, then we begin to understand what our priorities should and must be.

Today is Christ the King Sunday. It is the Sunday when we are reminded that the one priority in life is to follow Christ, to open our hearts to Him who would be the servant King. Today we are asked to evaluate our priorities in life and choose those which enable us to be faithful servants of the King.

“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 17th Sunday after Pentecost”


Here are my thoughts/messages/sermons for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, September 24, 1995, (Year C), Laity Sunday,Grace Memorial United Methodist Church, Independence, KS and Sycamore United Methodist Church, KS, “Riders Wanted”

Sunday, September 21, 1997, (Year B), Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church, Brighton, TN, “The Wisdom We Have”

Sunday, September 19, 1999, (Year A), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “What Shall We Gain?”

Sunday, October 08, 2000, (Year B), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “And How Shall You Be Known?”

Sunday, September 30, 2001, (Year C), Walker Valley United Methodist Church, Walker Valley, NY, “To Build On Our History”

Sunday, September 15, 2002, (Year A), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, “Standing on high ground or stuck in the mud?”

Sunday, October 05, 2003, (Year B), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, “Playing By the Rules”

Sunday, September 26, 2004, (Year C), Tompkins Corners United Methodist Church, Putnam Valley, NY, “Do You Hear the Lord?”

Sunday, September 11, 2005, (Year A), “At What Point?”

Sunday, October 01, 2006, (Year B), “Where Is God?”

Sunday, September 23, 2007, (Year C), “For What Is The Truth?”

Sunday, September 07, 2008, (Year A), “Have We Forgotten?”

Sunday, September 27, 2009,( Year B), “The Needs of the Many”

Sunday, September 19, 2010, (Year C), “The Plan”

Sunday, October 09, 2011, (Year A), “Something To Post”

“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?”

“How Will They Know?”


This is the message that I gave at Walker Valley (NY) United Methodist Church for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A), August 22, 1999. The Scriptures for this Sunday were Exodus 1: 8 – 2: 10, Romans 12: 1 – 8, and Matthew 16: 13 – 20.

Well, let’s face it. The year is almost over and soon we will have to deal with the dreaded “Y2K” problem. If you haven’t heard of this problem, then you have been where there are no computers, no radio, no TV, and no cable.

To understand the nature of this problem, you have to understand a little bit about computer history. Today, we speak of megabytes and Pentium chips. A typical floppy disk of today, which is no longer floppy, contains more data than many of the first computers. Now because the operating memory for these early computers was so limited, programmers had to find ways of saving space. One way was to simply use the last two digits of the year. It was assumed that latter programmers would solve this problem.

But many early programmers failed to accurately document where they stuck the code and how they set it up. And as other problems came up, the solution of correcting the date storage problem kept getting pushed back.

So now it is 1999 and people have suddenly remembered that when January 1, 2000 comes around, many computer clocks will think it is January 1, 1900. And since no one can remember how the code was written or where the code was put in the memory and no one bothered to write down anything, many companies are faced with major problems related to the time and date.

Now, I don’t think that this computer problem is going to cause as many problems as every one fears. There are going to be glitches, to be sure, but nothing will shut down and most computers will not suddenly turn back to the end of the 19th century. But it does show us the importance of knowing from whence things come.

From the Egyptian point of view, the Israelites had become a problem. But it was a problem only because the Pharaoh had forgotten and apparently no Egyptian bothered to record why the Israelites where there in the first place.

Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us, and leave the country.”

We know that the Israelites were welcomed to Egypt because of what Joseph had done. But like the origin of the Y2K problem, we find that people tend to forget why things were done. And because the Israelites had become so numerous, the Egyptians, without knowing why they were there in the first place, began to fear them and take the repressive measures that would ultimately lead to the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.

When they left Egypt, the Israelites were determined not to forget what God had done for them. That is why each year at Passover, they say

For ever after, in every generation, all of us must think of ourselves as having gone forth from Egypt. For we read in the Torah: “In that day thou shalt teach thy child, saying: All this is because of what God did for me when I went forth from Egypt.” It was not only our ancestors that the Holy One, blessed be God, redeemed; us, too, the living, God redeemed together with them, as we learn from the verse in the Torah: “And God brought us out from thence, so that God might bring us home, and give us the land which God pledged to our ancestors.” (From “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time” by Marcus J. Borg. He is quoting Maurice Samuel’s translation of Haggadah of Passover. (New York: Hebrew Publishing, 1942), p. 27. Borg added the italics and the translation was slightly modified for the sake of gender-inclusive language.)

But over the years, as Israel suffered and rejoiced, these words may have lost their meaning to many of them. So when Jesus asked his disciples who the people said he was, the answers given suggest that while the Israelites knew the words, they did not understand the meaning of what they were saying and hearing every year. They forgot what God had done and what He had promised we would do. In essence, they had lost their relationship with God.

Simply hearing the words or telling the stories does not guarantee that you will believe the stories. Telling the stories about Jesus is important (Hymn #156) but sooner or later, if we are not careful, the stories will become words simply told from generation to generation.

The Greek and Latin roots for the word “believe” mean “to give one’s heart to.” Believing, therefore, does not consist of simply giving one’s mental assent to something but much more, of giving of one’s self.

At some point in time, we must take action, as Peter did and exclaim when Jesus asked,

But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Believing in Jesus means more than just believing a doctrine. If we give our heart to Jesus, we find that our life will change.

As Paul notes, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This transforming changes the way we live and the way we do things. If Christ is in our life, then the words we speak must be turned into actions.

Peter was given the keys to the kingdom and so are we when we acknowledge that Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God. As Paul told the Romans, we have been blessed with many gifts, according to the grace given us. These gifts may be in the manner of teaching, or preaching, or confessing, or prophesying. But Paul also warned the Romans about taking themselves too seriously, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measures of faith God has given you.”

Paul knew that being a disciple of Christ was more than simply being a follower. Our relationship with Christ should be a personal one, but our journey with Christ, the result of the transforming of the spirit is not done alone. It is a journey that puts us in a community that remembers and celebrates Jesus.

To Paul, being in fellowship with Christ creates a community of believers celebrating and remembering Christ. Like any community, the members of Christ’s community are unique in their own skills, each having one skill given to them by the grace of God. And for the community to survive, each member must use his or her own talents in conjunction with the others, just as one’s own body is many different parts all working together.

So, while we remember the past and tell the stories about Jesus and what he did, we look to the future. And against that backdrop, we ask how will the future generations come to know Christ? They will hear the stories but will they know the meaning of the words. The answer to that question is very clear. They will know Christ because they see Christ today in the eyes and hearts of those around them in the community of fellowship with Christ.

But that is not always an easy thing to see. But it is not an impossible task either. All we have to do today is answer the question that Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” If we accept Christ as our Savior, if we allow him to come into our lives and allow the Holy Spirit to transform our lives, other people will know.

How will they know? They will know because the story of Jesus is not just a story from the past, the origin of which is lost in the passage of time but because Christ is alive and well in the community of fellowship. As hymn #310 tell us, they will know because Christ is alive in our hearts.