LENT LETTERS – March 22, 2020

Posted by on Mar 22, 2020 in Sermon Archives

LENT LETTERS – March 22, 2020

Sheridan United Methodist Church March 22, 2020 The Fourth Sunday in Lent             “Worship, Grow, Serve”   Welcome to the “Lent Letters.”        Fires, earthquakes, sickness, snow & ice – there are a lot of reasons why we might have to cancel worship services. Ordinarily, we just do what we can and then pick back up when things improve. But this is the middle of Lent. Somehow, I couldn’t accept the notion of “oh well, what’re you going to do?” So these “Lent Letters” are love letters, in a way. They come from the want and the need to keep the love of Christ first and foremost in our hearts….to keep our God with us and within us till we meet again. Pastor Ken Notes from the pastor ~       Thanks for your response to last week’s “Lent Letter.” I didn’t know what to expect – after all, a newsletter is no substitute for a service of worship. But with your help we will stay tuned to the good news of the Gospel in whatever way we can. Over the past few weeks, I found myself muttering, “I refuse to give up Lent for Lent!” Funny – you’d think that a pastor would jump for joy at the prospect of a little relief during their busiest time of year. To be honest, the thought did cross my mind, but that’s when the little voice said, “I refuse to give up Lent for Lent!” I have to say, I’m glad there are many others who feel the same. To get a break from the news this morning, I dialed in a local sports talk program from Portland. I’d rather not plug the show’s name, but this show is basically two guys sitting at microphones every morning talking about – you guessed it – sports. I told Margie that this should be interesting. I mean, what in the world is there for them to talk about! Everything is shut down: basketball, football, hockey….even baseball looks grim. But there they were doing their job, and I have to say it was hilarious. Margie even got a kick out of it. But later in the day I got to thinking. Yes, these two were doing the best they could with what they had. I wasn’t so much impressed by how they made the best of a bad situation. I mean, you have to admit, it was a bit awkward. What impressed me was that they seemed frustrated. I can’t say that they were frustrated because the shutdown had made their jobs harder to do. No, it seemed to me that they were frustrated because they missed doing it. They missed the clutch shots in the final seconds, they missed the bad calls and the good hits and all the crazy things that get a sports geek’s heart pumping. But there they were, giving...

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“Hey Nic, Don’t Quit Your Day Job” March 8, 2020

Posted by on Mar 17, 2020 in Sermon Archives

“Hey Nic, Don’t Quit Your Day Job” Genesis 12:1-4a/ Psalm 121 Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 John 3:1-17   John 3:16 was the verse through which Dwight Moody the famous preacher, evangelist, and missionary, of the middle 1800s learned to appreciate the greatness of God’s love. Moody had been to Britain in the early days of his ministry and there had met a young English preached named Henry Moorhouse. One day Moorhouse said to Moody, “I am thinking of going to America.” “Well,” said Moody, “if you should ever get to Chicago, come down to my church and I will give you a chance to preach.” However, he was merely being polite. So when Moorhouse showed up in Chicago, it just so happened that Moody was going to be out of town the next day. Moody said to his wife and to the leaders of the church, “I think that we should let him preach, once. Let him preach once; then if the people enjoy him, put him on again.” Moody was gone for a week. When he returned he asked his wife, “How did the young preacher do?” “Oh, he is a better preacher than you are,” his wife said. “He is telling people that God loves them.” “That is not right,” said Moody. “God does not love sinners.” “Well,” she said, “you go and hear him.” “What?” said Moody. “Do you mean to tell me that he is still preaching?” “Yes, he has been preaching all week, and he has only used one verse as his text, John 3:16.” Moody went to the meeting. Moorhouse got up and began by saying, “I have been hunting for a text all week, and I have not been able to find a better text than John 3:16. So I think we will just talk about it once more.” He did. Afterward Moody said it was on that night that he first clearly understood the greatness of God’s love, which transformed his famous ministry. It’s something, isn’t it? It’s something that even a preacher – a person who was educated in the word of God – it’s something that even a man of the cloth, as they say, might somehow miss out on the magnitude, the glory, and the power of this special love of God; a love that is so magnificent that it offers new birth. When Nicodemus approached Jesus in the dead of night, he did so at considerable risk to himself. I mean, think about it: Nicodemus was not only a high member of the temple priests, but he was also a member of the Jewish ruling council. You don’t get to this position of power and authority by making mistakes. Yet, here he was consorting with the enemy, you might say. Bottom line is that Nicodemus was an old teacher still looking to learn. (vs 2) Rabbi, we know...

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LENT LETTERS March 15, 2020

Posted by on Mar 17, 2020 in Sermon Archives

    Sheridan United Methodist Church Third Sunday In Lent March 15, 2020   “The Woman at the Well” Welcome to the “Lent Letters.”        Fires, earthquakes, sickness, snow & ice – there are a lot of reasons why we might have to cancel worship services. Ordinarily, we just do what we can and then pick back up when things improve. But this is the middle of Lent. Somehow, I couldn’t accept the notion of “oh well, what’re you going to do?” So these “Lent Letters” are love letters, in a way. They come from the want and the need to keep the love of Christ first and foremost in our hearts….to keep our God with us and within us till we meet again. Pastor Ken Third Sunday In Lent ~ quotes of the day      “The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should  proclaim the word of God         through music.” ~ Martin Luther      “We are perishing for lack of wonder, not for lack of wonders.” ~ G. K. Chesterton      “Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we can’t exaggerate?” ~ Francis Chan   Call To Worship: O come let us worship and lift our hearts . . . Not because the world is good and last week was awesome, but because the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the God of the whole Earth. O come let us worship and raise our hands . . . Not because our lives are all sweetness and light, But because even those who walk in darkness can see a great light, the Bright and Morning Star   O come let us worship and bow down . . . Not because God gives us what we want, But because God gives us what we need – the holy child Jesus, God’s Unspeakable Gift.                                      Written by Leonard Sweet   Exodus 17:1-7 “Is God here with us, or not?” Our Old Testament reading for the week is Exodus 17:1-7. After being freed from bondage in Egypt, the nation of Israel is directed by God to roam the wilderness for a long time. Life is hard- so hard that there are many who start to wonder if going back to Egypt might be a better plan. In this passage, they have set up camp in a place called Rephidim which is dry as a bone: not an ideal camping spot. Vs 3 from The Message reads  But the people were thirsty for water there. They complained to Moses, “Why did you take us from Egypt and drag us out here with our children and animals to die of thirst?” Poor Moses smells a mutiny on his hands and makes an appeal to the Lord who grants him the power to draw water from a rock. The people now...

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“Honest To God” March 1, 2020

Posted by on Mar 2, 2020 in Sermon Archives

“Honest To God” Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7/ Psalm 32 Romans 5:12-19 (5:12, 17-19) Matthew 4:1-11   Selah. S-e-l-a-h. I think this might become my new favorite word for the season of Lent. The word “selah” is found 74 times in old testament scriptures: 71 times in the Psalms and another 3 times in the prophetic writings of Habakkuk. Selah is an ancient Hebrew word – so ancient that scholars can’t say for sure exactly what it means. As best we can figure, the word “selah” is a word of instruction for singer and musicians. Now the Psalms, the Psalms of David, let’s remember were originally songs – they were meant to be sung. They were the ancient equivalent of what we call hymns. Our hymnals are full of suggestions to help us sing together in a somewhat pleasing fashion: there are notes, there are words, time signatures, key signatures – all very helpful. In David’s time, things were, obviously, quite different. It was up to the singer to know the tune, I guess, and the words were read from an ancient scroll. Other than that, we don’t have a clue – except for one thing. In some of the Psalms, not all of them, there occasionally appeared a suggestion. It was a musical suggestion to pause, to stop, to take a break. “Selah” – time out. The 32nd Psalm which we read today is a classic example. (vs 3 ERV)  Lord, I prayed to you again and again, but I did not talk about my sins.  So I only became weaker and more miserable. 4 Every day you made life harder for me. I became like a dry land in the hot summertime. Selah At this point, the song stops – Selah. And once the music stops we are inclined to, oh I don’t know, think about what we’re going to do this afternoon maybe? Mow the grass, make dinner? Or maybe-just maybe-our thoughts might turn to David’s sorry situation. “I prayed to you again and again, but I did not mention my sins. So I became weaker and more miserable.” And let’s suppose this musical pause becomes a full blown intermission. Now we find ourselves out in the hallway drinking coffee thinking, “Wow, poor David. …Do I ever do that? Keep the good sins to myself? The really nasty ones? Well….” But just in the nick of time the music starts back up and the words of David are sung once again. (vs 5) But then I decided to confess my sins to the Lord. I stopped hiding my guilt and told you about my sins. And you forgave them all! You forgave them all. You know, folks have been speculating forever as to what the music might have been like those many years ago. Many hymns have been written based on the Psalms of David but, you know, it’s just not the same. But the...

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“It’s Good to Be Here” February 23, 2020

Posted by on Mar 2, 2020 in Sermon Archives

“It’s Good to Be Here” Exodus 24:12-18 2 Peter 1:16-21 Matthew 17:1-9   For the last week or so, I have been getting pictures from my daughter of the goings-on that happen in New Orleans at this time of year. A lot of it has to do with food. For example, there are traditional Mardi Gras pastries that show up every year. I can’t say I know much about them except they look like they are dripping with calories and they are colored like fishing lures. Purple, gold, red, bright green – these are not what we would normally see on a cinnamon roll. But hey, it’s Mardi Gras. Even the food that gets thrown to the crowds during the parades is… different. No, these folks above and beyond hard candy and tootsie rolls. I had to laugh at a picture she sent of a plastic baggie laying on a bunch of beads of all colors. The label on the bag read, “Van Holten’s BIG PAPA Hearty Dill Pickle.” Her caption to the pic read simply, “You never know what you’ll catch.” So, yeah, I can’t say as I’ve ever been to a parade where it was raining pickles, but hey, it’s Mardi Gras. But let’s not lose sight of what started this whacky tradition. It is not a new thing; nor is it unique to New Orleans and the south. In Italy, Mardi Gras is called Martedi Grasso; translated as Fat Tuesday. Basically, in preparation for the long fasting period of Lent that begins on Ash Wednesday, folks figured long ago that this would be a good time to eat up all the greasy food they’ve been hanging onto through the winter. Spring is just around the corner, winter is almost over – let’s throw a party, let’s live it up! That celebration has evolved over the years, of course, and even though it had its roots in the Catholic church, the carnival we call Mardis Gras has taken on a life of its own. What used to be a single day preparing for the 40 day period of Lent has turned into a week of carnivals preparing for…..well, that’s just it. Somewhere along the way, the idea of devoting almost 6 weeks to prayer and fasting, repentance and penance has lost its appeal. It’s definitely something you don’t throw a big party for; but you know, that’s kind of a shame. I like the idea of Lent. I like the idea of being told, “It’s time. It’s time to get your act together; it’s time reexamine your prayer life; it’s time to show some true repentance for the all the times you’ve dropped the ball, missed the mark, and otherwise just goofed up. Someone once said that, “If we were knives, Lent would be a time to get sharpened. If we were cars, Lent would be a...

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“When We Hesitate to Innovate” February 9, 2020

Posted by on Mar 2, 2020 in Sermon Archives

“When We Hesitate to Innovate” Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12) 1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16) Matthew 5:13-20   (Matt 5:1) When he saw the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to teach them saying.. and this begins the set of Christ’s teachings that we know of as the Sermon on the Mount, or The Beatitudes. Now, it’s safe to say that this is not the only time that Jesus spoke these words of blessing; Luke tells us of a similar sermon spoken to the crowds; it was one of the primary messages that Jesus wanted folks to understand. It’s hard to say how many times Jesus said the words “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” I’m guessing it was a sermon he preached over and over, but that’s fine. They are words that bear repeating. They were words meant to usher in the Kingdom of God. To a people who have lived under the law of Moses for generations – the law of “Thou shalt not” – these words were just… weird. We still struggle with them today. In his book “A Man Without a Country,” Kurt Vonnegut wrote ““For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. ‘Blessed are the merciful’ in a courtroom? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ in the Pentagon? Give me a break!” What Mr. Vonnegut misses here, perhaps, is that unlike the commandments that were written for all the nations – for believers and non-believers alike – the Beatitudes were designed for a somewhat smaller group; the Beatitudes were meant for those on the road – on the path – of discipleship; discipleship in the name of Jesus Christ. Last week, we read through the first part of the Sermon on the Mount. It is a list of blessings: blessings that come to the life of a disciple; blessings that come to those who are humble, who are pure in heart; who thirst for righteousness. Granted, these are not qualities that will buy you a lot of fame and fortune in this world, but to be a disciple of Christ is to emulate Christ. Jesus wants us to know without a doubt that the rewards are of the Spirit; the rewards are eternal. Today, we read the 2nd part of this well-known sermon, and with all the metaphors of salty salt and bland salt, along with lights on lampstands and lights under buckets, it’s no wonder this part gets overlooked. And that’s too bad. That’s too bad because...

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