10th Sunday after Pentecost
Scriptures: Old Testament: Psalm 85:8-13,
Epistle: Romans 10:5-15; Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33
Meditation Title: “Jesus’ Hand Is Always Outstretched”
This morning’s Gospel lesson is about Jesus and Peter walking on water, and Peter sinking into the water. This brought to mind a thought that I had from high school. When I was in high school at Sam Houston in 1968, it happened to be a general election year. Every classroom was to have something about the presidential election posted on its door. I don’t know what was on our history room door, but one classroom door had a big sign saying, “Tip A Canoe, and Nixon, Too!” This caused a little frenzy in our class. None of us, including our history teacher, knew what “Tip a Canoe” really meant. So, when I was writing this sermon, I Googled it on the computer. Originally, back in 1840, it was a campaign slogan for William Henry Harrison and John Tyler – “Tippecanoe And Tyler, Too”; they were running for president and vice-president. Harrison had led and won a battle at Tippecanoe, Indiana. So, they were president and vice-president running on the Whigs Party, and they won the election. So much for that history lesson, but since the ninth grade I have always remembered that slogan: “Tip a Canoe and Nixon, Too.” And yes, Nixon won that election, as well.
Well, this morning we have the story of the Disciples being on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, and Peter and Jesus end up in the water. Have you ever been dumped out of a canoe (there is that word) or a boat and ended up in the water? Have you ever flipped over with a jet ski and ended up in the water? Well, your Pastor has! I was with my Texas Lutheran friend; his wife was with Sharon, and we two guys went for a ride on their jet ski. I had been driving, and we wanted to switch from back to front. Well we tried to do so, but the jet ski flipped us into the water! What a quick surprise! One minute we were on top, the next minute, we were in the water!
Now with Jesus and Peter, it was a different story. In the predawn hours of the morning, tossed about in a small boat by a violent storm, the tired, frightened disciples all of a sudden see a figure moving toward them on the water! Woah! Terrified, they think the figure is a ghost, and they cry out in fear. However, Jesus calls to them, saying, “Don’t be afraid, it is I.”
Interestingly, here is Jesus standing on the water, so Peter decides to try to walk on the water toward Jesus. At first, Peter’s faith was strong, and he was able to walk on the water toward Jesus. But, when he takes his eyes off of Jesus and looks around at the splashing waves, he begins to quickly sink into the water. Frightened, Peter calls out to Jesus to save him. What, then, does Jesus do? Jesus stretches out his hand and rescues Peter up out of the water. Jesus’ outstretched hand saved Peter. It is a marvelous, miraculous story, and it is also a true story about how Jesus helps us today in our daily living.
This story is like a parable of our lives, too. Like Peter, we are faithful; we are trying to be stronger, better Christians. Like Peter, we are often willing to venture out on a difficult sea because of what we believe. Sometimes, we have the faith and courage that sends us out on a limb. Yes, indeed! But sometimes, the storms of life get to us, and we get dumped out of the boat of life into the water!
In our Christian lives, there are some times when we lose our focus on Christ. The problems and anxieties of life get our attention, and we lose our focus which should be on Jesus. These are times of weakness for us. There are times of loneliness, times of pain, times of hurt, times of depression, times of sorrow for us, and this makes us sink in life, especially in today’s time of worrying about the Covid-19/Coronavirus. It has been reported that nearly fifty (50) percent of the people in the United States have been negatively affected, emotionally and psychologically, by the Coronavirus. When these stormy seas of life beat against us, sometimes they defeat us. Then, like Peter, we sink deeper and deeper into the waters of life. But the story of our lives doesn’t have to end there. Jesus picked Peter up, and He will pick up you and me, too!
When we start sinking into the waters of life, when our hearts feel like we are at the end of our rope, let us remember: Christ is always there to help us and pick us up. Jesus is always reaching out for us whatever our situation. Jesus does not neglect us, but his hand is always outstretched toward us. He is always willing to pull us up from wherever we are. Truthfully, we are never, never out of our Lord’s reach.
When you and I are sinking, sinking, sinking, into the stormy waves in life, we have to look for Christ’s hand and his presence. We need to call upon him and reach for his out-stretched hand. Indeed, our Lord Jesus is our Savior in all of life. Jesus’ hand is always outstretched to us. He always wants to rescue us and bring us again to wholeness and fullness of life.
9th Sunday after Pentecost August 2, 2020
Scriptures: Old Testament: Psalm 17:1-7, 15
Epistle: Romans 9:1-5; Gospel: Matthew 14:13-21
Meditation Title: “Is Your Grocery Basket Full?”
Just imagine how Jesus must have felt when he looked out on those 5,000 plus people who came to hear him teach. In addition, he also fed them! We call this story the feeding of the five thousand; however, that is misleading. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that it was 5,000 men plus women and children. If each of the men had a wife and one or two children, the numbers could be more like 10,000. Just think, Jesus fed 10,000 people…or even more! Wow! That is a great feat! That truly is a miracle!
This is one of the best-known stories about Jesus. All four of the Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) include it in their writings of Jesus’ ministry. Now just before this feeding of the 5,000, Jesus had just learned that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist. Jesus and John the Baptist were first cousins, so Jesus was quite distraught over his death. So, Jesus wanted to get in a boat and go to a quiet place to grieve. You see, Jesus understood grief. He understood what it was like to lose someone you love. I want you to remember that the next time you lose somebody that is close to you; Jesus understands grief; Jesus knows what it feels like to lose someone dear. Mary knew grief; she knew what it meant to lose a son (Jesus on a cross). Yes, in every way, our God is a God of compassion and love – no doubt about it. Jesus wanted to get away and reflect on the death of his cousin John the Baptist, but the crowd would not leave him alone. They followed Jesus on foot. When Jesus saw this mob of people following him, do you think he was sad, do you think he was angry, do you think that he felt over-burdened? No! Jesus felt compassion for the people, he spoke to them, he healed their sick. This was the kind of man Jesus was. Jesus was a reflection of God’s great and never-ending love and compassion. So, when people came to Jesus for healing or for guidance, he couldn’t help but respond. This is good news for us; when we come to Jesus, on bended knee, he will also help us and respond to our needs. When Jesus had finished speaking to the people, the sun began to set.
Evening was approaching. The disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it is getting late. Jesus, just send the people away. Let them go back to their villages and find their own food.” “That is not necessary,” Jesus replied, “we can supply them with food.” Well… can you imagine the looks on the Disciples’ faces when Jesus said that they could feed 10,000 people?
That is absurd, they probably thought. All we have is five loaves of bread and two small fish. That is not even enough food for us, much less to feed that mob of people!
But five loaves of bread and two fish were plenty in the Master’s hand. Jesus said, “Bring the fish and loaves of bread to me.” Then, Jesus directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, Jesus gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then, he gave them to the Disciples, and the Disciples gave them to the people. And magic!!! The loaves and fish kept multiplying, and multiplying, and multiplying – there was no end. They even had some left over when everyone had eaten. There were twelve baskets of food left over!
This truly is a wondrous story! Jesus fed 10,000 people out in the wilderness without a catering service like Bill Miller’s or Troy Brown’s Catering. There were no carry outs…there was not a Domino’s Pizza Delivery service! It is a remarkable story, and it is a noteworthy story for us today. “Why?” we ask? The Gospel of Matthew tells us that when Jesus landed and saw the large crowd, “Jesus had compassion on them and healed their sick.” In today’s dark world with all that is going on, we need to hear of a compassionate, caring Jesus.
Yes, in closing, this story tells about Jesus’s remarkable compassion for us. This story reminds us of how caring and loving Jesus is. So, when we are down and out, when we need to bare our souls, when our hearts are deeply troubled, when we lose our loved ones, we can turn to a compassionate-hearted Jesus. He will listen to our every hurt and sorrow. He will come to our aid. He will give us comfort and peace.
Let us remember the line in one of the benedictions which is “for wherever God is, all is well.”
8th Sunday after Pentecost July 26, 2020
Scriptures: Old Testament: Psalm 105:1-11;
Epistle: Romans 8:26-30; Gospel: Matthew 13:44-52
Meditation Title: “Is Your Treasure Chest Full?”
In Jesus time, there were no fast means of transportation. There were no jet planes, busses, or automobiles. Just think for a moment, if Jesus did own an automobile, what kind would it be? An SUV, a Maserati sedan, a Prius? That would be anyone’s guess! Since in Jesus time, there were no means of fast transportation, Jesus went on foot, going town to town, sharing the Good News of the Gospel.
As he went to the many towns, he told faith stories in simple parable form. In no way did he use high, pontificating words to share about God’s Kingdom. He used simple parable stories that the people could easily understand. In this today’s Gospel Lesson (from Matthew 13) Jesus shares several parables. These parables can keep our faith fresh and growing. Let’s look at a couple of these.
The first parable that we want to look at is that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure in a field. A person just “happens” to stumble across it and find the treasure. That person is so happy that he goes and sells everything that he has, and then goes back and buys the field. Notice that in the parable, this person quite “unexpectedly” comes upon this buried treasure. The interesting thing is that this person evidently wasn’t even on a treasure hunt. He just stumbled upon his incredible, good fortune. It was the “find” of a lifetime. He could not contain himself. In fact, he was so excited that he went and sold all his belongings so that he could go and buy that field.
Talking about finding buried treasure, I remember when I was Pastor in my first church, Friedens Church, Geronimo, Mr. Elmor Bading was a salesman for Farmall tractors back fifty, sixty years ago. He told me several times that he once sold a brand new Farmall tractor and all the implements to a Polish Family down in the area of Kosciusko, Cestohowa, and Panna Maria, Texas. They paid him cash. When he went back to Seguin and got back to his office, he turned over the money to the company. He told his boss, “Smell this money…it’s been buried.” The family unburied the money to buy a brand-new tractor. Mr. Bading was the unexpected recipient of money that someone had unburied. Yes, even today, in these economic difficult days, a lot of people are burying and hiding money, treasures, jewelry, etc.
Let us go back to our first parable where the man was not on a treasure hunt, but just accidentally stumbled across the great treasure. He was a lucky man, finding a great treasure without really searching for it. That can teach us a good lesson on how God acts in our lives. Sometimes God’s gifts are totally unexpected. God’s gifts come in the strangest of ways – the most unusual of ways. Sometimes, often times, God’s gifts come to us when we least expect them.
Just think, when Jesus was born, the gift of the Messiah came in a MOST unusual way! Many people overlooked Jesus as the Messiah because he came in a most unexpected way! Same way with the resurrection of Jesus. The blessings of Jesus’ resurrection came in a very unusual way. The blessing of the resurrection came only after Jesus’ ugly, gruesome death on a cross!
Looking over your life and my life, some of God’s richest blessings have come into our lives at times and places when we have least expected them, haven’t they? I think this is what St. Paul is saying in Romans 8:28 which reads, “that God does work for good for those who love him.” In the most difficult of times, we often feel God’s blessings of comfort and strength the most.
The other parable that I want us to look at is “The Kingdom of Heaven.” Jesus is quoted as saying that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. On finding one pearl of great value, the merchant went and sold all that he had and bought the pearl. In the ancient world, a fine pearl was as valuable as gold is today. Unlike the person who stumbled onto the unexpected treasure, the pearl merchant was purposely searching and searching for one fine, perfect pearl. After much effort and a long search, the merchant finally found the pearl for which he was looking. The merchant was filled with indescribable joy! In fact, he was willing to sell all the possessions of his lifetime in order to own the one exotic pearl. Well, our faith is that one great, big priceless pearl. Having Christ in our lives is worth more than any treasure that we will ever possess. How precious is our faith in God!
So, my friends, expect a miracle! Recognize that God’s blessings do come in the most unexpected of times and places. When we do experience God’s blessings, let us rejoice and celebrate, like in the parables. Let us remember that our faith in the living God is the most precious treasure in all the world. Let us nurture it and let it grow. It is more precious than a chest full of gold or a priceless pearl.
7th Sunday after Pentecost July 19, 2020
Scriptures: Old Testament: Psalm 139:1-12, 23-4;
Epistle: Romans 8:12-25; Gospel: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Meditation Title: “God’s Love and Care for Us”
In my Mother’s Confirmation book, she had a hand-written note written in German. I don’t know if she wrote it or whether one of her parents or grandparents wrote it, or whoever. It doesn’t look like my Mother’s hand writing; it looks like an older person’s writing, especially since it was written in the old German script. Gisela Drayton of Redeemer Church translated it for me. Translated, it reads, “Life is a battle between good and evil; life is a conflict between light and darkness.”
Yes, our world is filled with light and darkness; it is filled with evil as well as goodness. I suppose that the greatest evil that I could name today is the Covid19 Coronavirus. It is devastating; it is horrifying. It is not a hoax. Family, friends, loved ones, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers are dying from it. San Antonio has refrigerated trucks ready to contain all the dead bodies. With this evil in the world, we have to put our faith in the opposite of evil which is the goodness, love, and comfort of God.
Our Gospel lesson this morning is about good and bad; it is about light and darkness. Jesus talks about the good seed and the bad seed. He talks about the wheat that was planted and the weeds that grew up with the good seed. Yes, in the midst of this pandemic, we have to turn to someone to offer us comfort, peace, hope, and love.
At the end of the Gospel lesson, Jesus gives us his message of hope in this dark world. Jesus is recorded as saying that at the end of time, all the evil will be burned up in the fire, but all the good will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. This is true because the love of God will prevail above all else. The message of Christianity (as taught by Jesus) is that God is love and that we (you and I) are loved. The stories of Jesus, the miracles of Jesus, and the entire life of Jesus all present the message of God’s never- ending love for us. Everything Jesus did points to that marvelous fact. Unfortunately, we so often overlook it, or we down-play it. Jesus reveals to us that God is the One who loves us no matter what. Oh sure, there are times when we have done things that are not pleasing in God’s sight. We have all done our share of wrongs in life, but that doesn’t make God love us any less. There are scriptures in the Bible that truly show this.
For example, Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son. He is the son who left home, spent all his money, lived a frivolous life, but all the time, the father loved him and welcomed him back home. So, it is with you and me. The same with Mary Magdalene who had been a sinner and prostitute. She was a close companion of Jesus. Jesus never told her that he would love her more after a probation period. No! Likewise, Jesus did not tell Peter that he would have loved him more if he had not denied him three times during Holy Week. In the same way Jesus did not put Doubting Thomas out of the group because of his doubting. Even when Jesus was nailed to the cross, he didn’t blast them with ugly words or fire and brimstone. He asked that God, out of his great love, forgive them. If God’s love is so strong that he forgives those evils, how much less are ours? The truth of the matter, and the main point of my meditation, is that God has a great, never-ending love for all of us. God loves us as much today as God did the day that we were born.
St. Paul, in his writings, said in Romans 8, that this love of God for us is a love that nothing can change. Paul says emphatically that we are loved. Paul takes this a step farther in saying that nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing! It is a message not for the head, but for the heart. It’s a message of God’s eternal, unchanging love. God cares dearly for us.
My friends, we have heard it now – God is love! God’s love is always with us. We can always count on God’s love. Let us live by his love – feel it and act upon it. With all the evil in the world, God’s love rules over all. Because of God’s love, the Gospel says that we will shine in his eternal Kingdom at the time of the harvest. This is Good News! In these days, we need more Good News!
6th Sunday after Pentecost July 12, 2020
Scriptures: Old Testament: Psalm 119:97-104; Epistle: Romans 8:6-11; Gospel: Matthew 13:1-9
Meditation Title: “Are You Listening?”
Just the other day, I heard the comment, and I’m sure that you have heard it many times, “The LESS you talk, the MORE you can hear.” That really fits into our Gospel lesson for today. In our Gospel lesson, Jesus talks about planting seeds, or in other words, having faith, practicing faith, and living a good, wholesome, Christian life. Jesus then ends with the statement, “Listen, then, if you have ears!” Well, the truth is that too many of us hear the Gospel message, but we don’t really listen to it; consequently, we don’t let the seeds of faith sprout within us.
This reminds me of the story of the little five-year-old boy. His parents became alarmed when he wouldn’t respond to what the parents were saying. The kindergarten nurse told the parents, “Maybe you need to take him to a hearing doctor and have his hearing checked.” So, they took him to the doctor. After running a battery of tests, the doctor commented to the parents, “There is nothing wrong with his hearing.” Your son can hear very well when you tell him something, but he just won’t listen to what you are saying.” He can hear, but just won’t listen! It’s like the comment, “God gave us a mouth that closes, and ears that don’t! That should tell us something.” Yes, listening is one of the hardest things to do in life.
Jesus found himself in the same predicament with people not listening to him when he talked to them about the Kingdom of God and his message of the Gospel. To refresh your memory of the Gospel lesson, Jesus talks about some of the seed falling by the wayside, and the birds devoured it. Other seed falling on rocky ground, and the plants soon withered and dried up. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked the plants. But, then, some seed did fall on good soil, and they brought forth an abundant crop. Yes, some people did hear the Gospel message and practice it. With this parable of the seeds, Jesus is not interested in telling us what kind of soil we need to have to raise good crops of wheat, corn, or milo. No! However, Jesus is talking about the people who hear the Word of God and practice it, and not just talk about it or ignore it. So, in essence, Jesus is talking about you and me.
Jesus is saying to us that as some of us worship, pray, and listen to the scriptures, our ears will be closed, and we will hear nothing. Some of us will make a half-hearted commitment, but will fall away as soon as we deal with the nitty-gritty of everyday life. But, the good news for today is that only a handful of us will truly LISTEN to the Gospel and will allow Jesus’ words to sink deep into our hearts, and we will experience the new joy, the new meaning, and the new purpose that only Jesus can give to our lives.
Yes, the seeds (the words of our Lord Jesus) are falling and being planted as I preach this, but what kind of ground are they falling on? In other words, Jesus’ Good News is being brought to our hearts. Are our hearts open and accepting? Are our hearts only half accepting his words of life? Or, worse yet, are our hearts totally cold and un-accepting of his Word?
Can you imagine God’s frustration when we refuse to hear Jesus’ saving, redeeming, exciting Word for our lives? The truth of the matter is that today, all of us need new life, new hope, new joy, especially with the seriousness of the Coronavirus. Many of us need a refreshing boost for our spirits that are drying up. Many of us have hearts that are full of pain, sorrow, and despair, and oh how we need to hear the refreshing news that Jesus can bring to us.
If we have any burdens or qualms with life, Jesus is ready to plant seeds of hope and joy in our lives. What difficulties in life are we carrying right now that we want to get rid of? Are our hearts listening to him? Jesus is offering us the words of new life and hope. Are we willing to change as the Spirit redirects our lives? Amen.
5thSunday after Pentecost July 5, 2020
Scriptures: Old Testament – Joshua 1:3-9 (“I, God, have given you this land”);
New Testament - Hebrews 11: 23-34 (Faith leads the people); Gospel - Mark 4:35-41 (Jesus calms the storms)
Meditation Title: “Being at Home”
There are so many storms (so to speak) in life right now in the world, in Texas, and right here in Guadalupe and Bexar Counties. There is the battle with the Coronavirus. There are the racial riots. There is political unrest in our nation. Closer to home, we have storms at our places of work. Many people are facing unemployment. We have storms in our own lives; many people are so overly anxious with the Coronavirus that they become angry, antagonistic, and violent. Many people are upset with the “depressed” economy and fear of losing their jobs. People are fearful of even going to buy groceries or even to go out to eat. People are flat afraid of catching the Coronavirus, and the list goes on, and on, and on. Yes, we live in stormy times, but it is the 4thof July weekend, and we do need to celebrate our nation. Let’s look at our past, and let’s celebrate.
The first inhabitants of this great land of ours were the native Americans. They took good care of the land and its resources. We still find relics such as arrow heads, cooking utensils, and other tools that have survived down through the ages. They are the native Americans; all the rest of us are sons and daughters of immigrants of the Old World. The immigrants came from England, Holland, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Cuba, and Mexico. In time, they came also from Poland, Spain, Africa, Greece, and the Middle East. In the 1800’s, there was so much political strife, warfare, economic woes, and famines in Germany, that a lot of people from Germany came to America to find a better life.
This Zuehl community was populated with mostly German immigrants. They were happy to buy the land that had been plantations which were then, busted up into tracts of farms. It was all native prairie grassland and brush. The early settlers prepared the land. Homes were built for the families. Schools were erected so that children might receive an education. Bowling alleys, shooting clubs, and dance halls provided entertainment. Zuehl (first named School, Texas) had not only one bowling alley and shooting club, but two – one on one side of the Cibolo Creek and one on the other side, one named Bexar and the other Germania.
Things were beginning to feel like home for the immigrants. However, one thing was lacking – a place of worship. So, in March of 1900, a group of families decided to form a congregation of Christian believers. The church was named Redeemer. In short time, it was necessary to have land designated to bury their loved ones who had passed; therefore, we have our Redeemer Cemetery. I think the first person buried in our cemetery was a child; I know he belonged to the Bielke Family. Correct me if I am wrong.
Well, in time, this lost and forlorn land became the beloved home to the families from Germany and other areas. Today, like those early settlers, we all need a place to call home. In spite of all that is going on in our world, it feels good to come home to a place of comfort, peace, and protection. What do you love most about your particular home?
We are blessed with our wonderful Redeemer Church in our Zuehl Community. How would it be if there were no church in our community? We have to remember that to have peace and justice in our community, we need to have Christian principles at work. We need fairness, justice, peace, and liberty for all.
This Fourth of July weekend, let us celebrate our Christian heritage. Let us celebrate the principles of liberty and justice that our nation was founded upon. Let us give thanks to the eternal God. Amen.
4th Sunday after Pentecost June 28, 2020
Scriptures: Old Testament - Psalm 13; Epistle - Romans 6:12-23; Gospel -Matthew 10:40-42
Meditation Title: “Offering A Cup of Kindness, Caring, Compassion, and Love”
When we talk about a cup or a glass of cool, cold water, doesn’t that bring to mind the hot, dry days of summer in Texas? When I read this morning’s Gospel lesson, I thought about how, when we have been working outdoors, or working on a project, or cutting the lawn, or whatever, how we get dry and thirsty. Then, we know how wonderful a cold glass of water can taste. As they say, water is nature’s finest brew. Without water we cannot live.
In our Gospel lesson, Jesus is recorded as saying if anyone gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my followers, that person will receive a reward. If we open our minds, this offering a cup of cold water can be compared to offering someone kindness, caring, compassion, and love.
Mother Teresa said that there are three things that are important in human life. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind. Well, Mother Teresa’s advice was kindness, kindness, and kindness-- always offering up that cup of cold water to someone in need. Is that not what Jesus calls us to do? Doesn’t he call us to have a heart full of love, compassion, and kindness? Yes, indeed, it is. Truly, with all the issues of the Coronavirus, the social unrest, the political unrest, and all the anger in our nation, we definitely need more love, concern, compassion, and kindness. For example, wearing a mask is like offering that cup of water, a way of showing respect and concern for others.
As we share love and kindness to others, are we not reflections of the image of God? In the scriptures, we read that God is love. Are we a reflection of God’s great love? Taking it a step farther, Christians are those who have been commanded to love others and to be kind – that was last week’s sermon. Yes, to be a follower of Christ, we really don’t have a choice about it. Jesus set the example for us. Jesus set the bar, and yes, he set it high!
Jesus knew 2,000 years ago what the world needed. Here we are today, needing that same love and compassion in the good ‘ole USA. Now, today, you and I are called to set the example for the world by sharing another cup, and another cup, and another cup, and another cup of cold water with those around us.
Now, in closing, I want you to think for a moment… who shared a cup of cold water with you that really made a difference, at that time, in your life? Who shared a cup of cold water--a cup of kindness, caring, love, and compassion with you that really touched your life? Then, taking this a step farther, is there someone you know right now who could use such a cup of cold water from you?
Let us do so. Amen.
Third Sunday After Pentecost Father’s Day June 21, 2020
Scriptures: Old Testament: Psalm 18:1-6; Epistle: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Gospel: Mark 12: 28-34
Meditation Title: The Hardest Thing to Do: Love!
This meditation comes from two different angles. The first is that at our Council Meeting this last Wednesday, Wyatt Kunde had the meditation on the injustices going on in our world today; all the unrest, riots, protests, and racial discrimination boils down to one thing: to love God and to love one another. After his meditation, I commented that I had mentioned it in one of my meditations in the past that to love is so hard to do that Jesus had to make it a commandment. Just think of that for a moment; it is so hard to love ourselves and others that Jesus had to make it a commandment to love!
The other angle is that today is Father’s Day. We are a product of our parents’ love and care. We need to give thanks to God for our fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and all other influential persons in our lives for the love that they shared with us down through the years. Who and what we are today is by far, what was shared with us by our loved ones. For those who were not so fortunate to have loving parents or family, my heart goes out to you. In all of this, everything boils down to the Great Commandment: that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength; and THEN, we must love our neighbor (all people) as ourselves. Wow! That sounds great! However, it is the hardest thing for people to do!
Speaking of Father’s Day, I want to share with you a short narrative by Dorothy L. Nolte, entitled, “Children Learn What They Live.” It reads:
“If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn what envy is.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
HOWEVER . . . If children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient.
If children live with encouragement, they learn to be confident.
If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to find love in the world.
If children live with recognition, they learn to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn to be generous.
If children live with honesty and fairness, they learn what truth and justice are.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those around them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn that the world is a nice place in which to live.
If children live with serenity, they learn to have peace of mind.
(and now the clincher) With what are your children living?”
Our Gospel passage says that we must first love God. Then, we must love one another. But we say, Lord, be reasonable. We have to love you and everyone? Yes, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all children of the ever-loving God, and we must love God, others, and ourselves. It is a hard pill to swallow to have to love all of these!
St. Paul said it best when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous, or conceited, or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish, or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; its faith, hope, and patience never fail.” Then, he closes with the immortal words, “Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is LOVE.”
There we have it, folks! The greatest Commandment is to Love. How are we doing? Good, bad, fair, middling? On this Father’s Day, how would children rate their parents? How would each of us be graded according to this commandment? In all things, God knows what is in each of our hearts, how we act, and what we do. Amen.
Second Sunday After Pentecost June 14, 2020
Title: “A Stained-Glass Jesus?”
Scripture Lessons: Old Testament: Genesis 18:1-15; Epistle: Romans 5:1-8; Gospel: Matthew 9:35-10:8
Our Gospel Lesson this morning tells us that Jesus went around visiting all of the towns and villages. He taught in their synagogues, and he preached the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Jesus also went around healing people of every kind of disease and illness. However, I want us to note what is said about Jesus: “As Jesus saw the crowds, his heart was filled with pity for the people because they were worried and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.” Note the words “Jesus’ heart was filled with pity for them because they were worried and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.” I want to center my message today on these words.
Jesus had pity on the people because they were not living life to the fullest. They were limping in life. The people were not living out the powerful, meaningful life of the Gospel – the Good News that Jesus came to bring.
Well, here we are today. We are faithful, baptized believers. What does this passage have to say to us today? What is the Good News for you and for me?
It is wonderful that we had the baptism of little Elizabeth Burkhart today. We need to often be reminded of our own baptism because our baptism/our faith gives us strength to live out the Gospel in our everyday lives. It is the belief that as we are called to be Christians, we are to “do” and to “be” Christians every day, and not just on Sunday mornings.
We Americans have become so sophisticated that we have a lesser and lesser need for God and the Church. Then, when we affirm our faith in Jesus, we affirm our faith in what I like to term: a “stained-glass Jesus” – that is, a Jesus who is very pretty and way off, way up high in a beautiful stained-glass window, but very helpless way off. However, that is not the real Jesus. The real Jesus is the one whose presence leads us and directs us in every move that we make. Now, such a Jesus is often not so pretty but is much more meaningful in life because he leads us into new and different paths of life – especially in places we never expected to go!
First Sunday After Pentecost June 7, 2020
Title: “What Are Your Dreams?”
Scripture Lesson: Matthew 28: 16-20
Last week was Pentecost Sunday, and we were filled with the spirit of the risen Christ. Well, did the power of the Holy Spirit stick? Are we filled with the Spirit, or are we only half-filled with the spirit, or are we dwindling in the Spirit???? Where are we today on June 7, 2020?? Today are you floating high with the spirit, or are you half moping?? Do we really believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, or are we doubtful as the scripture says that some of the Disciples were??
Well, however you are today, that is OK because the Lord is willing to pick us up wherever we are and make us soar again!!!! But, do we really want to soar like an eagle – it can be risky, or do we want to stay just as we are, or as the beloved hymn goes: “Just as I Am??” (I love using that quote!)
Today, it would be good for us to remember how God’s Spirit swept into the lives of those early disciples and transformed them into dynamic persons and dynamic ambassadors of the Good News of Jesus Christ. You know, those early disciples’ lives were fully empowered with the Spirit, and they had great dreams of what they could share with others about the risen Christ! In our scripture, Jesus told the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. Their lives were enthusiastic. They were full of the Holy Spirit. Today we must look at ourselves to see whether or not our lives are full of the Spirit. Are we vibrant and alive like they were? … Good question!!!
I truly love the prophecy recorded by the Old Testament prophet Joel 2:28. I loved it back in seminary days (some forty years ago), and I love it ever so much today. The prophecy of the book of Joel is: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I (God) will pour out my spirit upon all people; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old people shall dream dreams, and your young people shall see visions.” … These are beautiful words of life, my friends. We need to ask ourselves: Have we been dreaming dreams and seeing visions? When we stop dreaming dreams and stop seeing visions, then, truly, life is over.
Pentecost Sunday Redeemer Church, Zuehl, TX May 31, 2020
Meditation Title: “Pentecost: Do Our Lives Show the Excitement?”
Read: New Testament Acts 2:1-4
You know, as Christians, we are all part of the body of Christ because we are members of the Christian Church. But, do our lives show the true essence of what it is to be a member of the Christian Church? I wonder??
For it is really an exciting thing to be part of the church of Jesus Christ. Do our lives show that excitement? We need to let the world know that being a Christian is exciting. Being a Christian ought to be the most thrilling business in the world. Most of us have a tendency to underestimate just how much God means in our lives and what a privilege it is to be a part of the church of Jesus Christ.
God has entrusted to you and to me the work of bringing this beaten and battered world into a right relationship with God and humankind. He has called us to bring abundant life to hearts that are cold and uncaring. He has offered us the possibility of being part of the building of his kingdom in this world. He has given us the keys to go out and proclaim the Gospel to all the world. With such exciting work, doesn’t that make our spirits just want to soar? Undoubtedly a lot of Christians aren’t soaring – some do good if they barely get their wings off the ground.
Our spirits ought to soar when we contemplate the great honor that God has bestowed upon us that we should be called his people/children, and that he entrusted to us the reconciling of this world unto himself.
Today, Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the bestowing of the Power of the Holy Spirit upon the early believers. They went out and let others know of the Good News of Jesus Christ. I wonder . . . if any of those disciples (back in Jesus’ time) could possibly have imagined that 2,000 years later (today) that there would be persons walking in their footsteps. Those twelve became seventy … that seventy became hundreds … and now those hundreds have become millions. But the real question --- the main point of this sermon is: “But where does the church get the power that has sustained her through the ages?” The answer is that it comes from the Holy Spirit.
We really think about the power of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. We really receive a full measure of power from the Holy Spirit when we are of service to others – when we meet the needs of others. The world desperately needs what you and I have to offer. Whether in far off places or here at home, the world needs to know the loving, caring news of Jesus Christ.
Meditation Title: “In Remembrance of Those Who Loved More Than We Can Imagine”
Memorial Day Meditation
Read: Gospel of John 3:1-17
To my surprise, this weekend is already Memorial Day Weekend. Usually, Memorial Day Weekend is the last Sunday of the month of May. However, this year, May has five Sundays, and that has changed our calendars concerning Memorial Day.
Memorial Day is known as one of the biggest celebration days in the United States. It seems that more people want to celebrate Memorial Day than they want to celebrate July 4th or Labor Day. At least on Lake McQueeney, there are more boats on the Lake on Memorial Day than there are on the 4th of July and Labor Day. That may be because it is one of the first patriotic celebration days to come in the summer. Actually, Memorial Day means summer vacation is here!!!! On Lake McQueeney, things are wild. Boats, skiers, tubers, people, barbecues, family gatherings, cars all over the place – you name it!!! These days, it can seem like Memorial Day is all about barbecues, picnics, boating…gathering at the creek…. or lounging by the pool.
But at its heart, Memorial Day is supposed to be a solemn day of remembrance for those who have died serving in the United States Armed Forces. As I studied my notes, I was quickly reminded that Memorial Day is NOT Veterans Day. On Memorial Day, we do not remember all those who served in the American Forces, no, but we remember those who did NOT come back home. Our Veterans had the great joy and privilege of coming back home. If you are a veteran, thank God that you are here this morning. Thank God that you came back home! Glory Hallelujah!!! Yes, on Memorial Day, we pay homage to those who paid the ultimate price for their (and our) country. Memorial Day is the day that we remember those who did not come back home. It is a somewhat solemn day as we contemplate and remember the cost of freedom. But, even on Memorial Day, it is good that we celebrate the freedoms that we enjoy as we remember the ultimate sacrifices that others have made for us. Somebody had to pay the price for the freedoms that we so enjoy. Truly, all too often, we take these freedoms for granted. Therefore, we are hearing Patriotic hymns today! As one of our former United States Presidents once said, “Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes --- a debt that we can never, ever, fully repay.” Yes, I like to think of today (and tomorrow) as a day of remembrance. As we think of our cemeteries---the U.S. flags flying, wreaths being placed---flowers being placed, we can remember with love, all who have come and gone before us down through the ages.
Eric Burdon said, (and I quote) “On Memorial Day, we not only remember those who died. There are also those who came out of the trenches as writers, and poets, …. men and women who started preaching peace…. Men and women who have made this world a kinder place to live.”
Yes, Memorial Day can be a bittersweet day. However, as we recall the good times that we have shared (with our loved ones who have gone on before us) (be they military or not)—recalling those great memories of those people can be so rewarding.
Today, (for all of us) we can recall the good times that we have shared with all loved ones – and our hearts can be lifted. At any time, and wherever we may be, we need to share with our younger generations what great memories we have of people who are no longer living—military or non-military. These people may be in graves in our Redeemer Cemetery, other cemeteries, or cremated, or whatever. However, their love, their actions, their ways, and all that they have shared with us is greater than any monument that can ever be built. Our loved ones continue to live in us, and with us, and through us forever more. Even though they are on one side of the grave, and we are on the other, they are still with us – living on in us, and we need to share their life, their love, and their caring with others. They are still with us. They are living on in us, and we need to share their life, their love, and their caring with others.
Talking about life and love, John 3:16 reminds us, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
On this Memorial Day, let us remember all those who loved God, loved us, and loved our country. Amen.
Let us pray: Gracious, loving, forgiving God, we come before you today with grateful hearts for all the blessings that you have given to us. We thank you for our great country. We pray for our leaders that they might know the best ways to govern our country, using your rules and principles. We pray for all those who are ill and need your healing power.
Hear us as we silently pray for our own personal needs…..
Hear us as we silently pray for others…..
Hear us as we pray the prayer which Jesus taught us to pray, saying (The Lord’s Prayer). Amen.
Meditation: “Needing Some Hope and Peace?” May 17, 2020
Read: Psalm 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21
Welcome, Announcements, Joys, Concerns:
Welcome to this virtual worship service.
Thanks to Cissie Warncke our organist/pianist.
Thanks to David Albright for video-taping this service.
The altar flowers are given in glory to God.
Thanks to all of you for watching this virtual worship service. It’s great to have you share with us!
We pray for all those who are dealing with the Corona/Covid19 virus, and the anxiety it is producing in all of us. We do have families in our Zuehl area that are faced with Coronavirus.
We pray for all those needing special prayers for health and strength.
Call to Worship: We look to you, O Lord, for refuge and strength. As we gather for worship, may your Spirit descend upon each and everyone of us. Bless us with your presence as we have gathered to worship you. Let us worship God.
Prayer of Praise and Adoration: As we gather to worship, we recognize that Jesus will be faithful and send his Holy Spirit upon us. The Spirit offers us comfort, help, and strength, especially in our times of need. Help us to find our comfort in the presence of the living God. As we offer our praise, place on our lips the good news of your everlasting love. In this worship service, accept all that we do in in the name of the Christ who makes all things new. Amen.
Gospel Lesson is taken from John 14:1-14
The Title of my meditation is: “Needing Some Hope and Peace?”
This meditation centers on the words of Jesus, when he said, “I will NOT leave you alone.” “I will send you a helper – the Holy Spirit to help and comfort you in life.”
All of us experience hardships in life. We all have our trials and temptations. In our Gospel lesson, Jesus is speaking to the Disciples, and he knew that they were experiencing hardships. They were met with many failures and moments of defeat. I am sure that many times, they felt as though they had struck out (so to speak). But guess what? You and I have been there, too! Been there, done that, and bought the farm!
When the early Disciples felt this way, Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless; I will be with you!” Have you ever felt comfortless? Sure! We all have! The Revised Standard Version uses the term “desolate.” Have you ever experienced desolation? Yes, we all have, and some people have experienced desolation more severely than others. But this is really no joking matter, for depression is one of the most prevalent and the least treated serious illnesses in America today. Far too many people have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and even suicide.
However, there is good news! With the Gospel, there is always good news! In our Gospel Lesson, Jesus has promised that He would not leave us comfortless. Truly, there are times when all of us need to be comforted.
In this passage from John’s Gospel, Jesus is telling his disciples that He cannot be with them always – at least not in the flesh. Jesus is telling them that He must go away! However, out of love and compassion, Jesus promises them that He will send a Helper, a Comforter, a Counselor to take his place. This Comforter is, of course, the Holy Spirit! Christ’s promise was fulfilled in a rather dynamic way on the day of Pentecost which we will celebrate in two weeks. When Jesus sent the Holy Spirit upon the Disciples on Pentecost, their lives were turned totally around. Their sad, morbid, depressing lives were, indeed, changed. Their lives were again filled with hope, peace, joy, and excitement. Wow! How we need our lives today to be turned around (especially with the dread of the Coronavirus lurking all around us.) Truly, our lives need to refilled with hope, joy, encouragement, and peace.
Even in times like now with the Coronavirus, Jesus offers us hope. That same Spirit that lifted up the early Disciples can lift us up today! Two thousand years later, it is still available to those who need it and desire a happier, fuller life.
Let us, therefore, call upon God in prayer. Let us pray that Jesus will send his powerful, comforting Spirit upon us. For if we call upon God with all our needs, He will harken unto our voices and send his healing, powerful spirit upon us. Sometimes, we just have to sit alone, and in extreme quietness and silence, we need to still our hearts to truly feel the Spirit ministering to us. We need to hear the voice of Jesus saying to us, “Worry not, fear not, for I am with you; I will bless you and comfort you in all situations in life.”
Whatever your special way of prayer and quietness is, do it. We all need to feel in our hearts the comfort, love, and peace of our Lord Jesus. Amen.
LET US PRAY: Most loving God, we pause to give thanks unto you for the blessings that you shower upon us each and every day. Help us to realize how blessed and good you are to us especially in these trying days of Covid19, Coronavirus, bless those who are ill, and bless those whose lives are filled with anxiety and fear. We know that in times of trouble, we can call on you and you will hear our every prayer. Even in the most difficult times, you can help us by giving us comfort and hope. Help us to remember, that truly, Jesus is our refuge in life.
Hear us now, as we silently pray for our own concerns…….
Hear us now, as we silently pray for others……..
Hear us now, as we join together in the prayer which Jesus taught us to pray, saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”
Invitation to give our offering to keep the life and mission of Redeemer Church going….check our website and newsletter for innovative ways to give, or you may send your checks in the mail –whatever suits your desire……..
“And now, may the Lord bless and keep you
May the Lord make His Face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you
and give us His peace.” Amen.
Call To Worship: We look to you, O Lord, for refuge and strength. As we gather for worship, may your Spirit descend upon each and everyone of us. Bless us with your presence as we have gathered to worship you. Let us worship God.
Prayer Of Praise And Adoration: We gather to recognize that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Help us to find our strength in him. As we offer our praise, place on our lips the good news of your everlasting love. As we hear your word spoken, lead us to new wisdom to share the Good News of the Gospel. In this worship service, accept all that we do in in the name of the Christ who makes all things new. Amen.
First, today is a special day – Mother’s Day. We want to honor all our Moms. Some of us have been fortunate to have more loving, caring Moms; others have not been so fortunate. For those with wonderful, caring mothers, think of all the time, effort, comfort, and love they shared with us. They have loved us and have poured their lives into ours. I am most grateful that I had a loving, caring Mother as well as wonderful grandmothers who helped shape and mold my life. Indeed, they were good examples for me in so many ways. Now, think of your Mother, whether she be alive or passed to life eternal. What do you remember most about your Mother? (Pause) We have to remember that some people are not so fortunate, and they will come up with some negative thoughts of their mothers, and that is O.K., too. As Oprah Winfrey is quoted as saying, “Regardless of how good or how bad your parents were, once they are gone, you will miss them.” How true that is.
Last week, the Old Testament Lectionary Selection was Psalm 23. This is the Good Shepherd Psalm. In many ways, our mothers, our fathers, our grandparents have been like the Good Shepherd in Psalm 23. They have led us and helped us in good times and bad. They have provided us with a warm home and healthy meals. As a child, or even an adult, there have been those times when we have been afraid or scared, and they have comforted us. When we have strayed away, which all of us have done at one time or another – especially as teenagers, they seek us out and want us to be part of the family. In Christian homes, the love of our mothers, fathers, grandparents, and others never ends. It remains with us until our death. Of all the things that loving parents want for their children, the most is that they want their children to find happiness in life.
If there is one thing that you and I want most in life, it is happiness. So many people search for happiness their whole life long, and they never find it. So many go through multiple marriages. They turn to drugs to find happiness. They are unhappy with any and all the employments that they have had. Life seems to hold little for them. So many people are truly unhappy, and they don’t know why. That is truly sad, and that is not the kind of life that our loving God wants us to live. So how do people usually respond to an unhappy life? They do so by grasping after anything that will give them identity, purpose, or meaning in the moment. They will do anything for instant gratification. And society calls that happiness! For each of us, God has a better, happier plan in life. We just have to know where to look. As I mentioned, so often, we are looking in all the wrong places!
Thanks be to the living, loving God. He sent Jesus to show us the way to wholeness and goodness in life now, and eternal life when our earthly journey has been run. The Golden Rule to happiness is found in the Gospel of John, Chapter 14, verse 6, where Jesus is recorded as saying, “I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life.” So many people look to the things of the world for happiness – they think that money, authority, power, control, large portfolios, and whatever will bring them happiness, but they don’t. But following the life of Christ and his teachings will bring us true happiness. Let us spend time reading the Gospel stories, letting Jesus talk to us through the scriptures, and truly put our faith, not in the things of this world, but in the One who holds the keys to happiness, the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And one more thing. One of the things that people fear the most is death and dying. Well, we don’t have to worry about that, either. Jesus has promised us that He is going to prepare a new home for us. It is an eternal life with God when our earthly days are over.
Only Jesus can make these promises. Amen.
And now, let us hear some special music by Troy Meckel……
LET US PRAY: Most loving God, we thank you for all of our family members who have blessed our lives so richly. On this Mother’s Day, we give you special thanks for the love and care that our mothers, fathers, grandparents, and all loved ones have shared with us. Indeed, our lives are so much richer for what our loved ones have shared with us. Help us, also, to share your great love with those around us. Especially in these trying days of Covid19, Coronavirus, bless those who are ill, and bless those whose lives are filled with anxiety and fear. Help us to remember that for us, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
Hear us now, as we silently pray for our own concerns…….
Hear us now, as we silently pray for others……..
Hear us now join together in the prayer which Jesus taught us, saying,
“Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”
We now have our invitation to give our offering to keep the life and mission of Redeemer Church going. Check our website for innovative ways to give, or you may send your checks in the mail –whatever suits your desire.
“And now, may the Lord Bless and keep you
May the Lord make His Face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you
May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you
and give us His peace.” Amen.
Meditation Title: “The Lord Is My Shepherd”
In life, it is so good to know that we have a Shepherd watching over us at all times. In our Gospel lesson, we hear Jesus saying that he is the Good Shepherd, and we are the sheep in his pasture. Jesus says that He is the gatekeeper, and each of us can follow him because we hear and recognize his voice calling us. We hear him as He calls us to follow him out into the green pastures. He closes this Gospel lesson with the immortal words, “I have come so that you (the sheep) may have life, and life in all of its fullness.”
Now, let us go to the Old Testament, Psalm 23. There are few passages in scripture more prized than Psalm 23. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want for anything. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yes, even though I walk through the valley of the dark shadows of difficult times and death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord. Forever.” Those words have brought comfort and assurance to millions of people over the ages. Those words bring hope to you and me today as our lives are filled with fear and uncertainty with all that is going on with the horrible Covid19 Coronavirus. All we see on television, all we hear and read in the daily news is the devastation and death caused by this horrible virus – the likes of which people of this age have never seen before. In these difficult times, we need some hope, some good news, something reassuring to comfort us. And YES, the Good Shepherd can offer this to us in these troublesome times.
Thursday, as I was speaking on the phone with a friend of ours, Olimpia said, “I haven’t left my house in three weeks. I don’t even go outside. If someone comes to my door, I tell them, ‘You cannot come in without wearing gloves and a mask.’” And then, she said, “With all that, we have to trust in God and put our lives in his hands. He has a plan for us.” How true; God, the Good Shepherd does have a plan laid out for each of us. Do we hear his voice? Are we listening? Are we willing to follow the Shepherd? Do we trust the Great Shepherd to really, yes really, lead our lives? I am reminded of Proverbs 16:9 which was a favorite in my dad’s family. It reads, “A person makes plans, but it is God who controls our lives.” Are we really willing to take that risk and let God control our lives? If, yes, we do, it makes life so much easier to live, knowing that we don’t have to control everything.
In describing sheep, Kent Hughs once wrote: “Among the animal kingdom, sheep seem to have come out on the short end. From all accounts they are of limited intelligence. When it comes to finding food, they are definitely uncreative. As creatures of habit, they will follow paths through desolate places even though not far away is excellent green grass. Sheep are also given to listless wandering….There are even accounts of their walking into an open fire! Shepherds confirm that they are timid and stubborn. They can be frightened by the most ridiculous thing; though at other times, nothing can move them. They are absolutely defenseless…” You know, that kind-of describes human nature. It sounds like you and me; we are often stubborn, belligerent, slow to act, full of fear and anxiety, and not trusting in God.
Kitty Anderson writes and I paraphrase, “I am like that stubborn animal (sheep). I face trials and difficulties with the attitude that I can conquer any and every obstacle all by myself. Then, I get all tied up and wound into knots. Then, I have to stop for a minute and look to my Shepherd. God has a solution already prepared for me. I am NOT the solution maker, my Shepherd is.”
So, yes, the Lord is our Shepherd. And thank God for that! But the Lord is more than a shepherd. He loves us more than our parents love us or what we can love our children. He loves us with a love that is unimaginable, and for that, we can truly be thankful. He came so that we may have life and live life to the fullest.
I want to close with a quote by Pastor Charles Heins. He loves the place in Psalm 23 where it says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” He says that he imagines two angels, one named Goodness and the other one named Mercy, and everywhere he goes, these two angels follow him and protect him. Amen.
Prayer: Gracious, loving God, we are so happy that you continually watch over us like a good shepherd watches over the sheep. We give thanks that we are never out of your sight. We rest assured that your love, compassion, and concern is something that we can always count on. Here us now as we silently pray for our own concerns….hear us as we silently pray for others…hear us as we now pray the prayer that our Lord Jesus taught us to pray, saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven. Hollowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”
The lectionary Gospel selections, which follow right after Easter, are some of my favorites. Last week, we had Jesus’ first words after his resurrection: “Peace be with you.” He said this not once, not twice, but three times, no less! And then, doubting Thomas comes on the scene and says that he will not believe unless he has proof that it is truly Jesus. He puts his hands in Jesus’ wounds, and then, he believes.
Well, today’s Gospel lesson is “The Road to Emmaus.” The Road to Emmaus is one of those fantasy, fairy tale stories. It gives us good feelings. We can just imagine the two lonely, desolate pilgrims walking on the road. They are sad and lonely because of the death of Jesus, and they aren’t yet aware of his resurrection. They are kind-of stoop-shouldered and dragging their feet. Well, guess what? With the Coronavirus, too many of us are stoop-shouldered and dragging our feet. Too many of us are living our lives in fear and confusion, so this story can really speak to us.
As the story goes, all of a sudden, this stranger comes and walks with these two sad, desolate men. They didn’t know that it was Jesus, however. The beauty of this story is that toward the end, they shared an evening meal with this stranger, and when the stranger broke the bread, they recognized that it WAS Jesus. And then, Jesus vanished like a dream. However, at that point, the two were no longer down-trodden and sad; they were filled with a glowing feeling of new hope, life, and joy. Something real had happened in these peoples’ lives – something dramatic, something earth-shattering, truly up-lifting. The spirit of the risen Christ had given them renewed peace, hope, and joy. Oh, how today, we need these same feelings of hope, life, and joy!
Where are our hearts today? Are our hearts filled with doubt and despair? Do we feel defeated, or are our hearts filled with excitement, faith, and expectation of hope for the future? Maybe we need to listen to the words of Jesus when he said, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.” It is clear that Jesus was not just concerned with life beyond the grave. No! Jesus was also very concerned with the quality of life within us now – day by day as we live our earthly journey.
Are you familiar with the name of Dr. Thomas Spooner? Spooner was a 19th century professor in England who was famous for unintentionally interchanging words with the same sounds. The mistakes were often funny and came to be known as “spoonerisms.” For example, on one occasion, he meant to refer to the cheerful tidings of the Gospel. But instead, he spoke of the tearful chidings of the Gospel! Obviously, there is a world of difference between cheerful tidings and tearful chidings!
Indeed, the Gospel IS Good News. It IS a celebration of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. The Gospel is not solemn, but sensational. It is not a burden, but a joyful life. New life, joy, and hope can be yours – it can be mine, today if we take a walk with Jesus, going hand-in-hand down the road to Emmaus. It is a matter of living life in Christ. Turning our lives over to him and letting him be in control of our lives. Nido Qubein in his work “Communicate Like a Pro” tells about a friend in Florida named Charlie. Charlie has a positive Christian attitude. If you ask him on Monday if he’s having a good day, he’ll smile and say, “Today is the best day of my life.” Ask him on Tuesday, and it’s still the best day of his life. The answer is the same for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In life, Charlie is walking hand in hand with Jesus. Yesterday is gone forever. Tomorrow is not ours, yet. Today is the only day we ever have, so that makes it the best day of our lives.
If we are waiting until sometime in the future to laugh, to love, and to live, we are making a big mistake. Jesus wants us to live life to the fullest, NOW! Are you ready to walk with Jesus down the road to Emmaus? Are you ready to join the Easter party? It is my hope that we, like the two pilgrims, have a one-on-one experience with the living Christ. That will bring us the hope and joy that we all need in these difficult days with the Coronavirus. Amen.
Prayer: Eternal God, it is you who created us. It is you who gave us life when we were born, and it is you who gives us the strength to live each day to the fullest. We pray that we can walk hand-in-hand with you – to have an up-lifting Emmaus Road experience in life. Give us grace and peace to live each day to the fullest. Grant us your health and healing power. Here us as we pray for our own concerns…pause…hear us as we pray for others… hear us now as we pray the Lord’s Prayer… AMEN.
Our Gospel passage for this week after Easter concerns itself with Jesus appearing to the Disciples. The Disciples were so afraid; they were behind locked doors. The passage also deals with Doubting Thomas; how Jesus had to prove to Thomas that he was,indeed, Jesus the Christ. Yes, the Disciples were stricken with fear, they were behind locked doors, they were doubting.
This Gospel lesson really speaks to us in our time and place here in the United States. With the Coronavirus/Covid 19 pandemic, somany hearts are saddened; so many hearts are restless. Indeed, many people are panicking, and rightfully so. Just look at the devastation in New York City. Watching the value of my UCC Pension is also not heart-warming! I have spoken several times toour Pension Boards about my pension which is falling as the economy falls. When I spoke to a live person at the Pension Boards in New York City, I asked the assistant how she was doing?Sadly, she said, “I am well; thank you for asking. But, literally, everywhere you look, they are literally carrying out the dead.” Wow! How sad. That is so discouraging!
I recall the saying, “When the heart is restless, EVERYTHING around us rustles!” Yes, when our hearts are restless, there is NO peace to be found in our hearts, bodies, and souls. When that happens, we need to call upon Jesus asking that his peace come upon us. Did you notice in the Gospel passage how many times Jesus o3ered his beloved Disciples his peace? Not once, not twice, but three times Jesus breathed his peace upon them. Jesus knew what their trembling bodies and souls needed – Peace. And yes! Jesus knows what we all need today!
Where are you today? Are our hearts overwhelmed with concerns? Are we overwhelmed with our safety or health concerns – either our own or those of loved ones? Are we overwhelmed with concerns about the economy? Are we worried about our job security? Are we concerned about the stresses that come with raising children or grandchildren in these troublesome days? Whatever our concerns are (be they many), we need to consciously connect with the spirit of the risen Christ. For our restless hearts, we ALL need to hear Jesus say to us, “Peace, be with you.” Let us hear it not once, not twice, but three times! Jesus doesn’t mind repeating himself if we need to hear it even more than three times.
This Easter Season, may Jesus the Christ give us peace, hope, health, and joy in these troublesome days. “Peace be with you.” “Peace be with you.” “Peace be with you.”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we know that life can be difficult at its best. We lay before you our worries, our troubles, our concerns. Come minister to us. Bless us with your empowering spirit. Like with the Disciples, come and still our restless hearts. Give us your peace. Amen.
Read Matthew 21:1-11, Matthew 27:11-61, Matthew 28:1-10
We are at the beginning of Holy Week and so much is happening in Jesus’ life. Last Sunday was the joyous Palm Sunday where the people were shouting their loud Hosannas; they were waving their palm branches and proclaiming Jesus as their King. It was, indeed, such an exciting day in Jesus’ life. But all of a sudden, when we begin reading Matthew 27, we see the mood drastically changing.
Enter now into the death chamber. In such a short time, instead of celebrating, the mood becomes morbid as the impending death of Jesus comes more and more to the surface. After the mock trial, Jesus was hung on a cross to die. Everyone thought that this was the end of the story, but it wasn’t! It was just the beginning of the glorious Easter Resurrection Story. After Jesus’ death, he was laid in a tomb where no one had ever been lain before. On the third day (Sunday), Mary and others went to that tomb. Surprise!!! The tomb was empty. Jesus’ body was not there! Was this the end of the story? No, again I say No. The resurrection of Jesus is the culmination of this whole story. After Mary and the Disciples had discovered that Jesus was alive, they couldn’t refrain from going out and telling everyone that Jesus was not dead; he was, indeed, alive. The resurrection that Jesus experienced is promised to each and everyone of us who believes.
Do you believe in the resurrection? Do you have the faith that one day, too, you will be raised from the dead to life eternal? Do you really? How much faith do you have? Do you just believe that Jesus arose, or do you have faith in his resurrection and your own resurrection? There is a cute story about believing and really having faith. Imagine that you are at a circus. A tight-rope walker is going to be pushing a wheel barrow one hundred feet across the stadium. Now, sitting in your comfortable seat (as comfortable as stadium seats can be), you truly believe that the tight-rope walker can push the wheel barrow across the tight-rope. Sure, you believe that he/she will make it – surely they have practiced it many times! Now comes the issue of faith! Faith means that you believe so much that he/she will make it across safely that you are willing to sit in the wheel barrow as it gets pushed across! That is the faith that Jesus wants us to have in him. Knowing deep, deep down in our hearts that just as Jesus arose, so shall the faithful be raised to new and eternal life.
May the good Lord keep us safe this Holy week so that Sunday, we can proclaim the resurrection song – Jesus Christ is risen today! Hallelujah! Amen!
Prayer: Almighty God, creator if all that is, during this Holy week, be with us and bless us with your Holy Spirit. Our hearts are full of sorrow for the painful death that Jesus endured for us. Keep us strong in our faith in You, so that we can sing our hallelujahs at the resurrection of Jesus on Easter morn. Praise and honor be unto You. Amen and Amen.
In the meantime, stay SAFE, and stay at HOME!!!
As one pastor ably stated, “Remember religion can be best served with common sense.” Also one Jewish rabbi said, “Urgent times call for urgent measures.”
Confirmation News: Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus/Covid 19 pandemic, our confirmands are not able to gather on Sunday mornings at 11:45 A.M. to study and to learn about God and the principles of Christianity. However, during this time of absence, they are assigned to read and study three important chapters. The first is entitled, “Why Do I Need the Church?”; second is “Why Does the Church Need Me?”; and the last chapter, “What Does Confirmation Mean?”
They are also choosing their topics and working on their Confirmation presentation papers which they will be presenting during the worship on Confirmation Sunday. We will all be excited to hear the good ideas which they have to present. In years past, everyone has been so impressed with the Confirmands and their presentations, and this year will be no exception. This year’s Confirmation Class is another exceptional group. Confirmation Sunday will be held as soon as the government deems it possible to gather together as a group again. Let’s pray that this is sooner rather than later.