Grace

“Parents’ Unshakable Love” Luke 15:1-2, 11-24

I think when we have a service like this, when we have a Parent-Child-Church Dedication Service, that it is almost like a party.  We all want the best for the baby being dedicated, and we certainly want to support the family, especially the young parents.  Everybody feels good, because we know what a gift a baby is, and how important loving that child really is.

“I Was an Outcast” Matthew 9:9-13

Most of you have heard of me for a couple of reasons.  The first is that I said “Yes” to Jesus, just like many of you have.  The second reason is because your pastor read some words that I wrote about 50 years after the resurrection of our Lord.  Some think that my gospel was the first one written, because it is listed first in your New Testament, but that is incorrect.  Actually, I had a copy of the shortest gospel written by John Mark and used it as a guide as the Holy Spirit inspired me to write.  Mark provided the events of Jesus’ ministry; I sought to record Jesus’ teaching.  Mine is listed first, because I wrote to a specifically Jewish audience.  Moving from the Old Testament, which is the Hebrew Bible, to the New Testament, my gospel serves as a bridge for the Jews in seeking to understand that Jesus was who he said he was, that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Promised One of God.

“The Recognizable Jesus” Luke 24:13-35

Last Sunday in worship, we focused on the verses prior to what I read earlier; on Easter Sunday, we read how the women went early to anoint Jesus’ corpse and instead found an empty tomb.  The ladies found two angels in the tomb who asked them, “Why seek the living from among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen.  Don’t you remember how he told y’all in his home province of Galilee that he would be treated unjustly, crucified and would rise again?”  These ladies were so overjoyed that they went to a group of Jesus’ followers, which included the eleven apostles, and shared the good news of the resurrection, yet the group didn’t believe them.

So today’s New Testament Lesson continues the story.  Later on the first Easter Sunday, two people left the upper room in Jerusalem and began the seven-mile walk home to their village called Emmaus.  After their dreams had been dashed, they wanted to retreat back to their house; if they had stayed in Jerusalem, they might be arrested as followers of Jesus, so instead they chose to go back to life as it had been before they knew Jesus.

“Judging Outcasts” John 7:53-8:11

For the past few weeks, I have enjoyed preparing the sermons in the “Where Would Jesus Go?” series. The intentional focus on how Jesus related to the outcasts of his day has hopefully shed some light on how we might follow Jesus more closely, which becomes the purpose for the season of Lent. We have also intentionally highlighted community ministries in which anyone can be involved.
As a result of a recent meeting of the ministers in downtown Madison, I have invited pastors of every church in Morgan County to a meeting this afternoon in our Fellowship Hall to learn of how others can participate in The Caring Place, Madison Meal on Main and the Ecumenical Benevolence Fund. All of these serve the entire county; I hope that more churches will actively participate and also realize that these ministries are available to their members. We can always do more together than we can accomplish alone. “One Morgan” shouldn’t only be a slogan for our school system; I hope that one day “One Morgan” will also represent the Christan Community of Morgan County.

 

“Holy and Unholy Recognitions” Luke 7:36-50

My Dad had many colorful sayings, some of which were original, and most of those should not be shared in a church Sanctuary. As teenagers, we regularly heard him offer this saying, which was not original to him, “If you lay down with the dogs, you will get up with fleas.” Have you heard that? My Dad was addressing the company his children were keeping. The lesson was that the people with whom you associate have an influence on you.
Jesus didn’t necessarily hold to my Dad’s parental counsel. Jesus had a reputation of laying down with many different kinds of dogs, associating with multiple kinds of people, yet we also know that he did not sin. Jesus ate with the sinners; some were tax collectors, drunks, prostitutes, but he also ate with other sinners, the Pharisees.

 

“Valuing the Undervalued” Luke 18:15-17

Parent-Child-Church Dedication Service for Nicholas James Ward

I have repeatedly seen the breakdown of the cost of raising a child, but this week I found an article which listed the rewards of raising a child. The government calculated the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 and came up with $160,140 for a middle income family. Talk about sticker shock!? That doesn’t even touch college tuition. But $160,140 isn’t so bad if you break it down. It translates into $8,896.66 a year, $741.38 a month, or $171.08 a week. That’s a mere $24.24 a day! Just over a dollar an hour. Still, you might think the best financial advice is don’t have children if you want to be “rich.”

“Valuing the Undervalued” Luke 18:15-17

Parent-Child-Church Dedication Service for Bailey James Sides

I have repeatedly seen the breakdown of the cost of raising a child, but this week I found an article which listed the rewards of raising a child. The government calculated the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 and came up with $160,140 for a middle income family. Talk about sticker shock!? That doesn’t even touch college tuition. But $160,140 isn’t so bad if you break it down. It translates into $8,896.66 a year, $741.38 a month, or $171.08 a week. That’s a mere $24.24 a day! Just over a dollar an hour. Still, you might think the best financial advice is don’t have children if you want to be “rich.”

“When to Walk Away” I Samuel 26:17-25; Acts 15:36-41

Most of us do not enjoy conflict. I know some people who avoid conflict at all costs, which of course means sacrificing their own wants, needs, or even identities to “keep the peace.” Conflict is a part of life; it happens at school, at work, in neighborhoods, with families, and even at church. Some people are better at handling conflict than others, because of family conditioning or intentional training. Some are better equipped to address low-level tiers of discord rather than high-level tiers of hostile feuds.
This morning, we have heard two stories from scripture that feature conflicts. We have an idea that in significant relationships that we should be able to solve every problem, overcome every squabble, reconcile every hurt. But some disagreements simply never get reconciled. This morning, I’d like for us to look at these two biblical stories of giants of our faith: David and Paul. David became the greatest king in Israel’s history, and the Apostle Paul became the greatest missionary of all time. To be considered great, they had to make some difficult decisions. Let’s look at their examples.

 

“Are You Afraid of the Dark?” Genesis 28:10-22

I was astonished to learn that the recent tragic shooting at the community college in Oregon included the shooter asking the students, “Are you a Christian?” And then he shot them. I don’t understand that kind of evil; that represents a darkness which remains unfathomable. Those who witnessed these horrific murders certainly will be affected by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which has already been referenced. That memory will haunt those survivors forever.
In some areas of the world, practicing Christianity can become life-threatening. Some of our fellow Christians face dark days, and let’s face it: darkness can be scary. I speak not only of when the sun goes down, or when the electricity fails. All of us have walked through darkness, times in our lives when we couldn’t see light; times when the clouds hung lower than normal; times when living was hard. It is a proven fact that overcast, gray days add to depression. Per capita, there are more depressed people in areas where the sun doesn’t shine very often, like Alaska in the winter. Darkness can be scary. So today, I’d like to pose the question, “Are you afraid of the dark?”