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“It’s About Time!” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

“It’s about time!” is a phrase I have heard most of my life.  My Dad would regularly use an abbreviated version, “’bout time!” when referencing an action which he thought was overdue.  For instance, if the University of Georgia were playing a football game and had numerous penalties, once the referees called a “face-mask” or “pass interference” penalty on the opposing team, my Dad would declare, “’bout time!”

“We All Need Rest” Matthew 11: 25-30

Labor Day is a legal holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September in the United States, Puerto Rico, the Canal Zone, and the Virgin Islands.  The celebration of Labor Day, in honor of the working class, was first suggested by Peter J. McGuire, founder of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.  In 1884, the Knights of Labor held a parade on the first Monday of September and passed a resolution to hold all future parades on that day and to designate the day as Labor Day.  Ten years later, the U.S. Congress made the day a legal holiday.

“What Kind of Block Are You?” Matthew 16:21-28

In gaining a better understanding of our text, I’d like to set the scene by describing what happened in the previous verses.  Jesus and the disciples had gathered at Caesarea Philippi, which was a resort community; Jesus and the twelve had gone on a retreat.  He asked the twelve followers, “Who do you think I am?”  Answers included John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.

“Dear Emily” I Timothy 4:11-16 NCV

Dear Emily,

          The Apostle Paul wrote many letters, many of which are included in our Bible as Scripture.  Letter-writing has become almost passe, somewhat like the lost art of cursive.  But we know that Paul was writing to his younger minister friend Timothy as a means of encouragement.  That is my hope today.

“Ready to Sing a New Song?” Psalm 98

Madison Baptist Church has been gathering for worship since 1834; that means that our congregation has been singing for almost 183 years.  While James McDonald was the first pastor, I don’t know if he picked the hymns, if someone else had that duty, or if the gathered congregation simply called out favorites.  Over the years, the person selecting music for our church brings their desires, goals, and even personalities into the choices.  I’m not sure that music selection is entirely objective; Renae Hester is different from Elsie Monk who was different from Joe Preston who was different from David Shytle who was different from Carey Huddlestun.  All of us have our gifts and talents, and all of us are unique.  I do not have the same gifts and talents as my predecessor Jim Ross, and his gifts were not identical to his predecessor W. T. Booth.   And this thing called church is bigger than all of that.  With differing gifts and talents from pastors, music ministers, other staff members, and laity, the ministry of the church continues, and today we celebrate this new chapter of Madison Baptist Church’s storied history as Renae Hester begins as our Minister of Music.

“Finding God in the Ordinary” II Kings 5:1-15

Barry Luppin was just twenty-six when a rare nerve disease sent him into the world of silence.  Unable to pursue the law career he had planned, he drifted aimlessly for eight years, remembering beautiful music and the voices of loved ones, and bemoaning his deafness.  Then he determined to “put his chin up and fight.”  He learned to read lips and went into the auto leasing business.  The business prospered into a multi-million-dollar enterprise.  Barry didn’t let his handicap keep him from normal work.  When a customer called, his secretary picked up an extension phone.  She heard the caller and mouthed the words silently to Barry, who sat nearby.  He replied in normal speech.  Callers were never told that Barry was stone deaf.  “If you have a physical handicap, you can run into a corner and hide,” said Barry.  “Or you can just try harder than the next man and make a success of yourself.” (James C. Hefley, Life Changes, Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1984, pp. 88-89.)

“A Dirt-y Sermon” Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

I am not a gardener; I don’t claim to have a green thumb.  When I was growing up, we always had a garden.  My responsibility was to pull weeds and grass, and to pick the tomatoes, green beans, and cut the okra.  But I came across an article that relates to farming, gardening and agricultural living.  It seemed appropriate for our gospel text today; some of you know that Braden is manager of Innisfail Farm, and Heidi works at AgSouth.  Dr. Allen R. Rumble, in an article entitled Growing Things writes “The Top Ten Things I Have Learned from Gardening.”  These also apply to parenting and family life.

“Asking God to Speak Loudly” Acts 16:6-15

I have a confession to make; I have had the privilege of studying with renowned biblical scholars.  Having degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the 1980s and Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond in the beginning of the 21st Century, I was afforded ample opportunity to learn from the some of the smartest people who have ever called themselves Baptist.  But even with all this great instruction from learned men and women, my confession is, “I still do not understand God’s providence.”  Many of you have heard me say, “I find providence to be the most mysterious of all the Christian doctrines.”  Because of my strong emphasis upon the gift called freedom of choice, I have a hard time grappling with the idea that God orchestrates everything, because I don’t believe that everything that happens is God’s will.  I don’t think the Holocaust or the tragedies of September 11, 2001 were God’s will.  If God caused everything, we would be nothing more than marionettes on strings controlled by God as the master puppeteer.  God gives us free will; we have to continue to seek God’s direction, even when we don’t know what is going to happen in the future. 

“Times to Remember” John 21:1 14

Are there certain songs that remind you of an event or a particular occurrence in your life?  When I listen to songs of the 70s and 80s on channels 7 and 8 of my Sirius XM Radio, I often take a trip down memory lane and remember driving my 65 Mustang Fastback with the windows down and the music blasting from the 8-Track Tape Player.  I remember riding around with my best friend Scott and my cousin Mark.  Memories of places I had since forgotten flood my mind simply by listening to a song.  Times to remember.