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“Being Thankful for Hope” Ephesians 1:15-23

Dear Shawn,

While this letter does not mean anything to you now, one day it might.  Hopefully this letter will provide some meaning to your family who has gathered today because they love and support you, but also to your church family who have also gathered today in thanksgiving and also because of this occasion.

“Charge to the Candidates” Acts 6:1-7 Deacon Ordination Sunday

Ordaining three deacon candidates in one year is a bit unusual for a church our size.  Our three new deacons, Deb, Shane, and Dan, join previously ordained Christian Henry and Nelson Hale as being elected by congregational vote in early September.  Of these five, only Dan Crowley is home-grown, meaning that he was baptized here.  While Nelson grew up in Madison, he was raised Episcopalian and came to our church through marrying Cathy.  Christian grew up in Augusta; Deb grew up in Virginia; Shane grew up in Sparta and also came to our church through marrying Emily.

“Encouraging Photos” Hebrews 12:1-2

I love looking at old photographs.  I think I got this trait from my mom, who at age 85 has lots of old photographs.  She has a big portrait in an ornate black frame of my great-great-grandparents who looked very stern.  Supposedly, my great-great grandfather was quite the cut-up, somewhat of a family trait, but one could never deduce it from the old, yellowed portrait.

“Harmfulness of Apathy and Complacency” Matthew 25:14-30

Did you hear about the company that makes blank bumper stickers?  They’re for people who don’t want to get involved.

Some may laugh, but we know that apathy and complacency are detrimental to growth.  If satisfaction is the norm, then movement forward becomes a bit abnormal.  Safety is a heightened concern when we speak of national security, but when an organization “plays it safe,” that generally means that stagnation can set in. 

“Sharks in the Aquarium” Ephesians 4: 7-16

Before Jimmy Johnson offered pregame commentary on Fox NFL Sunday, he was quite a successful football coach at both the professional and collegiate level.  As coach of the Dallas Cowboys, he led his team to two consecutive Super Bowl victories.  A few years ago, I read an interesting tidbit about Coach Johnson: he collected and enjoyed exotic fish.  He enjoyed them so much that he had seven saltwater aquariums in his Florida home.  Notice that I said salt water.  By the way, I also found out that the plural of aquarium is either aquaria or aquariums.

“Which Is More Important?” Luke 18:18-30

We are given choices all the time.  Making decisions is a critical component of everyday life, although some decisions are certainly more important, more reaching, and more pressing than others.  In placing decisions in a balance, we sometimes become so engrossed on “What’s in it for me?” that we lose sight of the bigger picture.  The eyes of society have blinked with dollar signs for so long that some simply cannot see anything else.  Cost and profit constitute the bottom line.  Our New Testament Lesson speaks of making a decision and also indirectly speaks of greed, which is contrary to the Christian lifestyle.  This has nothing to do with working hard nor feeding your family.  Yet this sermon has everything to do with being a disciple of Jesus.  In church life, today is Stewardship Sunday, which also involves individual decision-making.  Today I pose a question, “Which is more important, money or God?”

“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.