"Demanding the Impossible" December 3, 2017
Your Joys are our joys, your laughter brings laughter to us, Your Sorrows are our Sorrows, your Fears and Nightmares we accept, we feel your Tears, because you have become Part of us, God is part of your life, that does not, cannot ever, go away.
"Why Judgment?" November 26, 2017
Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24
Matthew 25: 31-46
Reading this passage from Matthew, someone in a Bible Study once declared: “I love this passage because it scares all the would-be-goats with the punishment to come.” Which surprised me because I had never before thought about the punishment.
In fact in all four of the Gospels, this is the only place where the Greek word for “judgment” is used. The only other reference in ALL the New Testament is in the First Letter of John 4:18 which says that “Love casts out fear, because fear has to do with judgment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. We love because God first loved us.” The reward of God’s love always seemed enough motivation.
All around the world this is Christ the King Sunday, established as such in the 1800s, when Princes and Presidents and Dictators were emphasizing their authority and power on the world stage. I think there is a wonderful story about Bishop Hugh Latimer, who was a very outspoken Bishop of London. One morning, seeing King Henry VIII seated in the Sanctuary, Bishop Latimer paused to pray before preaching. Rather than muttering in silence, in a stage whisper the Bishop prayed: “Latimer, be careful what you say this day, King Henry is here.” Following which, he prayed “and all should be careful, for so also The King of Kings is here.”
"Reluctant Servants" November 19, 2017
Numbers 22: 7-12, 21-35
Matthew 25: 14-30
This morning I entreat you to recall a time when you did wrong. More than a simple mistake, in particular when you wronged someone else. Possibly you gave instruction to another to do wrong, perhaps you chose to not act when you knew and believed it would have helped, or you committed an act by which you caused harm to others.
"Witnesses Against Ourselves" November 12, 2017
Joshua 24: 1-25
With Only so few opportunities for worship in a given year, last week we began describing Joshua’s continuing Moses’ leadership; and this morning we pick up 30 years later, decades filled with fighting battles against the Canaanites, internal struggles of a new Nation as Joshua aged. This passage began: “God had given rest from all their enemies”, meaning this was a time of peace and prosperity. These words provide transition from the completion of the Torah and Joshua (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua) of the Hebrew Scriptures of the Law of Moses // to the start of the histories of The Judges, when the Old Testament’s Great heroes would be called upon: Gideon and Samson, Deborah, Jotham, Ebimelech, Jephthah, Boaz, Ruth, Eli and Samuel who would anoint the King. A time in history, when each person did what they thought right in their own mind; 350 years when people routinely pledged to be faithful then turned away from God. In this time of Peace and Thanksgiving before Joshua should pass, Joshua acts as a mouthpiece for God, recounting all that God has done for the people of faith. Joshua bore a unique role as much Witness as prophet. Joshua was present beside Moses at the 1st Passover, and again at the Red Sea, when God provided Manna in the wilderness, when God brought victory so long as Moses lifted up his arms to the Lord. Joshua was at Mount Sinai when God gave Moses the 10 Commandments. And after Moses’ burial, Joshua led the people through Circumcision, and across the Jordan; Joshua was among the Spies sent into Jericho, and throughout the many battles taking possession of the land, until each tribe had their own territory. Joshua had witnessed all the many Commitments of the people to serve God; AND Joshua had witnessed each time the people followed their fears instead of God. When the Nation crossed the Jordan, God instructed that the wars to come were Holy Wars between God Almighty versus the Canaanite Idols and a sinful people, therefore the Hebrews were instruments of God, and were to take nothing for themselves. They would have the land flowing with Milk and Honey, which was promised them and it would be for their salvation, they did not need Canaanite trophies. We do not often speak of the conquest at the City of Ai, because one of the Soldiers found a cup from the Canaanites and put it in his bag, for which the people of Israel were sent back into the wilderness another 40 days and nights to purify themselves, being reminded of their dependence upon God before coming to Jericho.
In this time of rest and peace and prosperity, when all the tribes were settled in the land, Joshua invites the people to “Reconsider Covenant.” This is different from all the other Covenants; as the Covenant with Adam, with Noah, with Abraham, with Isaac and Jacob, as well as the Covenant with Moses at the Burning Bush and on Sinai with the 10 Commandments, had all been Covenants offered by God to singular individuals representing humanity, Israel. HOWEVER, here the Covenant in a time of Thanksgiving, asks all the people to consider if they can and will be a People of God?
"Sanctify Yourself for Humble Service" November 5, 2017
Be STRONG, Be of GOOD COURAGE, HUMBLE in SERVICE, SANCTIFY YOURSELVES all of this refers to instruction to “Experience Life with Authentically.”
Tourists for hundreds of miles around, come to the Finger Lakes for Leaf Peeping, to see lakes and witness the Glory of The Finger Prints of God, which we go passed.
Different from what I have seen in the Northeast, along the roadside in Midwestern States there were immense Stone Cairns, some with the names of every county in the State, others with identification of every City in the County. As children, our parents would pull the car off the road at these rest-stops and we would finger all the names inscribed into the stones, never understanding why these stone cairns had been established. Year ago hiking the Adirondacks, the trails were marked with similar stone markers, that you depended upon to find your way. When you started out in the morning, due to the fog, you often could not see up ahead, you could see from this marker to the next, and that experience was enough. You did not have to worry about the future or the past, you had to live in the moment, confident you knew who you were and where you were.
What Joshua here instructs the tribes to do, is to gather boulders together, to build a stone Cairn, to mark the spot where they “crossed over Jordan” for salvation.
Last Sunday, we read of Moses looking over the Promised Land and Moses’ burial. In the first two Chapters of Joshua, over and over Joshua is told to be strong of courage, here he instructs the leaders to tell the people “Sanctify Yourselves”.
Literally, everything that had ever been promised to Abraham, to Isaac & Jacob, as well as throughout the 40 years with Moses escaping Egypt, was being fulfilled. What an awesome responsibility, one that was not given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Moses, but is given to you, so be Strong, Be of Courage! Sanctify Yourselves in Glory!
This is a holy thing, do Not miss it.
THE PREDICAMENT OF THE PROSPEROUS, is that faith is wholly reasonable when you are believing in and working at a promise, but different, once you possess everything you need and desire. Faith for Joshua is less about fulfillment “someday”, than about being thankful to have survived, thankful to have God’s blessings. As we approach Veteran’s Day, it is not as other Countries have done displaying our Military Weaponry, but a time of GIVING THANKS for having been brought through!
"500 Years of reformation" October 29, 2017
Velcro-ing six computer printed pages to the doors of the Skaneateles Presbyterian Church, does not have the same sound or impact as Martin Luther’s nailing his 95 Theses to the Doors of the Cathedral at Wittenberg as invitations to Debate! The Sunday prior to All Saints’ Day 1517, at All Saints’ Cathedral in Wittenberg, Germany, Rev. Martin Luther was committing a bold act of defiance, challenging the Orthodoxy of the Holy Roman Empire, challenging the authority of Church Law, challenging the Infallibility of the Pope, challenging a very lucrative money-making scheme, challenges for which others had recently been burned at the stake! 500 years later, that we remember what he did, that the Catholic Church has undergone radical reformation, that Evangelical Lutheran, Missouri Lutheran, Wisconsin Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian, Congregational Churches all exist spread throughout the whole world, is like Moses looking out over the plains of Moab, witnessing the fulfillment of all that God had promised, and yet in his human existence Martin Luther, like Moses, did not have opportunity to enter into it. The actions and ideas of Martin Luther inspired: Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, William Penn, Thomas Jefferson, Women’s Suffrage, Civil Rights, use and expansion of the Printing Press, our having Bibles in every Pew and for every Believer, our being able as Christians to worship God in our native Languages; HOWEVER, none of this was what Rev. Martin Luther set out to do.
A moment ago, we read Matthew’s account of Simon Peter’s Confession, that” the Son of Man in Jesus, who is the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” We read accounts of this in each of the Gospels, emphasizing the leap of faith Affirming Jesus as being the Christ which sets Jesus on the road to the Crucifixion… but the early Church grabbed hold of two different elements of this story. The Disciple Simon, Andrew’s brother, was renamed Peter, Petrified, meaning The Rock foundation of the Church, identifying Peter as the First Pope. And Jesus gave to Peter “The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.” We hear the next part of Matthew as explanation of what those Keys might be: “That what you bind on earth is bound in Heaven, whatever you loose is loosed in heaven” meaning that the Keys to Heaven are about Forgiveness. As human beings we have awesome power and responsibility, that we choose to Not forgive, we prevent others from being forgiven, and we possess the power to Free ourselves and one another in forgiveness.