“A lie or just fudging on the truth?”

June 20, 2022

Acts 5:1-11

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” was one of those quotes I kept from high school, Tale of Two Cities.  Today we enter the second “city.”  After the mountain-top of Pentecost, the survival of overnight jail and interrogation by authorities, the new followers are challenged not only by external pressures but also internal drama.  Joseph who becomes known as Barnabas, son of encouragement, sells a field to help the new community.  I bet his gift was met with many thank-you-s.  Ananias and Saphira, a couple in the fellowship, sell a piece of their property also.  Leaders inspire followers but this couple adds a twist.  They turn over money to the fellowship but keep some for themselves.  That may not have been wrong but they lied to Peter about the amount.  It seems that the “city” without is challenging the group’s integrity and the “city” within is challenging their integrity also.  Our faith must not only grow in the face of prejudice but also in face of challenges to our integrity.

         As we ponder how these early believers grew from a group of scared people behind closed doors on Easter evening to become a group that changed the world, integrity must have been an important characteristic God wanted to build into them.  The husband lied first and died on the spot.  The wife came in shortly after and she too lied.  She dropped dead.  We don’t hear these kind of stories today but that does not mean integrity and honesty are not important, to God and to the growth of ourselves and our fellowships.  It is so easy to fudge a little or just forget to tell the whole story.  All the court drama today testify to our desire that government, police, schools, families …. Our leaders be people of integrity.

      Sooooo, how do you measure up?  We want to “protect the innocent” and hyppa reminds us not to gossip about information that is not ours to share but it is still worth spending a couple of moments now asking the Holy Spirit to bring to mind areas where we are challenged and why.  For me if I expect censure, I might slip.  Ouch.  It is a good thing we can confess and seek forgiveness. Blessings as you face challenges without and within today!

Second Sunday after Pentecost

June 19, 2022

First Reading: Isaiah 65:1-9

1I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,
  to be found by those who did not seek me.
 I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
  to a nation that did not call on my name.
2I held out my hands all day long
  to a rebellious people,
 who walk in a way that is not good,
  following their own devices;
3a people who provoke me
  to my face continually,
 sacrificing in gardens
  and offering incense on bricks;
4who sit inside tombs,
  and spend the night in secret places;
 who eat swine’s flesh,
  with broth of abominable things in their vessels;
5who say, “Keep to yourself,
  do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.”
 These are a smoke in my nostrils,
  a fire that burns all day long.
6See, it is written before me:
  I will not keep silent, but I will repay;
 I will indeed repay into their laps
  7their iniquities and their ancestors’ iniquities together,
 says the Lord;
 because they offered incense on the mountains
  and reviled me on the hills,
 I will measure into their laps
  full payment for their actions.
8Thus says the Lord:
 As the wine is found in the cluster,
  and they say, “Do not destroy it,
  for there is a blessing in it,”
 so I will do for my servants’ sake,
  and not destroy them all.
9I will bring forth descendants from Jacob,
  and from Judah inheritors of my mountains;
 my chosen shall inherit it,
  and my servants shall settle there.

Psalm: Psalm 22:19-28

19But you, O Lord, be not far away;  O my help, hasten to my aid.
20Deliver me from the sword, my life from the power | of the dog.
21Save me from the lion’s mouth!
  From the horns of wild bulls you have | rescued me.
22I will declare your name to my people;
  in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.
23You who fear the Lord, give praise! All you of Jacob’s line, give glory.
  Stand in awe of the Lord, all you offspring of Israel.
24For the Lord does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;    neither is the Lord’s face hidden from them;
  but when they cry out, the Lord hears them.
25From you comes my praise in the great assembly;
  I will perform my vows in the sight of those who | fear the Lord.
26The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
  Let those who seek the Lord give praise! May your hearts  live forever! 
27All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord;
  all the families of nations shall bow before God.
28For dominion belongs to the Lord,
  who rules over the nations.

Second Reading: Galatians 3:23-29

23Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Gospel: Luke 8:26-39

26Then [Jesus and his disciples] arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”—29for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.
32Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
34When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

CHILDREN’S SERMON:  Another look at Aesop’s “Lion and the Mouse” 

A Lion lay asleep in the forest. A timid little Mouse came upon him unexpectedly. In her fright to get away, she ran across the Lion’s nose. The Lion laid his huge paw angrily on the tiny creature to kill her.

“Spare me!” begged the poor Mouse. “Please let me go and some day I will surely repay you.” The Lion was much amused to think that a Mouse could ever help him. But he was generous and let the Mouse go.

Some days later, the Lion was caught in a hunter’s net. Unable to free himself, he filled the forest with his angry roaring. The Mouse knew the voice and quickly found the Lion struggling in the net. Running to one of the great ropes that bound him, she gnawed it until it parted, and soon the Lion was free.

“You laughed when I said I would repay you,” said the Mouse. “Now you see that even a Mouse can help a Lion.”

Turn to your neighbor.  What choice do you think the lion had to make?  What choice did the mouse have to make?

Let us pray:  Lord may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.


Moments of Truth and Consequences

         Today we continue into the Pentecost season. Pentecost shifts our attention from who our God is, as seen in the life of Jesus, to challenging us to ponder who we are with Jesus in our lives. At Pentecost the Spirit touched 3,000 lives and the Christian church started to have birthing pains.  Peter stood and preached, people believed and somehow life was different.  We now return to earlier texts with a different perspective. An encounter with the Holy tells us about God but it also changes us.  We come to a fork in the road of our life.  The lion had a choice to make in our Aesop fable.  Would he eat the mouse or spare it’s life?  The mouse had a choice to make also.  Would she try to aide the lion or let him die?  The consequences of choices impacts the trajectory of lives. 

         In our text today we have three sets of people or beings who stand on holy ground and must make a decision about what they are going to do.  The man, the demons, and the towns’ people all encounter Jesus and decide how to respond.  We are here today watching as the disciples did, the unseen audience standing on holy ground, and we must decide if we are going to snooze or apply the truth God brings to our hearts today!

A Man Obsessed or Possessed

         We don’t much like to talk about demon possession today as evil is for cartoons or for those people of the other party or the other country or just plain different from us.  Our text has a man who has been possessed by demons that controls his life.  Before we dismiss this, perhaps we know people who struggle with alcohol, with pornography, with anger, with eating, with shopping and dast we mention gossip!  Uvalde and how many other mass shootings testify that this Biblical story is real today.  To be human is to be susceptible to the influences of evil.

      To be tempted is not the problem.  Jesus was tempted.  The problem comes when we are driven by the tempter.  The man “had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs.”  Ouch.  When we are out of control, we are no longer able to clothe ourselves socially.  The addiction identifies us and labels us and we loose our unique identity as child of God.  We use words like drunk, addict, gossip, or loose to describe people who are not in control of their lives.  The man lived in the tombs, in hiding, out of touch with those who might help him.  Death is the companion.  We have suicide prevention lines and depression counselors and support groups for people caught in the grips of evil.  Let us not deceive ourselves, we are this person or at least we could be.  This is not a story.  This is real. It is us.

         This man has a choice.  He chooses to draw near to Jesus but please note, Jesus is not afraid of him and is willing to engage.  Jesus orders evil to leave as the man falls down before him. 

         “28When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the    top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”” 

Our man, as well as the demons, as well as the towns’ people, as well as the swine, and maybe even us, are all gripped with fear at the thought of interacting with Jesus.  Perhaps here we have a big clue for spiritual growth and peace.  When we are in the grips of fear, it probably is not God speaking but evil.  In the presence of that fear the man must decide to approach Jesus or flee to the tombs.  He approaches and Jesus restores him.  Jesus is not afraid of the man or the evil within him.  Jesus is more powerful than evil. And Jesus reaches out to the man in his helplessness.  The man realizes he is in the wrong and is afraid of torment.  I suspect when we know we are in the wrong, we too, become afraid of God and we are afraid of torment or afraid of the cost of repentance. 

         I have quoted Robert Frost’s poem before and do again:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

We choose Jesus and he heals.  We choose to run with fear and we suffer.  We all today have choices to make.  Jesus calls us to life!

Demons possessed or possessor

Our second group of beings that deal with Jesus are the demons possessing the man.  They know they are in the presence of the Holy, of the Son of God, and they bargain.  They beg not to be sent back to the abyss but into a herd of pigs.  Jesus grants their request.

         Yup, we know bargaining too.  Have we ever bargained with God and asked him to rescue us from a perceived trauma and promised to ….  At least we promise to be better, to return to church, to not eat sweets again, to not turn on pornography… if only he would deliver us this time.  I think this is the stuff of New Year’s resolutions and we all know we are lucky if we finish January before we slide into old habits again.  I catch myself with mouth in motion and shoot a prayer to heaven for help so I won’t be snarky again, but I am.

         Bargaining post pones the consequences.  The demons are allowed to go into the pigs but the pigs run down the steep bank to the lake and are drown.  The outcome is death so where are the demons now?  Getting the human dreams of our hearts is often not a solution and only leads to more pain.  I think of all those young adult dreams when I was sure I had found the right guy but that ended in pain.  It was only as I started listening to God and seeking his will that my life turned around.  The lion could have eaten the mouse but it would not have satisfied his hunger.  The mouse could have ignored the roars of the lion but she could not quiet her conscience that would remind her of his kindness and her promise.  Bargaining works for a while but it is not a good, long-term solution.

         Take a moment and sweep through your memory.  Are there areas in your life where you are bargaining with God and compromising?  Perhaps it is only avoiding saying “sorry” and healing a relationship.  The fear of humiliation, blocks the joy of restoration.  We need to put down those loads of anger and resentment and jealousy we carry.  Violence does not resolve anger.  Alcohol does not resolve grief.  The demons stand in the presence of Jesus but cannot say that four lettered word, “help.”

Town People Refuse

The demoniac pleads for help.  The demons bargain for compromise.  The town people just plain refuse Jesus and ask him to leave.  God does not force us to believe and be good and choose his way.  Jesus has cured the demoniac and returned him to his right mind.  Living proof of his power.  Jesus has sent the demons into the swine and into the lake.  Living proof of his authority.  God’s power and authority are used to help the demoniac and, I would contend are living demonstrations of Jesus’ loving commitment to help us.  In the presence of God’s love, people do refuse and send Jesus away.  The lion had no guarantee the mouse would ever help and the mouse had no guarantee that she could help the lion.  Both chose mercy. 

         The town’s people were seized with great fear.  Fear can paralyze us.  I think we say that the known enemy is better than the potential problems of the new.  I keep my old clunker because I know it’s quirks rather than buy a new-to-me used car.  Trust is scary.  People walk away and often we blame ourselves.

         The demoniac, now healed, is sent back to work with those people.  I think of those people we deeply love who seem to have hardened their hearts to God.  Like the demoniac, we have been healed and we have a story to tell of how God worked in our lives.  Perhaps we can remember when we felt out of control as if we were running around unclothed.  Perhaps we remember living in the tombs when we were so depressed and death felt like such a real option.  Perhaps we remember those failed bargains with God because our choice was not the best choice and we paid the consequences.  And perhaps we remember times when we hardened our hearts and insisted on doing it our own way and turned our back on God for a while.  So often the problem or challenge facing us is as big as a lion and we see ourselves quivering in fear like a mouse.  But I think that the beauty of the story is that Jesus crossed the lake and found the demoniac, was not afraid of the demoniac and had the power and authority to heal the demoniac.  What crossroad are you standing at today?  The best choice is the Jesus road.  He’s there and will bless.  Don’t be afraid.

The people of God said, “AMEN!”

“Breathe on Me Breath of God”

June 18, 2022

This week we pondered Acts 3 and 4 and we saw those followers of Jesus who were so much impacted by Pentecost, the spiritual high that changed lives and the direction of their faith, but are now living the everyday life.  They go to the Temple, as normal, to pray and are met, as normal, by beggars.  They are living in the afterglow but going about life as normal.  But something has changed and they are changing.  They meet the lame beggar with the truth.  They have no silver or gold but they do have faith in Jesus as healer, as crucified and as risen and alive and active in the world-today.  This faith is not a college degree by fishermen but a truth that has become integrated into their lives and actions.  So they reach out to the beggar and he walks!!!  In the Temple!!!

         Religious leaders are flabbergasted and jail Peter and John over night.  Afraid of the crowd and the obvious reality of the healing they release the two with serious warnings.  The new group that is forming is going to clash with authorities and the clouds are beginning to form on the  horizon.  So what do they pray? “Enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”

         In 1876 Edwin Hatch of the Church of England wrote the hymn “Breathe on Me Breath of God.”  It was published privately in a pamphlet entitled “Between Doubt and Prayer.”  Dr. Hatch also served for a while as a professor of the classics at Trinity College in Canada.  He was known for his scholarship and lectures in early church history.  The hymn not only refers to the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, brooding over creation but also speaks to the events of Pentecost we have been looking at.  The prayer is that this Holy Spirit would continue working in us and enabling us to share how God has impacted our lives.  It’s a devotional hymn so take a few moments to enjoy this old classic.

“..enter Barnabas, son of encouragement…”

June 17, 2022

Acts 4:32-37

Sharing faith that Jesus heals at the beginning of chapter 3 of Acts, ends with a global statement describing this early fellowship of followers of Jesus.  Sharing faith became the sharing of life resources so no one was in need.  Individually our ability to impact drastic situations is limited.  None of us can do it alone.  But when we start working together, suddenly hope appears.  The news this morning shared the testimony of the impact on Europe of thousands of Ukrainian refugees who have not drained Europe’s resources but been a blessing.

     The chapter ends with the introduction of a man who became known as Barnabas, son of encouragement.  He evidently sold a field and offered the money to the group.  His story does not end here because he becomes a traveling companion of Paul on Paul’s missionary journeys.  But I am intrigued by his nickname, Barnabas.  My husband was called “Twiga” that means giraffe in Swahili because he was the tallest kid in the class, reaching 6 ft. 6 in.  My sister was called Blondie by my father because….she was blonde…a bit obvious.  And I was Curly because I had curly hair.  Usually our pet names are chosen by others because of qualities or characteristics they see in us.

         Perhaps think of one of your nicknames and why it was given or perhaps think about what nickname you would like to be known by if you could.  It’s kind of like picking your epitaph.  I heard a lecture once that you are not ready to live until you are ready to die and so picking what you would like to be known for is a good exercise.  Think about it and commit the matter to God in prayer.

“..enable me!”

June 16, 2022

Acts 4:23-31

Back with friends who the day before had bid them farewell as they headed to the Temple, Peter and John report-in on their adventure.  They spare no details and tell of the conflict with the authorities and their night in jail.  Being a follower of Jesus was not a politically correct stance back then as often it is not here today.  The group gathers together and prays.  They comfort themselves that the unfolding of events can be seen predicted in Scripture and so is not surprising.  But listen to their prayer request, “enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”  In the face of persecution, they pray for boldness of integrity and faith.  They did not ask for protection.  They asked for boldness.  The result of that prayer was that the faith community grew in faith, in experiencing signs and wonders, and in generosity with each other.

         So what is our prayer?  Are we praying for boldness to speak our truth about our experience of Jesus?  I fear the pressure today is towards tolerance and not to offend someone who disagrees with us.  I looked up synonyms for bold and found words like daring, brave, valiant, fearless, courageous, unafraid, adventuresome, spirited, positive, confident plus more.

         Let’s take a minute now to pick just three of these synonyms and write a sentence of what faith described by the word would look like.  For example, I might write, “Being brave would mean sharing when I’m afraid I’ll be laughed at or rejected and when I am afraid I will loose social status.”  Give it a try with a couple words and then pray for what you would like to receive today.  Blessings as you reflect.  May we be brave and not scared!

“What are we going to do with these men?”

June 15, 2022

Acts 4:1-22

A man lame from birth suddenly starts to walk, leaps and praises God, right in the middle of the Temple!  I bet that was a scene.  Faith moved a mountain and the authorities were confounded.  They threw Peter and John in prison for the night and had a meeting the next morning. Peter and John did not back down under question and were very clear that the miracle was done by Jesus and the establishment had refused to believe in Jesus and crucified him.  “What are we going to do with these men?” the leaders lament.   Stories of faith seen by people, force us to re-examine our own faith.

         I remember in my youth, our group first played on a guitar praise songs during worship.  Until then only the piano and organ were considered appropriate.  The pastor’s wife stomped out as we sang.  New and different does not necessarily mean wrong or heretical.  How do we decide?  The Temple leaders did not go to Scripture or prophesy but it seems they were afraid of the people.  Public opinion is seldom a good indicator of truth.  Popularity does not make right.  How do you gauge truth so that you keep growing?

     One way to evaluate is to see if the reasoning is consistent with the over arching theme of Scripture.  Picking a verse here and there and stringing them together in an argument often ends up being divisive as seen by our various Christian traditions and denominations that all think they are right.  I find it interesting that Peter goes to the source of the healing, Acts 4:10-12,

“  this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. 11 This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
    it has become the cornerstone.’12 “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.””

Peter gives credit to the name of Jesus and not to himself and his own faith.  He accurately identifies the source of power, God.

         So how do you evaluate truth and grow spiritually?  Public opinion? Or can you identify the hand of God?  Perhaps our prayer today is to ask God to open our eyes that we can recognize him working in our world.  Remove prejudice and confront us about areas of blindness that prevents us from growing.  Speak Lord, we listen!

“Why does this surprise you?”

June 14, 2022

Acts 3:11-26

After Pentecost Peter and John were walking in the Temple going to pray and were met by a crippled beggar.  The man wanted money but Peter and John shared what they had, faith that Jesus could heal.  The man was healed and praised God.  Peter turned preacher again, turning to the crowd and asked them, “Why does this surprise you?”  Peter then is able to draw the line through recent historical events, the life-crucifixion-resurrection of Jesus and connect the dots with the crowd’s lack of belief.  The ability to connect the dots in historical events is the stuff of the evening news programs.  We are still trying to connect the dots on Covid, on January 6, or the thinking behind Ukraine.  I believe we often will hear, “history will tell if…” because as history unfolds we gain better perspective and understanding on whether we made the right decision today.  History will tell if so and so was a good president.  In fact history speaks to the truth of the Bible!

         Peter puts the healing of the cripple man in the broader context of religious history and prophecy about Jesus.  Spiritual growth, I suspect is being able to see our situation in the bigger plan.  Joseph says to his brothers who out of jealousy sold him into slavery in Egypt, when they are finally reunited.  He is able to say to them, “you meant it for evil but God meant it for good.”  Hebrews 12:15 warns, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God, that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble and through it many become defiled.”  It is hard to grow spiritually and be at peace if our hearts are chained to some past situation that we have thought about so long that the offense has grown into a relationship breaker.  Take time to sit quietly and ask God to bring to mind any situation you may need to put in a better perspective and repent or forgive.  Perhaps you cannot deal with the actual person but you can repent of your part and ask God to connect the dots for you.  He holds the big picture.  Blessings.

“Silver and God have I none!”

June 13, 2022

Acts 3:1-10

After Pentecost the followers of Jesus were still part of Judaism, going to the Temple to worship and pray.  But somehow things were different.  The following kids song tells the story of Peter and John going to the Temple and meeting a cripple begging for money.  Their response is classic.  “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, give I thee.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”

         Looking through the lens of faith formation, what do we learn about how these early followers are growing in faith?  Our faith challenges are no different today.  Perhaps we are not going to the Temple but we are exiting the freeway and see the person with a sign begging for money.  We may need to deal with that child caught in addiction, asking yet again for assistance to pay the rent.  We won’t mention the unending stream of ads asking for just one little gift to help them meet that wonderful goal of theirs.  The demand always is bigger than our perceived sense of resources and we feel guilty as we weigh all the needs calling out to us.

         One of my favorite stories is about living in a famine relief camp in northern Kenya for four years and being down to my last cup of sugar I had squirreled away for my son’s birthday cake.  Of course my friend came to the door asking if I had sugar.  People there survived by begging.  I battled my conscience as I could not lie to her.  I admitted that I had a cup of sugar I was willing to give half to her but before I could finish the sentence she  shhhhed me and said to come to her hut as she had gotten some and would share with me!!!  She, the refugee, remembered me and thought of my need and believed me.  That was a big lesson for me.

         Peter responds to the beggar, “such as I have” he would share.  He did not have silver or gold but he did have faith. He had walked with Jesus and seen Jesus heal many people.  We cannot always give the person asking just what they want.  We may not have it nor may it be wise but we always have something we can share – if only a smile or a glass of water.  Let us pray today for a generous heart that can identify what resources we have that can help others and that we can share with love.  The man wanted silver or gold and got the ability to walk.  The result was praise.  May we bring joy to someone today.  Blessings. 

The Holy Trinity / First Sunday after Pentecost

June 12, 2022

First Reading: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

1Does not wisdom call,   and does not understanding raise her voice?
2On the heights, beside the way,
  at the crossroads she takes her stand;
3beside the gates in front of the town,
  at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
4“To you, O people, I call,
  and my cry is to all that live.

22The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
  the first of his acts of long ago.
23Ages ago I was set up,
  at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24When there were no depths I was brought forth,
  when there were no springs abounding with water.
25Before the mountains had been shaped,
  before the hills, I was brought forth—
26when he had not yet made earth and fields,
  or the world’s first bits of soil.
27When he established the heavens, I was there,
  when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28when he made firm the skies above,
  when he established the fountains of the deep,
29when he assigned to the sea its limit,
  so that the waters might not transgress his command,
 when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
  30then I was beside him, like a master worker;
 and I was daily his delight,
  rejoicing before him always,
31rejoicing in his inhabited world
  and delighting in the human race.”

Psalm: Psalm 8

1O Lord our Lord,
  how majestic is your name in all the earth!—
2you whose glory is chanted above the heavens out of the   mouths of infants and children;
  you have set up a fortress against your enemies, to silence the foe and avenger.
3When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
  the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,
4what are mere mortals that you should be mindful of them,
  human beings that you should  care for them? 
5Yet you have made them little less than divine;
  with glory and honor you crown them.
6You have made them rule over the works of your hands;
  you have put all things under their feet:
7all flocks and cattle,
  even the wild beasts of the field,
8the birds of the air, the fish of the sea,
  and whatever passes along the paths of the sea.
9O Lord our Lord,
  how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Second Reading: Romans 5:1-5

1Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Gospel: John 16:12-15

 [Jesus said,] 12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”


One of the dynamics that grabs the imagination of people, young and not so young, are super heroes.  Marvel Comics has created a whole “universe” of these people in recent years and movies to go with them!  Turn to your neighbor and share who was your favorite super hero when you were a child?  Mine was the Lone Ranger.

Let us pray.  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart by acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.


Today is the first Sunday after Pentecost and is always dedicated to talking about the mystery of our God, the Triune God, who is three in one.  It’s hard to get our mind and our language around the Trinity.  In fact we are always living into a deeper and deeper understanding of who our God is and who we are to God.  But let’s give it a try.

         Last Sunday we heard about the Holy Spirit who descended like a giant wind, appeared like tongues of fire on heads, enabled people to speak foreign languages and touched hearts of 3,000 people from all over the world who then wanted to become followers of Jesus.  WOW!  I wondered how people today hear this text and internalize its truth.  Is the Holy Spirit added to our list of Super Heroes that we follow or is there something entirely unique that sets the Holy Spirit apart and adds texture to our understanding of the Trinity? 

         We have a whole host of tales about beings we call “super heroes” today and that we have made movies about.  Christians make movies like “The Jesus Film” or “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “The Passion” that competes for attention.  I would claim that the Holy Spirit is not just another super hero to add to our list of tales about the past.  Christians have the Trinity while secular society enjoys the Fantastic Four.  I looked up the definition of “super hero” on the Internet and a super hero is a character that does feats that a normal human cannot, i.e. has super power.  The hero uses that power to help humanity battle with evil.  Actually there are evil beings like Lex Luther or the Joker that oppose them, somewhat like Satan.

         I first thought of the Lone Ranger from my childhood.  He charged across the Wild West rescuing people from evil’s grip, righting wrong.  He wore a mask so his identity was no clearer than the Holy Spirit.  “Who was that masked man?” was always a closing comment to an episode as he rode off on his white horse.  The Lone Ranger was also known by his silver bullet, a symbol of purity.  The Holy Spirit is often identified with speaking in tongues, glossolalia (your own personal worship language for prayer) or foreign languages (as in Pentecost).  The Holy Spirit comes to do good, help the needy, and has a pure heart.  Perhaps the Lone Ranger is known because of his faithful friend Tonto who always comes with him to do the good deed.  The Holy Spirit is not a stand-alone act either.  The Spirit is part of the Godhead.  Where the Spirit goes, God is present.  So far our super heroes are competing well with the Holy Spirit for our affection.

         We love Superman who disguises himself as Clark Kent and then runs in a closet to reappear in his outfit and flies off, jumping buildings in a single bound, to help the needy people of Metropolis.  Is the Holy Spirit just a new expression of Jesus? My sister, who is 73 years old, shared about a new Marvel Comics character in the film Fantastic Four.  The character’s name is Susan Storm.  Susan is a human who was affected by radiation and mutated into a super hero who has the ability to become invisible to come to the aid of helpless humans in the grips of evil.  Susan can become invisible and has super power to help humanity.  Sounds a lot like the Holy Spirit.  OK, so let us now go back to our texts today and try to clarify super heroes whom we dress up like at Halloween or pay to see at the movies, from the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Trinity whom we worship.

First:  “he will guide you into all the truth”

         I note that the Holy Spirit is first described as a “guide,” not as a savior or the creator.  His first role mentioned in the Trinity is guide.  Super Heroes jump into action to rescue endangered people and use their super powers to defeat evil.  Houston we have a problem!  How do we see God?  Is God a being to make my life safe, comfortable, and happy-ever-after or rather do I see myself as partnering with God?  Guide calls us to evaluate how we understand God.  I suspect often “God” by definition has power that I pray, hope, will be mobilized for my serious situation.  When I am not rescued from my plight I may well blame God for not caring or blame myself for being not worth caring about.  Suffering challenges faith in ways that confirmation never did.  Suffering differentiates the Trinity from Super Heroes.  Wayward children, suicide, bankruptcy, health crises, marriage problems all drive us to our knees and the Evil one loves to whisper in our ears that God does not see, does not care, and chooses not to act. Our text tells us that the Spirit is a guide into truth, not health, wealth and prosperity.  He leads and we follow.  Super heroes resolve situations and are applauded and famous.  The Holy Spirit is often like the wind of Pentecost, blowing but unseen, guiding us through the events of our life.

         Unlike the Super Heroes, the Holy Spirit was able to be with 3,000 people at Pentecost, guiding each into truth in his own heart language. 

         So let us sit back for a moment and ponder where we need the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth today.  For certain, when we go out into the parking lot and burn the mortgage, we can claim that the Holy Spirit has not just been active at Pentecost but is also active today guiding Bethany into its future.  We still need the Spirit to guide us.  But perhaps there is a situation or a question you personally need to bow your head and commit to the Holy Spirit to guide you today.  

Second:  “he will declare to you the things that are to come”

The Holy Spirit as part of the Trinity guides us into truth. The text continues to say that the Holy Spirit not only guides but also declares.  The Holy Spirit is not a Super Hero that deals just with the challenges of evil in the present. The Holy Spirit declares what is to come. We often think of ‘future talk” and the Bible as the arena of prophecy, the unfolding of historical events, perhaps end times.  Certainly historical prophecy is Biblical but let me broaden our thinking today to how truth declares our future. 

         If we kill, for sure we are murderers and sinners. and we will face trial if only in the court of our own conscience.  God’s word guides but also declares the benefits and pitfalls of disobedience and how disobedience unfolds and impacts our future lives.  When we choose violence and hate as a solution to disagreement, we take a fork in the road and our life changes forever.  Jealousy is building our house on the sand and when the storms come, our life dissolves. Seeking vengeance, not turning our other cheek or offering forgiveness will spiral into unending conflict.  God’s Word as applied in our hearts by the Spirit does talk to the present but also gives us a window into the future.

         Perhaps this is also the basis for the Holy Spirit interceding for us when we don’t know how to pray.  Certainly we are invited to pray about the problems we see our loved ones facing, prayers of intercession that speak into the future even as God holds our futures.

         The Lone Ranger rides off into the sunset.  The Super Hero is in our life for a time but not forever.  The Holy Spirit appeared at Pentecost, at Christ’s baptism, and at creation. The Holy Spirit did not just appear at Pentecost but as part of the Godhead, has been present in our past, our present, and guides us into our future declaring and revealing the best path.  That journey may involve suffering but the Holy Spirit is with us even as the air we breathe is in our lungs.

         So again let’s take a moment.  We need the Holy Spirit’s guidance but perhaps we need the Holy Spirit to declare, to clarify something for us.  Commit it to him.

Third:  “He will glorify me”

The Holy Spirit guides and walks beside me through the challenges of today.  The Holy Spirit declares things that are to come.  Thirdly, though, the Holy Spirit glorifies the Godhead.  The text now talks about the unity of purpose and identity of the Godhead.  The Spirit glorifies Jesus who is one with the Father – a Trinity.

         Theologians have struggled with this reality and what it means.  In confirmation the pastor talked about a banana peel coming off in three pieces but one piece of fruit.  Perhaps that was a picture that worked for a while.  I have come to think of electricity as an example.  Electricity flows through my house but I cannot see it.  It powers the lights in the room that sometimes I see and sometimes I don’t..  It powers the television that brings pictures and news from afar.  It powers the radio and sound.  It also somehow creates heat in the stove.  All those things are powered by electricity, unique in their expression, but unified also.

As we burn the mortgage today, we will not wave our giving statements to say “Look what we did!”  I have confidence you will bow your heads in prayer and say “Thank you, Lord.”  You guided us through this process.  When we doubted our strength, you declared you were with us leading us to this day and into the future.  We give the Triune God the glory.  The Holy Spirit is somehow like the Super Heroes of the movies but so much more.  The Holy Spirit is God and we bow in worship. 

Thank you for guidance.

Thank you for declaring the outcome of things to come.

May God be glorifies.

The people of God said, “AMEN!”

Shine, Jesus, Shine

June 11, 2022

History of Hymns: “Shine, Jesus, Shine”

(This week we went from Pentecost to Trinity Sunday and we looked at the deep affect Pentecost had on the birth of the Christian church.  This song was electric in the 90s and speaks to me of Pentecost.  I share an article on the history of the hymn that I found. umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-shine-jesus-shine)

“Shine, Jesus, Shine”
Graham Kendrick
The Faith We Sing, No. 2173

Few Christian songs composed just 20 years ago have had such an immediate impact on congregational singing as Graham Kendrick’s “Shine, Jesus, Shine” (also known as “Lord, the light of your love is shining”).

Graham Kendrick (b. 1950), a native of Blisworth, Northamptonshire, England, now resides in Kent. The son of a Baptist pastor, he began writing songs in the early 1970s and today is one of the most prolific British Christian singer-songwriters and worship leaders.

Initially trained as a teacher, he began his career as a singer/songwriter in 1972. He now has over 30 albums and 400 songs to his credit, and his songs are sung throughout the world in many languages.

“Shine, Jesus, Shine” has been a song of hope at noteworthy events such as the 1996 Dunblane memorial service for 16 students and teacher who were tragically killed, and the Tasmania massacre memorial service for the 40 people killed by a lone gunman, also in 1996.
Other large gatherings that used the song include the Billy Graham crusades to the largest ever open-air mass in 1995 in Manila, where Pope John Paul II is said to have “swung his cane in time to the music.”

Mr. Kendrick says of the song’s origin: “Bearing in mind the worldwide popularity of this song, perhaps the most surprising thing about the writing of it is the ordinariness of the circumstances.

“I had been thinking for some time about the holiness of God, and how that as a community of believers and as individuals, His desire is for us to live continually in his presence. My longing for revival in the churches and spiritual awakening in the nation was growing, but also a recognition that we cannot stand in God’s presence without ‘clean hands and a pure heart.’ So I wrote the three verses and ‘road tested’ it in my home church. Though there was clearly merit to the song, it seemed incomplete, so as I was unable at the time to take it any further, I put it back in the file.

“Several months later I was asked to submit new songs for a conference song book, and as I reviewed this three-verse song, I realized that it needed a chorus. I remember standing in my music room with guitar slung round my neck trying different approaches. The line ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’ came to mind, and within about half an hour I had finished the chorus, all but some ‘polishing.’ Though I felt an excitement in my spirit at the time, I had no inkling at all that it would become so widely used. There were other songs I rated more highly at the time that most people have never heard of!”

Stanza one focuses on the light “shining in the midst of the darkness” and Christ as the “Light of the World” (John 8:12). This Light “set[s] us free by the truth…” (John 8:32).

Stanza two reflects on coming before the “awesome presence” of Christ, where “the shadows [turn] into your radiance.” Christ’s brightness “consume[s] all my darkness.” The final stanza focuses on how Christ’s brightness may be reflected in our lives as “our faces display your likeness.”

Charles Wesley’s famous hymn, “Love divine, all loves excelling,” is fleetingly paraphrased as Christ’s brightness is “ever changing [us] from glory to glory” as we mirror him. The third stanza concludes with a petition: “May our lives tell your story.”

Mr. Kendrick’s efforts have been recognized in many ways, including a Dove Award (1995) and an honorary doctorate of divinity from Brunel University (2000) in West London.

“Shine, Jesus, Shine” was voted tenth in a 2005 survey of the United Kingdom’s favorite hymns by the BBC’s Songs of Praise program.

Dr. Hawn is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology.