January 27 2019 Third Sunday after Epiphany

January 20, 2019 CHILDREN’S MESSAGE

          Hi boys and girls.  I don’t know if you noticed but the bible passage read just a little bit ago talked about body parts and which is the most important body part.  So I wonder which is the most important body part?  Are your eyes more important than your ears or than your legs?  Who thinks eyes…raise your hand?  (Accept responses) Who thinks ears… raise your hand? (Accept responses) Who thinks legs?  (accept responses)

          Some folks think some body parts are more important than others, but the fact is they’re all important and it gets pretty difficult to live life without them.  Imagine living without eyes, or ears or legs?! You can appreciate how important they ALL are.  In fact, scripture even points out when one part of the body is hurting it affects the whole body.  Have you ever stubbed your toe really badly?! OUCH!  Its just a small part of your body but when its hurting it makes it hard to do other things well.

The bible passage we read today tells us that followers of Christ are just like parts of the body.  We don’t all look the same or are designed to do exactly the same thing- like eye’s and ears do two really different things but they’re still part of the body. And we wouldn’t want to not have eye’s just cause they do look the same and do the same thing as ears? 

So God has designed the body of Christ, (you and I and other followers) to work together to get things done.  Just like God designed our bodies to have different parts, with special jobs, God designed his church, the body of Christ, to have differing parts doing special jobs.  And when it all works together well it glorifies God, when those parts don’t work so well together it doesn’t glorify God.

I guess what this Bible passage wants you to know is two things.  First, you are an important part of God’s design for Christ’s body.  He made you special to glorify him by working together with others.  Just cause you’re not a pastor or play the organ doesn’t mean you’re not important to the cause.  You as small as you are, are an important of Christ’s body.

Second, you’re not meant to go it alone, we’re supposed to be working together, like a body’s various parts works together.  And don’t be jealous or mean to someone else just because they don’t have the gifts or job you have in God’s church.  Remember if the eye told the ear to take a hike cause it wasn’t the same as the eye that wouldn’t help the body at all.  We may all be different but when we come together to be Christ’s body, the way God designed us to…its beautiful thing and it benefits everybody!

Before we go let’s have a prayer:  God I see so many beautiful body parts up here today.  Children who are eyes, ears, lungs, brains, hearts and big toes of Christ’s body! Help them to cherish being part of your body and to use the gifts you gave them as part of Christ’s body to glorify your name.  Amen.  Okay…eyes, ears, lungs, brains, hearts, big toes of Christ’s body get going and I’ll see you next week.

 

January 27, 2019 2nd Sun after Epiphany “In it together, forever!”

          And now may the words of my lips and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer.  There’s the story of a young preacher out on the plains of Nebraska who on a snowy Sunday morning had only himself, the organist, and an old dedicated rancher.  The young minister had spent hours drafting a sermon, but only one old rancher showed up for services that Sunday. The young minister asked what he should do, and the rancher replied, "If I loaded up a truck with hay and only one cow showed up, I'd feed her."  The young minister was encouraged and eloquently delivered the entire, lengthy sermon. At the conclusion of the service, the rancher shook the minister's hand and said, "But if only one cow showed up, I sure wouldn't give her the whole load." 

          Some folks might be concerned I’m gonna try to make up for lost time because of last week’s canceled service.  I want to assure you that I’ll do my best to Kiss it today- meaning  “Keep It Simple Stupid.”

          Our first scripture reading has the Israelites fresh from being released from captivity in Babylon back on their respective ranches looking over the devastation that had been their homes wondering what happened, what went so wrong?  The leaders of the Israelites Ezra and Nehemiah gathered them together for a welcome back worship service where they had the law of the Lord read aloud to the people as a reminder of whose people they were, what God they were supposed to worship, and what was expected of them as Israelites. 

Hearing the news of that scripture read aloud of what was expected of them- do justice, love their neighbor, honor the sabbath, it easily dawned on them why there had been devastation.  Not one thing God asked of them had been done right.  They’d earned God’s punishment and they began weeping, lamenting, regretting and Ezra and Nehemiah told them stop.  This is a day for celebrating a new start, a do over. 

The good news of this text is so many folks after so many struggles, so many hardships, such oppression and depression had filled in the blank of In it _______ with “In it alone” that Ezra and Nehemiah wanted them to know they don’t have to be “In It alone” but can be “In It together,… with God.”  Yes, there are expectations in this relationship. Yes, there are challenges, but life is going to have expectations and challenges. Wouldn’t you rather be “In It Together, with God?!”  So many of you tried it alone and look where that led.  Now God is giving a do over for an entire nation, give thanks and sing, celebrate and let’s try to be “In It Together.  “

It’s a new year and for some of us last year was just a little too much- too many struggles, too many challenges.  For others of us that is true of this year too, in just four short weeks life has had way too many challenges.  I want you to know, scripture wants you to hear.  Don’t fill in that blank In It ____ with “alone.”  You don’t have to be alone.  God is here and God hears, God is near and God cares.  When the Israelites, trapped in Babylon, thought they had no hope, no way home, God made a way for them.  Now they stood at home because of God’s help and they had a chance for a “do over.”  We get that chance too.

In our second lesson as Caleb ably pointed out to the kids, the body though it has very different parts, needs all those parts to work together for a healthy body.  Today too many people are filling in the blank of “In it _______” with “In It To Win It.” 

Plain and simple they are out to WIN.  If you are in their way, watch out.  That’s the only way to play or else you are a loser and life is made of winners and losers and which one are you gonna be boy?!  That simplistic outlook creates not just winners, losers, and competitors: it creates chaos, anger, violence, bigotry, cheating! It produces so many negatives that there is no positive that outweighs those tremendous overwhelming negatives. 

In our politics we are in it to win it- and it gets us what?? No progress, no workable immigration strategy, no workable economic policy, no reduction in debt, a government shutdown of historic lengths and to quote an old song “nobodies right if everybody’s wrong.”  That’s what happens when everyone is in “In It To Win It.” 

I’ll cut off my nose to spite my face.  I’m not an ear so I’m taking my eye and getting out of here.  Paul says we’re all part of the body, instead of insisting on being “In It To Win It.”  How about we say we’re “In It Together?”  We need each other.  We indeed are very different but that doesn’t mean unnecessary, or disposable, or “deplorables.”

Finally, our gospel lesson has Jesus telling folks: 18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” God says I’m In It With YOU.  I here to share good news, with all the stuff our media pumps out, depressing new, discouraging news, fake news wouldn’t it be great to get GOOD NEWS!  God is the giver of good news.

God wants us to know his message is one of good news, and liberty for those bound captive. Whether that captivity is from self-doubt or deadly drugs God can and has set the captive free.  God wants us to know his message is to bring sight to the blind.  Whether thats folks whose eyeballs don’t work or their insight for empathy or understanding is absent God can restore sight.  God wants us to know his message and mission is to free those oppressed.

That’s the whole message of Christmas that our God is with us, we don’t have to be “In It Alone,” we’re “In It Together.”  That’s the whole message of Easter that we’re headed toward. We don’t have to worry about being “In It to Win It”…because Christ has given us the victory.  When it comes to being asked are you a winner or a loser? We answer neither, I’m a lover.  I’m a lover because I’m loved…I’m in this with Christ, I’m in this for Christ, and We’re In It Together, Forever.  Amen.

 

 

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