Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Church Transformation

Today's sermon for transfiguration Sunday.


Today is transfiguration Sunday.  It’s the day where we celebrate the transfiguration of Jesus, the glory of the Lord coming down upon him and the voice of God coming down to tell us that this is his son, with whom he is well pleased, listen to him.  This is the moment when Jesus’ clothes turn dazzling white and his face shines like the sun.  The Glory of God is shinning through him.

Now in past years, I’ve chosen to talk about how we can be transformed through this transfiguration as individuals but this year, as I was thinking about this, I started thinking more about the church.  Our church and how we might be able to better shine the light of God in our communities, how we might be transformed as a church. 

Would you please pray with me?  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts and minds be acceptable to you, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  Amen.

So what does it mean for the church to be transformed?  How can we transform our church into a fire burning brightly with the Glory of God?  I’ve got to tell you this is a hard message for me to write and preach and I’m sure it will be a hard one to hear too but I think we all need to acknowledge this need for transformation.

I’ll be honest with you.  I’m not sure that I know how to do this but I do think that if it’s something we all want, together, we can make it happen.  

I’ve read lots of articles about declining churches.  One thing they all seem to have in common, is that they say we shouldn’t be solely focused on the budget side of things.  We shouldn’t always be worried about money.  I know, it is a worry, and it’s a legitimate worry but it can’t be our sole focus, our sole purpose for doing the things we do or for not doing things either.    We must be good stewards but we must also have faith.  I’m a believer in “If God calls you to it, He will see you through it.”  If God wants us to do something, he will make sure we have what we need to do it.  

I think that as a church if we encourage our members to give, to tithe, we as a church should do the same.  We have to give as a church.  That can mean that we make more of an effort to give to our missional shares to the big church or that we give more in our community.  

And that brings me to another thing most of the articles have in common, that we need to be a missional church.  What does this mean?  Well, I think it means we need to be out in our community we need to be offering something to our community.  What can we offer?  There are so few of us and little money... it’s hard.  But here’s the thing.  I think we need to be getting out in the community to shine the light the of Christ, not necessarily to get new members or to get people to come to our church but just to be out in the community to do good, to love our neighbors.  We shouldn’t be doing any of this to get something out of it, we should just be doing it because we love our community and we want to be out there helping and sharing with our neighbors.  Because we are followers of Christ and we want to live as he wants us to live.

So how can we be that burning fire in the community that shines the light of Christ?    I think here at Edwardsville we had a good start this church year.  We collected school supplies for the school up the hill.  We collected cleaning supplies for those affected by floods.  We collected snacks to treat our police and firefighters and to show them we appreciate them.  We also took them some soup and chili a couple of weeks ago.  But we can’t stop here.  What else can we do to get out in our community?

So how can we be that burning fire in the community that shines the light of Christ?  I think here at Grinter Chapel we started the church year out well.  We collected school supplies for the school up the road, we collected cleaning supplies for those affected by floods.  We make the bed pads for cancer patients. We had the trunk or treats for the neighborhood children and they seemed to just come out of the woodwork! We have been doing some wonderful things but we can’t stop here.  What else can we do to get out in our community?  What else can we do to show our community we care?

Well, I really think we need to be in prayer about this.  I think we need to have discussions about it.  I think we need to search our Bible for ideas.  Jesus was a great missionary.  He loved the people, he cared for them. We need to study the scriptures to see what it is that he is teaching us to do.  We need ask God for guidance in all that we do.  We need to seek out this transformation, we need to open our hearts to the transformation God has in mind for us.  We need to listen to the community.  We need to keep our ears open to the needs of those around us.

Now, you may be thinking, ‘Wow, Sherri.  You really got a little off here.’  I don’t know, maybe I did but let’s think about those who where there with Jesus on that mountaintop.  At first they were in awe, they were excited and wanted to stay where they were.  Peter wanted to build dwellings there so they could stay there.  Then a cloud overshadowed them and the voice of God was heard and they fell down in fear!  One commentary I read said, that they were face down in the dirt afraid.  Transformation can be scary.  Change can be scary.  But Jesus came over to Peter, James and John and touched them saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.”  And then he led them down that mountain back into the world, the community.  

I think Jesus is here with us right now.  I think that in days gone by this church shone brightly the light of Christ, the Glory of God but I’m afraid that at some point, as things began to change, as the faces in the church changed, as we grew older, we fell down in fear, afraid that we couldn’t make it anymore.  Afraid to change with the changing faces, afraid of the transformation that is coming.  But again, Jesus is right here with us.  Can you feel him touching you on the shoulder?  He is saying to us right now, today, do not be afraid.  Get up and follow me out in the community.  Get up and let my light shine through this congregation.  Get up and let’s be the transformation we need to be so that we can be that fire burning brightly with the Glory of God.  Let’s open the doors again and let the Light of Christ out into community.  Let’s go out the doors and BE the light of Christ.

Wednesday is the first day of Lent.  Lent is a 40 day journey of prayer, temperance and spiritual growth.  We can start this journey with the Ash Wednesday service here.  Come with your hearts open and ready to begin this journey of transformation through prayer and spiritual growth.  

We can use these 40 days to pray. To pray for our personal transformation in Christ, to pray for each other’s needs and to pray for our church’s transformation.  

We can use this time as a time for spiritual growth.  We will have devotional booklets available one per family to help us move these 40 days together.  Take one and spend a few minutes each day with God as you join the rest of us in devotion.  If you feel so led, there will also be a few banks, where you can place your spare change to help feed the hungry of our nation through the gleaning projects around the country and then bring it back with you on Easter Sunday as a special offering.

Join us in Bible study on Tuesday mornings at 10am here at Edwardsville as we begin a Lenten study with Adam Hamilton’s book, The Way.  We’ll be doing the DVD study but if you can’t join us and would like to participate, you can order the book and read along.  Let’s grow spiritually as a church together.

During these 40 days come to worship and invite your family and friends to join us.  Worship is such an important part of our spiritual journey.  Don’t neglect it.  Let’s worship together as a church family each Sunday these next 6 weeks.

During these 40 days, find ways to serve in our community, whether it’s through the banks I mentioned earlier or through the Cancer Action bed pads with Laura Dell, or volunteering at a shelter or school.  Let’s join together as a church and serve our community.

If you so led take these 40 days to abstain from something. It doesn’t have to be food or a bad habit, it can be from gossip or complaining, fear or anxiety.  You don’t have to be perfect at this just mindful of it. As a church, let’s encourage one another in this.

In these 40 days, take time to be still.  Take time to just sit in the quiet with God, through meditation, prayer, yoga or just sitting out on the porch with a cup of coffee or tea and listen for God’s voice.  

During these 40 days, take some time to forgive and to seek forgiveness.  This one is a hard one for me but it is so important.  Reconciliation with each other and then with God is a powerful thing both as individuals and as a church.  As a church, who do we need to reconcile with?  Who do we need to forgive and who do we need to ask to forgive us?

Basically, over these next 40 days, let’s be open to this transformation, to this spiritual growth, to reconciliation, Let’s be open to God’s voice.  Let begin this journey without fear, knowing that Christ is right here with us, leading the way.  Will we follow?  Will we allow this transformation to take place here in our church?  Are we ready to open our doors to the community?  Are we ready to GO OUT of our doors into the community to be the Light of Christ?  I hope so.  

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Holy Perfection

Good Sunday Morning!  How are you this morning?  It's a bit foggy here but I can see the sun trying to come up on the horizon to brighten our day.

Do you have plans for worship this morning?  I've been thinking on my sermon for today.  I'm not going to share it here, at least not right now but the topic is Holy Perfection.  This morning as I was thinking on this while getting the kitchen ready for both lunch and breakfast (Crockpot meal), I found myself irritated with my DH because he threw something away that he deemed trash, that I had been saving for this morning's meal prepping.  I'm working hard on not being angry, it's an honest mistake, not really a big deal and yet...  I'm irritated.  He was being helpful by cleaning up the kitchen for me.  He was loving me by helping me and yet... I feel irritated...  I'm working on loving him for the help he offered.  I'm working on not being petty, and not letting something so silly get to me.  IT REALLY DOESN'T MATTER, SHERRI!  Let it go!

Then my sermon came back to me.  Holy Perfection.  Emulating God's quality of perfection, remembering Christ's command to 'be Perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.'  Remembering the Lord's words in Leviticus, "You shall be Holy, for I the Lord your God am Holy."  I remember my sermon, where I say practice, practice, practice.  I remember that we are to be consistent with Love.  Now, I love my husband, he just gets on my nerves sometimes, Lol, but if I struggle here, with someone I love deeply, how in the world am I supposed to love my enemies?  Practice, Practice, Practice.  Be so full of love that you can't help but love always.

As my DH continues to drive me nuts today I will try to practice what I preach... I will try to remember to strive to practice, practice, practice Holy Perfection of LOVE.

Have a great day!  and DH, I love you!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Visiting Day

Good morning!  I hope you have been having a great week so far.  I have.  It's been busy, and I've complained about things that I really shouldn't have but I'm over that for now.

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:  to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."  James 1:27

Tuesday's are my visiting days.  I go visit a few shut-ins on Tuesday evenings.  It's such a blessing to me.  I love spending time with them.  We laugh, and visit and laugh some more.  I love to see their smiles and hear their stories.  If you have never visited a shut-in, you should give it try.  Not, only will you make their day, but I bet your day will be blest even more.  

I've also been busy trying to get ahead on my devotion writing.  I really enjoy it but sometimes it's hard to find the verses to share.  I do enjoy it though. I think it's interesting how as I look, one will just POP out at me and say this is it!  If you are interested in receiving these short devotions, you can subscribe to them in the sidebar or here.  

Well, it's time to get on to my sermon writing.  This week's topic?  Holy Perfection.  How are you doing at this?  What do you do in your life to strive for Holy Perfection?  

Monday, February 13, 2017

It's Time to Grow Up

Yesterday's sermon based on the lectionary readings.  

  • Deuteronomy 30:15-20 or Sirach 15:15-20  • 
  • Psalm 119:1-8  • 
  • 1 Corinthians 3:1-9  • 
  • Matthew 5:21-37

  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      It’s Time To Grow Up

      I think most of you receive the daily devotions I send out through email.  If you don’t and would like too, let me know and get me your email and I’ll start sending them to you.  They are usually very short and come early in the morning so that you can spend a little time with God each morning.  Anyway, A couple of our devotions this week used scriptures that talked about us growing up or no longer being children.  They talked about us growing spiritually.  They both talked about speaking truth.  About being careful not to follow those who would mislead us.  Not to blindly follow as a child would but to grow up and put childish ways aside, to open our eyes to those who try to trick us and lead us astray.  In one of the devotions, I said we should look through the lens of love to help us see what is truth.  In today’s society, it’s easy to get caught up in the hot topic of the day, it’s easy to follow the masses who are ridiculing the other side, slandering those who have a different opinion.  It’s easy to share and spout ‘facts’ others tell us without checking to see what is true and what’s not, but these verses from 1 Peter 2 and Ephesians 4 instruct us to do the opposite.  They instruct us to Grow Up and so do our verses today.

      Would you please pray with me?  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts and minds be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.  Amen.

      Okay, I know, it probably seems rather harsh to just say, “It’s time to grow up,” as I did in the sermon title, but well, it is.  In our reading in 1 Corinthians this morning, Paul compares the people of Corinth to infants (in Christ).  He says he couldn’t come and speak to them as spiritual people, because they were infants in Christ, they are still people of the flesh.

      What does that mean?  Well, in the very next verse, he says, “For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?”  Of the flesh.  I decided to look at other translations and interpretations of these verses. In the Common English Bible, in place of in the flesh, it says still unspiritual.  What does that mean?  Well, I looked a popular interpretation, The Message Bible, and it had a lot to say here.  It still says, that they are acting as infants in relation to Christ, but then, where the other translations talk about quarreling, fighting, and jealousy, The Message says, “As long as you grab for what makes you feel good, or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way?”  Wow.  Now that feels a little harsh doesn’t it?  There are lots of harsh moments in the Bible, and I think they are God’s way of trying to get our attention.

      My kids used to say (and I use the the phrase use to generously if you know what I mean), why do you have to yell?  My reply has always been, well, because the first 3 times I said it you didn’t seem to hear me!  

      Maybe God is the same way.  In our reading in Deuteronomy we are commanded to walk in his ways, observe his commandments and decrees.  We are told to choose life, to love God, obey him and hold fast to him. We are warned about turning our hearts away and not hearing God and then bowing down to other gods.  I think this happens when we are spiritually immature, like babies in relation to Christ.

      Then in our call to worship which is based on Psalm 119  We are told to keep his decrees, to seek him with our whole hearts, to walk in his ways, having our eyes fixed on his commandments.  I think these are lists for growing up spiritually, in Christ.

      Then our reading in the Gospel this morning, talks about the commandments too but Jesus takes them even further.  When speaking of the commandment, “You shall not murder,”  he takes it further by saying, “If you are angry with a brother or sister, you are liable to judgement, if you insult them, you are liable to the council and if you say, “You Fool”, judgement is yours too.” Instead, we are to love them, to reconcile with them and as it says in 1 Corinthians we are to work TOGETHER.

      These days that seems so very hard, work together?  What even is that?  And yet, that is totally what we are to do.  We are to work together, we are to choose life, life in Him and live as he calls us to live, following his commandments, walking in his ways, loving God and all his people always.

      Our Bible study this past week focused on the topic of “Growing People Change.”  We talked about how Paul was opened to this growing by Christ himself.  When he met Christ on the road, he was faced with his sins against Him.  His eyes were opened to the truth and he then took time to grow and through that growth he was changed.  In fact, he went from persecutor of Christians, someone who killed Christians, to one of the best evangelists and preachers of the Gospel who ever lived.  He was changed.  He grew out of a spiritual infant in Christ to spiritual leader.  His friend, Apollos, had a time of growing as well, he was an infant as he started spreading the Gospel but he grew to understand the Gospel better by working with other followers and preachers of the Gospel.  At one time people started saying they were followers of Paul, or Apollos or Peter but Paul sets them straight on this when he asks can Jesus be divided?  Jesus cannot be divided and neither should we.  We cannot love personality over truth.  

      Now, I’m not trying to get political on you.  I promise.  But I’ve been seeing a lot this infancy in Christ lately and I think it is time to Grow Up, to Grow spiritually.  To seek Christ more, to follow him more, to spend more time with him, to walk in his ways, to follow his commandments and go deeper into them.  It’s time for us to grow up and reconcile with our brothers and sisters, it is time for us to stop using God’s name, the name of Christ in vain to get our own way.  It’s time for us to Grow up and love God and our neighbors as we love ourselves.  In fact, i think it’s time for us to love others so much that we put them ahead of ourselves.  It’s time for us to Grow up and place our trust and fear to God.  It’s time for us to fix our eyes on His ways in every way.  It’s time for us to grow up and put our jealousy and quarreling away and learn to work together with one another, and to see each and every person for who they really are, Loved Children of God and start working together to change the world into the Kingdom God created us to be.  Amen.

    Sunday, February 12, 2017

    Joy In the Morning

    Well, hello there!  It's been a while.  I will admit that I've been caught up so much in the news lately that I've not had time for blogging and honestly, since this isn't a political blog, I haven't really had a lot to say that I felt was blog worthy but the weather has been warming up a bit and I've been able to get outside a little more and so my thoughts have turned again to blogging.

    It was a beautiful day on Friday here.  I'm thinking the warmer temperatures do something wonderful for our little min pin.  He has been so ...  well, he just sits and sleeps, he doesn't bark out the window anymore, he doesn't even notice when we come home... that is until Friday.  He's been barking and dancing around and begging to go on walks and then he prances and trots around the neighborhood.  The warmer weather must feel good on his bones and joints.  It is wonderful and fills me with joy.  I had really started to worry a lot about him but he's like a puppy again.

    I'm up early this morning, sitting by our front window, looking out at the sunrise and it too fills me with a joy.  It's cloudy but the light is breaking through and I can just barely see the pink dawning on the horizon, just starting to peek over the houses across the street.  The trees are blowing gently in the breeze and it seems so very peaceful out there.  I stepped out to see if I could you a picture of it and it is a beautiful morning!

    It's cool but just lovely.  I wish I had a big front porch with a cozy place to sit and just enjoy it.  The wind rustling through the trees adds to the peaceful feeling for me.  I'd need a blanket to snuggle under but it would be an amazing way to start my day but I don't, so sitting next to the window looking out at it will have to do.  I've got my hot cup of tea and I will enjoy watching God paint the sky with beautiful, vibrant shades of pink.

    My phone just can't pick up the vibrant colors.  I hope you are up right now so that you can enjoy this beautiful display.  Isn't it amazing to think that God puts on a show like this for us twice a day?   I definitely need to get out and enjoy it more often and thank him Him for it too.  

    Good morning, Lord!  It's so good to meet here this morning.  Thanks for the beautiful painting.  It's perfect.  Amen.