28Oct

The Wedding Service for Timothy Richard Macklin and Anna Mary Bulat on Sunday, October 20, 2019

On Sunday, October 20, I officiated the wedding of Timothy Richard Macklin and Anna Mary Bulat at Hanover Park, Pennsylvania. Below is a picture and a podcast of the service. If you're planning your wedding and need an officiant, please give me a call at 304-479-3402.

 

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24Oct

Cove’s Celebration Service - Sunday, October 20, 2019

The members and friends of Cove gathered to worship on Sunday,  October 20. Our worship is intended to be a free expression of our love for God and the joy we feel when we accept that love. Of course, there are many ways for us to express that love and joy.

This morning, we started a new series entitled Living the Faith. We’ll focus on how we might show to others the trust we have in Jesus Christ. During the month of October, we’ll look at the following topics:

  • October 6 – Loving the Family
  • October 13 – Obeying the Commandments 
  • October 20 – Making a Difference 
  • October 27 – Bringing in the Harvest 

If you miss one of these messages, you can find a copy and podcast on The Cove Community blog.

The service began with a video.

 

Instrumental and vocal music are important to our worship. Songs give us the chance to praise God and to help focus our attention on the theme of the service. During the service, we’ll have the opportunity to sing songs that reflect different musical styles. Since God has called into his church as individuals with a variety of tastes, this offers us the chance to display our sensitivity for our fellow worshipers and to grow in our knowledge of how we might praise God. Our first song was Go Make a Dff’rence.

 

Our prayers represent our communication with God. Of course, as Paul wrote, the Holy Spirit “...intercedes for us with groans too deep for words”; therefore, God already knows our needs. Still it’s important that we put them into words, as well as the regret we feel for our sins and our thanks for all God has done for us.

 

 

During this service, there were two times when we prayed together.  During the Our Congregational Prayer, we confessed our sins and hear the assurance that we're forgiven.  We also have the opportunity to lift our concerns and needs to God.  We closed this prayer with The Lord’s Prayer. After we collected the offering, we praised and thanked God for his presence in our church and within our lives. When we collected the offering, we watched a video of Matthew West performing Do Something.
 
After our prayer of thanks, Pastor Rudiger shared a message. A lot of folks seem to think that faith is most clearly shown by what they say. In other words, if they can work “Jesus” into every conversation, then they must be a genuine disciple. And if they say that the Bible shapes their values and opinions, then they must be spiritually mature. And if they’re ready to defend what they say, then they must be walking in the footprints of prophets and apostles. Of course, there’s a reason why it’s been said that words are cheap. I mean, if what we say doesn’t translate into how we live, then our words mean very little. And for that reason, during the four Sundays in October, we’re going to move beyond the words and focus on Living Our Faith.
 
And this morning, we started this series by considering how important it is for us to show our faith by making a difference in our world.
 
The service ended when we sang our second song, Make a Difference. 
 
A podcast of the entire service is below. Next week, we'll continue our series dealing with four ways we might live our faith. During the third message, we'll talk about being ready to bring in the harvest.

22Oct

Living Our Faith - Making a Difference

A lot of folks seem to think that faith is most clearly shown by what they say. In other words, if they can work “Jesus” into every conversation, then they must be a genuine disciple. And if they say that the Bible shapes their values and opinions, then they must be spiritually mature. And if they’re ready to defend what they say, then they must be walking in the footprints of prophets and apostles. Of course, there’s a reason why it’s been said that words are cheap. I mean, if what we say doesn’t translate into how we live, then our words mean very little. And for that reason, during the four Sundays in October, we’re going to move beyond the words and focus on Living Our Faith.

And this morning, we continued this series by considering how important it is to make a difference in the world around us.

 

As I think most of y’all know, during the month of October, we’re looking at the importance of living our faith. And during the last two weeks, we’ve talked about how our faith in God and Jesus Christ can be shown by us deciding to love one another, particularly within this community that God has drawn together, and I’m talking about the Body of Christ, in other words, the church. And then last week, we considered how and why obeying God’s commandments can also be a pretty clear indication of what we believe. Of course, these two things aren’t mutually exclusive. I mean, we can certainly love one another and obey God. As a matter of fact, Jesus himself said, “But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples.” [John 13:34-35, CEV] Now this isn’t rocket science. If we love one another, then we’re obeying God. If we don’t, then we’re not. I mean, dah.

 

And I’ll tell you something, when we extend that love out, and I’m talking about out into the world around us, we’re actually moving into the topic we’re looking at this morning, namely that we can live our faith by deciding to make a difference. And as we’ve done before, we’re going to approach this by asking three questions. First, what does it mean to make a difference? And second, how can we make a difference in the world around us? And third, why it is important for us, as Christians, to decide that we’re going live our faith by making a difference? Now that’s what we’re going to do. And I hope, by the end of our time together, we’ll be ready to step out into the world so that we can make a difference both as individual Christians and as the Body of Christ.

 

Living Our Faith - Making a DifferenceOf course, doing it is pretty much impossible until we answer the first question, what does it mean to make a difference? And I think to get a better understanding of what this is, it makes a lot of sense to think about what it’s not. You see, making the kind of difference that shows faith in God just can’t be about focusing on ourselves, you know, on what we think or feel or want. In a word, it’s not about us. For example, it’s certainly not about creating chaos, like the Joker in The Dark Knight, or dividing folks, like Adenoid Hynkel in The Great Dictator, or hurting one another, like Boba Fett in Return of the Jedi. As a matter of fact, the apostle Paul wrote this to the Romans: “My friends, I beg you to watch out for anyone who causes trouble and divides the church by refusing to do what all of you were taught. Stay away from them! They want to serve themselves and not Christ the Lord. Their flattery and fancy talk fool people who don’t know any better.” [Romans 16:17-18, CEV] And according to Proverbs, “There are six or seven kinds of people the Lord doesn’t like: Those who are too proud or tell lies or murder, those who make evil plans or are quick to do wrong, those who tell lies in court or stir up trouble in a family.” [Proverbs 6:16-19, CEV] Now I hope we all agree that this isn’t the kind of difference-making that shows faith.

 

Instead, I think it’s about deciding to make where we are a better place, and I’m talking about a better place for everybody, including ourselves. For example, I think it involves making our witness to God’s love and grace and salvation clear and focused. As I read just a minute ago, Jesus said this to his disciples: “But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples.” [John 13:34-35, CEV] And I also believe it’s about making our community as strong and as united as possible, something I think Paul was encouraging when he wrote, “Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together.” [Colossians 3:13-14, CEV] And maybe above everything else, I think making a difference means doing what’s necessary to improve the lives of others. And I’ll tell you, based on what he taught, we know it was important to Jesus; therefore, maybe it should also be important to us. And you know, that may be the reason Jesus said this to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory with all of his angels, he will sit on his royal throne. The people of all nations will be brought before him, and he will separate them, as shepherds separate their sheep from their goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘My father has blessed you! Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world was created. When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat; and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me.’” [Matthew 25:31-36, CEV] You see, it’s about making the world around us a better and more loving place. That’s what I think making a difference is all about.

 

And I’ll tell you, that really leads to the second question, how can we do it? You know, how can we make a difference in the world around us? Well, for me, that involves both broadening our vision and strengthening our dedication. Let me explain. On one hand, we become a whole lot more effective when we’re able to see needs that are close at hand as well as those that are far away. I mean, just think about this scene from the movie Schindler's List. [video] “He who saves one life saves the world entire.” You see, on one hand, our ability to make a real difference increases when our vision is broad enough to include both one life and the world entire. On the other hand though, as Christians, we really start making a difference when we decide to strengthen and to focus our dedication. For example, as we talked about last week, we need to obey what Jesus taught, you know, like when he said, “This is what I say to all who will listen to me: Love your enemies, and be good to everyone who hates you. Ask God to bless anyone who curses you, and pray for everyone who is cruel to you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, don’t stop that person from slapping you on the other cheek. If someone wants to take your coat, don’t try to keep back your shirt. Give to everyone who asks and don’t ask people to return what they have taken from you. Treat others just as you want to be treated.” [Luke 6:27-31, CEV] Of course, this is just one example of how Jesus taught us to live. And right along with obeying his words, we can make the kind of difference God wants us to make when we follow Christ’s example, something that he was pretty clear about when he said, “If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me. If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me and for the good news, you will save it. What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself? What could you give to get back your soul?” [Mark 8:34b-37, CEV] I’m telling you, if our vision is broad enough to include needs that are close as well as those that are not so close and if we decide to obey the words and follow the example of Jesus, we’ll be well on our way to doing what we’ve been called to do, and that’s how we can make a difference.

 

And with that say, all we have left is our last question: why, why should we care about whether or not the world around us is a better place to live? And why is it necessary to broaden our vision or strengthen our dedication? In other words, why is it important for us to make a difference? Well, I’ll tell you, to answer that one, I think we need to look at the kind of impact this can have on both the world around us and on ourselves. Of course, it’s not hard to figure out how it may effect our world, especially if we choose to work together. And I’ll tell you, doesn’t the world sure need it? On Monday, I saw Joker over at Robinson, and I’ve got to tell you, it was one of the most disturbing movies I’ve seen in a long time, but not because of the violence or the language. No, it was the underlying meaning that I found so depressing. You see, as presented in the movie, the Joker, Arthur Fleck, wasn’t the agent of evil, instead he was a reflection of the insanity that was already there within his society. He was delusional and crazy but so was everybody else in Gotham City. In other words, he was the product of his world, one in which basic values and standards had broken down and the insane was accepted as the norm. I’ll tell you, there was no ray of sunshine in this movie. And as I driving home, I just could shake the thought that we’re becoming or worse have become Gotham right now, a place where fundamental norms that have always governed society have broken down and where we’ve all deluded ourselves into believing that whatever we think is the only acceptable thought and that behavior which used to be considered crazy is not only accepted but expected. I’ll tell you, that may be our world. And for that reason, I think we all desperately need a community of people, working together, trying to fight the insanity and to make the world a better place.

 

But you know, I don’t think it’s just about the world. You see, I believe we become more faithful when we decide to make a difference. And I say that for two reasons. First, it’s simply what we’ve been called to be. I mean, just listen to what Jesus said to his disciples: “You are like salt for everyone on earth. But if salt no longer tastes like salt, how can it make food salty? All it is good for is to be thrown out and walked on. You are like light for the whole world. A city built on top of a hill cannot be hidden, and no one would light a lamp and put it under a clay pot. A lamp is placed on a lampstand, where it can give light to everyone in the house.” [Matthew 5:13-16, CEV] Man, we’ve been called to be salt and light and that’s what we need to be. That’s one. And two, I believe working to make the world a better place is the perfect response to God. Listen to what John wrote in his first letter: “God is love. If we keep on loving others, we will stay one in our hearts with God, and he will stay one with us. If we truly love others and live as Christ did in this world, we won’t be worried about the day of judgment. A real love for others will chase those worries away. The thought of being punished is what makes us afraid. It shows that we have not really learned to love. We love because God loved us first.” [1 John 4:16b-19, CEV] We love others, because God loved us. Faithful people sincerely want to change the world because it also changes them, and that’s why we do it.

 

You see, at least for me, that’s the what, how, and why which lies behind our desire to make a difference. And so, right here and now, lets decide that instead of focusing on ourselves, let’s focus on making where we are a better place. And then let’s choose to broaden our vision and strengthen our dedication. And then, let’s step out so that we can see what’ll happen in our world and within ourselves. In other words, lets decide to live our faith by making a difference. And next week, as we tie up this series, we’ll talk about how our faith can be shown by our readiness to bring in the harvest.

22Oct

The Wedding Service for Trenton Young and Alexandra Closson on Friday, October 18, 2019

On Friday, October 18, I officiated the wedding of Trenton Young and Alexandra Closson at Point Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. , Below are some pictures and a podcast of the service. If you're planning your wedding and need an officiant, please give me a call at 304-479-3402.

 

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17Oct

Cove’s Celebration Service - Sunday, October 13, 2019

The members and friends of Cove gathered to worship on Sunday,  October 6. Our worship is intended to be a free expression of our love for God and the joy we feel when we accept that love. Of course, there are many ways for us to express that love and joy.

This morning, we started a new series entitled Living the Faith. We’ll focus on how we might show to others the trust we have in Jesus Christ. During the month of October, we’ll look at the following topics:

  • October 6 – Loving the Family
  • October 13 – Obeying the Commandments 
  • October 20 – Making a Difference 
  • October 27 – Bringing in the Harvest 

If you miss one of these messages, you can find a copy and podcast on The Cove Community blog.

The service began with a video.

 

Instrumental and vocal music are important to our worship. Songs give us the chance to praise God and to help focus our attention on the theme of the service. During the service, we’ll have the opportunity to sing songs that reflect different musical styles. Since God has called into his church as individuals with a variety of tastes, this offers us the chance to display our sensitivity for our fellow worshipers and to grow in our knowledge of how we might praise God. Our first song was Trust and Obey.


Our prayers represent our communication with God. Of course, as Paul wrote, the Holy Spirit “...intercedes for us with groans too deep for words”; therefore, God already knows our needs. Still it’s important that we put them into words, as well as the regret we feel for our sins and our thanks for all God has done for us.

 
During this service, there were two times when we prayed together.  During the Our Congregational Prayer, we confessed our sins and hear the assurance that we're forgiven.  We also have the opportunity to lift our concerns and needs to God.  We closed this prayer with The Lord’s Prayer. After we collected the offering, we praised and thanked God for his presence in our church and within our lives. When we collected the offering, we watched a performance by Derrick Monk of I'll Obey.
 
After our prayer of thanks, Pastor Rudiger shared a message. A lot of folks seem to think that faith is most clearly shown by what they say. In other words, if they can work “Jesus” into every conversation, then they must be a genuine disciple. And if they say that the Bible shapes their values and opinions, then they must be spiritually mature. And if they’re ready to defend what they say, then they must be walking in the footprints of prophets and apostles. Of course, there’s a reason why it’s been said that words are cheap. I mean, if what we say doesn’t translate into how we live, then our words mean very little. And for that reason, during the four Sundays in October, we’re going to move beyond the words and focus on Living Our Faith.
 
And this morning, we started this series by considering how important it is to obey God's commandments.
 
The service ended when we sang our second song, I Will Obey
 
A podcast of the entire service is below. Next week, we'll continue our series dealing with four ways we might live our faith. During the third message, we'll talk about making a difference.

17Oct

Living Our Faith - Obeying the Commandments

A lot of folks seem to think that faith is most clearly shown by what they say. In other words, if they can work “Jesus” into every conversation, then they must be a genuine disciple. And if they say that the Bible shapes their values and opinions, then they must be spiritually mature. And if they’re ready to defend what they say, then they must be walking in the footprints of prophets and apostles. Of course, there’s a reason why it’s been said that words are cheap. I mean, if what we say doesn’t translate into how we live, then our words mean very little. And for that reason, during the four Sundays in October, we’re going to move beyond the words and focus on Living Our Faith.

And this morning, we started this series by considering how important it is to obey the commandments of God.

 

Last week, we started a new series of messages dealing with how we might better live our faith. And even though I don’t want to suggest that these four topics represent some kind of exhaustive list, I do believe they’re four things that will not only strengthen our relationship with God and with one another, I think they’ll also improve the message of love and grace and mercy we take out into the world. And so that’s what we’ll be doing during the month of October. 

 

And last week we started by looking at how we can live our faith by loving the other members of God’s family. In other words, if we accept that God has called us here and given us everything we need to do what he wants us to do, we can make the conscious decision to be loving and kind to our Christian brothers and sisters, even to those we may not like. And when that’s our decision, not only will it change us and other members of God’s family, it has the potential of changing the world. Now that’s what we talked about last week.

 

And this week, we’re going to focus on something else we might want to do, if we’re interested in putting our faith into action, and right now, I’m talking making the decision to obey the commandments of God. And I’ll tell you, this business about obedience, well, it’s certainly in the news now-a-days. I mean, regardless of what you think or how you feel about what’s happening in Washington, with all the subpoenas flying around, the word “obey” seems to be coming up a lot lately. And whether or not those served do what they’ve been called to do, I believe that shows their confidence in the process. Put another way, their obedience actually reflects their faith in the system. 

 

And I also believe we can say the same thing about our willingness to obey God. It becomes a reflection of our faith. And with that in mind, during the rest of our time together, we’re going to look at four things that happen when we make the decision to obey God’s commandments. And we’re going to use four verses from John’s first letter as a guide. John wrote, “When we obey God, we are sure that we know him. But if we claim to know him and don’t obey him, we are lying and the truth isn’t in our hearts. We truly love God only when we obey him as we should, and then we know that we belong to him. If we say we are his, we must follow the example of Christ.” [1 John 2:3-6, CEV] Now that’s what he said.

 

And I’ll tell you, using those words a guide, first, I believe obedience demonstrates our relationship with God. I mean, remember John wrote, “When we obey God, we are sure that we know him.” [1 John 2:3, CEV] In other words, when we’re willing and able to put aside what we want or think so that we can obey God, we can be confident that we know him, you know, that we have a good relationship with our heavenly Father. But before we go any farther, let me be clear about this, I’m not saying obedience establishes that relationship as though we have to do something special to convince God to love us. No, I’m not saying that at all. Rather, our willingness and our desire to obey suggest that the relationship already exists. It’s like when you’re married. My willingness to do something Debbie has asked me to do doesn’t make me married, but it does reflect the kind of marriage that Debbie and I have. It demonstrates our relationship. And I think that’s the point that John was making in his letter. But I’ll tell you, this kind of thing isn’t just in one verse found in one book. I believe the prophet Hosea was talking about this same kind of thing when he described how Israel’s relationship with God could also be seen in its willingness to obey his commandments. He wrote, “Israel, listen as the Lord accuses everyone in the land! No one is faithful or loyal or truly cares about God. Cursing, dishonesty, murder, robbery, unfaithfulness—these happen all the time. Violence is everywhere. And so your land is a desert. Every living creature is dying—people and wild animals, birds and fish.” [Hosea 4:1-3, CEV] Now that’s what Hosea wrote. And I want you to just think about what it means. Each of those actions in his accusation was a violation of the Ten Commandments. You see, we demonstrate that we really know God, you know, that we really understand his character and requirements when we choose to live in obedience to those requirements. And I’ll tell you, I think Jesus Christ was on the exact same page. Just listen: “While Jesus was still talking, a woman in the crowd spoke up, ‘The woman who gave birth to you and nursed you is blessed!’ Jesus replied, ‘That’s true, but the people who are really blessed are the ones who hear and obey God’s message!’” [Luke 11:27-28, CEV] You see, obedience demonstrates our relationship with God, and that’s the first way obedience reflects our faith. 

 

And second, I think our decision to obey the commandments of God can totally transform our lives. And again, we can see that in those verses I read from First John. Remember, he wrote, “But if we claim to know him and don’t obey him, we are lying and the truth isn’t in our hearts.”  [1 John 2:3, CEV] You see, if we claim to know God but we’re still doing the stupid stuff we did before, we’re really deceiving ourselves. In other words, and this really is the bottom line, if our lives aren’t changed by knowing God, then that’s a pretty clear sign that we may not know him. But more than that, we just may not have the truth at all. Why? Because the truth of God turns our lives upside down. It changes us. It transforms us. I’m telling you, once we have the truth; it changes everything, because it leads to love and it leads to obedience. And so, when that love and obedience aren’t present, you can bet a dollar on a donut that person may never have had the truth nor has he or she ever known God. In short, obeying God changes us. And I’ll tell you something, I think this applies whether you’re talking about an individual or a whole bunch of people. For example, just listen to the impact obeying God would have on Israel. “The Israelites left Rephidim. Then two months after leaving Egypt, they arrived at the desert near Mount Sinai, where they set up camp at the foot of the mountain. Moses went up the mountain to meet with the Lord God, who told him to say to the people: You saw what I did in Egypt, and you know how I brought you here to me, just as a mighty eagle carries its young. Now if you will faithfully obey me, you will be my very own people. The whole world is mine, but you will be my holy nation and serve me as priests. Moses, that is what you must tell the Israelites.” [Exodus 19:1-6, CEV] In other words, if the Israelites made the decision to obey the one who led them out of Egypt, then they would be transformed from a rag-tag bunch of slaves into a nation. As a matter of fact, they would become God’s own special people. Now, that’s transformation. And Jesus talked about the same thing when he said this to his disciples. He said, “Don’t store up treasures on earth! Moths and rust can destroy them, and thieves can break in and steal them. Instead, store up your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and thieves cannot break in and steal them. Your heart will always be where your treasure is.” [Matthew 6:19-21, CEV] You see, where a person invests his time and his energy and his effort, it’s in that direction his heart will be drawn. Put another way, if we want to change, we can decide to obey God, because obedience can transform our lives. That’s two.

 

And third, along with demonstrating our relationship with God and transforming our lives, we can trust that genuine obedience is grounded in love. As John wrote, “We truly love God only when we obey him as we should, and then we know that we belong to him." [1 John 2:4, CEV] You see, our love for God is actually the basis for our willingness to do what he’s called us to do. And I’ll tell you, that just makes logical sense. I mean, when you think about it, there’s really only three reasons to obey someone else: one, because we have to; two, because we need to; and three, because we want to. For example, a slave obeys because he really doesn’t have any choice. And an employee obeys because he needs the check that the boss signs. But a genuine believer in God obeys him not because he’s forced to or thinks he’ll get something out of it. No, someone who trusts in God obeys him because that’s what he wants to do. It’s his way to offer a “thank you” to the one who’s already given so much. In a word, it’s motivated by love. I’ll tell you, it’s like Moses said to the people of Israel before they entered the promised land, “The Lord is your God, so you must always love him and obey his laws and teachings. Remember, he corrected you and not your children. You are the ones who saw the Lord use his great power when he worked miracles in Egypt, making terrible things happen to the king and all his people. And when the Egyptian army chased you in their chariots, you saw the Lord drown them and their horses in the Red Sea. Egypt still suffers from that defeat!” [Deuteronomy 11:1-4, CEV] Now that’s what he said. And in Deuteronomy, this was just the beginning. Moses offered a whole list of things God had done. And that was important, because he understood that their obedience had to be grounded in their love and appreciation for God, a love that was grounded in what they could remember as they thought about all the things that he had done. And as it related to Christ, “Jesus said to his disciples: If you love me, you will do as I command. Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you. The Spirit will show you what is true. The people of this world cannot accept the Spirit, because they don’t see or know him. But you know the Spirit, who is with you and will keep on living in you.” [John 14:15-17, CEV] And so, along with demonstrating our relationship with God and transforming our lives, faithful obedience is grounded in love, and that’s three.

 

And fourth, our obedience to God is going to determine our Christian walk. As John wrote, “If we say we are his, we must follow the example of Christ.” [1 John 2:4, CEV] In other words, our decision to obey God is going to have a major impact on the way we live. And even though that would seem to be kind of a “dah” statement, some believers tend to separate what they believe from how they live. For example, a lot of folks seem to believe that faith is all on the inside, you know, what we feel and what we think but not necessarily what we do. It’s about giving our lives or our hearts but not necessarily our money or television. In other words, I can choose to obey Jesus without really changing what I do or how I live. And even though I’ve got to admit, this kind of separation is really attractive, especially when you’re concerned that Jesus might cramp your style, it’s certainly not what we see in the Bible. I mean, just listen to what James wrote in his letter: “My friends, what good is it to say you have faith, when you don’t do anything to show that you really do have faith? Can that kind of faith save you? If you know someone who doesn’t have any clothes or food, you shouldn’t just say, 'I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.' What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help? Faith that doesn’t lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead!” [James 2:14-17, CEV] You see, for James, there should be no space between what we believe and how we live. And according to Jesus, when it comes to faith, somewhere down the line, each and every person has to decide whether or not they’re going to follow. Just listen to what he said. “Jesus then told the crowd and the disciples to come closer, and he said: If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me. If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me and for the good news, you will save it. What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself? What could you give to get back your soul?” [Mark 8:34-37, CEV] Obedience has got to effect the way we live, our Christian walk. And that’s number four.

 

And so there it is, another way to live our faith. I mean, right along with being loving and kind to our Christian brothers and sisters, we can put into action what we believe by obeying the commandments of God. And that just makes sense because our obedience demonstrates our relationship with God and has the potential of transforming our lives. It’s grounded in love and determines our walk. That’s what obeying God is all about. And next week we’ll consider how we might live our faith by trying to make a difference in our community and our world.

17Oct

Two Ridges Presbyterian Church Worship Service - Sunday, October 13, 2019

Below is a copy of the bulletin and the podcast of the worship service I led in Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, Ohio on Sunday, October 13, 2019.

 

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17Oct

Sunday’s Sermon - Ten, Nine, One

Here's a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, October 13, in Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, Ohio. You can hear a podcast of the sermon at the bottom of this page or on the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page.

If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

 

Luke 17:11-19

 

And it happened as he was going to Jerusalem and going through the area between Samaria and Galilee, and as he was going into a certain village, ten men with leprosy met him. They stood some distance away. And they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, master, pity us.” And when he saw, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And it happened as they were going, they were cleansed. And one from them, when he saw that he was healed, returned with a great voice praising God, and he fell prostrate at [Jesus’s] feet, giving thanks to him. And he was a Samaritan. 

 

And Jesus answered and said, “Ten were cleansed, right? The other nine, where [are they]? They didn’t find [it necessary] to return to give praise to God, except this foreigner, right?” And he said to him, “Arise and go. Your trust has saved you.”

 

Ten, Nine, One

 

It’s hard to get away from numbers now-a-days. For example, some of our leaders are almost obsessed with numbers, the number of people who attended a rally, the number of likes a tweet received, the number of electoral votes won three years ago or the number of popular votes that weren’t received. It seems to be all about the numbers, you know, as though they actually mean something. For good or for bad, politics has become a numbers game. But so has sports and school and work. I guess you could even say that life itself is about numbers, at least that’s what my grandfather would have said, you know, the one who passed away a few years ago at the age of ninety-seven. There’s no two ways about it, numbers are important.

 

And I’ll tell you something, that’s also true around the church, isn’t it? I mean, that’s something we think about, numbers, and I’m talking about the number of people in the pews and the number of folks who come to studies and dinners and of course the number of dollars in the collection plate. Good night, that’s just what we do. The only thing is that we don’t always agree on what number is most important. I mean, when you’re talking about the church, which is more important: the number of people who come to appreciate God’s grace or the number of folks who formally join this congregation, the number of e-mails sent or home visits made, the number of children who are currently on our rolls or the number who attend some non-church function within this building? Now, you tell me, which number is more important? And although I may think I know the answers, it may not be the same as your’s. And your answers may not be the same as the person sitting next to you. You see, even though numbers may be important to us all, I doubt that we’d all agree on which should count the most. Of course, that gives us something to fight and to scrap and to act silly about. That we’ll do, but agree, I’m not so sure. 

 

But I’ll tell you something, I think that really changes when we read the passage we’ve got before us this morning, and I’ll tell you why. When it comes to the mission of the church, in fact, when it comes to this congregation right here in Wintersville, Ohio, I honestly believe that there’s only three numbers that count, and brothers and sisters, praise the Lord, they are right here in these verses. 

You see, like I said, there are three numbers right here, and the first one offers all we need to know about the scope of our mission, in other words, what we should be doing as a denomination and a congregation and as individual Christians. Just listen to what Luke wrote: “And it happened as he was going to Jerusalem and going through the area between Samaria and Galilee, and as he was going into a certain village, ten men with leprosy met him. They stood some distance away. And they raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, master, pity us.’ And when he saw, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’” 

 

You see, in this passage, there were ten lepers, right; and they all called out to Jesus at the same time. Now, since he was on the border between Galilee and Samaria, how many were Jews and how many were Samaritans? Luke told us that they were all men, but how many were young and how many were old? I mean, although they all wanted pity, how many really, in their heart of hearts, thought Jesus could solve their problem? And after he said, “Go and show yourselves to the priests,” how many were disappointed because they expected something a little more immediate? How many? We don’t know, right? All we know is that ten men had leprosy, and that regardless of the individual differences within the group, Jesus healed them all.

 

And I think that says a lot about our mission in the world. Now I understand it’s tempting to segment and prioritize our outreach, you know what I mean, putting the wants of insiders before the needs of outsiders, focusing on young people rather than those who are older, my goodness, gearing ourselves to reach out to those out there even if that means neglecting those in here. Take it to the bank, doing that kind of thing is really tempting; in fact, it makes a lot of practical to say nothing of financial sense. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t jive with what Jesus did. I mean, if we take him as a guide, an example of ministry, we have a responsibility both to insiders and outsiders, to the young and the old and everything in-between, to those out there and in here. In other words, our mission may be to everyone God has put within the sound of our voice and the scope of our love. And let’s get real, is effective ministry really an “either-or,” them or us? Personally, I believe that external evangelism and internal unity go hand-in-hand. The better we do one, the better we’ll do the other. And which should come first? Man, that’s easy. I think it’s either the chicken or the egg. Now this is something that we can understand when we recognize that Jesus healed all ten lepers, the first number we need to remember.

 

And the second, well, that’s also in the passage and it gives us a pretty good idea about the response we can expect, you know, when we reach both out and in. Again, listen to Luke: “And it happened as they were going, they were cleansed. And one from them, when he saw that he was healed, returned with a great voice praising God, and he fell prostrate at [Jesus’s] feet, giving thanks to him. And he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answered and said, “Ten were cleansed, right? The other nine, where [are they]?” 

 

Of course, that’s really a great question, because we really don’t know what the other nine did. Maybe they all went to the priest or maybe they all went to a local bar or maybe it was some combination of the two. We just don’t know. What Luke did tell us is this: ten were healed and nine didn’t return. Now you understand what that means? In the thanks department, Jesus was batting .100. He completed 10% of his passes. He was one out of ten from the line, a number that’s pretty low regardless of the sport you’re talking about. And you know something, if those were Jesus’s numbers, how can we really expect to do better? 

 

No, I think it’s important to be realistic in our expectations, because if we’re not, two very bad things can happen. On one hand, it’s easy to become discouraged, when we’re sharing the truth of the gospel as best we can and fail to see the results we might expect. In fact, we could easily become so discouraged and frustrated that we give up trying and pull back into our shell like a turtle. That could certainly happen. On the other hand, if our expectations aren’t realistic, we might be tempted to reshape the gospel so that it has a little more crowd appeal, you know, talk about the perks, down play the demands, and make it all so easy a caveman can do it. You see, realist expectations can keep us both honest and moving forward. And that’ll happen when we remember that nine healed lepers didn’t come back. And that’s the second number to remember.

 

And the final number, well, that might be the most important of all, because this one offers hope. Again, listen to Luke: “And one from them, when he saw that he was healed, returned with a great voice praising God, and he fell prostrate at [Jesus’s] feet, giving thanks to him. And he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answered and said, ‘Ten were cleansed, right? The other nine, where [are they]? They didn’t find [it necessary] to return to give praise to God, except this foreigner, right?’ And he said to him, ‘Arise and go. Your trust has saved you.’” 

 

You see, even though ten were healed and nine went somewhere else, one came back, praising God for what had happened in his life, something he certainly didn’t deserve and yet received anyway. And even though he wasn’t the kind of guy anybody would have expected to come back (my gosh, he was the ultimate outsider), that one person experienced salvation. In other words, even though with this group Jesus went one out of nine, the one he hit was out of the park. It was a ninety-nine yard touchdown pass or a, the game winning free throw in overtime. That one made all the difference. 

 

And brothers and sisters, the same is true for us. If we’re in here and out there doing what we’ve been called to do, in other words, if we’re both proclaiming and demonstrating our love for God and one another and our neighbors, people are going to be touched and lives are going to change. It’s like the parable of the farmer who scattered seeds. Even though he knew some was going to fall on the path and in shallow soil and among the weeds, he also knew some of the seed was also going to end up in good soil where it would take root and grow strong and bear all kinds of fruit. And when you think about it, maybe we’ll all move closer to God when we recognize that if one person comes to know his love because of us, all the work and prayer and concern is worth it. Remember, according to Jesus himself, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.” Maybe it’s time for us to start sharing God’s joy. Because one came back we can have hope, and that’s the third number.

 

As long as we live in a world that values elections and bank accounts and batting averages, I think numbers will continue to be important. And that’s just as true within the church as anywhere else. But around here, I think we may need to try as hard as we can to focus on the right numbers, because in those numbers, I think we’ll find the nature of our mission, the response we can expect and the reason we can feel hope. You see, all that comes when we remember these three numbers: ten, nine, one.

16Oct

The Wedding Service for Nathan Samuel Klem and Michaelene Elizabeth Vucic on Saturday, October 12, 2019

On Saturday, October 12, I officiated the wedding of Nathan Samuel Klem and Michaelene Elizabeth Vucic in Hickory, Pennsylvania. Below are some pictures and a podcast of the service. If you're planning your wedding and need an officiant, please give me a call at 304-479-3402.

 

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16Oct

The Wedding Service for James Richard Williams II and Jennifer Leah Sandy on Saturday, October 12, 2019

On Saturday, October 12, I officiated the wedding of James Richard Williams II and Jennifer Leah Sandy in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. Below are some pictures and a podcast of the service. If you're planning your wedding and need an officiant, please give me a call at 304-479-3402.

 

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