What is yet to come – June 16

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What is yet to come
Joshua 1:9 and John 16:12-15

Rev. Karen Horan

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

The word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God!

Good morning! I am so glad to be with you today. Again, my name is Karen Horan. What an honor to be with you this morning. Today being Father’s day, I think about all the godly men in my life … yes my dad, who is strong and innovative, an entrepreneur and taught me what hard work could do, but also the other Christian men who influenced and shaped me. My grandpa who believed that I could do anything I dreamed … my youth director and his wife, who showed me what love and marriage looked like outside my home. My mentor along the way as I was becoming a pastor, Russell cheered me on when I doubted myself … men .. .let me just say … you have no idea the influence you have on those around you. You may or may not be a father, but on Father’s day, I want to say thank you for being an example and encourager!

And we all need to be encouraged, right? To be reminded of who we are. As we look at our passages today, Joshua, a mighty warrior, had to be reminded of who he was and to be brave trusting in God. And who could blame him?! His mentor, Moses had just died. He had to be mourning, and yet God hands the reigns of leadership to Joshua. In the first few verses of Joshua, God is basically saying, ok … Moses got us this far, but now you will lead the Israelites into the land I promised. But I find it strange that God has to tell this mighty warrior to be strong and courageous … 3 times. 3! Why? Joshua understood the task at hand.

That leading people and entering the promised land wasn’t going to be easy … but he also had to remember WHO was sending him … and who would be with him. Remember what God said — “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

And in John’s gospel, we see Jesus holding up the disciples in their time of uncertainty … he has told them he was going to the cross, going to die, and he has promised them the Holy Spirit, but they don’t understand. Let me just say … This is an odd passage after Easter and after Pentecost, right? I mean, he has already resurrected and the Spirit has already come, right??? But I think this passage in John is part of the lectionary after Pentecost to remind us of a couple of things: 1. the fact that they ( and we) don’t often “get it”! And so we need to be reminded again and again of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit with us .. for us! Jesus has spent so much time talking to his disciples about his death and the coming of the Holy Spirit and yet … we as human beings can only see what we can see, amen? We only know what we know … what is right in front of us. All they knew was that Jesus was talking about dying and leaving them. And yet…there is so much more, more that God had for them. Which leads to the second reminder: we are a sent people

… God has more for us too. The difference is that we are not necessarily sent to a foreign land – oh maybe for a mission trip! But most of us are not sent to a new country to do God’s work, no we are sent to places nearby to serve people that we may not know much about. Our city or our neighborhoods … apartment complexes … schools … places we work or hang out. We are sent to share God’s love with people we don’t know yet. And in our unknowing … we are afraid .. Hence God’s reminder – be strong and courageous!

Maybe we are not physically scared, but uncomfortable. We don’t like change do we? We prefer what we know … who we know and where we are. And yet … God has more for us, so God sends us out even when we are uncomfortable. When I say that, I keep hearing something my yoga teacher says as she is taking us into a deep stretch – you don’t want it to hurt, but we have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. (say that again)

And I love the connection in these two passages – God never sends us alone.

God reminds us of God’s loving presence AND the knowledge we will have as we go. God is with us, God goes before us to lead AND the Holy Spirit dwells in us reminding/teaching us all we need. I love that line – “he will tell you what is to come.” Now don’t get too excited – I have never experienced God giving me (or anyone for that matter) the entire road map … the whole picture or plan. Nope .. .it just doesn’t seem to work that way. (and personally, I hate that!) Oh, sure, God gives us big visions, huge promises -like with Abraham “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore,” Great! But how … when … you see? The big picture-yes- but not the entire road map. However … God always gives the first next step

ALWAYS! Pray and step has been my motto for a long time … ever since I was sent to start a new church. Talk about a scary thing! (tell a little about Gruene- sent to a part of town, 17 of us … I was new … But God didn’t send me alone. I knew the big plan/picture but didn’t know have the road map … pray and step)

What about you … and this church?

Where is God sending you? Calling you? What is yet to come? I have seen and felt the presence of the Holy Spirit here … I have met with your pastor and leaders in the past … God is working here, but the question remains – Where is God sending you? Or maybe to whom is God sending you? As you look around the church sometimes the best questions to ask are questions like – who is missing? Not meaning who didn’t come today that comes every week (even though that might be a thing some of you could do) but who is missing that lives in this area … neighborhood? Maybe it is young families, or people of color. maybe there are a lot of single adults in apartments … who is missing? Where might God be sending you? For me, it was just a few miles away to a growing edge of town. But what about you?? (pause) Where is God sending you? Are you willing to go there? (pause)

For some churches they feel called to reach apartments just next door to the church – one church couldn’t figure out how to reach/connect with the folks in the apartments so they used what they did have to make connections – some land … and they asked the folks from the apartments if they would want to help with a community garden

to grow some veggies for themselves, yes, but also for the food pantry the church participated in for the city. They are meeting people they never knew … they plan on deepening the relationships as they grow and harvest and even share meals together after each harvest. Will the church invite the folks to attend a service now and again … sure … but the point of sending isn’t to fill the sanctuary, but to create relationships and share God’s love in new ways. Do you see? Where is God sending you?

Another church felt called to get connected to the elementary school nearby. They started by simply praying for each teacher by name and periodically sending a note to the teachers letting them know they were being prayed for. They also connected with the leadership of the school to find out if they needed folks to read to classes or volunteers for any events. Just a few did regular volunteering for a few months in the spring until they realized that the school needed new bleachers for the end of year field days. So the church did that

got to work on building the bleachers then blessed them – prayed over them and then celebrated

with the school on field day.

One more story – another church felt called to reach the Hispanic population in their town. When they tried to do “events” … no one came.  Finally they stopped striving and asked some folks, what needs aren’t being met? There are food ministries already and free stores, but what is needed in our area that isn’t being offered? The school counselor helped find the answer – ESL classes for the families/parents of the kids in that small town school. Most of the kids spoke English, but the parents or other relatives needed help … maybe speaking or reading better in English. And so they got started with just a few volunteers because this was uncharted territory for all of them! But they prayed and stepped out

one relationship at a time.

So now the question is

Where is God calling /sending you?? This church? Who isn’t here yet? Or who is out there needing to know about God’s love and grace … not through more transactional encounters (like food or clothing – even though that is great stuff) but who is out there needing to know God’s love and grace through relationships? Who are they? Where are they? And how can you get out of your comfort zone to reach them for Christ?

I don’t have the answers for you, but God does. The Holy Spirit is already moving, collectively you can listen and ask God for the big vision of where to go … but remember … we only get one step of the plan at a time …

Pray and step, pray and step, pray and pray and pray and step.

And remember God’s words – Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Amen? Amen … let’s pray

The Origin of Life – May 12

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Series: Faith or and Science
Today: The Origin of Life
Genesis 1:20-1-2:1, 2:4-24

Rev. Laura Brewster

Introduction. Last week we explored how faith and science can together explain the origins of the universe. Science can explain the mechanics of how the universe was birthed and continues to grow. Faith illuminated by scripture tells us that God is the ultimate power behind creation. This week we move forward to discuss what faith and science can teach us about the beginning of human life on our planet. Can we integrate our faith in our creator God with what science teaches us about the evolution of life on our planet?

Scripture. There are two stories in the book of Genesis about the creation of humanity. Read the first creation story found in Genesis 1:20 – 2:1. Next read the second creation story found in Genesis 2:4 – 24.

Lessons from the Creation Stories in Genesis. If you read Genesis literally, the two stories contradict each other regarding the order of creation. If you read Genesis literally you will find other inconsistencies too. For example, according to Genesis, the first two people in the world, Adam and Eve, had two sons – Cain and Abel. But then Cain killed Abel in a jealous rage. That should have left only three humans alive on earth. However, in Genesis 4:14 Cain makes reference to other people who might kill him. Where did all those people suddenly come from? Bishop Scott Jones writes: “Maybe these and other questions indicate that Genesis is not meant to be taken literally.” We can opt to take Genesis seriously – though not literally – when we read it and ask ourselves questions such as: “What is the underlying lesson the author is trying to teach me?” When we ask that question, we come away with lessons such as: *God is ultimately the source of life on earth. *God intends for us to be in relationship with other people and with him. *God genuinely cares about our well being and provides us with what we need to sustain life. Genesis was written to teach us all that and more about the Creator and creation. It wasn’t written to serve as a science text on HOW God created.

Lessons about Creation from Science. Science tells us is that our earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and that a single cell organism developed about 3.5 billion years ago. That organism replicated and began a process of evolution that has led to a variety of life forms. Animals finally appeared on land about 370 million years ago. About 230 million years ago, dinosaurs became the dominant animal on earth, but they died off about 65 million years ago. Then finally about 195,000 years ago, the first specimens we would recognize as homo sapiens finally appeared. Again, scientists tell us all this happened through the process of evolution.

Harmonizing the Lessons from Faith and Science. If we read Genesis seriously and not literally, we can accept the faith lessons it offers us about God and also accept the lessons offered by science about how creation unfolded. We can accept both as offering us answers to different questions. Faith tells us WHY we are here. We are here because God opted to begin the process of creation. Science tells us HOW we got here. We got here through the process of evolution.

A Challenge for Those Who Read the Bible Literally. You may still wish to continue to read Genesis literally. If so, you may still find value in what we have heard today. If you have young people in your family who no longer attend church, consider asking them their opinion on faith and science. You may even want to share some of the following materials as fodder for discussion: Information on the website of the American Scientific Affiliation (www.asa3.org); The Language of God. A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Dr. Frances Collins; or ADAM AND THE GENOME: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science by Dennis R. Venema and Scot McKnight. Show your unchurched family members that you are willing to engage in conversation. In this way you may be able to crack open the door to a great discussion on faith.

God and the Big Bang – May 5

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Series: Faith or and Science
Today: God and the Big Bang
Genesis 1:1-19

Rev. Laura Brewster

I. Introduction:
Today we continue with our series of messages designed to help us maintain our faith and remain open to the scientific discoveries made through the use of the intellect with which God has gifted humanity.

II. The Creation of the Universe According to Science
According to the Big Bang Theory, the universe burst into existence about 13.8 billion years ago. It first appeared as an extremely small, dense speck of heat and energy. This subatomic ball of everything is known as the singularity, and it began a rapid expansion immediately after it appeared. Within 180 million years, stars began to form. Later planets began to form in the dust around stars and galaxies developed. There are now more than 2 trillion other galaxies in the observable universe. These galaxies continue to move away from the site of the Big Bang and continue to expand the universe.

III. The Creation Story According to Scripture
Science can tell us what unfolded following the Big Bang. However, it cannot tell us what caused the Big Bang. We can turn to scripture for that answer. The word “Genesis” means beginning, and the book of Genesis tells us this about the beginning of all things. READ: Genesis 1:1-19. This passage from Genesis is a beautiful and poetic passage about the beginning of creation. It is also the answer to our question regarding what or who gave birth to the Big Bang. It was God.

IV. How Can We Reconcile Science and the Biblical Stories of Creation?
Genesis tells us that God is the force behind all creation. It also presents a picture regarding how God went about the work of creating. Obviously, the information in Genesis about how creation unfolded does not match up with what we have learned about creation from science. We reconcile the two when we realize that scripture and science are designed to provide us with different, but complementary information. God inspired the creation stories in Genesis to teach us that he is the power behind creation, not provide us with a science lesson on the specific way he worked. Science, on the other hand, helps us understand exactly how God uses his power to start and shepherd the process of creation.

V. Specific Lessons from Genesis
So, what are the lessons God inspired the writer of the creation stories to teach us?
A. God is the creator of all things, seen and unseen.
B. “The design of the world is not accidental. It is based upon the will of God.” (Walter Brueggemann)
C. Finally, our creator loves and delights in his creation.
These lessons remain whether or not we read Genesis literally.

VI. It Is Not Radical to Refrain From Reading Genesis in a Literal Manner.
Prominent Christian thinkers from throughout the centuries have discerned that the creation stories in Genesis need not be read literally. For example, in the 3rd century, Origen wrote, “I do not think anyone will doubt that these are figurative expressions which indicate certain mysteries through a semblance of history.i

VII. When Theology & Science Are Viewed Together:
When we accept the truths provided by science, we can gain a greater appreciation for God amazing power and can be moved to worship. When we accept the truths provided by scripture, we can better understand how much we are loved by our powerful God. Together, these truths can move us to respond to God with love and worship. “The bottom line is that the best science and our best thinking about God can go together.”

Ending or Beginning? – April 21

VIDEO – “Not the End”

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Ending or Beginning?
John 20:1-18

Rev. Laura Brewster

Mary Magdalene Faces an Ending
Mary Magdalene’s life unraveled on Friday, when Jesus, her friend and teacher had been executed. When Sunday morning dawned, Mary was still reeling. Life as she knew it had ended, and she could not fathom how she was supposed to put her life back together again and move forward.

We Face Endings in Life Too
You may have felt that way yourself at some point in time. You may even be feeling that way today. Maybe you are experiencing grief because a loved one has died or a relationship has ended. Maybe your professional life is unraveling and you’re not sure how to chart a new course. Maybe you are older and you no longer command the respect you once did, and you feel pushed aside. We all experience endings during the course of life, some more difficult than others.

When Bad Goes to Worse
Mary was already struggling early Easter morning as a result of the endings which she was facing. But what seemed bad soon turned to worse. When Mary Magdalene finally arrived at the tomb on that first Easter, she was shocked to discover that the tomb in which Jesus had been placed had been opened. Mary immediately assumed that Jesus’ body has been stolen. She informed Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved. They came and confirmed that Jesus’ body was missing and then they left. Mary stayed and wept for Jesus, for herself, for everything that had been lost, for all that had ended.

Endings Can Lead to Beginnings
Mary was at rock bottom early that Easter because of all the “endings” in her life. However, she would soon make a welcome discovery: an ending can lead to a new beginning. Natalie Sleeth makes this point in her song “Hymn of Promise.” The song includes these lines: In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see. Sleeth wrote the song for her dying husband as a way of reminding him that he would experience a new beginning, a new life after his death. Again, what we see perceive to be an ending can become a springboard for a new possibility, a new opportunity, a new way of life. Mary would discover that when she learned that Jesus had risen from the dead.

The Good News of Easter
On Easter, we celebrate that Jesus was raised from the dead and that we too can be raised to new and eternal life when our earthly life comes to an end. But the good news of Easter is not limited to what will happen when we die. Easter also offers good news for life here and now. First, Easter faith reminds us that our Lord is with us even when we are struggling and feel alone. He’s with us just as he was with Mary. Jesus has promised never leave us or forsake us. We may not always recognize his presence, but he is nonetheless present. Second, Easter reminds us that when our strength is exhausted and we can do no more, our God is still at work. The evidence of God’s work is not always immediately apparent. But Easter teaches us that God is at work even when the world seems dark. For that reason, there is always hope.

Endings and obstacles are a part of life in this world. However, what seems like a dead end can become a new beginning, a new beginning made possible by the ever-present love and power of God.