January 2016

Faith and Healing We do not pray to win. Most of us sense the outcome of a contest is not a God thing. It would be nice to win the race, election, or jackpot, but it is not a thing to be prayed. We do not pray for wealth or fame. We may pray for daily bread and to have our talents and hard labor recognized, but most of us are not willing to go further and pray that God will also make us wealthy and famous and, by implication, leave others poor and forgotten. We do not pray for many other things like we should including spiritual gifts, the peace of Jerusalem, or God’s kingdom to come and not tarry. But we pray to get well. The prayers are often pretty basic: “please Lord, don’t let this be flu!” “God, into your hands I commit myself as I lay me down to sleep for surgery.” “O Lord Jesus, take away this pain!” It is deep speaking to deep. When we have fallen into some pit of physical dis-ease we cut to the chase and reach to the only one who holds final power over creation. Is there is a balm in Gilead? Even pretend secular persons ask that question seriously in the dark night of severe setbacks in health. If they don’t believe God cares about our bodies as well as our souls, they wish they could believe it. And if they doubt the stories of Jesus’ healing miracles, they wish those stories were true. Imagine! A God-Man who reaches out and touches us and commands, “rise up; your faith in me has made you well.” It will be my pleasure in the coming weeks to explore with you the boundary between faith and healing, a boundary where we live every day of our lives, some more desperately than others. We cannot begin to do justice to the Bible’s plentitude of teachings on faith and healing in six weeks. In fact I expect to return to this subject from time to time. This time around we will start by looking at God the Healer in Ezekiel 34:11-16 and Luke 13:10-17. On that first Sunday of the New Year (January 3) we will also receive the Lord’s Meal, “the medicine of immortality” as St. Ignatius of Antioch called it. Anointing with oil will be offered to any who might care to receive it. On January 10th we will look at the subject Sick, Not Cursed from Deuteronomy 28:1-11, 14-22 and John 9:1-12 and on January 17th Cleanliness is Next to Godliness from Leviticus chapters 11-17 and Mark 1:4-45. In this series we will frequently engage John Wesley who was passionate about the connection of faith and healing, and that will be especially so in this sermon. Appropriate to the subject, we will remember our baptisms on this Sunday. On January 24th we look at a biblical theology of sleep. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep will explores such texts as Gen 2:19-23, Psalm 3:5-6, Psalm 127:1-2,and Romans 8:28-39. We will turn to Matthew 25:34-36 and James 5:13-20 and a favorite sermon of John Wesley called On Visiting the Sick on January 31st. And we finish the series on February 7th with Faith and Healing, Part 6: Unanswered Prayers...

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December 2015

In the Beauty of the Lilies Christ Was Born across the Sea I’m not much of a multi-tasker but this advent season, which begins November 29th, I want to study the church’s advent texts for a word from God while listening to Julia Ward Howe’s 1861 hymn,   The Battle Hymn of the Republic, especially verse four. In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me As he died to make men holy, let us die [live] to make men free Our God is marching on. While the rest of the world rushes into a countdown of Shopping Days Left Until Xmas, the church’s scriptures ask us to ponder weightier subjects such as violence (Luke 21:25-36); endurance (Philippians 1:3-11); joy (Zephaniah 3:14-20); peace on earth (Luke 2:1-14); and emancipation (Galatians 4:4-7). The Battle Hymn of the Republic will give us a canvas for unpacking the messages of the advent texts. African American slaves first sang the tune in the early 1800s. Then it became tied to the larger than life figure of John Brown the abolitionist. In the middle of the Civil War Julia Ward Howe received, in one early morning burst, the inspired words that would make the song an anthem for the North during the Civil War. Yet amazingly it became the Nation’s Hymn soon after the war. It has served as the marching music for civil rights protests, organized labor movements, and evangelical revivals. Groups across the full political spectrum sing it while holding signs and standing in front of the Supreme Court. The Battle Hymn of the Republic was the favorite hymn of the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Billy Graham. Many thoughtful Christians have also condemned it as “blasphemy in song” for its military images and its apparent celebration of bloodshed. We’ll look at the good, the bad, the ugly, and the sublime of this hymn as we seek “the word of God for the people of God” in the advent scriptures. I hope you will be able to join us for this unique journey toward the one who “in the beauty of the lilies … was born across the sea.” Pastor Lew  ...

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