Sunday, March 20, 2022

Spiritual Food and Drink

 Spiritual sustenance is especially vital in times of tragedy so we can respond in the most helpful ways to the immense temporal and spiritual needs confronting us in our own lives and around the world.

The Bible is filled with invitations to receive God's providence. We heard one of those invitations as presented in the Message translation today from the book of Isaiah and I love just how it just began. It said, "Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water!" In the King James version it says, "Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters and he that hath no money come ye buy and eat. Yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price." (Isaiah 55:1 MSG & KJV).

Transcript of sermon preached at Briensburg UMC on March 20, 2022 [Audio]

God promises to supply our greatest needs without money and without price. Paul put it this way, he said, "God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory." And that's a good place to think about it instead of the stinginess that sometimes we find among humanity in supplying needs. It's clear at the other end of the spectrum, according not to our lack of ability or are thinking that there's just so much to go around and we better make sure we get our part, but the generosity of God, according to his riches in glory."

And it describes in so many ways in our thoughts and in our Bible. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He created the heavens and the earth and we're always discovering how much greater all that creation is as they explore further into the universe. Basically, it seems to be infinite, doesn't it? And continuing to be created and God has it all. So there's plenty for everybody.

And he calls us into the spiritual realm where we can live into that prosperity of the kingdom of God, that wealth that is offered when Jesus says, "Seek you first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these other things will be yours, as well." So that's where Paul is leading us. That's where Isaiah is leading us. That's where the Bible is leading us into this spiritual realm of infinite wealth and prosperity. That is an eternal treasure that Jesus spoke of in heaven, and from that storehouse then to bring out the abundance to share with the world.

It's similar to the invitation of Jesus when he stood up and it says in The Living Bible, "On the last day, the climax of the holidays, Jesus shouted to the crowds, 'If anyone is thirsty, let them come to me and drink for the scriptures declare that rivers of living water shall flow from the inmost being of anyone who believes in me.'" And John went on to say in that passage that Jesus was speaking about the Holy Spirit who would be given to everyone believing in him.

Explore the spiritual dimension

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, (Psalm 63:1 KJV)

The Psalmist said in today's reading, "Oh, God, thou art my God. Early will I seek thee. My soul thirsteth for thee. My flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land." A dry and thirsty land can be more than just the geographical, but the spiritual famine is represented in these words. At times when things are so bleak we don't know where to turn, what to do, resources are scarce and options are insufficient to meet the overwhelming challenges, and in that situation the psalmist invites us to be diligent and intentional in exploring our relationship with God. Seek God early, as soon as possible to get the guidance and help we need for our thirsty soul.

Jesus promised in the Beatitudes that, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." 

Feed the soul 

And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.      (1 Corinthians 10:3-4 KJV)

And the reading from Paul's letter to the Corinthians, he said, "And they all ate the same spiritual meat and did all drink the same spiritual drink for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them." And that rock was Christ. Christ is the spiritual rock who continues to follow us, to provide for us. The New Testament often refers to God's Word as nourishment. In several places Paul wrote about the Word as meat and milk, the milk and meat of the Word.

Jesus referred to himself as the living bread which comes down out of heaven. We pray as we just prayed this morning, "Give us this day our daily bread," as a short form of trust in God to provide all of our spiritual and temporal needs for the challenges we face this and every day. Notably in this passage today in the reading from First Corinthians, Paul wrote that, "All drank together the same drink from the same rock." We share this nourishment provided, not just for some, but for all.

Spiritually healthy people see God in the Love that overcomes tragedy

Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? (Luke 13:2 KJV)

This passage that was from the Gospel reading for today, there's several times in my life when it has come around in electionary cycle and spoken to certain times of tragedy that have been just history changing moments. And especially the one time that stood out to me that it does that, was right after 9/11. This was the reading for the Sunday after 9/11 and it's been a cycle that's been ongoing through all different denominations for, I don't know how long. For a long time.

And it goes around, it comes around and it came around then and it came around now with the tragedies going on that we face now, that the world faces, and is trying to reckon with. And within these passages, is this question by Jesus, "Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all Galileans because they suffered such things?" And one of the tragedies was a ruthless dictator mingling their blood with blood that was being offered to idols and considering human life as worthless only for his own purposes. And the other was of a building that collapsed and many people were killed.

And so those very images and the very questions that Jesus asked is one that comes down to us through the century in the tragedies of humanity and is still asked today, "Why? Why do these things happen?" And a lot of people like to speculate about that and then we can't help but speculate in some way or to ask why, but it's hard to find the answer to why. And sometimes when people speculate, the answers they come up with just make the situation worse almost and blame the victims for the tragedies they're going through. And so it's difficult to answer why evil and injustice happen.

And evil and injustice, they come to us in so many forms: natural disasters, self-inflicted problems. And probably one of the most difficult to understand, though, is those that are intentionally inflicted by individuals or by groups or by nations. Why would anybody want to hurt somebody, especially for no reason? Why? And it's so hard to wrap our minds around. It's impossible, really. And just as impossible as often as to stop those who are intentionally trying to hurt others.

It's often said that those that are out there trying to protect us and protect us from terrorism, for example, the terrorists, in their attempts, they only have to be successful once to get done what they want to do. And those protecting us are always facing these challenges over and over. It makes it pretty difficult. And apply that into other things. It's hard to stop people who want to harm others and it doesn't seem sufficient to punish them or to take vengeance. What we pray for is that they would stop, that they would repent, that they would see things from a different point of view, that they would have the peace that we just described here that we feel in this room today, that they could have some of that, if somehow we could extend to them that peace that passes understanding.

And so all of this is very confusing in there. It's difficult to know where God is, even sometimes in those things and they raise so many questions in our minds. But one thing is very clear and that is that God is actively and visibly, in the response of humanity, to help the victims. We can see that. We can point to it, and we can even be a part of it.

Recognize the spirit of Christ in times of storms and wars and disasters. Take a stand against evil and injustice and oppression in all its forms as we commit to doing in our baptismal vows that we share, that we ask of everybody when they become a part of the church and we reaffirm that then and at other times, and perhaps even now, when we ask on behalf of the whole church, 

On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you:
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,
reject the evil powers of this world,
and repent of your sin?
And we say: I do.
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you
to resist evil, injustice, and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves?
And again we say: I do.
Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior,
put your whole trust in his grace,
and promise to serve him as your Lord,
in union with the Church which Christ has opened
to people of all ages, nations, and races?
And we all say: I do.

The General Rules handed down to us from the earliest days of Methodism begin like this: They say, "Firstly, do no harm." Don't make the situation worse. Don't inflame the situation. Don't create obstacles. Remember the millstone example Jesus gave one time for anyone making things harder for others. Jesus also said that, "Some religious people tend to bind heavy burdens," as it's stated in Matthew 23: "They bind heavy burdens and grievous to be born and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers."

"Secondly, do good." As our saying goes, do all the good you can. Find some way to offer encouragement and assistance, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem trusting that every tiniest seed will grow. We do good by absorbing our share of the social burden and the cost of helping those who are going through difficult circumstances.

Ina Duley Ogden wrote her hymn, "Brighten the corner where you are." The ripple effect from making the world better right around us spreads to others who may be closer to the situation and better able to address it because we have been supportive of them. Think about missionaries on the mission field or humanitarian workers in areas of war and conflict, our disaster responders in our own community and abroad.

Thirdly, attending upon all the ordinances of God, or, as we often say, "Stay in love with God." Feed and nurture the soul to keep each other spiritually healthy. Jesus asked Peter after the last breakfast, "Do you love me? Feed my sheep."

We connect our spirits more closely and more meaningfully in ways that transcend our differences in beliefs and cultures and politics. Spiritual vitality enables us to be centered and engaged and focused, guided by the Holy Spirit, led by the Lord step by step through our own difficulties and discovering how best to help others in their times of need.

During this Lenten season, we intentionally focus on strengthening ourselves and each other spiritually to better address the massive challenges of our time.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Citizens of the Spiritual Realm


Second Sunday in Lent

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 
Psalm 27
Philippians 3:17-4:1
Luke 13:31-35

The Bible invites us to center ourselves on Christ in Heaven, and from that spiritual home to do all we can to transform ourselves and the world around us.

Notes for sermon preached on March 13, 2022 at Briensburg UMC | [Audio] 

Heaven is our spiritual home, even in this lifetime

 Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:.      (Philippians 3:20 KJV)


·       Politeuma  pol-it'-yoo-mah  (like our words “politic, political, or polity”)

o   Translated “Conversation” in KJV

o   Often translated “Citizenship” in other translations

o   Strong’s definition:

1.     the administration of civil affairs or of a commonwealth

2.     the constitution of a commonwealth, form of government and the laws by which it is administered

3.     a state, commonwealth

·       the commonwealth of citizens

·       This same verse in the RSV: Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.      (Philippians 3:20 RSV)

·       Two or more citizens of heaven, gathered in the name of Jesus and engaged in a divine conversation constitute a form of body politic with the power to make decisions and carry them out to manifest some facet of God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.”

o   In another context, Jesus said,
Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:18-20 KJV)


Our heavenly Parent is always ready to receive us

 How many times I wanted to put my arms around all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me!    (Luke 13:34 GNT)


·       Spoken to Jerusalem, and through Jerusalem as a word to all humanity from our heavenly parent through our spiritual brother, Jesus, offering

o   Shelter

o   Sanctuary

o   Home

·       Ecclesia: Gathered community

o   Church home / church family

o   Faith community / faith family

o   Spiritual home / spiritual family

§  Transcending all earthly geo-political boundaries

§  Eclipsing our physical environment

§  Gathering our thoughts, feelings, relationships and powers and uniting us through the divine nature in which we were created



God dispels our fears and strengthens us to face even the most challenging circumstances

 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?      (Psalm 27:1 KJV)


·       There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18 KJV)

·       As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. (Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love, 1992).

·       The Psalmist concludes this passage, Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. (Psalm 27:14 KJV)

o   Can we trust God to bring us through the chaotic and horrifying issues confronting us in the news, and challenging us in our own lives?

§  Wait

·       Isaiah “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31 KJV)

§  Be of Good courage, the Psalmist says

·       Phrase appears 17 times throughout the Old Testament in KJV

·       The idea appears many more times in various ways throughout the Bible

·       For example, Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. (Joshua 1:9 KJV)

§  Let God strengthen our heart

·       Jesus said as he was facing the cross, Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. (John 14:1 KJV)


“We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7 KJV)

 [Abraham] believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.     (Genesis 15:6 KJV)


·       Stated several ways throughout the New Testament

o   This concept is foundational to the idea of salvation by grace through faith

o   We have been studying this concept in our Wednesday Bible Study group:
Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness (Romans 4:3 KJV)

·       Great Question at tomb of Lazarus:

o   Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

·       Summary of the Christian Faith, John 3:16-17

o   For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:16-17 KJV)


Today, the world stands in desperate need of what we have: spiritual gifts ministered in good faith and perfect love in the all-powerful authority of the name of Jesus

We have our gifts. We have our place in the work of transforming the world. It’s right where we are in the relationships we have around us and in the work that lays before us.

Throughout this Lenten Season, may we work on addressing the challenges and issues in our own lives and around the world from the perspective of our divine citizenship and spiritual empowerment as the daughters and sons of God.



Sunday, March 6, 2022

Praying in the Wilderness


Judean Wilderness

First Sunday in Lent

  • Deuteronomy 26:1-11 
  • Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 
  • Romans 10:8b-13
  • Luke 4:1-13

Passages like these are in the Bible for times like this.  They bolster our faith, hope, and love in the face of devastating adversity. They give us direction in the midst of global confusion. They invite us to center ourselves spiritually in preparation for whatever challenges we may face in the coming days and weeks.

Notes for sermon preached on March 6, 2021 at Briensburg UMC | [Audio]

After Jesus was Baptized

And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,     (Luke 4:1 KJV)

·       Into the Wilderness

o   Eremos [air’ ay moss] (per Strong’s Lexicon) among the definitions of wilderness are:

§  solitary, lonely, desolate, uninhabited

§  deprived of the aid and protection of others,

·       Think of over 82 million refugees around the world and growing daily, even before the invasion of Ukraine

·       Think of victims of war, oppression, natural disasters, and any number of issues that bring suffering and destruction to individuals and communities

·       Think about the hardships experienced every day by individuals and families with inadequate incomes, health care issues, violence, and a whole range of socio-economic disparities and injustices.

o   Wilderness can be more about a state of existence in addition to a geographic location

o   In wilderness circumstances, the temptation to twist or abandon our faith when we are in our wilderness times is much like what Jesus faced in his wilderness time:

§  People are tempted to apply the promises of God in self-serving ways

·       But: “It is written,” [we] “shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (vs 4)

§  People are tempted to make up their own interpretations of God’s promises and then expect God to abide by whatever distortions they produce at any given time

·       But: ”Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” (vs 12)

§  People are tempted to doubt the promises of God and put their trust elsewhere

·       But: “It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (vs 8)

·       Led by the Spirit

·       Full of the Holy Ghost

Universal Salvation

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.      (Romans 10:13 KJV)

·       Whosoever

o   Invitation extended to everyone at all times

·       Call on the name of the Lord

·       Shall be saved

o   One dimension of salvation is our justification, when we placed our trust in God

§  Began our own personal spiritual transformation

§  Entered into spiritual relationship with God and each other

§  Our spiritual senses were awakened to realities beyond our physical existence

o   Another dimension of salvation is our sanctification, when we felt ourselves enveloped by God’s eternal and unconditional love

§  We are drawn to a sacramental life of prayer, Bible study, worship, & fellowship

§  We strive to love others as profoundly and freely as God in Christ has loved us

§  We examine our own lives to identify ways we can improve the love we are offering to be more like the love we are receiving

o   Divine Grace encompasses every aspect of salvation

§  God extends wholeness and love to all humanity

§  As we realize how much we are benefiting from God’s goodness, we extend the same encouragement and support to everyone else around us, as we are able,

§  We honor the Image of God in each person, sharing faith and spiritual conversation in ways that enable us to nurture each other in God’s Love.


Trust God for Safety

You who sit down in the High God’s presence,

    spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow,

Say this: “God, you’re my refuge.

    I trust in you and I’m safe!”    (Psalm 91:1 MSG)


·       Those who “Dwelleth in the secret place of the most High

o   Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty

·       God is our refuge and fortress

o   Difficult to comprehend when so many who are “abiding under the shadow of the almighty” are anything but safe at this moment.

o   For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. (Psalm 91:11 KJV)

§  No evil will befall thee (vs 10)

§  Neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling (vs 10)

§  Several other verses with promises that seem to say nothing bad will happen

o   For interpretation: Look to the cross… look to Jesus

§  Jesus went through temptation “at every point we do but without sin”

§  Jesus experienced the cross, praying “not my will but Thine be done”

§  All of the apostles and countless faithful believers since have experienced unspeakable hardships

·       Yet with them, we continue to affirm “In God We Trust”

o   We trust our prayers to be effective in not just pleading for help but also

§  In providing spiritual girding and assistance and direction and strength when we are unable to participate more directly and substantively in offering relief

§  Our spirits are connected in prayer with each other throughout the body of Christ

§  We grow deeper in self discovery and in our relationship with our Creator

o   We trust God to show us our part in contributing to the solutions to the problems and issues we face in our own lives and around the world

o   We trust God’s over-arching Grace to overcome evil with good and deliver suffering humanity into a re-created world of justice and peace and perfect love.


Trust God for Deliverance

And God took us out of Egypt

    with his strong hand and long arm, terrible and great,

    with signs and miracle-wonders.

    And he brought us to this place,

    gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.     (Deuteronomy 26:8-9 MSG)


·       In the wilderness, pray

o   for Deliverance from oppression

o   for the Outstretched arm of Almighty God to provide “great power, signs and wonders”

o   for those who are suffering will be Brought to a place “flowing with milk and honey”

·       For those going through suffering and injustice, its harder to claim these promises so we who are suffering less must claim these promises for those who are suffering more.

·       After Jesus went through these temptations, Matthew’s Gospel says, “Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” (vs 11)


May this season of Lent be a time of spiritual renewal for each of us, and may the outward physical realm be transformed to reflect the inward spiritual realm.