Monday, February 12, 2024

Heaven All Around Us

The most compelling message of the Transfiguration is, for me, the imagery of heaven’s close proximity in time and space. Paul said that in God, “we live, and move, and have our being.”1 Jesus said that the kingdom of God is within and among us.2 Still, it seems our thoughts of heaven are anchored in the imagery of “up.” So it’s hard to think of heaven the way Jesus described it to Nicodemus when he spoke of himself as the one who both “came down from heaven” and “is in heaven.”3

The Ascension portrays Jesus as going up, up, and away. Elijah was carried up and away in a fiery chariot. Even the Transfiguration took place up on a mountaintop. But perhaps the imagery of “up and away” is intended to communicate a higher plane in our thinking and relationship to each other. Johnson Oatman wrote in his hymn,4

Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith, on heaven’s tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

Everyone is called to pray as we have come to understand prayer to be, so far, and through prayer, to grow in that understanding. All of humanity is called into the eternal conversation of prayer that connects us all in heaven and on earth. We are invited to explore the implications of the idea that from God’s perspective, everyone who has ever lived is still alive. The compelling imagery of the Transfiguration invites us through prayer to explore the broadest possible realms of spirituality in the concept of heaven all around us.  

[Audo of Complete Sermon]

Audio of the sermon preached by Rev. Bill Lawson
February 11, 2024, at Briensburg UMC
Bible Readings for Transfiguration Sunday, Revised Common Lectionary Year B
2 Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9

COVER IMAGE: Bellini, Giovanni. “The Transfiguration,” 1480. Wikipedia: The Free Encylopedia.  
Accessed 12 February 2024. Painting.

Luke 17:28 (KJV).

Luke 17:21.

John 3:13 (KJV).

Oatman, Johnson Jr. “Higher Ground,” 1892. Hymnary.  Accessed12 February 2024.

© 2024, William H. Lawson, Jr. All rights reserved. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Loving Everyone into Sacred Community

Jesus began his ministry by loving everyone into sacred community before he ever began the teaching, healing, and other facets of his ministry. This is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year’s theme comes from the Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God… and your neighbor as yourself…”1 The challenge for followers of Jesus has always been to reconcile our relationships with God’s love. Wherever we fall short in loving as Christ loves, we are invited to acknowledge and revise our behavior. How we relate to each other within and beyond the faith community is a reflection of the progress we are making in our ultimate reconciliation and unity with God, humanity, and all Creation.

Humanity has been invited into an ongoing holy conversation ever since Jesus announced, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”2 Everyone is invited to join this eternal spiritual chat room and to engage as participants in exploring all the ins and outs of a universal faith community that spans all barriers of time and space and life and death. Beliefs, expressions, and practices will always differ among everyone as they always have, and people will always continue to associate and organize around similar ideas and objectives. We are all called and sent to love one another into the sacred community of God’s family.


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on January 21, 2024, at Briensburg UMC.

Bible Readings for the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany,
Revised Common Lectionary, Year B
Jonah 3:1-5 & 10, Psalm 62:5-12, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, Mark 1:14-20

Complete Sermon with Bibliography and Notes:
 [ PDF | MP3 Audio | All Text Formats ]

 COVER IMAGE: Pixabay User ooceey. “Unity in Diversity,” 2020. Pixabay.
Accessed 16 January 2024. Image.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Angels Coming and Going

Today is Human Relations Day in The United Methodist Church, and tomorrow is the national observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. Human Relations Day is celebrated annually across our denomination on the Sunday before King’s observance. The UMC website says, “Human Relations Day calls United Methodists to recognize the right of all God’s children in realizing their potential as human beings in relationship with one another.”1 Similarly, our mission statement here at Briensburg United Methodist Church is “Helping each other serve to our full potential.

Just think how the world would be if everyone could feel the love and friendship, the mutual respect and supportiveness, and the sense of community we share in this room today. Many communities around the world already do feel this way about each other, and they do extend this love into all their other relationships. But there are still many others who feel differently and extend their animosities into all their relationships. Part of our work as believers in the teachings and example of Jesus is to overcome their hostility with our love – with God’s love. St. John framed it metaphorically at the beginning of his Gospel in the Good News Translation, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.”2

I’d like to share this from The King Center Website:3

 Martin Luther King, Jr. described the “Beloved Community” as a society where “caring and compassion drive political policies that support the worldwide elimination of poverty and hunger and all forms of bigotry and violence. At its core, the ‘Beloved Community’ is an engine of reconciliation.”

Human Relations Day emphasizes the value and potential of every human being. Jesus did that. In his allegory of the Judgement of the Nations, “when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him,” Jesus specifically targeted the way people treat each other across governments, societies, and institutions in addition to individuals. The messages of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. challenge us all to listen to our own better angels, to be thoughtful about our unseen environment, and to treat everyone as spiritual beings like Christ or like angels, or like divinely created souls whose bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost.


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on January 14, 2024, at Briensburg UMC.

Bible Readings for the 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany, Revised Common Lectionary, Year B
Psalm 139:1-6, 1 Samuel 3:1-10, 1 Corinthians 6:17-20, John 1:43-51

Complete Sermon with Bibliography and Notes:
 [ PDF | MP3 Audio | All Formats ]

COVER IMAGE: William Blake. “Jacob’s Dream,” 1805. Public Domain. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 14 January 2024. Painting.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Punctuated by Prayer

Jesus found respite, relief, and empowerment in prayer, and we can, too. His miracles, preaching, teaching, and healing were often punctuated by intervals of prayer. Jesus often withdrew from even his closest friends to spend substantial amounts of time praying. Sometimes he shared these moments with a few others, but usually, they were spent in solitude. These were personal focused times apart with God, in addition to the ongoing constant communion Paul referenced in First Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” 

Prayer is at least as much about our listening as about our speaking, about what we hear, at least as much as about what we say. At the Transfiguration, Jesus’ disciples heard God speak from heaven during their shared prayer time with Elijah and Moses, as worded in The Message, “This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him.”  Jesus pointed out in the Sermon on the Mount just before giving the Lord’s Prayer that God already knows what we need before we ask, so we don’t need to “use a lot of meaningless words,” as it says in the Good News Translation.  

We know that God already knows what we are thinking about, but do we know what God is thinking about – what God is trying to communicate to us? Prayer is an opportunity for us to engage with our Creator and receive the guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus promised she would give us. Listen for the “still small voice.” Perhaps if our activities were more punctuated by prayer, then “oh ye of little faith” might become “oh ye of a little more faith.”


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on August 13, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.
11th Sunday after Pentecost
1 Kings 19:9-18, Psalm 85:8-13, Romans 10:5-15, Matthew 14:22-33

Complete Sermon with Bibliography and Notes:
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Tuesday, August 8, 2023

More Than Enough for Everyone

God has provided more than enough food for everyone in the world to have plenty every day, and yet world hunger is a persistent issue. It doesn’t matter how much food is available if those who control the distribution refuse to allow it to be shared fairly. What if we think about sharing the world’s food resources as being sacramental, perhaps as an extension of the Sacrament of Holy Communion?  

World hunger is, and never ceases to be, a spiritual issue. It only becomes political when it is used as leverage to deprive people of their fair share of the world’s nutritional resources. In the Judgement of the Nations in Matthew 25, the nations are gathered and divided according to how they have treated their most vulnerable populations. The pronouncement of the One sitting on the throne of glory begins as phrased in the New Revised Standard Version:

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. (Matthew 25:24-35 NRVS).


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on August 6, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.
10th Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 55:1-5, Psalm 145:8-9 & 14-21, Romans 9:1-5, Matthew 14:13-21,

Complete Sermon with Bibliography and Notes:
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Saturday, August 5, 2023

What do These Have in Common?

Sower, tares, mustard seed, leaven, hidden treasure, pearl, net, scribe – What do these have in common?  Each is one of eight parables presented in succession in Matthew 13. These, along with all the other parables of Jesus, are short figurative analogies similar to fables, which, like the lengthy allegories and legends throughout the Old Testament, are intended to communicate timeless spiritual messages. The enduring nature of Biblical teachings is owing in general to their inspiration by the Holy Ghost and in particular to their innate quality of universal, eternal application. They are as old as old can be, yet fresh and new each time they cross our minds.

The wisdom of the Scriptures is in the discernment by which they are applied to any present situation. The imagery of the Bible provides a limitless cache of metaphors through which the Holy Spirit continuously speaks as she guides us, as Jesus promised, “into all truth.” God’s love, as demonstrated in Jesus, invites the broadest possible perception, in contrast to any efforts to narrow and restrict our understanding of the Scriptures to arbitrary boundaries. What do these parables of Jesus have in common? They are like windows into Heaven. 


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on July 30, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

Complete Sermon with Bibliography and Notes:
 [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Monday, July 24, 2023

Growing Together in God's Field

God loves everyone and wants everyone to live together in peace and harmony. Our part is to reflect God’s kindness. If there is any judging to do, God will do the judging. If there is any sorting to do, God will do the sorting. No matter what we think of ourselves or others, God’s expectation is that we will be respectful and cooperative, loving others as Christ has loved us.

Everyone is a child of God. Everyone has a place in God’s world. God’s own Spirit communicates her love to us and to all, helping us to know that we are her daughters and sons. One of the great sacramental messages of Holy Communion, as practiced in our United Methodist heritage, is that it is the Lord’s Table around which we gather. Likewise, it is the Lord’s World we live in, and God loved the world so much that God sent Jesus to be our savior. Today’s Bible readings invite us to grow spiritually right alongside everyone else, and let God work out the rest.


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on July 23, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

Complete Sermon with Bibliography and Notes:
 [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Cover Image: Pixabay User Pexels. “Wheat Field,” 2016. Pixabay.   20 July 2023. 

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Sowing Seeds of Kindness

Jesus demonstrated what it means to sow seeds of kindness everywhere he went. His criticisms were reserved for those who worked against kindness. But even those criticisms were intended to protect the vulnerable while persuading the powerful to be more kind.

There is a view of Scripture that is harsh and condemning, but this is not the view of Jesus. Jesus’ view is kind, gentle, and forgiving. There is a view of Christian faith that expects large numbers, that quantifies spirituality, that measures faith in material terms. But Jesus’ expectation is measured in spiritual terms. The growth Christ looks for is the spiritual growth of each soul. The expectation is that we, like Jesus, will spread seeds of kindness wherever we go, that we will tend to those seeds and nurture them, and that we will trust God with the results. If we believe everyone is made in the image of God (and most people do believe this in one form or another regardless of their religious associations), we can also believe that every person God has made is already on some sort of spiritual journey. Rather than thinking of people as primitive and misguided souls disconnected from any relationship to their Creator, we can instead relate to everyone as spiritual beings, united with their Creator and growing by grace. We are invited to emulate Christ in planting the proverbial seeds of kindness. 


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on July 16, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

For the Complete Sermon: [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Cover Image Photo by Larry Jacobsen. “Seed and the Sower.” Cheyenne Botanical Gardens. “A bronze statue of the Seed and the Sower – a Prairie woman – sowing seed in her garden.” Creative Commons License. Flickr.  10 July 2023.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Invitation to a Refreshing Partnership

Acceptance of Jesus’ Great Invitation, “Come unto me,” is not defined by the books we carry, the verses we quote, or the organizations we join, but by the way we love.

Normalization of prolific mass shootings and protected gun violence, rollback of women’s rights, violent rhetoric against our LGBTQ community, and racist adjudication of the death penalty are among the most recent setbacks for humanity in general and our nation in particular. As wearisome as our resistance may sometimes seem, we remember the encouragement of St. Paul through the Galatians, as expressed by Charles Gabriel in his hymn, “Let us not grow weary in the work of love.”

Christ invites us to join together in an eternal partnership, overcoming the heartbreaks and injustices of the world by ministering the healing kindness and goodness of God’s love. How refreshing it must have been to see and hear Jesus exemplify and teach, revealing the true nature of God in contrast with what those who were professing traditional orthodoxy were practicing and proclaiming! How refreshing it is for us today to hear the Great Invitation as an opportunity to join Jesus in making this world a better place, even as we look forward to the life of the world to come!   

Isn’t this what we want: Peace in our hearts, peace in our land, peace around the world? Imagine how it would be if God’s love were perfected in our personal lives and relationships. Imagine how it would be if our community, state, and nation were ultimately governed by perfect love. Imagine an entire world brought together in peace and love for everyone. This is the vision of Christ for the whole of humanity that we would love one another as Christ has loved us. Jesus invites you, me, and everyone else to join in a divine partnership of spreading peace and love. Isn’t that refreshing?

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28 KJV).


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on July 9, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

For the Complete Sermon: [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Cover Image Photo by Pexels. “Teamwork,” 2016. Pixabay. 4 July 2023.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Kindness is the Best Offering

Here again, we are confronted with the kindness of the New Testament juxtaposed with the harshness of the Old Testament. Through the dichotomy between the two, we recognize the many vast differences between how people think of God and how Jesus reveals God. One of the greatest differences is what people think God expects of us versus what God actually expects of us. This dichotomy is not only between the Testaments but also within the Old Testament, as prophets and psalmists highlight the goodness, gentleness, and mercy of God in stark contrast with some of the other writers of the Hebrew text.

Jesus taught us to interpret all the Scriptures through God’s perspective of love instead of through the perspective of fear. Faithfulness to the Biblical text includes attention to the voice of God as revealed through the love of Christ. Even through the most troublesome passages, the Bible speaks to us of God’s loving presence and providence. 

Christ teaches us to emulate the goodness and kindness of God. That’s what we are invited to focus on, even though there are plenty of distractions in the world and even in the Bible. John wrote, “Perfect love casteth out fear.” The eternal life of God’s heavenly realm is bestowed on us as a free gift. By following Christ in kindness and trusting the kindness of our Creator, we are participants in the emerging kingdom of God “on earth, as it is in heaven.


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on July 2, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

For the Complete Sermon: [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Cover Image Photo by Jana Wersch. “Give Water,” 2015. Pixabay.  30 June 2023. 

Sunday, June 25, 2023

God is in the Response

There is no satisfactory explanation for most of the tragedies and hardships of life. Some are caused intentionally. It is completely unfathomable to me as to why anyone would want to cause harm to others for no reason or even for selfish reasons. Others are caused by the weather or other acts of nature whose causes are completely mechanical according to physics, and people just happen to be in their way. Many are caused by accidents whose prevention can sometimes be anticipated but often only speculated about in hindsight.

 God is not the cause of our disasters, as the superstitious often assert. Rather, God is in the response. Where family, friends, and neighbors jump in to help with immediate needs, God is working through them. Where groups, institutions, and agencies back them up with longer-term assistance, God is working through them. Where we are able to be any part of these forms of response, God is working through us. We are so grateful for all the ways God helps us and others in all the different times of need. God is in the healing response.

 Our prayers are a vital part of our response to all degrees of misfortune. Prayer enables us to center our thoughts and feelings in the midst of any storm. The Holy Spirit meets us in prayer, and she calms our spirits, reaffirms God’s love, and reminds us of God’s promises. We connect to Creation in prayer, especially to those for whom we are praying in the difficulties they are facing. Through prayer, we begin to discover additional actions we can take to follow through in the answering of our prayers, some specific and some general, some in word, some in deed, and some in continuing prayer for ourselves and others.

William Batchelder Bradbury wrote in the first song my Dad taught me to play on the piano,

Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer
Thy wings shall my petition bear
To Him whose truth and faithfulness
Engage the waiting soul to bless
And since He bids me seek His face
Believe His Word and trust His grace
I'll cast on Him my ev'ry care
And wait for thee sweet hour of prayer


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on June 25, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

For the Complete Sermon: [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Cover Image by Mystics Art Design. “Nature Reserve,” 2014. Pixaby.  13 June 2023. 

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Father's Day Spirit

Today is Father’s Day, and perhaps should be celebrated as a form of “Parent’s Day” since Mother’s Day is also celebrated as the “Festival of the Christian Home.” In today’s readings, Sarah and Abraham were informed, in style somewhat reflected thousands of years later by the Annunciation, that, unlikely as it seemed, they were to become parents.

The Bible invites us to think of God in part as our Heavenly Parent. Jesus taught us to pray to “Our Father which art in heaven.” Paul taught that the Holy Spirit within us creates a parent/child relationship, and she “calls out, ‘Abba, Father’” as phrased in the New International Version, on our behalf. The paternal term is meant to communicate relationship, not gender since God is neither female nor male and is both feminine and masculine. Our Creator is our eternal Parent. The Scriptures use both motherly and fatherly imagery to communicate that we are the beloved children of God. Paul reminds us that our Heavenly Father “proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us,”as the New Revised Standard Version says. As illustrated by Jesus’ “Parable of the Prodigal,” our Heavenly Parent is always watching for ways to reconcile and deepen the relationship with us.  

In my father’s sermon notes for today's reading from Romans, Dad wrote:

God’s love says, “I love you unconditionally. I’ve always given myself to you. What is your response?” God’s love does not depend on our virtue or achievements. The nature of God’s love is such that it does not leave us as it finds us. And it does not use us up. It refreshes and renews.


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on June 18, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

For the Complete Sermon: [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Invitation to Christian Discipleship

 We and all people are offered the same personal invitation of Christ as Matthew and others in the Bible, “Follow me.” It isn’t possible for us to follow Jesus physically, but his first followers only were able to do so at the very beginning of their discipleship. Most of their lives were spent following Jesus spiritually, just like we are invited to do. We feel the Holy Spirit moving within and among us. Her love stirs our hearts, drawing us ever more deeply into our relationship with Christ and each other. Just as Jesus promised, she teaches and guides us to respond to the impressions she makes in our hearts and minds, constantly inviting us – “wooing us to heaven,” as Philip Bliss wrote in his hymn, “Wonderful Words of Life.”

The invitation to Christian discipleship is not a one-and-done demand but a continuing attraction, new and fresh every day. I hear the invitation of Jesus not like a command but like the lyrics of John Denver’s love song with the same title, “Follow Me.”  Don’t you just want to take Jesus’ hand?


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on June 11, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

For the Complete Sermon: [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Fully Inclusive Trinity

Today is observed as Trinity Sunday throughout much of Western Christianity, celebrating the unity expressed through the doctrine of the Trinity. Today is also observed as Peace with Justice Sunday across The United Methodist Church. A reminder in an article, “What is Peace with Justice Sunday?” on the denominational website, says, “Our Social Principles call us to love our enemies, seek justice, and serve as reconcilers of conflict.”[i]

Inclusiveness is about justice, and justice is about peace, and peace is about love, and the Bible says, “God is love.”[i] The Bible starts with the Creation narrative by providing imagery to support the oneness of all creation as a reflection of the oneness of God. On the night he gave himself up for us, Jesus prayed in John 17 that we all “may be made perfect in one,” or as phrased in The Message, “the glorious unity of being one.”[ii] The “greatest law” Jesus quoted[iii] begins,

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: [and continues] And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.[iv] [Jesus combined this law from Deuteronomy with another from Leviticus as the “second greatest commandment:”] Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.[v]

The prophet Amos, in his role as the mouthpiece of the Lord, declared in the Good News Translation,” Let justice flow like a stream, and righteousness like a river that never goes dry.”[vi]

June is Pride Month,[vii] and yesterday our church participated in a ministry of presence at the Paducah PrideFest as one of the sponsors for the event. We also had a booth for providing information about Briensburg United Methodist Church and the Reconciling Ministries Network. We circulated among the crowd to meet people and share the love of Jesus. LGBTQ inclusiveness is a justice issue, not only in society but in the Church. It is a great and harmful injustice that people of the same gender are not allowed to be married in their own churches or by their own pastors in The United Methodist Church. It is a great and harmful injustice that practicing homosexuals are restricted from being ordained or appointed as pastors in The United Methodist Church. LGBTQ Christians are encouraged to participate fully in all other ministries of The United Methodist Church. We gladly recognize all the ways The United Methodist Church is actively and prominently engaged in many social justice issues worldwide. Still, we advocate for those harmful, restrictive, and unjust rules added to our Discipline as recently as 1974 to be removed this year at General Conference.

Every month of the year also has several days set aside for awareness of other important social justice issues. Health care, poverty, hunger, racism, gender inequality, gun violence, domestic violence, war, child abuse, and human trafficking are only a few of the countless grave injustices worldwide. Our individual power is limited in addressing these enormous spiritual challenges. Still, the Holy Ghost’s power to unite us has repeatedly proven to make a remarkable difference for the victims of injustice. The second of three United Methodist baptismal vows is to “accept the freedom and power God gives [us] to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”[viii]

The prophet Micah famously preached in Micah 6:8 in the Good News Translation, “The Lord has told us what is good. What [God] requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.” Working together in harmony and peace for justice and unity is what Jesus prayed in John 17 and what the prophets, apostles, and church leaders from Augustine to Wesley have preached. God continues to call women and men to preach social holiness in our generation. The more fully and inclusively we unite in Christian love and service, the more we reflect the oneness of the fully inclusive Trinity. Paul wrote to the Ephesians as phrased in the Good News Translation:

Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all.[ix]


Excerpt from the manuscript of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on June 4, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

For the Complete Sermon: [ PDF | MP3 Audio | E-Book & Other Formats ]

[ii] John 17:23 (KJV, MSG).

[iii] Matthew 22:36-40.

[iv] Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (KJV).

[v] Leviticus 19:18 (KJV).

[vi] Amos 5:24 (GNT).

[vii] Wikipedia Contributors. “Pride Month,” 2 June 2023. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.  2 June 2023.

[viii] The United Methodist Church. “The Baptismal Covenant I.” The United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 88. Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1992. Print.

[ix] Ephesians 4:2-6 (GNT).

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Empowered to Minister Forgiveness


Today we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Some days of celebration on the Christian calendar come at times when current events in our daily lives make celebration difficult. The first Pentecost was celebrated shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection and ascension at the beginning of a great persecution of Christians that intensified over several hundred years. Yet, we, as they did, celebrate that God is with us in the midst of all our heartbreaks and sorrows to strengthen and guide us. Jesus called the Holy Spirit the “Comforter,”[i] and we are so very thankful for the comfort she brings in difficult times. Francis Bottome wrote in his hymn,[ii]

The Comforter has come, the Comforter has come!
The Holy Ghost from heaven, the Father's promise given;

 The first empowerment of the Holy Ghost specified by Jesus after the Resurrection is the power to forgive sins. Paul further addressed in his writings the additional powers to minister spiritual gifts and to bear spiritual fruits. Together, these powers enable us to learn how to keep the commandment of Jesus, to love others as Christ has loved us,[iii] and to serve the world in the ministry of God’s unconditional, universal forgiveness and love.

 God’s dream always was to pour out the Holy Spirit on all humanity, inclusively and without exception, as Peter explained on the Day of Pentecost, citing the prophet Joel. We are empowered individually and collectively, as Jesus promised at his Ascension: “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”[iv]  

 Our acceptance of this empowerment is a personal decision we make in our relationship with God.

Excerpt from the manuscript and audio of the sermon preached by 
Rev. Bill Lawson on May 28, 2023, at Briensburg UMC.

For the Complete Sermon: [ E-Book | PDF | MP3 Audio ]

[i] John 16:7 (KJV).
[ii] Francis Bottome. “The Comforter Has Come,” 1890. Hymnary. Web.  26 May 2023.
[iii] John 13:34.
[iv] Luke 24:49 (KJV).

Image: Gerd Altman. “Pentecost,” 2018. PixabayWeb. 27 May 2023.