A Sermon for the Week

 

Matthew

Matthew 9: 9-13

June 14, 2020

 Nowadays in America, what do you suppose is the most despised occupation? Now, I don’t buy much polling data because the data is too easily manipulated, but in a poll I saw, the tax man was at the very bottom of the list of professions in the USA. And, I kind of think, maybe those numbers might be right? Others at the bottom of that poll were bankers, business people, lawyers, journalists, and union leaders. Those must be crooked ones right, not like the ones we have around here?

 The most loved were Doctors, scientists, teachers, and preachers. I am sure that is certainly not all ministers, in fact I know there are some people who have a very low opinion of me. But, those occupations serve other people in their work, maybe that’s why they get a good grade? Now, I would argue that most of them on the bottom of that poll serve people too. Maybe it’s all about money?

 Tax people are at the very bottom of the poll. Have you ever heard anyone brag that they work for the IRS and collect taxes? I have a feeling those guys don’t go around bragging about their job? If you ever had to sit across the desk from an IRS agent collecting taxes from you, would have a high opinion of them?

 Well, today I’m talking about another tax collector. Jesus has been calling his first disciples and one of them was a tax collector. Jesus called him right out of his tax office, where he collected taxes in Capernaum on the North shore of the Sea of Galilee. Matthew was a tax collector and the writer of the Gospel of Matthew the first book of the New Testament.

 Well, in those days and evidently now, tax collectors were hated. Now, Jesus knew tax collectors had bad reputations and he called him anyway. They collected taxes for the hated Romans, money people would rather not have given up. They felt they were paying for their own oppression. Maybe there was an honest tax collector but most of them swindled people for more than what the Romans required and kept it for themselves. They actually paid the Romans to be tax collectors. They were rich and everyone knew they were crooked. Why did Jesus bring that kind of trouble into his group of disciples?

 It sure wasn’t a politically correct decision. Tax collectors were ranked in society right along with robbers and prostitutes. The name Tax collector, was a four letter word. The religious leaders said, “Don’t have anything to do with them. Stay away.” But, this hated man, Matthew became a trusted disciple of Jesus, as he was changed in Christ. He was changed, as all of us can be changed. The Pharisees thought Jesus was either crazy or sinful when he called a tax collector to be one of his disciples.

 Maybe Jesus was just sending a message. When he asked one of the most hated people in society to be one of his disciples. It was a clear message from Jesus that his disciples can be terribly evil before, but they can be changed through faith in him. Jesus is sending us the same message today. Jesus loves each and every one of us, even those IRS agents and we can all be changed through our faith in Christ. Jesus, still calls people who are sinners, the very worst of sinners, to be his loyal followers and when they come with repentant hearts, he changes them.

 So, after Jesus called him, Matthew invites his new boss to his mansion. You know he lived in a mansion, I’m sure it had a coastal view of the Sea of Galilee just like the rich people in Malibu. Matthew invited everyone, for he wanted his friends to meet Jesus and be changed. Matthew was new at following Jesus but he was already bringing people to Jesus. Just as each and every one of us should be bringing our friends to Jesus.

 As I was writing this, I remembered a trip I took years ago. I was dating a female soldier from Louisiana who was a Cajun and proud of it. One February we took leave and went down to meet her family. Now, not only was I not a Cajun, I was of German heritage and a flat lander kid from Eastern Colorado, none of the things her Dad was looking for in a son in law. Now, that young woman‘s Dad also liked her hometown ex-boyfriend, the one she had dated before she went in the Army, and he didn’t particularly want a stupid soldier flatlander around his daughter and in his home. Another problem was that I could barely understand anything that was said when those Cajuns got to talking. I think they got a little tired of me saying, “What?” Her Dad asked me the first night if I was planning on marrying his daughter and I told him the truth that I hadn’t thought about it. That wasn’t a popular answer, either. It got so miserable in that house that we finally got out of there and went back to North Carolina. Boy, it was a quiet ride back and she never went out with me again. Guess she respected her Dad’s opinion? That family thought of me just about like the Pharisees thought about Matthew. I wasn’t one of them and they weren’t ready to bring me in and try to make a Cajun out of me.

 The Pharisees thought about the people that night at Matthew’s party about like that girl’s Dad thought of me, He thought I was hopeless. Now, that is so unlike Jesus, who sees our heart, knows all our sin, yet sees only the person we can be through our faith in him and shame on Jesus with the Pharisees, that day he not only ate with those sinners, he visited with them like there was nothing wrong with them. The Pharisees watched, keeping score of the sins they believed Jesus committed.

 But, they were afraid to gripe to Jesus, they had seen his miracles and knew he had power. Instead, the Pharisees came to the disciples asking, “Why does Jesus eat with those sinners?” Jesus heard them and replied, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."

 He called them out like that old Cajun Daddy, did me, telling them where they were wrong. Jesus had always said his disciples would be changed sinners and not self-righteous and arrogant sinners, like the Pharisees. This was Jesus’ first argument with the Pharisees, but it was just the beginning. Later, when Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. Jesus asked the Pharisees when they complained, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?" They didn’t like those choices and began plotting to kill him. In their hard and sinful hearts, Jesus was a threat to the status quo and he had to go.

 The Pharisees were hypocrites and phonies, pretending to be religious and didn’t have the Lord or his lessons in their hearts. They thought they were better than everyone else. They wanted praise and attention, even more than a close relationship with God. To show off, they prayed where people would see them, gave money to the beggars in public, and covered their clothing with ashes to make people think they were repentant, but it was all a show. As Jesus was coming to the end of his time on earth, Jesus said to the Pharisees, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and greed.”

 So, what does this story mean for our lives? First, it doesn’t matter how sinful we are, Jesus wants us to come to him with repentant hearts. He wants us to know the only unforgiveable sin is saying, “No,” to faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus wants us to understand that the disciples were sinful, imperfect, flawed people, just like us, but they were changed through their faith in Jesus Christ, just as we can be.

 Now, most of us do not think of ourselves as robbers, prostitutes, murderers and terrorists, and we start getting in trouble right there…just like the Pharisees. Jesus wants us to be admit our sins, to admit we all have some. He wants us to admit, we are sinful and need the doctor, Jesus Christ, to heal and forgive us. Like the Pharisees, many of us ignore our own failings and over emphasize the sins of others. While, Matthew understood his own sinfulness, the Pharisees couldn’t or wouldn’t admit sin in their lives. Matthew’s repentance got him forgiven as the Pharisees’ hard hearts prevented forgiveness for them. Jesus wants us to call out to God, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!” That is what Matthew did and that is what Jesus wants us to do. We can’t hide our sinfulness from God, so why bother trying?

 Jesus does not want us to be like the Pharisees, with hearts that are unrepentant, while looking down on the people we think are worse sinners than us. Jesus was flat disgusted with the Pharisees because their hearts were not full of the grace and love of God. While he had compassion for all, the sinners, even for the Pharisees if they would just repent. But, they thought that they were better than everyone else and had nothing to repent of. They assumed the bad things that happened in other’s lives was because of those people’s sin. But, we need to remember the two ways trouble and trial come into our lives are through Satan and nature. God does not whack us for our sins as the Pharisees thought and many think today. Now, some of our sins may cause us trouble later, because of Satan or nature but not because God planned it as a punishment for our sins. The Pharisees loved themselves and their lives and had no idea, they were lost. You know, there are still a lot pf people around who are like them, walking around thinking they’re better than others and they may be lost until they come to the Lord with repentance in their hearts.

 The Pharisees never lifted a finger to help those who were in sin and lost. Instead of mercy, the Pharisees were ONLY good at an outward appearance of faith. Now, we all need to do those things like church attendance, Bible study at home and together with other Christians, a daily prayer life, and giving to the church and those less fortunate than us as they help us come to a closer relationship with Christ. But, if we start putting down people and looking down on them, thinking they aren’t as good as us because they don’t do the same things we do, we are going wrong.

 The Pharisees loved their religious rituals more than having hearts of compassion and mercy and it still goes on today, many people go to church and do religious things as a substitute for mercy and loving of their fellow man and surrendering their hearts to Jesus Christ. I pray they will come to Christ with a repentant heart asking forgiveness and for him to come into their hearts.

You know, that day, Matthew and a whole bunch of his friends and Jesus were at Matthew’s house. What a mess of sinners, lepers, lame, and blind; all kinds of outcasts. Jesus had called Matthew to be one of his disciples and the Pharisees knew it. Can you imagine what they thought of this big time sinner being called to work for Jesus? But, Jesus knew their hearts, he knew Matthew’s heart was repentant and that he was being changed by his faith in Christ, while he also knew those holier than thou Pharisees who had hard hearts and not a bit of repentance in them. This battle between Jesus and his followers eventually led to them getting Jesus murdered and then through Jesus’ death and resurrection, each of us may repent and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and through that faith, we too can be changed as Matthew was and spend eternity with him.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

Healy UMC - Healy, Kansas

 

“Make Disciples, Me?”

Matthew 28:16-20

June 7, 2020

 In the last verse of Matthew as Jesus was leaving the disciples for the last time he said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and I will be with you, to the end of the age.”

 For three years, Jesu had been teaching them about life in him and how they could live forever in Paradise through faith in Jesus Christ. They were ordinary people just like you and me and Jesus was teaching them how to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ. Regular folks helping others like them, just as we can do now. These were the last words of Jesus’ life on earth, do you think he thought it was important? Together, Jesus and these people had gone through three years of ministry, Palm Sunday, the last supper, Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, and then the miracle of Easter when he rose from the grave, defeating sin and death forever.

 There was Jesus, after three years with them, and he had taught them over and over again what to do after he left and he gave them these important words. Just like my Mom used to do when she went out the door, as she shook her finger at me, saying something like, “Bud, you make sure you get done what I told you, before I get home.” Jesus wanted his disciples to get to work and he wants us to do it now. Yes, I know, it seems as if I have been dwelling on this idea and I admit it, I have. But, it is a fact, each and every one of us need to try bring new people to Christ and to this church, not some day in the future, right now. I also believe the pandemic has given us a golden opportunity to work to bring new souls in and that it will only happen if every one of us gets to work trying.  Whether we want to admit it or not, it is our MOST important job for Jesus Christ. Yes, we are to help the disadvantaged, yes, we are to pray and read our Bibles, yes, we are to celebrate our relationship with God in church, with preaching, teaching, and singing, but…most importantly of all is that every Christian is to try to make new disciples for Jesus. And, all those other things we do in Christ, well, they will help us do our most important job, make new disciples.

 When I look back on my life as a Christian both as a pastor and as a lay member I ask myself, “Have I helped all the people I should have to faith in Jesus Christ?” And, I ask you, “Have you had a part in making the disciples of Christ, you were supposed to?” Today, I am not picking on us about tithing enough, helping the disadvantaged enough, attending church enough, or singing joyously enough even though they are important. Today, I am asking, have you and I, done our part in making new disciples for Jesus Christ? How many times have we missed an opportunity, sometimes on purpose, when we knew we needed to tell someone about our faith and willfully didn’t do it?

 When I think back through the years I see souls who do not know Christ that I not only didn’t try to lead there, I actually steered them away. I was thinking about a Messenger conversation with an old friend, I worked with several years, here it is forty years later, and I still didn’t know if he is safe in Christ when his life is over here. I’ve known him all these years and would have told you that I cared about him but, I have never asked about his faith. While, that friend cared enough about me that was concerned about my safety during the Virus and asked about my safety. The first few times we talked, I just used banal language without a word about my faith in Christ or being protected by him. But, finally after he asked one more time if I was safe in the pandemic, I finally told him that I was trying to be safe but, sometimes, especially when it is a life or death circumstances, I just have to trust the Lord to keep me safe. I have known him forty years and finally after all these years, I mentioned my faith to him, how sad. Can you hear God sigh at my apathy? I am afraid we have we all done the same things?

 Yes, I know we human beings don’t make disciples; but the Holy Spirit DOES work through us to make them. We human beings are to plant seeds of Christ in people’s lives and pray that through the Holy Spirit they will put down roots in their souls and grow. Yes, it is God who makes disciples. But, Jesus still tells us, “Go and make disciples,” with the help of the Holy Spirit.

 So, who are supposed to be making new disciples? When I was growing up, I thought I knew the answer of who was supposed to do that, I thought it was those, I thought of as the super religious from our church. The Dodds and the Hodges. They were the ones that started the church in Eastern Colorado after they moved to Colorado from Arkansas and I had already given them the job. Especially Pastor Dodd who baptized me, our preacher, I figured he was the guy for the job of leading people to Christ. I also included the missionaries who I thought should make new disciples. I guess I thought disciples makers were the pastors, the missionaries and the really religious.

 Then, somewhere along the line, I finally listened and HEARD the words of Jesus. The Spirit told me, “You, Bud Tuxhorn, go and make new disciples for Christ.” It’s not just the religious people and not just the preachers and missionaries, but, every Christian is called to make disciples. Jesus called common and ordinary fishermen and tax collectors and people like you and me to go and make new disciples and he still does, as he works through people like each one of us to make new disciples.

 You also have to know, the laity will always be more effective at making disciples than the pastors, the missionaries or the highly religious. Did you know when a stranger visits the church, and a lay person from the church returns their visit within thirty-six hours, 86% of those visitors will return the next week? But, if a pastor visits after the stranger comes to the church on Sunday, only 43% return to worship next week. Lay people are twice as effective as a pastor in bringing visitors back and who do you think is most effective in bringing new people in the first time? Yep, lay people are more effective there too and I think it is because they know the pastor is paid to do it. The visitor appreciates a call from a layperson more, because the layperson is volunteering to do it, they know that person truly cares and they know, not everyone does it even though they should.

 Sometimes, laypeople give testimonies at church like I try to get you all to do during Lent. When they share heart filled words, I believe people REALLY listen to what is said and much closer than when the Pastor speaks Or, when a prayer is prayed in public, a lay person it is often a better witness than a pastor’s prayer.  God uses regular folks to do his work in the world, and they often seem more authentic and real to those not in Christ.

 So, “Who is to go and make disciples?” Common and ordinary people are to do it and when they do, churches begins to shine and grow with life. I think that is why Jesus picked twelve regular old guys to be his first disciples and not twelve rabbis. Jesus wanted to change the world and to do it he needed common and ordinary Christians. I think we all know, whether we want to admit it or not, that is the way it has always been. Think back to when you were new in the church and who brought you in? Was it a preacher?

 So, where are we to go? Jesus said, “Go into the world and make disciples of all people.” He didn’t say, “Go to the church, go to your adult Bible class, go to your Sunday School, or go to your youth group, all important things.” No he said, go out into the world and bring your friends to Jesus Christ through the church. That’s your neighbor and the child in an unchurched home across the street for some of us.

 Did you know, that unchurched people who join the church say that 80% of them were brought into the church by their friends? While only 9% were brought by pastors and only 2% by Sunday school teachers. It is always through the power of friends and friendship that people come to church and to Christ. There is amazing power when laity bring their friends to church, people who may or may not know Jesus Christ, people who may not belong to any church. Power comes when the laity bring their friends and neighbors to church and Christ.

 We need to do this because Christ commanded us to do it. He said, “Go and make disciples of all people.”  But, it is also because we know it is the right thing to do. For, we know a life lived in Christ is better than one not lived in Christ. People who come into the Christian faith have the seed of Christ planted in them and become more loving and kind. People I Christ have better marriages, better kids, and better self-images. And, most important of all, when they die they will go to heaven and not to hell and there is nothing more important than that. Can you think of a better reason for you to want your family and your friends and the whole world to come to Jesus Christ?

 They will have a better life with Jesus Christ. Because life is much better when you know Christ and walk with Christ. Think of all the things a follower of Christ will not do to others to hurt them, when they are in a close walk with Christ. Do you think a person, a cop, in a close walk with Christ would have smothered that man in the street? No! Would someone in a close walk with Christ burn down an innocent person’s business or home? No! Think of all they WILL do to help others when they are walking with Christ and being part of a church community helps you to know Christ better, walk with Christ more closely, and gives us accountability to live our life in Christ.

 We know of course, we cannot force anyone to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. But, we can tell them about our own faith and how it has changed our lives. We can invite them and even go pick them up to come to church and maybe even offer to buy them lunch after church, to grease the skids. If a little bribery gets them to Church and the Lord touches their hearts, that’s bribery I can live with and endorse! I knew a lady once, who believed her fried chicken brought people outside the church to potlucks and I say if it was true, hallelujah!

 Living as close to Christ as we can makes us a better witness. But, do any of us think we can be a perfect witness? But, the people we witness to, will understand we’re not perfect and we’re trying our very best and cut us some slack. They will understand, not hold it against us, and appreciate that you cared enough ot tell them. Our prayer should be that God will come into the people we know and love as we witness to them and that he will bring them to a lifesaving faith in Jesus. Then through our invitation, maybe even our example, and even through our bribes, it will all be worth it to know one more soul is headed to heaven and not hell.

 On this day, the time had finally come for the end of Jesus’ life in a human body on earth. Those people had spent three years with him and heard about making new disciples but Jesus said it one more time and I will too, “Go therefore and make disciples of all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and I will be with you, to the end of the age.”

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC, Healy Kansas

 

Christian-1”

Acts 2:1-21

May 31, 2020

 I was thinking about the first time I tried in a church I served to celebrate the birthday of the church on Pentecost. We decorated the sanctuary with red helium balloons and gave all the children party hats and noise makers. During the Children’s Sermon all the kids celebrated the church’s birthday with lots of noise and cupcakes. I was in a lot of trouble with the Trustees and the UMW for the mess we made and after church we had a potluck and at the end of the meal we all sang Happy Birthday to the church and ate cake. All the kids had another dose of cake and we had them well sugared up. We were going to do a lot of the same things today, but because of the virus we are going have to do it remotely and in your homes. But, let’s celebrate anyway, let’s thank God that he has given us this haven, this haven of rest, from an old hymn, where we can go to hide form the world a little while, a place we can come and be supported by other members of the church through difficult times in our lives. I thank you Lord for the church…Amen?

 It is Pentecost and is one of the greatest days in the church’s year I believe right behind Christmas and Easter and when we remember the birthday of the church. After church today we too, were going to have birthday cake. The candles on the cake would have reminded us of those tongues of fire on that first Pentecost morning. These balloons, around me, are to remind us that God is like the wind:  invisible, moving, mysterious, and blowing across the universe. We see the balloons moving from the breeze but we cannot see the air that is moving them. Just as we cannot see God for he is invisible here on earth, yet powerful like the wind. The word for God in the Old Testament is “Ruach” which means breath. Our life was created when God breathed life into us and he did the same thing for the church on that first Pentecost. 

 Today we read the Bible reading in different languages. On the first day of Pentecost, there were many different languages spoken and people understood them as their own. When Carla was reading the Spanish and I the German and Ramona the English that day at Pentecost you would have understand in your own language without the cheat sheet in the bulletin. As we are reminded to share Jesus with all people, all over the world as we make new disciples for Jesus Christ. And, that mission includes us too, our neighbor right here, for we are ALL to be missionary people where ever we are.

 So, on that first Pentecost the followers of Jesus were gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem. I wonder if it was the same upper room they had been hiding in since The Crucifixion? They were told to wait and pray for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. So, the disciples waited and prayed and I’m afraid they hid…just as we do so often when we have the opportunity to tell our neighbor about Jesus Christ, and don’t. Then they sensed the presence of God blowing among them and there were tongues of fire on them as they gained new energy and new power and they were no longer afraid to tell others about Christ. We all need a touch of that, don’t we? It was clear, to them they were to go to the entire world, proclaiming the lifesaving faith of Jesus Christ and yes, that does mean we are to tell our neighbors and those children down the street about Jesus. Our goal is supposed to be that every person we see is told about Jesus and led to faith in Christ! You don’t have to go overseas to be a missionary, unless of course, you are called to it, but we each need to inform the people around us about faith in Christ.  On that first Pentecost morning, there was a new sense of purpose and they had that new power within, the Holy Spirit. They couldn’t wait to get out there and tell others about Jesus Christ and that is how we should be. They had new courage to face persecution and rejection and were unafraid to talk about their faith. They were unafraid to go out to family, friends, and neighbors, and tell them the good news of Jesus Christ.

 In verse eight of our reading we heard, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Now, I don’t know about you, but one of the most difficult things in my life is to talk to someone about Jesus Christ who isn’t a fellow church member. I remember the first time I had to do it one on one with a man. He was dying and we both knew it and had an inkling that he had never come to faith in Jesus Christ. As I prayed the night before I asked God to help me, to not only give me the courage to talk to him about Christ, but to somehow lead him to faith in Jesus Christ. That day as I went up to his room in the hospital I prayed all the way up there and that was in the old days when I used to walk up the stairs, I was that scared. When I walked in I said, “Hi,” and asked how it was going that day and he told me the truth that he was really hurting. Now, I wish I could tell you I asked him about his faith artfully, but I’m afraid it wasn’t, I just blurted out, “You know it’s terribly important to have faith in Christ, especially when you are dying, is he your Savior?” This might be a lesson for those who think we have to do it perfectly and artfully? But, God turned it all into a beautiful moment…when that dying man, told me, “No, but maybe I should be thinking about it?” And, in the next few minutes that man came to a tearful repentance and faith Christ. When I preached his funeral a few days later I was able to tell the congregation with conviction that he was in heaven, thank God!

 You know it’s easy to talk about our faith in Sunday school class or at a potluck at church, but it is so difficult to talk about it over lunch with a friend who does not know Christ. There’s huge difference between my life and the lives of those first Pentecost Christians 2000 years ago. Sure, I stand up in front of you and preach sermons; but that is actually much easier to do than when I am at the café sitting with someone who is only a funeral and wedding church goer. But, it is difficult for me, and I think, it is for all of us, to talk to our unchurched neighbors about Jesus Christ.

 When I am faced with a time when I need to tell someone about Jesus who does not know him, I am afraid and if I let myself, I start making excuses to not witness. But, I ask myself and I ask God, “Why am I afraid to talk with my nice neighbor about Jesus, the best thing that has ever happened to me?” I think back to Dad saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink,” and, that is the basis for my excuse, I know my neighbor knows where the church is; they can come and drink if they want to.

 Part of the problem is, we don’t know how to talk about our faith in Christ to an unchurched person. My excuse story goes like this, I grew up in a Christian family and I just assume everyone is a Christian and knows about faith in Jesus Christ and I don’t need to speak about Christ, they all already know. In that little Eastern Colorado town where I grew up everyone belonged to a church, everyone didn’t go regularly, but they belonged. So, if everybody around you is a Christian, why talk about Christ, I said. Well, there are good reasons to, first off we are supposed to study the Bible together, we all need to study God’s word and build a strong foundation for our faith. But, I never learned to talk about Christ, one on one to a person who does not know Jesus Christ, something we should certainly study in Bible studies. MY excuse is a poor excuse, because, it goes against the Gospels in so many ways.

 But, even if my excuse were true then, we are living in a different world, now. A huge percentage of the people we talk to each day are three generations from regular church attendance. Many people around us do not believe in Christ or are in any church. They are either angry at the church, or say there is no God, saying all life was just an accident, or some of them are blissfully unaware of their need for Jesus Christ in this life and certainly after this life. Many of them do not know what will happen to them when they die if they do not have Christ in their heart. Unfortunately, many of us Christians do not have the skills, habits, or just won’t talk with unchurched people about Christ. But, please, do not use that as an excuse. We may think of everyone as a Christian, but they certainly aren’t, and we need to be trying to lead them to faith.

 The most important mission of Christians is to go out to the world, teaching, baptizing and making disciples and please don’t say you love other people, if you won’t tell them about Jesus Christ. This mission was the last thing Jesus told us to do. But, many of us are afraid of carrying out our most important mission, so we have begun to leave out that part of our mission and just teach our Christian heritage, values, and beliefs to our own family. That is so very important and I wish we did that better, but what about our neighbor who does know Christ or no longer worships Him? Many of us think our primary Christian purpose is to bring our children to Sunday School and worship so that hopefully, they will become Christians, too. That is a good place to start, I suppose but there is more, what about all those other folks around us?

 So, what am I trying to get across today? The message is the same as it was 2000 years ago. I pray that a miracle will come and God will create Pentecostal Christians out of all of us, people who are on fire for Jesus Christ and unafraid to speak out about him to those who do not know him. I pray, he will give us the energy and courage to speak boldly about Christ to more people than just our family or our Sunday school class. So, how can God make us more bold and courageous in speaking about our faith in Christ? A Pentecostal Christian is not somebody who just prays for those who do not know Christ and thinks they’re job is done. No, they also speak openly and boldly about their faith in Christ to people who they have no idea where they stand on Jesus.

 God will give us both the courage and the words to speak with our neighbors and friends and family, with everyone, about Jesus. He’ll give us the courage, if we will only ask, train for it, and then go out and try it. How do you learn to do something and then get better at it? Can you learn to play football by just thinking about it? Nope you have to go out and practice, you have to at least try! It’s not just about thinking about it, we have to go out on a limb and try witnessing, we have to practice doing it, and until we finally try it, we will never start getting better at it. It is especially important right now…we are close, perhaps as soon as next week to coming back to church. So, while we are all practicing to witness, I say bring them to church, I’ll tell them about Jesus, I promise if you get them to church. Are we going to come back alone or are we going to come back with a visitor? Are we going to step out and bring someone new to church? Do we truly love our neighbor, if we truly do, we’ll try to bring them to church and faith in Jesus Christ.

 The Holy Spirit 2000 years ago and today is the same; to give all of us Christian’s backbone and boldness to handle the fear of witnessing and the courage to handle rejection. Because, when a person tells us, “No,” one time, it does not mean we are to, throw in the towel, give up, and stop telling them about Christ, we must try time after time. Maybe, it’s on the twenty fourth time they’ll come, we have to keep on trying and I think we’ll find that after a few times it will become easier to ask.  Also, I think we all may be surprised about people’s responses, for even though some have no intention of coming to church or turning to Christ, people are almost always cordial to someone who cares enough about them to tell them about Christ. That’s a fact, try it and you’ll see. They may tell you why they don’t come but they are very seldom angry at us for asking.

 Christians have always had to learn courage to fight against Satan. Christians had to learn how to stand up and stand out for what is right and face the consequences. In our world everyone around us seems to be living without Christian guidelines, they are using drugs, doing anything that feels good to themselves and caring nothing about the effects their choices have on others, they’re having casual sex, and then casually killing the babies from their casual sex in abortions, so we need to learn courage to handle the pressure, to not cave and go on and do it with them. And, the courage to fight against that lifestyle and still try to lead them to Christ.

 Yes, it takes courage to talk to someone about Jesus Christ. But, God has always given Christians courage necessary for us to handle it, but we need to take the first step, we have to start talking. When we do, God will not fail to give us strength and courage. The only way failure is possible is if we do not open our mouths and speak. God not only will give us courage but God will give us the words, the actual words to speak to a neighbor or friend. Now, I am not talking about memorized speeches. Through the power of God we will be given the power and words if we will only start talking, remember my story about witnessing to a dying man. You know, I wrote this sermon two months ago and I hoped as I wrote this virus mess would be over, but, I think I was pretty open to the Spirit because it fits pretty well for today, as we prepare to come back to church. Each one us, we have to start…we have to put out mouth in gear and start talking about Jesus Christ and maybe our start will be in inviting our neighbors to church.

 Now, during this terrible time where everyone is afraid of the Corona Virus and many are saying God is striking out at humanity for our sinful ways. Every time I hear that stuff I remember that my God, the God in Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit is the source of all the good in our lives and nothing else. Evil comes into our lives in two ways, and two ways only, first is through the evil of Satan who does it to drive humanity away from our faith and increase his congregation in hell and trouble often comes from nature, God built the earth to work a certain way, to run a certain way and he often lets it go on that way even when it hurts people. Sometimes we get in the way of the nature like with tsunamis, tornadoes, and floods. Also, our bodies were made to work a certain way and when we abuse our bodies, they are injured by our abuse and become ill and yes, our bodies were made to wear out and we see the proof of that every day. Now, I don’t know why God allows a virus to cause such evil in our world, but I do know that any healing and anyone who did not catch the disease can be traced right back to the goodness of our God.

 Have you ever noticed that new Christians have greater courage in their conversations with people about Jesus Christ? I think it is because they have recently felt the touch of the Spirit leading them to faith and want others to know and feel it too. But, they too, have been led to Christ by another human being. So, I have asked some of them through the years about witnessing and they tell me…don’t be preachy and sound like a sermon, there goes the memorized speeches. Don’t be a phony, pretending we are a holier than them. Don’t assume the person you are talking to is not a Christian; that will always get you in trouble. If you don’t know, ask, “Do you know Christ as your Savior?”

 When we are witnessing, remember to love them as fellow humans. That is why we are talking to them about Jesus Christ, because we love them and we don’t want them to end in hell; and if we didn’t love them we wouldn’t waste our time. Ask questions about their faith, like, Do you love Jesus or what can I do to get you to come to church with me Sunday? Maybe when we decide to witness, make a pie or some cinnamon rolls and go over and give them to them and then open our mouths telling them about our own faith in Jesus Christ? Just, love them and tell them.

Now, most of the time, we will have to initiate the conversation about faith. But, occasionally our neighbor will come and ask us why you go to church and why do we follow Jesus Christ. When that happens, the Lord has brought them to you, don’t fail them, please. This will happen more often, if, if we are living a Christ-like life that is noticeable to our neighbor. If we are following Christ closely, we will find people want to talk about our faith and why we live differently than others. Don’t be so timid about what other people want to talk about. You may never know when the timing is right, so bring it up and see if it is. Show them you truly love them by telling them about Christ.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

Healy UMC, Healy, Kansas

 

“Legacy”
John 14: 15-21

May 14, 2020

 After I made Command Sergeant Major, I was asked by my Colonel, who pinned on my new stripes, what I thought and hoped my legacy would be after all my years in the Army. I thought long and hard about it and my thoughts took me to a time with some of my soldiers many years before. I was a Platoon Sergeant and it was my last platoon before I moved up to First Sergeant.

 One day those soldiers asked why we were outside doing what we were supposed to be doing and the other platoons were inside staying warm, while we were miserable. I told them that we weren’t going to worry about what the other platoons were doing, that we were just going to do the right thing and worry about our small part of the Army. That we would just take care of our small piece of the Army and not worry about the others. As I went on, they might have been getting sorry they asked, as I went on and told them that soldiers needed to be ready at any moment to go into combat and those guys in the building and not training, would not be as ready as we would be and that would translate into fewer casualties and better outcomes for us.

Besides, what we were doing was the right thing to do. Well, those soldiers endured that day and when I was leaving to become a First Sergeant, they gave me a wonderful surprise. It was a plaque, everybody gets a plaque, but this one said, “Thank you Sergeant First Class Tuxhorn for letting us be in your small piece of the Army”. They even quoted me, it made my eyes sweat and I believe they understood that we weren’t outside that day to punish them, but because I loved them and cared about them and wanted them to stay alive in combat. I also believe that the Sergeants who worked for me, knew that they needed to do the right thing always and love and care for their soldiers or go home and quit the Army. After all that thought, which happened more quickly than it took to tell you, I told my Colonel that I hoped my legacy was raising soldiers who did the right thing even when it wasn’t fun and no one was watching and would be leaders who loved and cared for their soldiers every day and all the time. I hoped then and I still hope that was my legacy in the Army and when I hear from past soldiers who worked for me, I think I, with God’s help was successful in that.

 In our scripture reading, Jesus says to the disciples, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." He was leaving these words behind for the disciples to help them when he was gone as they continued the legacy he had begun. He was leaving, but if they lived the life He had demonstrated for them and obeyed his commandments they would have the tools to fulfill his legacy.

Earlier in the gospel, Jesus tells His disciples that He is giving them a new commandment: to love one another as He has loved them (John 13:34). That they will gives their lives and their hearts to lead the world to faith in Jesus Christ, the one completely altruistic thing we can do for others. He also said people would know they are His followers, by their love (John 13:35). Just as we are known as Christians by the way we live our lives and love others.

 But, what does love really mean? Our society is obsessed with their ideas of love and many of them are completely wrong. In romantic comedies, they try to convince us that in the end true love between humans always wins but unfortunately sometimes love isn’t enough to carry us through, Satan and nature sometimes presents us with too many obstacles, so we often need Christ for us to go on. Some sort of love is talked about in almost all our books and music and on the TV and in the movies. Unfortunately, love it is often depicted as nothing but a physical and thoughtless act, for temporary pleasure that you finish with and walk away without any melding of hearts. We even have a holiday dedicated to celebrating love, but it sometimes seems as if it is the only day all year where showing love seems to count to the world. Unfortunately, love is often explained only in a course and cheap connotation, without hearts and souls ever having been thought of or discussed. People now, call dating having sex, when it used to mean going to a movie.

 But, what does the Christian faith say about love? Well, first off we know that God is love and that God loves us so much that he sent his only son to die on the cross for our sins not his. He died for us, now can we argue that is not love? We also have the popular lines about love that are shared at many weddings, in 1 Corinthians 13 where we are told, "Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant." and at the end of that chapter we are told, And now in faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. Leviticus 19 even tells us that we should love our neighbors as ourselves, with Jesus telling us it is the second greatest commandment, with ONLY our love for the Lord above it. Jesus' statement, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”, does not specify any of these; it only implies that if we love Jesus, we will love God more than anything else and we will love each other as he loved us.

 However, in this passage, we can learn more about what love means to Jesus through other parts of his legacy of love. Which that is what Christ’s life truly was…a legacy of love that ended with him giving his life for us. He said to them in John 14, "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever". Out of Jesus' love for us a helper was to be sent to help Jesus' followers. Did you notice, Jesus said another advocate. Jesus was the first advocate sent by God, to love us, and give us a way to God through his life, death, and resurrection. And, now, after Jesus is no longer physically with us, the Spirit walks with us and guides us in the way Jesus did, if we will only listen and be open to the Spirit’s touch. The Spirit is always with us as Jesus was always with them. Jesus knew they would need assistance to live a life of love like him. Luckily, for them and us, the Spirit they were given would be with them forever: it was with them and in them. The Spirit would be part of Christ’s legacy, reminding His followers and guiding them as they tried to live a life in and for him.  

 So to truly love…is to give ourselves for others as Christ gave Himself for us and as God gave us Jesus and the Spirit. This definition of love is explained time after time in the Bible. We see Jesus loving, advocating, in ministry with the poor, the disabled, the sick, lepers, the hungry, those in jail, and all those who were apart from God. His love and help of all these are a part of His legacy of love that we are supposed to try with all we are to emulate. We are to love our neighbor and see them as God sees them, for we don’t get to pick our neighbor, everyone is our neighbor even those we don’t like, those who are different than us, even those we would rather stay far away from. This very moment the Spirit is still moving among and within us today as we who follow Jesus continue His work of love! We absolutely are NOT left alone to do what we are called to do as believers.

 But, how are we to live out Jesus' legacy in our lives today? I have a friend that when I was talking about getting my teeth pulled asked if Veterans benefits would cover the cost. I told her the truth, “No,” and she went to work and started raising money for me to get my teeth pulled and get dentures and she made it happen. Just a Christian woman and her friends trying to help someone in Christian love. 

 In addition to showing love as individuals, we are to show love as a community of faith in the church. Last year we lost a loved one, DD Howard. The night before his funeral we had a blizzard and I wondered if we would be even able to get to the church or out to the cemetery the next day. It took me a little longer to get over to Utica from Healy and as I slowly drove I was wondering how on earth we were going to do a funeral among the drifts. But, the community, in Christ, had come together, they had scooped the sidewalks; not an easy job, plowed the roads, and even cleared where DD would be buried out of Christian love.

 As they did…we are to help others as a church. We are to preach and teach messages of love. We are to show hospitality to everyone, to those who are most active in the church, towards those who visit once in a while, towards those who have never came and are lost, and towards those who need to find a warm place to sleep and eat. We must walk with people and love them as we try to lead them to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and their neighbor.

 Doing that as individuals and the church is a difficult. The church is made up of very different people with diverse passions, schedules and resources. Yet, we need to come together, bound by our love for God and commitment to Jesus' legacy. It is coming soon when we are all going to have an opportunity to come back to church and no longer have to worship on the internet. Will we come alone as we were before this Virus from China struck us…or will we do the right thing, the loving thing and go out and bring the child from a home without Christ to church? So, they too, will have a chance to learn about salvation and love in Jesus Christ. Will we come back in the same old way we always have…or will we go to our neighbor or our child who is no longer living as a part of Christ’s family, the church? Will we be changed by this mess and these months when we have been banned form Christ’s church and family; will we become the evangelists in Christ’s love that do not want anyone, not one soul, headed for hell?

 Now, we will probably never achieve a perfect, just, and peaceful world until Christ returns. But, our search for justice, peace, and hope should never end until he does return and it is a fact, each of us doing our very best to live and do and as Christ did…will make the world a better place and will lead to making new disciples for Jesus Christ, new souls headed to heaven and not hell. It might even grow the church, imagine that, so we could do even more in love for our neighbor.

 The responsibility of all that can be pretty scary. I am sure the disciples were sacred about the life they were taught to live and all they were supposed to do. But, like the disciples, we have the guidance of God through the Holy Spirit as our helper and Jesus Christ’s life here on earth as our guide.

 So, what will be our personal Christian legacy when we face our God at judgment? We know each one of us will face our Creator when we die. Will we be known for our charity and love or for our tight handed judgement? Will be known for something as simple as an always ready smile or will our legacy be a fowl tempered frown? Will we be known as the one who reaches out to the lost and the little children who aren’t being taught about Jesus or the one who could care less about their souls?

 If we are obedient to Christ, we will create a legacy of Christian love. I ask, do those around us think of us a Christian presence in their lives and is our legacy a legacy of love? Does the world see us as people of Christian love, building a legacy of love and care? Or, do they think our legacy is “something else”? I know, we don’t want to think about what that something else others are thinking of us, but is it possible others in our community don’t see us as followers of Christ who are trying to do as Christ did. If it is, we need to be fixing that.

 As we look at the many ways we have to share and receive love, as we look at our own Christian legacy, may we remember the many ways in which we can still grow in our ability to love until we die or Christ returns. Let us leave a legacy that shows we did all we could to bring others to Christ and all we could to help all who needed it. Shouldn’t our legacy be kind of like what I hoped mine was in the Army…that we do the right things even when it is uncomfortable and when we THINK no one is watching and as Carla always used to tell our girls, “Even when I don’t see you, who does?” They always knew the answer and we do too, “God does.” I pray the Lord will lead us to try with all we are in Christ to make the right thing, a Christ-like love our legacy of life.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

Healy UMC - Kansas

 

“Sheep”

John 10:1-10

May 3, 2020

You know, this Sunday is often called Good Shepherd Sunday because of the Gospel Lesson we just read.

  • It’s about the only true Shepherd, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but today, I am mostly going to talk about us, we sheep.
  • There are two other verses I want us to keep in mind as we go through this sermon and first is from Isaiah where the Lord tells us, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone his own way; and the Lord has laid on his servant the sins of us all.”
  • And, second is from Matthew where Jesus had been out in the countryside healing people of their illnesses and he said in Matthew 9:36, “I will have pity on them for these people are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
  • So, today I am going to compare us to sheep and how we humans so often act like sheep, without a shepherd.

 First off, like sheep, we human beings are vulnerable to the coyotes of life.

  • We know we are vulnerable to death, disease, and injury for our lives are fragile and easily broken.
  • Our lives are like something beautiful and made of fragile glass.

 When I was stationed in Germany we used to visit our sister unit in the German Army in Regen, Germany and train together.

  • Regen is known as a crystal manufacturing city and during our visit they took us to one of the glass factories.
  • I was amazed by the blowers as they made beautiful wine glasses.
  • In fact, I was so impressed that I bought a pair of those Bavarian wine glasses for Mom and Dad, not sure why, for they didn’t drink wine.
  • I guess, I thought they could drink their orange juice out of them in the morning.
  • Well, guess what was in the box when they got to Deertrail, Colorado?
  • Yep, nothing but splinters of beautiful glass.
  • The Army Post office saved Mom and Dad the trouble of figuring what to do with them.

 Isn’t that the way life is sometimes?

  • So, very fragile, so easily shattered and when we’re honest we know that.
  • It can be shattered suddenly, in a car accident, or with cancer, or when Alzheimer’s strikes a loved one.
  • Or, a heart attack, an infection, and even a birth defect can change our lives drastically.
  • Everything is going so well one week, and suddenly our entire world has changed.
  • Why, it seems like only yesterday we were the strongest economy ever and today we are in a huge hole, because of a virus.
  • Yesterday was wonderful and sometimes, today becomes a disaster.
  • We all know we are vulnerable to disease, accidents, and all kinds of things that suddenly shatter our lives with almost no warning.
  • Some of the leaders of our church were reminding me this week that I too am one of the vulnerable in society to that darn virus and it reminds me of my weaknesses.

 We humans we are vulnerable to things that happen far away that affect our lives.

  • Before a virus escaped a lab in Wuhan China things were going great and who could have guessed all the changes in our lives that virus would bring?
  • Look at the insanity of our economic and social systems, in our world there are millions of people starving and most of them are not because there isn’t enough food, but because some governments won’t allow it to get to their people because it threatens their political power.
  • Look at what is happening in our own government, where some are so invested in the abortion industry that they will do almost anything, at least it seems that way to me, to continue murdering babies.
  • There were more babies aborted in New York and more Black babies aborted there than there are live births.
  • I not only makes me sad, it makes me so very angry.
  • Who knows what Louis Pasteur or Einstein we have thrown in the trash or sold as body parts for the convenience of not raising a child?

 We know life sometimes works that way because of the Satan and the evil of man.

  • So, if you feel like you are a fat lamb and are living high on the hog, you had better knock on wood because tomorrow you may be slaughtered.
  • If we don’t think it is possible, we need to look at the facts.

 Life can be nasty.

  • We too can be quickly led to the slaughter house.
  • So we know, whether or not we want to admit it or not, we humans act a lot like sheep.
  • We are vulnerable to the changes in life and history.
  • Life is soo very fragile, just like those wine glasses I sent to my mother years ago that shattered into a million pieces of glass.

 We also know sheep are just flat dumb.

  • I think I said a pretty smart thing after I read up on sheep care after Carla bought her bred ewes home when we lived in Alta Vista, north of Council Grove.
  • After I read everything I could find about raising sheep it occurred to me, “Sheep are just really dumb little cows.”
  • My dad used to say, “Sheep are just walking around looking for a place to die,” for they get themselves in such terrible messes.
  • Now, sheep are not dumb because they are super unintelligent, sheep are dumb because they have such a strong herd instinct and they will often go with the herd when they shouldn’t.
  • If one sheep goes over a cliff, the whole herd will often go to.
  • Sheep are dumb animals, but not because they are unintelligent, it is because their herd instinct is so strong they go along with the crowd even when they shouldn’t.

 We human beings, often suffer when our herd instinct becomes stronger than our intelligence.

  • We too follow the leader.
  • Think back to Nazi Germany and how many intelligent people blindly followed the pack.
  • This happened not only with the Jews heading to the extermination camps, but with the Germans who followed a psychopath to their own countries demise as they killed Jews and gypsies.
  • Either not knowing what was going on or…not caring and giving thewir approval by non-action.
  • It has happened many times in human history.

 Herd instinct in junior high kids is something to watch.

  • I remember in Alaska and our seventh grade daughter would hide her coat in the yard after she went out the door so Carla wouldn’t see her and then stand at the bus stop in a short sleeved shirt.
  • All, because it wasn’t stylish to wear a coat to school.
  • All those junior high kids would freeze half to death waiting for the bus at twenty below, because wearing a coat wasn’t cool.
  • What I’m saying is that sometimes the herd instinct is so strong in us, it overrules our intelligence and we do dumb stuff.

 We do the same thing with our values.

  • We all know that our prisons have millions of prisoners, yet we still accept a huge amounts of violence on our television shows we watch, in the movies, and on our game boys.
  • Our TVs and Video consuls have become higher education for violence and hate and heightened illicit sexuality.
  • It is entertainment violence contributing to violence in our society.
  • We all know that illicit sexuality is rampant in our society but we condone glamorization of sexual infidelity in our media.
  • We routinely watch shows that romanticize immorality and are not scandalized…in fact, we must like it, because we watch it religiously.
  • We human beings are often like sheep and our herd instinct is so strong that it often overrules our intelligence and sense of right and wrong.

 Another thing about sheep is they wander away from their shepherd and we do that, too.

  • We wander away from our Lord and do not fully realize why we are doing it.
  • I know very few human beings who have said, “I don’t believe in Christ. I renounce God and Christianity and am going in a new direction,” we know those folks are unusual.
  • Instead, we humans drift away from Christ, ever so slowly, away from the closeness and faith we once had.
  • We human beings are like sheep and we wander away from God.
  • I did this myself as I was trying to live up to my ideals of what a cowboy and then later an Airborne Ranger did in their lives.
  • Thinking to be one, I had to drink hard, cuss like crazy, and callously use women as I wandered away from my faith walk, I thank God that he accepted me back when I came to my senses.
  • And, all we have to do, to come back, is truly repent of our sins, ask forgiveness, and try to live again in Christ.

 Sheep are also vulnerable to the coyotes of life, because we sometimes do not have strong homing instincts.

  • When sheep get lost, they do not find their way home very well.
  • Now, you can put a dog twenty miles from home and that dog will find his way home.
  • A dog has a very strong homing instinct.
  • A sheep has very little.
  • If a sheep is lost, someone has to go out and find it and bring it home.

 And so it is with humans who have drifted away and the church.

  • When people, just like sheep, get lost from the church and the Lord, we need to go out and find them.
  • We in the church need to go and get that child of ours that is no longer in the church and no longer worshipping the Lord and bring them back.
  • We need to go and get our grandchildren who are not in church and get them back, so that they too, will have a chance to come to faith in Jesus Christ.
  • For, it is a fact the older they get before meeting Christ, the less likely it is, they will EVER come to faith.
  • Do any of us want this for any of our loved ones?
  • We need to go and get those people we know that do not know Christ and bring them in.
  • We all have them, we all have friends we know, do not know Christ, but we just let it ride and let them continue on the road to hell.
  • Don’t we care, their souls are destined for hell?
  • We are ALL to be evangelists, not just the Billy Grahams, not just the preacher, each and every one of us need to be bringing people into the church to meet Christ.
  • We are sent out into the world to find those sheep who are lost, those who are being eaten up by coyotes of life and are headed to hell.
  • Those lost sheep are not going to find their way to Christ alone and we Christians, must be the shepherds that reach out and bring them in.

 One of the great lies of life, is that we are not like sheep.

  • We tell ourselves, “I am a strong and self-reliant.”
  • We say, “I can control my life and what happens to me. I’m no sheep.”
  • One of the greatest lies of life is when we do not recognize who and what we really are and where we’re headed without Jesus Christ.

 We need to realize that we need the Lord more than anything else in the world?

  • We need THE good shepherd who will give us water, food and protection.
  • We will not find it for ourselves, for we all need the shepherd.
  • So…knowing humans are like sheep without a shepherd, what did God do?

 God gave us the shepherd in His Son Jesus Christ.

  • We all need Jesus Christ, each and every one of us need a personal relationship with him for it is the only way to heaven after death here.
  • The shepherd knows the name of their sheep and Jesus Christ, the good shepherd, knows our names.
  • Christ knows us personally, he knows everything we have ever done and ever will do and amazingly still loves us anyway. 

 We are all to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Jesus is the shepherd and we are the sheep.

  • And, where will Jesus, our good shepherd, lead us?
  • He will lead us to joyful life in him and then when our time on earth is done…an eternity in Paradise with him too.
  • Yes, we’ll still have difficult times in our lives, but once we’re in Christ we will never face those times alone again, as he shows us the way through those difficult times.
  • The good shepherd, Jesus, also leads us in the paths of righteousness where we learn how to live as Christ lived, as we study the Bible, learn in church and Bible studies, and through our many times each day in our prayer life.

 The last place the good shepherd leads us is to the cross.

  • That is, our shepherd, Jesus Christ, became the fat lamb, the lamb who was led to slaughter and killed for our sins as his blood cleansed us from sin when we repent, ask forgiveness, and ask him to be our Lord and Savior.
  • The good shepherd leads us to the cross only to become the lamb in place of us, as he was sacrificed for our sin not his.
  • I have to ask you all today, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the good shepherd?”
  • Have you asked Jesus Christ to be your Lord and your Savior?
  • Well, you need to!
  • If you don’t have Jesus in your heart, do it now, ask him to be your Lord and Savior as you ask him to forgive you of your sin.
  • Then call me or come see me and we’ll talk about what you should do next.
  • And, for all of us who know Christ but are not living the life we should and not being the evangelist we should be, let us all come back to the shepherd and then begin to bring those lost souls to Christ before it is too late.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC - Healy, Kansas

 

“Drink the Living Waters”

John 4:5-15

March 15 2020

 I didn’t know anything about the woman I met as I crossed the bridge into Juarez, Mexico. She was hid behind a light pole and as I walked by she peeked out, I tried not to see her. My team and I were headed down to Juarez to party the night away. But, this woman was sitting there begging and holding her child who was terribly disfigured by some disease that had stunted its arms and legs I have no idea if it was a boy or a girl and I could smell them, they were unbelievably dirty. I tried not to look, not to notice them, for I didn’t want to see them, but the woman held out her hand and said, “Por favor,” please.

 In our Bible lesson we aren’t told this woman’s name either, she is just a woman from Samaria. People like her were outcasts and not thought of as human, she was like so many who were attracted to Jesus. Nowadays, we call them bottom dwellers and that’s probably what they called them then, after all they all look alike, don't they? She was just one of "those people." We all know, it is always easier to make fun of or criticize "those people" that look different than us, have different life circumstances, or who have different ways of sinning. If we take away their personality and their humanity and lump them all together, it is so much easier to hate them and even worse, maybe even, completely ignore them. When we lump them all together, we don't have to think of them as human beings.

 But, Jesus didn't look at or treat people that way; he always saw a person, whether it was a young child or a tax collector, a disabled person with a withered hand, a blind man, a Pharisee, or a woman at a well; he loved them all and treated them all the same. He saw more than the mask of their assigned place in society and the mask they hid behind so they would be left alone. There were many social barriers between her and Jesus. First, they were strangers to each other and the fear in that, remember, "Stranger, danger"? Jesus and this woman were not of the same gender or ethnic group. One Jew and one Samaritan, man and woman, separated by centuries of hate.

 Just as Jesus saw the woman and not what others thought of her, he would not let her hide behind her identity either. He treated her as an individual as she had to face herself and not blame others for her life. What Jesus did that day at the well was to lead that woman of Samaria to face herself and then introduced her to her Savior, Jesus Christ who she fell in love with

 The disciples, the closet followers of Jesus, couldn’t see why on earth Jesus was bothering with this woman. Maybe not being an outcast creates just as big a mask to hide behind as an actual outcast? We can easily be so busy being successful in our lives that we never know ourselves or anyone else as we develop our own masks to hide behind.

 You know, some have called this woman the first evangelist in the church. She found in Jesus what we all desperately need, and then after meeting him she told others and many from her village believed because of her testimony. And, it was all because, Jesus broke her out of her jail of the way everyone, including herself, thought about her.

 Think about the times in our lives when we see the mask and not the person and that changed how we treated others. Think of what might have been different if the woman had not been willing to open up to Jesus. Also think what would have been different if Jesus had responded as the disciples did to her when they came back and found Jesus with this Samaritan woman. We often let our prejudices and how we respond to others in life, be controlled by where we fit in society. For, the mask that we assign to others or the one we wear ourselves, changes the way we see the world. The mask will limit us, change our point of view of almost everything in life and often we can't see others or ourselves without masks influencing our opinion. 

 As Jesus saw through the mask of the woman, he saw a greater need and thirst than just water from the well would fix. Paul reminds us in Romans that the same miracle is available to us all, for while we are sinners, in fact before we were born, Jesus Christ died for us. Our Lord could see in each of us something greater, something better.

 The mask we see on others is often the mask the world tells us to see. One of the dangers of our society is when we begin to decide for ourselves what comprises a Christian instead of letting the Bible and the Bible alone tell us. We’re in real danger when we accept unchallenged the prejudices and fears of others or the ignorance of the scriptures allowing us to make changes in our lives that are sinful. While always knowing, like Jesus we are to reach out to all other people not just the ones who think and look and sin like us.

 Rather than taking everyone else's word for it, we need to go out and meet those we normally never relate with. We need to try to get to REALLY know those we have heard are somehow less valuable than us and we will then see they are like us. People with common human problems lose their bad reputations when we see they are like us. Think of the mask the woman at the well, hid behind and then think of the lifesaving blessing she would have missed if she would have missed if she hadn’t met Jesus.

 We can be blinded by prejudices, things like racism, ageism, sexism, and today, a disease we may or may not have. The fear of the strange man who was Jewish speaking to her almost made her miss the greatest moment of her life. The fear of the unknown can take so much from us and there is nothing more deadly to receiving the Spirit of God than a mind and heart sealed by fear or disgust.

 We can also be blinded by how we have always done things. She could see that he didn't have a bucket. "How are you going to give me water?" she inquired. You can't get water without a bucket, can you? It is easy for us to hide behind the words, "We have never done it that way" or, “It won’t work we tried that fifty years ago”. Maybe that’s why we don't we witness, we are not sure of what we are witnessing to or how to do it. Or, we tried it fifty years ago and it didn’t work, so guess we weren’t meant to be a witness. When all we really need to do is tell others about our own faith, God will do the rest. We can be blinded by our own thoughts and ideas. The woman might have thought, “If I don't need water I could stop bringing this jar and rope every day and wouldn't have to carry it home”. “I would not have to come and listen to the other women as they judge and hate me.” And, for us, we shouldn’t worry about if they will laugh at us or tell us we are crazy or never talk to us again. For, if we begin to tell them about our own faith the Lord will guide us through. Our job is to tell about our own faith and God will do the rest. Just as God opened the Samaritan woman’s heart, he will open the hearts of those we witness to.  Someone once said, "God has never made a better person than me; I wish I could live up to it." Yes, we are all perfectly made, but we all sin and we all need redemption, none of us can save ourselves. Sometimes we think we can get rid of a problem by just ripping the label off and calling it something else, but there is still the need to be redeemed. Like the abortion provider that is a place of murder and calls itself Planned Parenthood, because they think the term name covers the evil of murdering babies. We cannot save ourselves and if we try, it is like being caught in quick sand, the more we struggle the deeper we get. This woman at the well had to step away from the quicksand of her image of herself and what others had hung on her, before she could come to Christ.

 So, where in your life have fears caused you to hide from others and even yourself? Where do you thirst for more and are you confronting those times, forcing you to hide behind a mask? I guarantee the vast majority of us have all chickened out on witnessing to someone who doesn’t know Jesus Christ because of our fears. But, we should try again, for if we care about others we will not let them end their lives here without at least telling them about Jesus Christ.

 One of the things all followers of Christ should celebrate is the gift of living water. We know that God is a part of our lives so that we can drop the mask we have all hidden behind and that fear has built and go out in faith. This woman of Samaria was so excited she left behind what was probably one of her most prized possessions, her water pitcher, to tell others about this one who was giving away living water. 

 What is our most prized possession? I love my wife dearly, she is mine and I am hers, I love my daughters and we can never say we are not father and daughters. But, most of all…my most prized possession is my faith in Jesus Christ. My faith in Christ will never leave me, it will literally protect me forever and when I die Christ, my Savior, will catch me. My faith in Christ is also the one gift I can share and still have just as much as I had before I shared, it is never, not ever diminished by sharing.  I’ve shared a lot through the years, obviously more since I’ve been preaching and I still have the same amount of faith and salvation in Christ that I ever had and it is enough.

 You know, following Jesus Christ is not to be done from a hidden place, but going out in faith and sharing it with others. It will be scary, but let me tell you there is no better feeling than when we have shared faith in Christ and then seen it come to fruition as the person we shared with comes to faith in Christ and is changed. Our faith in Christ is the one thing in our lives that we can and should share and after sharing we will have just as much as we had before we started.

 That woman so many years ago, beside that ancient well of Jacob, met Jesus Christ and by dropping her mask of fear and hate, she was able to claim lifesaving faith in Christ and it was her most important possession, forever. This is good news for us today, that we can drop all we have hidden behind, our fears can be destroyed, and we too can claim the gift of faith in Jesus Christ that was given so long ago. Jesus told her and he tells us today, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again," Jesus said, "but those who drink of the water I will give them will never be thirsty.  The water I give them will become a spring of water gushing up to eternal life."

 That day on that bridge over the Rio Grande when I saw that filthy woman with that disabled child…what could I do. I wanted to hide behind my mask and keep her behind hers, and just ignore her. Just get her out of my head. But, I couldn’t. Even though I was on my way to a night of stupidity, I still felt the nudge of the Lord and I gave her most of what I had brought to spend partying. That woman couldn’t believe it and neither could I. But, it felt sooo good to do the right thing and just for a second, peek out from behind my mask and help that woman even though…I never knew her name 

 We will find God in our lives when we are honest with ourselves, honest about who we really are and who others really are. Let’s all drink the living waters of Jesus Christ and we will never, not ever be thirsty again.

Amen.

 Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

Healy UMC, Kansas

 

“In the Light”

Isaiah 60:1-7

March 8, 2020

 We love the light, light is good, except for when we are trying to sleep, or watching TV, oh, and of course, young people, they don’t like it much, when they are with their girlfriends and boyfriends. But, most of us love the light. As I was preparing for today I was thinking of times when I suffered through some terrifying dark times and places. The first time that came to mind was in French Commando School in Trier, Germany, for it certainly made an impression on me. The French still have military bases in Germany in the aftermath of World War II and the course was on a French Base in Germany.

 I was really proud to have my platoon chosen to go. The first couple of weeks were fun, we learned about explosives and blew stuff up. Now, that is fun, especially when no one is shooting at you while you’re setting it up. They had absolutely amazing obstacle courses and we ran one every day, which as the platoon sergeant and a Ranger I was “honored” to lead the platoon through. The French Foreign Legion soldier who was our instructor would say, “Sssseargent Rrrrangerrrr, alle”, and, away I would go.

 The last couple of weeks of the school were called, “Le Raid”, but, there was one last obstacle course to run before we began “Le Raid”, where we went out in the Moselle River Valley of Germany playing war games. The valley is beautiful, but man’o’man were those hills steep, through those grape vineyards. Wish it had been grape season we could have at least picked a grape or two.

 That last obstacle course before “Le Raid” was underground in a bunker The Foreign Legion guy, he was from Czechoslovakia and had escaped and joined the Legion, told us it was very dark in there and that we should go single file holding on to each other and then he said, “Sssseargent Rrrrangerrrr, alle,” he evidently thought it was a pretty funny line, for he always giggled a little when he said it, my platoon liked it though. I heard it many times from my soldiers after that trip.

 Well, dark was an understatement, for when they closed those metal doors, you literally couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. I could feel that there were cement block walls clear to the ceiling in a Maze. We would stumble down one alley and hit a dead end and then the entire platoon had to back up and I would try a new alley. After an hour or two we came to a wooden wall that was on a forty five degree angle. I thought and thought about what I should do, but I finally decided to crawl to the top of the angled wall, but when I got up there it dropped me like a sack of potatoes on the other side. It was hinged in the middle. Now, no big deal in the light, but, when that thing dropped me, I may or may not have made some very unmanly noises when it dropped me on the other side. But, then all we had to get the platoon through was to pick it up and let the platoon crawl under it while their platoon sergeant pulled himself himself back together. I heard about those welps for years so it must have been memorable.

 We were in there quite a while, time slows down in the dark, and we came to a vertical wall with standing water at the bottom of it. In that water we saw the first light for the last few hours. It looked better than ice cream, that little glare of light in that water at the bottom of that wall. I kneeled down, stuck my hand in the water and and felt under the wall and there was a space large enough for a person to lie in the ditch under water and go under the wall coming up on the other side. Wet but still progress at least I hoped it wouldn’t be another dead end. When I went under that wall and up on the other side it wasn’t a dead end for when I came up out of the water and there was my buddy the French Foreign Leader soldier waiting for me and he said, “Good yob, RRRangerrr, you are complete.” That light out there felt so good and when we want light, we really want it, don’t we?

 Think about how much we are drawn to light. Put a baby in front of a Christmas tree. It probably won’t excite it much? But, when you plug in the lights, the baby’s eyes light up! What is it about human beings that we are so fascinated with and attracted to light? Then when that baby is sixteen and out cruising one night with his girlfriend. He parks on a country road, turns off the engine, listens to the night air and looks up into the full, harvest moon. He looks at the moon and then the moonlight in her hair and he goes, “WOW”. It happens all over the world where there are cars, dark roads, full moons, and teenagers. Why do we love the moonlight?

 Why is it that we are fascinated by lights? I think it is because we are made in the image of God and God is light. In our Lord God, there is no darkness at all and that spark of God is in all people; God’s light is in all people; and therefore all people love and are attracted to light. Because we are made in the image of God and because we naturally are attracted to light, it automatically follows that we don’t like darkness. We are not attracted to dark spaces and places and it depresses us. Sometimes we are actually afraid of the dark and won’t admit it. Like me dropping off that angled wall in the dark in that French obstacle course and not knowing where or when I was going to land. What about us, do we like getting up early in the morning and seeing how dark it is outside? When it is dark, dismal and raining outside, we don’t say, “What a pretty day even when we are happy the rain has come.” Our daughter from Washington was here last week and she and her daughter wanted to stay outside all day, they miss the sunlight so much up there. We human beings are made in the image of God. The spark of God is in us and we love the sparkle of light in the world and not so much the darkness.

 In Isaiah, God said, “Those who walk in darkness, arise. Shine. Your light has already come. The glorious presence of God is already upon you.” This passage was written by Isaiah, after the people of God have just returned from exile, back to the Promised Land, back to their old farms and houses and they are depressed. Everything they had has been ruined by war. Their farms were rubble, their cities were destroyed, their businesses were gone, and so many had been killed, leaving them very depressed. During that depressing situation after the war, Isaiah wrote: “Those of you who walk in darkness, Rise. Shine. Get up. Get going. Your light has already come. God’s light is already shining upon you.” He said, “Lift up your heads.” If you who have your chins down, lift them up. If you who have closed your eyes, open them and if you who are wallowing in depression, wake up and get up, for your light has come in the Lord. These words were written to people who were depressed by what life has given them. These words are for people who are giving up and these words of God are still good for us thousands of years later?

 All of us go through times of depression. There is no one who hasn’t lived with depression or depressing times. In one old Charlie Brown cartoon, Lucy put out a sign that said, “Psychiatrist, 5 cents.” Charlie came to see Lucy, paid his five cents, and said he was depressed. Charlie said, “I want to go to the very top of joy and then stay there.” He wanted life to always go up, but unfortunately our lives are never like that and in fact if our lives never had in down times would we appreciate the good one? Life sometimes goes from up to down and thank the Lord, it always comes back up. Sometimes, it seems as if it will never come back to joy as we all have ups and downs, and when the world seems down to us and it is then we need to hear the words of Isaiah…“Rise, shine. Your light has already come. God’s glorious presence is already shining above you.”

 We may be so depressed that we say, “I’m too down to go on.” It is then when the Lord puts his hands under our arms and lifts us up and says, “Rise. Shine. Your light has already come. The glory of God is all around you.” Sometimes, the way the Lord lifts us up is through the help of a doctor and they help us come out of those holes we have found ourselves in and that’s OK. God has allowed them to understand our minds and they can help us with our depression. Through a doctor’s help, may be the way God lifts us up and it may be as simple as a friends visit, but sometimes we need a lift.

 What are some of those times that depress us? When we feel like giving up or quitting? We have all lived through some of them, the loss of a loved one is probably top of the list. Nothing hurts as deeply as losing a close loved one. When marriages die, it is always difficult. When we suddenly realize we’re no longer twenty five and the lesson always comes at bad and embarrassing times, at least I know it does for me, I always get those messages when I have an audience. All those times drive us so LOW that sometimes our sense of self-worth and joy hits bottom.

 But, God does NOT leave us to live in our depression, even when we have really good reasons for it? Look at Judea, they were living in the rubble and their lives seemed to be destroyed, they had good reason to be depressed. But, God said to his people, “Rise, shine, your light has already come. Lift up your chin. Open your eyes. Stand up on your legs.” The purpose of God’s words are to get us moving, to get us going, rather than wallowing in depression.

 What does it mean when God says, “Rise. Shine. Your light has already come. The glory of God is already shining above you?” Well, first off God’s spark is already in us. When we were created, God put his spark of life and light in us. Why was I so happy to see the light in that trench at the end of the French obstacle course? Why do we like the lights on the Christmas tree? What do we like about a moon and star filled sky? The divine spark of God is already in us. Just about the time we feel like tossing in the towel, the spark of God inside of us says, “Get up and don’t quit.” That something, is the spark of God, energy from God, God puts it into us when we are conceived.

 

 But there is more; what does it mean that the spark of God is in us and all around us? Jesus Christ is the light who guides our feet as we walk the paths of life. Christ is our light and our guide. If we will just listen he will guide us in all the decisions of our lives. We all come to forks in the road and I hope each of us asks God, “What shall I do? Which way shall I go?” I pray we pray that prayer on every decision, asking God for guidance, for God will answer us. As we get used to doing that, we will begin to come up with the right answers, Godly answers on our own, through God’s guidance. If we do it I think we will be amazed how the Lord will guide us to good decisions in our lives.

 Light is the source of energy. Spiritual and emotional energy comes from the Son, the Son of God. Light the light that is already inside of us, it will help us to stand, the Light of God, will give us Godly strength. We all have the energy of God inside of us and the energy of God above us, for God is our light and our energy. I pray we will use it to live Godly lives.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC - Healy, Kansas

 

“Confronting Satan”

Matthew 4:1-11

March 1, 2020 First Sunday of Lent

 On this first Sunday of Lent, we always hear about Jesus out in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. About how Jesus battled Satan in the wilderness and talk about the power of evil in the world and we need to remember the power of evil IS at work in this world, every moment of every day. The power of evil is trying to ruin humanity’s lives and our hopes for eternity. You can call this power of evil by any name that you want, the devil, Satan, or even Lucifer, but the power of evil at work in this world and it is out to hurt and kill. Satan kills them a few at a time like in a DUI car accident, thousands at a time in war, millions at a time with starvation as the powerful prevent food from getting to the needy, or six million at a time like in the Holocaust with Hitler or Cambodia with Pol Pot. It can strike suddenly like in a car accident or slowly with starvation. But, its purpose is always the same: to ruin and destroy people’s lives and their hopes for eternity.

 Some don’t believe in the power of evil and they blame God for all the bad things that happen. They blame God for cancer and heart attacks but illnesses are just nature being nature and cells do wear out and fail. Sometimes the Lord allows nature to do its worst and we don’t know, why. Some blame God for the starvation in countries ran by dictators who don’t care for their people. When they do this they are ignoring the power of evil that is very much at work in this world of ours.

 Evil attacks from both “inside of us and outside.” The Bible teaches the power of evil lives inside of each of us, and it is called “the flesh.” The spirit of evil is within us, in that we have an inclination to destroy our own lives and others. We have foolish impulses to drive to pass when we shouldn’t or to hurt others intentionally. The temptations towards evil come from deep within. We do all sorts of stupid things to ourselves and people around us, and these impulses are fed by our instincts as we are full of lusts, ambitions, fears, and hatred.

 This power of evil always attacks us where we are weakest. Let me tell you, Satan know where we are most vulnerable and always attacks us at our weakest point. Satan comes after us with what tempts us the most and we all have those weak spots. We all have those places in our lives where we are more vulnerable and the power of evil finds them. I can’t count the spankings I got for my stupid temper. My hands are in awful shape from when I would get mad and hit other men. When I whine about them hurting, Carla tells me it is my own fault and she’s right, I hate when that happens. She is right because when I hurt my hands, I was bowing to the evil inside of me and hit men who angered me. For, many years that was my default way out of trouble. The devil always tempts us where we are most vulnerable and it happens to all of us. Whether it’s our tempers or maybe it’s something we like to drink or eat or do, the list is endless.

 Satan never quits and is constantly at work in our lives. I have gotten better at curbing my anger, but man it is hard sometimes. Hear me now, Satan is always working to make us fail, even here in the church. These temptations comes from inside of us as Satan uses anything and everything, including even the good things around us to tempt us.

 There is one way Satan is getting almost all of us away from our families and our work and that’s with our phones and computers. We love our computers and phones and they are capable of many great things. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to compose sermons and do bulletins without computers. But, like all good things around us, it can be turned into an evil. When we spend more time with our computer and phone than with our loved ones and friends and especially our God and the Bible, then Satan is leading us to sin through them.

 Satan will come to tempt when things are going really well to knock us down and he also comes in times of tragedy, pain, and depression when someone has died, been killed, a job has ended, or trouble with kids, to keep us down. That’s when we often blame God for what nature has done or evil has caused.  The devil always comes when he sees a weakness.

 But, we also give the power of evil too much credit, we give it too much power in our lives. We can come to think Satan can’t be beat, can’t be overcome. In our hearts we sometimes make the devil equal to God and when we do that, we give Satan far too much credit. Satan is merely a fallen angel; he is not God and he does not have the power of God and I think we sometimes use him as an excuse for our own failings, when we let him win in our lives. There is nothing that Satan can throw at us that we cannot beat if we will just fight back through the power of the Holy Spirit. The closer we are to the Lord the more power we gain.

 The media is used by Satan to magnify the power of evil and pretend the power of evil is more powerful than it is. How many people were killed in some terrible way yesterday? Even if there were a thousand people killed yesterday, we often forget the seven and a half billion who weren’t. Satan uses the media to magnify the power of everything awful that happens. I remember Walter Cronkite on the news each night during the Vietnam War as he scared me because I was soon to be eligible for the draft and I feared I might be next. Each night he would tell us that there were 280 killed, 400 wounded in Vietnam. It scared me and as awful as those deaths and those wounds were, he never once mentioned the two hundred thousand that didn’t get a scratch that day. We often magnify the power of evil and start to believe that God and Satan are equal forces as we imagine the fight between Satan and God as we forget God’s power is far greater than that of evil.

 Jesus was able to resist the temptations of the devil, and we can, too? The devil doesn’t always have to win. In fact, I think the devil loses more than he wins but we may have become convinced he doesn’t. The devil magnifies our faults and failures and we start to think that we are losing the battle to him. He makes us forget Jesus resisted temptation and that we can, too. For, the devil is not invincible, he can be beaten.

 The Disciples were common and ordinary people and they resisted temptation and so can we and we must never think, if we sin, we are a slave of the devil. We’re all human and we all sin but we are not servants of the devil, unless we allow him to make us one. Yes, we are sinners, but God’s power is stronger than our temptations if we will just use his power through a close relationship with him.

 In the Bible reading today, it does not mention Jesus was filled with the Spirit of God and it helped him resist Satan. Well, we too, need to be filled with the Spirit of the Living God and he will help us withstand temptation. One way we connect with the Spirit, is through prayer. Jesus was filled with the power of God through prayer and we can be too. A day that begins and ends with prayer and is filled with prayer through the day makes us stronger against Satan.

 Jesus fought Satan by quoting a Bible verses. Jesus knew God was stronger than any temptation and Jesus used the Word of God to fight Satan. A day when we take the time to read our Bibles builds a defense against Satan. If we read it every day, I think we’ll be amazed at how often what we have read was just what we needed to resist Satan. The Word and Spirit of God lived inside of Jesus and he will live in us, if we let him.

 There is also power in the community of believers, the church, to fight Satan. John Wesley said we each need to be active members of a church and in a small group, a Bible study each week, for accountability and strength against Satan. A week when we have not only worshipped the Lord but also studied his word with others is building a defense against Satan and gives us weapons to fight him with. With close Christian friends and Christian family around us, we will find they influence our lives positively and gives us strength to resist temptation.

 Some might call today, confronting Satan Sunday, but we need to remember the power of Satan is not as strong as the power of God. For, Satan is not an invincible power. But, instead of it being Confronting Satan Sunday, let’s make today and every day is Following Jesus day. Today we read the story of when Jesus resisted temptation as a lesson for us in how we too may defeat Satan.

Amen.

Rev Bud Tuxhorn,Pastor

Healy UMC - Healy, Kansas

 

“God is With Us” Transfiguration

Matthew 17:1-9

February 23, 2020

 Today I want to talk about God being with us…he’s with us all of the time and everywhere. He is with us when we’re at our best and of course he’s with us and sees when we are at our worst. He is here with us touching our lives, if we will only notice. God is with us when we are up on the mountaintops in the very best of times in our lives. God is also with us when we are down in the valleys, when things aren’t going so well and our God is with us in the plains of life, when things are just kind of hunky dory and not too much is going on, you might say, “When things are just fine”? But, you men, never tell your wives something is just fine…might not be good for your health. There is one thing that is always true, our God is always with us in every second of our lives.

 Maybe it’s easier to notice when Christ is present with us during the mountaintop times of our lives. You know, those special moments when you know for sure that there is a God. When you know that Christ has been talking with you or has touched you or your loved ones.

 Times like when Moses was walking along in the Sinai and saw a burning bush. As he looked, wondering what was going on, he heard the voice of God say, “Moses, take off your shoes, you are standing on holy ground.” I am sure, there was no doubt in Moses’ mind that God had spoken to him. In those moments Moses knew that God was real and with him and this happened time after time for Moses. As it will for us if we are only open to the touch and voice of the Holy Spirit.

 In today’s gospel story Peter, James, and John are up on Mount Tabor and they have been up there six days and nights. A cloud comes around them and in that special moment, they hear the voice of God say, “This is my beloved Son, Jesus. Listen to him.” At that moment, they knew in their hearts and souls God had spoken to them.

 God comes to us in those special moments when we have no doubt in our mind the Lord has touched us and communicated with us. You know, the closer I am to the Lord those times of communication come more and more often, they will for you, too. It happens sometimes in church, often in a song or when the Spirit touches me as I preach. When the goosebumps go up and down my spine and I am sometimes brought to tears by the Spirit. Now, I know it may seem odd, but I recently had a mountaintop experience at a funeral, it happened a few weeks ago for me when I was at my Aunt and Uncle’s funeral. Carla sent out that email so many of you commented on so kindly but, most importantly, in that sad time, I could feel the power of your prayers holding me up. The Spirit gave me the right words to say through God’s help and your prayers. With your prayers and the power of the Lord we were able to comfort and care for my family as we mourned. I have no doubt the Lord was with me there in that pulpit that morning as I preached my Aunt and Uncle’s funeral, I could feel his presence. God comes to be with us, in those mountaintop moments where we feel the Presence of God, times when we know for sure that God is with us and that God has spoken to us. It may be in those moments when we believe someone has been healed by God. Those times when our hearts, just know, beyond any doubt that God has healed someone.

 You might be surprised by how many people I talk to who are absolutely convinced that God has healed them? I’ve seen it many times, like when a few years ago my brother in law was full of intestinal cancer and they gave him a few months to live. The Lord, I know it was him, touched him and healed him and he is cancer free today many years later.

 Those times come often in other ways, like, when we can actually feel the Spirit touching us and our hearts. Before Christmas I was practicing a new song, “The Gift” that talks about the birth of our Savior and what God knew was coming after that birth on the cross. The Lord touched me that morning in my office and melted me into a big ball of tears and blubbering as I thought about what Christ did for me on that cross. Let me tell you I make a pretty good sized ball of blubber and tears.

 I learned years ago that if I get an intuition that I should go see someone or do something, not to ignore it. For the Lord often sends me to places where I am needed, when I am listening. When I was a newbie preacher I ignored a few of those calls and later I would find out why I should have been there. Sometimes I was needed in an illness, sometimes it was a person’s loneliness, and sometimes it was literally life or death, but the Lord had been trying to get me there if I would have just listened. The Lord often whispers to me and tells me where I should be in a particular moment and don’t look at me that way, it is the honest to goodness truth.

 So, God comes to us in those mountaintop times of our lives. When we feel the presence of God as people are healed. God comes to us in those special worship services that touch us in our hearts. Sometimes God comes to us in a special way when we feel like we have been sent somewhere. It is in those times when we are very close to God and God is clearly speaking to us, we know he is with us. On a mountaintop like with the disciples, in a healing, in a worship service, and even when God communicates with us directly, the Lord is there. In all those moments, God speaks to us and we know, we actually know, there is God who cares and loves us.

You know, I believe God always meant for us to live on the mountaintops, where we could always feel his presence in joy. But, sin, nature, and humanity messed it up, when Adam and Eve decided they wanted to be on the same level with God. Because of that, trouble comes into our lives. I almost had us read the next gospel story after the Transfiguration for I think it is important as we discuss God’s presence with us.

 The disciples and Jesus came off the mountain and when they did they landed right down there in the bottom of the valley. They came off that mountain where they saw Jesus changed as he talked with Elijah and Moses and came down into that valley and the first thing they see is a boy who has been having epileptic seizures. The mother and father were terrified for their sick boy as he had fallen into a fire and burned himself during a seizure. The disciples came down off that mountaintop where they had seen and heard God and were hit right in the face with earthly life. When Jesus healed that boy, I believe they began to understand our God is also down in the valleys and with us when difficult times strike and we end up in the valleys of life.

 We all experience them. We know what happens when we come down from the mountaintop experiences with God and are faced with difficult times. When the real world and real life hit us, right in the face, with the trouble that always seems to come and when they come, we should be comforted that our God will always be with us during them.

 Years ago it had been a great week at our church, I had gotten around to see all the people I had hoped and everyone’s health was holding. For, when you are visiting the sick and the elderly, sometimes just staying the same is a victory. The church was doing well, attendance was going up, it seemed like no matter how many bulletins we printed there were never enough. The kids in Sunday School were a joy and we had just completed confirmation with an amazing group of kids and I baptized a bunch of them. I was on top of the world.

 Then Monday morning I got a call. A family’s daughter who had had surgery the day before, had died. She was supposed to get out of the hospital that day and she had died. She was a wonderful young lady, a great athlete playing college volleyball, getting great grades in her freshman college courses.  Her family was crushed and so was I. But, then the Lord stepped in, the Lord stepped down into that terrible valley with us… The Lord reminded us that not only was that young lady so very good at life here on earth…she was also a committed Christian when we saw the tattoo that was on her ankle and it said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” we were reminded of her faith we knew, the very second she died here on earth, she was in paradise with her Lord. Now, I won’t say that funeral was easy and her family can never get completely over her loss…but, knowing she is in Paradise, knowing we who have faith in Jesus Christ will see her again, carried us through. Yes, God is with us, even in the valleys of life when everything seems hopeless.   

 God is with us in the valleys of life. We all know what it is like in those difficult times. We know what it means to experience illness and death of our loved ones. We know what it means to have trouble in our marriage. We know what it is like to be down at the bottom, in the deepest canyons of life and I pray, in those times, we know our God is with us and that God speaks to us in those difficult times and gives us words of hope and strength. For our God is with us both on the mountaintops and in the deepest canyons of life.

 Our God is also with us in the plains, in those plain old everyday times of our lives, those just fine times. Unfortunately we don’t spend a lot of time on the mountaintops and thank God we do not we spend a lot of time in the canyons of despair. But, where we spend most of our lives is living plain old ordinary, go to work days. Well, God is in those plain old ordinary days of our lives, too. The Lord is with us when we are driving to work. God is with us when we are having breakfast and pouring the Frosted Flakes out of the box. He’s with us when the telephone rings and we talk to a friend and I pray you know, he is there in life, everyday life.

 Our God is with us in the mountain top experience times, in the canyons of despair, and also in the unexceptional times of life, every second of every day. Our God is always there for us, always!

Amen. 
Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

Healy UMC,

Healy, Kansas

 

“Searching for Happiness”

Matthew 5:21-37

February 16, 2019

 I think we are all searching for a sense of doing well as we search for happiness in our lives. Think of all the things we try, hoping that maybe, this will be the one thing that sets us on the path to happiness and fulfillment. I’ve known people who thought the way to complete happiness and fulfillment was a great education and then going on to some kind of high speed profession. On the other side, I’ve know people who thought their route to the good stuff was through just bumming around with no responsibilities. I hear most of those guys are still living in their Mom’s basement. Then there are those who think their route to happiness and fulfillment is through lots of children and of course there are others who think their happiness will be found with no children and just partying their lives away. Unfortunately there are also those who are only happy when they are high and live in addiction. I’ve know people who have tried everything from Transcendental Meditation to Buddhism to find happiness and fulfillment.

 I too, have tried several things searching for happiness and fulfillment. When I was a kid there was really only one thing I wanted to do with my life and that was to rodeo, get rich and buy my own ranch. Then I thought I could happily chase cows the rest of my life. In High School for a while I thought sports might be an answer to complete joy. But, I wasn’t big enough to play the positions I wanted in football of in basketball and the only sport I was the right size for and good enough at was in the half mile race and I hated it because it hurt so terribly every single time. Then after I was in the Army, I came to think the secret to true happiness and fulfillment was being an Airborne Ranger. Jumping out of planes, destroying the bad guys, and then raising Cain when I wasn’t doing that. Then when I was about thirty I began to worry I had left something out of my life and wondered about a wife and children. Tried that and blew it the first time, except for two beautiful girls.

 I wonder if any of us, kind of feel like we work and work and try and try to be contented and happy yet, we never seem to find what will give it to us and begin to wonder what is it that will bring real happiness, real contentment to our lives? Last week was Valentine's Day, a day when we think of love stories; and of course most love stories end with the words, “…they lived happily ever after." Is that a fantasy, or is it really possible to be happy, not just happy, but happy ever after? So, many times all of us, just like me in my life try so many things to try to find happiness and fulfillment. Some folks end up in obsessed over getting something that is completely out of reach, some look for it in the drugs they take. Some hurt others in their search, we see it on the news every day. While most of them end up dead or in jail, not exactly a great place to find happiness and fulfillment.

 Others try to fill their life with distractions like entertainment, fake intimacy, and accumulating things. But, without one thing, none of what we do to find fulfillment and happiness will ever get us there and become lost in our search. We keep turning to the wrong places and making the wrong decisions and then keep ending up with the same empty feeling inside?

 I think many of us are guilty of sometimes describing the God of the Old Testament as mean and angry while they characterize the God of the New Testament as all sweetness and light. But, our God is neither, not mean and harsh or sweet and nice; our God is like any good parent giving us clarity in what he wants for us and from us and what He wants unending, unmatched love, while being full of grace and forgiveness.

 I think that is why Jesus takes the laws of the Old Testament about murder and adultery further than Moses. He tells us righteous living is not just a matter of actions, but is on our hearts as well. It is not enough to keep from committing violence, but unjustified anger and rage are not acceptable either. It is not enough to be true to your spouse, we must guard our heart as well. Jesus, tells us there is a 'way,' a 'path' to happiness, and it is not by living according to our own will, but by following God's will. For some reason we all want to try to find happiness on our own terms. We ask, "Can't I just worship the Golden Calf a little?" Or, “Can’t I sin just this once, it will be so much fun.” God’s answer is always, "No, no you can't, not if what you want real happiness, what you want will only hurt you." Some folks say these words from Jesus are the "hard sayings of Jesus." But when Jesus and the New Testament writers began to talk about righteousness, they stressed not so much what we do, but what was in our heart. It’s all about getting our heart right with God.

 When Jesus was talking about being righteous, he was talking about being in a "right relationship" with God, and when we do that, we actually live and do the right things. Unfortunately, doing the right thing doesn’t always lead to a closer relationship with the Lord. For those who do not have Jesus Christ in their hearts are lost, and there will be some really nice people in hell, who have never come to a close relationship with Christ. How sad is that? When, all they had to do was come to Christ with a repentant heart and ask him to be their Lord. As an example, it is not, the wedding service that makes one honor, love and cherish forever; it is when a couple falls in love that they begin to live up to the marriage vows. It is not vow-taking that makes one happy in marriage; it is the relationship itself that brings happiness.

 Most of us have heard this old joke. On a dark night, a policeman sees a man who is bent over, searching for something under a street lamp. Policeman walks up and asks, "What's the matter?" He replies, "I've lost my keys. Will you help me find them?" The policeman says, "Sure." After several minutes, the policeman finally stands up and says, "Hey, we've searched this whole area, and I just don't think they are here. Are you sure this is where you dropped them?" The man replies, "Oh no, I dropped them over there," pointing to the dark alley across the street. "Well, why on earth are you looking for them here?" "Well," the man says, "The light is better here!" Many of us, are looking for happiness, but many of us are looking in the wrong places.

 Just as I described earlier how I searched for fulfillment and happiness in many different ways of living. I tried to find it all in cowboying, in sports, I looked for it as I became an Airborne Ranger and being big and bad, and I looked for it in a family and still never found it. When the true answer, the right thing, was to come back to my relationship with God through my faith in Jesus Christ. That is where true happiness and fulfillment lies and we won’t find it anywhere else.

 But for those still thinking of the punishing God, the source of our goodness is not found in our fear of God; it is in our response to God's love. When we love God and his love meets our love that is where the search for true happiness, ends. It is what makes life here not just bearable, but beautiful and joyful. When we are in Christ the relationships we have here on earth will be more fulfilling and loving. Everything is better in Christ…everything.

 Once I was praying with a woman who had lived a full life, she hadn’t done it perfectly, yet she was in a close relationship with the Lord. Now, I had been praying for healing, for God to make her whole and well. But, as I prayed for healing for this lady, she interrupted the prayer and said to God, “Lord Jesus, I am ready, come and take me home.” My prayers were answered that day, my God and hers made her whole and well, just not here. Now that, my friends, is righteousness; that is a right relationship with God. Having that kind of confidence, not just in our love for God, but also in His love for us that is what brings the happiness that we are all looking for. That is what will sustain us in our lives here and make all our of our earthly relationships better here and in the life to come.

 You and I are never going to find happiness by turning to the golden idols around us, and certainly we are not going to find it by living life doing whatever we please. If we do, Satan will guide us into a life of hurting ourselves and others. But, in a life lived in Christ, we will find all the happiness and joy and fulfillment we could ever hope for. We just need to quit wrestling with the love of God and let the Lord’s Spirit fill us up and I pray we all will.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC - Healy, Kansa

 

 

“Righteousness”

Matthew 5:13-20

February 9, 2020

When I reenlisted the first time and decided on a career in the Army, I began setting career goals. One person that helped me set them was my first Battalion Command Sergeant Major for he was kind of a bum. You know, I think we often learn as much about what we should do by poor examples as we do by the good. I believe poor bosses help us know what we shouldn’t do. If you wanted to find that first CSM after lunch you had to go to the Non-commissioned Officers club, where you would find him with his buddies. The ranks of sergeant Major and CSM were relatively new and I think everyone was trying to work out what their job should be and some of them thought it was in the club. I thought I could do better than my CSM and decided my goal was to be the job right. A CSM that cared for his soldiers and whose care for soldiers and the mission of the unit showed.

I thought I was cooking in the Army, Sergeant in nine months, and on the promotion list for Staff Sergeant with two years in the Army. I hit some bumps along the way but my goal was still CSM. Then with nineteen years I made it, I was a CSM and sent to my first Infantry Battalion. I honestly think I really did do better than that first CSM I had. But, then somewhere along the line I became convinced that to really excel, my goal should be Sergeant Major of the Army. That just being a CSM and a good one, was settling for too low a standard for myself. I thought I needed to want to go to the very top of the Army and really try to make a difference. Deep in my heart I knew that wasn’t right. I knew that a CSM who cared about their soldiers and ensured his subordinate Sergeants did too left a lasting legacy on the Army. But, it was worried that I had perhaps set my goals too low.

Well, talk about high goals look what Jesus said at the Sermon on the Mount, "Do not think that I came to get rid of God's Law. No, I came to fulfill it such that if your own righteousness does not exceed that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, then you most assuredly are not going to be part of my kingdom." Wow, the disciples must have thought, when Jesus said this that he was setting some pretty high career goals for us. After all, no one was better at law-keeping than the Pharisees, they may have felt they were in over their heads. The Pharisees were to the Law what AB on “Good Eats” is to cooking shows, Patrick Mahomes is to Quarterbacking, they were good at what they did. Jesus was setting some really high standards for these guys.

How could the disciples then and us today, see these words of Jesus as anything less than impossible and on the other side, how could Jesus say the Pharisees were righteous the way he talked about them? Jesus obviously didn't think much of the way they lived their lives. He thought they were fakes, nitpickers who loved their rules, without feeling them in their hearts. They didn’t live or try to live up to the most important commandments, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. In fact, Jesus called them whitewashed tombs, people who are all show and no go, for outwardly they seemed righteous and good, while they covered up their hypocrisy. Kind of like that old CSM sitting in the club during the work day.

Jesus often used embellishment to make his point. Carla calls me on it sometimes. You know like telling people their sin was as if there was a log sticking out of their eye or of camels fitting through the eye of a sewing needle. That was just how he made his point. When he says people must follow the Law as closely as the Pharisees and Scribes, Jesus points out that it is impossible for everyone, including the Pharisees and he tells us anything is possible when we are in the Lord.

We will never be able to do it on our own but, God can and will help us to righteousness through our faith in Jesus Christ, as a gift of pure grace, nothing whatsoever earned. Do we think we will ever be entirely righteous while in this life? No, but we should be on an upward climb to righteousness and I am sure when we get to heaven we will finally be perfect. Everything about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to the closing parable about the wise and foolish builders is all about God's grace taking hold of us and filling us up with the goodness of Jesus Christ. Amen?

How else could we explain the opening of this passage? Jesus tells the disciples they are salt and light. He doesn't say they will become salt and light if they tried really hard. It isn't a prediction or a promise that may or may not come true, Jesus flat out says to the disciples, who are still confused and have no idea what was coming are salt and light. That was what they were and there was nothing they could do about it, either. They had not earned it, they did not understood it, but they were salt and light and ALL who follow Jesus Christ are given it, too. All it takes is an openness to receive and follow Christ. When we follow Jesus Christ all of the old rules of what are possible, disappear.

Matthew showed us that in the opening family tree of Jesus in chapter 1. I am sure all of us have a few questionable people in our family trees and so did Jesus. A horse thief or a liar or maybe a bank robber? Jesus’ family has the same less than stellar people as we do in his family tree, remember Tamar who tricked Judah into sleeping with her and married him. And, Rahab the prostitute who wasn’t an Israelite yet, but helped Joshua and his men take Jericho or Jacob who cheated his brother out of his birthright. They remind us, God was able to do important work through less than perfect people and through some non-Israelites to bring the Messiah to the world. Think of all the things David did that were unrighteous, like the rape of his subordinate’s wife. Jesus’ entire earthly family tree is one sinner after another…sinners just like us. If that bothers us a little, well then welcome to the club of those thinking they were righteous that had to relearn what true righteousness is.

Jesus' earthly father Joseph was a fine example. Joseph knew the righteous, law-abiding rules of what to do when your fiancé turns up pregnant and it's not you who got her that way. But just as Joseph is drawing up the legal and so called righteous divorce papers, an angel comes to point him to true righteousness. Joseph was the first of many righteous people who, if they were going to faithfully follow God, would have to come to a new understanding of the Law and of love.

We are never told in the Bible, but I’ll just “betcha” Joseph took some heat from the Pharisees for not dumping Mary. Nobody would believe the truth, so maybe Joseph and Mary didn't tell anyone what happened. It’s no wonder that Mary gets mentioned in Jesus’ family tree of sinners, for I am sure they thought of her in Nazareth as less that righteous. Joseph and Mary were doing as they were told by God which is what we all should be doing. 

Jesus was given a lot of grief from the religious authorities. They didn’t think Jesus was even close to righteous. He broke God's Law, they believed when he hung out with the wrong people, failed to keep Sabbath, and contaminating himself with every filthy bum he met. Yet, Jesus says he was actually keeping the Law, achieving a righteousness so pure that, only God himself could do any better. It seemed crazy to the religious elite and they believed there was NO WAY Jesus could be the Messiah. He was just too sinful in the way they looked at sin. They thought the only way to deal with this Jesus, this unrighteousness one, was to nail him to a cross and be rid of him once and for all. Then, everyone could get back to their previously scripted lives where righteousness involved only rule-keeping and avoiding sinful people, while disobeying the command God gave them through Isaiah, seven hundred years before about their duty to share God with all the world. And, we’re still doing the same thing, we do our church things and we may talk to those who do not know Jesus, we even do business with them, and sometimes we enjoy time off with them, but we often do not care enough about their souls to tell them they NEED Jesus.

The righteousness of Jesus was greater than that of of the Pharisees, especially when he stretched out his arms on the cross, and cried "It is finished!" Giving each and every one of us the chance to take his righteousness as our own. We are given the opportunity, but we still have to respond to God’s offer by choosing Jesus Christ as Lord, becoming salt and light by grace alone through Christ. Then, through following Jesus closely our salt will not lose its flavor and our light will not be hidden. Often the way we hide our light is when we let rules mean more to us than people. Or, when we let our way of doing things stand in the way of seeing other people as loved by God. When we meet someone who is sinning according to our Bibles, we must still love them and still invite them into the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no sin too awful, no mistake so glaring that will prevent God from forgiving a repentant person, NONE!

We get mighty used to defining righteousness and the Christian way of doing things in how we do it. The heart of God's Law has always been love of God and love of our neighbor. Not just the love we give those who are already a lot like us. No, God’s love is the kind of love where God decided to create us to share the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, through us.

A while back someone asked me what I would say if I were writing what I knew was going to be my last sermon. I told them that I hope I would say pretty much what I have been saying all these years. That perfect love, the love of God above all else and love for your neighbor are the beginning of true Christian love. Loving Jesus Christ above all else and taking him through faith to be your Lord and Savior and then sharing that love with everyone all over the world should be our goal.

You know one day, near the end of my Army career, I got in a fight with the Sergeant Major of the Army. When I told him I thought my job was to ensure I had combat ready soldiers and not so much about supporting some lobbying organization that I doubted did a lot for the people they were supposed to be helping. I had been well on my way to his job, but that argument changed my plans. And, you know what? I thank God it happened, because I know, I landed in a much more important job…a job that lets me love others through sharing faith in Jesus Christ with them. I’m so thankful that argument happened and if you open your heart to the Lord and live the life he wants for you, you will be too.

Amen.

 Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
Healy UMC, Healy, Kansas

 

“The Cross”

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

February 2, 2020

Did you catch these words from our scripture reading? “The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved, the cross is the power of God.” If we really want to understand the heart of God, we need to understand the cross since it completely defines the love of Christ. Christ’s love is the greatest love of all, a love which causes a person to be willing to die for another. Paul tells us, “We are to preach the gospel which is the cross of Christ and the cross is the very power of God for salvation.” The cross of Jesus Christ is power, the power of his love.  

Now, if I was God, and if I were mean and spiteful, it would be a different sort of deal for us sinners. It would make me downright mad as I looked down at humanity’s sinfulness. I would see people murdering each other and the rich ignoring the poor. I would see adultery and idolatry, massacres, wars, and murders and I would get mad and zap the earth and end it all. Then I would create another earth and if it turned out as bad as the first one, I would zap it, too. That is what a mean and spiteful God would do. 

But, if I were a sweet God, a sugar daddy god it would be a different story. I would sit up there on my beautiful throne and I would give everybody what they wanted. I would give one person a castle by the sea and someone else a paid for home. And they would be jealous of each other. Anything, anyone wanted, is what I’d give them. The temperature would always be sixty-five, that’s what I like best and the grass would always be green. All the cattle would be fat and wheat would sell for a hundred dollars a bushel and calves for five dollars. All the governments stay within their budgets, budgets that paid for everything without busting the bank and of course, without taxes. There would be no more starvation, no war and no drought, no cancer, and no clogged arteries. That is what I would do if I was a sweet and nice God. Why, every home would have a regulation sign that said, “God is great, God is good, God lives in my neighborhood. That is what I would do if I were God. 

But, thank heavens I am not God. For, God is not some mean and spiteful father who whips everybody into frightened obedience. And, God is not some kind of sugar daddy who is going to give us everything we want. No, our God is a God who loves us so much he suffers for us and with us. Our God’s love is so great that he died for us and this kind of love in God works to create a similar love within those who follow him.

Today, I’m talking about the cross which defines the power of God’s love. Jesus Christ’s cross symbolizes the way should love, live, and how we should give ourselves for each other. So, how do God create love in us? That is what we want for our children, our loved ones and friends, and people we don’t even know, isn’t it? All of us want to be loving, right? So the question is, how does God do this, creating deep love within us? 

What would happen if God had given us everything we wanted? What if our parents allowed us to stay up as late as we wanted every night? How about it if we watched as much television as we wanted and as much candy as we wanted? How about if we looked at the Christmas catalogue and we could circle everything we wanted and get it? If our parents gave us everything we thought we wanted, we wouldn’t love them. Instead, we would slowly but surely become a monster. I’m not so sure that happens when grandparents indulge their grandkids, though. But, if parents spoiled their children like that, we would become a person who explodes with frustration when we didn’t get what we wanted. Giving someone everything they want doesn’t create love, it creates a monster. If God gave us everything we wanted, we wouldn’t worship Jesus, we would worship ourselves and even, with all that stuff, we would be miserable.  Our God does not try to buy our love by giving us everything we think we want as some parents try to do. No, God creates true love in us.

God creates love in us as our God suffers with us and in us. God does not eliminate suffering from our lives but God suffers with us and for us. Our God does not eliminate our mistakes and God does not eliminate accidents. God lets nature be itself and God does not always eliminate suffering. But, our God is with us in our suffering, holding us until the suffering goes from our heart into his. The way you create love and the way that love is born is being with others as they suffer. 

Every day so many people have so much death, so much pain, and so many families have their hearts broken. But, when you see a family who has been struck by disaster, we also see people come to them. They don’t say much, they just hold the persons hands whose hearts have been broken. People come and love the suffering and feel the pain of those who are suffering. 

So, God creates love in us not in the elimination of suffering but it is in God being with us during our suffering. When we understand God is with us and that we are not alone, godly love begins to form. When we understand the power of the cross, the power of God’s love, suffering with us and for us, we then begin to understand God’s unconditional love.

Our love for our children is unconditional. We don’t always like our children. But we always love them, even when we dislike the things they do. We don’t love our children because they are beautiful, even though they are, if they are smart, or when they do what we want. No matter what our kids do, we love our children and that is how it is with God but even stronger and more certain. Think about that, God loves us more than we love our children. Also, there is absolutely nothing that we can do to stop God from loving us. God loves us not because we are good or smart or beautiful. God does not love us because we are perfect, obedient, and do everything right. God loves us even when we run away from him.

 When our child runs away and we are running around searching for them our heart is breaking? We don’t forget all about the good times, when our hearts were broken because we love them. But, when they are doing something they shouldn’t and we know it will hurt them, we try to stop them and that’s how it is with us and God. When we run away from God, God’s heart is broken, chasing after us, aching for the time where we finally come to our senses and return to him. When we finally understand that even when we run away from God, when we do things we shouldn’t, God still loves us…we then start to understand the love of God and that begins building the same kind of love in us. 

A third quality that goes into creating God’s love in us is when we acknowledge the good qualities of the one we love. I hope we don’t tell our children forever what is wrong with them and never tell them what is right and good about them. You know we affirm our older children much more than we do the younger ones. Shouldn’t it be both? Many of us pick, pick, pick at our children, our spouses, our parents, our friends, and our neighbors. We find ourselves finding fault in others, far too much. 

The affirmation of who you are, the affirmation of the uniqueness of our children, other people, and of our spouse creates love. When we finally move beyond our pick, pick, pick party against others and understand that it is affirmation of others that creates love in us and others we are demonstrating God’s love. 

I remember one time Carla and I and all five girls were on a little hike north of Anchorage. It occurred to me, if we met a bear I was going to die. For, I knew when we saw the bear, the girls would start squealing and he would take us and I would have to fight a bear with my pocket knife. Not a fun thought. But, I couldn’t hand the bear a child to get him off the rest of us. No, I would have had to give my life in the hope that they could get away while that bear chewed on me. I would have had to give my life for my family because I love them.

Love like that from God begins creating God’s love in us when we have the willingness to die in place of another. That is at the very heart of the cross. God gave us his Son, to die for us and Jesus died willingly on the cross for our sin before we even born. When we finally understand that, when it finally gets into our heart that God loves us so much that he was willing to die for us, it begins creating God’s love in us.

This love that suffers with us and for us, which loves us unconditionally, a love which affirms us the way we are…a love which is willing to die for us, that kind of love creates love in us. God does not buy us with all kinds of presents and give us everything we want. God does not whip us into compliance and fearful obedience. No, God just loves us and keeps on loving us, no matter what. 

One of the blessings of being a pastor are conversations with people at important moments in their lives. One of them is being with people as they face their own death. I remember one conversation as if it were yesterday, even though it was several years ago. A lady from the church was dying of cancer. I asked her one day, “What can I do for you?” She answered, “Bud, make sure they understand.” I’m a little slow, so I asked, “Understand what?” She smiled and told me, “Help them to understand the love of Jesus Christ.” She wanted me to help everyone understand Jesus’ love for them.

To understand Jesus is to understand the cross and to understand the cross is to understand the love of God. To understand the love of God is to understand a God who suffers with us, who loves us unconditionally, who loves us affirmatively, and loves us so much that our God, the only God, is willing to die for us. That is what it means to understand Jesus. Understanding Jesus is to understand this glorious love of God and that is the Gospel and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

God does not buy us off giving us everything we want. God does not whip us into submission and forced obedience like a mean parent. No, God loves us and keeps on loving us and I pray today our Confirmation young people understand this above all else. I pray they understand that God loves them and there is nothing they can do about it. I pray they know our God died for their sins before they were even born because of his never ending love for each of one of us.

One thing more. God asks us to have the same qualities of love for each other. Not a cheap love that buys people off as many parents and politicians try to do. Not an angry love that whips them into shape with fear. No, our God gives us the love of the cross, a love that loves unconditionally and affirmatively. That is the love of the crucified Christ I hope we all come to understand it, as we make him our Savior.

Amen.

 Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
Healy UMC
Healy, Kansas

 

“Bring Them to Christ”
John 6:5-13

January 26, 2020

When we think of the twelve disciples, what are some of the names we automatically think of? Maybe, we think of Peter, first? Remember when he promised three times, “I won’t deny you.” Then turned right around and denied Jesus, before the rooster crowed. Hate when that happens. Or, we think of him when he saw Jesus walking on water in the Sea of Galilee, he walked out to Jesus, and sank, when he took his eyes off the Savior. You know, even those who sometimes take their eyes off the Lord, can be forgiven and follow Jesus Christ.  

Or, what about James and John. They are called the sons of thunder because they had bad tempers. Even, people with hot tempers can become disciples, too. That’s a good thing for me. James and John were fishermen and James became a leader of the church in Jerusalem and there was an explosion of growth in the church with his leadership. Of all the disciples, only John lived to old age and I think it was because Jesus asked him to care for his mother, Mary and he had some amazing writing to do. Peter, James and John are some of the disciples most people think of first, when we talk about the disciples. 

But, there was also Matthew, the tax collector. Tax collectors were legalized crooks, stealing from the people with the backing of the government. You wouldn’t want to borrow money from him, he would cheat you and you certainly wouldn’t want to buy a used car from him. We have all known a few Matthews and sometimes the Matthews among us, change, are forgiven, and become disciples of Jesus Christ, too.

Which of the other disciples can you name? There was Thomas, the doubter. But, we all have doubts. Yes, even doubters can become Disciples of Christ. Then there was Judas. I’ll bet you have never known a person named Judas? Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss and most of us don’t name our kids, Judas. 

So, when you’re thinking about disciples whose thoughts automatically go to Andrew? Andrew is often called Simon Peter’s brother in scripture, they don’t even say his name. Kind of like when I was growing up and grownups knew me as Everett Tuxhorn’s son and not by Bud. Carla found something I didn’t know about Andrew, he is the Patron Saint of US Army Rangers. No wonder I like him. But, you know, we see people like Andrew every day. Like the person who is driving down Kansas four with you or maybe he is the guy delivering feed. Or, maybe Andrew is the person who cuts your hair or gives you a shot.

Andrews are “the man or the woman, in the middle.” They are not up in the front of thousands making presentations, but are in the choir, right in the middle. Andrews are essential to making the church work. If you don’t have Andrews in the church, the church does not and cannot work very well. In fact, many of the problems in most churches are because we don’t have enough Andrews.

Think about Andrew, a disciple of Jesus? Well, Andrew was Simon Peter’s kid brother and he grew up in his brother’s shadow. When they played games, Peter probably was the one who chose the game and probably won, too. If a joke was told, Peter probably told it and if someone asked a question about fishing, Peter probably answered. Andrew was always in the shadow of his big brother. Come to think about it, Andrew was often left out. The big three disciples were Peter, James and John, and Andrew was often not invited. Andrew wasn’t even mentioned when some things happened because Andrew was the person in the middle. He might even have been there, but no one noticed.

Andrew, this man who is so often ignored in the Bible and unfortunately forgotten, by us, began as a disciple of John the Baptist. John was out there in the boonies on the Jordan River preaching, a super strict Jew, there was no dancing, no smoking, no wife, he did nothing we might consider fun. All he did, was pray, meditate on God, preach, and Baptize repentant sinners.

After Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, he pointed to Jesus, and said, “Andrew. There he is. That one I just baptized. He is the Lamb of God, he will change the world,” and he released Andrew to follow Jesus.  Then, when Andrew walked up to Jesus, Jesus asked him, “What are you looking for?” Now, this was not a throw away question, he is, asking Andrew, what he was really looking for in life. Andrew answered with his own question. “Where are you staying?” Now, his question does not mean, “Are you staying at the Motel Six?” He’s asking, “What lives inside of you Jesus? What gives you life?” And, Jesus answered, “Come and see.” And the word, “see,” is meaningful. I told you about it last week and Jesus still tells each of us, “Come and see.” We are told to “Come and see, before we have come to faith in Jesus Christ and then we are called again, when we are sent on missions for the Lord. The Greek word used here, means spiritual insight not physical sight. Jesus was saying, come and see, come and find, what you are really looking for to make your life complete. 

Jesus, his friends, and Andrew spent the night talking. We don’t know what they talked about, but Andrew was changed. Andrew became a disciple of Jesus Christ, yes, he became a born again follower of Jesus Christ. So, the next morning, Andrew went and found his big brother, the big brother, who bossed around all his life. The Bible tells us, “Andrew brought Simon to Jesus.” What a wonderful line, “Andrew brought Simon to Jesus.”

Andrew did not try to convert his brother. Andrew did not try to change his brother or convince his brother that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Andrew just knew in his heart, if he brought his brother to Jesus, that his brother would be transformed, the same way he had. Andrew brought Peter to Jesus and he gave his Heart to Christ, too. Andrew, this man in the middle, had this amazing gift of introducing people to Jesus Christ. He introduced his brother to Jesus Christ and he was just getting started.

 Later two Greeks were listening to Jesus preach. After the sermon, they came to Phillip and said, “We would like to meet Jesus.” But, Phillip, didn’t take them to Jesus, he took them to Andrew, who introduced them to Jesus? I believe this is a lesson for all of us, if we think we are incapable of introducing someone to Christ, AT LEAST introduce them to someone who will. If we believe those who know Jesus will spend eternity in heaven with Jesus…if you care about their soul and their eternity, at all, take them to someone who will introduce them to Jesus! Andrew introduced those two Greeks to Jesus and they, too, became disciples of Jesus Christ. Andrew was one of those amazing people who introduce people to Jesus Christ. 

Do you remember the little boy who had five loaves of bread and two fish? There were five thousand people sitting there, hungrily looking out at the Sea of Galilee. Jesus has finished his sermon, and there was no Wendy’s or McDonalds to run and get a snack from. But, there was a boy, with five loaves and two fish. Jesus took the bread, broke it, gave it to the people and there were twelve baskets left over.

So, what did I leave out? Yes, you know, how the boy got to Jesus? It was Andrew, and it was always Andrew who brought people to Jesus. Andrew was talking with this little boy and he said, “Come with me, you have to meet Jesus.” Andrew brought the little boy to Jesus and it was Jesus who transformed him AND his five loaves and two fishes. 

Today, I’m not talking about Peter who preached a great sermon and three thousand came to faith in Jesus Christ. Not about James, the leader of the Jerusalem church. This sermon is not about John, who cared for Mary after the crucifixion and wrote important books in the Bible that have touched billions of people. No, today’s sermon is about the combine and the truck driver, the butcher, the barber, the clerk at the store, the teller at the bank, and the Sunday School teacher, who love Jesus Christ and introduce others to Christ. The story for today is about the man or woman in the middle who introduces people to Jesus Christ. Throughout the history of the church there have been thousands of Andrews for every Peter, James and John. I thank God for that, for the people in the middle, they are absolutely essential for introducing others to Christ and making our churches and even our nation work.

So, who can I tell you about that I see as an Andrew, who can I tell you about that is a modern day Andrew? I was thinking about a difficult time in my life when I was away from the church and separated from Christ. I was angry at the world and at God for things that had happened in my life. One night I was out drinking my sorrows away, at least that was what I was hoping for…when I met a person who asked me to church the next morning. Offered to meet me there and in church that next morning and I heard a sermon about a preacher’s life that was a lot like mine. I realized then, there was hope for my life that my life could and would turn around if I would only come back to the church and Jesus Christ. Now, that person will probably never preach a sermon where three thousand come to Christ. Will never know how my life was changed by that invitation and may never write an amazing book about faith in Jesus Christ. But, that person helped reconnect a wandering soul to Jesus Christ and the church. An Andrew and probably didn’t even know it.

Why did this person ask a wandering soul to church? It was because they knew the Lord wanted everyone to be close to the Lord and that is the way Christians like Andrew are. When we know the Lord, when we have the assurance of life after death with him, we should then want to bring people to Jesus, so they can know the Lord, too. I pray we all do. 

Another Andrew, I knew a lady who used to scour the town and bring children to Sunday School. She wasn’t related to them, she just wanted them to come and learn about Jesus’ love. Again she may never preach and thousands of people will be converted. She just wanted people and especially children to come and meet Jesus and come to know him as their Lord. 

Like Andrew, each of us can bring people to meet Jesus Christ and we are supposed to be doing that. Then, when we bring them, Jesus will do the rest. But, someone has to bring them to him or their lives will probably never be changed by faith in Christ. Did you hear that, there’s a good chance their hearts will NEVER be changed if we don’t bring them to him and we all know what that means for their souls.

 What the Church of Jesus Christ needs today is another ten trillion Andrews to bring people into the presence of Christ. What every church needs is a bunch more Andrews bringing others to Jesus Christ. Bringing them to church and Sunday School of even a potluck, young and old, to learn about Jesus, so they might come to faith in him. This church and the world needs lots more Andrews. For every Peter, James and John, there needs to be ten thousand Andrews. In fact, the truth is, we all need to be an Andrew, bringing people to meet Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

Healy United Methodist Church

Healy, Kansas

 

 

Come and See”

John 1:29-42

January 19, 2020

In John we hear Jesus call his first disciples when he pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” and after hearing this; two of the men standing there, decide they want to check out what Jesus is all about. I believe this call is one we need to pay attention to. For, it will help us understand our own call from God and please don’t tell me you have had no call for any work for God, for every Christian is called to some Christian ministry.

Now, sometimes we don’t understand what God wants from us and it’s easy to get confused about what we are called to. We may think God is telling us to do one thing and our call is to something else. Maybe we are being called to be a pastor or something else in the church. But, maybe it’s as simple, as a call to ask our neighbor to church, bring a neighbor’s child with you, or start a Sunday School class? Whatever we are being called to, I will guarantee you that every Christian is called to some Christian work!

Unfortunately about all many of us do about our call is think about it. In fact, we think it too death, while doing absolutely nothing about it and then finally give up on it. That’s handy for us, especially when we aren’t all that interested in doing what God wants anyway. When we quit, because we are little confused about our call, we then do nothing at all for Christ. I hope that’s not the result we were looking for, but we know it is not what God is calling for.

Now, most of us, when we hear the story of these two men’s call, we think what happened to them is completely different from what’s happening with us. We think the disciples were different than us and after all, they were called in person by Christ and that we’re just ordinary people in ordinary lives, without a call directly from Christ. That allows us to think we’re safe from that call stuff, that it’s over our heads and we believe we couldn’t do it anyway. We convince ourselves that God’s call is calling someone else to make new disciples for Jesus.

In the UMC, the board of ordained ministry interviews people who are trying to understand their calls. Some feel they are called, but really don’t know what. Some have had powerful experiences, a whispering in their ear about what God wants from them and some think the Lord has something new and different instead of what they are doing now. While, some see a job that needs done and then come to believe they are called to it. Some even feel the Lord is leading them to a particular ministry. But, very few of them are absolutely certain what they are called to or if they are “called,” at all.

When I first went to the BOOM to be a candidate for ministry, I dreaded talking to them about my call. I knew I was going to be asked about what I thought I was called to and I thought I really needed a better answer. Well, that first time I told the BOOM I believed, I was called to rural ministry. That made me popular with the board for the average candidate coming before them often demanded they be appointed in Denver, Colorado Springs, or Pueblo. They only wanted to be in the city and very few asked to serve in the country. But, I was so unsure, I also hedged my bet, saying that I thought after a year in ministry, I would know for sure if I was right. Later on, I had to write a paper about when I felt most like a pastor and felt most called to ministry. I wrote about the time I was absolutely certain, knew for sure, I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and it was after I had been in my first church a month or two at a ball game. I was watching a JV high school game in an almost empty gym, and a little girl from the church came and sat down by me. That same little girl just graduated from college as a math teacher and coach this fall. That day, she told me all about her day at kindergarten and it was at that very moment, as I listened to her that I knew I was doing what God wanted me to be doing. That little girl helped me clearly see my call.

But the fact is, looking for a call from God as a call to a specific job, sometimes misses the point. Sure, there is such a thing as a special call to a specific ministry. Yes, I still believe I am called to service in rural churches. But, that’s not usually what the Bible is talking about when it talks about being called and it’s not what was happening in our Bible reading. Do you really believe the disciples knew what was going to happen to them when they decided to follow Jesus that day? Do you think they knew all but one of them would be martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ? Do you think they knew the pain and fear they would face as they worked for Jesus the Christ? No, of course, they didn’t and that’s not what is usually going on with each of us when God comes calling. We don’t usually start out with a grand call to do this or that.

For, most of us…our first call from God is often much different. For, being a missionary a preacher or a Sunday School teacher, comes in second to our first call, the call each and every Christian has from God. Those two followers of John the Baptist who Jesus told “come and see” were called exactly as we are called. They were called to follow Jesus, just as we are called to follow him. They were called to take Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, first of all, before they did anything else.

Then we need to remember, we don’t have to be like

Andrew, John, or Peter for each one of our calls are different. The first thing we need to notice about the disciples call is that Jesus doesn’t at first call them to a specific job. He didn’t tell Peter he was the rock the church would be the rock the church would be built on until later. He didn’t tell John that he was going to leave him to watch over his mother after he was crucified and that he would write some of the most important books of the New Testament. No, all Jesus said to them was, “Come and see”. Our call as Christians is not, at the very start, a call to a specific job or mission. Those instructions will come, but no yet. It is, instead, an invitation to a growing and loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus did not say, “Do this or do that,” that day. He said and he still tells us today, at the start of our service, just, “Come and see.”

Just, “Come and see”. Only later will we be given specific instructions. There’s a big difference between a call to a specific job and an invitation to a close and loving relationship. To answer a call to relationship is a very different thing from signing up to do a job. It is different in the same way that falling in love is very different from getting hired for a new job. When we get a new job we want to know what is expected of us for what we will do in a job is negotiable and there are limits to what we’ll do. They can’t and shouldn’t ask us to jump off a roof, and if they do we can leave and not do it and as with any job we should be able to see when the job is done. But, when we are in love, Wow, we will do just about anything for this one we love.

Being called into relationship with Jesus Christ is an invitation into a mystery; it’s to move forward, with no idea where we’re headed, except to love him and follow him. It is scary at first, but, when Jesus says, “Come and see,” he is calling us first to just share life with him. That’s what matters, that’s what is most important. Everything else is supposed to be second to our relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus’ call is a call to work toward making our relationship with him first above all else in our lives. When we are called, we are first called to just be held close by Jesus for a while. Not to go anywhere, not to do anything, just be held, until we find out where Jesus needs us, just to spend some time there with him. Then he will take us somewhere to work for him. The times will vary, but please never use loving Christ as an excuse for doing nothing. This is why a sense of call from God…something that comes to us all, can often be both frightening and frustrating. We might know something important, is happening. But, if we grab on to something that is not our call from God, we may get lost and give up. At the beginning of our relationship with Christ we are simply asked to get to know God and Jesus better. It’s a call to listen, and to wait, it’s a time, as Psalm 85 says, “…listen to what the Lord God is saying.” We need that first and we need to do it the most, just calm down and lie in Christ’s arms, listening and learning

That’s what happened to those first disciples…they stayed close to Jesus and learned all they could. Then, long before they thought they were ready, Jesus gave them things to do. Know this, the call of Jesus will always, in one way or another, mean a call to some sort of ministry. Ministry where we will be leading others to faith in Christ.

But, a close relationship with Christ comes first. There can be no continuing and successful ministry without a close and personal relationship with Christ. Often, people who start too early, drift away from him and begin to fail, because they just weren’t close enough to Christ before they began and those crooks who hide their crime as TV preachers behind Christianity, they always come to a spectacular fall. You can think of several as I say it and it is either because they weren’t close to the Lord when they started or they had fallen away.

Each and every one of us are called to be Jesus Christ’s disciples. That call comes with our repentance and our acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Then later when we are close to the Lord, we will receive other ministries. These calls will sometimes keep us from sleeping, as it whispers in our ear, even when we would rather be left alone. It may seem to go away, but it will always come back, asking you to come close and do something. I know for me, that call came so long and so insistently that I finally had to try to do it. Probably 40 years ago I knew I was called to something but God in Jesus Christ was very patient with me. But, please, don’t expect God to always be patient with you and allow you to put him off, like I did. I kept telling God, “After the Army,” and he allowed it.

During that “dragging my feet time”, I had other requests to work for God, before I came to ministry. I was asked several times to teach Sunday School classes and to sing special music tonight. But, then God got really serious when he had one of my preacher’s wives look me straight in the eye and ask me when I was going into ministry. Then after much prayer and a lot of foot dragging from me, I finally said, “Yes,” to the Lord. I finally said, “Whatever you want Lord, I’ll try.” Things moved really fast, I said yes one day in May, in June, I was in licensing school, and in August I was appointed to my first two churches. All it took was a, “Yes,” to the Lord and all it takes from each of us…is telling God, “Yes”, I will try to do whatever you want. Then, he will get us to where we are supposed to be working.

Because, it is, after all, our all-powerful Lord calling us to himself. It’s his call to life, to joy, and to true peace in Jesus Christ. It’s his call to each and every one of us to first “Come and See”. I beg you, whether it’s your first call to salvation in Jesus Christ or a call to go to work for him, please, say, “Yes,” and then find what he wants from you.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

Healy UMC, Kansas

 

 

“The Heading in the Right Direction”

Matthew 2:1-12

January 12, 2019

You know, I think we all love the Christmas star. As Christmas comes around each year, we start seeing it everywhere. It's on bulletin covers and Christmas cards, it’s everywhere at Christmas time.

I remember one time as a boy, I was allowed to put the star on the top of the Christmas tree. Dad held me up and I put it on the very top. I had plenty of verbal help, my three big sisters and Mom all told me how I was doing as I placed it on the top of the tree. But, I have to admit Mom was the only one Dad and I listened to. Mostly, because Dad and I wouldn’t be done until Mom was satisfied we had it right. 

While a Nativity scene with Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus was probably part of most of our homes and church decorations? Or, maybe you’re like us, with kids stretched from Washington, to Boise, to Denver, Junction City, and Arkansas City, they’re living all over the country, so we left the stockings off the mantle. But, I’ll just bet you, most of us had a star and some of them were at the very top of the tree.

So, have you ever noticed the star pictured on most of our Christmas cards is in the shape of the cross? I think it is a reminder, for each of us, of what is to come. A reminder of that terrible day and night that’s coming, when Christ will be murdered and buried on that silent night that many thought was the end of the story. You know, if you think about it, there is something ominous about the Christmas star with its cross and it seems as if Matthew feels the same way. Who wants to remember what’s to come on that cross when we are celebrating Christmas? But, Matthew had lived through those days and I think he was thinking of what happened when the baby grew up.

In the passage we read today, the Magi have gone where logically the future King of Israel would be…at the Palace of the King. Matthew told us, "In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, 'Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.'" Matthew then writes, "When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him."

I can't help but wonder if King Herod, who understood so little about the truth of the birth of Jesus Christ, if he actually got this part right. He actually understood, this rising star is big news and he knows in his heart, it is not good news for him. Then he thinks long and hard about it, perhaps as much as two years and sent his soldiers to Bethlehem and tried to solve his problem by killing the baby boys there. Though, Herod missed the one who was born King, he and all of Jerusalem agreed, this future King will upset the apple cart. They believe this star and this new King are bad news.

We sometimes forget, for most of human history most people agreed that strange stars were usually bad news. The historian of Jesus’ time, Josephus, said a star stood over the Temple just before its fall in 70 AD. The appearance of a star in the sky over England in 1066, just before the Battle of Hastings, was seen as a bad sign of what was to come. For, the Normans defeated the English King and his Army. Think about it, what would we feel and do if a new star suddenly appeared over our heads? Hmmm?

So when we hear that Herod was frightened, "and all Jerusalem with him," it makes sense. When what we see in the sky goes crazy, we get a little nervous. Who knows, what else might collapse or change? There might be changes of power, changes of social status, changes of the possible and the impossible? There might even be changes in what we can imagine, and what we've come to expect, a new star would probably worry us all? If our normal ended, we would all worry about what would happen next? Who would know, if things would get better or worse?

I think that goes for Christians, too. We Christians have always talked a good game about praying and working for God’s will. I wonder if much of what we Christians say points to restoring the power of God in Christ that is coming when Christ returns, is that really what we are really hoping for? Are we hoping for this earthly life to end, so we can go and spend eternity in Paradise, are we really hoping for that?  Sometimes when we speak of the new, I think what we often mostly talking about is hoping for something, not completely new, but more like improved.

I’m afraid, we pray only for a slightly different version of today. I’m afraid, much of the time, even faithful people can't imagine a world that is much different from the one we already have and that's the point…of course we can't. We can't imagine a new heaven and a new earth…but God can. And, God is ready to show us that vision, the vision of life’s answers in Jesus Christ. God has all the answers on everything in Jesus Christ. God wants us as a part of something that goes way beyond our shallow prayers of hope in this life and help us to hope in our lives in the hereafter. God hopes we will begin to change the world today…

As we begin another year, there’s something so beautiful and holy, about naming our hopes for our lives, even when they are small hopes. I don't know about you, but I've seen people quit smoking on the strength of a New Year's resolution. I've seen someone go from sitting on their couch to running a half-marathon on the strength of a New Year's resolution. I've seen someone finish an education they never even imagined because of a New Year's resolution.

These are all wonderful hopes for the future. But, what makes them so holy is that each one is not an end in itself, instead they are a new beginning. These steps toward a different future may be small, they may be just one small, slow step forward. But, please don’t look down on these small steps, because they are the first steps toward something new. The first steps toward a future we as dreamers can't quite imagine, but which we must continue to work towards to get us going in the right direction.

But, how about adding some new ideas to our resolutions? How about we resolve to work to bring our loved ones who are away from Christ back to the Lord? What about we each resolve to join a small group so we can learn more about our faith and come closer to the Lord? What if we decided to get those grandchildren of ours, who are not in church, into church? What about we invite our neighbors to come to church with us? How about if we are not tithing, we raise our giving this year by two percent or even one? Why don’t we stop ignoring the call from God to do some sort of Christian work in our lives? There are jobs all over in this church that aren’t being done because no one will do them and if we all get our kids in church we’ll certainly need more Sunday School teachers. What about a resolution to be in church somewhere, even when we are traveling, every Sunday this year? Why don’t we try on these for size? We all know, they are all things we should be doing.

But, no matter what we resolve to do, it requires trust. We need to trust that the strength to see our resolutions through can be found in Jesus Christ. Trust that our new actions will get easier to do as we go along and that setbacks aren't the end of all our good intentions, if we don’t let them. Learning to trust like that, may mean learning to see the world differently and seeing ourselves differently. Sometimes, it might be like learning to live under the light of a new star?

When I first started to get to go with the cowboys to move cows on horseback I can’t count the times Old Ed, he was one of the cowboys, was always telling me to ease up pushing the cows and their calves. Just following along behind those old girls and their babies at their own pace bothered me. I wanted them to hurry them up and make them go in exactly the direction I wanted them to. There would be no meandering with Bud the cowboy behind you. If you’ve ever followed cows and calves on a horse, you know they don’t walk in straight lines and the cows spend half their time wondering where their calves are, while the calves are just being youngsters. Herding cows and calves is not fast and it’s not a straight line. When I would start to push too hard, Ed would always tell me, “As long as they are kind of heading in the right direction it’s OK, just let then mosey along.” “Just leave them alone as long as they’re heading in the right direction.” 

That's true of resolutions, too. As long as we’re headed in the right direction, it’s OK. We need to resolve to do some of the things I’ve talked about and others that are in our hearts. But, our resolutions need to always bring us and others closer to Jesus Christ? We need to ask ourselves, “Will doing this get me heading in the right direction?”

As Herod and Jerusalem looked up in the night sky and saw a new star shining above them they wondered what it meant for them. As we try to understand God's vision for Creation is it headed in a direction we think we know and understand or it is just the beginning of what can and should be done by us and other Christians. For, there truly is so much more for us to be doing. When Herod saw that star, all he saw was bad news but the truth is; it was the good news, in fact, it was the greatest news there is or ever will be!

So, as a new year begins, as we move from a season of remembering and move into a season of doing, we are invited to go beyond the things we used to do and NOT DO… Get rid of those old expectations of what can and can't be done, what should and should not be done and head in a new and right direction. I know, it’s scary to think of what we need to do to get a child of ours back to Christ. It’s scary; but it is so important that we lead those who aren’t in Christ back to him. It’s scary to see the child who is not learning about Jesus and then decide, we are going to do something about it. But, today, please let’s all push past our fears and imagine what it might TRULY mean to live in the light of this new star of Jesus Christ. What will it mean for us to get started heading in the right direction, toward a close relationship with Christ.

In many ways the brokenness in our lives and in others seems to leave no room for anything but pain and worry. But, the light of the new star reveals a path back to Christ. For, all of us, the light of this star of Christ is a reminder, that we all can get headed in the right direction, with the help of the Lord. For those who are afraid to try new things; afraid of who might see you doing it, afraid of who might laugh, the light of that star shows us people who are not in Christ and their need for him. It shows us how we can start heading in the right direction bringing them to Christ, despite our fear.

Whatever our fears, we are reminded by the star, that we can live our lives headed in the right direction, in the light of the star that has the cross in it. We are reminded that Jesus, the light of the world, is here, in all his glory. Ready to help us to see others, and even ourselves, in new ways. He will help us get headed in the right direction, but we must first, make the first step. Jesus told us, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid." May we always seek to live in the light of that promise.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

Healy, Kansa UMC

 

 

“Raise You Up”

Luke 4:41-34

January 5, 2020

 Did you hear about the time Satan called all of his helpers in for instruction? Satan told them, "How can we keep Christians from going to church?” “How do we keep them from reading their Bibles and learning the truth?” “What is the best way to keep them from building an intimate relationship with their Savior?” “For, if they build a close connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken."

 So, he tells them, “Let’s let them go to their churches; let them have their Pot Luck Suppers and fellowship events…” “But steal their time so they don't have time to maintain a close relationship with Jesus." “Keep them so busy at work that they don’t have time to maintain their connection with Christ!"

"How can we do that?" the helpers asked. "Keep them busy on the unimportant stuff. Tempt them to spend and borrow more than they can afford. Keep them working 6-7 days each week, from dawn to dark each day, to afford their lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children and, as their families fall apart, they will give them no escape from the pressures of work! Over-stimulate their minds so that they can’t hear that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit trying to talk to them. Tempt them to keep all those entertainment and electronic devices going constantly. This will jam their minds and help them forget about their relationship with Christ. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogues, sweepstakes, and things that offer false hope. Make couples dissatisfied with each other so they begin to look elsewhere. Make them too busy to teach their children about Christ. Make Christmas all about the gift they give each other instead of the greatest gift ever, Jesus Christ. Give them Easters where all they think about are eggs and bunnies, so they won't remember Christ’s resurrection and his power over sin and death. As they play, let them be excessive as you keep them too busy to reflect on God's creation. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, plays, concerts, and movies instead and when they do go out into nature, get them do it on Sunday, so they miss church. Make them so busy, they don't have time for prayer and no time to remember God or to thank him for His goodness.”

 "Keep them busy, busy, busy! Then when and if they meet for spiritual fellowship, leave them with troubled consciences, so they don’t want to go back. Fill their lives with so many things they don’t have time to look for power and guidance from Jesus. “If they must talk to God…make sure they don't take time to listen. If we do all this, pretty soon they will be living on their own strength…without the power of God, giving up their health, their family, and their relationship with Jesus. If we do this, we’ll stop the spread of Christianity!" So the convention ended. Satan’s helpers began trying to cause Christians everywhere to have little time for their relationship with God or their loved ones. To keep them from feeling the urge to tell others about the power of Jesus to help them through their lives and most important of all, in eternity.  

 Well, what do you think, has the devil been successful in his plan? Are we being drained and losing hope? Is joy harder and harder to find? Are we finding it more difficult to remember the goals and the dreams God has placed in our hearts? Are we overwhelmed and unable find time for Jesus Christ in our lives?

 

 In today's Gospel reading we see Jesus healing a man. After that he went to Peter and Andrew's home…where he healed Peter's mother-in-law. Later a huge crowd gathered at the door and Jesus healed many of the sick. It was a very full and busy day.

 But, as he often did, the next morning, very early in the morning, while it was still dark…Jesus got up, left the house and went to a quiet place alone, where he prayed. He must have been there quite a while, because Peter, became worried and went looking for him. When he finds him…he tells him that everyone is looking for him and that they need him. Just as you and I need him, every day, all of the time but, Jesus had taken the time for prayer, anyway.

 He travelled through Galilee, preaching and healing and driving out demons. He taught by his words and how he lived. He taught God is near and God is coming to save his people. Sharing the news that God is forgiving and will raise up all who follow his son Jesus Christ. That he hopes everyone will repent and believe in his Son, so they may have peace in their hearts and live in peace with each other and with God. As we read the Gospels we often hear about how Jesus would go away alone to pray. Leaving everyone for a time of talking to God…as he maintained his relationship with his Father. A time alone with God for strengthening and worship.

 So, what about us? Do we remember what God hopes and wants from us? Do we see the glory in life God has promised? Do we notice how God has helped us and blessed us? Do we remember where there is food for our journey through our prayers life and worship? Do we know where there is rescue for our soul, with hope, and direction from God? Do we turn away from the hustle and bustle of life and allow God to restore us through a time of prayer and worship. Do we take the time to allow God to communicate with us so we can find what God wants of us?

 The message of God for us today in the prophet Isaiah is exactly like what the Gospel lesson taught us…

28Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.29He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.30Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

 This was a call to Israel living in exile and bondage to not let their difficult lives get them down. Just as we are in bondage to all of our stuff and the things we squander our time on. It is a call for them to remember how God has helped them in the past. It is a call for them to come to the Lord, through prayer and meditation. Something they evidently weren’t very good at doing and I’m afraid most of us aren’t, either. So, God can raise us up and restore us to his way, the only right way of life. So God can begin work on His plan…a plan in which freedom is restored, nations rebuilt, and suffering replaced with eternal joy in paradise.

 Let’s all lift up our eyes and look to the Lord. Who created all this? Remembering God brings out the stars and He calls them each by name. Remembering his great power and mighty strength and knowing not one of them is missing. Did you hear that, not one of them is missing and he knows each star by name? He knows them each of us by name and knows when a sparrow falls. God, even remembers Everett Herman Tuxhorn Junior. Why I was in fifth grade before I could spell it the same way twice and he even remembers me and my name.

 So, why did Jesus go to the synagogue on the Sabbath each and every week? Why did he worship at the temple and synagogue with God's people and keep the Law of God? Why did he on busy days of doing God's work, go to a quiet place and pray? Why did he leave the disciples and the crowds that needed him so badly, to go and pray?

 I believe he did it, because it helped him keep on track? He did it because it gave him courage and strength, settling his mind on what he had to do. And, he did it to set the right example for you and I for he knew we would need it in this life.

 Well, God has a purpose for us, too. Our God will redeem us and he will raise us up. He will do this when we base our hope in the Lord and on our relationship with Him. He will help us when we feed ourselves with God's word. When we take the time to allow God to speak to us…instead of just talking AT him, he will guide us. When we take time to be holy…God will move in us to do what we cannot do on our own. God will give us the strength and peace we need through our faith in Jesus Christ.

 In Psalm 91 the Bible tells us…

1You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, 2will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”

 Praise the God who raises us up, giving us refuge and hope. May his Word…His Gospel…his promises and his directions be heard and loved by all of us. May each of us cling to them each and every day in worship, Bible study, doing good for others, and prayer.

Amen

Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC - Healy, Kansas

 

“What’s Most Important”

Luke 20:27-38

December 29, 2019

 Have you ever noticed how the latest uproar in your family or even in the church seems so important at the time and then after the smoke has cleared, what has seemed so important just kind of fades away?

  • I was thinking about the installation of power point in one of the first churches we were appointed to.
  • The preachers were told by the Bishop to do it but many in the church felt it was new-fangled and some said that the installation of cables in the attic of the sanctuary were changes better left alone.
  • When we were putting them in we joked that maybe there was a body up there someone didn’t want found.
  • Some said that the projector hanging from the ceiling would be an eternal distraction from church services.
  • People would be watching the screen and ignoring the preacher.
  • But, everyone knows men listen to their wives when watching TV.
  • When it was completed, one of the main naysayers came and told me she was surprised about it, but she actually liked the lyrics to the songs on the screen.
  • She said, it was great her husband could continue sitting with her…
  • For because of his vision he was going to have to start sitting in the pew behind her to read the hymnal.
  • And, thank goodness, there were no bodies in the attic when we put the cables up there.

 Or, the time in one of our churches one of our girls and two others did interpretive dance to a beautiful Christian song at the Christmas Eve service.

  • It came up in a board meeting, “Oh my, dancing in church what a shameful thing”.
  • But, almost all of the congregation were blessed by the dance interpretation of the song.
  • Only the anti-dance folks were offended and I think they eventually had to admit they were blessed too, when those little girls danced so beautifully, honoring God.
  • And, the roof didn’t fall in, I would say that was a plus.

 When we had all of our girls at home I used to be disgusted by the boys on our front porch.

  • It seemed to me they were all out there slobbering and acting the fool to get my daughter’s attention and one of them, I still think it was one of my son in laws, broke my Bronco rock.
  • It was a piece of limestone that had the Bronco logo carved on it.
  • I was sure they did it on purpose, dirty little Chiefs fans.
  • Why in at least six states that is illegal.

 But, mostly what bothered me was their eternal wanting to talk to and see my girls.

  • I just knew they had bad intentions and I didn’t like it one bit.
  • Carla asked me once, “Why are you so mean to the boys when they are on our front porch and so nice to them when they are at church?’
  • I thought to myself, “Ray Charles could see, ‘Why.”
  • But, give me a little credit at least that as I worried about my girls, I still realized “What was most important” and that was when those boys were in church, they were learning about Christ and hopefully would be started on the road to faith in Him.
  • One of them did, he’s one of my son in laws and is following Christ in his life and raising his child in Christ.

 In our Scripture Jesus explains what is most important in our life and in our faith walk.

  • The Sadducees were powerful in the Jewish religious hierarchy and they were trying to catch Jesus committing heresy.
  • So they asked him a question about marriage and resurrection.
  • Hoping to catch him in heresy. 
  • IN the story, one of seven brothers married a woman and had no children, and then he died. 
  • As was the law, to care for the widow another brother married her, and the same thing happened to him…no children and then death. 
  • All seven brothers married the widow and all died with no children. 
  • The seven-time widow eventually herself died.
  • So, they asked Jesus, "In heaven whose wife of the seven will she be?"
  • I’ll bet Jesus shook his head sadly as he thought about what he should tell them?
  • If I were Jesus, I would have begun my answer by saying, "You would have thought by the time the fourth brother had died that the rest of them would have thought twice about marrying her."

 But instead, he reminds them that God is God of the living, not the dead.

  • The question they had asked just didn’t matter in heaven.
  • He is saying, "Our concern should be about the living."

 In Mark we can get a little clearer answer.

28One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he had answered them well, he asked, "What commandment is the first of all?" 29Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' 31The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." 32Then the scribe looked at him and said, "You are right."

 So, what is most important, what should be above all else in life?

  • It is to love God and to love neighbor as yourself!
  • Jesus says to these trouble makers that this should be our top priority in life!
  • Jesus reminds them that the overseers of The Law had spent way too much time laying out rules for following the Law.
  • In doing so, they had turned the two basic commandments into over 600 rules.
  • The entire point of this law was to see that a woman had a place to live when her husband died and was cared for since she could not own or inherit property.
  • Her dead husband’s brothers got his possessions why shouldn’t they care for her?
  • Who cares who will be married to whom in heaven; it is all about loving God and loving neighbor!
  • Yes, I do think we’ll know them and love our loved ones, but I do believe our earthly relationships will be different than here.

 We all know, we live in a society that is more stressed out, we are taking more anxiety meds, and we need more therapists than at any other time.

  • Depression, rage, anger, and physical violence…we all know that these are parts of a society that makes everything too important.
  • Our society tells us we have to have all these many things or we just can’t be happy and fulfilled.
  • We search for the stuff that the world tells us we need while those who don’t get them, often feel more and more useless.
  • We’re told we need a certain job title or this win to be happy?
  • And, then when we finally get the things they tell us are the greatest thing since sliced bread, something else comes out and we just have to start over.
  • It is never ending. 

 While so many live in poverty, many of us are obsessed with getting stuff that really doesn’t matter very much.

  • I’m afraid, much of the time, we chase after unimportant things in a world of great need.
  • We put getting unimportant stuff over time with our families and even our relationship with God.

 I remember a first time wedding meeting with a couple and as we talked about what we were going to do in the service, they kept asking me to remove anything that even hinted of a relationship with or an accountability to God.

  • They wanted to get rid of the scripture, the prayers, and all that really seemed to matter to them were the vows they wanted to provide, vows that made no promises of marriage being for forever.
  • I took it as long as I could and finally I told them, “I perform Christian marriage ceremonies and that since it doesn’t seem you want a Christian service…I’m not going to do it. Why on earth are you even here talking to a Christian preacher?”
  • What it came down to, was they wanted a photo op of a beautiful wedding with none of the Christian stuff that might challenge the way they wanted to live.
  • I told them I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it and as the Pastor of the church, I wouldn’t allow a ceremony like that there.
  • I don’t know what they did, I pray for them.

Contrast this, to a couple married for seventy years and he was dying.

  • She was living out her marriage vows as she sat beside him, loving in sickness and in health as he lay in the bed dying.
  • That's big stuff and it is what’s most important.
  • They were both devout Christians and they both knew they would see each other again in Paradise.
  • But, they were both broken hearted that they would be parted for now.

 Not just that couple, but all of us, we need to stop and think in this life, what is most important?

  • What do I need…rather than what do I want?
  • Think about how blessed we are…rather than about all the things we want but don’t have.
  • Look at how much of our lives are spent accumulating possessions and how much is focused on building a relationship with and caring for others while strengthening our relationship with God?
  • Ask, ourselves, “Do I spend more time thinking about what I don't have or thanking God for what I do have?”
  • What would people living in poverty think of my life?
  • Ask ourselves, what can I do to help others?

 The words of this passage are so simple, yet important, “To love God and your neighbor as yourself”, so simple, yet we make it so very difficult.

  • The truth is to fulfill these two commandments comes not by adding things to our lives, but by taking some things away.
  • We can become a little crazy on the quest for stuff.
  • We can begin to think, more is better, as it destroys our faith walk, our family, and others.
  • We can begin to the lust for more money, more stuff and our faith, our family, and our love for others will be forgotten.
  • We may begin to feel we just have to have all that STUFF.

 If we are following these most important commandments, to love God and our relationship with him above all else and to love our neighbor, all of them, as we love ourselves.

  • There is a commandment hidden there, we are to love ourselves, too.
  • And, I am not sure many of us truly do love ourselves or we wouldn’t be so hard on ourselves physically and spiritually.
  • If we follow these commandments we will simplify our lives as we come closer to our Lord and others.
  • If we are following these commandments, our relationship with the Lord and other people will become more important than possessions.

 Who is married to whom in heaven?

  • I don’t know.
  • I do believe we will see those we love in heaven.
  • I do believe that it will be a joy to see those we loved again and know that they are safe in Christ’s arms.
  • But, the relationships on earth are unimportant when we compare them to those who did not know Christ when they die.
  • I have a feeling they won’t know anyone in hell and never will, because that would surely be one more terrible thing about that place.

 What car we drive today, what house we live in today, will all be small stuff.

  • What is most important in our lives here and in eternity is our relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • Building a home for the poor that is important.
  • A floral arrangement for a wedding table will be small stuff and not terribly important.
  • Serving at a soup kitchen, now that is important.

 But, most important of all…leading another person to faith in Jesus Christ, so that they too will be in paradise when this life is ended.

  • No matter what our relationships will be in heaven that is MOST IMPORTANT!
  • How can we say we love others and those in our family if we are not actively seeking to lead them to Christ?
  • No matter the ways you are trying to lead another to Christ…maybe you invite them to a pot luck meal and then church, and finally they come to faith.
  • Or, maybe you begin by telling someone how God has helped you through difficult times and they begin to want that, in their lives.
  • But, we have to begin, we have to start to expose others to Jesus Christ!
  • Bringing them to a saving faith in Jesus Christ is the MOST IMPORTANT thing we can ever do for another person!

 I wonder if Jesus would think arguments over Power Point in church important?

  • What would he think about little girls dancing in church to worship the Lord?
  • And, what would he think about me worried about my girls while still worrying about the souls of those boys on my front porch.
  • I think I know the answers and so do, you! 

 Let us pray…Lord God, pour your Holy Spirit out on us so we begin to understand what is unimportant and what is important. Help us to keep loving you and our neighbor far above all our possessions. Amen.   

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC, Healy, Kansas

 

December 22, 2019

“Love In Our Hearts”

Matthew1:18-25

At this time of the year, every time you turn on the TV or the radio or when you go to the store, you are hit with Christmas music. In my Army days, there were a lot of years I was driving from the East coast at Christmas time to see Mom and Dad in Eastern Colorado. Now, this was in the olden days when the only music you had in the car were eight tracks and the radio. Now, those old eight track tape decks would often tighten up and you couldn’t play them constantly. You had to do the “loosen ‘em up” trick every once in the while and that is hard to do when you’re driving. I have to admit I’ve done it, but please don’t tell, and it was hard to stay on the road at the same time. Probably as dangerous as when folks are texting and driving, nowadays.

So, most of the time you were stuck with the radio and guess what kind of music is on most radio stations, at least in the old days, at Christmas time. There you were, stuck in your car with Christmas song after Christmas song playing and I’ll tell you there are just so many times anyone in the world wants to hear “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth”. Even “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” ceases to be funny after a few hundred times. Then it seemed as if every radio station across America had the same play list, if you changed the channel to miss “…Two Front Teeth”, the same song was on the new channel. I truly love the song “What Child Is This”, but after hearing it the hundredth time, even it gets a little repetitive.

Doesn’t it seem at Christmastime everyone is running around like crazy trying to get everything done? From the baking and cooking, the lights outside, the Christmas tree, and of course all the perfect presents we “need” for everyone. Often we are so exhausted getting ready for Christmas we don’t have the energy left to truly worship God or celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ. Some of us, by the time Christmas rolls around may just want a nap after all the craziness. 

But, in my younger days, on those long drives home, without that Christmas music to keep me going, I might not have made it. Christmas is a time of tremendous expectations, and there's a way in which shopping and cleaning and cooking and wrapping and visiting can take more out of us than what they put back in. Sometimes in this season, it's the "long winter's nap" and children "all nestled all snug in their beds" are what we want the most.

Our own expectations and others can be exhausting. I think that's why Advent, the four Sundays before Christmas, tries to turn us away away from the craziness. Preparing for the birth of Jesus, shouldn’t be a rushed. It should not be something we only give time, when we have it, between hanging lights or running to the store for that last thing we need for Christmas dinner. Instead, we should try to avoid the craziness and just let Christmas come at its own pace, letting it fill us with the true Spirit of Christmas. We should try to stop rushing and let the birth of Christ come to us. But, I’m afraid that is completely different than what we usually do. 

We demand a lot of Christmas and we demand a lot of ourselves at Christmas. We want to solve all our family problems as we hope and pray for peace. Not sure which one of those is more difficult? But, today's Scripture reminds us, the story of Christmas, the story of the birth of Jesus, is about the arrival of something a lot different than our expectations and the way we live. It's a story about learning a whole new set of rules, about learning to look at the world differently.

Look at how the rules were changed for the birth of Christ…the old rules were clear about what happened when you found that the girl you were engaged to was pregnant. You were considered bound to one another, and there was no easy way to get out of it. In Deuteronomy it tells us that death was the appropriate punishment for infidelity in marriage and engagement. But, by the time of Jesus’ birth, that attitude had changed. Death had been replaced by an in the town square break-up with the woman. It would shame her, her family, and even the child for the rest of their lives. I wonder if those rules and attitudes led to those, so called “honor killings” in the Muslim world. The old rules were clear about young girls soon to be married who turned up pregnant. They were to be turned into non-persons. With no rights and very few ways to earn a living. Most were relegated to begging or prostitution. 

Now, we don't know much about Joseph. Many think he died before Jesus began his public ministry. Jesus is referred to as "the carpenter's son" at least on one occasion, but it seems as if Joseph was alive a while after Jesus’ birth. Today's Scripture tells us something about Joseph's personality. Did you hear something about Joseph in the story, too?

When Mary was found pregnant, the Gospel says, "Joseph, being a just man (I would add loving man) and unwilling to put her to shame, so he resolved to divorce her quietly." Joseph is obviously not a get even, hating sort of guy. To put it another way, he is righteous, just plain old righteous. But, hold on there. Didn't we just say that the legal thing, the so-called righteous thing was to disown her in public? That was what happened most of the time. They would take the pregnant woman out in the city square and call her a whore and divorce her. If Joseph was “righteous” shouldn’t he have done the same thing?

Yes, Joseph was a man committed to his faith and committed to following its laws. But where the laws told him to hurt Mary publicly, Joseph just couldn’t and wouldn’t. Even before the angel visits him in a dream and he decided to marry her, Joseph had decided to bend the rules and disobey the Law. Despite what everyone thought was the right thing to do, despite everything he had been taught to do…he decided to quietly leave Mary and her family with their dignity. It must have hurt, and I’m sure the human in him wanted to get even…but, he doesn't do what we would expect. Instead he followed the guideline of love.

In being righteous, but unwilling to put Mary to shame, Joseph hears the call for something much different than what most men in his society did. Even before the angel visit, he refused to hurt her and has the wisdom and the courage to do the loving and forgiving thing. Joseph couldn't know Christmas was coming; but if you ask me, he heard the call of Advent, didn’t he? This baby had to be born, it needed a Mom and a Dad to care for it and raise it in the faith.

You know, raising a child in the faith is the most important duty of every parent of a child, even more so today. Raising our children in Christ is more important than education and a clean diaper, it is more important than even feeding them. Yes, all that stuff is important and it is the duty of a parent to provide, but raising a child in the faith so that they too might come to faith in Jesus Christ is the foremost duty of every parent and it is not just the duty of the Mom. Raising a child in Christ is for eternity, while all the rest of that stuff is only for this flash of time we’re on earth.

Before this first Christmas, Joseph was hoping for a world with different rules. Different rules for living in the light of the promise of the perfect world of the Messiah, through loving of God above all else and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Joseph was living Advent's invitation to live in the love of Christ, before Jesus was even born.

The story does not go on to tell us how Joseph helped in the raising of Jesus. But, do we know the love Jesus talked about, the love he stood for, the love he died for, was the same kind of rule-changing, heart felt love that Joseph had. The kind of love that doesn’t abandon a child, shelters it and protects it, while raising the child in the faith and it was just the kind of patient, quiet, healing love Mary needed and this baby would soon need. Joseph had the love that was strong enough to hope for something different, despite what others expected of him. And, you know that's a pretty good description of the love of Jesus, the love of his earthly father, Joseph, and the love of our Lord God. God’s love for us, that is so strong he gave his only son to die on a cross, for our sins not his.

In all the years since that very first Christmas, we've added soooo many expectations. Families get together, where good humor is invited to the party, but you are asked to leave your problems at the door. The person we were is invited before life hit us, is welcome, but the person life has changed, is sometimes not invited. Our children are invited, but their energy is not, it drives everyone crazy. And, Lord, help us…their music is certainly NOT welcome.

In this season, sometimes the time we spent searching for the perfect gift is forgotten when time gets short and we buy a present that is just something for them to open. No wonder that what so many of us really want for Christmas is a nap.

But, today the story of Advent invites us to let go of all those expectations. Advent calls us to remember the love of Jesus and Joseph and the love of our Lord God. It calls us to let God's peace gradually touch and warm our souls, freeing us for new experiences and a new birth of something within us with the arrival of Emmanuel…God with us. Advent calls us to hope for a better world in Christ and to hope for a new world that is coming.

This man Joseph, hearing the call of God's love, instead of throwing that girl and her child away to the wolves, was not following the rules and was totally different than everyone else. Just as, a person with Christ living in their heart is different than the rest of the world. For, a Christian’s instincts are different than the normal instincts of humanity. I pray this Advent rekindles our ability to love God and each other and to be loved by them and that is the most important thing this season.

In these final days before Christmas, I don't know what different kinds of music you'll run into as you prepare for your family’s celebration of the Christ child. But, underneath it all, may you hear the quiet hymn from God that is his great love song to all of us. May it strengthen us to follow love's call with joy and purpose, letting go of everything else. As I used to let go and just love, when I would drive in after a fourteen hundred mile trip in forty hours and drive up in front of that old house. Mom and Dad would hug me and feed me and love me and then let me sleep for a day to get over that drive with nothing but Christmas music. 

Let us pray…Lord God, help us welcome you with joy as we look at the world with new eyes and open hearts unafraid to love you and all that you have made. Amen

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

Healy UMC

Healy, Kansas

 

 

 

December 15, 2019

“Searching”

Matthew 11:2-11

I was thinking about a Christmas, a long time ago…I’m not sure how old I was but I wanted a bicycle. Not just any bicycle, I had been showing Mom and Dad the wonderful bikes in the Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog. All of us with white hair, remember that catalog with page after page of the coolest toys and bikes and toys, it just went on and on and on and most of us seldom got any of the stuff in it.

But, one day I opened an old truck box north of our house and there was a freshly painted red bicycle in it. You could still see the brush marks in the fire engine red paint. I just knew that bike couldn’t be my new bike. For I had asked for the one out of the Montgomery Ward catalog and this was definitely not it. Why this bike had no fenders, no chain guard, and only one gear. It sure wasn’t the Monkey Ward catalog bike, I wanted with 3 speeds and a basket.

So, after hearing about what I was searching for that Christmas, what are you and I searching for this Christmas? Did you heard that question in today's Scripture, too? That's what Jesus asks the crowd three times as he asks them, what are they searching for, what do you want? First, Jesus asks, "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?" And then he asks, "What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes?" And, then one more time, "What then did you go out to see? A prophet?" He asked them, what did you go out to see? What were you looking for?

John’s ministry is over, he’s in jail, Herod will kill him soon, that’s what Herod did to his enemies even his own brother, and John has sent his followers to ask Jesus, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another? Even knowing he’ll to die soon, John still knows what he is searching for and what is most important. He knows he is looking for the Messiah, the one promised of God and he knows finding the Messiah is above all else in importance.   Even though he’s in prison, it has not stopped his searching.  

Like so many stories of Jesus, even from the very beginning, people like Simeon and Anna in the Temple when Mary and Joseph come to dedicate their new son to the Lord. They were both hoping and searching for the Messiah before they died of old age. The Wise Men who came searching knew what they were searching for when they came to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. John's searching has become a movement of repentance for those who followed him as they came to the Jordan to hear him, repent, and be Baptized. Searching for the Messiah has changed John and brought him into an ever closer relationship with God. It has prepared him as it has prepared many others who have heard him for the coming of the Messiah in Jesus Christ.

So in this question John sent to Jesus, it's clear to me he already knows Jesus is the Messiah and, of course, Jesus knows John knows. He knows, he know, but he doesn’t give him an easy, "Yes." He doesn't say, "Yes, I am the Messiah, tell John I'll take over now." The answer Jesus gives is the answer you would give to someone who's already knows Jesus is the Messiah. He is one who is already prepared by years of searching to recognize the Messiah when he comes. He tells him what Isaiah seven hundred years before said would be the sign of the Messiah. Jesus says to the messenger, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them."

Jesus is telling John this is it, that he is the One. He’s telling the world he is the Messiah, and they will realize that, if they will only have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. And, old John, jail and all, has searching eyes, listening ears, and an open heart. He has studied and prayed all his life for this moment when the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth. So, when Jesus asks the crowd about John’s ministry, "What then did you go out to see?" he's asking a question that the Gospel asks all of us. What are you and I searching for, what do we want this Advent and Christmas season?

I had a friend who was being treated for an aggressive cancer. She fought it bravely and had a lot to live for, but she didn't need someone to tell her that no one on earth knew if she could be healed. Near the end, what she was looking for was not some wonder drug or even a miracle, though she would have gladly taken either one. She was hoping to survive long enough to see her son graduate from High School. To be with her family as he graduated and share his success. That's all she was searching for at the end of her life.

I know many others with children or spouses who are in the military deployed all over the world. Their first choice this Christmas would be to have them safely home with them. But, most of them would settle for a redeployment somewhere a little safer than the combat zone they are in. They are so proud of them, but they are so very afraid for them. They’re searching for some way to believe that somewhere not so dangerous might happen for their loved ones.

You know, at Christmas, so much of what we lay before the manger are the hopes we have for even the smallest hope of restoration or the smallest hint of blessing. We look for ways to bring up a subject no one wants to hear about without causing a scene. We search for courage to chase a dream that's been in our heart for ages…the courage to just try. For a heart to seek forgiveness for what we've done or the heart to forgive another and find a reconciliation…some way, anyway forward. Most of us have family members who we are not sure have given their hearts to Christ. And, we pray this Christmas that they will lower their defenses and come to Christ, asking him to be their Lord and Savior for we want them in heaven with us. We search for some way to bring it up that will finally work and bring them to faith in Christ. Many of us have trials in our lives we are hoping and praying for a Christ-like solution, too. We search for a solution to our problem, one we can live with, while knowing it is God’s will. Maybe, we are just hoping that one of our loved ones will survive long enough to celebrate the coming of the Messiah with the family one last time.

Or, maybe we all should be praying for the Messiah, Jesus Christ to come again and the sooner the better? This world seems a pretty evil place, overcome by Satan, much of the time. Maybe our prayer is for Jesus to return and make this world prefect?

Is what we really want so different than a world in which "the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them?" I don't know about you, but I think that's just about what we’re hoping for. We are wanting the same world humanity hoped would come through the presence of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. What we want is the exact same world, ruled by the Messiah, that John the Baptist looked for all his life.

Christmas and its responsibilities can make us a little crazy. But, even though that fire engine red bike, with no fenders that was in the truck box was not the one I had hoped for. It was the one I was given and it was the very best my parents could give me and it was also the bike I found amazing joy in for many years. Now, I am so glad that I didn’t show them my dislike of this present from them that Christmas day. For it would have hurt them deeply and as I said, it was all they could afford. In fact it was probably more than they could afford. Heaven’s knows what they personally did without to give me that bike?

 As we all get ready for Christmas, let's not forget the question Jesus asked the crowd so many more years ago. What is it we're searching for? Are we searching for a Christmas with Christ foremost in our hearts and minds? What's the gift behind the gifts we're giving this year? Why are we giving these gifts to those we love, I pray it is to celebrate Christ in their lives and our own. What's the hope behind all that generous giving? Is our hope that our giving will bring our family closer to each other and to God? Whatever we are searching for, I pray we find the solution waiting in Bethlehem, never hidden and always there for the hearts of those searching for Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Rev.  Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC - Healy, Kansas

 

 

 December 8, 2019 2nd Sunday of Advent

“Hallelujah!”

Isaiah 11:1-10

 You would think that as long as I have been reading the lectionary passages each week, the more sermons I preach, and Bible studies I go to, that they might become routine. But I have found that often the opposite has happened as I have gotten older. There are many Bible passages that every time I read them my eyes sweat a little because they are so filled with promise and this passage from Isaiah 11 is one of those that turns on the water. You would think that after every Advent reading it, I would realize that we're still far away from what Isaiah says is coming, so they're just words. But my tears when I read them haven’t stopped coming and think I know why. The longer I live, the longer I am in ministry, the more I hope…for the promises from God to happen. I think it is because I see in all our lives how overwhelming and important hope is at this time of year.

 Life is tough, and even though many of us live pretty easy lives, tough times still come for all of us. Times when we know our lives are changing forever. Sometimes they are terrible things like the loss of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, a sudden loss of a job, a betrayal by a trusted friend, or someone’s diagnosis with some terrible illness. But, somehow we slog on through and for all of us, there are times when we think we can’t see a way forward. Sometimes, our joy of living just seems to disappear, when a relationship is lost, a loved one is gone, our way of life has been destroyed, and sometimes, sometimes even our sense of purpose feels gone. And, then to make it worse, sometimes, sometimes it seems to come at us, all at once.

 After almost twenty years serving as a pastor, I realize I cannot see or know everything about you? I know there are many sorrows and burdens that I will never know about some of you. Some of you will carry your trouble quietly, hiding it in your hearts. Yes, sometimes I can feel something is wrong and pray for you, and never know what’s going on. I can’t blame you for it, I find myself keeping some of my problems to myself.

 It doesn't always have to be big messes that makes us long for peace and joy. I have had a blessed life. Raised in a drug family, drug to church every time the doors were open. My three wonderful big sisters, despite what I sometimes tell you about them, are followers of Jesus Christ. The Lord has brought me through safely, through many things that probably should have ended me. I have a wonderful wife who follows the Lord and she will do almost anything for me. I have five daughters and eight granddaughters and three great son in laws and I am allowed to pastor two great churches and serve many other people through my faith in Christ.

 But, even in a blessed life, there are times, when just getting through a day is hard. There is so much violence and hate and evil in our world and we seem to be blasted with it every day on the street and from the media. The evil in our world sometimes make us doubt our faith and wonder why God allows it all to go on.

 Peace seems impossible in our world, with wars going on year after year with no hope of a victory or even a resolution. Why we have been in Afghanistan for eighteen years with no end in sight and it seems as if those in the Pentagon and the capitol are so busy making money and promotions on it, that they never want it to end. Then we do a poor job caring for the veterans, who are victims of the pointless wars we send them to. All, the while, our Congress argues about impeachment rather than dealing with the real problems of our country.

 Because of all this, these words from Isiah seem much more important to me, as they promise better times, giving us hope. Did you hear the promise, “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of its roots.” And, these beautiful words, “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.” All I can say, is, “Wow! Won’t that be wonderful?”

 But, we need to remember these words from Isaiah were not written when everything was going great and all was rosy for Isaiah and his people. Isaiah was not watching a beautiful sunset or smiling at a laughing baby. As he wrote this, he was watching the soldiers of the Assyrian army slicing their way through his homeland. Leaving nothing but a trail of blood, tears, and pain. He was living through the first holocaust of the Jews, from 740 and 700 B.C. Five different times during these years the Assyrians came through Judah killing and destroying.

 They didn’t care about Judah’s culture, had no respect for the one true God, and didn’t care about human life, as they came destroying everything and everyone. Time after time, the people of Isaiah's Judah were defeated. They lived with the cries of the wounded and those mourning and no one could plant a field and know they would harvest it? Or, birth child with hope that it would grow up? They were horrible years when Isaiah lived and wrote.

 But, he still wrote, "Even though the world is a living nightmare." "Even though there is no sign anywhere of peace…even though human greed and evil are destroying everything, hear this…”

 THE PROMISE OF GOD IS MORE POWERFUL THAN THE DESTRUCTIVENESS OF HUMANITY!

Let me say that again, “The promise of God is more powerful than the destructiveness of humanity!”

 Now, I’m no bawl baby, I don’t whine and cry over nothing, and these words don't bring tears to my eyes because I don't believe them. If I didn't believe in them, I would ignore them as I have learned to ignore the cheap promises of those selling "all you can eat" diets. Or, the lies of the prosperity preachers who say the rewards of faithfulness to them are fountains of dollar bills coming down. Or, like the politicians who say they have all the answers, but first we have to get rid of this horrible president who doesn’t play by their rules. While I wonder, “Why they haven’t fixed things during their forty years in Washington?”

 No, I don't cry because I don't believe Isaiah’s words, I cry because I do believe them, I believe every word of them.

 Yes, I still see and feel the heartbreak and loss in all of our lives, but there are also times when I get to see life improve for some. Every now and then I see a little shoot of life growing out of a long dead stump. Sometimes, what seemed like the end of everything worth living for; has been transformed right in front of my eyes. Sometimes in little tiny ways, but still getting better. Times when people living through terrible pain begin to see light at the end of the tunnel.

 Like the time a man who thought he would never love again, found himself able to overcome his fear and open himself up to a new relationship he hadn’t thought possible. A woman who has always believed her only "security" was with a spouse discovered after a divorce that she could have a home and enjoy it without him. A man who cared for his invalid wife, finding after her death that he can find some new joys in his life. A woman, who thought she could never enter a church again after her idiot pastor told her to stay. She stayed in an abusive relationship because "that was her cross to bear." Well, after she left that relationship, she not only became part of a Christian church, but has come alive in its worship and work.

 Do you see what I’m talking about? I could go on and on with stories of positive change in broken hearted people. Lives being lived out through this Advent, sometimes in the darkness of heart break, but also during times of joy we didn’t even see coming. Yes, there will always be days of endings, but there will also be days of surprising new beginnings, when days of death and pain, lead to new days of life and joy. The signs of all of these times when things are getting better are often hard to notice...a shoot out of a stump, a branch out of the roots, a small step forward, or maybe just a crack of a smile. I know it’s not much, but when things are turning for the better, they are good enough for me and I pray they are for you.

 Every now and then, peace breaks out in a place where I never would have believed it were possible. A son or a daughter calls and asks to come see Mom and Dad after years apart. Every once in a while, the deepest, oldest wound you can imagine actually begins to heal. Or, an old friend who hurt us deeply comes and begs our forgiveness. I have no way of accounting for any of that except to know…it comes from the Lord for He is the source of all that is good in our lives. This is what Isaiah was writing about even though he was living through a terrible time in life. For nothing can stop the light, the peace, the healing, and the calm, that comes from our Lord! Yes, joy and good will have victory again through our Lord. It may not be on our time schedule, but it will come, and that is what Isaiah is telling us.

 What makes me cry a little when I hear Isaiah's incredible images of God's better future? When we are trying to hold ourselves together with duct tape and baling wire, trying so hard to keep a stiff upper lip and keep on keeping on. Sometimes, when we try not to show our fear and our broken hearts. Isaiah's words show us we are God's children who want to be hugged and loved and reminded once more that we are safe and loved. Helping us know in our hearts that even though the pain and loss comes to our lives and the evil of this world seems unstoppable, there is something better coming in the Lord. Something better is coming for us, if we will only keep on praying and living in Christ.

 Best of all, someone better is coming to us. If we will only hope for a time that so far is only promised, but which, in the power and mystery of God, is coming. Its signs today, may be only a small living shoot from a dead stump. It may be a smile from a face that has been frozen in mourning. It may be a small step into a church after years of pain and anger. Here today, we ARE EXPECTING and we are praying for a little baby crying in a manger.

 It may not seem like much to you? But it's enough for me and I say, “Hallelujah!” I hope and pray, in fact I know, this child will be enough.

Let us pray. Lord, you know all too well that to be human…to be able to feel joy and delight…also allows to feel pain and sadness. So come to us this Advent, Lord, bringing glad tidings and good cheer, comfort and hope, as we celebrate that marvelous mystery, when you became one of us, born a baby, grew up and lived and breathed, laughed and cried, ate and drank, lived and then died horribly for us. Through our Lord  Jesus Christ, bring us hope, bring us joy, bring us healing, and bring us refuge in the darkness as we wait for something new to be born in us, something small and bright, a tiny shoot that will bring us joy. We pray this in the name of that light which came to save us, Jesus the Christ our Lord, Amen.

 

“Ready”

 Matthew 24:36-44

December 1, 2019 Advent

 It was January 27, 1986 we were all watching our televisions. This was going to be the greatest space launch, since the moon landing. There was a schoolteacher on the ship going on the mission. We waited and waited, suddenly there was ignition and the rocket went higher and higher into the air. But, suddenly, the rocket exploded, and our hopes and dreams blew up with it and all of us were in tears. But, Jesus told us, “And so shall it be at the end of history. It will come suddenly, like a thief in the night; like a snare; like a trap that snaps shut.”

 My friends who were in their sixties had both lost their spouses to illness before they retired and before they had a chance to enjoy the retirement they had saved for. Then the two survivors met, fell in love and asked me to do their marriage ceremony. They were so excited, they felt they had a second chance at enjoying retirement with their new love. They did it too, they travelled and all over seeing things together that they had hoped to do with their first spouse. Everything was wonderful for a few years until she was diagnosed with cancer and their days of travelling over. When she died a few months later, he realized his second chance had ended. Jesus said, “So will it be with you at the end of time.  I will come like a thief in the night; like a trap that snaps shut, suddenly, quickly and you won’t be expecting it at all”.

 This morning the theme for the First Sunday of Advent is as always, readiness for our end, ready to meet our Lord, because Christ may return or we might die at any time. We are reminded to be ready at all times, to meet God face to face in judgment.

 In the time of the early church and it is the same today, there were so many people who “weren’t ready”. Just like us, the early Christians had so many friends and relatives who weren’t ready to meet their maker. Friends and loved ones who have never come to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and are headed to hell. There were two groups of these unprepared people then and there still are, people who aren’t ready. They were what I’ll call the living in the here and now people and the non-believers.

 First, let’s talk about the here and now folks. They live only for today and never think about tomorrow. They have never come to a personal relationship with Christ and only come to church, if they do, socially or maybe because it saves a fight with Mom. They are busy and live primarily for the things of this life; school, job, kids, home, and car. They are so busy they don’t have time to think about tomorrow, much less think about the end of time or their own end. They can’t find the time to think about Christ coming. They think the Lord coming soon is just for the fanatics. They feel young; have never been sick a day in their lives and death seems so far away. They think maybe a God exists, but are not worried enough about it to explore it any further. They think, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow is another day to eat, drink and be merry and do what is fun.”

 Then, there is another group of people. They are the non-believers. They don’t believe in a God; they say there is no heaven or hell; that there will be no end of the world from God. They are much more worried about climate change and nuclear war, than Christ returning or their own death. For them, it is not, “Eat, drink and be merry”; it is eat, drink and sleep with Mary or Harry. For them it is do what you want, when you want as long as it feels good. After all, they think, you have only one time around, when you’re dead, you’re dead and you had better try to enjoy it while you’re here.

 But, as always happens, they will die or Christ will return and they WILL meet God face to face for judgment. The here and now people and the non-believers; will suddenly meet God face to face for judgment. All those who do not know Christ will not be allowed to stay and sadly, all the others are headed to hell. Those headed to hell will be believers then, but it will be too late. Today, our scripture is an invitation for you and me to live with a sense of readiness; trying to make sure we are ready to meet God face to face, tomorrow, next week, or maybe even today. So, how do we get ourselves ready to meet God face to face?

 Well, I remember when I had just begun ministry a meeting with Bishop Jones. He had just come to Kansas and called a meeting for all the Pastors in Kansas East. One of the things he told us was that as pastors we needed to be ready at all times to pray, to explain salvation in Jesus Christ, and to preach. He would test preachers on it once in the while. Asking them to pray, explain salvation in Jesus Christ, and to preach a short sermon on a passage he chose. It was exciting going to his meetings.

 Then I think of the time I had an argument with the Sergeant Major of the Army who called and was chewing me out about Alaska command’s low Sergeant’s Association membership, a lobbying organization in Washington. He told me part of my job was to make sure our membership was high. I told him, I was surprised that was so important, I thought my job was to have a combat ready unit. He didn’t think that was funny. But, I hope he was ready for retirement, because he was fired for fraternization a few weeks later. What he had been doing, prepared no one for combat or heaven.

 Here’s a last example…some in our church serve as volunteer first responders. They have to be ready at all times to respond to calls for emergencies. They never know each day what will come up. But, they do know that sometimes those calls are bad enough to see, but are even worse to care for the victims. First responders have to be ready all the time.

 And, that is how it is with a Christian. Just like soldiers and first responders, we are to live with a sense of readiness. Just like a soldier has to be ready for combat, a preacher should always being prepared to pray, witness, and preach.  Now, I might leave preaching off the list, but every Christian, every one of us, should be immediately ready to pray and explain how to come to faith in Jesus Christ, all the time.

 We also need to be living with the assurance that we are a child of God, through our faith in Jesus Christ. We need to be living with the assurance that we know for sure, we will be with Jesus Christ if we were to die today or next week. This readiness comes through our confidence that we are a child of God, through our faith in Jesus Christ. Knowing our salvation does not rest on our good behavior or theology. It rests entirely on knowing we are a child of God loved eternally by God through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I think of the thief on the cross when Jesus said to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” He was dying, he had no time for works of righteousness. There was nothing he could do to straighten up. Thank God, salvation was and always will be the pure grace of God.

 But, we also need to be living as if we am going to meet God face to face tomorrow and that is not only, not doing the negative things, but is also doing positive things in thanks to God. Not only avoiding having a fight with our spouse, but also do something nice for them today. We are to have this sense of readiness as a person of love.

 Another quality of this readiness is to be doing the work God has given us. When, I add up the jobs that God has given me to do, I feel like I have a bunch. I am a husband to my wife and a father to our girls and a grandparent to my grandchildren. I am still a son to my mother and father, even though they have gone. I am a brother to my sisters and an uncle to lots of their kids and I am a pastor to these two congregations. I am a friend to a whole bunch of people and a neighbor to many people on our street and in our neighborhood. I am a citizen of Kansas and the USA, a member of the human race of about seven billion people, and I am to be sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with all as I lead some of them to faith in Christ.

 I have many more jobs and roles that I haven’t mentioned that God wants me to be doing. God wants me to live with a sense of readiness to do my many jobs; doing what God has given to me to do. While doing them in a way that makes God proud and leads others to faith in Christ. Doing it in a way that when God sees me face to face, God will say, “Good job, good and faithful servant.”

 I also don’t want to get caught when Christ returns doing something that would disappoint God or shame me. We need to be trying everyday with all that we have to live as Christ lived. As a Christian, I’m not sure how I planned on explaining my chewing of Copenhagan? I guess I planned on spitting it out when I saw Christ return and tell him I just quit.

 Of course we don’t want to be doing something we shouldn’t when Christ returns and I think some of us might think that even though we have faith in Jesus Christ, we would be left behind if we were doing some sinful thing when he comes or we die. But, we need to understand if Christ came back and Christians were doing something they shouldn’t, they will not be left behind. I know now that my salvation, my relationship with Jesus Christ is stronger than my sins. Think about that…Christ’s love is stronger than your sins and mine. The love of Christ is stronger than the judgment of Christ. I know, I belong to Jesus Christ even though I am a sinner and I am certain his grace is stronger than my sin. Jesus Christ will not leave me behind, because he is gracious and forgiving and I have asked him to be my Lord and Savior.

But, that does not give us a license to sin and do whatever we please. It’s just that, if Jesus Christ comes today, I do not want to embarrass him or myself by the way I am living. I want to live my life in a way that Jesus Christ is proud of and not embarrassed by what I’m doing.

 Some might ask, isn’t this passage just talking to the old people, for they are closer to death than, me. But, I am afraid not. Life changes so quickly for everyone, a brand new baby seems to instantly grow to the terrible twos. Then you blink and the child is thirteen and a lot smarter than all of us. In no time they are a young adult and suddenly, they are married and having children. Then they are empty nesters and grandparents, lose their spouse and when we blink again, they are gone, too. That’s life and it could end at any stage along the way.

 This reminder is for all, because life, can go away so quickly, it is so fragile. I was a baby and suddenly I was in the Army and taking a chance on my life almost every day. I can’t count the many times I put my life in jeopardy and God protected me and that doesn’t count the many times I didn’t know the Lord saved me. But, then poof, twenty eight years of Army were done and I was in college and thinking about being a pastor. Now, almost twenty years later I am here today telling us all how quickly life goes and that we all need to be prepared for the end. Right now, not later, and certainly not just when we get old.

 Jesus said to all people, of all ages that the end will come so suddenly and surprisingly. Christians, we need to live today and everyday as if we are going to meet God face to face now. And, for those do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, do it now, ask him to be your Lord this very moment so you can be ready for your end and then come and see me and we’ll talk about what you should do next. Let’s be ready! Amen.

 Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

Healy UMC

Healy, Kansas

 

Christ the King”

John 18:33-37

November 24, 2019

 When I was a boy in Eastern Colorado, we had disaster drills at school. There were fire drills, but also nuclear drills. The threat of nuclear war scared me as a boy, I always wanted to build a bomb shelter in our basement, to save us, but my Dad always laughed at my suggestion. He told me if a nuclear war started we were done for in Eastern Colorado for there was no bomb shelter in the world that would protect us. He explained, we were about eighty miles from the North American Air Defense Command located under Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs. He thought the Russians would probably make a pretty good effort to destroy NORAD and Denver; giving us no chance at all and said, we didn’t have a prayer if nuclear war began. That our only hope was through our faith in Christ, then if the Russians did kill us we would be in heaven. But, we still did the silly drills, required by the government, where we would crawl under our desks. While I wondered what good it would do against an atomic bomb?

 Nowadays our schools have drills but for a different reason. Most of the time they are active shooter drills. The kids hide in the classroom as the teachers try to make it hard for the shooter to get in. Our two oldest daughters lived through a shooter at their school. When it started our second daughter went out the back door of her classroom and ran. The field she ran into was a harvested corn field and like usual she had been sitting in class with her shoes off when the shooting began. The corn stalks were hard on her feet but she said she thought it was better than getting shot.  

We still have kids worrying about danger in their schools.

 We are still afraid, not so much of God, the Russians, or the Chinese, but we’re afraid of ourselves. We all live under the threat of “the End”. Our ancestors and Christians, think the end of the earth will come from the sky. Some met their end on earth, with a bolt of lightning, an earthquake, a couple of 737s on the New York skyline, or a bullet from a Book warehouse in Dallas. Recently people’s ends have come in churches, night clubs, and at work when someone comes killing. Sometimes it’s a gun, but where they can’t get a gun, they use whatever they can get to murder.

 But, for most Christians when we think of “the End,” we instinctively look to the skies. In Matthew 24 Jesus told us, Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” That is the day Jesus Christ our King will return and for all those folks who say the end is coming from something else…the end of earth will not come until Christ returns, period.

 In 1925 the church added a church special Sunday called Christ our King. In that time Europe had powerful dictators in every country and it seemed only right that Christians should celebrate the One who was most powerful. But, Christ the King Sunday is not as popular today. Many churches don’t observe it or treat it as special. While people worry less and less about the Second Coming of Christ with every idiot that predicts the end and it doesn’t come. They worry less about Christ with every kid that is indoctrinated in our universities to laugh at Christians and their beliefs. But, have you noticed they don’t laugh at the Muslims, I think they’re afraid of them, but for Christians it is open season every day. They say and they teach, Christ returning and taking over the world is myth and wishful thinking. They teach the earth is far more likely to end because of atomic war, climate change, or a meteor collision, than a return of Christ.

 

 The disciples thought Christ’s return would be soon and in II Peter, Peter is wondering, “Where is the promise of his coming?” Christians have waited not so patiently for Christ the King to return ever since he went back to heaven after the resurrection. We are looking up, and many ask, “Why doesn’t he just go on and come?” Today’s reading, is part of the conversation between Jesus and Pilate and it gives us some answers about Christ’s return. It says, “Lower your eyes. Don’t look at the clouds. Look at what’s happening around you.”

 But, it does seem a little odd to hear about a holiday called Christ the King at this time of year! The fact is, the majority of references in the Gospels calling Jesus a king are not talking about his power as God on earth but are telling about his trial and crucifixion. Remember him telling the Disciples not to tell about his meeting with Elijah and Moses at the Transfiguration? Now, standing before Pilate it was finally time to admit, to tell the world, he was God on earth, the King of all.

 But, we still ask, “Where is Christ, why doesn’t he come?” In our Bible reading, He is facing Pilate. Certainly, Jesus was made to stand and Pilate sat. It was an “interrogation” and Pilate had earthly power over Jesus. But, it wasn’t a matter of one person holding power over the other though, instead this day, it was between two people with two different kinds of power, earthly and Spiritual power. You know, I think Pilate would have been terrified if he realized who and what he was facing that day.

 When the religious leaders first accused Jesus of being an “evil doer” that didn’t worry Pilate, at all. For, Pilate was an “evil doer”, too. When they accused Jesus of claiming to be the “Son of God,” Pilate could care less. He cared nothing about the Jewish God. But, when they said, “He makes himself a king,” Pilate sat up and listened. That was politics, and people who believed Jesus was their king could cause him a lot of trouble. But, Jesus still refused to be interrogated by Pilate and Pilate, doesn’t really care if Jesus is guilty or not. He’s Rome’s man in Judea, all he cares about is peace and keeping the tax money flowing to Rome. If he did that, he kept his job, with all its perks. To make fun of the Jews and their religion, he has a crown and a robe put on Jesus. Is there anything sadder than the TRUE Son of God dressed up as a mock-king while the crowd laughed?

 In truth, Jesus should have been interrogating Pilate. He should have been asking Pilate about the evil he does, while Pilate kneeled before God on earth. Jesus should have been asking him why he didn’t care people were suffering in Judea under his government. Why he didn’t try to feed the poor people who were starving? Why didn’t he do something about the terrible things his troops were doing to innocent people? Then he told Pilate, “You would have no power over me, unless it had been given you from above.” Pilate would have had NO power over Jesus unless and until God allowed it.

 You know, if Christ came today in a country like Iran or Saudi Arabia where Christianity is illegal and you can be killed for just saying you are a follower of Jesus he would be treated just about the same. In every time, even now, Jesus finds himself being interrogated instead of him asking the questions. Our dying Christian culture in the United States is more respectful of Jesus than in ancient Rome, but as a country we are no more obedient to him than Rome.

 Today even followers of Christ support and do things that hurt the poor, the defenseless, and even themselves. In that time, Jesus, the Son of Man had no place to lay his head, but we make laws like the legalization of marijuana that ensure thousands will move to the places where it is legal and live on the streets. This country where the House of Representatives passed a bill making abortion legal nationwide just last week. Thank God the Senate has voted on it. While they tell us the bologna, that it’s a completely harmless drug, don’t you know? Or, in San Francisco where, rather than help drug addicts stop their addiction they give them rooms to shoot up in and fresh syringes so the people on the streets won’t have to see it. That is that government’s solution for addiction, to help them do it. How about the children in our country…the day I wrote this, there were 1,800 abortions, and that happens every day in our country. 1,800 children were murdered in a country that most of the time doesn’t listen or follow Jesus Christ. A country where a so-called “Christian” Episcopal priest is the head of an abortion organization, she calls a blessing from God. We have made a mess of Jesus Christ’s compassion. So, how did it get this way? Who appointed us the interrogators and who put us in charge of these decisions? Why is Christ’s agenda different than our country where it still says, “In God we trust”, on our money?

 Well, one of the problems is, we have made salvation a private matter. “He is the King of my heart,” we tell other Christians, because, heaven forbid we would tell a non-Christian about our faith. We say our faith is private, between us and God, completely contrary to what Christ taught. Sadly, some of us are even proud that we don’t share our faith, proud we’re not Bible Thumpers.

 We use Jesus own words as excuses to not live as he taught. We say, didn’t he say to Pilate, “My kingdom is not from this world”? It’s true, His kingdom dis not originate here. But, the same one who said his kingdom was not of this world, was the king who mounted a donkey and made a triumphal entry into Jerusalem. A man who could have stopped his own murder at any time, but didn’t, so we would have a way to salvation through his sacrifice. Then and still now, following Jesus Christ is the ONLY alternative to the evil of this world. It’s as simple as this, IF we are not upholding the tenets of Christ’s words we are working for evil.

 He was not murdered because he told good stories. He was not murdered because he said, “I want to be the King of your heart.” He was murdered because he claimed to be in charge, even over Caesar. He claimed that he was king of all the world and it didn’t matter if the kings of the world didn’t agree. Just because he didn’t raise an army or a political party doesn’t mean how we live and vote politically doesn’t matter to him. Isaiah said, “For every boot of the trampling warrior…Will be burned as fuel for the fire…For unto us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder…of the increase of his empire and of peace there will be no end.”

 Years ago, in our universities, students were encouraged to ask questions and to doubt established truths. Students were free to question everything, but not anymore. There is only one view allowed in most of our universities and it is the anti-Christian, anti-traditionalist view. The way of Jesus Christ, where he is King of all, is laughed at. If you bring up following Christ in most university classrooms you’ll be laughed at or ran off campus.

 When I retired from the Army I went back to school to get my teaching certificate and then teach and coach. Old-fashioned customs like patriotism and following Jesus Christ were laughed at in most classrooms. One of my government teachers was more communist than American citizen, she could see nothing good in any politician who opposed abortion and hated the very ideas of capitalism, democracy, traditional views and Christianity. Our system supports schools that allow prayer times for Muslim students but stop most discussions about Christianity. How sad is it that in the US Senate, judges brought up for confirmation are doubted because of no other reason than their Christianity.

 Our Lord and Savior stood up to Pilate’s interrogation and he will stand up to ours and this world’s. Jesus hopes that all of us will come to call him their Lord and Savior. Then through our faith in Christ he hopes we will open ourselves to change. He sees our hearts, our commitments, our use of the money he gives us, and the ways we use our power. We all make decisions every day, decisions like what we will buy, what we will be entertained by, and what and who we will support politically. The list of our power goes on and on, as we use our own personal power. I pray we all will use the power we are given for Jesus Christ and his work.

 The Pharisees and Temple Priests, thought his trial and the arguments about who Jesus was were over when Jesus died that day on the cross. But, my Lord didn’t stay dead…he returned from the grave and has never stopped being King Jesus. While, in his sacrifice for us, he reveals the true glory of God.

 Do you want one last look at King Jesus? Well, look up, not at the clouds but at this empty cross. Hear him, as he says, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.” He is on his throne, where he watches the decisions we make about how we will use our own personal power for him. Will we use it to come closer to Christ and bring others to him or will we use it to support the world? Those are only two choices, which will we choose?

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn Pastor

UMC, Healy, Kansas

 

“The Journey”

Isaiah 65:17-25

November 17, 2019

 The people had been exiled from Judea to Babylon almost seventy years ago and now they were filled with hope as they have finally come home. They had thought, nothing could be better, everything was going to be great, when they finally get home and had such high hopes. In fact most of them had only been told about “home” for they were born in exile.

  But, after they get home, things weren’t as great as they had imagined. They were bone-tired, exhausted from the journey, I guess you could say like an old cowboy I used to know often said, “They were worn smooth”. While, they were afraid that at any moment the Babylonians might take them back into exile.

 Everything was supposed to be great, but they are exhausted and much of what had been their culture is gone. They came home thinking things would be great when they finally got back home and yet…things just weren’t coming together like they had hoped. They wondered, “Why is it that instead of freedom, we have found oppression?” Instead of joy, why are we broken hearted? Rather than peace, we find injustice? Instead of everything being “peachy keen” they were full of fear.

 Why, do you think, they are so afraid? They had come home to the holy land of God. This was the place that was filled with the presence of God? Why are God's people so afraid they cannot see the good in anything? Why aren’t they building and planting, living and celebrating? If God is there with them, shouldn't it change everything?

 Well, we too live in a crazy world. Many times the trouble in our lives begin to be all we think about and all we manage to take care of.  We sometimes get to the point that our lives revolve around the bad parts, keeping us from enjoying the good. We have a long “to do” list, things that just have to be done, that we never finish.

 When this happens and it will, we need to commit ourselves in our churches and in our homes, in our schools and in our workplaces to the work of God. It's the same work Jesus talked about at the start of his ministry, when he read in the synagogue in Nazareth. He read from Isaiah…"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

 If we will commit ourselves to God’s work in Jesus Christ. If we truly believe in it and share the gospel of promise and truth in Jesus Christ. If we remind ourselves, over and over again, that God is with us and because of his presence everything will come out alright in the end, we…will…find…peace.

 But, when we are constantly chasing evil in our lives, when we are full of fear and doubt, we may often find ourselves, forgetting about the good in our lives. Then we will drag our family and friends down into despair with us. Filling them with the fear and worry we are feeling.

 When this happens, the Lord will help us see the truth, if we are listening? The truth is that just like the people coming home from exile, we are a people who do the wrong thing over and over, expecting different results, even when we know better. It can be so very hard to break free from the way we have always handled trouble in our lives.

 Think of what Israel, did so many times. They sinned and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. God sends them a prophet who would rather not do the telling for the people will hate them for it. But, sometimes the people wake up and repent. Then, everything is good to go, until the people of God sin and do what is evil in the sight of the Lord one more time. Then God warns them again, through another prophet, the people wake up and repent, and things are good again. But, it seems as if they always drift away and fall into sin again.

 Isn’t that where we often find ourselves? The truth is, all humanity does the same thing. Many of us live the same old cycle over and over. Often, we don't even know why. We catch ourselves later, and wonder. “Why on earth did I do that…again?” Call them habits or natural human responses, call them whatever you want. But I think we all do it. Sometimes, we are lucky enough to notice and try to change, as we wonder why we go back to our sinful ways. Wondering why we don’t notice we are falling into sin again? Then, even if we do notice we are falling, why don’t we stop it? Why does our fear and anger prevent us from seeing we are falling one more time? Why do we do these things over and over again? Where is the grace of God that should be filling us and keep us from falling into sin again?

 Sometime our responses to evil and trouble in our lives become so ingrained that they have become a part of us. We strike out at others when trouble comes, rather than looking to our own sin. Often we strike out at those who have nothing to do with our problems, but just happen to be in the blast area when we explode. In Isaiah the Lord speaks to us about how we handle difficulty and misfortune in our lives, "I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind."

 It is God who gives us this good news. He offers to release us from our captors…whether it is fear or evil. He offers recovery of sight to the blind, so we can see where we’re going wrong. Promises to let the oppressed go free, helping sinners find freedom from sin. We are given an invitation to grow, as we find peace and joy in Jesus Christ and it all begins with recognizing and being forgiven for the evil we have already done. Realizing what brought us to sin and how we through the grace of God, will stop doing it. That is the grace of God in Jesus Christ and we sure do need a lot of grace, don’t we?

 So what do we do about all this? What is God's holy…healing…invitation? Well, we begin by noticing, the gift of the Lord to help us catch ourselves when we are close to doing the same old things over and over again. It begins when we commit to living differently, by intentionally seeking a relationship with Christ and trying to live in the way God calls us to.

 It is not always easy, often it is hard work! Did you catch that in our reading about the lamb and the wolf? When Isaiah says, "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together…" It is an image that is loved, but we tame it down, thinking it is just some metaphor for peace. But, in that time the wolf will be transformed through the power of the Lord and won’t be the same old wolf.

 We can all be transformed in the way we live our life. As I was growing up with old cowboys and old soldiers I learned to cuss. Now, we have to apply ourselves to learn to cuss, we all do, it does not come naturally, but I did manage to become pretty proficient at it. I knew it was wrong and God led me to a place where I would quit.

 My cure began in Drill Sergeant School. When I went there, I came out of infantry units that were all men and where cussing was a part of the language used every day. In the school, we were reminded every day about sexual harassment and one of the ways to sexually harass is through cussing. Now, I would have probably been safe with my way of speaking if it wasn’t for the fact that I was at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and about a fourth of the trainees were women. In fact in three years I only had three male cycles of two months. As I said, I believe part of the reason the Lord put me there was to clean up my foul mouth. So, out of fear and I hope a little professionalism, I quit cussing, I was transformed from a dirty mouth Airborne Ranger to a person who didn’t always use the same adjectives and adverbs. Oh yes, I had the occasional slip, but those three years of watching my dirty mouth, cured me of cussing and it brought me to a closer relationship with Christ.

 That’s just one example of how the lord can change us, building a new creation in Jesus Christ, transforming us in Christ and it can lead us to a new place in our lives. In Isaiah 11 we are told about the wolf and the lamb shows the power of God's grace to change, to transform as, he can transform us, too. So, think about this spiritual transformation and start with the wolf. The wolf really had some changing to do, eating grass instead of lamb. What would the wolf's mother and friends think? “Dummy eating grass, boy don’t you know, you need protein?” But, think about what the lamb had to learn. All his life he was taught to run away from wolves! What would the flock say if it ever found out the lamb was inviting the wolf over to eat some grass?

 It would seem wrong to everyone involved. But, the truth is and the good news of God's power and grace is He can and does transform even the most ingrained sin. It just doesn’t always happen instantly. Actually, it doesn’t happen instantly, most of the time.Most of the time changing takes time. It comes when we feel the touch of the Lord and try to do as we are asked.

 Then, while this is happening, a faith filled walk with Christ begins to open up to us. We begin to notice that the sin that ate at us has begun to lose its power over us. We begin to notice that the places and circumstances where we thought we could never change, begin to disappear. We notice we more often choose to respond in love to others and avoid sin.

 That, is how we join with God in becoming the Christian we should be. A place where all are invited to live and are free of fear as we follow Christ in our lives. A place where all are invited to live as we are filled with life and joy in Christ. A place where we all can live together in peace and wholeness.

 It takes work, to get where we are following and emulating Christ in all we do. Sometimes it will seem as if we are “worn smooth” trying to get to the perfection of Jesus Christ. In fact there’s a good chance we’ll never get all the way there until we reach heaven. It is exciting and wonderful to try with all we are, to follow our Lord Jesus Christ in this life. Then, the closer we get, the less impossible being like Christ will seem. For, it is where we are supposed to live and it’s the only place where we can find true joy in this life.

 Remember these words…

"For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight."

 We will rejoice because we are active working with God in His Creation. A creation that is filled with joy and delight, that is filled with justice and love and fruitfulness as it was created to be. This creation we are all invited to live and move and have through our faith in Christ.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC

Healy, Kansas

 

“Transformed”
Luke 19:1-10

November 3, 2019

 Zacchaeus, of all the people talked about in the Bible I have a feeling more people recognize this little man’s name than almost any other person mentioned in the Bible. Just hearing his name causes most of us to smile a little. This little short guy who climbed a tree to see Jesus.

 I remember once at a rodeo as I was about to get on a bull. I heard the chute gate open for the bull a couple of riders before me and the normal grunting and noise of the bull bucking as the crowd cheered. But, it almost seemed like the crowd did it on cue, when they all went, “Ohhhh!” I knew something was wrong but couldn’t see over the chutes. I climbed the chute and looked, just as Zacchaeus climbed the tree to see, and saw the rider lying there. He wasn’t moving. When he bucked off he had landed belly first on a fence post and we found out later it had lacerated his liver. He could have bled to death very quickly, but the medics and the doctors knew their jobs and saved his life. Just as Jesus was ready to reach out to Zacchaeus and save him.

 I think all of us have known times when we were too short to see what was going on. So maybe we can identify with those words in verse 3, "He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd". Yes, when we think of Zacchaeus, we smile.

 But, before we get to giggling too much, I think about the fact that this story about a short little man climbing a tree is one of the most important stories in the entire Bible. For, it reminds us God will stop, will notice us, and will help us come to him. He wants so badly to transform each of us into followers of Jesus Christ, he wants us all bound for heaven when our life on earth is done, and he wants to change the way we live our lives.

 So, let’s look at Zacchaeus and the world he lived in. His home town was Jericho and it was a city of wealth and natural beauty. It was an oasis of date palms and exported them all over the world. It was on the great caravan routes, and was a busy commercial hub.

 Little Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector for the Roman government in this wealthy city. He probably had a staff of collectors, and there’s a good chance he was the most hated man in Jericho. He worked for the Romans and people considered him a traitor to his own people. He and his helpers could stop a person in Jericho and assess taxes on nearly everything in his or her possession.

 Zacchaeus would send what the Romans required from Jericho, but anything left over was his to keep and there is no doubt he kept a lot. In the system tax collectors over collected, became rich, and were hated by all. If he wanted steak for dinner each night, he had it, he had what he wanted and when he wanted it.

 He had gotten rich helping the Romans, while hurting his own people, and they hated him. His name, Zacchaeus, meant "the pure one" and "the righteous". Can you imagine how those who hated him, said his name? I’ll bet they said, “Zacchaeus,” with disgust. Though we smile when we think of him, in his time when he was mentioned there was nothing but hate and derision in people’s hearts and words for him.

 But, for Zacchaeus the money was good and he lived high. Even though, he was an outcast at home. He had no real friends, there were only those who wanted to butter him up for a loan or maybe to get a break on their tax bill. I’m sure his life was lonely and depressing.

 Then, as happens with so many of us, along comes Jesus. Everyone knew this man is different. Why, Jesus had even told a story about a tax collector who was the hero and a Pharisee was the bum! Jesus said the Pharisee was just bragging in his fake prayers, while the tax collector was truly repentant. So, Zacchaeus is excited Jesus is coming. Jesus, this different kind of prophet, who was completely comfortable with children, women, sinners, and all those rejected by society and made Zacchaeus decide, maybe Jesus was worth a try.

 Now, that was easier said than done for him. Zacchaeus was short, and seeing over a crowd was a real problem. Trying to squeeze through a crowd to the front was no sure thing, either. He might get whipped for trying if they recognized him. His only hope was to get ahead of the crowd and climb a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus. He waited up there in that tree, never expecting what happened.

 Then the most amazing thing happened…Jesus stopped under that tree and looked up at Zacchaeus. We know from other Bible stories, Jesus often saw what others missed. Like the lepers, the bleeding woman, and the woman with the bad back Jesus noticed when no one else did. He saw into people and into their lives when anyone else would have walked right on by. And, he didn't miss Zacchaeus and told him, "Zacchaeus, come down. I must stay at your house today." Jesus could have said, “Zacchaeus I’m coming into your heart today.”

 Zacchaeus jumped out of that tree and "welcomed him." No one in Jericho talked to Zacchaeus unless it was to insult him or butter him up. Someone actually wanted to come to his home was an amazing gift in his lonely life.

 Now, Zacchaeus could have stayed up there in that tree and passed up Jesus' invitation. Plenty of people do that, even today, people ignore Jesus’ invitation to come to him every day. Many ignore our invitations to church and many say, “No,” to faith in Jesus Christ every day. It seems easier to them, easier to go on in their lost lives, than to allow Jesus Christ into their hearts. For many it seems risky to invite him into their hearts where they hide from their true selves. Yes, most of us can and do resist invitations from Jesus Christ. But, thank God, Zacchaeus didn’t, he took the chance and invited Jesus in.

 But, Jesus socializing with the tax collector was more than the people of Jericho were ready for. I am sure they thought, “What kind of so-called Messiah would talk, much less eat with the worst sinner in town?” Luke says they began to "murmur".

 We really don't know what happened at Zacchaeus' house. All we are given are the results, and they tell us a lot. Zacchaeus is transformed and he makes a pledge: to give half his yearly income to the poor and to return any stolen funds four times over. Jewish law only required restitution of the money plus twenty percent. But, Zacchaeus thought four hundred percent interest was the way to make amends.

 His meeting with Jesus transformed Zacchaeus. He now noticed people in need where before he only saw people he could cheat. Is that not one of the most dangerous things Jesus does to our eyes? He changes how we see others. Labels no longer work…poor, rich, white, black, or brown…now we see people who are just as needy as we are. When we are in Christ we see real people with real needs and we do something about it.

 You know, we see glimpses of this kind of behavior when disasters strike. When a hurricane blows through or a tornado touches down or a plane crashes, people rally to the support of neighbors and strangers. In those times, sometimes just for a moment, we begin to see others with the eyes of Jesus.

 That day, salvation came to Zacchaeus' house, and he was transformed from a taker to a giver. This man had made his living taking from others, and suddenly, after one meal with Jesus, he is giving money away like he's the Salvation Army of Jericho. We’ve all seen this happen. Times, when Christ comes into a person’s heart, they become more generous and loving. Somehow, if we will let him, he loosens our grip on our wallet, our pocketbook, and our heart. Giving becomes something we enjoy, not just something we have to do and not just with money.

 Faith in Christ can and will transform us into generous givers. When we are transformed in Jesus Christ we begin to care more about others and not just about our own families. If our lives are all about me and mine, then we need to invite Jesus over for lunch to be transformed. He will transform us and we WILL find a new way of living where we care about others and not just me and mine.  I believe that is what God wants to do in all of us?

 This story of the power and the grace of God genuinely changing a human being can and does still happen today. You and I can be transformed by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ if…if we will just let him guide us and take control of our heart

 Did you ever wonder if his change cost Zacchaeus his job? If it did, I have a feeling this transformed man, didn’t care. For, Zacchaeus had been transformed. This story shows the entire story of Jesus in his earthly life: loved by the outcasts, hated by the authorities and the religious leaders, while that murmuring, well, it followed him all the way to Jerusalem and his death on the cross for all our sins.

 This story started with a little man in a tree and it ended with one of the most loving hearts ever created in Jesus’ ministry. And, you know what, Jesus is here in this town, right now. He is here to seek, to save, and to transform the world one person at a time. I pray we will each climb a tree and watch for him. But, watch out! He may stop under that tree where we are sitting in, no matter how comfortable or safe we feel up there. He may look at us and invite us to come down…down to a relationship with him, down to be transformed through faith in him. It takes courage to crawl down from that tree, but the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ and being transformed is worth it! I promise!

 Jesus said that day, that salvation had come to the house of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was lost but now he was found. He had gotten confused about why he was on earth, and what he was supposed to do. But, like each one of us…Jesus comes looking for him and invites him and us to a better life in Jesus Christ. I pray you will come down from that tree and join him.

Amen.

Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC - Healy, Kansas

 

“Thank You”

Luke 17:11-19

October 13, 2019

 Years ago my grandma, Dad’s Mom gave me a paper lunch sack, you know the ones, and it had one hundred pennies in it for my birthday. I walked the half mile to the drugstore in town and bought one hundred pieces of Double Bubble, bubble gum. Then I almost choked myself trying to put it all in my mouth at one time. I think about fifteen was the max I could get in and still be able to breathe. I was trying to chew it all before I got home because I knew my big sisters would want me to share and I wasn’t into sharing in those days.

 But, when I think back to the joy my Grandma’s present gave me, I don’t think I ever thanked her for it. Yeah, I know, I’m a grandpa now and the joy my grandkids have in the things I give them is enough of a thank you. But, we all know we should give a heartfelt thank you for what others do for us. And, I feel a little guilty for never thanking Grandma for her wonderful present that gave me so much joy.

 We all want our children and grandchildren and ourselves to have this deep feeling of appreciation inside, not out of duty, not out of politeness, and not because we are being proper. Instead, we want them to know the deep felt appreciation for the little and for the big things of life. We want them to know how important it is to be thankful. We want a miracle to occur in ourselves, our children, and grandchildren, the miracle of deep and genuine thanksgiving.

 So, that day, Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine?” He asked, “Did I not heal ten lepers? Where are the other nine? Did only one come back to say, ‘Thank you”?

 But, first what about these men with leprosy? It was the dreaded disease of Jesus’ day, just as cancer and coronaries are the dreaded diseases now.  None of us want to hear the “C” word from our doctor. That’s the way it was in Jesus’ day about leprosy. Leprosy was highly contagious and almost every skin disease was diagnosed as Leprosy. If it was mild, they had blotches on the skin and it became serious when body parts began to fall off. I think a lot of the fear of the disease was because of how the disease was treated. For, there was no medical treatment. Leprosy was treated by quarantining you until you, either healed or you died. You were separated from everything and you lived in a leper colony. No one who was healthy were supposed to come within twelve feet of you, you were untouchable. 

 In the story for today, a group of ten lepers were together outside of Jerusalem. Three days before, Jesus had healed a leper and word had spread and they were hoping Jesus might come by and heal them. When Jesus came by, the lepers shouted at him, “Have mercy on us. Help us.” All Jesus did that day was tell them to go to their priests and get a certificate of health that they had been cured.

 As they went to the priests, the lepers noticed their sores beginning to go away, they truly were being healed. I’m sure they did a little victory dance right there in the street. They could now go home and resume a normal life, think of the joy in that for them. Off they ran as fast as they could to see the priest and, then to go and see their family that they probably hadn’t seen since they were diagnosed. Off they ran to see their kids and their farm, their fishing boat, their store, their garden, their oxen; all the things they hadn’t seen or touched for so long. They were so happy to be well and they had missed so much.

 Only one of the ten, remembered the source of his healing, only one, came back and fell at Jesus’ feet, worshipping him, and thanking him. Jesus asked him, “Where are the other nine? Were not ten healed? Only you, a Samaritan, a foreigner, are you the only one to have returned to say thank you. Go in peace. Your faith has made you well.” So, where were the other nine?

 I wonder is healing our human hearts of ingratitude a greater miracle than healing a terrible disease? Where were the other nine? Why didn’t they come back and thank, Jesus? And, how on earth, do we or can we heal ingratitude? Let’s look at these lepers for some answers.

 Those nine guys are the ones I’ve circled here in the Power Point running away to go home. These guys were very worshipful and oh, so holy when they needed God. They were shouting, “Heal us, Lord; we need you. Heal us and we’ll do anything you want.” But after they were healed, they felt no need to thank the Lord. We see it all the time don’t we? In fact most of us have been guilty of the same sin, I know I have. Crying out during the pain of divorce, or cancer, begging for help during heart attacks and bankruptcy, “I need you Lord. I can’t go on without you.”  But, when our troubles are over, when our lives get back to normal, we sometimes forget all about our relationship with and our need for God.  We cry out to God in crisis, when we need him. But, when the trouble is over, we often forget all about, the source of our healing and any thankfulness.

 Isn’t it sad, that nine of the lepers ended up further from God after their healing? When they needed God, they wanted a relationship with God; but when the need was gone, they were off busy doing…well, you know…life. Isn’t it sad that their healing drove these men even further from God?

 The nine were so busy being well they forgot about God. It’s understandable. They had been separated from their family and friends and now they were free to go back to their lives. They were sooo busy, being well, so busy rushing to see everyone and do all the things they hadn’t gotten to do while they were sick that they didn’t have time for thankfulness and worship. They were so busy running to see the garden and the wife and kids, the shop and the fishing boat, and all those people and places they hadn’t seen for so long. They were so busy being well, that they no longer had time to feel thanksgiving to God or even to stop for a quick, “Thank you.” We all should understand this one…for all of us are sometimes are too busy living our lives to feel gratitude towards God. We hit the floor in the morning running and we fall asleep, exhausted at night, often without a prayer all day except maybe for a quickie prayer at one of the meals meal each day. We are even too busy having fun, seeing family, and a million other things to go to church even once a week, to worship the God who gives us all that is good in our lives.  Words of gratitude, feelings of gratitude, not so much?  Maybe in our mind we say, “Sorry Lord, I’m too busy being well and living life to worship and thank you.”

 It is a tragedy when those nine lepers were healed, they did not meet the healer, Jesus Christ. They were given a miracle of healing but left not knowing the miracle worker. They received the gift, but didn’t know and love the giver. It reminds me of myself, so busy spending my hundred pennies and chewing Double Bubble Gum that I forgot all about Grandma, who was the source of my joy. All I could think about was not having to share it all with my sisters. We, can all become so busy playing with our hundred pennies of life that we forget the God who is the source of all that is good in our lives and none of the bad.

 The real tragedy of the nine was they missed the true blessing. Yes, they got the miracle but they didn’t discover the miracle worker who blessed them. They didn’t come to faith in Jesus Christ and I hope they did later.

 Then let’s look at the Samaritan, the one who came back. The Samaritan, a foreigner, an outsider. The one who came back with a heart of gratitude was not a Jew; he was not part of their religion; he was an outsider. There are several times in the Gospels where it is the foreigner, the outsider, who has great faith or great thanksgiving. I wonder, “Why?” Is it a promise, a reminder that we gentiles too, may come to the Christ for salvation and hope.

 Many of us are blessed by living in a very good marriage. I am so blessed with a wife who not only puts up with all my craziness, but she even thinks some of it is cute. When we are living in a good marriage, over time, we can begin to take the goodness of it for granted. When our spouse does all these nice little things for us, we sometimes stop noticing. Some of us become used to these things. We start to expect it from our spouse. Some of us lose the genuine appreciation for the other’s goodness, for some marriages can become routine, a habit, a marriage where we come to expect the gifts we are given.  

 It is often like that with kids who live in a good home with a loving mom and dad. The kids can easily begin to take the blessings of their family life for granted. It becomes no big deal that their parents do all of these wonderful things for them. Many can come to expect it with no thankfulness. 

 It’s the same way sometimes, in our faith walk, we can become so used to God blessings. We may begin to take God for granted. Coming to expect his blessings as our God-given right. Unlike someone who is new to faith in Christ as they are often deeply grateful to God for the smallest of gifts, for the smallest of blessings. When we become used to being with someone, we can sometimes start to take them for granted, and that is what we often do with our Lord God. We need to guard against that, through regular worship, lots of prayers, and with the giving of our time and treasure.

 We often begin to take God’s blessings for granted. So it is not a surprise that it was a foreigner, a Samaritan, who was the only one who remembered and came back to Jesus to say thank you. The other nine may have just expected God’s blessings as their rightful reward. Just as we sometimes start to do when life is going well and we forget all about the one who is the source of all that is good in our lives.

 Here is another thing about the one who came back to say, “Thank you.”  I think he had a heart full of thanksgiving even though he had leprosy. He may not have been whining to himself, “O God, why did you let my life become so miserable with this leprosy? Why did you take everything from me? What kind of a god are you, to let me get leprosy?” Rather than feeling that way, I think the Samaritan may have been thankful to God right there, in the middle of his suffering. He may have thought, “O God, life is miserable. This leprosy is awful. I wish I didn’t have it. But thank you for being with me through it, thank you for giving me strength to handle this awful time, and thank you for taking care of my family.” People can have such grateful attitudes in the middle of suffering. We’ve all known people exactly like this grateful Samaritan…people who found blessings in their life, even in the middle of terrible illness and pain. 

 It is a fact, that the greatest miracle is not being healed of leprosy or cancer or heart attacks; the greatest miracle is when our human heart is healed of our ingratitude. The greatest victory is when our human hearts are filled with daily thanksgiving. Filled with thanksgiving to God and to all the others who touch our lives with blessings. Filled with thanksgiving for God’s countless gifts of love. Please, I pray Lord; heal our hearts of our ingratitude.

Amen.

Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC - Healy, Kansas

 

“Everyone Gets a Trophy”

Luke 17:5-10

October 6, 2019

 

Now, before I begin, I just want to ask you younger folks to not throw anything at me or leave until I have finished, DEAL?

 We hear it all the time on the news that the young people of our world are going to let everything go to pot. People say it is because of growing up in the “everyone gets a trophy” times, so they think they are all entitled to be given everything. Some folk worry the education system worries so much about children’s self-esteem and pass children on to the next grade whether they can do the work or not. On the news some of the younger generation are protesting for someone else to pay their college loans. They think everything should be free, while not seeming to realize nothing in this world is free. Some say they believe they should be given a well-paying job even though their degree has trained them to do nothing useful. We see some of them on the news, with masks on, ganging up on and assaulting those they disagree with. Well, they say they disagree with them, but I’m not sure how they would know, they won’t let them speak. Our military is having a difficult time recruiting people to defend our country and many think young people think their time and lives are more important than our country. Some younger people say, following Jesus Christ and giving time and treasure to a church is ridiculous. As parents we love our kids and we have done our fair share of coddling our kids, but maybe we too are a little worried about how our kids will work out in a world that seldom coddles anyone or anything. That’s what we are being told about younger folks, but hold on a minute and let’s think about this.

 But, let’s look at our scripture lesson today and see if it will help us look at this situation a little differently, when we look at what the disciples are asking for from Jesus, their request seems reasonable to me. The apostles asked the Lord, 'Increase our faith!' We know, Jesus has been pushing them pretty hard in the last few chapters. Ever since the end of chapter nine, when Jesus turned towards Jerusalem, leading them straight into the hands of those who will kill him. He commissioned 70 disciples, argued with a lawyer who wanted to know who his neighbor really was; and he taught the disciples to pray. He has tough words for the Pharisees and scribes, for the rich, for those who have power, but then he tells them not to be afraid and not to worry. Chapter 16 contains two parables that both begin with, "There was a rich man…" We just can't serve God and wealth, Jesus reminds us time after time. He reminds if we love anything, including our stuff and our money more than the Lord and other people, we are in trouble. For, when we get to heaven through our faith in Jesus Christ, a Christian is a Christian with no special privileges for the especially gifted in skills or money.

 Jesus tells the disciples in our passage today that life is going to get difficult for them and tells them to do their best. That it would be better for a big stone to be hung around their neck and they be dropped in the sea than for them to stumble. He also tells them that if someone sins against you, no matter what they do, they must forgive.

 So, I understand their worry and I say, “No wonder the disciples ask for their faith to be increased”. They are exhausted and it seems following Jesus is getting more difficult every day! It makes me tired and scared just reading all the disciples have been through in these chapters. Jesus’ words remind us following him is challenging and it can be painful. Yes, I know, we aren't supposed to get into Christianity entirely for the rewards; but I think many of us secretly, deep down in our hearts, kind of hope for some reward…we want just some little thing.

 It doesn’t seem like the disciples are asking for too much. Go back and read these chapters this afternoon, just read from chapter ten on. It feels like to me they are only asking for Jesus to help them keep on, keeping on. Asking Jesus, to just give them more faith to do their work better. He tells them to be on guard, he talks about forgiveness and they want to follow him, they really do. But, they are telling him, we need you to help us out here, fill us with great faith and love so we can actually do what you’re calling us to do.

 Jesus’ reply seems painful at first, but it isn't quite as bad as it sounds. I wonder is Jesus telling them the faith they have is enough? Telling them they already have enough faith, they just need to use it, when he talks about moving the mountain and the fig tree with faith. He’s telling them they do not need to have more faith. What they need to do is just trust in the power of the faith they already have.

 Now, that doesn't mean they get to take the day off. It seems as if just a moment ago Jesus was turning the social order upside down, but now He is keeping it in place to make a point. When he says to them, "The slave owner wouldn't invite his slave right in and have him sit down, at the table, would they?" He asks them, “Is the slave owner really going to thank a slave for doing exactly what he was supposed to do?” So, when you have used the great faith that you already have to work for God, you can be satisfied. You won't ask for a meaningless trophy, you won't ask if you are feeling fulfilled. You will sit down, wipe the sweat off your forehead, and be thankful to God that you have done exactly what you have been called to do. I wonder is that what he’s telling them and you and Me?

 I often feel we have thoroughly domesticated discipleship, making is seem way too easy to follow Jesus Christ in this life. For many of is being a good church person too often means you come to worship enough…I guess each of us decide how much “enough” is. There are many different theories on that, but I believe we should all be in church, somewhere, every Sunday. Many of us serve on committees when it's our turn and do the best we can asking good questions. When we are younger we teach children in church, maybe our own, but we think we are retired from that even though there are children’s classes that need a teacher. Then, when we have finished our stint, we feel that if we're lucky, we might be recognized when the church sends us a thank you letter or give us a pin. We tell ourselves, “Why last year, I invited a neighbor to church and thank the Lord, they didn’t make fun of me, so I’ve done that witnessing thing this decade.” And, we are sure glad we checked that off our list of things we are supposed to do each decade, without too much embarrassment.

 But, in truth, we all know this life of faith is not supposed to be such an easy ride, so we find ways to avoid it, we work pretty hard to avoid most of the things we should be doing. But, look at it this way, maybe the reason, we don’t feel as much reward for servant leadership from the church…is because doing it, is and should be its own reward. Maybe, many of us haven’t touched servant leadership in so long we can’t tell you when we did. But, it is one of the ways we fulfill our calling, the way we become the human beings God created us to be. Doing our duty for God by serving where ever we’re needed without looking for a reward or thinking someone else should be doing it. Doing service for God is and should be, its own reward. I sure wish more of us would try it and see.

 So, back to the beginning, while the Christian church wonders how do we communicate with the younger generation, how do we work with them, how will the world and the church get along in their hands. One thing we should probably tell the young people and ourselves, is to watch less television. We should tell people to place more importance on our human relationships than on our digital ones. That we all should guard against depression and isolation caused by all of our electronic devices and the best thing any of us can do, to do that, is to get outside of ourselves and help others. We each need to realize that putting ourselves above all else is a dead end path in life and that dead end becomes a cliff when it gets to eternity. Service to others and leaving a lasting legacy is a deep human need and it is its own reward. Strong human relationships in the church keep us true to who we are and help us to realize what our lives are meant to me.

 We all need to remember being true to who we are and finding meaning for ourselves should not be our total life goal. I’m sorry, but life is not all about us. If we come to realize the amazing power of the smallest amount of mustard-seed-like faith, we will understand that Jesus the Christ is at work right now through us, changing people and through that change, changing the world. We need to worry less about ourselves and our personal wants and stop moaning about how hard life is and then live to the fullest in Jesus Christ. Living our Christian life with the faith that we have already been given and then finding out it is enough.

 A lot of years ago after coaching a T-ball team with our twins on the team I was a little disappointed that every kid got a trophy just for being there on the field the last game. The boy that wouldn’t run after a hit, he got a trophy. The girl that only came to the last game, she got a trophy too. They even gave me a trophy for coaching. The exact same trophy they gave the kids, shouldn’t I have gotten a little bigger one? HA

I was a little disgusted with the rules that told us not to keep score. Each inning every kid batted and then the other team did the same. But, at the end of the game, each and every kid on our team knew the score and whether we had won or lost. They kept score when we adults weren’t supposed to. We adults were supposed to be worried about the kids and their self-esteem and they wanted to know if they had won. We were given a t-shirt to wear that told us our team’s name and some of the kids had fancy ball pants and cleats and the fanciest gloves money could buy. While most of the kids had whatever they dressed in that morning, including their old sneakers, jeans with holes in the knees, and a hand me down glove that was too big.

 It occurred to me then and I believe it’s true now that maybe some of these kids, in fact most of them, already know how hard life is. I think most of the younger generation understand that life often requires a lot of hard work and that we won’t always be given everything we want. And, there are certainly plenty of older generation people who think the world should be a “gimme, gimme” place. Not, just some of the young people. I fact I think we have always had the “gimme, gimme” crowd.

 When you see those polls, saying that huge percentages of the younger generation believe their college loans should be repaid by someone other than themselves, I think there are a bunch of the young people I know who were never asked. In fact when I heard that one politician was saying they should pay off all college loans for veterans, I got excited for a minute. Then I thought about it and realized I borrowed the money and I need to pay if back, if I live long enough. I believe, most of the young people I know, realize it takes a lot of work to make it in this world and many times you have to earn what you want in life. While we have older politicians telling anyone who will listen that everything should be free and no one should ever have to work for anything.  Are they just trying to buy votes or do they believe that stuff?

 I believe most of our young people understand the tough work ahead required for them to be faithful to Jesus Christ and each other in this life. And, I hope and pray, the Christians I know, realize never witnessing about their faith to someone who doesn’t know Jesus Christ is a sin in itself. And, I know they are trying not to sin like that, because they love their fellow man enough to not want them in hell when their life on earth is done. And. I am sure most young people know, we should take advantage of the mustard seed of faith we have been given and to use it to change the world through Jesus Christ.

 Let us pray…Lord Jesus, don't give us more faith but through the power of Your Spirit, teach us to use the faith You have already given us. Call us to things that are hard, and that are true, knowing that a life of service to You is its own reward. Amen

 

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC

Healy, Kansas

 

“Loving, Grace Filled God”

Hosea 11:1-11

September 27, 2019

 There used to be a public service announcement playing on TV where a teenager is sitting in a laundromat and watching another young man come in robbing everyone. The young man has the normal meth face, scarred and losing his teeth and he is so skinny. He steals everyone’s money and when he comes to the teenager in the corner, he looks up and he sees his own face. The thief yells, "This wasn’t supposed to be your life!" It is meant to warn young people not to try meth, but it touches the hearts of all who worry about the safety of their children, in a world that is filled with evil.

 As I read this passage, I remembered a time, I let down my parents when I brought a friend home from the Army. It was a Saturday night and he wanted to go out so I took him to the Brown Derby. It was the local cowboy bar and usually there were some cowgirls on Saturday night. I guess you could say that was why we were going. My friend met a girl and they were dancing and having a good old time when at about eleven I told him I wanted to go to a different place. He said he was staying and would find his own way back to my folk’s house. I should have known that was a bad idea, but I wanted to go.

 So, I left and went and spent more time at the other place than I should have. Then when I get home Mom and Dad were waiting up. They complained about my friend coming to the house banging on the door with a cop. That was the ride home he found for himself. And, they said, “He was drunker than a hoot owl,” that’s really drunk in their words. They told me to not bring him back to their house and then the biggy, “Don’t you come, if you can’t keep from embarrassing us.”

 I said some things back that I will always regret. Yes, I know they were just angry and I was too, but I still regret telling Mom and dad that maybe I wouldn’t come back home, anymore. Yes, I apologized later and yes, they accepted my apology, but can you imagine how that hurt their hearts. Now, that I have my own girls, I am certain I broke their hearts that night.

 Hosea is speaking for a broken-hearted God in this passage, as he experiences some of the same feelings my parents felt, and says, "When Israel was a child I loved him." I remember reading this passage from Hosea years ago and I found it comforting. How my God loved Israel and me so much. But, I had no idea at the time how much meaning it would hold for me later on life when I had my own children. It seems to me, this is a passage written by the Parent of all humanity for parents. 

 It may be even more meaningful for adoptive parents. God is like a parent who saw a child in need and took the child in. He patiently cared for the child through those formative years when children didn't understand how dangerous the world was. The child had no idea how much they needed the security of their parents and ow well they were treated. The parents watched the child learn and cared for the early accidents they experienced.

 And then, the adoptive child, after all those years of loving care, wants to go back to their old family, back to the family that abandoned them. Thinking that maybe the old family, will be better. Thinking, maybe there will be more excitement and fewer restrictions. How hard that must be for adoptive parents. It is painful enough to bring a child into the world, to see yourself in them, to dream of the possibilities ahead for them. To try to keep them safe as long as we can, and then to watch as the world draws them away, into places we know will only bring them trouble. We watch as our children choose paths we know will cause them pain and sorrow but we cannot get them to turn back. But, perhaps it is even worse for adoptive parents?

 This scripture are the words of a Parent looking back at the pictures of their innocent child as the young adult goes off on their own, not knowing what lies ahead for them. Will it be success and joy or failure and pain in a world that throws lives away every day? In the words of Hosea, we hear our Parenting God watching as the people of Israel move farther and farther away from their relationship with God. He knows the consequences they will face as they make the the choices of a headstrong and wayward people. Just as we as sometimes watch our own children pull away from us and their relationship with the Lord. It literally breaks our hearts.

 How many parents have watched as their teen-agers fall into the world of sin, addiction, and crime? The crime often coming when they can no longer afford their addiction without stealing. As their addiction takes hold and their bodies bear the burden of meth or cocaine or one of the other myriad of things they can become addicted to, a loving parent can do so little, except wait. Just, wait and hope for their safe return, as they pray the phone doesn't ring with a policeman saying they are in jail or worse yet, dead. Our Father God knows the pain of waiting for the wayward child just as so many of us have.

 God and Parent also knows the anger that is there along with the pain and sorrow.  The sense of betrayal felt because we believe we have taught our children better. Often, we would have sworn our children would never do such things, but then are proven wrong.

 In a world based on justice, parents might feel the child is getting what they deserve. In a world based on fairness, there would be no obligation for us or our God to forgive. When we are angry we sometimes know our child deserves what they get. Sometimes we tell them, "Don't come running back to us, we warned you. You made your bed. Now sleep in it!" How many harsh things have parents started to say and then sometimes, said to their rebellious children? Just as my Mom and Dad told me that night that if I couldn’t stay out of trouble and stop embarrassing them, I shouldn’t come back.

 But in Hosea, we see God is very different than we humans are. I believe these words from God, through Hosea are some of the most comforting words in the Bible. They explain how our God is loving and grace filled. Hosea speaks the words of our God, the broken-hearted Parent when he says, "My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath."

 The God who is just and righteous is also above all, compassionate and loving. As the anger cools and grace and love are remembered, God has grace in his heart. We should always remember, God doesn’t have to be kind, he could really let us have it. But, for our God, grace always comes first.

 Just as a parent will not voluntarily leave our children in the hands of the drug dealers. Just as we will do whatever we can to bring our child back from the mess they have gotten themselves into. We parents are going to go into whatever mess our child is lost in, and bring the child out just as the Lord does for Israel and still does for us. Hosea continues with confidence that all is not lost, "'They shall go after the Lord, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west. They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes,' says the Lord."

 Our God is not just a long suffering and loving parent but a roaring lion protecting its cubs. God’s children react like trembling doves rushing home to find shelter under the mother's wings. God is a parent, a lion, and a loving mother hen. We see this in Jesus as God sent him to live here and demonstrate for us how we should live. Our God gave his only son to be killed for our sins not his. That is the most important and amazing example of our loving, grace filled God. Willing to do whatever it takes to save us from ourselves and what that would trick us into believing there is an easier way.

 Each lost sheep and wayward child breaks the heart of our God and parents. God wants us to come home, to be at home with ourselves and with one another. Wrath and revenge are never God's goal; and since that is the true nature of God, they should never be our goals either. We may be so angry at our kid’s behavior, but beneath the anger is loss and pain with the deep desire that our wayward child will be made whole and our relationship restored.

 Our hearts long to return to a home and community that leads and loves each person into living the life we were meant to live. There is a longing in us to come back to the heart of God. Come back to him with a repentant heart, asking Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior. When we do all our sins, all our mistakes will be forgotten by our grace-filled God. Just as my loving parents forgave and loved me even though one night we both said things that should have never been said and done. God is ready to forgive anything, when we come to him with a repentant heart.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC, Healy Kansas

 

“Food for the Journey”

1 Kings 19:1-8

September 22, 2019

 When I was a kid and couldn’t take my three big sisters, telling me what do and what not to do, I would load my Radio Flyer wagon and run away. I would load it with peanut butter, bread, and a glass gallon jug of milk from Grandma’s cow. It was food for my journey away from my troubles.

 There was a big old cottonwood tree about halfway to Grandma and grandpa’s house. It was about a quarter of a mile north of our house, now it’s under the intersection of I-70 and US 36. I had a tree house in it and that was where I went when I ran away, away from sisters and all their rules. I would move in there eating peanut butter sandwiches and drinking milk. Until it starting getting dark, I admitted to you, a few weeks ago that I had a problem with the darkness back then. Got over it, somehow in the Army. Those days though, when it got dark, it was time to go home and explain where they had all gone wrong. Of course, I never saw any fault in my behavior it was always in the rest of the family. It was a journey away, but eventually I always had to go back home and face the music.

 Elijah in our scripture lesson today, ran away, too, and, for better reasons than mine. He was the prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Israel…in what is now Syria. Lebanon, and parts of Jordan.

 His journey is a journey we are all on. Whether we realize it or not, Elijah and we are all on a spiritual journey. His spiritual journey had gotten him into a fight with the priests of Baal. Baal was the god Queen Jezebel worshipped, the wife of King Ahab, king of Israel. Jezebel hated Elijah for this and told him she was going to kill him just as he killed her Baal priests. You remember the story, the Priests of Baal went up against Elijah, trying to get their god to start a fire for a sacrifice. Their false god did nothing. Elijah had them douse everything with water, and then Elijah’s God, our God the on and only true God, burnt the whole mess down with the Baal priests, too. Queen Jezebel didn’t appreciated that.

 Elijah believes she is going to kill him and knows she can probably get it done, so he runs away. He ran into the desert about a day's walk and comes to a broom tree, so he sits down in the shade. Elijah, has thought and thought, but he can’t see any way out of this mess. So, he asks God to just let him die.

 There are times, when many of us have had so much trouble and are so full of despair that we want to die. Maybe you can think of a time when you have thought of death as an alternative to going on. Well, that is exactly how Elijah was feeling. He had told Ahab and Jezebel the truth that they were sinning and leading Israel into sin and now he’s facing the music, for it. Elijah has come to think of death as an alternative to the loneliness and fear he’s facing. With the feeling of being the one who has done the right thing and then finding that all of the people who were supposedly on his side have just melted away. I think, we have all experienced these feelings.

 We all face difficult times in our lives, when the trouble seems more than we can endure. A noticeable Christian walk with Christ can lead us into some lonely and scary times. Those times when we have to stand up against the majority and be the voice of truth. So, Elijah prays and asks God to just let him to die.

 He lies down under the broom tree and falls asleep, fully expecting to wake up in heaven. I know that sometimes in our lives we have all slept the sleep Elijah slept that night. The sleep of exhaustion and disappointment, when we feel as if we cannot go on. Then there are times, when, our thoughts finally stop rushing and we sleep the sleep of unconsciousness. But, the new day always comes way too quickly. When, we have to wake up and face whatever is causing us trouble. Later that night an angel comes and wakes him up, and tells him, "Get up and eat."

 When he wakes up, there is food and water that he hadn’t brought along. He eats and lies down, sleeping the sleep of the defeated. We’ve all been there? When we are so sad and so low that all we want to do is hide in our bed and sleep. Times when we are so depressed we don’t have the get up and go to do anything? That’s where I believe Elijah was. But, the angel returns and wakes him again and tells him, "Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you."

 Elijah gets up and eats and drinks and walks forty days and forty nights to Horeb. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s a good thing he had that meal and sleep. He walks to the mountain of God, the place we call Mount Sinai. Where Moses received the Law from God. Elijah goes into a cave and spends the night. There Elijah is given a vision from God. A message of hope for him and for Israel. So, that’s Elijah’s story, now, let’s think about those words from the angel to Elijah, when he said, "Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you."

 For us to survive on our journey of life, we have to have the strength to go through the difficult times that come. Those times when we feel so alone. They can come because of divorce, illness, death, or a million other terrible things. And, when those times come, we need to eat and drink what God has prepared for us. We need to be filled up, before we go out on the walk of life. We need to be nourished by the food God gives each one of us in the sacred stories of the Bible. We need to be filled by the faith stories told by the people who come into our lives through the church. We are fed and our help comes in times of prayer and communication with God. Spiritual food comes in fellowship and worship in Christ’s church. And, often our spiritual food comes in doing good for others. Especially, when we are witnesses to others for Jesus Christ. Then when we are filled by these spiritual things we are better prepared for the difficult times that come. Those times that seem to come, way too often.

 Now, we must never forget, it is OK, to cry out to God when we are in need of spiritual food and are feeling hopeless. And, then we need to expect a tap on the shoulder in the middle of the night. As the voice of God whispers in our heart telling us to trust and get up and take the nourishment that is there for us. Nourishment supplied by God to give us strength before we have to face the world again. When we begin to feel as if we are running on empty. When we feel we do not have the strength to go on. I believe it is God telling us it is time to eat a spiritual meal.

 The food is all round us, especially in this place and in these people who sit beside you, in this church and have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. It is in these people who know the stories of Jesus and who know where our Lord God is found. Spiritual food is given to us when we are in heartfelt communication with God in prayer and it is in the study of His Word, when we worship him here. He is there when we help others, especially when we are telling them about our faith in Jesus Christ.

 Yes, God is here with us always. We just have to open our hearts and minds to his touch. God is in the truth that we share through our salvation in Jesus Christ. God is in the bread and juice we share in Holy Communion and God is in the waters of our Baptism. God is with us in the ordinary things, the daily miracles, we often take for granted. Daily miracles like the rising and setting of the sun and the beauty of the moon and the stars. Miracles like the mountains and these beautiful Great Plains we live in. God is responsible for each breath and in each of our heartbeats. He is in the birth of a child and in the care of a loved one.

 Most importantly, God is here in Jesus Christ, the carpenter and teacher, I pray we all know. He is in this one who says, "I am the bread of life" and "I am the living bread that came down from heaven…whoever eats of this bread will live forever." God is in the one who said, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

 This Spiritual food is available to each and every one of us. This spiritual food will sustain us on our life journey if we will just take it and eat. It is a tragedy when we don’t notice it and leave it untouched. That disaster can be avoided if we will just open up to the Lord, and think about what will please him.

 You know, sometimes this food, the spiritual fill up from God can seem pretty ordinary. It can come in simple things like a Bible study with one of two others. We have all known and seen these times. Unfortunately, they are often in times that are so familiar to us that many of us no longer notice them. Because, it may have come to feel ordinary and not so spiritual, even though it is.

 Even if it has become ordinary to us, it still is powerful and magical. They are spiritual moments for those who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear them. For, those who seek God in Jesus Christ, it is there for all those who are willing to get up and eat and drink all that God has provided. If we do, we will be filled with what we need in difficult times.

 Yes, God provides us with spiritual food for our journey in life and while our journey of life is often difficult and filled with trouble. I pray that each of us will take this spiritual food and eat it so we may be strong in Jesus Christ. Take and eat of what He has given. Eat so we are ready for the journey of life and yes, even prepare us for the journey of death. For, “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Amen.

 Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC – Healy, Kansas

 

 

“Count the Cost”

Luke 25:14-33

September 8, 2019

 My Dad knew who and what he liked. In sports he loved his Broncos, I am glad he never had to see the kneeling for the National Anthem, I think, it would have broken his heart and made him hate them forever. He loved his Colorado University Buffaloes and he didn’t miss either one of their games except in life or death situations. Yes, if you were on your death bed he would come running, but if your ailment was something not life threatening during one of their ball games, he might think about it a moment before he came to see you. Just kidding, he would come anyway, because in his heart he was a servant. Most of all he loved his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 We would only buy American made stuff. He was an America fan and some of that, I am sure came from his sacrifice in World war II and the forever sacrifice so many of his fellow soldiers, sailors, marines, and Airmen paid. I remember him saying when an advertisement for a Broncos game came on advertising Mitsubishis. Dad’s face got red and he said something like, “Well, I wouldn’t buy and drive one of their vehicles for nothing, they made the zero fighter!” He had learned to hate those planes with good reason in the South Pacific.

We all have our own prejudices and preferences and we back them up with what we buy. We often buy one brand above all else and seldom try anything different. Many of us are more loyal to the products we like than we are to a political party. Many of us vote across party lines, but would never, not ever, try something other than “Dawn” dish soap.

 We love our brands. The things we buy sometimes tells more about us than we would like. Some of us like to show off with what we buy and some of us like to demonstrate our social responsibility with what we buy. We like IBM or Mac computers. I personally wouldn’t buy a Mac because when I was in the teacher’s program they tried to make me buy one. I don’t do well with edicts. Many have quit buying Nike over their support of what we consider unamerican activities and now buy New Balance. Like my dad we like our brands. There is one lady on Facebook who tickles me bragging about her Ford pickup while she makes fun of Chevys and Dodges. Those who travel a lot, even have a favorite airline.

 I think we all have a bunch of this going on in our lives. We say, “I know what I like and I know what is right”…hahaha. I know the type of mechanical pencil I like and the right ink pen. They are so good my daughters and granddaughters are always trying to steal them from me. If you are willing to listen I can tell you what stores you should shop in and which ones you shouldn’t. I even know which fast food chain I like best as I remember Dad taking us there and buying us each a meal of hamburger, fries, and a Coke for 45 cents. I just wonder who would we be without our stuff?

 As we think about what Jesus said that day, who were those people without their families? Jesus told them, "'Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple." I’ll bet many you said, like me, “Whoa, hold on there, Wilber!” The first two things Jesus tells us we must give up to be his follower are family and life. It seems to get worse when he tells us to get rid of our stuff, "So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions."

 Jesus tells us many times in the Gospels to give up material things. We often wonder, “Why, what’s the deal here?” The disciples were told they should take nothing on their evangelism trip. That makes me squirm a little, for as a soldier I used to try very hard to make sure when me and my soldiers went to the “woods” to chase the “bad guys” that we had all we needed to do the job. I am sure when you mothers take a baby on a trip you have a long list of stuff that you cannot live without.

 I look at the custom harvesters going by as I write this. They have a truck for fuel that also has oil and I’ll bet some commonly used repair parts on it. They have combines and headers but also trucks to haul the grain. A grain cart and tractor to unload the combines, then at the end of the convoy there are a couple of trailer houses to sleep in when they aren’t cutting. They come to town with everything they need and if they didn’t, farmers probably wouldn’t hire them.

 But, the part of this passage that bothers us the most is, "…hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters." I have no idea how I could begin to hate my five daughters and eight granddaughters and my son in laws. Yes, there are people who leave their families and never speak to them because of abuse. There are those who have been disowned. We’ve all heard about someone saying they didn’t want to enable a person they love, so they cut them loose.

 But, let’s go a little deeper into this hating your family thing. First we need to remember how important family was then and still is. Think of Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law and how she was completely on her own when her husband and sons died. Everyone was "son of" or "daughter of" someone. Family truly was almost everything in Jesus’ time and for most of us it still is.

 I am sure people hearing Jesus say this were shocked. As someone once said, "Hate" is a very strong word”. But, some scholars say this word should be translated differently. Saying we should hate our family was Jesus’ way of saying family should not be the most important thing to us.

 This day Jesus was speaking to people thinking about following him, at the home of a Pharisee. These people were not committed disciples, they were searching for the answer that only Christ can give. Just as we all search for him until we find him, ourselves.

 Jesus wants them to realize how important their decision is. He is telling them that their relationship with him must come first, above all else, before family, before life, and even before all their stuff. He asks them if they could build a tower without first making sure you had enough money. Or, one I used to worry about, could you go to war without figuring out what you needed to win? I say if you don’t go to win, don’t go! Our country hasn’t done that since World War II. On this day, Jesus is asking these people to decide, if they are willing to pay the cost of following him.

 We too, need to count the cost before we start something new. Before we get married we need to count the costs, not just the benefits. Are we ready to forever love and care for this person, no matter what? I have seen those who dropped out of seemingly happy marriages when their spouse became ill and it broke my heart for the one who was left. I counselled with hundreds of young soldiers who hadn’t really counted the costs their enlistment in the Army would cost. How many in jail actually stopped and thought about what the cost might be if they did what they were in jail for?

 When I said, “Yes,” to becoming a pastor, I thought I had calculated the costs. I didn’t foresee what going to half pay in my first appointment would do to my family. I didn’t realize how my kids were no longer Army brats but were going to be preacher brats. Causing them to be watched even more closely than when they were the Command Sergeant Major’s kids. Or, what it would do to my wife. She had to give up a job she loved when we moved to our first appointment. She worked in our churches before I was a pastor, but now she realized my success or failure in the job would depend in large part on how successful the education programs were at our churches. She half killed herself doing more than she should have, running herself ragged.

 A decision to follow Jesus requires thinking all the way through the possible consequences. Jesus wants us to do an analysis of the costs. He explains by giving us examples of what could happen when people don't plan ahead. For, discipleship is different and much more important than any other experience in life. Following Jesus Christ isn’t always easy and could cost us everything. Think of the people losing their lives because of their faith in Jesus Christ, all over the world. The thousands in reeducation camps in China for their Christian faith.

 Yes, loyalty to Jesus must come first, above our family and above all our stuff. Our life hierarchy must be our relationship with Jesus Christ, our spouse, our children, the rest of our family, our friends, and then everyone else. Our stuff should always come, at least, after other humans.

 In the lesson before this Jesus tells those who are throwing a party, “…do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors," but invite, "…the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind." He’s telling us to give to those who cannot repay us. Maybe we should remember this the next time we are confronted by someone in need?

 Jesus tells us, "Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." Following Jesus is serious business. We each need to count the cost before we ask Jesus Christ to be our Savior.

 But, can any of us, every day, every moment truly live up to the promise we make when we ask Jesus to be our Savior? We need realize we are human and perhaps not capable of putting Christ above all else, all of the time.

 When we ask Christ to be our Savior we have to truly want and hope to be the Christian Jesus asks us to be. Realizing we are not going to get it done, every day, all of the time. We probably will NOT be prefect Christians after we ask Christ to be our Lord. But, we should try with all we have! Trying our very best, knowing we many not get to perfection. We all know the one who we think has gotten pretty close to perfection. But, if you truly know them, even the things they are hiding, we could see they are not there, not yet. I have a feeling none of us will be the perfect follower of Jesus Christ until we reach heaven.

 So, let us first think about life and eternity without Jesus Christ. Life may seem great here on earth if you are not a Christian, you can do most anything you want as long as it isn’t against the law, but I sure wouldn’t want your eternity without Jesus. We are supposed to try to make our relationship with Jesus Christ come above all else. We may not make it, but our Lord God is always ready to forgive us when we fail and come to him with a repentant heart. So, count the cost, will you try with all you are to follow Jesus Christ. If so, I invite you to come and join us as we all try to put Christ first!

 Amen.'

Pasor Bud Tuxhorn

Healy UMC

Healy, Kansas

 

“Humility”

Luke 14: 1, 7-14

September 1, 2019

 Our Bible reading from Luke 14 is not a lesson about good manners. Jesus is using the seating arrangements at this party to teach us a lesson. Jesus sees the people jockeying for a seat by him at the dinner. They had forgotten their manners while trying to sit by Jesus and he uses it to teach us all a lesson in humility and service.

 Now, there is the prosperity gospel out there that tells people a lie about faith in Christ. Telling them that humility and sacrifice are ways to find greater blessing from God in material things. We've all heard it, "I gave God a hundred dollars Sunday and Monday I got a thousand dollar refund." Or, "We are faithful Christians and because of that, our son made quarterback and our daughter got a full scholarship and sits first chair in clarinets.”

 We’ve also met the mixed up person who believes that stuff, has worked in the church and says they just don't understand God. They say, "We were having all kinds of trouble and thought we would try church and God, so we started coming to church, we've been giving money and volunteering. But our marriage is still in trouble, our kids still don’t mind, and we’re still broke." Some believe humility and sacrifice are the way to financial success and complete happiness in life. Unfortunately difficult times hit Christians just like they do those without Christ. Part of it I’m sure is due to those TV preachers who tell them those lies.

 Then let’s think about some things that happened to me when I was trying to serve and show humility. The other day I waved a woman from the entrance lane into a long traffic line, and she couldn't be bothered to wave a "thank you" in return. Doesn’t that just frost you? Or, the time I held the door for a young couple to go into a bookstore, and they completely ignored me, they were so wrapped up in themselves they didn't even thank me. Think about that, an old man holds the door for them and these young boneheads can’t be bothered to tell him, “Thanks.” But, when we really think about it…why are we kind and generous to others and to the Lord’s church? I hope it is not for a "thank you" or for some other reward, we are to do them simply because God calls us to do them.

 We can get a little blown up about ourselves, like when I started college at the University of Southern Colorado in Pueblo, Colorado after I retired from the Army, I was old and gray compared to the other students. I wanted to get my teaching certificate to teach history and hoped to coach a country school’s sports. I had gotten used to the perks of my rank as the Command Sergeant Major of US Army Alaska and kind of expected the deference the people in the headquarters gave me. When I walked down the hall in the headquarters people made way for me. When I walked up to a group in conversation they would stop and see what I needed. Now, I don’t know about you, but a person can get used to that.

 So, that first morning in college, I got a lesson in humility from the other students who were mostly eighteen years old. While those kids were probably wondering why this old man was at their school. As I walked down the hall headed to my first class, I walked like I used to do in the Headquarters. I walked right down the middle of the hall, not really expecting people to make way, but I guess my actions told a different story. Well, those kids didn’t know or care that I was the one and only retired Command Sergeant Major Tuxhorn and they did not make way for me. It dawned on me after I ran over a couple of short teenage girls that I was no longer in charge. A lesson in humility for me and fortunately no one was hurt, except my ego.

 You know there are those who want their gifts to the church to be spectacular and noticed. Many don't want to give "just to the budget." They want to give something that can be seen and that people will remember who it was from. I can understand that, there is nothing glamorous about paying the light bill or paying for the church's garbage to be picked up. But, is the reason we give to God supposed to be because we want to be noticed?

 Then, there are people who like to volunteer to serve in prominent leadership positions in the church, while we still can’t find enough volunteers to teach Sunday School and VBS, youth group and the after school program. Evidently there isn’t much glory in those things and many times the teachers of them are only recognized for their sacrifice later in life. I remember my Sunday School teachers and how they loved us in Christ even when we were a pain. But, until you teach the Good News of Jesus Christ to children you will never know the joy in your heart when after teaching about Jesus Christ, the Spirit touches them, and they come to Christ, filling you both with joy.

 Folks, we Christians are called to humility not recognition. In humility there is obedience and obeying our Lord God has its own reward in our hearts. When we practice humility we will know that we have fulfilled God's purpose for our lives in our souls and in our spirits. We must remember, our work for God, it is not a down payment on front row seats in heaven or here on earth. This scripture tells us that our host may move us to a better seat, but…there is always the chance we’ll be moved to a table in the back.

 If we think these are hard truths, think about this. Once we understand, we are called to live lives of humility and sacrificial service, who are we to be humble to and who are we to serve? The answer, as much as we would like it to be something else, is God and other people. We are to serve God, in worship, in the giving of our time and treasure, and in Bible study. But, much of what we do about loving God, will be what we do to serve other people. God does not need our money or our time or our compassion, even though we are supposed to give it. But, the people around us do. They need our money, they need our time, and they need our compassion and most importantly, they need Jesus Christ and we may the only one who will share him with them.

 You know most of scripture, both the Old and New Testament, is written to believers. The Old Testament was written primarily for Israel and the New Testament to people who follow Christ. Much of scripture is teaching us how we should live our lives with other people and in the church. We are supposed to live together in harmony, in service, and in hospitality. Just look at the backs of the heads of those in front of you right now. Take a moment and really look and think about them. These are your brothers and sisters, the people who walk with you in Jesus Christ. Ask yourselves, “How can I serve them?” Then think about all those folks we know outside the church who do not know Jesus Christ and need him so badly. In what ways can we serve them that will bring their souls to faith in Jesus Christ?

 A few weeks ago I talked about the Gerasene demoniac. After the demoniac was healed, he wanted to go with Jesus. But, Jesus told him to go home and tell of Christ at home among his own people. He was not asked to take his family to a new land, like Abraham. Not to preach the gospel to his enemies, like Jonah. He was not asked to leave his family and his work, like the disciples. He was asked to go home and live in Christ and proclaim the gospel among the people he knew and for many of us that is our call…to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those we see every day. Now, if we have stayed home and never told a neighbor about our faith in Jesus Christ…if we have never or seldom ask a neighbor to church…we are not fulfilling that call. We need to be doing Christ’s work every day. Then, when and if we are to do something different God will let us know.

 Remember, we are to serve humbly because God told us to and not necessarily for the thankfulness of other people. There are no perfect people to be served. We will be disappointed sometimes by those who use and abuse us as we try to help them. We’ve all had plenty of times in our lives when people were not tankful for our help and we felt used and abused. But, we need to remember we are all sinners, just like them and God loves us all anyway. We will not always be thanked, we will not always be appreciated, and we need to remember, that it is OK. For, we do the service we do, for the Lord not only, just for them.

 We also need to be careful, not to get to bragging about what we have done. As we guard against getting to feeling all holy, we need to remember that we are all all fallible and each and every one of us has sin in our lives. We have all known that sweet and good Christian lady that we always wondered how there could be any sin in her life. But, there is some sin there and if you asked her she would freely admit to knowing she had some. Now, she might not tell you what it is, but she will probably admit she has some. If we start believing that there are different levels in our standing before God, it is not only dangerous, but it is arrogant. Pride and arrogance are exactly the opposite of the humility and sacrifice Jesus calls us to. For, we are all sinners, in the need of God's grace. None of us are perfect and there aren’t any perfect people to serve, but we are called to serve those imperfect people.

 I didn’t get to visit my Dad at the nursing home, he was only there a week, before he died. But, my sisters tell of the last Sunday afternoon with Dad and Mom. Dad had dementia and was singing the old church hymns with gusto. He knew them all and had sung them thousands of times in his life as a Christian man. But, occasionally that day, he would become the World War II sailor of February 1946. Just home from the war and meeting his beautiful future wife Delores. When he was there he would grab Mom and pull her down on his lap and give her big kisses, as he said some less than appropriate things to her.

 Now, I know my sisters were a little scandalized by some of what Dad did and said. But, I think it is a good illustration of the different parts of our makeup. Each and every one of us have some sin in us. Some of us are better at hiding them than others, but the sin is there anyway. Each and every one of us are beggars coming before the Lord needing his forgiveness and love. Not one of us is clean and sin free. We need to be remembering that when we get to thinking anyone is too mean, too nasty, or too sinful to be served by us.

  One of the beautiful parts of this scripture and about being a Christian is that we are called by Almighty God to live lives of humility and sacrificial service. The hard part is that we are called to live those lives of humility and service right now. To live them today, among the broken and damaged people we meet every day. It is difficult, but let’s all do the very best we can, anyway.

Amen.

Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC - Healy, Kansas

 

 

 

“Keeping the Sabbath”
Luke 13:10-17
August 25, 2019

            When I was growing up, on Sundays we did three things; church, family, and food. I always say, that we were drug children…for we were drug to church every time the doors were open. On, Sunday morning we would have a good breakfast because Mom didn’t work on that morning at Ehman’s Grocery, for it was closed. She would cook us breakfast and then we’d all get dressed in our best clothes and go to Sunday School and then church. When I was little I always sat by Mom, she always made unsubstantiated claims about my behavior when I didn’t. Mom was an amazing soprano and behind her normal spot sat Luda a great alto and Lee Hodges a bass. I didn’t like it then but now when I hear some of these old songs I can still hear their voices.

            Now, our best clothes weren’t what you’d see at some of those fancy churches. My best clothes were my newest set of jeans and my best shirt most of the time. My sisters wore their best dresses and shoes. When church was over there were often potlucks, where my dad would always go to the desert table first to get a piece of Mrs. Meredith’s chocolate cream pie. Or, we would all go home and Mom would have a roast cooked. Near the end of church many worried if the preacher went too long, the roast would burn. I don’t think crock pots had been invented yet.

            After we ate there were often naps or ball games or we kids would play. On many Sundays dad would load us all up, me lying in the back window of the ’49 Ford and go to Denver to see Grandma and Grandpa Tuxhorn. They had a truck stop on the East side of Denver right on US 40. There we would sit in the café, drink fountain cokes, and watch TV. We didn’t have one at home, so it was a real thrill to watch Ed Sullivan.

            But, pretty soon it was getting time for Sunday night services at 7 and we would leave for home. There was youth Bible study Sunday night and then a sermon from the Pastor. I’ll be honest that must have been tough for the preacher, writing two sermons every week. Then after church we would go home and get ready for bed.

            I would guess many of your families had similar ways of spending Sundays, involving church, family, and food. I least I hope you were blessed that way. My family’s routine on Sunday was the norm for many then. Maybe some of you came from families where playing, or watching TV, or travelling just wasn’t done on Sundays. Maybe all you could do was read the Bible on Sunday afternoons and play quietly, until it was time for evening services. Many of us can remember when stores were closed on Sundays. Then the people that worked in them, like my Mom, had a day off.

            All of these things we did came from people's ideas about how to obey the Third Commandment, "Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy." From the time this commandment was given to Moses, there has been disagreement about why we should honor the Sabbath and how we should keep it holy. The book of Exodus tells us God took a Sabbath after he finished creation…"For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it." In Deuteronomy we are reminded that we should honor the Sabbath for all the blessings he has given us, "Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day." The Sabbath was meant as a gift for us, a time of rest and restoration, and I think MOST importantly, a time to worship God.

But, very quickly that gift turned into literally hundreds of laws, all sorts of rules about what was work and what wasn't, rules about what it was OK to do on the Sabbath and what was sinful. Keeping the Sabbath holy also meant reserving that day for the worship of our Lord God. Jesus and his disciples were always getting into trouble with the religious authorities for breaking the rules. It came up four times in Luke, and three of them were when Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath. The other was when the disciples were brazen enough to gather some wheat and eat it because they were hungry.

            In today's Gospel, Jesus is teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath when he notices a woman that is completely bent over with some sort of spinal problem. She had been suffering for eighteen years. The woman didn’t ask Jesus for help, she was just worshipping God with the rest of the town. But, Jesus sees her, calls her over and says, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment," and laid his hands on her.

            Jesus set this woman free from the torture and pain on the Sabbath. Jesus gave her a new life, a life free from pain, free from shame, free from isolation. Remember, people believed that disabilities were punishment for sin. So, they all assumed she had some awful sin hidden that was causing her pain. Jesus restored this woman’s health, but also her sense of self-esteem, and her place in the community. She was no longer just a sinful cripple, she was, as Jesus said, a proud daughter of Abraham. Jesus reached out this woman whose life was perhaps worse than death, touches her, and gave her the health, and peace God created us for. And, we need to remember, she didn't do anything, to be healed. What Jesus does for the woman is a gift; it was pure grace. When Jesus touches the woman, she stood up straight and tall for the first time in eighteen years, and she praised God for it. She obviously knows the source of her healing, for she praises God for this wonderful, unbelievable gift of life.

            Not everyone there that day felt the same way. The Head of the Synagogue was angry. He believes Jesus has desecrated the Sabbath by working. But, rather than go to Jesus and complain, he jumps on the waiting crowd and tells them to go away. He chases them away from the Synagogue a place they should always feel welcome at. He screams, 'There are six days on which work ought to be done, come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day." But, Jesus doesn’t let it drop. He tells the Priest he’s a hypocrite, for thinking it was OK for someone to untie an animal on the Sabbath to take it to water. That what he had done was not a violation of the Sabbath.

            So, why wasn’t healing this sick woman, sick for 18 years OK? How can that be any different? He asks, “Is she of less worth than an animal?” The Head of the Synagogue doesn’t get it, I hope he did someday. But, his lack of understanding of God's will is shown right there in front of everyone. The rules had gotten so convoluted they had forgotten the intent of the commandments…to love God above all else and love your neighbor as yourself.

            Jesus demonstrated to the crowd that keeping the Sabbath holy was not only about observing rules. Keeping the Sabbath holy was about worshiping God. And, one of the ways that could be done was by releasing people from bondage and giving them new lives so that they, too, could praise God. That's what God did for the Israelites when he led them out of Egypt. So, by healing the crippled woman on the Sabbath, Jesus is keeping, not breaking the Sabbath.

            And, that's what Jesus did for you and me when, out of love, he died on the cross and rose again, releasing all those who believe in him from the bondage of sin and giving each and every one of who accept the offer, new lives. Just like for this bent-over woman, it is pure grace…completely unearned. Having received this gift, I pray we are led to thank and praise God with such joy that others cannot help but want to ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior.

So how do we keep the Sabbath holy today? How do we worship God on this Sunday, August twenty fifth and all the rest of our lives? The ways we used to keep the Sabbath are long gone. On Sundays now, we work, we shop, we play sports, well, most of us watch them. What it comes down to really, is most of us do everything we do on any other day. We have our busy schedules and our desire to spend time with the family, and we focus on having as much fun on our free time as we can, I think we all struggle with honoring the Sabbath and using the day to worship God.

            I doubt many of us would want to return to a world full of blue laws and strict rules about how to observe the Sabbath, even if we could. We are often tempted to join the many for whom Sunday is no different than any other day. Yet if we do, if we do stop on Sunday and worship the Lord we will give others an amazing witness to our faith. The very fact that we did come to worship today, says that we are looking for something more, looking for ways to keep the Sabbath holy, and to thank and praise God. We come to thank God for all the good things in our life, because we know he is the source of each and every one of them.

            We keep the Sabbath when come together to remember the story of God's love. When we come to worship the Lord on this day and we should do that every Sunday. Yes, we can still travel, but we should take the time out and stop and worship our God somewhere. There are plenty of churches around, visit one. Sometimes you see some pretty unusual things. We were visiting one of our daughter’s churches in July and when the praise band was playing they had a smoke machine. I had never seen that before. But, whatever happens in the church you choose, God will know you have come to honor and worship him.

            In worship, here and when we visit another church, we can experience God’s overwhelming love and grace in the prayers that are said, in the preaching, and in Holy Communion given to us as we honor the Sabbath. The elements of Holy Communion and worship brings us closer to God and to each other, in fact to Christians everywhere. We can feel the presence of God in the music and we honor God and the Sabbath as we sing it. I once told a preacher that the music often touched me more than her sermons did…not sure she appreciated my comment. In all of the parts of worship each Sunday as we rejoice in God's grace and give thanks to Him we are honoring the Sabbath and God.

Another was we worship God is when we give money for ministries here and around the globe that bring people freedom from poverty, illness, and most importantly the opportunity to make Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior. We worship when we donate food for the hungry. When we share our time and talents on projects that demonstrate God's care for this world we are worshipping him. We worship God and honor the Sabbath when we teach a child or an adult about Jesus and salvation through faith in him. And, we praise God, when we serve and love our neighbor. As Jesus taught us, these are the ways we can keep the Sabbath holy.
            Amen

Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

Healy UMC - Kansas

 

“Faith”
Hebrews 11:1-3,8-16   

August 11, 2019

 I don’t know about you but, I can’t even guess what is going to happen next in my life. I’ll get up expecting a nice quiet day of work and then a call comes in and I’m on the road to some emergency. Now, I’m not complaining, after all that is part of my job, emergencies. But, there are definitely surprises in our work life and in our everyday lives that happen all the time. I know you have them too, in your lives.

 Carla and I took a vacation a few years ago and when we got home that night I was a good boy and unpacked my suitcase. Then I got lazy and rather than take the suitcase downstairs to put it away correctly, I threw it down the basement stairs. It splashed when it got down there. The basement had a about a foot of water in it. There was a spring under the house and the sump pump had stopped working.

 I won’t bore you with the party that became, but I will tell you there was a man and his wife who made our emergency their emergency. They came and fought through all of the mess for three days with me. In the morning I was actually a little jealous of Carla going to her very hard job each morning. But, those folks helped me get through to the end of the cleanup.

 Sometimes the emergencies in our lives are life threatening, like when I was stationed in Fort Douglas, Utah and I got a call that Mom is going to have open heart surgery tomorrow. I was told that she was in the hospital with major blockages and they have to fix them or she would die. Now, then I knew a lot less about open heart surgery than I do now, I hadn’t had my own. So, I went in to talk to my boss about Mom and he said, “Go.” Not put in a leave request, not, we’ll talk about it tomorrow, just, “Go.” He was a good man, who cared about his subordinates.

 I remember a lady who was so proud of her children, she had a daughter and a son and she was so excited that next year her son would graduate from high school. She was so sure he would get a football scholarship and maybe even go to the NFL. Then she was diagnosed with cancer. In too short a time she was in a hospital bed dying with her family around her and she wouldn’t get to see all the wonderful things her son and daughter would do in their adult lives. She certainly would have loved the two children they have now.

 The guy I replaced in our last tour in Alaska as he retired had a great plan. He and his wife were staying in Alaska, he had a job selling insurance at much better pay than his Army check had been. They loved fishing with their new twenty four foot, ocean ready boat was prepared for many halibut fishing trips. They were hunters and their living room looked like a natural history museum with all the mounted heads. Then about six months later the secretary buzzed me and told me I had a call. It was his wife and he had died of massive heart attack and was gone.

 That's the trouble with trouble, it seldom warns us its coming, but we can rest assured, its will. Trouble doesn’t warn us and say, "Ready or not, here I come!" If it would we could at least get ready for it, or better yet, we could avoid it altogether. But, most of the time that’s just not how life works. In fact, we are all one of three people today; we are a person coming out of trouble, we are one who is in the middle of trouble, or we’re about to have some trouble and that's life. 

 It is because of this truth that our lives are often defined by how we respond to trouble. Think about it. Addicts who do not want to face real life, numb themselves to the world with drugs. Some people lash out in anger in response to trouble, breaking things and hurting others. Atheists blame the absence of God for trouble. The self-centered avoid all responsibility for their trouble, blaming everything on someone or something else. Look at many people and you will see people who responded to difficult situations in their lives in unhealthy and unwise ways. 

 At the bottom of all unhealthy responses to trouble is one bad word. This word is the enemy to all that brings life and joy and peace and hope to us. That word awful word is "panic." We panic, when we feel the world is out of control. Panic often causes us to grab onto something, anything that makes us feel like we are in control and it's often an unhealthy or poor choice.

 Sound familiar? Maybe you are putting on a good show for others, but inside you can feel yourself coming apart at the seams. Maybe your business is failing. Maybe you can't find a job and the bills are piling up. Maybe your marriage is in trouble. Maybe you're just barely living between doctor appointments and you are scared to death about your own end. Often the trouble we are facing causes us to panic.  

 Well, we need to know one thing. There is another and a better choice than panic. We can find peace in the middle of our storms. We can calm the storm inside us, finding help and hope and all we only need one thing to do it. 

 Oh, I have known people who have this one thing. I walked into the hospital room and saw that lady I talked about earlier, in her 40's dying of cancer. Her family and friends were all there telling funny stories about her and her life. I remember thinking to myself, “What are they doing she is dying?” But, then I saw it in her eyes, she was loving every minute of her time with them and from conversation and prayers with her earlier I knew she had it.

 My Dad had it. I could see it when he prayed. As a kid, I would open one eye as he prayed at church and watch him. My Dad had it.

 John Wesley had it. It is what transformed his ministry. He found IT at Aldersgate in a Bible study with some Moravian Baptists.

 Reed and Valerie Rolfs as she fights brain cancer have it. In the middle of Valerie’s fight with cancer they both find strength in it. Bill and Barbara have it, as they face dialysis for the rest of her life, they have it.  

 Many others have had it over the years, and it has made all the difference in their lives. It gave them strength to deal with trouble and with inspiration to do many amazing things even in difficult times. It goes all the way back to Abraham. Because he had it, all the rest of us can have it, too. He had it when God told him to leave everything he knew, and he had no idea where God was sending him and his wife. He had it when God told him and his wife Sarah they were going to have children, when they were way too old for that. Abraham had it. You know what it is? Well, I am sure you have guessed it, after all IT is the name of the sermon, it is Faith. In Hebrews, faith is defined as…”…the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

 You see, despite what some of us might think about ourselves, we Christians are not perfect. No matter what we might think, we are certainly not in control. We Christians just do not have all the answers. Christians are not folks that can give the perfect theological answer to every question.

But, Christians ARE those who have learned and know in their hearts, like Abraham, that God can be trusted. God can be trusted to give peace in the middle of the storm. God can be trusted to take what is evil and transform it into something worthwhile and good. God can be trusted to give us strength in the middle of trouble and if the trouble we are experiencing ends our life here, God can be depended on to catch us when we die through your faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, my God and your God can be trusted!

 You all know I used to be a paratrooper. Sometimes it would be really easy to get a little scared and panic on parachute jumps. Like the time my main parachute had one of the risers over the canopy. It would have been easy to panic as that five hundred test parachute cord ate its way with friction through the nylon canopy of my parachute cutting it in half.

 Or, the time I landed on another paratroopers open parachute and was wading thigh deep in all that nylon. I was supposed to jump off and hope my own parachute inflated. It would have been easy to panic. But, I often remembered a comment from one of the instructors in jump school. He was teaching a class on malfunctions of the parachute and he told us that day, “When all else fails, trust the equipment and your training. If you do that, you will make it through”. And, I had it, I had the Lord Jesus Christ in my heart.

 But, in all these times of danger and in many others in different situations in my last career that was often a dangerous occupation, I always had my faith. At the door of the aircraft I always said a little prayer, “Here we go Lord, take care of me, please,” and I always knew I had my Lord God with me and I always knew he would catch me if I fell. It didn’t matter what happened my Lord God through my faith in Jesus Christ would and still will catch me. Like Abraham and so many before me, I had it, too!

 When trouble comes, we often try to grab on to God. When we should have already been there. Try to open a relationship with the Lord when we should have already been walking and talking with him every day and every night. When we should have already asked him to be our Lord and Savior.

 But, if you have never asked Christ to be your Lord, it’s not too late, please, do it today. He wants to be your safety net and all it takes is for you to come to him with a repentant heart and ask him to be your Lord and Savior. He is always there, ready to catch us.

 If we are already in Christ we don’t need to start something new when trouble strikes. Thank God, He is there, he loves us, he’s ready to help us through the times of trouble, and he’s always ready to catch us when and if the trouble we are in, ends our life. Thank God, for our Lord Jesus Christ he WILL catch us.

 Let us pray…

Lord, we are not giving up, but we are handing our trouble to you. We are letting go and allowing you to take over. For, it is in the One our faith is based in that we pray, in Christ's name.  Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC, Healy, Kansas

 

“What’s Most Important?”

Luke 12:13-21

August 4, 2019

 The scripture lesson is all about an inheritance, about who gets what after someone’s death? The loss of a loved one hurts us deeply and unfortunately we often get hurt again by the arguments over who gets what. So, to keep that from happening many folks make out wills, writing down in the will who gets what and we hope it will seem fair to all the recipients. We know death brings enough pain, so we try to ease some of it with a fair and equitable will.  

 Greed an old, old sin and often sneaks in quietly at these times and causes even more trouble. As people keeping score of who gets what, there sure can be some family problems at these times. Old conflicts and old jealousies that were almost forgotten, sometimes raise come up again.

 For example, when my Mom died, there was a little money and it was split up evenly between us four kids. Each of us getting a fourth of it. So, far so good. Then we started dividing up the stuff in her apartment. I wanted a painting of a hobo that I had painted and sent to Mom and Dad, while I was in Germany. When I was moving back to the states and sent it to Mom and Dad’s house so it wouldn’t get damaged in shipment. My plan was to get it back when I got home. But, by the time I got home, Dad had already framed it and hung it on the wall. Evidently, he and Mom loved it. What could I do…I just chalked it up in my memory that someday when Mom and dad were gone I would get it back. But, on this day, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I was beginning to think one of my sisters had taken it and I was getting angry.

 I told Carla about it and she asked where the painting was and one of my sisters remembered that Mom had given it to my aunt, her sister. Man, of all the things that could happen that painting of mine, the one I loved the most, it seemed so unfair that I wouldn’t get it and I had a flash of anger at Mom and my Aunt. But, that day, we all seemed to have felt we had gotten our fair share. But, there were surely opportunities for someone to be hurt. All four of us knew about others having their problems with this chore and we didn’t want trouble among us over stuff so we were nice to each other. But, when someone passes it sure can bring out all kinds of greed in us. This is one time when maybe you are fortunate to not have a lot to divide up. 

 In our Bible lesson a man comes up to Jesus, the famous rabbi, and asks, “Jesus, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” As Scooby Do says, “Rutroh.” Let’s read between the lines and think about what is happening in this guy’s life. Well, we know the man’s father has died. It was a time of sadness and sorrow for him and we also see there are two boys in the family. Jewish law said the oldest boy got two thirds; the youngest got one third. Maybe there was a little jealousy and resentment over that, but it was the law. So, the younger son would only get a third no matter what happened.

 The oldest son also has control over the property. He can do what he wants, when he wants. People usually resent it when someone else has control of what you feel is yours. I’ll bet, the younger son has already asked for his part of the inheritance and the big brother hasn’t given it to him. Maybe the older son couldn’t afford to buy his younger brother out; maybe he is afraid his younger brother will take the inheritance and waste it. Who knows? But, the youngest brother must have believed that Jesus would support him in getting his share or he wouldn’t have asked. So, what does Jesus do? Well, first off, we need to remember Jesus is God on earth, all-knowing and all-seeing, so he can read this young man’s heart and understand his motives.

 Jesus, knowing the heart of this young brother, said to him, “Be careful, watch out for greed, the good in a person’s life is not having the most stuff”.  Then he says, “Let me tell you a story: a rich man had so much didn’t know what to do with it”. The man thought to himself, “I’ll tear down my old barns and build bigger ones, I’ll store all my grain and all my goods and all my toys.” I added the toys in there. So he did all that. Then he said to himself, “I have plenty for years to come. Take it easy. Just eat, drink and be merry.” But God said to him:  “Fool, tonight your soul will be required of you, and then what will happen to all your grain and all your stuff?” What was Jesus trying to tell the young man who wanted his part of his inheritance now? What did Jesus know about his heart and his motives? It seems to me, reading between the lines; we see he has made three mistakes about the inheritance.

 The first mistake is thinking the purpose of money is to have a life of “eat, drink and be merry.” Maybe, Jesus could see that he was planning to use it to eat, drink, and be merry. Maybe that is why the oldest brother wasn’t going to give him his part of the estate. In our culture we hear, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die,” all the time. That attitude has become a part of our culture, a part of our American philosophy of life. Many people believe, we should not worry about the future, that we should just live for today, as if there was no tomorrow. They act as if there is no God and no accounting to him for our lives after this life. They never think about others and their needs. Many in our society says we should, eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.  

 But, for the man in the parable, God answers him with, “You fool, tonight your soul will be required of you.” He is telling this young man and us that there is more to life than our time here on earth. He tells him there is a God, there is a judgment by God, and there is an eternity. To just eat, drink and be merry is a dangerous way to live if we are to meet God face to face tonight. It is a dangerous because each and every one of us will meet God when we die. We learn in this story, that there is more to life than just taking care of ourselves. That it is wrong to allow our wants to take precedence over everything else.

 So, why is it foolish to live like this? Why is it foolish to live life, eating, drinking and being merry? Why is it foolish, to live only for ourselves and our own pleasure? Unfortunately, for many people the primary purpose of their lives is the pursuit of their own pleasures. It is in all of our advertising; it is in all of our movies and TV; it totally saturates our culture. We are constantly told by the media that the primary purpose of life is the pursuit of personal pleasure. You know, it is tough being a committed Christian in a culture like this. So, Jesus tells us so, “Be on guard, be careful about all kinds of greed, for life does not only consist in the abundance of possessions”.

 A second mistake of the young man was making and many of us make, is accumulation of lots of stuff makes us happy. For some, the more we have, the happier we are. But, Jesus said, “Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Maybe this man thought the purpose of life was to accumulate as much stuff as possible. It is a common mistake. Many think lots of stuff brings greater happiness and pleasure to their lives. Yes, we can have short term fun with some of that stuff, but it does not prepare us for eternity.

 We hear people say, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.” I think deep down inside of us, we all know that the most valuable things in life aren’t things. When my Mom and my Dad died; they didn’t have a lot of toys; but they were the richest persons I knew and it had nothing to do with money. They didn’t leave a lot of money and not many possessions. But, I do have an amazing inheritance from them. I didn’t get a lot of toys but I got the best possible things from them.

But, I have their love in me, their joy for life, their values, their work ethic, and most important of all, my faith in Jesus Christ, that they led me too. I inherited the good stuff; but not a lot of toys. I think that is what all parents should strive for! Teaching our kids the best things in life are not material; they are not physical; they are spiritual, emotional, and invisible as we lead our families to faith in Christ are the most important thing we can ever do.

 The third mistake with money that Jesus saw in the young man’s heart? He believed financial wealth would give him security for the future. But, all that stuff gives a false sense of security. Jesus said, “The rich farmer had a great year with a bumper crop, and so he built bigger barns, saying to himself, ‘I have stored up many goods for years to come. My, my, how secure I am.’” Many people find security in their financial nest eggs. But, I can’t count the times I have seen those who are best prepared for retirement die before they have enjoyed a single moment of it. God warns us not to find our security in money, wealth or bank accounts. Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. If God takes care of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, won’t God take care of you?” I am not saying that we shouldn’t prepare ourselves for retirement but please don’t put all our trust in our financial nest eggs, in money, in bank accounts. Let’s place our trust in our faith in Jesus Christ.

 If you haven’t yet come to Christ with a repentant heart and asked him to be your Lord and Savior, please, do it right now, do it today. Put you trust in Jesus Christ for eternity is a long, long time and faith in Christ is the ONLY way to prepare for it. 

 As we read this story and listen to the advice Jesus gave this man, we see that Jesus felt the young man was making three mistakes. First off, for him the purpose of money was to make it easy to live a life of eat, drink and be merry. He may also have believed that whoever dies with the most toys wins. Just know, that a life of placing possessions above our relationship with Jesus is the most important thing for each and every one of us, and a life will not be ruined because Mom gave her sister a painting. Know that financial wealth does not and never will give us security for the future, for eternity! Than is found only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC Healy, Kansas

 

“Prayer”

Luke 11:1-13

July 28, 2019

 How many times have you finally given in and bought what your kids were begging for, when they begged for so long it felt like forever? I guess I was ten or twelve and we lost Laddie, our old Collie dog. He was my buddie, followed me everywhere I went and I often slept with my head on him. Mom didn’t like him in the bed, he kind of got them dirty and smelly. But, I didn’t mind. Laddie and I were buddies. He died after an incident with a porcupine. Evidently Dad and I missed a quill and it went to his brain.

 I immediately started begging and praying for a puppy. Mom kept saying, “No”. I think a good part of the reason was that she was heartbroken over the loss of Laddie. But, it didn’t stop me from begging. I was also complaining about me being dogless to my grandpa. He always agreed with me, that it was a darn shame a boy didn’t have a dog.

 One day after begging Mom for a dog, I went the half mile north to Grandpa’s house to tell him about how mean my Mom was. When I walked in his house, a little cream and white ball of fluff ran to me, entire body shaking with its wagging tail. I was thrilled and Grandpa said that since my Mom wouldn’t let me have a pup he decided to get himself one. He told me that if I wanted, I could come and see her. That puppy and I had a great time and then Mom called and told me to come home it was almost time for super. Grandpa told me I should take the pup up to the house and let my Mom see what she was missing by not letting me have a puppy.

 So, I put her under my arm and walked the half mile home. When I walked in, I hollered, “Look at Grandpa’s new puppy.” Mom took her and hugged her and fell in love. Finally, I told mom that I thought I had probably better get her back to Grandpa’s before dark. I think in those days, I had issues with the dark. She looked at me for a moment and then at the puppy and said, “That old man won’t take care of a puppy, we’re keeping her here.” She always did have a soft spot for animals. Then, she called Grandpa and told him we were going to keep her here at our house so she would be safe and well cared for. Grandpa didn’t argue, I wonder if this was his plan from the start.

 You know I think we bug and bother the people we are closest to, like I did Mom about a puppy. We don’t bother and bug those who are not close, for things we want and we don’t beg and bother neighbors who are not close friends. Maybe it is only because those people won’t tolerate us bugging and begging them like a friend. In our scripture lesson for today a friend is begging and bugging his neighbor. And, I believe that this parable from Jesus illustrates that we are to bug and bother God in our prayer life.

 So, what happened that night Jesus is telling us about? The neighbors had a friend show up after midnight to visit. They had nothing in the house to give the friend to eat or drink. Guess they didn’t have a refrigerator and cabinet like Carla and I have? Can you imagine Carla and I going over to Shay’s or Taldo’s, banging on the door asking for food, after midnight? So, this man goes over to the neighbors and bangs on their door. He keeps knocking until finally the home owner finally yells, “I’m asleep, and so are my kids, you are going to wake everybody up, quit banging on my door!” Knowing he is a good, good friend and neighbor, he just keeps on knocking until the whole family is up.

 Jesus tells us the neighbor will get up and give him wine and the bread, not just because of their friendship, but also because he wants to the guy to quit banging on his door. And, that’s how it should be in our prayer life, we are to bug and bother God until our prayers are answered. Jesus then told us these wonderful words, “…so I say to you. Ask and it shall be given you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be open to you.”  Asking, seeking and knocking are all examples of bugging, and begging in our prayer lives.

 We are not to be reasonable and rational and proper in what we ask God for, we are to be persistent beggars. We are to pray as our children do…asking for the moon and believing God will answer their prayers. Many American Christians don’t pray like this very often. Many of us might, at most, knock on God’s door once or twice a day. Maybe at bed time or at supper? Jesus taught us to knock often and long. But, not many of us pray that way and I think there are four main reasons why many American Christians don’t pray like that.

 First is, American Christians are just so darn busy. The richer a culture is, the less time it has for prayer. The statistics are awful, that the average American Christian prays four minutes a day and the average pastor prays seven minutes a day. I felt a little better as I was writing this and saw these statistics, because I do pray more than the average pastor if the statistics are right. But, I know, I don’t pray nearly enough. When we are busy one of the first thing to go in our lives is our prayer life.

 Another reason American Christians don’t pray very much is that many of us don’t believe prayer does much good. For many Americans, prayer is essentially talking to yourself; a positive pep talk; psychological motivation to do better. Instead of what it should be…a conversation with our Lord God and friend. Too often I think for many, prayer is just a formality, where we check off on an imaginary list, “Yep, I prayed about that” and we think we have done our duty. Often we pray as if once is enough for the most important things in our lives and it just isn’t.

 A third reason that many American Christians don’t pray very much is many believe God should protect them from all the disasters of life without a prayer asking him to do it. And, if they do pray…once about something, then when something horrible happens. Some begin to believe there must not be a God and that prayer does no good. According to this logic, the Apostle Paul should have been protected from all the trouble he experienced. But, he wasn’t, remember I talked about it last week. Or, that God should have protected Job from the disasters of his life. Some believe that since God didn’t’ protect Job, it proves prayer doesn’t really do any good. God didn’t even protect his own son from the dangers on this earth. I’m afraid many American Christians don’t pray enough because they really don’t believe God will protect us from the disasters of life.

 A fourth reason that American Christians don’t pray very much is many of us don’t walk very closely with God. To have any close relationship, we need to talk often with God, about everything in our lives. You can’t have a close relationship with anyone without persistent intimate conversation. Would any of us say, four minutes a day, is enough for an intimate relationship with God.

 So, if you add it all up, if you add up all these reasons, many American Christians have perhaps decided prayer is a waste of their time and does nothing to change their lives. I think one of the reasons our society has so many problems is we just don’t pray enough…none of us! Our society is so filled with broken down marriages and broken down families. We have more people in prison than anyone in the industrial world. In many cities it is dangerous to walk down the streets. Many churches are literally disappearing and I think part of the problem is we Christians don’t pray enough.

 If we ask an American Christian who prays four minutes a day, “Does prayer work?” Many American Christians, if they are honest will say, “Well, I don’t know, but I doubt it.” But, if you ask Christians in South America, Asia and Africa about the effectiveness of prayer, they answer, “O yes. Prayer works enormously well.” They thank God that they have that lifeline because it is dangerous to be a Christian in many of those places. They know they need the Lord’s help to make it through. You don’t ask a person who has played baseball once how to play and you probably shouldn’t ask many American Christians for advice about prayer, they don’t do it enough.

 Jesus our example setter, prayed. All through his life, Jesus had a strong prayer life. Today we read about the disciples, who after watching him pray, asked him to teach them how. Jesus prayed first thing in the morning to thank God for the night. Do we? He prayed at noon time, to thank God for the day. Do we? He prayed to God before he fell asleep, thanking God for the day and asking God to keep him safe. Do we? He also prayed at every meal even when he was out in public. That seems to be a problem for some of us, but not for Jesus. Do we?

 Jesus’ prayer life was real and showed us how he believed prayer was important and that it had an effect on his life. He prayed at times of trouble, like during the temptation in the desert, he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion, and he even prayed on the cross before he died. Jesus also prayed at blessed times of life such as the wedding Cana and when he healed. I can see in my mind’s eye him praying for a friend’s new baby or at a marriage, blessing it. He prayed during good times and bad, he prayed at all times.

 Jesus wanted his disciples to be people of prayer and prayer was the first thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them. Before they asked for the power to preach or to heal, they asked to learn to pray. Do you think they thought it was powerful and important? Well, Jesus’ disciples have been asking that same question ever since.

 Christians are to continue praying for what we think we need until we get it or are given an answer. Jesus tells us, “Ask and it shall be given you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.” But, there is something we need to remember, the answer to our prayers may not always be what we thought we needed.

 I had a personal reminder of that recently as I prayed for my friend DD Howard. He had gone to the hospital that morning because he was having trouble breathing. When I got there, I prayed with him for God to heal him and make him whole and well. Now, in my heart I was praying for him to go home from the hospital and continue being my friend. But, he died that afternoon and my prayers were answered in heaven. The joy in my answered prayer, was that he was made whole and well in heaven, I have no doubt of that when he went to be with his Savior in heaven. Not the whole and well I had imagined and had been asking for, but he truly was healed and made whole and well in paradise. We Christians are to be persistent in our knocking on God’s door and persistent in our prayers. Knowing God will decide the right answer.

 Have any of us ever kept track of who and what we have prayed for and then were amazed at how faithfully God has answered our prayers, just not always in the ways we had asked. I saw that with my prayers for DD and his prayers were answered too. Just a few weeks before he asked me to sing “I Want to Walk Over Heaven With You” for him and Ruth at their fiftieth wedding anniversary. I didn’t know his prayer from that song, to walk through heaven, would be answered so quickly for him, but it was, and someday Ruth, his wife, will be there too.

 The disciples saw Jesus finish his prayers that day and they asked him to teach them to pray. Now, I believe that is one of the reasons you are in church today. We too have asked Jesus to teach you to pray and that prayer has been answered and is continually be answered if we will only listen. Let’s be prayers, like Jesus.

Amen

Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

Healy UMC - Healy, Kansas

 

“The Wounded”

Luke 10:25-37

July 14, 2019

 We have all heard the story of the Good Samaritan. A man is attacked along the road, is robbed, and left for dead, they even took his clothes. Then along came a Priest, a so-called Holy man. I don’t know, maybe he was on his way to do something holy? But, he saw the man, lying naked in the ditch, all beat to a pulp and maybe he was afraid the bad guys hadn’t left? Besides, he couldn’t mess with a bloody body, it would make him sacrificially unclean and he wouldn’t be able to worship in the Temple. So he crossed to the other side of the road and tried very hard to ignore the man lying in the ditch. He had important things to do and didn’t have time for someone who had been stupid enough to allow himself to be assaulted. Isn’t it sad, he missed his chance to do something holy right there beside the road?

 Then along came a Levite. Levites were assistants in the Temple. He couldn’t be late…what would the priest do if the altar wasn’t sat up and the candles weren’t lit. But, he too was probably afraid the robbers might not be gone. He sure didn’t want to be there if they came back. Why, he’d wind up in the ditch with that guy. Lying there naked with everything he owned stolen. So, he hurried and crossed the road, trying not to see this poor, innocent man in the ditch. He thought he had much more important work to do, than helping someone he didn’t know, lying in a ditch.

 Then along comes the Samaritan man. He sees the man, but, he really sees the man, he forgets all about where he was going and what he was going to do when he got there. He does not worry if the robbers are still there. He sees only a hurting person, a person in need of help from him personally, and for him that takes precedence over everything else. He dresses the man’s wounds and puts some clothes on him. He takes him to an inn and pays for the man’s care and only then continues his trip. Leaving the man in the care of the Inn owner, but fully intending to return to see how this man is doing and to make sure he has received good care. So, that’s the parable of the Good Samaritan in a nutshell.

 Now, we have all been in situations when someone needed help and we did the right thing and helped in every way we could. I often think of an old alcoholic man Carla and I kind of adopted in one of our churches. He had leukemia and we took him to doctor appointments, we gave him food, both things we cooked and groceries. I think Carla even did some washing for him. He thanked us by attending church and by trying, not always successfully to stay out of the bottle. It was such a joy to get to know him and to listen to his amazing stories. I later did his funeral and what a joy it was to tell how he loved Jesus Christ even though he had that bottle on his back.

 I think for all of us, there have been others who had something we knew they had done or we suspected them of doing that seemed to put them below our level of caring. People we believed were just too awful, too sinful, or too worthless to deserve our help or our time. I also think we have all been in situations where we have done the right thing, the Good Samaritan” thing. And, we have all checked people out who needed help and decided they were undeserving, or maybe too scary to help. I also think we all know what our correct response is in those times? We do know what we should do, don’t we?

 As I was studying this passage, I was wondering about what this wounded guy in the ditch was thinking. What was going through his mind and heart when people walked by trying very hard not to see him? Did he call out to them and they pretended not to hear?

What was he thinking when the Priest walked by on the other side of the road? Did he see him cross to the other side of the road so he wouldn’t have to be near him? I wonder was he a man who had no faith in God and when the priest ignored him…was his lack of faith made even stronger? I imagine him thinking, “Just like one of those Temple people, ignoring those who need their help, while getting fat and sassy in the Temple on the backs of the poor people who give”? Did he think, “That big shot thinks he is better than me, because he isn’t in the ditch half beaten to death”?

 Did he think the same things when the Levite walked by? Did he notice that the Levite crossed the road, to not be near him? Was he permanently turned off on God and faith by these so-called holy men? I wonder if he is spending eternity in hell, because two people who were supposed to have faith in a good and loving God, walked right by him when he was in terrible need?

 And, I wonder when you and I walk right by someone in need? Do those thoughts go through those people’s mind when we cross the road to avoid those in need? Maybe we don’t literally cross the road, but we do go through some pretty wild contortions to avoid being involved in the lives of those who need help. You know, eyes straight ahead, so that we do not meet the eyes of a needy person we want nothing to do with. Or, the phone calls we ignore, because we recognize the number and do not want to hear the same old sad stories from this person we know is in need. Or, the times we do not answer the door because we know who is there and we tell ourselves we have no time for their troubles or maybe we just don’t care?

 Yeah, I know we hear people talking about how they never give money to people who ask for help because they do not want to we become an enabler. First off, do you think maybe we’re a little too quick to worry about being an enabler? Are we sometimes using it as an excuse not to help? Isn’t that a little like crossing to the other side of the road like the Priest and the Levite? I have done it, stopped helping folks because it became obvious I was enabling them. But, we should all think long and hard before cutting back on helping others for these reasons. I think I have told you about the guy and his kids that I gave fifty dollars to and then saw him going in a liquor store. I was angry, but when it all comes down to it…I had done the right thing and my heart had been in the right place. But, Satan had a hold on that man and maybe some of that money got to his children? Maybe we all should be a little quicker to help and a lot slower to judge the needy?

 As I wrote this sermon, I also thought about times when I was literally the man in the ditch. Like the time on a very hot day, I had a heat stroke and died. A combat medic stepped up and did what so many emergency people do every day. He checked my pulse, I will never forget when he said, “He’s gone!” I wanted to tell them, “No, I’m not,” as I was watching them carefully a few feet away. I’m not sure if I knew all they were supposed to do, but I guess they did it all or God just wasn’t finished with me here on this earth. He got my heart beating again and they evacuated me to a hospital. Physically I needed help and, “Thank the Lord,” I got it from a combat medic that knew his business, wasn’t afraid to do it, and didn’t look away and pretend nothing was going on. I was, and still am, thankful for his help.

 Then there are the times when I was in the ditch mentally and spiritually. Like the time I was partying one Saturday night, trying to forget my problems and met a person who invited me to church the next morning. Or, the time I was hating someone and a friend told me I needed to get rid of the hate and told me how to do it. Or, the time when I was so lonely, I would virtually go anywhere to just not be alone. So, I went to a line dancing class on a Thursday night. Believe it or not, I wasn’t very good at it? I met a beautiful young woman there, who had some of the same problems I had but was willing for us to work them out together. We’re still together after all these years and are still working out our problems and life’s battles together.

 I say today, “Let’s all be Samaritans who help others out of the ditches they find themselves in”. Let’s all be the one who helps the person who has found themselves in a ditch of some kind. Let’s be the one, who gives the one in the ditch material and emotional help. Let’s all be the one who does not judge but just tries to help. And, then let’s also be the one who offers to help the person in the ditch to come to Jesus Christ. Because, through our faith in him we know Christ is the answer to all of their problems and ours.

 We have all been in a ditch of some sort in our lives. Every one of us sometimes need help getting out of the ditch. We all have those times when fellow human beings guided by God, whether they know they are working for God or not, help us out of our ditch. That ditch may be physical, mental, or spiritual, but after we have helped them we need to tell them about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For, there are no problems more important than being without Christ. We all need him and we need to always remember, “The ditches of this world are only temporary, but being without Jesus Christ in our hearts when we die is forever!”

 Let’s never be the Christian who doesn’t try, at least try, after we have helped them out of the ditch, to lead those who are hurting to Jesus Christ for it is after all, the best and only preparation for forever.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

Healy United Methodist Church

Healy, Kansas

 

 “Visitors”

Luke 8: 26-39

July 7, 2019

 As I read this passage I was thinking of a visitor to our house when I was a boy. My Mom’s Mom came to stay with us until her house was finished in town. Her house was in the way of I-70 and was bulldozed to make way for it. Well, one morning we all got up and Grammy, that’s what we called her, was cooking. We had eaten a lot of her food and it was great, we were so excited. But, then someone asked what was for breakfast and Grammy said with a big old smile, “Scrambled pig brains and eggs.” We immediately began to wonder if this visit from Grammy was going to be nearly as good as we thought.

 Then Dad walked in, I think he had smelled breakfast cooking and it didn’t smell all that good. He looked in that old twelve inch cast iron frying pan that was heaping full and asked, not as nicely as us, “What is that?” Grammy smiled, she was really pulling out her best stuff for us, and said again, “Scrambled pig brains and eggs.” Dad didn’t say a word, he just picked the pan off the stove and threw it out the door. He was our hero, we didn’t have to try scrambled pig brains and eggs. Then Dad looked out the back door and said, “Look, the dogs won’t even eat it.” I think the dogs wouldn’t eat it because it was hot, but Dad maybe shouldn’t have said that? It wasn’t the best environment around our house for the few weeks it took for Grammy’s house to be ready in town. You might say it was a little frosty and Dad and we kids worked every moment on it, when Dad wasn’t working at his regular job.

 Now, you might say that visit didn’t really come out too well. But, what about the visit of Jesus and his followers to the Gerasenes’ land, it depended on who you asked. With Grammy, there were some good things, she was a great cook and she was normally fun to be around. But, none of us would ever forget that time she tried to feed us scrambled pig brains and eggs. It kind of worried a feller a little, that she might try it again when Dad wasn’t home. Because, at our house you ate what was served.

 You know, different visits can be so different, some visits are wonderful and some are absolutely awful. Many of the Gerasene people probably weren’t thrilled by Jesus’ visit. I’ll bet those farmers who lost their hogs weren’t all that happy about Jesus’ visit? Would you be?

 So, what if Jesus came to visit here? What would we do? How would we feel? Would we be excited and honored and do all we could to make his visit wonderful? Would we be comforted and uplifted by a visit from Jesus? Or, would we be nervous and worry, hurrying to do some extra cleaning and straightening of the house? What would we cook? I’m guessing it wouldn’t be pig brains and eggs? So, what would we do if Jesus came to visit?

 Today, Jesus visits the country of the Gerasenes, a Gentile region on the east coast of the Sea of Galilee. No matter where Jesus went when he came to visit, things were no longer normal. For, where ever Jesus is, everything is changed and transformed. This visit to the Gerasenes caused quite an uproar.

 Almost before he could get off the boat, Jesus is met by a very sick man. This man is naked and obviously mentally ill. He comes at Jesus from his home in the cemetery, and he is shouting at Jesus to leave him alone, not to torment him. We find out later, it is not the man who is speaking to Jesus, but the demons who are in him who are afraid of Jesus. The demons have good reason to be afraid of Jesus. Jesus later destroyed them and restored the man to health. This is the transforming power of God in Jesus Christ at work.

 The reactions to the visit of Jesus are different. The demons realize they are in the presence of God. They are some of the forces of Satan and are still active in all our lives and in this world, and are always afraid when they come into the presence of the Lord. But, the reaction of the Gerasenes to the healing of their neighbor surprises me. You would think they would be happy that this man is now sane and whole. You would think they would throw a party to celebrate this miracle and bring others who need healing. But, there is none of that. Luke says they are afraid and ask Jesus to leave.

 It seems like an odd response to those of us who aren’t afraid of Jesus. Why are they scared? But, think about it. Maybe they're afraid if Jesus stays around they won't be able to make a living. After all, Jesus has just sent someone’s hogs to death in the lake. Wed all know the power of Jesus extends to pocketbooks and we all know that how often causes trouble. But, the fear of these people may be more than the possibility of no longer having a way to make a living. If Jesus has power over the forces of the world that oppress and bind, if Jesus can heal somebody like this suffering man, while destroying a hog farm, what will he do next? They probably wondered, “Who is safe from this amazing power?” What if I like my life just the way it is and prefer living my life of sin? Would I be thrilled to see someone who will upset the apple cart and change it forever?

I was once talking to a man about church membership and giving his heart to Christ. He wanted to know about asking Jesus to be his Lord and Savior. He was very interested in the idea, that through his salvation in Christ he could spend eternity in heaven and not in hell. But, he wanted to know all that was required of a follower of Jesus, so he asked, “What about church, does the Lord expect me to be in church every Sunday, once I’m saved?” When I told him, “Yes, we should be in church, somewhere every Sunday,” he thought long and hard. But, he finally decided He could live with that. He then said, “I’ve heard I’m supposed to give ten percent of my earnings to the church.” I told him, “Yes,” and he said, “Man that’s a lot of money to just give away.” But, he finally decided he could live with that, too.

 Some might say I made a mistake then. And, if I had it to do over again I might not have said what I did. He could have learned what is required of a person who is in Christ, later as he grew in his faith. He could have grown into all those things we are supposed to do as Christians. I don’t know why, but I then told him we also owe ten percent of our time to Jesus after we have accepted salvation in him. As a kid in confirmation reminded me long ago, “That’s two point four hours a day, sixteen point eight hours a week, and 6,132 hours a year!” I am sure he was doing the same calculations in his head when as he started shaking his head, “You know, I had better think about this,” and left, never coming back. I felt awful, but what I told him is the truth. We are supposed to give of our time to God. Now, there are many ways to do that…with church attendance and Bible studies, serving and helping others, but we are supposed to give BACK ten percent of the time God has given us.

 The Gerasenes, felt it was just too much of a risk to have Jesus around, so they asked him to leave. We often fear something new in our lives too. We see it in churches and individuals that cling to the old ways of doing everything. Holding on to the old ways, even when it is clear that some of those old ministries are not producing fruit. If Jesus came to visit, we just might ask him to leave like the Gerasenes did. Because, he might want to shake things up a little. We might be afraid of what he would do to how we want to live our lives?

 In fact we are already doing this, when we ignore chances for new ministries. When we see places and people in our society that are not in Christ and then ignore ways we can reach them, we are running from new ministries in Christ when we avoid or ignore opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with our neighbors and friends.

 Years ago I took our two oldest girls to the MGM Grand Hotel in Reno, because they had the lion there and were taking pictures of people with him. It took some serious talking, especially with Cori, but we went up and stood beside him as they took our picture. But, as we got close to him we could see his eyes were cloudy, he could barely see. He opened his mouth once when we were close and we could see he barely had a tooth in his head. This was a walking dead, tame lion, not the scary thing we had imagined. Scaredy cat Cori, decided we should take him home and love him. He wasn’t a fearsome lion anymore, he was just a kind of sad, old kitty cat.

 One of the ways we get Jesus to leave us alone with his demands on our time, our money, and our lifestyle is by trying to tame him. We make Jesus stop with his constant calls for ministry by turning him into someone who is only kind and gentle, never gets too upset, and who never threatens anyone. We try to make him boring and safe. But, no one ever accused Jesus Christ of being boring. Many of the people who met him thought he was too powerful and controversial to be safe. And, nowadays many of us try to think only of Jesus as the meek and mild, helpless little baby Jesus, not the all-powerful Lord God on earth. Many of us prefer the toothless and clawless lion of the MGM Grand to the real and powerful Jesus Christ. For, that Christ is a lot less scary than the Christ that cleared the Temple in anger. He’s less challenging than the Christ who faced all the powerful people fearlessly, while doing what He was sent to do on the cross.

 Well, the weak and sweet Jesus many of us want will leave us unhealed and unchanged by our faith. Sure, it will protect our senses and our hearts from the awesome power of God and that’s exactly the Jesus many of us want. Many of us w Jesus who only comes around when we need some help or when we want to get dewy eyed over the manger. We want a Jesus who will protect us and not ask too much of us.

 But, there are other reactions to Jesus and one of them is the man who was healed and it is the reaction we should all be showing. Jesus has given this man back his mind and his life. From a naked, tormented man who lived in the graveyard, he had been changed to one who sits at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. This healed man is so grateful that he asks to go with Jesus back to Galilee. But, Jesus tells him, “No,” stay here and be a disciple in your hometown and he does what he was told, overflowing with the good news of what Jesus has done for him. Did you get that? He stayed in his hometown and witnessed to everyone about the life changing power and love of Jesus Christ He was changed in ways his neighbors could see by his faith in Jesus Christ. Just as we are to be changed by our faith in Him. If we fear the power of Jesus, if we are afraid of the possibility of a new and changed life in him, with all of its responsibilities I think this man would say to us, "I understand your fear, but don't send Jesus away so quickly. I wouldn't go back to who I was before Jesus came to me for anything. Let Jesus make the best of your life.”

 Now, we never know when or where Jesus is going to turn up and call us to Christian ministry. But, if we aren’t feeling a call once in the while or we never have felt one, it is probably because we aren’t listening. He just might come to visit us with an offer of healing and new life. He will always call us to lead others to faith in him and if we are honest with ourselves, we know he has the power to do this. I pray we are all open and listening to what Jesus wants to do through us.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC Healy, Kansas