A Sermon for the Week

 

“Come, Holy Spirit”

Ezekiel 37:1-14 & Acts 2:1-21

June 9, 2019 Pentecost Sunday

 Fifty days after Jesus went back to heaven, the followers of Jesus had a drastic change in their lives as the fire and the wind of the Holy Spirit touched them and they were changed forever. They could do things they had never dreamed of. Healing, preaching, and speaking back and forth with people in their own languages. They were made new in their faith in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Brought to life in a completely new way as the Holy Spirit filled their souls. The Spirit of God had changed them into fearless witnesses for Jesus Christ.

 Today we celebrate, the Day of Pentecost. And the birthday of the Christian church. On that day a new time on earth, a new era began, the time of God in the Holy Spirit. Before Pentecost, people had to try to earn their way to heaven by holy living. I thank God, we no longer have to try to do that. In this new age of life, all people who ask Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit no longer need to earn our salvation.

 We often hear about new eras and new periods in life. Every time some place in the world gets a disease free source for water it is a new era for those people. Every time a new power plant is built in an area that has had no electricity they begin a new era in electrical light. But, even with those changes, human life goes on as it has before. The only difference is that the wars, the hate, and the selfishness happen in electric light and while they drink clean water.

 Real human newness cannot be a building, a power plant, or even a landing on the moon. Humanity’s newness can’t be a new set of laws or even a more harsh enforcement of old laws.  You can’t change the way a family or people treat each other by eating better food or drinking better water. Human nature does not change just because they are more affluent or have more creature comforts. Real change in humanity comes only with belief and attitude changes. It is a fact that real progress in holiness only comes if people’s hearts are changed as they try living as Christ lived.

 That’s what happened when the Spirit came that day. The followers of Jesus, instantly, became capable of speaking and understanding all kinds of languages. And, they were willing to use those new skills to witness for Jesus Christ with people they would never have talked to before. It all happened when they were filled by the Holy Spirit. They went from believing in forgiveness to showing forgiveness. It happened when they understood that God would protect them and catch them when their life ended here. Through that assurance, they were actually brave enough to leave the upper room. Brave enough to go out into the dangerous streets of Jerusalem to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with everyone they met. It didn’t matter to them if the people might make fun of them or even if they tried to kill them! They were going to share their faith in Christ with others.

 It happened when they went from thinking about those grand days when Jesus was still alive to them telling everyone they met about faith in him and they did it in those people’s own languages all over the known world. Were they perfect and without sin? No, they all still sinned, but they repented and tried with all they were to not sin any longer, as they reached out to heal, to serve, to love, and to bring faith in Jesus Christ to everyone. Just as we should be doing.

 You know all followers of Jesus Christ have a moment like that. The moment when belief in Jesus Christ comes alive in our hearts and in our souls and the Holy Spirit fills us. The moment when we believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our personal sin and that through our faith in him we will spend eternity with him in heaven. When that happens it changes us, it is a transforming faith. It is a moment when the Spirit moves our minds and hearts to faith in Christ. We then begin to move our feet and our hands, our mouths and our lips in a new way…in an eternal life way.

 You’ve seen people transformed by the Spirit…we have all seen it. People who had problems with addictions and problems in their families are transformed by faith in Christ. People who had problems at work and when they turned to God in Jesus Christ they are changed. When people turn to Christ and let Him lead and take control of their lives, things change for them. Maybe not instantly, but the changes began to be noticeable.

 I was thinking about Spirit guidance in my own life. Like the time I was with a man who needed Christ so badly. He was dying and he knew it and he was afraid about where he would spend eternity. I knew what he had to do, that he needed Christ in his heart, but I had no idea what words to say to bring him there. So, I began praying with him and as I prayed I felt the touch of the Holy Spirit guide my words. I went from the guy with no idea what to say to one who had the words that helped this man understand. Then the Holy Spirit got into him and he broke in and prayed for Jesus Christ to be his personal Savior. I didn’t have the words, but the Spirit gave them to me and to him.

 Things begin to change when a person opens themselves to the Spirit. When we give God control, through the power of the Holy Spirit, our lives change for the better. At that moment of the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will come to every one of us, if we will JUST open the door to our hearts and let it in.

 For the first disciples that moment happened with a rush of wind and tongues of fire. For John Wesley, our founder…it came when he was listening to Martin Luther's Commentary of Romans with some Moravian Baptists. As he felt his heart "strangely warmed". For me it came at a revival meeting. When no one and not a thing could have prevented me from asking Jesus Christ into my heart. It comes in other ways for other people as the Spirit changes them and their lives.

 It changes lives like rain does after a month of dry weather. It gives life to our heart and soul. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4…”The Spirit is the sign and it is the seal of our relationship with God”. God's gift of the Spirit took me from knowing about God to asking Jesus Christ into my heart and having God's power in me and while I can hold that power down once in the while. Sometimes for a little while; I can turn away from it and hide from it. I can never completely run away, it is always there, urging me to do the Christ-like thing.

 It is there and I know it and it fights with me to do the right thing. The Spirit just won’t let loose. The Spirit fights with me to do the right thing. When I finally let go and let God move me…when I let the Spirit work in me, beautiful things happen. Like when that dying man came to faith in Christ. You know, I think he is in heaven today because I let loose and let the Spirit use me.

 The Spirit remind us of God’s Word. Words we sometimes try to forget and words that we sometimes look for. Then because of God’s grace the words are ours. The words that allow us to explain forgiveness and the love of God in Jesus Christ to someone who is hurting. The power which gives us the words that convict and encourage and bring others to Christ. Finally when a person surrenders their heart to Christ. the Spirit comes and gives them words to bring peace to their own soul.

 The Spirit is in us, and through us it can flow to others. Sometimes it’s like the wind and sometimes it’s like the gentle flapping of a dove's wings. Sometimes at its most powerful it is like fire, or a raging river! And, sometimes, sometimes, it is like a still small voice, whispering to our hearts.

 This is the age we are in, the new age that was born on the day of Pentecost. A time that allows true transformation of all humanity. Giving humanity a new way of living…a life lived in Christ. The Spirit makes it happen. All we have to do to enter is to reach out to Christ for it and ask for it to come. Jesus told us, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink."

 Today there are people here, who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Folks who have never given their hearts to Christ. You know who you are and let me tell you, I want you in heaven with me, someday when your life here is ended. The Holy Spirit is tugging on your heart right now…don’t you feel it?

 Let’s all, bow our heads and close our eyes. For those of you who haven’t asked Christ in. Those of you who don’t have the assurance of paradise with Jesus when you die. Let the Spirit in…and feel it move you…ask Jesus in NOW. Ask Him to come into your heart as you ask Him to forgive you of your sins. Then during our song of invitation today or after church come and talk to me. Come proclaim your faith in Jesus Christ. Let the Spirit in and let it take control.

 Those that already know Christ, let’s all allow the Spirit in. Those who know that when their life is done here they will be in heaven with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Have you been hiding from the work the Spirit is trying to lead you to? Let the Spirit move you and begin. Let the Spirit guide you to what you are supposed to be doing for Jesus Christ on this earth.

 For, when we are filled with the Spirit. When we turn to Christ, believing and seeking him in our prayers, in church, and in the world around us. He comes to us in the Spirit through our faith in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, God makes us new and works through us to others. "As the scripture has said", Jesus said, "'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.'"

 This river of living water flows because God makes it flow. They are the rivers of living water that will lead people to faith in Christ. The rivers of living water giving people the assurance that their eternity will be with Christ in Paradise. The Lord made it happen through the gift of Pentecost. He made it happen with the gift of his Spirit. Let’s praise God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As we give our hearts completely to Jesus Christ. Come Holy Spirt. Come.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

Healy United Methodist Church

Healy, Kansas

 

“God Knows and God Cares”

Amos 8:1-12

June 2, 2019

 As an enlisted man in the Army I was seldom in command. Enlisted men work for officers who are the commanders. But, if the two of us were doing our jobs the ranking enlisted man under him was the Commander’s closest advisor and comrade.

 With that in mind, have you ever given your boss an honest answer they didn’t want to hear? Like when the boss asked you what you thought of their new plan and the plan looks to you like it has holes in it. Now, you could tell the truth and maybe prevent a disaster or you could tell him what he wanted to hear. A lot of folks wrongfully live their lives telling the boss only what the boss wants to here. People have names for those people that I am not going to say, here today.

 After many years in the Army. In my first sit down with them, preferably on the first day. If you don’t want my truthful answer, please don’t ask me the question. Because, I’m going to try to never going to lie to you, I’ll always tell you what I truly believe is the truth. Many times later I would see the boss turn to me and start to ask what I thought and then turn back, for he didn’t want to hear what he thought I was going to say. But, when that happened I would always go to him after the meeting and tell him what I thought if I thought his idea was going to put our folks in danger.

 Well, that was the problem Amos has run into, times were good in Israel and the people who called the shots in society were doing great. Israel wasn’t even fighting, too much, with their neighbors. The future looked pretty good in Israel. The big shots wanted it to stay the way it was forever.

 When things are like that…people don’t want to hear someone saying, “Hard times are coming”. Kind of like my bosses not asking me the question that he didn’t want to hear my answer to in front of his subordinates. And, Amos wasn’t welcome with his end of the good times is coming, preaching. Who wants to hear about bad coming, when what's going on in the present is soooo very good? Who wants to hear criticism and condemnation when everyone thinks things have never been better?

 Who needs a word from the Lord when our own words make so much sense to us? Who needs the Lord when we are being so successful? Who cares what God thinks when what we are doing is bringing such good times? Who wants to hear trouble is coming when there’s money in the bank and our bellies are full. You know, it's hard to be a prophet when what God has told us to share contradicts what the majority believes is true.

 Amos was a prophet and prophets aren't welcome when times are good and the prophet is describing the bad times that are coming. Who was that kid in Peanuts who had a cloud following him around? Well, in the eighth century B.C., Amos, had like a dark rain cloud on a bright sunny day as he told prosperous people the end of the good times is coming. Nobody wanted to see him or hear his negative thoughts. Nobody wants a rain cloud at a party.

 But, Amos does what God told him to do and he tells Israel that the end, the end of all the prosperity and the end of Israel was coming. We wouldn’t want to hear that either. In fact these politicians that are saying we have twelve years to straighten out, who wants to hear them that understand the costs of what they are asking for? Remembering we are to care for this planet God gave us. Besides the fact that it may get very uncomfortable on earth before Christ returns, but we Christians know the world will end when Christ returns and not a second before.

 Amos, through the power of God, sees the end coming. He saw the corruption and the greed and the sin that has helped those on the top to get very rich. While the bottom of society was cheated, held down, enslaved, and killed. He saw how the merchants cheated with unfair scales. Fortunes made while hurting others. Now, there’s nothing wrong with honest profits, but when they are made on the backs of others, it is wrong.

 In their worship they just went through the motions without any heart felt worship of God. The truth was that they were just waiting until their businesses could reopen after the Sabbath. Amos told them despite what it may feel like it, it is not the best of times and that it was all coming to an end

 God gave him a vision of a fruit basket, overflowing with ripe, summer fruit, the lesson was clear. The fruit that looked so good and was sooo sweet, but fruit at the peak of flavor doesn’t last long. I know it has happened to you. I buy a bunch of pears, my favorite, because they look so good. At first they aren’t ripe and then when they are finally ripe I can’t eat the quickly enough before they rot.

 Amos says, that's what it's like to live in a land and in a time of injustice and unrighteousness. It's like a basket of summer fruit. Everything looks great right now. But, in the bottom of the basket, bad things are happening. As the rot and mold spread from piece to piece. One bad piece will destroy the whole bunch and there were lots more than one bad person in Israel. The good times can't last for God will allow their society to spoil because of the evil they were doing.

 One day a bunch of children were lined up in the cafeteria of a Christian school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. There was a note next to the apples that read, "Take only one apple, God is watching." At the other end of the table, was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies.  One boy wrote a note and put it next to the cookies, "Take all you want, God is watching the apples." But, that’s not how it works with God, God is all-seeing and God cares what is happening.

 Amos is telling the people of Israel…that God notices…that God is watching. He is watching over everything. God knows the truth about who we are and what we've done. It is a simple fact, everything matters to God. He knows what kind of life we are living. He watches how we treat those less fortunate than us. He knows where we are in our spiritual walk and he cares where we are, in it.

 So, Amos is brave enough to rain on their parade, telling them the good times are ending. Amos knows God notices what we do and that what we do, does matter to God.

The pages of the Bible are filled with people who believe God cares and notices what we do. But I wonder how many of us believe that God notices and God cares? It seems like, not many of us believe it. For surely our lives would be different if we truly believed who we are and what we do matters to God.

 Wouldn’t we use our time differently if we knew how we used it, mattered to God? Wouldn’t we spend our money differently? Would we let other things take us away from worshipping God here on Sunday morning if we believed it? We wouldn't just go through the motions in worship. We wouldn’t wait so impatiently for worship to be over so we can get to what we really want to do. If we truly believed God cares and knows what we are doing, we'd worship God as if our lives depended on it.

 If we believed that God notices and that God cares, we might change how we live our lives. We'd do more about the evil in our government. We would pray more for those who are being killed for their Christianity and the babies killed in abortions. And, yes, I believe the fathers of those babies should be hounded for support of the babies they father and not just the mothers. We'd count blessings more than dollars and work to save souls for Jesus Christ and care about others more than we do for our bank accounts and our fun.

 That's what we might be like if we believed God knows and God cares. Until then, I’m afraid, many of us will continue to fool ourselves, believing the basket of fruit won’t spoil. I’m afraid many will go on thinking the way we live is our business and not God’s.

 We may have lost our belief that God notices what's going on with us. But children haven't. Children understand God is close and interested and involved in their lives. We see and hear their understanding in lots of ways. We hear children thank God for giving them families and friends. They thank God for holiday gifts and special talents. They ask God to cancel school, to heal a sick friend, and to help them with their homework. Children rightly believe God notices them and that they, personally matter to God.

Children’s belief that God is close to us confirms what Amos says, reminding me of what so many of us so often forget. God does notice…he notices everything. And, God cares about what we do and say. He cares about our every action and our every word.

 That can be a little scary for all of us. Especially the way Amos says it, telling a people consumed with consuming. A society that is rotting and won’t last. A God who notices is scary news when you aren’t living right.

 But, it can also be good news. Children think of it as good news that God notices and cares and I try to think that way, too. That our God is close enough to see our shoes…compassionate and caring enough to talk to. Loving enough to bring good things, wonderful things, into our lives. Caring enough to hear our cries and complaints with love and never anger and God is powerful enough to help us. A God who notices is good news when you are trying to live in the light of Jesus Christ. It’s good news even when we make the mistakes we will all make. Because, when we come to him with a repentant heart, asking forgiveness, he will erase all record of our wrong doing.

 I guess it all depends on what it is in our lives God will see. Children, in their beautiful, simple honesty, have nothing to hide. They want God to notice them and their life.

 Adults, though, would often prefer to believe that God doesn't really care about what we do or say. Because, if He does know and does care, we might actually have to change the way we live our lives and many of us don’t want to.

 We'd rather leave the idea of a God who notices and cares to children and crazy preachers, like Amos and Bud. We often act like we know better than Amos, don't we? We act like we believe God doesn't really notice or care what we are doing in our lives. Many of us act as if we don’t really believe the Bible means what it says and our lives show it. We seem to think Jesus was just teasing in Luke when he said we had to come to Him like children to enter the kingdom of God. We often seem to believe the ripe summer fruit will never spoil. Sometimes we act as if we believe God doesn’t know and doesn’t care what we do, don't we?

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

Healy UMC

Healy, Kansas

 

“ON the Mountaintop”

Luke 9:26-45

May 26, 2019

 We have all had mountaintop experiences, the times when we feel life just couldn’t get any better. Now, some of those times are spiritual experiences and others happen in everyday normal life. You know, life experiences like the birth of a child or when we fall in love. Then there are spiritual experiences…the times when we actually feel the touch of God. Like, when we ask Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior and the Holy Spirit touches our soul and we know, he has come to live in our heart. But, God is in all of our mountaintop experiences, the life experiences and the spiritual. For, God is with us in all the rest of our lives. He is literally everywhere, God is in all that is good in our lives. 

 So, let’s talk about the Presence and the Glory of God being all around us…even when we don’t notice. God is on the mountaintops with us, down in the valleys, and in the plains of life, too. The glory of God, the Presence of Christ, and the power of the Spirit are with us on the mountaintops when all is going great. He’s also with us when we are down in the valleys and things aren’t going well, and he’s with us in the plains of everyday life.

 You know, it’s easy to understand Christ is present with us in the mountaintop experiences. Most of us know, God is present in those special moments when we can feel his presence and we just know for sure that God is with us. In those moments the goose bumps come. Or, when we can’t hold back the tears of joy from the touch of the Holy Spirit. Those are grand times and once we experience them, no one could ever convince us they weren’t the touch of God.

 I think back to the first time I had the privilege of leading another soul to Christ. He was a twelve year old in the junior high boy’s Sunday school class I was teaching in Eagle River, Alaska. When I started teaching that class I had the girls and the boys together and found that I wasn’t trained or dispositioned for twenty junior high boys and girls in the same classroom. I guess they thought an Airborne Ranger First Sergeant could handle them. I pray for God to bless all junior high teachers. So, I told the Sunday school director I would continue if I had either the boys or the girls. That I just couldn’t do both. The lady who had quit the class before me because of the same problem, willingly took the girls and I ended up with the boys.

 The day that boy came to faith, we had learned about salvation in Jesus Christ from John 3 where we are told that we must be born of the Spirit through faith in Christ to go to heaven. After we prayed at the end of class, one boy asked, “Could I ask Jesus to be my Savior, right now?” He didn’t want to do it tomorrow, not at invitation time in church, he wanted to do it right now. The Holy Spirit had a hold of his soul and he wanted Jesus Now! So, with heads bowed, he prayed for Jesus to be his Lord and Savior. There were tears in all our eyes. No, doubt it was a mountaintop experience for the boy, but also for the rest of us in that classroom as we were touched by the Holy Spirit. We were all up on the mountaintop of joy. We knew…God was right there with us. And, in the next six months each one of those boys came to faith in Christ. It was a wonderful beginning for them. Those are the opportunities that come when teaching a young people’s class and that’s why I wonder why we don’t have more people wanting to teach.

 There are mountaintop experiences all through the Bible, like when Moses searched for a lost sheep and saw the burning bush. As he stood there, he heard the voice of God say, “Moses, take off your shoes, you are on holy ground.” Moses had no doubt the Lord was talking to him. Later, while leading the Israelites to the Promised Land Moses was called to the top of Mount Sinai. Six days and nights he waited. Then, a cloud surrounded the mountain. Moses knew he was in the Presence of God as God spoke and gave him the Ten Commandments.

 The gospel lesson for today was a mountaintop experience for Peter, James, and John. They were up on Mount Tabor with Jesus to pray. Jesus went a little further up the hill to pray, when suddenly Jesus’ face began to glow and Moses and Elijah appeared to talk with Jesus. A cloud came around them as they heard the voice of God say, “This is my beloved Son, Jesus. Listen to him.” They knew, in their hearts, God had been there with them and that they had heard the voice of God. Peter wanted to make monuments to this touch of God.

 God comes to us all in the wonderful moments when we know for sure God has been with us and has communicated with us. He is with us in all those times when we know and feel the touch of God. God comes to us, in those mountaintop moments where we feel the Presence of God, times when we know for sure that God is with us, and has spoken to us. God comes to us, in those special moments when someone is healed and we are convinced the healing is from God.

 I talk to people all the time who are absolutely convinced that God has healed them? I have a friend in Utica who was told years ago that he had six months to live and he will tell you he knows God has touched him. I have no doubt God was with us when Carla drove me to the hospital because my chest was hurting. I will tell you, if you want to be seen quickly in an emergency room, walk in bent over holding your chest. Then, I was healed by God, through the hands of a surgeon. I will never forget a lady who was unconscious and dying and we had communion around her bed one Sunday afternoon. The doctors said, she could be gone at any moment. But, she was in church the next Sunday, yes, in a wheelchair, but in church, conscious, and thanking God for her healing.

 Sometimes these moments come on a mountaintop of joy, sometimes they come in healing, and sometimes it happens in a worship service. It can happen anytime. I feel the touch often when I am preaching. You probably notice those times, when the tears well up in my eyes and I’m having trouble speaking, the Spirit is touching me as I preach or sing. Times when I know I am feeling the touch of the Lord. You know for yourself, the times, when some song, some group of words said in church touch us and we feel the touch of God.

 I will always remember my coming to Christ moment when I talk about the touch of the Spirit. I was sitting in the pew, minding my own business when God touched my heart and sent me to the altar to ask Jesus Christ to be my Savior. I couldn’t have stayed in that pew if I had tried. In fact I’m not sure I didn’t float to the altar.

 Yes, God comes to us in those mountaintop experiences. God comes to us through his healing touch. God comes to us in those special times when the Holy Spirit touches our souls. As a Pastor I have found if I have a feeling that I should go to see someone, I always try to go. When I ignore that urging, I always miss something that I shouldn’t and didn’t have to miss. The fact is, God truly does communicate with us if…if we are listening.

 The moments in life when God clearly speaks to us are real. On a mountaintop, in a healing, or in a worship service. I remember my tears over Christ crucified when I watched “Jesus Christ Superstar” as Mary Magdalene sang of her sadness one evening in London at the Palladium Theatre. Or, maybe you felt the Lord’s touch when your children were born? In those moments, God speaks to us and we just know in our hearts, God has touched us.

 But, our lives aren’t always on the mountaintop. The last part of our Bible lesson was after the Transfiguration and it is an important part of the story. As the disciples and Jesus come off the mountain they meet a family who has a boy who is having epileptic seizures. After that powerful spiritual time on the mountain, life on earth hits them, right in the face. The boy’s parents are broken hearted and worried about their sick child. As Jesus and the disciples came off the mountain they were hit immediately with the problems of real life. Problems like each one of us have in our lives. We come from mountaintop experiences and run right into the canyons of the sad and difficult parts of our lives. The disciples discovered God is with us in the valley and not just on the mountaintop.

 Yes, we do have mountain top experiences where we feel the touch of God, but God is also with us in the valleys, too. But, God is still with us when we return to the real world and to everyday life. After the Sundays of life, there are always Mondays and God is with us in them.

 Did you ever wonder in the story of Jesus, which of all the stories was most important? Many automatically pick, the story of the resurrection on Christ. I agree, the promise of Easter is wonderful. Knowing that through our faith in Jesus Christ, we no longer need to fear death for through our faith in Christ we will be resurrected just as he was. It truly is a wonderful promise.

 But, think about this…without Christ’s sacrifice on that Friday, without his death on the cross for our sins, not his, we would not have the promise of the resurrection. Our God, the only God, came to die for us, for our sins, and not because we deserved it, but because he loved us just that much.

 I believe God is with us, not only on the mountaintops, but God is with us in the valleys, too. We all know what it is like down there in the canyons. We know what it means to experience severe illness or the death of loved ones. We know what it means to have difficulties in our marriage. We know what it means to lose one of our loved ones or friends much too early and much too painfully. We know the low experienced after a storm destroys our homes or hail flattens crops. We have all been down at the bottom of the canyon and I pray we all know God is with us then, too. I pray we know God speaks to us there, giving us words of hope and strength in the most difficult of times.

 God is also with us in the ordinary days of our lives. Now, we don’t spend as much time as we would like on the mountaintops and thank the Lord, we don’t spend all of our lives down in the valley. Where we spend most of our time is living our plain old, ordinary lives. Well, God is there, too. God is with us, when we are driving to work and when we are making breakfast. When the telephone rings and when we talk to a friend. He’s there when we are sitting in the tractor planting corn. And, God is with us when we feed the cattle. God is there, always and all the time and we can feel Him there if we are only open to His loving touch.

 You know, how it is, you are living your everyday old life and then you suddenly see of feel the touch of God. Like, when you stand underneath a flowering tree in the spring and see a million flower blossoms, God is there. You know God is there when you save a cold and bedraggled calf and she becomes a pet. God is there when you play catch with your kid and have a good laugh when she throws it over your head and breaks a window. God is there when you cook your spouse a special supper and it makes them smile. You know, in just plain old everyday life, God is there, for God is with us…always. I pray each of us will open our hearts and let him in. Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC, Healy, Kansas

 

“Moms...and Dads Are Teachers”

Proverbs 22:6

June 16, 2019

 In Proverbs 22:6 we are given these words about parenting…

6Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” These are some words we should be paying attention to. The title of this sermon is the unvarnished truth, moms and dads are teachers of their children. No matter how we try to avoid it we are teachers for our children. It doesn’t matter who we say should teach our kids how to act, how to live, and how to love, we are teaching them by our actions and by our words. Whether we believe it or not, our kids are watching us, and learning what we believe is important, and how an adult should live their life. Kids may seem to ignore us, but I’ll guarantee you, they aren’t, they are watching us constantly and they are soaking in what they see as correct behavior. They are learning the way they should live their lives from us. That’s one of the reasons parenting is an awesome responsibility. But, it is just a little bit scary, because of how important our relationship is with our children and how it will affects their behavior.

 Now, as I wrote this, I came back to the start of this sermon to add one thing. That is; you might think, I think, from this sermon, that I am a perfect parent and grandparent, that I think I have it all figured as I talk about being a good parent. I hope it doesn’t seem as if I am talking down to anyone that I think I parent like this and this is how we should all do it.

 But, I stand by what I am saying a parent should do in their lives as it relates to their children and spouse and I do admit, I do not have it all down. I know the things I say here today are the right things to do. But, as with so much of my life, knowing something is right, is not always what we do. Knowing something is right does not always result in what any of us do. Good parenting, like a close Christian walk is a wagon we sometimes, maybe even often, fall off. We will make mistakes and there are times when we will not do the right thing. But, with the help of God, we need to give our best effort to walk closely with Christ and consciously work towards being the parent we should be. That’s what I try to do and I hope you are trying to get there too. 

 When my first marriage broke up we had two beautiful little girls. I realized the marriage was a thing of the past, but so wanted to be with my girls. Nowadays they have those joint custody divorces where both parents share evenly in the time they get to spend with their kids. There were some of those back then, but my being in the Army really complicated things for me. For joint custody would mean that my ex-wife and I would have to live fairly close together and the Army doesn’t have a reenlistment option for staying near your ex-wife. Yes, I know I could have gotten out of the Army…but, then I would have been searching for a job and hurt my chances of custody even more.

 After we broke up, I was spending a lot of money on a lawyer to gain custody of the girls for myself. I guess, during a divorce, we all think we are the better parent. But, one day my father told me that I should maybe stop spending all that money fighting in the courts and just save it for when I was with my girls. He said that I was, throwing good money after bad. So, I quit paying the lawyer, signed the divorce papers, and put in my leave for the summer when I could be with them. I spent my thirty day leave every year with the girls, except on the years I got to be with them on Christmas and I had to save a little leave (vacation) for that. We had one summer when the three of us did five national parks and the beach in California. We would camp and stay with friends and relatives as we travelled.

 Now, I always worried that maybe I wasn’t doing enough or being enough a part of their lives. That I wasn’t with them enough to really teach them very much. But, I did know their time with my family, the rest of the summer was a good influence on them. Then, at the end of the summer my Mom and Dad would usually take them home to their Mom. I am eternally grateful for my family’s help in the raising the girls.

 But, as I said, I was worried that I hadn’t given them much of a fatherly example in only thirty days a year. But, looking back it was the best I could do and God has rewarded me in that. The girls have told me many times how much they loved their summers with me and my family. I especially loved the summer when they came to Christ and were baptized.

 When I remarried I gained three more beautiful little girls that needed a parenting example from me also. I would like to say it was easier because I had more time with them. But, they also had more opportunity to see me mess up in my parenting and they certainly did. But, our marriage also made it so much easier to spend more time with my first two girls. Carla really helped my parenting and I think we both do our very best at parenting our children…all of them. Now we have five beautiful young women and the ones who have kids, I believe and pray, are raising their children in Christ believing churches.  Somehow we managed to impress the importance of a Christian life on them as they grew up.

 But, my point in all this is that no matter what we do, no matter how we try avoid it, we parents are teaching our kids. We are teachers in what we do that is good and right and we are teachers for our children when we don’t. We are teaching our children when we take the time to come to church with our family. We are teaching when we stay home and watch TV and someone takes them to church, if they go at all.

 We teach our kids what we think is important whether we mean to or not. We are teaching our kids when we take the time to pray at meals, even at the restaurant. We are teachers when we just plop and wolf down our food without a thought to the one who has provided it. We are teachers when we talk about our faith in Jesus Christ with them and in front of them. We are teaching them that we have a relationship with Jesus Christ and that we thinks it’s important and that they should want to know him too.

 I was thinking of one of my favorite things my Dad used to do with us when we were small. He was a pretty good cartoonist and he would tell stories and illustrate them as he told them. I loved that time with him. I loved the times when he let me help him as he worked. I watched closely, so closely that he accidentally hit me in the forehead with a claw hammer, I was watching really closely. We are teaching our kids when we take the time to read to them and hold them and love them and we are teaching them when we are ALWAYS too busy to be with them.

 My Mom was a little bit of a hot head? She would get angry and holler a little. But, Dad never responded in kind he would just explain to her what he thought, never joining in the hot tempers and anger. In fact the only times I saw him really angry was when someone would treat her badly. He loved her with all his heart and it showed in his life. He was teaching us how a husband treats his wife every day by his behavior. And, please don’t think Mom didn’t love Dad, her love for him was always obvious to us kids. Wives and husbands should treat their spouses with love and respect.

For, we are also teachers for our children when we scream at our spouses or when we physically assault them. We are teaching them that’s how married folks treat their spouses. Those who treat their spouses with respect and love, while putting them above all else on the earth…they are teaching their children that is the right thing to do. Whatever way we decide to go, our boys will believe that is the way they should treat their wives and our daughters will expect to be treated that way in their marriages. Now, it is awful to teach our sons to abuse their spouses…but to teach our daughters to expect that kind of treatment…my, my, my.

 When I was a boy I rode around with a horse trader. We had been working on a foundered pony, trimming his feet and getting him slicked up to take to the sale. He kind of made a side business of rehabilitated foundered horses. I know you can’t rehabilitate them, he just made them appear as if they were completely healthy.

 I asked him one day, if he was going to tell the buyers before he sold the pony that it had been foundered and he told me, that was the buyer’s problem and the buyer had better beware and it wasn’t his responsibility to tell them. Fortunately, I had been taught differently at home. When we cheat others in financial dealings we teach our children that it is OK to be dishonest in their business and personal lives. When we are honest in our business dealings we are teaching our kids that is how we should deal with others in financial matters. So, when our children see us admitting the faults of something we are selling we are teaching them honesty in our business dealings. When our child sees something as simple as when we are given too much change and we give it back, we are teaching them how they will live their lives.

 Now, the most serious question of all…do you and I want our children in heaven with us when we die? Do we? Well, if we do, we need to demonstrate the importance of our walk with Jesus Christ each and every day for them. If our children see our walk with Christ is important to us, they will come to think it is important in their own lives and want to know more. I often talk about how I want my granddaughters in heaven with me with our daughters. I say that because I pray my daughters will raise their children in the church and in Christ so that they too may come to faith in Christ.

 I once asked a family if they thought their weekend fun was more important than being in church. I asked them where a kid was most likely to come to faith in Christ, “In church and Sunday School or doing anything else?” We can all pick things that seem more important than our church lives and our relationship with Christ. Now, did I mean leaving for a weekend was impossible because we need to be in church and Sunday School? No, the fun can go on, if we will stop for a couple of hours on our trips and worship wherever we are, it will teach our children the importance we place on our spiritual life and going to church. Maybe you could teach a Bible lesson in camp. Something to demonstrate for our children the importance we hold for our relationship with Christ.

 I am so happy that all our daughters are followers of Jesus Christ. I am so happy that they are living and raising their children in the church and in a relationship with Jesus Christ. I am so happy that our daughters believe they are to be respected and loved by their husbands. And, I believe they are honest in their business dealings.

 But, remember, what I said at the very start, about knowing I wasn’t perfect and that I do not always do everything that I should do as a father. Yes, I knew what I should be doing, I had even had some examples of correct and incorrect behavior as I grew up. But, I sometimes fall off the wagon. Sometimes I didn’t do the right thing and sometimes I was a poor parent. But, also as I said at the start; I tried my best almost all of the time to be a good parent.

 Now, I have always told my girls and the folks that worked for me that all I hoped for from them, was the very best they could do. In my own life I have almost always been successful when I gave a project my very best effort. And, when I looked back after failure, I could usually find where I had done less than my very best.

 I believe that is what the Lord wants from us. The Lord wants us to do our very best in our walk with Jesus Christ and he wants our very best effort in raising our children to love Jesus Christ. If we do, I truly believe, he will bless each of us in it, as he has done me.

Amen.    

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC Healy, Kansas

 

 “He Is With Us”

John 14:1-14

May 5, 2019

 Jesus told each one of us in John 14…“I go to prepare a place for you. … I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” It sounds great…it is the most wonderful promise God made to us. But, that is only part of the promise Jesus was making to his disciples. He also said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

 We are promised eternal life in Paradise through, and only through our own personal faith in Jesus Christ. We are promised we will be cared for by God, fed by God, and carried through life by God. That we already have a foot in in the heaven Jesus has prepared for us. But, as nice as all that sounds…isn’t it sometimes difficult to imagine Jesus Christ in this world? We believe that if we look we can see evidence of Jesus being the way, the truth and the life? While sometimes wondering, if people truly believed God is with us, wouldn’t the world be a much better and different place is he were?

 Jesus often talked about the Kingdom of heaven being here already…and, we are also told we must be working to build that Kingdom right here and right now. He taught, we aren’t far from the kinds of things that happened when our church began. People being saved and healed and transformed in Christ.

 But, in Acts Stephen was stoned to death for Christ. How does this fit it in? Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit…even after trying to live a life imitating Jesus. He was stoned to death by an angry crowd. They covered their ears so they couldn’t hear him as he forgave them and prayed for them. A frightening picture? An angry crowd, hostile to what is good. That that sounds a lot like what some folks are experiencing today? But, why, why were they killing him?

 It was because they couldn’t imagine God would come here in the body of a peasant man like Jesus, live among human beings, die on the cross, and then rise from that grave. We might think, “How sad for them, they were rubbing elbows with him and didn’t recognize him”. Our self-righteous selves might say, “I wouldn’t have done that!”

 But, hold on and think about that, look at all that happens today. Christians are brutally murdered by guerillas with machine guns or machetes. Girls are sold to the highest bidder for a false god called Allah. Does that sound like the god you want to worship? Others are killed, because they are working for freedom or education or because they belong to the wrong tribe. Or, for something as simple as not wearing a scarf over their hair. We might ask, “Where is this Kingdom of heaven, that’s coming in all that?” For that matter, we sometimes wonder, “Where is Jesus when these terrible things are happening?” We may feel like he has gone to prepare a heavenly place for us and has forgotten all about us right here and right now?

 Do our hearts become troubled? Of course, they do. It hurts my heart to see what is done to those who are following Christ, but also the brutality to all those who aren’t followers hurts me, too. But, at least those who follow Christ are headed to heaven. We wonder how we can build our faith to the point where we can believe in a different world for all. A place where everyone loves Jesus Christ and each other. How do we build a world where we can still find and see God in and during hardship?

 Look at 1st Peter, where Peter tells us how…2Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

We need to believe that we can drink the pure, spiritual milk God offers and then begin to grow in Christ. That’s where we can start again. It doesn’t matter how old and how tired we’ve become in the church. We are offered that strength from God. We can find it through prayer, through the words of our teachers, and scripture and through the example of those who love us in Christ. We’ve all known them, those great witnesses for Christ, whose light never seems to dim.

 One of the most powerful ways of growing in the spirit is through sharing in Christ’s body and blood? Believing that Jesus left this with us so we could touch him and know he is in us. There is power in Communion, have you felt it? There is the mystery that grows in us if we just open our hearts and minds to all God reveals to us. There is power that helps us continue looking for ways to build the Kingdom of heaven, now!

 Peter told us we are chosen, that we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God. Do you believe that and know it in your heart? I pray you do. But, if we’re not quite there, how can we begin to understand and believe those words? Because, when people begin to truly believe those words, they find themselves doing amazing things. We might first think of those people like Stephen who gave their lives for what they believed. But, we also need to think about ourselves, we are called to build the kingdom in many different ways. It might be through teaching, writing, or through our integrity, and not being fake? Maybe through something as simple as bringing a neighbor or a neighbor’s child to church.

 I honestly believed I wasn’t good enough to be a Pastor of a church. And, I’m not, I’m just not good enough. But, God through the power of the Holy Spirit has guided me through and given me some amazing moments when I knew for certain I was doing what God wanted me to do. When I first told a ministry board I believed I was being called to full time ministry in a rural setting, I said that I thought after six months in service I would know for sure. But, just a few weeks later at a JV ball game watching one of the kids in our church play basketball, her little sister, a kindergartener, came and sat beside me and told me all about her day in school. It was at that moment I was sure I was in the right place and doing the right job.

 But, we need to remember, Jesus never promised a safe and trouble-free life here on earth, for those who follow him. He was always very honest about the fact that “the world” would hate us for our faith. He told us they might even try to kill us. But, if we try…if we begin to believe we are chosen to share the Good News of Jesus Christ everywhere we go and then start doing it. We are beginning to build the Kingdom. We will begin adding new souls for Christ and while beginning to feel a difference in ourselves. For, the Kingdom on earth begins; in our hearts.

 We need to be careful, however, not to think we have to complete the building of the Kingdom on our own. We all want to see instant success and life doesn’t always work that way. We may just be the planter of a seed and someone else will lead that soul to Christ. Unless we provide that witness the next person will be the seed planter and they may be lost forever. We all have to be witnesses, not just the preacher and not just the Sunday School teachers.

 The Kingdom here on earth will never be finished until Christ returns, but it will continue to grow until then. We are a part of all this, a critical and unique part, but we are not the whole show. We must each do our part, using our gifts. If not, someone will be missed, they will be lost. For, evil all over this world, will never stop trying to destroy goodness. Satan is a lot harder to get to give up than we are.

 So, we need to continue building ourselves up. But, we also need to work together and pray together to bring lost souls to Christ. Working together to become that holy nation, a holy community, right here in the church with all who love Jesus Christ.

 Each and every one of us are called. Each and every one of us are invited to follow Jesus who is our way, our truth and our life. And, each and every one of us are to be planting the seeds of faith everywhere we go. The Good News is that Jesus will be with us. He will never to leave us. Even if they kill us he will always be there to catch us. We are chosen through our faith in Christ. For, through our faith in Jesus Christ, we are God’s and God’s alone.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

Healy UMC, Kansas

 

 

“He Rose”

John 20:1-18

April 21, 2019

 Before Beni, our oldest girl was born, we went to the sonogram appointment and the sonogram person told us we were going to have a boy. When it came time to go to the hospital, Beni was breach so they immediately took her Mom to the operating room. About an hour later a nurse comes out of the operating room with a baby. She came up to me carrying Beni and said, ”Sergeant Tuxhorn meet your baby girl”. She was and still is, beautiful and perfect but I couldn’t resist asking, “Are you sure she’s my baby? They told us she was a boy.”

 Well, the morning Jesus rose from the grave not one of His followers expected it and if we had been there we probably would have been in the same boat. Isn’t it amazing, not one person from all those who followed Jesus expected or believed he would rise from the grave?

 What we celebrate today was completely beyond the hopes of every one of them Jesus had told them over and over again that it was going to happen. He told them time after time that he would be killed. Time after time he told them, on the third day he would raise from the dead. Yet not one of them believed it would happen. Not one of them took Jesus at his word.

 On the day after the Sabbath that first Easter Sunday morning it was still dark. Mary Magdalene and some other woman went to the tomb of Jesus with special spices to finish preparing his body for burial. Mary went ahead of the others but I don’t think it was because she was expecting a surprise. No, I think, it was because she wanted to be alone for a moment. She went ahead, because her best friend had been tortured and killed. She wanted to grieve before she touched the wounded lifeless body of Jesus, alone with her thoughts and regrets before she honored him by preparing his broken body for burial.

 When she got to the tomb, something was different than it had been late Friday night. The huge boulder in front of the tomb had been rolled aside. She could see into the tomb and His body was gone. Mary is broken hearted by this. Not because she suddenly remembers and understands what he had told them was true. Not because she remembers that Jesus said that he would rise from the dead. No, she is sad because she believes that someone has stolen his body. Mary ran and told Peter and John…“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

 The two men run to the tomb with her and looked in. Then they go back to their hiding place to think about what has happened. Because, we know the disciples were hiding for their lives. In the tomb they saw the strips of linen laying on the rock bench. The burial cloth for his head folded neatly and set apart from the rest of the linen…just as carpenters folded a cloth and laid it on their project to let people know a job was finished. Except for John, none of them understand what they had seen. For, John is beginning to remember and understand what Jesus has told them

 After the men left…Mary stayed at the tomb, crying. The body of the one she loved is gone. She is sad that she cannot even honor him by preparing his body for burial. She stands there weeping, and after a while she gets up enough courage to look into the tomb again. There are two angels sitting there. They are dressed in white and sit on the ledge of the tomb where the body of Jesus had been.

 Does this woman who has heard the promises Jesus made, finally believe His promises? Does she believe that Jesus has been raised from the dead, now? Nope…not yet. The angels ask her why she is crying and she says to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Then still crying, still in shock, and still not understanding the resurrection and still not expecting or hoping for anything except to find the body of her friend so she could honor him by preparing it for burial.

 Then, as she turns around, Jesus is standing there, Mary didn’t expect to see Jesus walking around alive so she does not recognize him. She had seen his bloody and beaten body, she had watched him die on the cross unlike so many other of Jesus’ followers who were hiding in fear for their own lives she was at the cross. No, she doesn't recognize him because she doesn’t expect to see him alive.

 Even when he talks to her she doesn't recognize Him. Even when he says to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?”  Thinking he is the gardener she asks him if he has moved the body. “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

 Then Jesus says her name, "Mary". No explanation, no blame for not knowing him, he just says, “Mary.” Her name, what she had heard him say so many times before, “Mary”. Then she finally sees clearly, finally her heart believes he has risen from death. She finally realizes Jesus is alive and is standing there right in front of her. She finally believes and understands he has defeated death and risen and defeated death forever. 

 She is so happy, she grabs him and hugs him. But, Jesus tells her to let him go and to go and tell the others what she has seen and to go tell them he has risen, as he said he would. And, unlike so many of the others and some of us, she does exactly as Jesus asked. But, they don’t believe her and they don’t believe the other women who met the angels. Every one of the disciples had to be convinced by Jesus himself.

 The reason I think Mary's disbelief is so important and why the lack of faith from the disciples is so important. It is because, we are human with human failings, JUST like them. We hear the message that Jesus was killed for our sins and then on the 3rd day was resurrected defeating sin and death forever. We see the miracles that God performs in our lives each and every day. But when it comes to hard times in our lives, times when we are experiencing trial and loss, and when we are mourning. It can be very hard for us to believe what Jesus has said about being raised on the third day. It can be very hard to believe that not only was he raised. Hard to believe that death does not have to have the last word for those who have Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. So, there are many perfectly good reasons to cry.

 But, today on Easter Sunday with the empty tomb, and the angels, the lilies. With Mary's meeting with Jesus, the testimony of Peter and John, and the very existence of the church itself is a reminder to us that while there are many reasons to cry and mourn. There are also some great reasons to rejoice!

 Jesus was crucified and he died, He was laid in the tomb, but thank God, that tomb couldn’t and didn’t hold him. And, because of him it cannot hold any of us who have Jesus Christ in our hearts! Death was not the end of the story for Jesus and, death isn’t the end of the story for all who proclaim Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

 Why do you weep? Look around, at all the signs of God's love around us during all of the world's troubles and disasters God’s love in Jesus Christ trumps all. Death does not have the final say! Listen, listen for the voice of the one who said, “Mary,” in the garden He is here to speak to us today, for it is not over.

 If it were over, if Jesus Christ hadn’t risen from the grave the church would never have come into existence. The disciples would never have risked their lives to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. They would not have told the world that he is the one God appointed as judge of the living and the dead and to know him makes you clean of all your sin.

 The followers of Jesus would never have passed on their testimony if they hadn’t believed in the resurrection. They wouldn’t have had anything to testify about. What would they say? That they had followed a good man but the Sanhedrin and the Romans killed him and it was over would have been all they could have said. Even when, on that first day, after the crucifixion they did not believe, despite all Jesus had said, and done before he died. They were a lot like us, weren’t they? Doubting and full of disbelief.

 But, I thank God today and every day! I thank God for Mary and for Peter and John and for all the other disciples who did not believe. I thank God for them because their faith tells me there’s hope for me. There’s hope for me when I cry and there is hope for me when I doubt. There is hope for me when I face the cross and the tomb and feel there is no reason to feel hope.

 But most of all I thank God today for the risen, living Christ. I thank God for Jesus of Nazareth, God's only Son. I thank God for the one who was raised up on the third day. I thank God for the One who has broken the power of sin and death…FOREVER! And, all we have to do is ask him to be our Lord and Savior to have it for ourselves. I thank God for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

AMEN!

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC, Healy, Kansas

 

“Who’s Really On Trial?” John 18:19-24 April 14, 2019

 The story of Jesus’ awful suffering on that last night before the crucifixion touches our hearts. At least, I hope it does. It all began on that last Thursday morning in the life of Jesus and it was springtime in Israel.

 It was not only springtime in Palestine; it was Passover time. It was the Thursday of the Passover, and a religious holiday. No one had to work. All the Jewish boys and girls looked forward to it. There would be no school or work for an eight-day spring vacation. Eight days of feasting and parties and of course, travelling to Jerusalem.

 They had to come to Jerusalem because, they had to sacrifice. There were two to three million people jammed into Jerusalem for the Passover? People were shoving and pushing and shouting, and preparing for the Passover that Thursday. The stores closed at noon and that afternoon, the lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple, and it was a big business day at the Temple. 250,000 lambs, were sold, slaughtered and sacrificed on the altar. For the High Priests and the managers of the Temple it was their biggest day of the year.

 That night Jesus and his disciples were eating their Passover meal and Judas left halfway through, going to the homes of Annas and Caiaphas, the High Priests. Then after that last supper, Jesus and his disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Later that night, Judas came with the chief priests and the scribes and betrayed Jesus by kissing him. Then the soldiers tied Jesus and took him away. While his followers ran to save themselves. Finally, about two or three o’clock in the morning Jesus was brought to the homes of Annas and Caiaphas, the two men who plotted Jesus’ murder. They wanted this miracle worker dead, and now they had him. Jesus was standing before the real power of Israel, Annas and Caiaphas.

You may not know much about these two, and I would like to fill in what happened between that night after Judas betrayed Jesus and the morning when Jesus was taken before the Roman ruler, Pontius Pilate. History tells us that Annas and his family were the real culprits behind the crucifixion of Jesus.  Nowadays, we usually think of Pontius Pilate, Judas, and the mob as being the instigators of Jesus’ death. They were bad enough, nut the real bad guys though were Annas and Caiaphas, the High Priests. They were the ones who wanted Jesus dead. We need to understand them, in order to better understand the Passion story of Jesus.

 These two men were the most powerful Jewish leaders in Israel at the time of Christ. Their family ruled the Temple and Jewish religious life for thirty years. It was from the time Jesus was a boy until after he died. It was a family dynasty much like many powerful families. In that family, there was the old gray-haired patriarch of the family. His name was Annas and he was the boss behind the scenes.

 He had four sons and one son-in-law, and they all took turns at being High Priest. That night, the son-in-law Joseph Caiaphas was the High Priest. This man was a slick politicians, kind of like many of them today.

 Annas and Caiaphas were very smart men they consolidated their power. They had religious power because their family owned the office of High Priest. Once a year, the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies of the Temple and offered sacrifices on the Day of Atonement. No one else could go into the Holy of Holies to offer sacrifices.

 This family also had political power. The High Priest was chairman of the Sanhedrin that was a combination of our Senate and Supreme Court. There were 71 priests in the Sanhedrin, and the one in charge was the High Priest. Annas and Caiaphas were sure enough big shots.

 The High Priest also had economic power. The High Priest was the manager of the Temple and the temple treasury. Literally, thousands of denarii came into the temple treasury. They were the bankers of the country and collected all the offerings, and then decided what would be done with them. The High Priest also controlled the inspectors of the sacrifices.

 When people brought their offerings to God, and if an inspector said it wasn’t perfect you had to buy another from the Temple at a huge mark up. Annas and Caiaphas became immensely wealthy men off the offerings of the temple. I have a feeling many of those imperfect lambs probably ended up as sacrifices for someone else down the line where no one would notice. I think they were that crooked. These temple markets were called the “Bazaars of Annas” and they were very rich.

 Now, you can imagine how Annas and Caiaphas felt about Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus’ fame was growing as a prophet of Israel. Jesus had come into the temple a few days earlier and drove the sellers from the temple out, shouting, “You robbers, making my house into a den of thieves.” With a whip, Jesus drove the money-changers out of Annas and Caiaphas’ money-making enterprise. I say that because I don’t think the Temple meant much to them spiritually anymore.

 Now, Annas and Caiaphas did not like Jesus of Nazareth. He was costing them money. People were starting to listen to Jesus rather than give their money to them. While their power and position was threatened, so Annas and Caiaphas arranged for Jesus to be killed. They were the real culprits, not Pontius Pilate, not Judas, not the mob. This family planned and implemented Jesus’ execution.

 That night the decision of the court was already decided before Jesus was ever brought in. They first took Jesus to the house of Annnas. The old man, wanted to see this trouble maker. So, Annas looks Jesus over, and finally asks, “What are your teachings young man? What do you believe?” Jesus was quiet, but finally he said, “Why are you asking me all of these things? I taught openly in the Temple. Ask those who heard me teach.” The soldiers slapped Jesus on the face and said, “Don’t get smart with the High Priest.” Jesus was quiet. Then they took him to Caiaphas who was the official High Priest that year, the son-in-law of Annas.

 At the home of Caiaphas that night, Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin and said nothing to all the questions asked of him. So Caiaphas asked him one more time, “Tell us clearly. Are you the Messiah, the Son of God?” For the first time in three years, Jesus finally told the world the truth and openly declared, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man sitting in great power at the right hand of God, and you will see the Son of Man coming at the end of history to judge the world.” Jesus tells him, that when he dies, he will face Jesus in judgment and Caiaphas doesn’t like that at all.

 But, he just looks at Jesus and smiles. He has all the evidence he needs to kill Jesus and hearing this blasphemy, a man claiming to be God, Caiaphas had him right where he wanted him. Caiaphas tore his garments, as he was supposed to do when he hears words of blasphemy. He looked at the men in the Sanhedrin and said, “What’s all the fuss? The man has condemned himself by claiming to be God. Away with him to Pilate, so he can be executed.”

 And, you know the rest of this terrible story. How Pilate caved to the mob to avoid a riot and condemned Jesus to be crucified.

 So what can we learn from Annas and Caiaphas? First, think about this, “Who was really on trial that night?” Was it Jesus or Caiaphas? Caiaphas thought he was trying Jesus, but it was really the other way around. Caiaphas was actually on trial before Christ but he didn’t understand.

 Just as many of us think Jesus is on trial, today. As many of us try to decide if Christ and his teachings still matter today. Many think they are putting Jesus to the test and think Jesus is just superstition from the olden days. Yes, I guess it does look like our Lord Jesus Christ is on trial today.

 But really, is it Jesus who is on trial or is it our civilization. I think it’s us who are on trial today, not Jesus Christ. On trial for how we care for the less fortunate. On trial for how we handle of our families and raising our children. For, the way we handle our intimate love relationships are on trial. We are on trial for how we Christians serve Christ and how we share the Good News of Jesus Christ and the church is on trial for our halfhearted approach to the duties of the church. 

 It is not Jesus who is on trial today. It is our civilization that is on trial before Almighty God, and we don’t seem to realize it. But, as we overestimate our power as human beings, we may think Jesus is on trial. But, it is us and how we live our lives that is really on trial.

 We can see also that on that Passover Thursday night, Jesus was confronting the religious leaders. The leaders of the Temple way overestimated their own power…they were more worried about their own pleasure and prosperity than their relationship with God were the ones on trial. They were more worried about protecting their own interests, their wealth, their prosperity, their lifestyles, and their institutional religion than caring for the poor, the oppressed, the widows, and their relationship with the Lord.

 I don’t think Annas and Caiaphas feared God as much as they feared the loss of privilege and pleasure. The fear of God had been replaced by the fear of loss of privilege, pleasure, and power and it can happen to us in our lives. Unfortunately many of us have lost our fear and reverence for God and our real fears are the loss of all the other things we value more than God. We often live our lives protecting our life style above all else. Too often, we’re a lot like Annas and Caiaphas, protecting our good life at the expense of our relationship with the Lord.

 And, the church is always in danger of being more preoccupied with our wealth and prosperity than being the servants of Christ in a suffering world. When we look at our own denomination, I see the leaders trying with everything they have to save their jobs by holding this hot mess together. While, the real mission of the church, making new disciples for Jesus Christ, suffers and seems much less important to them than the institutional church. Too many the institutional church has become more important than following Jesus Christ and to some of us, our membership becomes more important to us than taking up our cross and leading others to Jesus Christ. Many of us never even work to ensure our own children and grandchildren are led to faith in Christ by getting them in Sunday School and church each week.  

 So, in Jerusalem on that Thursday, it was Passover time. It was also cash in time for Annas and Caiaphas. Passover was their biggest money day of the year. Jesus, this new prophet, was a threat to their financial security and their life style, it threatened the institutional church, and so they had Jesus the Christ murdered. They believed they put Jesus on trial, but really, it was them who were on trial and so are we in the world church of Jesus Christ and our own denomination is on trial before God. It is NOT Jesus who is on trial for he is perfect. No, our civilization, the church of Jesus Christ all over the world, and the United Methodist Church is on trial before God, right now. The church is on trial before the cross of Christ. Does anyone think, or even hope we will be found, not guilty?

Amen.

Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

United Methodist Church

Healy, Kansas

 

“Devotion” John 12:1-10 April 7, 2019

 We all have in our memory odors that bring back the past for us. The smell of ham and beans cooking brings me back to home as my mom cooks my birthday supper. That was what I always asked for and lots of good memories from it. The smell of bread baking always reminds me of my Grammy making her wonderful hot rolls. Those things were huge with warm butter, they were the best. There are pleasant odor memories and there are not so pleasant ones. The smell of wet feathers always brings me back to days of plucking feathers for Mom and the stink of something rotten always brings me back to a broken freezer full of rotten chickens. Scientists say words go to the thinking part of the brain, while odors go to the emotional part. That's why a whiff of ham and beans cooking brings Mom back to me in such pleasant memories.

 This story from John is one of those stories that bring us back to memories in our soul. Mary, she is the sister of Martha and Lazarus, takes a box of very expensive perfume and bathes Jesus’ feet with it. Some say that the perfume was worth as much as $10,000, today. Mary wipes the perfume onto his feet and then wipes it off with her hair. In his Gospel Matthew added a line Jesus said that I think is very important… "I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."

 Wherever and whenever the Gospel story is told, this story about Mary will be remembered and two thousand years later, in a place half way around the world, in a country church in West Kansas, what Mary did long ago is still being remembered. Without a doubt it is a lasting monument to this woman's love for Jesus Christ. Mary wanted to show just how much she loved Jesus and I think, maybe, she understood, the pain that was coming. She wanted to care for him as he had cared for her when she had lost her brother.

 You know, we can tell ourselves we love someone on and on, but until we actually say it to the one we love it is meaningless. I remember the first time Carla told me she loved me…now, I was afraid of that word from previous experiences and I said a stupid thing, “I thought so.” She should have sent me down the road then, but she didn’t because she says, “She loved me.” It is not enough for you to say you love your spouse or your children to yourself; though it's a start. You must tell them and then find out what is most meaningful to them in receiving love and then give them love in that way. One of the ways I needed to show Carla my love was to admit, that I loved her and then to tell her and show her, so she could feel my love. Love expressed is not sufficient; it has to be felt to have any meaning. Mary expressed her love in this sincere way, and Jesus felt that love and said wherever the Gospel is preached, what Mary has done will always be remembered.

In the chapters before this story, Jesus has been performing miracles of healing and love. Anyone who was listening and watching him work in those days in Judea and Galilee should have understood that Jesus wasn’t your regular old guy. They should have understood that he was much more than a Nazarene peasant, that he was the promised one of God, the Messiah. But, the leaders of the Temple, the Sanhedrin have decided that this upstart who is threatening their jobs and their perks and has to be gotten rid of. They decide their lifestyle is more important than the healing Jesus is doing, think about that. So, they decide they have to get Jesus killed. Now, they don’t want it on their hands, they want his death on Roman hands. So, they begin scheming how to get Pilate to kill him.

 So, as Mary washes Jesus’ feet, he is headed to the cross and everyone is wondering if Jesus will be brave or maybe crazy enough to go to the Passover Festival. Those who believed he was the Messiah thought he had to come to take charge of Israel and those who didn’t care one way or the other figured the Sanhedrin would find him and kill him. They assumed this, because they knew if he came to town he would surely be arrested and killed. You see a lot of the people were there just for the show…as I’m afraid some are in church…only here for the show or out of habit. Many people in Jerusalem were only there to see what was going to happen. The Sanhedrin had made up their minds and Jesus’ chances for life on earth kept shrinking. You never knew what the crowds would do, one day they would shout, "Hosanna," a Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly and soon that same screaming mob’s words would change to, "Crucify him!"

 But, before we get down on them too hard, remember in America today, there are thousands of people who call themselves Christians, who will not speak up for Jesus Christ and will not tell others about him. We let those opportunities slip by every day for no other reason than we are afraid of other’s opinions of us. It’s a fact many of us are afraid others will laugh or think we’re odd if we witness for Christ. While others twist the Gospel of Jesus Christ to support their own opinions, lifestyles, and politics. For many, speaking up for Jesus' message of love and salvation in him seems too risky to us.

 So, they are having a party as a thank you Jesus bringing Lazarus back from the dead. This was a brave thing, because the Sanhedrin, has declared that anyone knowing where Jesus was should turn him in. If they didn’t, it would get them in trouble, too. But, while others were saying, "We better just watch and wait and keep our mouths shut", Jesus' friends were having a party, celebrating him, as we should every day.

 At the end of our Bible lesson we hear that the crowds came not only to kill Jesus but to see the evidence of Jesus’ power in the alive Lazarus. So, the Sanhedrin planned to kill Lazarus too, to get rid of the evidence of the miracle of Jesus. Just look at the evil the Sanhedrin is willing to do to save their jobs and their privilege. Kind of sounds like some of the things that go on with our politicians in Washington, doesn’t it? The Sanhedrin is ready to kill Jesus, and Lazarus…just as our politicians seem so ready to kill innocent babies to gain a few votes and garner more money from Planned Parenthood.

 With all this going on, here is Mary worshipping Christ as she anoints his feet. Every time I read this passage, I wonder if Mary knew Jesus was about to die? I wonder if she sensed his death was coming soon. It seems as if Mary was the only one who knew and I wonder if Mary used her box of perfume to show Jesus that she understood. For, if she had wanted to anoint Jesus like a king, she would have anointed his head. People only anointed the feet of the dead.

 Think of where Mary is every time we hear of her? Yep, at the feet of Jesus. There is something very special about people who spend a lot of time at Jesus' feet. When we practice the discipline of spending time with the Lord on our knees in prayer and reading scripture every day, we develop growth in faith that opens our eyes and our hearts to Christ. People who gain that kind of spiritual insight and understanding are those who kneel at his feet. That's why I believe Mary understood he was about to die. I know, we live in an instant society. I understand, we have instant everything. However, there is no substitute for taking the time, each day, to sit or kneel at the feet of Jesus, praying and reading our Bibles.

 Judas thinks this was all a waste of money. He says that, the money could have been given to the poor. But, Jesus tells him to leave Mary alone. For, she is the only one who really gets it. While, Judas sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Mary used her box of ointment worth so much more than what Judas received for his betrayal. While, Judas often stole from Jesus’ ministry while her was Mary is giving extravagantly. And, Jesus said, whenever the Gospel is preached, what Mary did will always be remembered.

 Now, I understand that our most valuable possession is probably not a bottle of perfume. I doubt any of us have $10,000 bottles of perfume. But, each of has something that is very precious to us, more precious than anything else. What is it? We know what it is, we just have to search our hearts. What do we value most, in our lives? Is it the desire to succeed or our self-image or our spouse? A bank account or a pension plan or a child? Would we or could we give it all to Jesus? Would we allow our children, to leave the life we have created for them to go into Christian work? My own Dad told me not to do it. Would we be willing to give up our comfortable lives and go ourselves? Would we give more than the designated one-tenth of our income and time to God?

 As we remember, God doesn't need our most valuable possession, but we need to give it, so it may serve a greater purpose. How extravagant is our love for Jesus Christ? How extravagant was God’s sacrifice of his only Son on the cross for us? Is our giving extravagant at all, or do we simply go through the motions? We sing the hymns and we pray, and we listen to the preacher. But, do we love the Lord above all else, putting nothing ahead of our Lord? Do we love others in the way that Jesus loved…do we love others as much as we love ourselves? Do we make a place for the outcast, the homeless, and those who do not know him as Savior? Remember, love expressed is not sufficient. It isn't enough to say "I love you" by singing hymns and attending church. As good as that is, love expressed is not enough. It has to be heard and felt to have meaning.

 Shouldn’t we who are followers of Jesus Christ want to do much more because we believe in him? Mary's love was extravagant. She gave her most valuable possession. Wherever the Gospel is preached around the entire world, Mary will always be remembered.

 I love those words in verse 3: “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” When she used the perfume, the fragrance was everywhere. When she wiped the ointment off his feet with her hair, wherever Mary went, the fragrance was there. The blessings given to Jesus were shared with others and as Jesus said, the fragrance of the ointment would forever be a reminder of her love. Wherever she walked, people caught the fragrance of her hair and thought of Jesus and wherever the Gospel is preached, Mary will be remembered, even today in this small West Kansas town.

 You know this all happened just six days before the Passover in Jerusalem. Such a strong perfume would have lasted a long time. Everywhere Jesus went--as he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, as he cleansed the Temple, as he gathered with his disciples in the Upper Room, as he appeared before the High Priest and Pilate, the odor was there. The fragrance of Mary's perfume was still there as a reminder of her great love for her Lord, Jesus Christ. Then, maybe when Jesus spoke his final words of forgiveness and mission accomplished on the cross, there may have been a faint, sweet fragrance that reminded all that he had been greatly loved.

 Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told in memory of her." And, that's why I've told the story again, today.

Amen.

 Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC - Healy, Kansas

 

“The Prodigal”

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-22

March 31, 2019

 Many people feel that the parable of the prodigal son is the greatest of all parables and I think they may be right. It has inspired us for 2,000 years and we can all find our own story in it, if we will try while many think it is the best explanation of God’s love in the Bible. That, if we understand this story we will then begin to understand Jesus and salvation in him. This story also gives me hope that the Lord can and will still love me despite all my years of running away.

 You know, I was a pretty good follower of Christ until I began to try to be the manly man I thought I needed to be to be a cowboy and then later, an Airborne Ranger. It began with drinking just to fit in with the crowd. Then of course I had to chew snuff, because the old cowboys told me that was what cowboys did and I sure wanted to be a cowboy. Then as I got older I found that many of the toughest guys disrespected women and of course, I wanted to be tough. All of it added up to the fact that I was ignoring and running from my relationship with God. I knew the things I was doing were wrong and sinful but, I had somehow got it into my head that a real man had neither time nor energy for a Christian life. The scariest part it that I had ran so far away from God that I almost, almost never felt any remorse for the awful things I was doing in my life.  

 But, I think our running from God sometimes comes in smaller doses. Most of us don’t turn ourselves over to every evil thing that comes by. But, I think we all sneak away from the Lord’s presence and do things we know darn well we shouldn’t do. Each one of us have our little secret sins we hide from others and we try to hide from God. But, we all know how much success we’re going to have hiding our sins from God.

So, today, we need to understand what was going on when Jesus told this story so we can better love as Christ taught The scripture lesson begins with, “Jesus was eating with a group of publicans and sinners. When the Pharisees saw it, they were very upset and said, ‘Jesus, why are you eating with these sinners.’”

 But, let’s put this parable into our own life experience. Think of Jesus down in Scott City or Ness City, and Jesus is sitting in one of the beer joints since we don’t have beer joints in our towns. It is a Friday night, and he’s eating pizza and Jesus is having fun talking with those sinners. Well, about that time, some church people come by.

 These hard-core judgmental Christians pass by the beer joint, and sees Jesus’ donkey parked outside. They are shocked and think maybe his donkey has been stolen and they walk right into the tavern. They don’t like the sights, sounds, or smells of the beer joint. They try to look just at Jesus because they don’t want to look at all that sinful stuff on the walls. They finally say, “Jesus, what are you doing here, hanging out with people like this?” Jesus, knowing their hard hearts, said, “I’d like to tell you a story. Sit down and relax,” and He orders them some cokes.

 So, after they were settled down with their cokes. Jesus said, “I will tell you a story. One time there was a man who had two sons. The younger son said, ‘Dad, I want my inheritance. I want it now. I want to leave town so I can be free.’ This son took his inheritance and went down to Garden City and he had a big old time. He had so many friends. Of course, he pretended that the money was his own hard earned money and not an inheritance. He had a great time, but when the money ran out the so-called friends ran out, too. The good times were over, and he ended up homeless.

 One day, he came to himself and said, “It would be far better if I were back home with my father. He treats his slaves better than the way I’m living.” Then as he came up the road to his home, his father was watching for him. Way off, his father recognized his son ran to him and threw his arms around him and put a ring on his finger and a coat and shoes on him, killed a calf, and threw a big party for him. The father was so happy that his lost son had finally come home.”

“When the older brother came home, he asked, ‘What is all the noise? What’s the party about?’ The servant said, "Your brother has come back home. We thought that he was dead but he is alive.’ The older brother said, ‘Who cares about that good for nothing bum.’ The older brother stayed out on the porch, pouting. The father came out to the porch and said, ‘Son, I love you. Everything I have is yours. Come in and see your brother for he was lost but now is found.’” Then Jesus added, ‘There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who comes to his senses and returns to God and God’s ways, than over self-righteous people whose hearts have become hardened.’

 Did they get it? Well, those self-righteous people there in the beer joint, they didn’t get it at all. But, they’d had enough. They couldn’t stand the people in that place. They had to get out of this evil atmosphere before it rubbed off on them.

 There are three characters in this parable. The prodigal son, the older brother, and the father. Let’s look at each one of them.

 First, the youngest son, the prodigal himself. He is a common and ordinary person who wanted to have some fun. All, he wanted to do what he wanted to do and not to have Dad and brother tell him what to do. He didn’t want to live in the father’s house; he didn’t want to live in the father’s love.

  • He wanted to go out and make it on his own, using his father’s inheritance.

 I think of all us humans take the inheritance God gives us. We take the money, the brains, the personality, the health, the resources, and the time; we take the inheritance that God has been given us. Many of us say, like I did those may years ago, “God, I don’t want to have anything to do with you. I am going to go and live my life as if you never existed.” So we take our God-given inheritance and we go and live as if God didn’t exist. That’s what this story is all about. But, hopefully, as I did, we finally come to our senses and we come home to our Lord God, Jesus Christ.

 Don’t make the mistake of limiting this story to someone else who completely destroys their life by stupid choices. This is a story about all of us! All of us when we take our God-given inheritance and then run away from God, living as if God did not exist.

 Sometimes, we get to thinking we can find happiness in all the things of the world. We think we are going to find happiness in a nice new home, in a nice new car, in a trip, in a nice job, in a beautiful partner. We are looking for happiness, and we are interested in the things of the world, but when we get a bunch of that stuff it just doesn’t satisfy. For, there is a hole in our soul that only Jesus Christ can fill.

 Finally, some of us come to our senses. We finally wake up and realize that we need to return home to our Lord, Jesus Christ and to his love. We realize we need to return home or join the loving people and loving friends in the church. That is what this story is all about. It is about when we take our God given inheritance and use it in such a way that we live without God. It is about taking our God given inheritance and leaving God and trying to forget God, and finally coming to our senses and returning to Christ.

 In the story, the Bible says that the prodigal “came to” his senses. Sometimes, we finally start to realize that happiness is not found in the material things that are part of our lives: the job, the home, the vacations, and the cars. We finally wake up and come to our senses and realize that it is time to come home to God in Jesus Christ. For, we all have times in our lives when we too are the prodigal son.

 Then, there is the older brother. The older brother represents the people who think their faults are less bad than other’s. Some won’t even admit they have sin in their lives, but they do, we all do. They think God loves them a little more than others. They feel that those of us who are in the church are a little better than those who are outside the church. Unfortunately, there are many self-righteous Christians who are blind to their own faults.

 Did you ever wonder which of the two brothers was the saddest about their lives? The younger brother in the gutter or the older brother who had stayed home and gotten hard hearted. He had no love in him for others. Oh yes, those people love their spouse, their children, grandchildren and friends, but anyone outside of his circle, are looked down on. I wonder which of these two was more miserable.

 I wonder, what would have happened if that younger brother came home and first met the brother instead of the Father? Do you think he would have made it to the father’s house? I doubt it, he probably would have ran him off.

 I think many people are kept from Christian congregations and faith in Christ by their fear of encountering self-righteous church people. They fear people like the older brother and I think he is often found in our churches today. People who are finding fault and are keeping unchurched people away. When those who have been away from the church come back or those who have never been a part of it, we hope they will meet Christians whose hearts are filled with grace and love. How sad it is, if they ran into someone with a judging heart and are chased away when they are told, “You have to stop this or that before you can come into the church”.

 So, we have the two brothers. One brother who is the prodigal of the flesh and the other is a prodigal of the spirit and both are loved deeply by God, the father. For no matter what we do…we cannot make God love us less, we didn’t earn his love and we can’t lose it.  Think about that.

 Then we come to the father in this story. The father had been waiting lovingly for his son to come home. When his lost son finally came home he threw a party. But, don’t forget the father still loved the son who had stayed home, and he went out onto the porch to find his older son, and said, “Son, I love you. Son, my inheritance is yours. Son, come in and join the party?”  The father loved both prodigal sons.

 So it is with God and you and me. When we have wandered away from God and whether we admit it or not, we do that more often than we would like to admit. When we take our God given inheritance and get so wrapped up in the things of this world that we forget our relationship with Christ and begin to live as if God does not exist. Sometimes, we come to our senses and we come back home to an intimate loving relationship with God and his family and God is so happy when we do.

 Then, there are those who have never had a relationship with Christ, who are lost and headed to hell. Then sometimes a loving grace filled Christian comes to them and asks them to church or tells them about faith in Jesus Christ and the person says, “Yes,” to Christ and comes to faith in him. When that happens, I believe there is a celebration in heaven when they come to faith in Jesus Christ.

 And sometimes, when we have stayed home in the church, and our hearts have become calloused and hard, not to our children, grandchildren and friends, but when our hearts have become calloused and hard to those outside the church. Sometimes when we start to feel that our sins are less bad than their sins. Sometimes when our hearts have become sour and loveless to people who are different than us. Sometimes, we wake up and come to our senses and we come back home to Christ and we reach out to those who are not in Christ.  We come back to a loving God who wants so deeply for us to come back and live as loving children in his house through our faith in Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC - Healy, Kansas

 

“Lent”

Luke 4:1-13

March 10, 2019

 I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church, our church special days of the Christian year were Christmas and Easter. All I knew about Lent then, was that the school lunches changed on Fridays. But, I think those who do not remember Lent are missing a valuable time in their lives. Lent comes every year, but unfortunately for some Christians, it feels more like a flu shot than a party and we sure don’t anxiously await every for Lent to come around. But, we should, for Lent is important, it's good for us in much the same way vegetables are. We've heard all that stuff about how it makes the joy of Easter possible, but the fact is Lent just doesn’t come naturally. I guess it just isn’t human nature to deny ourselves anything we want.

 The whole idea of Lent is hard to explain to non-Christians and I’m afraid many Christians don't understand it either. But, maybe it is because of the way we approach it? We go get ashes on our forehead on Ash Wednesday, then some make a half-hearted attempt at giving something up for Lent, and that is it. We seldom ask why or even study the Bible to try to understand why we are doing it. We only remember it at all because, we've always done it. 

 Some of us cut out chocolate, or stop eating meat, maybe we give up our Diet Coke for forty days, it all seems a little trivial when we think about the fact that we are preparing ourselves for the resurrection. To an outsider, it looks more like a diet than a spiritual practice. I asked people a few years ago that rather than stop doing something this Lent, to add a something to their daily walk with Christ. I asked them to add something that we should be doing all the time but aren’t. Something like a daily devotion and Bible reading time or maybe bringing a neighbor’s child to church or to Sunday School. Adding something to our lives that we should have been doing anyway with the hope that it will continue after Lent. I think that is much better than a half-hearted attempt at self-denial.

 But if we don't have a good explanation for why we do these things as we remember Lent, if we don't understand it, it's not completely our fault. It is Jesus' time in the wilderness, we heard about in the scripture lesson that we are remembering and imitating in Lent and none of the Gospel writers of Jesus explain why he was out there for Satan to tempt. Year after year when the first Sunday of Lent arrives, we read about the temptations of Jesus and there us preaching about it. Jesus often went off alone to pray and talk with God, but this time it went a little differently. Israel has waited for a Savior; and while there were some rumors about a birth in Bethlehem, they've seen nothing that tells them the world was changed by it. So, what happened?

 One day on the banks of the Jordan River, Jesus shows up, seemingly out of nowhere. He's come to be baptized, but it isn’t like the baptism of other people. After the Baptism, the Spirit in the form of a dove descends on him and God speaks. It is good stuff, the kind of thing that makes up for Israel’s four century wait for the Messiah.

 It seems like a great time for Jesus to start his ministry. The people saw the Spirit come into him and they heard God say he is pleased with Jesus. He could have told them that Israel’s long wait for the Messiah is over, for he is here. But, he didn’t.

 He showed up out of nowhere got Baptized and then immediately disappeared. I think part of the reason he went out to the wilderness is to prepare for what is to come. Maybe he needed this time as Moses, Elijah and other leaders before him went out alone with God before they began doing God’s work.

 But, Jesus did not go out there to listen to God. He heard, everyone heard, God loud and clear at his baptism. No, Jesus went out there to hear from, Satan. This is not like some nice spiritual retreat. The Holy Spirit sent him out to the desert for a terrible time of soul searching. And, the trip to the desert wasn't Jesus’ idea at all. Jesus was led out there by the Holy Spirit, preparing him for what was to come in his ministry.

 The very same Spirit that came down at Jesus' baptism called Jesus out to the desert where many die. The good news for us, though, is that Lent did not come naturally to Jesus, either. Jesus the Messiah has a date with Satan in the Garden and at Calvary. He goes out there, preparing to face temptation.

 It is understandable, perhaps, why he doesn't immediately start his ministry after his baptism. Maybe that was his first temptation, to not take advantage of the opportunity opened by what happened at His Baptism? To be honest, I don’t like the idea that Satan could tempt Jesus. After all he is and was God on earth, how could he be tempted? But, he was also fully human, when he was here and Lord knows you and I can be tempted and fail in resisting it often. Temptations that knock us off a close walk with the Lord. God did not protect him from temptation because he was the Son of God and God allows Stan to tempt us.

 One of the most powerful messages of the life of Jesus is that no one is exempt from the temptations of Satan, not even the best of us. In fact, especially the best of us. We are all vulnerable to temptation, though what tempts us may change as we grow older and as we grow in our faith. In fact the closer our walk with Christ, Satan will try even harder to knock us off our walk.

 Jesus’ temptations are tailor made for him as they prey on his goodness. And, it is the same for us, the devil doesn't offer us the wisdom of God. He doesn’t always allow us to know the temptation is from him and temptation doesn't wear a nametag. Telling us we’re being tempted now. Much of the time Satan will offer us something we would really like or really want or something we think the world or our church or our family really needs. For Jesus and for each of us, the voice of evil often sounds an awful lot like the voice of good. "Take good care of yourself." "Save the world form that." "Prove your faith."

 None of those things sound sinful and this is what temptation looks like for Jesus.  When culture talks about temptation, it's usually describing the irresistible urge to do something that we already know will destroy us. The kind of stuff that we'd rather have stay in Vegas. The kind of stuff that looks like temptation from the very start. An alcoholic raiding the hotel mini bar in their room. A lonely spouse spending too much time with their good looking co-worker. Too tired from visitors to go to church or don’t want to leave them alone to go. What are we afraid of, that they’ll steal the furniture? And, think of the witness we give them if we go on and go to church, even if it is without them. Stuff we all know is wrong but we are drawn to do it because it is often the route of least resistance. 

 As we celebrate Lent, we all wrestle with the obvious forms of self-destruction. But, the goal of Lent is to help us recognize the more hidden temptations of Satan. The temptations that don't look like temptation until after we have already done them. The temptations that are the most dangerous are the ones that sound most like good. What could be wrong with anything that makes everyone happy?

 Jesus has it all, character, integrity, faith, a moral compass that is unmatched, and yet he is tempted by Satan. So, the way to defeat temptation is not strength. It's not strong moral fiber or depth of character. When we think we are religious enough, mature enough, moral enough to be exempt from temptation, it is just a matter of time before we fall to something. But, for most of us our temptations won't be the hotel mini bar. They will be come about on the road paved with good intentions. When we are led by our own wisdom, when we are led by our own desire to see something good done, when we are tempted to take shortcuts to get where we want to go…We will always find ourselves vulnerable; and the greater our moral character, the harder Satan will work and the more tailor-made we will be our temptations.

 The way to avoid temptation is obedience, as Jesus did. Jesus didn’t weigh the options and choose the right decision. No, instead he made a conscious effort to submit to God. "Life is more than eating bread," Jesus whispers, though his rumbling stomach disagreed. "Worship God and nothing else," he says, with all the world's kingdoms right there for him to take. "Don't test God," says the one who will be tested even up to a terrible death on a cross.

 Half-dead from hunger, and all alone, this man looked nothing like a king. But, don’t be mistaken; he is the real thing. The promises made to him at his baptism are remembered and followed in the desert. Maybe this all happened, so he is more ready for later. For, we know, these will not be his last temptations. Maybe this is all a dress rehearsal, for what is coming?

 When Peter, the disciple tries to talk Jesus into an easier way of saving the world, Jesus recognizes the voice of Satan. And told him, “Get behind me Satan.” When he stood before Pilate he could have struck his enemies down and walked away but where would that have left humanity? SO, he didn’t. Because it would left us with no Savior and no way to heaven. When he hung dying on the cross and the crowd mocks him, "If you are the Son of God, come down from there," he knew his duty. Then, as it is for us, obedience to God delivered him and it will save us from Satan. The one who taught with authority will live under the authority of the One who sent him. 

 But, what about our time in the wilderness, this season of self-denial called Lent and other things that don't come naturally. Lent isn't strength-training for the soul. It's not about exercising our spiritual muscles. It is about obediencetrust…and dependence on God. It's about realizing that everything that seems good to us isn’t necessarily the will of God. It's about learning to be led, or if necessary, being driven out to the desert of our soul where our hungers and our dreams and our all fears take turns trying to shut out the voice of God. 

 In just a few weeks, we will follow Jesus to a garden where, for a moment, his own desires will again conflict with what he's been called to do. "If you will take this cup from me, please take it away," Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. But, that wasn’t the end of his prayer. He then said those wonderful words, "Yet not what I want, but what you want, Lord."

 Its obedience, radical obedience that carries him through and it will us. We know Lent doesn't come naturally, even for the best of us. But, that's exactly why Lent is our hope. If we can learn to recognize the voice of the tempter during these forty days of self-denial…Maybe, we will be wise enough to know him when he speaks with our own voice or through someone else during the rest of the year.

 There are some places God intends to take us that we will never reach if we try to do it on our own. Places we would never go by doing our own thing. But somewhere in the desert, alone but not without God, Jesus chooses obedience to God to bring us back to where we are supposed to be. May God grant us the grace and faith to choose correctly who we will be and who we will follow!

Amen.

Rev Bud Tuxhorn

Pastor Healy UMC, Kansas

 

“Dust to Dust”

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

March 6, 2019 Ash Wednesday

 There’s something about Ash Wednesday that draws us here on a weeknight. We come because it is more than just habit or duty and is more than just the start of Lent. We come because, what we say and what we do on this special Wednesday has power from the Holy Spirit.

 A large part of that power is in the fact that we speak words of truth, words that cannot be ignored, argued with, or denied. Today, when we say, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” We are reminded of our own mortality. The other things we say tonight we may hope are true, or fear is true, or believe, or even doubt. But, we do know we are mortal. That, we were born and that we will die.

 From dust, to dust. If hearing the words were not enough, they are rubbed on our foreheads. Ashes mark us and our mortality is visible for the world to see.

 Then Jesus took it a little further. He reminds us that dust is the destination, not just of our bodies, but of most of what we think is worth living for. Moth and rust and thieves can and do take away virtually every goal, dream, and treasure we love. Whether we want to admit it or not, we know it’s true. These words of absolute truth give us a different perspective than normal. As the world tries to hide and deny our mortality, while we usually try not think about it.

 Dust and ashes. These are what we see if we look ahead far enough and honestly enough. These are the end of virtually everything. Today we remember this, and we know, yes, we know, it is the truth.

 For some that seems like bad news even though we have known it is a fact all along. These uninviting, honest words can be a little scary. Especially for those who have not, yet, given their hearts to Christ. We all know the personal dilemma that comes when we realize that we too will die. It seems as if I spent half of my time with young soldiers, reminding them that it wasn’t just their buddy who could be wounded and die, it could happen to them also. I think we’ve all faced that moment when we realize in our hearts, that we to will have an end to our earthly life. We know how unsettling it is, and on this day we are reminded of our own mortality.

 From dust, to dust. To find the Good News here, we need to remember the truth of Christ’s sacrifice for us and what it means to us as Christians, while knowing we will all die unless Christ returns first. Some of the Good News is knowing we are created by God and and all of this around us did not just happen. Our creation was not some amazing accident and God made each one of us and then breathed life into us. The dust of our beginning was not and is not just a matter of chance and it is not without meaning. Our lives are gifts from God.

 So, part of the Good News is that the grace and power of God is there at the very beginning of our existence. What seems a threat, “you are dust,” becomes, a promise. Because he will be there when our earthly end comes, too. Your dust and mine is holy; it is cherished by God.

 Notice something else. These ashes on our forehead are not just tossed there. They are placed there in the form of a cross. As we remember of Good Friday and Easter. Today we remember the promise that, as we have risen from dust to this mortal life, so, with our faith in Christ, we will rise from the dust of death to eternal life in Paradise.

 This dust and ashes are Good News, reminding us of the power and love of God at our beginning and at our end. They remind us that, because of this Good News, we are called as we live between dust and dust to repent and follow our risen Lord. That’s what “repent” means: to turn, to change the direction in which we are going, and to turn and move in a new direction.

 If you’re driving to Kansas City to Denver and you drive East you will never get there. No matter how many times you pull over to the side of the road, stop the car, get out, and apologize you will never get there. To “repent” is to turn around. God wants repentance and change, not an apology.

Today’s call to us to repent shouldn’t be centered on fear, not on what will happen if we don’t repent. It doesn’t center on what we think we ought to do. Instead, our call is centered on the love that is seen through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. This turning around, this repentance is not something we can think ourselves into; it is not something we can do on our own and personally make it happen. It requires heartfelt remorse for our sins and then going in a different direction.

 As we prepare for Lent, prayer, fasting and giving help us to move toward obeying God’s call to return to him. They are wonderful ways we can begin our journey going in the right direction. Jesus commands them, and he goes the extra step of insisting not only that we practice them, but also that we do it, secretly. For, God ignores the actions of those who deliberately attract attention to themselves. That’s why we’re counseled to wash our faces and live in quiet obedience. Then our reward and our growth in Christ and his growth in us will be completely safe from the world.

 So, remember that you are dust and rejoice. For God is with us in the beginning, at the end, and even now, as we live in between. Repent, return to the Lord and change directions. For God who created us is calling us to him. So, we are given the special gift of Lent a time to allow us to hear His call and to respond.

Amen.

Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC, Healy, Kansas

 

“It’s True!”

1 Corinthians 15:12-20

February 17, 2019

 I have to admit I am skeptical about some of the preachers in the mega churches and on TV. Some of them tell their congregations that as long as they follow their rules and give them lots of money, they will have no trials in their life. Somehow these guys think their brand of religion will ensure nothing bad ever happens to the people who support them. But, I have to admit, they do tell people about faith in Jesus Christ.

 I remember once I was complaining to my Dad about a mega church in Anchorage and he asked me a simple question, “Do they tell people how they can come to faith in Jesus Christ?” Then he said if they saved one soul with their show business approach to worship it was worth it. He was right of course, but sometimes I don’t like their theology.

 Many of them tell folks they have undeniable proof that their brand of Christianity is the only way. Some of them say they have the inside track on following Christ and if you will just join up and give them lots of money they’ll give you the proof. Proof that their words are direct from God, that they have proof of the virgin birth of Christ, and proof, real honest to goodness proof, of the risen Christ. 

 I worry for the people that follow these guys. I just know, if they claim to have proof of all that, they are way out on the end of a mighty small limb. Yes, I’m glad for the souls that are saved by these guys ministry, but I worry about anyone’s theology. When they say they can prove things from the Bible that they can PROVE Christ was raised from the grave they are stretching the truth. The fact is there isn't any undoubtable proof that Christ was raised from the grave. There is no scientific proof of the resurrection. We don't have a videotape of the empty tomb or them putting Christ in it. We have no seismograph of the Good Friday earthquake. All we have are the stories of Jesus' resurrection passed down by people of faith.

 Of course, many of us would love to have some proof. Someone once said that Christianity is a religion in which you have to believe ten impossible things before you can even start to faith. Well, one of those impossible things is the resurrection of Christ from the dead. The central tenet of our Christian faith is that a young man named Jesus who was dead on Friday afternoon was then full of life on Sunday. We believe he was raised from the dead and was walking, talking, and eating with his disciples, but that goes against everything we have seen in our lives. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we Christians had some evidence, some proof of the resurrection?

 I think wanting evidence, some proof of the resurrection is the reason some preachers tell people they have proof. Remember the Shroud of Turin. It, is an ancient piece of cloth on which there appears to be the image of a crucified man. Many claim the shroud was the authentic burial cloth of Jesus and that the image was created during the resurrection. If that were true, then the shroud would be photographic evidence of the resurrection, exactly the sort of physical evidence and proof that many are looking for.

 But, now most believe the Shroud of Turin is not really the burial cloth of Jesus at all but is only a piece of art. Maybe it could even be called a forgery created in the middle ages. But, we can understand why they did this, can't we? Wouldn't it be great to have a video of the resurrection? Wouldn't it be great to have some proof? But, the fact is, there is none. All we have to go on are these stories told through the years by faithful believers, who believed it was true because many of them gave their lives testifying to the truth of it.

 That seems to be the point of these words we read in First Corinthians where Paul is writing to a congregation he has led many of them to faith in Christ. But, they have now begun doubting the resurrection. Paul cries out, "How can some of you say there is no resurrection from the dead?" Well, to tell the truth, it was probably easy for the Corinthians to say there is no resurrection of the dead. They are saying if you want me to believe in the resurrection? If you want me to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead? If you want me to believe that when we die we're raised from the dead, too? Well, if you want me to believe, show me some evidence and still today, many feel the same way.

So Paul tries to convince them to believe in the resurrection, and, at first, it sounds as if he's trying to give them proof.

 But if we listen closely, that is not what Paul is saying. What he is saying is basically, "Maybe you're right.” “Maybe you Corinthians are right and all this resurrection talk is a bunch of baloney.” “Maybe when I preached to you that Christ was raised from the dead and that those who belong to Christ will be raised too, maybe I was wrong.” “Maybe I was even lying.” “But if I am wrong…then our faith is a waste of time."

 What Paul is doing, is reminding them of their own faith. "If you want to know if the resurrection is true," Paul says, "Look around you. Can’t you see the risen Christ in your own life? Look at the world with the eyes of faith. Can you see the risen Christ in the world? There are no proofs, there is only what we can see and feel, please never forget, what we can feel, when we examine our faith." Have you ever wondered what would happen if God, instead of depending on our faith, decided to give us proof? What if God decided to clear all this up and gave us something scientific, something to get rid of all doubt? What if Jesus did a world tour, before he returns in the end of times? What if he did a world tour letting everyone see him and hear him, would that be proof enough? What do you think would happen? I think, at first churches would spill over into football stadiums because there wouldn’t be room in churches. Crime would cease, wars would stop, and the world would be a wonderful, peaceful place for a little while. But, then, Satan would get to work and the movies of the alive Jesus would begin to be doubted.  In no time, those who speak for Satan would convince people it was a photographic trick.

 No, it wouldn’t change much, because what we really want in our hearts and souls is not proof that there is a God who exists and we‘re not really searching for scientific evidence of Christ’s resurrection. What we need and I think, what we all want is a God who is right here in life with us, a risen Christ who comes to us every day to gives us life and hope. We want a God who comes not in evidence but in a relationship of trust we call faith in Christ.

 We cannot see God and Christ in the world when we draw a line in the sand and say, "Give me proof or I won't step over the line." It just won’t work. God can only be seen in this world by those who have already stepped over the line in trust. When we kneel and say, “Lord I think I believe, please come into my heart and make me sure of it.” When we do, our eyes will be opened, and the world will suddenly be full of resurrection truth for us. When we encounter Christ, when we experience the power of his presence in our lives…when the Holy Spirit touches our souls and hearts we begin to know through our faith that Christ truly was raised from the dead and that our trust in him through our faith is not a waste of time. In fact, we will know it is the best thing that has ever happened to us.

 Do you want to know if there is a resurrection? As I write this I can hear my wife reading the story of Mary and Joseph and their search for a place for their baby to be born to the kids. It touched my heart and soul and I know, yes, I know that child she is reading about grew up, was crucified, and rose from the grave. I know it because I can feel the Spirit in my soul, I know it by the tear that runs down my cheek as she reads it and that’s my proof. So, what do you say about that? I say, this kind of hopeful ministry happens because I know in my heart, Jesus Christ is raised from the dead, and my faith and yours is not in vain.

 When our daughter was pregnant with our last granddaughter the doctors had all kinds of scary predictions. She is a diabetic and has epilepsy and they warned of birth defects that might come to the baby. The Doctor went as far as suggesting that they should abort her. Today, she is a beautiful and amazing baby girl and is perfectly healthy. But, even if she had been disabled in some way she would have still been perfect for this grandpa. I feel the touch of God as a tear comes down my cheek when I remember what my son in law said a few months ago as he held his giggling and beautiful baby girl. He looked at me and with tears in his eyes said, “And, they wanted us to abort her.” Yes, I know, I know she is perfect and in my heart I know my Jesus rose from a grave in Judea and is still touching hearts and souls today.

 I think of the time after months of ministry by me and several others to a man who was dying of cancer. We all told him about how through faith in Christ he would no longer need to fear the death that was coming. That he would die and spend eternity in paradise, if he would just ask Jesus to be his Lord and Savior. I was about to give up as I watched him melt away from the cancer and one morning the nursing home called me to come see him. When I walked in he told me with the biggest smile, “I am forgiven!” Yes, I know Jesus Christ was raised from the grave and that I will, through my faith in Christ be raised too.

 When my family and I were sitting and talking about my Mom who had just died. At first we were all teary eyed, but then we got into some of the better stories about Mom. Stories we all knew but loved hearing again. Pretty soon we were laughing through the tears. But, the greatest time was when we remembered that in her last years she often wondered why Dad never came to see her. Dad had been dead several years and she had forgotten he was gone. I’m not sure who said it, but someone said, “Well, she knows where dad is now and I’ll just bet they are holding hands in love right now”. Because, we know in our hearts, we know…Mom and Dad both loved Jesus Christ and we know, yes we know through the tears and the touch of the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ raised them from the grave. And, we know that because of our faith in Jesus Christ, we too will hold our Mom and Dad’s hands in love in heaven when our life on earth is done.

 "How can some of you say there is no resurrection from the dead?" Paul wanted to know. Well, if we keep worrying about God's mysteries, if we keep demanding signs and proofs, we probably won’t see anything. But if we open our eyes and emotions in faith, the world is full of resurrection truth, we will see and feel signs everywhere of Christ's victory over death.

 Behold, I tell you a mystery, Christ has been raised from the dead. Let us open our eyes and hearts and souls and allow ourselves to see and know him. Let us then open our hearts and receive him. Always knowing our faith in Jesus Christ will not ever, be in vain.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC, Healy, Kansas

 

“Fishing” Luke 5:1-11

February 10, 2019

 When Carla and I go fishing, if we haven’t caught any fish in an hour or so, I’m all for leaving and doing something else. Carla says I’m a catcher not a fisherman, in that if I’m not catching fish, I’m done with it.

 But, even we catchers have our favorite fishing stories. I had a friend who was leaving Alaska and sold me his fourteen foot Zodiac inflatable boat. You’ve seen them, they are the ones that Jacque Cousteau rides around in during his adventures. I used to rent a thirty five horse motor and go out in Prince William Sound for Halibut. Now, I didn’t have a fish finder or depth gauge, so I would follow charter boats out and fish where they fished. I don’t know why, but they didn’t seem to appreciate me doing that. They would try to outrun me but they couldn’t outrun that little Zodiac.

 One day I was fishing after following a charter out, in about two hundred feet of water about five miles out from Seward in Prince William Sound. I hooked into what I just knew was a big halibut. I fought and fought and finally got it up to the surface and he was big, to me, the state record is over six hundred but mine was about fifty pounds. Now, they tell you, kill the halibut, especially a big one, before you bring it in the boat. That they’ll break your legs as they flop around. So, I had my forty four mag Dan Wesson pistol, shot him, and blew his jaw off where he was hooked. Almost had to go swimming to save him, but man’o’man was I proud of that fish. Now, that’s fishing.

 I know a fishing story is supposed to make the fisherman look good. Fishermen are supposed to talk about the monster fish they hooked but got away, or they're supposed to talk about some magical bait that makes the fish just jump on the hook. 

 But, our scripture lesson tells a different kind of fishing story. This story begins with a story about fishermen who had caught nothing after fishing all night. Then a carpenter, borrows the boat, preaches a sermon from it to keep from being crushed by the crowds, and tells the fishermen where they can catch some fish.  

 Then after hundreds of of fish are caught, a fisherman, Simon, we call him Peter most of the time, immediately gives up fishing, follows Jesus, and starts fishing for people. It is a different kind of fishing story. But, there's some things we can learn from this story and one of them is how we can have success fishing for people. And, we know as Christians that is every one of our jobs, making new disciples for Jesus Christ.

 Well, it’s a fact some people don't catch fish because they won’t go into the deep water. I will admit the first few times I took that little Zodiac out into Prince William Sound in the deep water I was a little scared. You feel pretty small knowing the water is a couple of hundred feet deep and is forty degrees and your miles from shore. In forty degree water people don’t live very long if they are in the water. But, if you didn’t go out there you would never catch the big halibut.

 Jesus told Peter, "Let's go out to the deep water." Everybody knows the big fish are in the deeper water and the first rule of fishing is you've got to go where the fish are. That’s why I used to follow the charter boats out, they knew where the fish were.

 But, this story isn’t just about fish. Jesus was teaching a spiritual principal. We could substitute fish for abundance or wisdom or love, for healing or peace, or making new disciples for Jesus Christ. All those things we want lots of. Some people don't catch anything because they will not go deep into the faith to learn how. Deep water is where we grow. Deep water takes faith. Deep water is risky. And, we have to get our mind and heart ready for it. 

 You can’t see the bottom in the deep water and you have no idea what is down there. You just have to trust the words and directions of others who have already passed through deep water. Our Lord Jesus Christ is always inviting us to the deep end so we may come to faith in him and grow. 

 Wading around in shallow water feels so much safer and fun. The minnows and the half-grown fish gather there. They stay in the shallow water for the same reasons we do…it feels safer. You can see the bottom in shallow water. Staying in shallow water is such a temptation. Shallow water is easier and it doesn't take much courage. But, Peter knew the minnows couldn't feed him. They couldn't fill him. They just weren’t what his heart was searching for. The deep water of faith in Jesus Christ is where those things we need and want are. The shallow water is where we begin the adventure, not where we finish it. There is a time for learning about Jesus and then there is a time to live what we've learned, a time to receive and a time to give sacrificially, a time to worship in church, and a time to be the church, and lead the world to Jesus Christ. And, deep water is where we have to go to get what God has for us to learn.

 You know there are also some people who don't catch fish because they don't expect to catch fish. When I followed those charter boats out, and braved those mean looks, I did it because I knew they knew where the fish were and I knew, I would catch fish where they went. When Jesus tells Simon, "Let's go to the deep water," but he doesn't stop there. He then told him, "Get ready to catch some fish."

 For all of us who come to church regularly. Week after week we go to the deep water of worship, but do we come preparing for a catch? Do we come believing a blessing is just waiting for us? Do we come to church expecting to be touched by the Spirit, do we hope and expect to feel the touch of the Holy Spirit as we worship each Sunday? Well, we should, shouldn’t we?

 Or, do we come to get along with our spouse or to be seen by others or, worse yet, just out of habit? The reason we are coming to church matters to God. Expectation is what builds faith, "the substance of things hoped for." Without expectation, there is little hope of real, life-changing faith. When we say we believe in Jesus Christ, we are not saying I am agreeing with some theory. We're saying we expect the things that God has promised us. 

 When we truly take Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we're saying, “I'm now a partner with the "giver of every good gift." One of the gifts God has promised us is fruitfulness. That we will become fishers of humanity through our faith in Christ. All followers of Jesus Christ are supposed to be expecting to lead others to faith in Christ, not just the preacher or the Sunday School teacher, each and every one of us who call ourselves Christian.

 I love how Jesus keeps pushing Peter further in his faith. "Leave the shore, Peter and go into the deep water.” These are easy in comparison to "Expect a blessing, Peter." Jesus was calling Peter to risk disappointment and expect a blessing.

 I hope you noticed that I knelt for the Pastoral Prayer today and I plan on doing that from now on. I’m doing that because I hope, no I expect that you folks who are having difficulties in your life will come and join me at the Prayer rail. I hope, no I expect that people who do not know Jesus Christ will come to the prayer rail and pray to God for Jesus Christ to come into their hearts during the invitation song. I hope and I expect that people who have something left undone in their lives will come to the rail and pray for God to help them get started on it. I’m saying these things because I am trying to live what I am talking about when I say that we need to expect fruitfulness from our efforts for God. When we are expecting and preparing to be blessed by God, I am sure we make God's heart smile. God probably says to himself, "They get it; they believe I’ll do what I say, and I will make them fruitful in their faith walk."

 There are people who don't catch fish because they’re afraid to go into the deep water, and some people don't catch fish because they don't expect to. And, there are people who don't catch fish because they think they know more about fish than God.  Peter almost made this mistake when he told Jesus, "Hey, we've been fishing all night. We know fish. You’re a carpenter trying to be a preacher what do you know about fishing?"

 Some people think they know more about fishing than God. It happens to all of us sometimes. It's not that we actually think we know more than God; it's just that we behave that way. We know God's instructions, forgive others and ourselves, bless those who curse us, give abundantly, go and visit the unfortunate, and we'll have a ball. He told us remember the Sabbath day, it's for worship and family not for catching up on work.  But, we ignore God's invitation to abundance. We say to God by our actions“I know more about marriage, more about healing, more about forgiveness, more about adults and children, and more about money than you do, God.” We say this to God, when we don’t ask our neighbor, who never comes, to come to church with us. As we think, “Why ask, they won’t come anyway.” We say it, when we don’t bring the neighbor’s children to Sunday School and church. Saying, “I don’t want those snotty little kids in my car this morning.” We say it to God, when we don’t give our time and treasure back to God, knowing that he gives us every minute of our lives and every dime we have.

 But, Peter almost forgot that God is God. Our culture doesn't really have any use for the word humility; it goes back to the Enlightenment, in the seventeen hundreds, when Western culture told itself that humanity could know everything. Many of us think they have it all figured out, but look at how the scientists and the philosophers have to change their so called established science all the time. The digital world we live in now is repeating that bologna all over again. We tell each other often when we don’t know and answer, “I’ll just Google it,” while knowing the truth is often completely opposite of what we see there. Because, those companies are manipulating the facts to help themselves, not to dispense the truth.

 Peter, was at a place we all come to over and over again in our lives, he decided that he didn't know everything, and that the emptiness and frustration for not knowing everything had made him ready to learn. Now there's a good definition of humility, a readiness to learn. You know a lot of people think the net full of fish is the miracle of this story, but I don’t think so. The real miracle of this story is that Peter decided Christ was God and that he would try to live in the way Jesus taught. Just look at what he says before the miracles begin to happen, "Yes, Lord if you say so...." My frustration, my pain, my emptiness, my despair is real, Lord, and yet and yet, you are God and I am not, use me. Like me when I followed those charters in Alaska go to the one with the instructions that will make us fruitful.

 That's when our miracles will begin to happen, that's when we will start catching fish, when we decide that God is God, and we do not have all the answers. What freedom Peter was given that day, what joy, when he truly believed, "God is the maker of heaven and earth." God alone put fish in the sea, He put the big in the whale and the play in the dolphin, and it was all done just because He's God. Don’t you see if He's God enough to do all of that, what can He do with us, when we're truly ready to catch fish? I beg you, come join me at the rail when you are facing the big questions in your life you just might learn to fish.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC Healy, Kansas

 

“Love”

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

February 3, 2019

 I first heard the song, “The Gift of Love” in Christ United Methodist Church in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our music director must have loved it, because we sang it a lot and you may have noticed, I love it too. Because, I’m sure we sing it more than some of the other songs I could have picked. Did you hear the words as we sang them this morning? “Though I may speak with bravest fire, and have the gift to all inspire, and have not love, my words are vain, as sounding brass, and hopeless gain.”

 That is what life is all about, the love of God and others that is what this sermon is about. It’s about love and that is what our hymns are about and love is what life is all about.

 From the moment you are born, until you die; every second, every minute, every hour, every day, the purpose of life is God giving us the time to learn to love, as God loves. The purpose of every moment and every day and every year is God teaching us what it means to be truly loved by God, loving our Lord Jesus Christ, and loving others. That’s what it is all about and what it’s always been about.

 The shape of God’s love in us is forever changing throughout all of our lives and hopefully it is growing. The shape of God’s love in us never stays the same. When they are little, children come up and without asking or thinking about it, throw their arms around us, giving us kisses, hugs, as they slobber all over us. The love of a little three year old gushes right out all over you and that is the shape of love when you are three.

 Then, the shape of love begins to change because God’s love in us is forever changing. You become a little older and let’s say you are in fifth grade. I remember fifth grade with all the other kids. Mom would kiss me and I would wipe it off, it embarrassed me if Mom told me she loved me. In those years I most loved when I would get to ride along with the cowboys and chase cows. I loved it, there was nothing better and there were never any girls, ever in my thoughts or in my life except my big sisters. That was the shape of love in us when we were young and in fifth grade.

 As we grew up the shape of God’s love in us changed some more. About fifteen years old. I remember falling madly in love with a cheerleader from another school. She even talked to me and smiled after the game. I just knew I couldn’t live without her, but I had no transportation and it made developing our relationship difficult.

 But, when I finally got my driver’s license and she invited me to her town for a dance. So, I drove my ’46 Chevy pickup down there, wasn’t supposed to go, but I had an amazing evening, until it was time to go home. Mom and dad would not have approved me driving that far and my truck wouldn’t start. I never found out who took my battery cable off. But, finally the girl’s Dad showed me my battery cable was off. He wasn’t very thrilled that I had come to their town to see his baby girl. Then, I was wayyyy late getting home that night and it got ugly again with Mom and Dad. But, it was worth it, to me. This wasn’t the kind of love I felt when I was as three years old or a fifth grader with the cowboys. No, this love was the real thing, I was sure of it.

 The years passed. I had been in one marriage that hadn’t ended well and had gotten used to the idea that I was a perpetual bachelor. I just assumed when I retired from the Army I would go home and work for the Bradbury’s like I had before the Army. But, one night at a line dance class I met someone. I was only there so I wouldn’t be at home alone and I met a pretty auburn haired woman who had a great smile and I was amazed she could actually do the stuff the instructor told us to do. Before I knew it, I was madly in love with her. Not at all the feelings of a five year old. Not like feelings towards the boys in fifth grade. Not even like the wonderful feelings of a young puppy love at sixteen. These feelings were much stronger.

 We got married, moved to Alaska, and built a family out of our combined five girls. That is another shape of love for our children. The sheer joy of having children is unexplainable and that is another role of love in us as we grow.

 As the years go so quickly by in our marriage, there is another quality of love that has always been there, but has changed through the years. It is this quality of friendship where your spouse becomes your best friend. These feelings of friendship aren’t like falling in love as a teenager or like the passionate love of a young man for a young woman. The friendship just keeps deepening. My wife even quotes me, sometimes!

 And, then the grandchildren come. What can you say except that all grandparents know those feelings towards their grandchildren? The happiness of parenting with not near the work. Spoiling them and then sending them back home with their parents.

 But, life too quickly changes again. For as we age couples learn to nurse and care for their loved ones as age causes illness and disabilities. Some have to place their loved ones in a care facility because they can no longer care for them. The shape of that love has moved far past the passions of before. The shape of love has moved even past the friendship that has deepened through the years. You now have the possibility of loving someone who does not even recognize you because of Alzheimers. That, also, is part of the changing shape of love.

 Then death comes. The house is empty. The shape of love is sometimes a huge hole in our heart…and the memories bring tears. It is then I think of this song…”Though I may speak with bravest fire, and have the gift to all inspire, and have not love, my words are vain, as sounding brass, and hopeless gain.”

 Love, that’s what life is all about. From the moment we are born until the moment we die; every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every month, and every year, God is trying to teach us one thing. To love as God loves. And the shape of love is always changing. The shape of love is always expanding. Foolish is the person who thinks that they know what love is at fifteen, or twenty-five or fifty-five or even seventy-five, because the shape of God’s love in us is forever expanding and changing in our lives.

 The Apostle Paul wrote some of the most beautiful words about love found anywhere in First Corinthians 13. From the moment you are born until the moment you die; with every second, every minute, every hour, every day, God is teaching you and me the same thing: to be like God, to be the most loving person that God can make of us. That’s what it is all about. If anyone asks you what it is all about, what life is all about, it is about love, learning to love our Lord and each other with the love of God.

 In First John, chapter 4, the author says, “God is love.” That is the first time in the history of the human race that the phrase had ever been said, “God is love.”  I ask you the question, “How did John come to think that?” How did Paul come to write the words in Corinthians?

 I want to try to answer that question. Did John look at the history of the human race and come to that conclusion that God is love? No, it seems to me, if you are looking at human history, all you see is war and killing. Did the Apostle Paul look at Mother Nature and come to the conclusion, love is most important? NO, I think not. You look at nature and its beauty, its mystery, and you can see the creator of the universe understands beauty. But you can’t conclude that God is love because there is too much pain and death in it. Did the author of First John look at other world religions and come to the conclusion that God was love? That’s impossible, look at the Baal worshippers killing babies and animist religions killing young virgins, that’s certainly not love.

 Well, how did John come to the conclusion for the first time in human history that God is love and lead Paul to write those wonderful words in Corinthians? Well, they looked at the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. They looked at the love in Jesus, for his parents and family, for his disciples, for all the lepers, blind, lame; he looked at the love that caused him to voluntarily die on the cross for other’s sins, not his own. They realized Jesus was the most loving person they had ever seen and his father was so loving of humanity gave his only son for our sins, not his. They saw that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. That Jesus had been raised from the dead and had conquered death itself. He then decided, “Jesus is God. Jesus is love. Therefore, God is love.” Do you see, “If Jesus is God and Jesus is love, then God must be love.” I think that is the way John came to that brilliant, first time ever, conclusion that God is love.

 It is true that the very core of everything is love and that God wants us to grow in love. In the Bible, God does not command us, “grow in intelligence.” If the very core of the universe was intelligence, then God would have said, “Get smarter and smarter.” But God does not say that. If the very essence of the universe was power, then God would be essentially energy and power and God would want us to grow in power. But because the core of the universe is love, and God is love, then God wants us to be like God; to be more loving. God wants us to experience love and grow in love.

 So, let me ask, “What does it mean to experience God, to know God?” I am saying for you to experience God is to experience the love of God. It is to experience love for other people, and often there are many people we would rather not love. When I think of experiencing the love of God, I think of a couple who helps foster children. One of the things they do best is to show those children placed in their home, love. I think of my wife helping our girls through their troubles with great love. I think of another wife who cares for he husband who much of the time doesn’t notice she’s there. I think of parents of a disabled child who care for that child with love into their old age until they can’t do it anymore and have to put them in a care facility. I think of those who work so hard to serve others in Jesus Christ in this church. I think of those who are brave enough to share Jesus Christ with those who do not know him and that is the purest form of human love.

 That is what it means to experience God, to experience love. Love is often hard work. To experience the love of God for others often involves work, exhaustion, and sometimes tears. When you think of your own stories and experiences with love, your stories always involve work, commitment, and often exhaustion. That’s what it often means to love.

 God commands us to love each other. You know, when God commands us to love as God loves, God is commanding us to be the people we were created to be in the first place.

Amen.

Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC - Healy, Kansas

 

"Holy Spirit is Here Now”

Luke 4:14-21

January 27, 2019

 The actions recorded in our scripture reading, happened in Synagogues all over Israel and Judea on the Sabbath. Someone would read from the scroll and then talk about the verses they had read. After they read, the speaker would try to apply the scriptures to what was going on in the world. Preaching then, as I think it should now, tried to apply the scripture lesson to the lives of the listeners.

 On this day, Jesus was the reader and the speaker. A synagogue leader handed him the scroll, and Jesus finds the place and reads from the words of the prophet 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.”

 Then he rolled up the scroll and handed it back. All eyes were on him as the congregation waited for his comments about these words written seven hundred years before, Israel’s promise of the Messiah. They wondered, would he talk about the occupation by Rome and the oppression they lived under. Or, maybe he would talk about his own ministry that is growing and getting lots of attention? No one breathed as they waited for him to speak. What would Jesus, a home town boy say about the coming of the Messiah?

 Jesus might have preached on the wisdom of the prophet. He might have said, "In the past, our parents hoped for a world of justice, freedom, and healing. For fullness of life in a land of milk and honey as God promised Moses." Or he might have talked about the world to come, "We, are all waiting for the fulfillment of these glorious promises! One day, the poor will be lifted up, captives set free, and the blind will see! Oh, how we long for that! How we pray for that!"

 Jesus could have talked about the amazing man Isaiah! Or, he could have told them about the promises of God for a better future. He could have reassured them the kingdom of God is coming, someday! But, he didn’t. Instead, he simply said, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

 Many of them thought, “How could he say that the Spirit of the Lord is already HERE?” Who does he think he is, saying, “The poor are hearing the good news, right now, today?” How could he say the prisoners are being released and that, the blind will see, come on? How will the oppressed receive justice while Rome is still beating us down? How can this possibly be the year of Lord's favor? 

 They might have asked, “Have you seen what is going on here in Judea, Jesus? You know how horrible things are under the Romans? Don’t you know there is more brutality, more people in prison, more illness, more violence and more terrorism than Isaiah ever saw in his time? How can the kingdom of God be here, right now? You’re either crazy or a liar, Jesus?

 But, he didn’t, he simply them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but, today. They were so angry, they tried to throw him off a cliff.

 I can feel for Jesus, for I knew a preacher who had a family in a congregation he served who wanted to throw him off a cliff. He had the nerve to doubt the Matriarch of that church from what had always been the ruling family of the church and she believed she knew exactly what the church needed…she always knew. Don’t believe, ask her. That preacher had the unmitigated gall to move her off some committees where she had great power. He was crazy enough to doubt her omnipotence. One caring man actually pulled him aside and warned him to not challenge her. He was right about her not taking the challenge well. He was right that she would try to get him thrown off a cliff, but she wouldn’t do it herself, she was above doing the dirty work, she used her minions for that. As it turned out that kind man was right and he was thrown off the cliff and moved on to another church.

 Almost all churches, all over the world hold the past in reverence. While they hope for a future that it will be just like the past. Holding on to the past may take the form of almost worshipping the building, of reminding everyone what had worked in the past and are still doing it, even though it no longer works. While talking about the future is often wrapped up in hopes for salvation and eternal life. People’s desires for prayers to be answered, for the children to hold onto faith, and come back to church. Yes, the past and the future are important to churches who are alive. Honoring our ancestors and embracing a hopeful future is the right thing to do.

 But, falling too much in love with the past and thinking any good that is possible is way in the future, can get us in trouble. When we overemphasize the past, we end up thinking the past is better than anything can ever be today. While putting all our hopes in the future may let us forget what we do or don’t do today is the foundation for the future.

 Unfortunately, the majority of churchgoers in the United States are sentimental for the past and worried about the future. Many believe that "the church’s best days are behind us" and that the future of the church is bleak. While if the future is bleak, it is the people in the pews fault. Many congregations are caught between trying to make the past look better than it was and having little hope the future will be any better. Evidently, many of us would rather look back with sadness at the past, than prepare for and trust a beautiful future is coming. Many end up worshipping the past while mourning that the future will be even worse than today.

 I will never forget the argument over the sign that told what hymns were going to be sung each Sunday at the church I grew up in. Our church had been founded by a group of folks from Arkansas who moved to Eastern Colorado to get their own land to farm. When they came out Aunt Versey, or something like that, had brought an old board with slots for hymn selections from the old church in Arkansas. Now, we all know that signs like that were used in the old days before churches started using bulletins and were no longer needed now that printed bulletins were used. In the same way, I have a feeling Power Point may have begun making bulletins obsolete.

 n our church they had finished repainting and the hymn board hadn’t been put back up. According to some, the world was going to end unless it was returned to its rightful place at the front of the church behind the preacher People were threatening to leave the church over it unless it was put back up and the song numbers were again placed on it. Now, it wasn’t that that board was bad, many people depended on it for knowing the next song…what was wrong with the entire mess was how many felt they could no longer worship in that church if it wasn’t there. Obviously, they were worshipping the past.

 We all need to remember, what we are doing today is building on the work of the past while it is preparing for the future. The past was wonderful when we were raising our kids and serving Christ. But, there is no shortage of children in this town and we need to find ways to get them here. While there are many unchurched people around us and again, what are we doing to get them in church? The future will be good if we are doing what we should be doing today, making new disciples for Jesus Christ. We need to focus on the now and stop leaning on our memories and our dreams as we fully live in Christ, today! The past is often made to sound better than it was, while looking to the future depends upon those who come later to fix everything we have messed up, if we haven’t done our job today. Today, right now, we of the church are supposed to be right in the middle of Christ’s work on earth. Yes, the Kingdom of God is here right now!

 "Today," may be is the most radical thing Jesus said that day. Jesus essentially told his friends, "Look around. See the Spirit of God at work, right here, right now, for, God is with us, now. Just as, our father promised Moses at the burning bush, ‘I will be with you,’ God is here with us today. Just as he was always there, always loving then, God is here with us, right now!”

 Jesus is asking his friends and neighbors to open their eyes, to listen to God's promise to always be with them, while remembering God always keeps his promises, no matter what. But, this was not a call to accept that God is always with us and do nothing else. Instead, it was and still is…a call to look past the sin, injustice, trials, and evils of human life today and notice, really notice, the amazing love and compassion of God, which all of it is built on. If we can see and believe that the power of the love of God is at work in the world right now, our mourning of the past and fear for the future will end. Then we can recognize that in all of these things even in the worst of times…God is with us. Defeating our false beliefs that evil and Satan are winning, the joy of grace, mercy, and the justice of God will come into our hearts and lives. Then our mourning and fear will turn into compassion and love, giving us the power to walk in the way God wants.

 Yes, the Spirit of the Lord was on Jesus. But it was also on each one of his friends and neighbors…if their hearts were open to it. Jesus was one of them, he was fully human and he was and is fully God. By stressing the word "today," Jesus transformed Isaiah's prophecy, into a powerful invitation for them and for us to start a close walk with God and to work for him right now, today. Not next week, not when we’re not as busy, but right now.

 The text might have been read: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and also with you, because he has anointed you and I to bring good news to the poor. He has sent US to proclaim release to the captives and the recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. 

 Living in God's promise is not about yesterday. It is not about waiting for the Messiah who will come, but hasn’t yet, that is in the future and we don’t know when. While there are souls to save right now and we can do it if we will finally realize he is with us, right now! Yes, the Lord will return some day, we don’t know when. But, Jesus’ words to the people of Nazareth are to us today and to be lived out NOW! This is a hard truth to hear and receive for some of us. We love to dream of the good old days and hope someone will do the work for God that we have let slide. Jesus' friends refused, will we?

 Many of them stayed mired in their worship of the past and constant worry about the future. Wishing, for the Savior to appear and take them out of the mess they had had a part in making when he was already there! Is that how we sometimes sound? Let’s not do as the people of Nazareth did.

 Today, right now, Jesus' sermon remains as clear and moving, as important and urgent as ever. When he said, “This promise has been fulfilled in your hearing.” He is telling us what we need to be doing for God is here, it is right now, the work is to be done, now.

Amen.

Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor

UMC Healy, Kansas

 

“Doubt”

Luke 2:22-40

January 20, 2019

 Our scripture today, tells us about when Simeon and Anna, two servants of God who patiently waited for the Messiah and they finally met him. We hear of their joy when they finally see the promised one of God, Jesus Christ, the Messiah. As I read this passage, I thought about all those years they had waited to see the Messiah. Did they ever wonder if God would ever be faithful to them? Did they ever wonder if they had been lied to, by the teachers in the temple? Did they ever doubt? For it is a fact, doubt comes to all of us.

 There are doubters all through the Bible, just as we sometimes are. I think many of us have our doubts. I think one of those times is with the letdown that comes after the craziness of the holiday season as we worry about the bills and all that’s going on in our crazy world. The crucifixion, and the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ causes some of us to have a little doubt. We sometimes wonder, was Jesus really murdered and did he really come back from the dead? So, I was thinking Simeon and Anna, Thomas, and all the others, I hope talking about them might help us with our own doubt.

 But, maybe doubt isn’t all bad, I think many of our experiences of true joy come after we have had times of doubt, anxiety, and questions without answers. We have times that truly test our faith, like when we lose a loved one or our own health is bad? Or, when we look around us at all the evil in the world and how it seems unstoppable? 

 I think it probably happened to Simeon and Anna. They were human and probably had the same doubts we have. Anyone as joyous as Simeon and Anna over the proof of their faith must have doubted sometime?

 Here are a few of the situations I have seen in church members when they doubted. A young soldier comes home and causes so much trouble the family almost wishes he hadn’t come. My folks never told me, but I wonder if they thought about it. Trouble in a marriage that is covered up until Christmas is over and then it explodes. Or, when we spend much more than we should on Christmas and it still doesn’t give the joy we thought it would.

 Or, in the Easter season we wonder, why God doesn’t give us just a little more confidence in the resurrection. Or, why did God have to sacrifice his only Son to save the world? Sometimes, after Christmas and Easter our doubts are in wondering why the holidays don’t bring joy and peace to the world.

 In our churches we see the letdown form the holidays. I am so happy you are here today, because attendance is almost always down after Christmas. While those who do show up for worship are sometimes so exhausted by the holidays that it is hard for them to open their spirits to the Lord. The credit card statements start arriving, we watch the news, and we really get miserable.

 Yet, Simeon and Anna are joyous. Their long-awaited dreams have come true. I am afraid we sometimes wonder, why don't we feel that way? We see it throughout the Bible. A good example of this is Thomas, good old Doubting Thomas, the disciple of Jesus. He gives us a clear picture of his doubting. He wasn’t there when Jesus made his first appearance to the disciples after the resurrection and he told them he would believe when he saw the risen Lord for himself. He just knew Jesus couldn’t be alive; but, when he saw the resurrected Jesus, he believed.

 Often the first step toward having doubts is in separating ourselves from the people of God. When we decide it’s to stay home on Sunday morning and skip church. When we just didn’t have the energy to get dressed and go or we would have to leave our company to go. Not thinking about the terrible witness we are giving those loved ones we are staying home with.

 When God spoke to Elijah on the slopes of Mt. Sinai, Elijah was told to get back with the faithful of Israel to help him with his own doubts. Once many years ago my men and I had been in a swamp for several hours sneaking up and on some bad guys in a war game. After the successful surprise attack, we had properly kicked some hind end the commander told us as a reward, we would be trucked back to the barracks instead of having to walk the fifteen miles. But, we had to stand and wait on the truck, in the cold February, Georgia rain storm.

 Then I had, what I thought was a great idea. I told my men if we all bunched together we would be warmer. It is true and I didn’t whine at all when they all bunched up tight all around me. Things were going great until one of the guys on the outside realized he was supplying heat for the guys inside of him and he was still freezing on one side and slowly but surely the outside guys started peeling off, so we could all freeze together.

 It is the same way with our faith and the church. We can never be as close to God when we peel away from the people of God, as we can with them. People who say they have a great spiritual life alone without the church are dreaming, it just can’t happen. God gave us the church and the people in it to help us stay strong in our faith.

 I’m afraid, doubt is more an emotion than it is rational thought. Doubt is influenced by our experiences and by the way we feel about life. In fact, many people doubt because it's a good place to hide from the truth. For, as long as we can live in the house of doubt, we don’t have to take responsibility for what we do and then we get to feeling we don’t need to do anything for God, like helping the less fortunate and those who do not know Jesus Christ.

 We all know people who say they don’t believe in God and see no good reason to follow Christ. They have excuses for it too, like bad things that happened to them or their loved ones. They ask, “How could a loving God allow that to happen?” Or, they think because of their science education, they just can’t buy into a virgin birth or a man coming back from the dead. Some will tell you they are a seeker of the truth. But, that they are certain that the truth is not in the Bible and some man named Jesus Christ. I wonder, are they seeking the truth, or are they running away from it? Are they hiding their heart from a spiritual experience that would bring them to faith because they do not want to admit they are wrong? When you say you are seeking, but then decide to say, “No,” to faith…you are hiding from the truth.

 But, despite all this, there is a place in the Christian life for honest doubt. For, doubt is always the starting place for faith. Before Gideon could be used by God, he cried out, "If the Lord is with us, why has this befallen us?" Or Job in his struggle shouted, "I cry unto you and you do not answer." Never forget that on the cross, Jesus shouted, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

 Doubt is like the front porch of the house. We must cross it before we can get into the house. Most of us have cried out, "Lord, I believe. Please, help me in my unbelief." The ability to doubt is one of those things some of us are really good at. Look around you and see the things in our life that should be doubted. The greatest servants have in the face of something universally accepted as true, when they have dared to say, "I doubt that!" Without being able to doubt, there could be no progress, only unquestioned acceptance of what others have said.

 Science used to say the earth was flat and the sun rotated around it. The idea was challenged by a few brave souls. Some of them died for expressing those doubts. We talk about scientific pioneers, but every scientific advance started with doubt.

 Even, Jesus was a doubter. He doubted revenge was the way to go, so he said, "Forgive one another." He doubted the long prayers and rigid laws of Judaism were essential to faith. So he talked about a simple faith of following him. He doubted that the Samaritans were an inferior race. So, he told the parable about the Good Samaritan and the bad priests. Yes, honest doubt is the starting point for faith and strong faith sometimes has to be fought for.

 I have lain awake at night, struggling like Jacob with the angel for what I needed to believe and what to do. The answer has always came to me, but in God's way and in God's own time. Strong faith often has to be fought for.

 We need to remember, there is no such thing as a faith without tears. People who want a faith without tears will find it difficult to adjust to the teachings of the New Testament and real life. I would suggest, “Look your doubts in the eye and doubt them!” This takes courage, but it will stop them from controlling your life.

 I've been a pastor for almost twenty years now and a Christian many more years and I have seen people growing in their faith and others running from it. Once a church member came to my office and asked if we could talk. We talked about him doubting his faith in Christ.

 But, then a lady came in from the church who had terminal cancer, she knew she was getting near her death. Yet, she still had come in to get ready for a potluck dinner. She saw us and came in to talk. She had to sit because she was so weak. She talked about all the blessings of her life, her kids, her grandchildren, and her faith in Jesus Christ. She told us that even though she didn’t have long to live here on earth, she knew she would live forever in heaven, without this stupid cancer. That’s what she called it, “Stupid Cancer”. She told about how she wasn’t happy about leaving, because she had so many things she still wanted to do for her family and her Savior. But, she was joyous that her family was in Christ and she would see them again in heaven.

 After she left the man with the faith problems looked at me and told me, “I think I’m going to look at my relationship with Christ again.” I believe, that woman was sent by God…on that day…to help that man…consider his relationship with Christ? Even at the end of her life she was still working for her Lord and Savior.

 So, we are in the beginning of a new year. Today is a good day…to move from skepticism to faith. It is time to celebrate our doubts and doubt them and see them as a beginning to a deep, abiding, and mature faith in Jesus Christ. Remembering, strong faith, worthwhile faith must always be fought for. Fight for it tooth and nail, for it is worth it.

Amen.

Pastor Bud Tuxhorn

UMC - Healy, Kansas

 

“Remember the Waters”

Luke 3:15-22

January 13, 2019

In my second tour in Alaska I used to love to go out during duck and goose season in a flat bottom duck boat. We would go to the Palmer Hay Flats north of Anchorage. These were salt water mud flats on the North end of Cook Inlet at the mouth of the Knik and the Matanuska Rivers…

 Now to be honest, I didn’t really care if we shot ducks and geese or not, for if you did they had to be cleaned and eaten. The fun, for me was in putting the rented 24 foot flat bottom jet boat in the water and going really fast and since we pulled it with my Blazer, I claimed the driving privileges.

 One of the things you have to learn about in Alaska, if you’re going to run a boat in salt water is about the tides. The tides come up really fast and really high, some places have a fourteen foot change daily in the waterline and they go out just quickly. So, in water that is perfectly safe to go very fast because it is deep, just a short time later the same water becomes very shallow…VERY quickly. You can’t see the bottom near the coast, because the water is so muddy from glacial silt. Kind of a gray color…from all the ground up granite the glaciers make as they move.

 So one Saturday morning we put the boat in the water on the Knik River and we were making the fast run south where we could find some ducks. Did I say, “A really fast run”? My boss and the other guy on the trip decided to sit up front watching for shallow water, I guess I was scaring them a little with my driving. So, we are screaming along as fast as that 65 horse jet motor would go…and we stopped…we just stopped. It was like we hit a wall.

 I flew forward against the steering wheel and guess what happened to the guys in front watching for shallow water? Yep…they went in the water. Now, after the tide had gone out, it was less than a foot deep. But, it was 40 degrees cold, just like all the water in Alaska that isn’t frozen, almost year round. There is something else a person needs to know about salt mud flats. Glacial mud is dangerous. It is like quicksand and when my boss and friend tried to stand up and come BACK to the boat, they sank like rocks in that mud. They both had hip waders on, but the water and the mud was over the top of them quickly.

 They finally had to lay down in the mud and the water to get back to the boat. Of course the boat was going nowhere either. We were getting really cold, but the three of us had to pull the boat off that mudflat. It took us an hour and we were all about frozen. We wondered later if we should have just waited for the tide to come up and lift us off. So, we had to go back to the landing on the Knik River, go to Eagle River and change clothes. When we got back they wouldn’t let me drive the boat when we headed back out after ducks. Why, on earth, would they do that?

 We had a lesson that day on how glacial water can be dangerous. We looked at that great big boat with a sixty five horse motor and we saw safety and security and fun. We thought there was nothing we couldn’t handle. But, then we were reminded, the waters of the Knik River and Cook Inlet and the Palmer Hay Flats are dangerous. They have a power all their own. If you don’t respect that power, you can easily get yourself into trouble. Not only for the water, even the mud, under it, is dangerous.

 Water is dangerous…but it is also important to us, the human body is made up of sixty or seventy percent water. Water transports nutrients to our cells, and removes waste from our bodies. Water helps control our temperature. It’s just a fact, without water, we can’t live. But, even though we need it for life, water doesn’t come without risks. Drowning is one of the primary causes of death. Floods and tsunamis destroy towns and villages, destroying crops, demolishing buildings, causing terrible damage. While people die every day because they don’t have access to clean water. Water where you don’t want it, is always trouble and think of the power of water when you look at the Mississippi and Missouri River? Water is dangerous. No matter how hard we try to control it, it goes where it wants to go. Look at our levy systems, when the water decides to top them or wash them away, it just does as it pleases as the Corps of Engineers stand and watch.

 Well, the dangers of the water don’t change when we talk about the waters of baptism. Oh, the water sitting here in the baptismal is nice and quiet and safe looking. But, there is power there and it is a power that we can’t see, we can only feel the power of the Holy Spirit. The power of Baptismal water is a power which marks us and claims us for Jesus Christ. We are filled with the presence of God’s Spirit and grace. In our Baptism we are given work to do for the Lord that cannot ever be hidden from. No matter how much we think we control our own lives, our lives will never be the same.

 We should never think our baptism is safe and what we have to do for our Lord is over. For, the Spirit of God isn’t a nice safe house to hide in.  When we are claimed by the waters of baptism, we aren’t sent out on a safe and gentle stream. No, the journey of faith is a rushing river, full of rapids and shoals, glacial mud flats, and tides, when we are called to do the Lord’s work.  But, we won’t have to do them alone, for God’s Spirit will always be with us as our guide. The Lord pushes and pulls us one way or the other to get us where he wants us, but it isn’t always safe. It is only when we followers of Christ work together and listen to our guide, Jesus Christ, we can accomplish what we are called to do.

 Jesus knew all this when he went to the Jordan to see John. John was calling folks to repent, turn back to God, and be cleaned up by baptism. But Jesus didn’t need cleaning up. John knew Jesus didn’t need it. He also knew he wasn’t worthy to do it, but Jesus had him do it anyway.

 Jesus understood baptism wasn’t about what we do. No, it’s about what God is going to do in us through baptism. Jesus showed us that baptism is about claiming our adoption as God’s children and being initiated into the family of God as God claims us as His own.

 It isn’t safe for us and it wasn’t safe for Jesus, either. Jesus knew what was going to happen when that water touched Him. Jesus knew that His baptism would set Him against Satan and the world. He knew that the waters were dangerous, he even knew His baptism was going to lead to his death on a cross.

 But all that didn’t matter to Him, he did it anyway for our sins not his. For in these dangerous waters, in the mud flats with the fast moving tides it was and is the only hope for the world. A hope that still comes to us today when we claim our inheritance and remember our baptism.

 Friends, today when we remember our baptism and give thanks to God for it. We are again committing ourselves to a life where we give up control and give our all to God. In our church we call baptism and Holy Communion sacraments. The word comes from when a Roman soldier pledged his loyalty and obedience, they said he was making a “sacramentum”.

 In the same way, as we renew our baptismal covenant as we remember our baptism we need to be willing to give up the comfort and control we think we have. We need to turn ourselves over to our Creator who calls us to be more than we ever thought we could be. To be baptized is to be called by God to be a follower of Jesus Christ. While knowing, the road with Jesus sometimes leads to crosses. Yes, these waters are dangerous, but they shouldn’t be feared. For when these waters touch our souls and our lives, when the Spirit of God comes into us. It reminds us we are children of God, called to lead the world to Jesus Christ and that no matter what happens in this world, our Lord will catch us and bring us to him.

 The river of life in Christ is not safe. But God is with us, and we share together the mark of baptism in Jesus Christ that binds us together. Baptism is also a public act of the church when the congregation pledges allegiance to God and to each other. This power is the exact same power that parted the seas for Moses and calmed the waves for Jesus. Now, that’s real power.

 The waters of our baptism are to run through our lives, carving out a spot in our hearts, a spot which can only be filled with the love of Jesus Christ our Savior. It grows with time and experience, as God’s people gather together at the river to remember just what God has given us. These waters that seem so gentle in this baptismal are filled with power. A transforming power changing us and preparing us for a lifetime of witnessing for Jesus Christ.

 In a moment, we will come forward to touch the waters and hear God’s voice speak to us personally. To those of us who have already been baptized, I invite you to come and touch the waters and remember your baptism. As you open your heart to God’s call in your life.

 To those who have not yet experienced the healing waters of baptism, we invite you to come also, come and touch the water as you look forward to your own baptism. When we are baptized we have taken God’s mark to proclaim our faith in Christ to the world and it is not supposed to be kept private. I hope you look forward to the day you want to declare Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and be baptized. We could even do it today. But, please feel free to come and touch the waters. Open your heart as you listen for God’s call on you.

 For all of us remember there is power in these waters. They aren’t safe, they don’t mean nothing. When we accept the water s of Christ we are initiated into Christ’s world of obedience and sometimes that’s not safe. While at the same time these waters have the power to heal all wounds.

 Come to the place where the healing waters flow. The current is sometimes strong, but God is always with us. Come and see and know the wonderful power of Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Pastor Bud Tuxhorn

UMC - Healy, KS