ANNOUNCEMENTS

Wed. Dec. 12                     NO  Bible Study

Next Sun. Dec. 16         10 am   Sunday School;          11 am   Worship

You may give donations for Christmas Eve candy bags to Norma Miller, altar guild treasurer.

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

Mon. Dec. 24    6:30pm Christmas Eve Service

Wed. Jan. 2       6 pm     Soup & Sandwich, take down decorations

 

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  (Micah 6:8)

Graced by the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord

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PREPARING THE LORD’S WAY

(Luke 3:1-6)                  Pastor Carol Weist

Before John the Baptist was born, his father Zechariah was told by an angel of the Lord what his mission would be.

Zechariah was told this about his yet to be born son:  “ 16He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.  17With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children,  and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous,  to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16-17)

What makes a people prepared for the Lord?   We need to be turned toward God.  According to the angel of the Lord many of the people of Israel will turn towards God, not necessarily every single one of them or even a majority.  It is easy to get distracted and not be turned toward God.  Many people when working towards a goal have ways of keeping on track towards that goal.  Often that involves other people such as a teacher or coach or other people working toward the same goal or who are willing to listen and encourage.

The path to our goals may have valleys and challenging climbs.  We may get off track and meander.  The way may be rough. It does not have to be rough to turn to Jesus or to turn back to Jesus.  When we get distracted and turn away Jesus does not demand that we be endlessly rough on ourselves.  Preparing the Lord’s way is not strewing loads of rocks and other obstacles in front of ourselves as we move forward.

We can turn to the Lord in prayer.  We can simply pray in our own simple or not so simple words.  We can pray prayers that have already been written – such as the whole book of Psalms and the many other prayers in scripture.  There are many beautiful and powerful prayers faithful to scripture that others have written.

Every hymn is a prayer.  Even if you cannot carry a tune, simply saying the words with or without singing them is praying with other Christians over the centuries.  It can be a great comfort to know that whoever wrote the words to a hymn or other prayer decades or centuries ago had similar burdens and heartaches as well as joys, thanksgivings, and praises.

It can be a great comfort that even when you do not feel particularly like praying that others in the same room are praying.  Looking around and remembering what others who are present and those who have been present there over the years have gone through, the joys and the sorrows, helps keep all of us turned toward Jesus. Continue reading

CHRIST, THE PERFECT GOAL

(Matthew 5:48, Philippians 3:10)       Pastor Carol Weist

Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.  (Matthew 5:48) Yet none of us are perfect, nor is anything we make perfect.

The apostle Paul said that even before he met Christ, “as to righteousness under the law,” he was “blameless.”  (Philippians 3:6b) Yet that type of righteousness was not good enough, not perfect enough, not complete enough for Jesus.  Paul needed more from Jesus.  Jesus gave him a truly righteous goal and the means and strength to press on toward that goal of knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection.  (Philippians 3:10)  Merely being blameless under the law did not cut it. Paul needed a goal, a truly righteous and perfect goal.  Once Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he embraced that goal of knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection.

Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.  God has a seemingly strange way of being perfect at times.  God creates a world where no flower grows with perfectly identical petals, beautiful flowers. God designs our faces so that they are asymmetrical, the left side is not the exact mirror image of the right side, marvelously unique and expressive faces. Continue reading

FEAR OR THANKSGIVING

(John 18:33-37)             Pastor Carol Weist

According to Revelation 1:8, 21:6, and 22:13, Jesus is indeed, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.  Jesus is and was and is to come.  Jesus is the Almighty.  Not all thirst for what Jesus stands for, but to all who thirst for what Jesus stand for, Jesus gives water from the spring of the water of life that he is.

Jesus is the Alpha and Omega.  Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Jesus is the “A” and the “Z” of our lives. According to Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever” and “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;  fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

When Pilate interrogates Jesus, he may be fearful.  His fear does to seem to be fear of the Lord.  He is more concerned about keeping those under his authority from rebelling.  The Jews do not want to be ruled by anyone from Rome including Pilate.  They resent Roman rule.  There is reluctant and ambivalent cooperation from Jewish leadership. The Herods were appointed by Rome to be kings of the Jews.  It was a crime to appoint one’s self king of the Jews without Rome’s permission.  Jesus was accused of committing that crime.

Fear of the Lord was not so much a factor in Pilate’s questioning of Jesus as fear of the trouble the Jews might cause and fear of not measuring up to the expectations of the higher authorities above him in Rome. Pilate had some savvy, a bit of wisdom to reach his position of authority and stay in that position thus far.  That is not the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge.

Consider how Psalm 93 describes the Lord in contrast to the Roman Caesars and other kings and lords and rulers who have come and gone: 1aThe Lord is king, he is robed in majesty;  the Lord is robed, he is girded with strength.   Other kings and rulers have been strong and worn majestic robes but they have not established the world and they do not rule forever.  1bThe Lord  has established the world; it shall never be moved;   2His throne is established from of old and he is from everlasting.

Other kings and rulers may be strong and mighty but are they as mighty as this? 3The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice;  the floods lift up their roaring. 4More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters,  more majestic than the waves of the sea, majestic on high is the Lord!  Our God is an awesome God.  Downright frightening if you think about it.  Other kings and rulers may make laws and decrees – but none as nobly as our Lord:  5Your decrees are very sure; holiness befits your house, O Lord, forevermore.

Yes, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.  We come before the Lord with fear and trembling only to find out that in the end perfect love redeems us and casts out fear.  Continue reading

PROVOKING

(Hebrews 10:11-25)          Pastor Carol Weist

Hebrews 10:23-25     23Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

There is much in life that can be provoking, for good or for bad. Hebrews 10:25 calls upon us to provoke one another for good, to provoke one another to love and good deeds. There is much in the world that provokes or incites anger.  There is much that stirs up emotion and stirs people to action, provoking them to respond.  There is much that exasperates and vexes and stirs up resentment.

Rather than encouraging us to stir up resentment, we are encouraged to exasperate each other into love and good deeds. When we become provoked or exasperated with the hate and resentment within us and among us and around us we can declare that we are sick of the bad being provoked and start provoking some good.

You are probably provoking good and you have not called it that.  Have you ever provoked laughter, not by putting down another person, but by simply laughing with them about the absurdity of a situation?  Can you still see the funny side of life despite all of life’s annoyances?

Of course, life still has its share of serious, somber matters.  Despite all the somber, serious matters God has to deal with, God still has time to delight in creation.  Psalm 104:26 says that God created the Leviathan to romp in the sea for the sport of it.  That sounds like delight to me and provoking delight in us not just to delight in Leviathans, but in all God’s innumerable creatures large and small. Continue reading

NOT BY HUMAN HANDS

(Hebrews 9:24-28)            Pastor Carol Weist

Hebrews 9:24-28     24For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; 26for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.27And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, 28so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Many chapters of scripture are devoted to regulations for worship, first in the tent of meeting, also called the tabernacle, that traveled with Moses and the Hebrew people in the wilderness and then in the temple in Jerusalem.  Many chapters are devoted to how the tabernacle and then the temple were to be constructed and furnished.

There has not been a temple in Jerusalem since 70 AD when the Roman legions reduced it along with the rest of Jerusalem to rubble.  There are reports of the glory of the Lord in the temple in Isaiah and Ezekiel.  That does not mean the glory of the Lord was limited to the temple. According to Isaiah’s vision in chapter 6 he  “saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.” 

Although God can enter the tiniest of human hearts, God is not limited by us.  God is bigger and greater than any building built with human hands. The temple as a place of worship authorized by God was a magnificent place.  Even so it was not directly built by God.  It was built by human hands. Continue reading

HARD TO SWALLOW, EASY TO CARRY

(Isaiah 25:6-9)                Pastor Carol Weist

Isaiah 25:6-9     6On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. 7And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. 8Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.  9It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Isaiah 25 is a song of victory.  The feast the Lord makes for all peoples on Mount Zion is a feast of victory.  There has been a shroud of death cast over all peoples, a dark shadow, not the comforting shelter and refuge under the Lord’s wings  (Psalm 61:4). This is a song of victory.

The Lord has swallowed up death forever. Death is a hard pill to swallow, way too big for us to swallow. We don’t have to swallow such a pill because Jesus already has.

Today is All Saints Sunday when we remember those who have gone before us to join the cloud of witnesses.  There is still death and dying in our world, but not forever.  Not all leaves die in the fall, but many do to be replaced by new leaves in the spring.  Just because a tree sheds its leaves, does not mean it dies.  The sap still flows through the winter making preparations for the spring.  Cells in our bodies are constantly dying and are usually replaced by new ones. There are people who are physically alive but who are dead to compassion.

In Christ the deaths of this world are not forever.  So how then shall we live here and now? Here is what Hebrews 12:1-2 says:  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,  let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,  and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,   looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,  who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame,  and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”

How are we to live in the here and now? We are free in Christ to remember that we are surrounded.  We may be surrounded by enemies and problems.  That is the type of being surrounded people dislike and fear.  It is only human to forget that we are also surrounded by an even greater cloud of witnesses.

We are indeed free in Christ to remember that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who can testify to what God has done:  Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets and unnamed women and men are told of in Hebrews 11.  There are also the many witnesses to the faith we have known or read about.  We are surrounded in a good way, not by a shroud of death over all peoples, but by a luminous, shining cloud of witnesses. Continue reading