Tuesday, May 30, 2017

First Words

On July 20, 1969 some first human words were spoken on the moon.  You will find out the nature of those words on Sunday but rest assured in the vacuum, stillness and silence of that barren place, the "moon and stars" had heard other words.  What about when God spoke all things into existence? What about the oldest book of the Bible recounting God's word to Job, asking Job if he was present "as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy (Job 38:7)?"  Our foray into the unknown reaches of space are, Biblically, preceded by the God who was and is and is to come.  All that said, Buzz Aldrin's story is pretty moving ... I look forward to sharing it with you.

But Sunday we will also share some other first words.  They are the first words of the Church (the Ecclesia, the 'People of the Way').  Spirit-filled disciples leave the safety of their hideout and the Church of Acts goes out to preach the Gospel to all people in all languages.  Those first words were filled with God's power and overflowing with a grace that called unlearned, ill-equipped and error-prone disciples out into the dangerous waters of serving God.  The story still gives me goosebumps and sends excitement running through my veins.

As the past two weeks have progressed we have heard some first words here.  First words of new servants as they (God's new creations) came up out of the water, leaving the kingdom of this earth and entering the Kingdom of God.  First words of new members of the Church as the makeup of God's Holy People was forever altered because God added them to His Church.  And Sunday, as we share Holy Communion and, yet again, allow God to change us and move us closer to His place for us.  None of us should EVER be the same!

As I reflect upon the last few weeks I remember seeing the splendor of ornate and ultra-expensive churches/cathedrals in Europe.  It reminds me of the scene from the Raiders of the Lost Arc as the bad guy tries to pick out the cup of Jesus.  He chooses the expensively adorned cup and pays with his life for the bad choice.  The real cup of Jesus ends up being the plain cup ... the cup of a servant.

Our beginning to this summer has seen people from all walks of life sharing the Sacraments of the Church, sacred because of Jesus' presence.  We bring a message that doesn't need to be dressed-up.  The message we offer is plain, simple and comes in the words of a servant.  All of the other messages and other gods might look ornate, appealing, glamorous and powerful ... but they offer falseness and death.  But we carry, like the Church of Acts, the simple message of life that overruns language barriers, social classes, political borders and theological constructs.  "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:38-39).  It is the message brought to us by one who became a servant so that we may have life. Randy

Sunday, May 21, 2017


I shared a comment by Francis Chan today in worship.  Chan said that because he was really good at what he did and because his church had space, programs and all the right attractions, his church would probably be bigger than the church Jesus would lead in Simi Valley (where Chan served for an extended period).  Truth is ... he's probably right!  Serving and following Jesus is hard.

When I read the book of Acts (the story of the early Church) I am reminded of the crew of characters that made up the early expression of Jesus' hands and feet the world.  Unemployed fishermen ... a tax collector ... a physician ... women ... all coming our of Pentecost filled with the Spirit of God and the fire of God's indwelling.  But that Church grew.  In spite of rabid persecution ... in spite of religious and political powers opposing them at every turn ... they grew, scattered and spread out into the Mediterranean rim with the gospel of truth, life and forgiveness.

This all makes me feel a little better about us and, specifically, me.  I know for sure that I am not adequate for the ministry tasks I encounter every week.  This week is looking particularly difficult because I have no easy solution for the problems I will encounter.  There are no easy answers, no cliches and no pat answers.  It will ba hard!  I only have what David Platt (in our video this morning) said the Church of Acts had ... the Word of God ... the people of God and the Spirit of God.  Lord ... thank you for a Word that leads me when I am totally insufficient to the task ahead.  Thank you for people that love and nurture me when I am stubborn, weak and at a loss for what to do.  And thank you for Your Spirit that walks beside me and gives me counsel when I need it most.  For ministry You are all that I need!  Randy

Monday, May 1, 2017


A thought just occurred to me.  Our sermon series "ReThink Church" is 2 weeks in and I am enjoying taking a fresh look at the life, mission and structure of the Church as we go back to the one source that knows everything about the Church ... Jesus.  but as I look at that word "ReThink" I can't help but ask the question ... "Did we really think about things Biblically as the Church (as we know it) was started?"  Or maybe another question ... "Do we view 'doing church' as just continuing what we have been taught or are we really ready to go all the way back to Jesus as we "ReThink?"

When I look at my personal history as a church-goer I must confess that Jesus has somehow connected with me in spite ... not because ... of some of my church-related experiences.  These include some really bad theology in the first church I ever attended, very little Jesus-focus in those first years and some trips through some very comfortable congregations that loved to come on Sunday but saw "church" as something that happened between 9-NOON on Sunday.  I watched supposedly religious people argue over things that have no eternal significance.  I experienced persecution inside the church because I thought teaching about Jesus was more important than the location of a coffee pot.  I have seen politics, a variety of "isms" and non-Biblical separatism lead church decisions (usually ending bad for everyone involved). I trudged through working with a combative and irrational pastor that was totally self-absorbed.  I had church members that were openly racist.  One would think that all of these things would cause me to throw up my hands and say, "It's not worth it!"  But then I ReThought about what was really going on.

Life in the Church is filled with lots of negatives but the one positive outweighs everything I just said above.  It is that little word, Jesus.  Jesus ordained the Church in the first place.  Jesus lived and died so that His Bride (the Church) could be sent into the world as His presence and witness to a lost world.  Jesus gave the Church His authority to make a difference in the world.  Jesus worked with messed up people He called His disciples.  Jesus called us the Ecclesia (the called-out and sent-out ones).  Jesus showed us the path of forgiveness and salvation and said the Church was a means of grace by which folks (all folks) could come to know Him.  Jesus must have thought that Church was a good idea ... and that negates any of the messups I stated in the previous paragraph.

I will be ReThinking Church as I reflect on the rest of this sermon series.  I will pray we will learn from our mistakes and place them in the past.  I will ask those people at Abbeville UMC to become willing to continue good practices from the past, throw away the things that didn't work or were not Biblical, become a means of God's grace to introduce Jesus to all that we meet and continually pray for God's leading so that we remain Jesus' Church, not "our" church.  Jesus somehow got me safe thus far and Jesus will lead me home.  Randy