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First United Methodist Church
Plymouth, Indiana

Sermons and Messages

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Today’s scripture shows Jesus and his followers taking a risk as they walk through some grain fields and decide to break off the heads of the wheat in order to get something to eat. This occurs on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees are appalled that they would even travel to the grainfields, let alone actually harvest it for a meal.
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If you paid attention during earth science, then you know that the air that the dinosaurs breathed is the same air that we are breathing now. It is the same air that Adam and Eve breathed, and it is the same air that Jesus breathed. When Jesus let go of his last breath, God captured it and blessed it and then set it loose on earth. It grew in strength and volume, until it was a mighty wind, which God sent through that upper room in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.
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The problem is that in today’s world, people spend an awful lot of energy trying to turn the odds to their favor. Waiting on the will of God requires having an awful lot of trust and acceptance. And this isn’t an easy thing because most of us have been betrayed more than once. The good news, though, is that the Lord knows the hearts of God’s people.

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Today’s scripture shows Jesus and his followers taking a risk as they walk through some grain fields and decide to break off the heads of the wheat in order to get something to eat. This occurs on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees are appalled that they would even travel to the grainfields, let alone actually harvest it for a meal.
If you paid attention during earth science, then you know that the air that the dinosaurs breathed is the same air that we are breathing now. It is the same air that Adam and Eve breathed, and it is the same air that Jesus breathed. When Jesus let go of his last breath, God captured it and blessed it and then set it loose on earth. It grew in strength and volume, until it was a mighty wind, which God sent through that upper room in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.
The problem is that in today’s world, people spend an awful lot of energy trying to turn the odds to their favor. Waiting on the will of God requires having an awful lot of trust and acceptance. And this isn’t an easy thing because most of us have been betrayed more than once. The good news, though, is that the Lord knows the hearts of God’s people.
Christ reminds us that God is glorified when we bear fruit, and one of those fruits is love. I chose to share this story today because through this program these inmates are transformed from hardened criminals who care only about what they want and need into individuals who have a sense of self-worth that comes from loving, being loved and doing something for someone else.
After a rough weekend of experiencing Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter decides to go fishing and invites the others to go with him. Jesus shows up, calls them out of the boat a second time, and tells them, “Guys, you can’t go back to doing the same thing you did before you met me. I’ve changed. You’ve changed. And you have a mission.
Our Resurrection story this morning reminds us that at the end of Luke’s Gospel, Peter and the other disciples are discouraged and feel alienated and abandoned by Jesus, who went willingly to his death and then disappeared from the tomb. When the resurrected Jesus appears to the disciples, he has to regain their trust before they will realize their potential for confident living and eternal life.
When Jesus says, “Peace be with you,” he is reminding them of the things he told them that evening. He shows them his hands and his side, as if to say, “Here I am. It’s me. I’m not a ghost. Just like I said when we shared that last meal together, ‘I am going away [for a few days], and I am coming [back] to you.’
It is natural for us to wonder why they didn’t recognize him. They had received Jesus’ teaching. Like Mary, they had probably sat at his feet. Perhaps there had been times when they spoke to him face to face. And yet…here he is, walking with them now. And for some strange reason, they don’t realize who he is…until he does something familiar.
The miracle of the raising of Lazarus, is the climax of John's "signs". It explains the crowds seeking Jesus on Palm Sunday, and leads directly to the decision of Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin to plan to kill Jesus. Some theologians view the raising of Lazarus as a "pivotal miracle" which starts the chain of events that leads to the Crucifixion of Jesus.
As humans, we find all sorts of things in our lives to crown as king, but they’re often things that carry us away from the path God sets before us. On Palm Sunday, the people of Jerusalem looked to Jesus as a new king, not realizing that the crown he would bear would be made of thorns. As we celebrate his triumphal entry, as we declare him King of our lives, are we prepared to truly focus our hearts on Jesus?
Jesus was able to overcome his fears and apprehension because throughout his ministry, he made sure he remained in close relationship with God, taking time each day to separate himself from the world and his followers in order to spend time in prayer.
It isn’t hard to imagine the squeamishness of the Hebrew people to have a bronze snake on a pole in the midst of the camp while they were surrounded by snakes nipping at their heels. And we can be sure that their prayer was that God would move the snakes out of the way and give them a clear path on their journey. But God didn’t remove the serpents, or even stop them from biting, God chose a different way.
In other words, when Jesus, the Word made flesh, comes, everything changes. And among the first of these changes is that there is no longer a need to sacrifice animals, as God will interact with God’s people in a whole new way. Jesus is doing more than cleansing the Temple – he is preparing the people to change the way that they relate to God.
And that’s what we have to think about as Christians. Jesus calls us to a new life, which means that we can’t keep operating in the same way that we always have. The day after we commit our lives to Christ, we wake up in the same house, with the same family, with the same job and the same problems. So, what’s new about our life?
Fear is obviously present in our Gospel story. Mark directs our attention to the fear of Peter, James and John--especially Peter, who witnesses something amazing and frightening and in his fear decides to do something. Not much is said about James and John except that they were paralyzed with fear.
But that’s the challenge of this passage, isn’t it? Grace is a free and undeserved gift. But it is also a relational gift. When Peter’s mother-in-law was made well, she was restored to wholeness. She didn’t just get over her fever and rise from bed with all the weakness and sluggishness that accompanies being sick. She was healed.
Our scriptures today encourage us to accept a different kind of invitation, an invitation to experience God’s reign in the world. God’s reign isn’t confined to any one time or place. It is present everywhere and able to know each one of us personally. But like the speed limit sign, which cannot be effective unless we obey its limitations, God’s truth, justice and peace will not prevail in the world without our willing response and cooperation.
This past year has been one of anticipation. We have overcome some serious obstacles that have been placed in our path. Last week we received our occupancy permit, and we only have a few more weeks to wait until we re-enter our Sanctuary. There is still a lot of work to be done, but it is getting done! And that is why it is so important for us to know who we are and whose we are.
Christ’s ministry demonstrates that everyone is worthy of God’s love, and Christ’s sacrifice purifies us so that the Holy Spirit can reside in us. God with us. God in us. This is where God’s plan for us comes to fruition. When we accept God’s grace and forgiveness and begin to live our lives as God intended us to live, we fully develop our human capabilities and we can embody, or incarnate, the gospel message of justice and peace the best way possible.
God is with us and for us…not just some of the time, but all of the time, even when we don’t act as we want, even when we don’t live into the identity God has given us, or make it to church on a regular basis.
When you think about it, this fairy tale is not so different from our own journeys. We often encounter things that cause us to stumble into darkness. And we are held there as if by a spell, unable to experience joy or to see any hope. And so we wait for our hero or heroine to arrive. We wait for that voice to call out to us from the dessert.
Through Christ, we are formed into a new body with new, extended family members. Our existing family remains, but at the same time, new family members are found, bringing additional love into our lives and sometimes filling existing voids.
Work on us. Reshape us. Help us to mend our broken relationships. Help us to be in right relationship with you. Anticipating something more and better, we wait, we imagine, we believe, and we grow in character, as God does what God does, smoothing us, reworking us, making something beautiful out of an old lump of clay.
As the world becomes more secular, many people don’t really know the Christ we claim to follow either, because getting to know the real Jesus is sometimes a little stressful and confusing. Jesus challenges us to alter our priorities, values, and occasionally even the direction of our lives.