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First United Methodist Church
Plymouth, Indiana

Sermons and Messages

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A quick look at Facebook and Twitter shows how many people today feel #blessed. In our social-media world, saying you’re blessed can be a way of boasting while trying to sound humble. College scholarship? #Blessed. Unexpected raise? #Blessed. Wonderful family? #Blessed. A good cup of coffee? #Blessed We even have one from the Upper Room! Be a blessing each and every day. #blessed
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No wonder Isaiah called it “land of deep darkness.” It wasn’t an ethnic or racial epithet. It was a reference to just how difficult and gloomy life had become there, and there appeared to be no likelihood of any improvement in the near future. Things never substantially improved for this region of Palestine, even centuries later by the time of Jesus.
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There is so much hidden in the words that we use when saying hello that we often overlook their complexity. We can tell, for example, when someone is genuinely glad to see us or when our appearance is a burden. We know whether we can continue from where we left off the last time together – whether that was a day ago, or a week, or ten years – or whether we have to start all over and repair what was broken.

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A quick look at Facebook and Twitter shows how many people today feel #blessed. In our social-media world, saying you’re blessed can be a way of boasting while trying to sound humble. College scholarship? #Blessed. Unexpected raise? #Blessed. Wonderful family? #Blessed. A good cup of coffee? #Blessed We even have one from the Upper Room! Be a blessing each and every day. #blessed
No wonder Isaiah called it “land of deep darkness.” It wasn’t an ethnic or racial epithet. It was a reference to just how difficult and gloomy life had become there, and there appeared to be no likelihood of any improvement in the near future. Things never substantially improved for this region of Palestine, even centuries later by the time of Jesus.
There is so much hidden in the words that we use when saying hello that we often overlook their complexity. We can tell, for example, when someone is genuinely glad to see us or when our appearance is a burden. We know whether we can continue from where we left off the last time together – whether that was a day ago, or a week, or ten years – or whether we have to start all over and repair what was broken.
God, however, wants to be known. God wants to be recognized on the streets, and God wants to receive a million likes. And Christmas is about the lengths to which God will go to be known and loved. Rather than relying on a Tik Tok video, the Bible tells us that “the Word became flesh and lived among us.”
The third Sunday of Advent is sometimes called “Gaudete” Sunday – Gaudete meaning “rejoice” in Latin. It is the midpoint of our Advent journey and a moment to rejoice, for we are drawn ever closer to the celebration at Christmas.
Today’s advent word is “love.” The sacrificial love that Jesus describes throughout the gospels is lived out everyday by ordinary men and women who make a choice. It takes a lot of love to stand up for something that you truly believe in.
During the darkest hours of the morning when I was in my deepest dreams, my sister would walk into the room where I was sleeping, gently shake my shoulder, and whisper, “It’s time.” The two of us would tiptoe through the house, hoping to catch Santa Claus in the act, but somehow we always arrived after he had been there, and then after looking through the wrapped packages to see which ones were for us, we would go back to bed and wait, anxiously anticipating the moment that our parents would wake us up so we could begin our Christmas morning festivities.
It's interesting that pain and grief are not mentioned in either of these lists, and yet Jesus spent the bulk of his ministry addressing the pain and grief evident in the people he encountered, offering healing and compassion almost every place he went.
“It is finished.” These are the words Jesus spoke moments before he died on the cross. What “it” was varies depending on who the audience happens to be. The Romans thought they had finished a potential insurrection.
Reading scripture can sometimes be like learning and remembering difficult vocabulary words. Unless we engage with scripture regularly, we may forget what the words mean. The more familiar we become with the Word, or the more we use it, the more it becomes a part of our embodied faith
For the past several months, I have been trying to overcome an injury in my hip that has limited my ability to walk, let alone run. As I have slowly begun to regain strength and can do some normal things like going up and down stairs and walking without a limp, I dream about running and wish that I might be able to start training to race again.
When Paul wrote his letter to Timothy, he was probably expecting to be arrested at any moment – which indeed happened, and he was thereafter martyred. He could have avoided coming to that point, but it would have meant not being faithful to Christ and his work. But he has no complaints. He looks back over his life with first, acceptance.
As we begin our journey toward Commitment Sunday, let’s start with a check-up. Find your heartbeat – you can find it on your wrist, or you can find it on your neck. Did everyone find a pulse? If we checked our spiritual pulse, what would we find? Over the next couple weeks, we will find some ways to check our spiritual health.
The Bible is written in such a way that it is not simply a narrative of past events. It contains stories about God’s people and it reveals God’s presence among us. It is past, present and future, and it becomes personal when you see your life as a continuation of these stories.
In our gospel, Jesus’ parable speaks of this interdependence that Tutu describes in the lives of the rich man and Lazarus. As the rich man enjoys his wealth and abundance, he may not even notice the beggar at the door and, if he does, Lazarus is an inconvenience, standing in the way of enjoying his property, and frankly a blight on the neighborhood.
Today’s scripture is one of the more interesting ones we encounter as we journey through the gospels. As we read through it, did you notice the problem with it? It’s not good advice. Usually Jesus gives us something to work with, but if you are looking for any kind of moral lesson or advice to give your kids, be careful, because you have to look really hard – at least it seems that way.
On August 5, 2010, 33 miners became trapped when Chile's San Jose mine collapsed. Over the next 69 days, the miners battled starvation and hopelessness as the world watched and waited until all were brought to safety. Even though these miners endured an extremely traumatic ordeal, they share something in common with the lost coin and the lost sheep – without outside intervention, they would remain lost.
Do you think the crowds got smaller? Luke shares that at this point of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, large crowds were travelling with him. Perhaps they were attracted to his brashness, or, his confrontational style with the Pharisees. Perhaps they were amazed by his ministry of healing.
Water is life. Since the Neolithic age, humans have utilized cisterns, or reservoirs, or water towers, to hold water from rainfall and runoff. Capturing the water and holding it for later use offers a guarantee and security that the people would survive times of drought.
My friend’s encounter didn’t resolve any major issue that day. But the very fact that he had it has changed him and caused him to think about this particular homeless man a little differently. Dustin has an identity.
I once came across this quote: “Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” Statements like this can be divisive because there is both truth in these words as well as misconception.
Take a minute and think about what you were doing the last time you experienced joy. For me, I was taking a walk near a pond and I saw a blue heron standing silent and still in the shallow water, waiting for its dinner to swim by.
Quite often pastors find themselves in the role of officiating funeral services. The purpose of these services is to honor and celebrate a person’s life, and in all the services I have been involved in, I have yet to encounter one in which we talk about how many things a person was able to accumulate throughout his or her life.
Have you ever wondered what it looks like when faithfulness springs up from the ground and righteousness gazes down from heaven? This week I came across Psalm 85, and verse 11 said just that, and as I reflected on that image, I imagined that it would be a little like walking into the heart of a forest during late spring or early summer.