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First United Methodist Church
Plymouth, Indiana

Sermons and Messages

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In the year 64 AD, there was a fire that destroyed most of Rome. No one knows who started the fire, but Emperor Nero accused the Christians and began persecuting them.
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When people first encounter one another, they usually take a moment to assess the other person. Before you develop any kind of relationship with another person, you have to determine how much you want to invest in them.
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Candy and I have spoken that last two weeks regarding what it means to live by the grace of God. Candy talked about prevenient grace of God that grace that supports all creation and life that grace that draws us to God and allows us to say “yes” to God.

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Wrapped within this morning’s scripture is one of the most familiar passages to contemporary Christians—and perhaps to non-Christians, as well.  The actual words of John 3:16 may not be known to the viewer who sees the two-toned-face-painted football fan standing in the bleachers at the endzone, holding his John 3:16 sign, but there you’ll see it, just the same. 
Perhaps because of the setting in which I’ve worked for 30 some years, I have on many occasions, enjoyed taking the opportunity to go and sit in the sanctuary of the churches I’ve served during the week, when no one was around, to simply breath in the peace of that space.
In Blessed Bookies this week, we discussed a book that touched on a number of themes, including a dying man’s reflection on whether or not he had made the right choices in his life, and had lived in the best way he could have.  He wondered if his life had had meaning and purpose. 
I’m not a detail person.  Never have been.  I tend to be able to see the big picture and then have to spend more time detailing out the various steps to get there.  Scott isn’t a detail person, either, and that has worked for us, somehow.  But we gave birth to a child who—even as a little girl—would see little things and ask us about them, and we’d look at her, and go—what?
There’s the temptation to just stay there… Maybe it’s a particular place where you’ve visited…where the weather is fair, where they don’t “do” snow-shovels, where you can hear seagulls and waves crashing. You could get used to that.
The national economic shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic forced most of the world to hit “Pause” on our work and our social activities and our plans for the future. Businesses shut down overnight. Churches closed their doors. Weddings and funerals and graduations were postponed, or significantly altered.
At the crossroads of faith we come today to discuss the question of immortality.  Yet to explain the unexplainable and to describe the indescribable and to peek through the shadows of earth and catch a glimpse of eternity is often more than our grieving minds can grasp and our questioning intellects can assimilate.
In this third week of our series, God is Holding Your Life, I want us to hear/to experience the confidence proclaimed in Psalm 139 that God is with us from the time of our creation to the time when the grave is made our bed—and every moment in between.
Do you lift your eyes up and turn to God when something happens in your life that you’re not sure how to deal with? Do you see God when you look out into the world and see beauty? A pink sunrise or an orange sunset introducing the new day or night? When you see the sun shine on frost-covered trees?
The Psalm we’ve read this morning is praise and a prayer that was probably written to be repeated at the coronation of a king. According to its inscription and placement, it comes most likely when David hands over his throne to his son Solomon, who prayed to rule and to judge the people with wisdom. Like all of Israel’s kings, Solomon both succeeded and failed “royally” in that calling.
This morning’s text tells us of the magi—the wise men who came to Bethlehem to visit Jesus at the time of his birth. They are thought by Matthew to be Babylonian astrologers—not magicians, not kings, but experts with special knowledge. They have traveled a long way—nearly 1000 miles from their own home—and they are apparently unaware of the personal and political turmoil they cause as they arrive in the capital city of Jerusalem, inquiring the whereabouts of the child born to be king. Herod, the current ruler, of course found their questions to be extremely disturbing.
I John 3:1 says, “See what love the father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.” As we’ve listened to scripture being read this evening, we’ve been reminded of our history. From the very beginning, God has reached out to us in a variety of ways, but we haven’t always been able to listen. We haven’t always responded.
I’d like you to take just a few moments this morning and try to remember the most beautiful moment in your life. I know quiet time is a little awkward online. People just tuning in or who stepped away for a bit to refill their coffee will think something is wrong with their sound.  But I’ll be quiet for just a bit so you can think.
This is the third Sunday of Advent, the Sunday that if we were all together in this place lighting our traditional Advent wreath, we would be lighting the pink candle—the candle of Joy. I purposely chose all white candles this year instead of purple and pink, so that it would be easier for you to make use of candles that you already have at home, rather than thinking it necessary to go out shopping for something in particular.
I remember his hands. They were big, they were rough, they were calloused. And somehow, they were always warm. I remember going ice fishing with him on a small private lake on one of the neighbor’s farms. While grandpa was fishing, I was running around on the ice, sliding and having a good time.
It was a sunny January morning: the air was crisp and cold. The lighting seemed stark and the noise seemed sharp as the woman stood at the counter in McDonald’s, staring up at the breakfast menu, not really seeing what was there.
Do you remember taking an examination somewhere along the way that had maybe 50 or 100 questions, with the written directions: first read completely through the exam before answering any questions?  Some people finished pretty quickly. 
This morning we hear the story that Jesus tells about a man who goes on a journey, and before setting off, distributes his property to three of his servants, entrusting it to their care in his absence. As the story continues, the property is described as being “talents” which in our experience today refers to an ability that an individual has, but in the time of Jesus a talent was a measure of money.
There were 3 weddings that I was a part of this year, for which the planning of each began pre-Covid.  All 3 couples had to reschedule dates or locations; they planned once, then had to plan again (and again), and pretty much—up to the day that each wedding occurred, they had to tweak, adjust, adapt, and think of alternatives to their alternatives.
Before our daughter Dominique was married a little over a month ago, I was given the task to find wedding pictures of Scott and I, and of each of our parents. I thought finding our pictures would be the easy assignment, but it took awhile to find them, too, I discovered.
A couple of weeks ago, Scott and I watched the movie Late Night, starring Emma Thompson, which came out in 2019. The story is about a legendary late night talk show host who has fallen into the comfort of her reputation, and though she maintains a loyal fan base, her ratings have dropped and the network has decided to replace her. 
The Ten Commandments are familiar to us, though when we start naming them, we may get stuck after the 5th or 6th one, and need a little help to carry on. We’ve seen them displayed at different places, on plaques inside Christian schools, on great granite monuments in front of courthouses, where I think they’ve mostly been removed. There was controversy a decade or so ago, and so in many places they were relocated in order to accommodate separation of church and state...
Grumblers. Have you met any? Maybe you’re willing to admit that you’ve had a grumbling moment or two at some point in your life. Sometimes we get in a mood. We know we’re being negative, but we’re on a roll.  One thing bothers us, and you know, while I’m on it, this is bothering me, too. One thing leads to another. We may realize it’s happening and decide we need to give ourselves a time out. Take a nap. Go to bed. Take a walk. Whatever works for you. Tomorrow will be different...
They had come this far, but it didn’t look they would be going any further. They’d been given some time to prepare for their journey—enough time to gather silver and gold and clothing from their neighbors. Enough time to prepare for the Passover.  They were to sacrifice a lamb, to paint their doorways with its blood, to roast their lamb and prepare bread made without yeast.  They were to eat their meal in haste: cloaks tucked into their belts, sandals on their feet, and a staff in their hand...