First United Methodist Church
Plymouth, Indiana

Sermons and Messages

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.

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There is timing of an Epic Life.  In Jeremiah 29:11, the prophet of God writes, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
I love “love” when it looks like a young couple walking hand in hand at the county fair. I love “love” when I see a mom holding a newborn baby. I love “love” when I see teachers engaging students in new learning. I love “love” when I see people donating time to serve a meal. I love “love” when I see a couple married for fifty years holding hands not to steady themselves but because they genuinely love each other.
Like the people in the days of Elijah, we, too, have a thirst. We thirst for water during the heat of the afternoon. We thirst for companions in the lonely hours of the night. We thirst for wholeness in the presence of disease. We thirst for peace in a world of strife.
When Jesus intrudes into our world, things happen.  Our time is miraculously transformed into God’s time, the eternal breaks into the temporal, and the glory of God breaks forth into our world. Jesus gets invited to a wedding. Think of the scripture reading something like this, “Three days after this there was a wedding in Old Tip Town of Marshall County.”
Franciscan Health announced a baby born as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve.   He is 6 pounds 10.5 ounces and 20 inches long and born to Alisha and Drew Eggers of Trafalgar. What would you name such a child – Atticus.
This morning I am thinking about music other than the sweet cords and melodies of Christmas. Think back to 1978 when the British Rock Band the Who sang a song that echoes the words of the story from the Gospel of John, “Who are you?”
There’s something about those minor keyed hymns during Advent.  I love them, I want to sing ALL of the Advent minor keyed hymns, but there aren’t enough Sundays and—not one congregation I’ve served has had the patience to make it all the way to Christmas Eve before singing a Christmas Carol or two…or more. 
Advent is a season of preparation. At home, people are cleaning, getting out their Christmas decorations and putting up their trees, figuring out what holiday foods to fix, figuring out how to “do” Christmas at this point in the pandemic where things look good for a few days, and then they don’t. 
In my years of ministry, I’ve been honored to serve 2 churches who took on major building projects where I was able to be a part of the dreaming, planning, building and living into the finished result.
Scott and I have been packing, filling boxes and doing our best to be ready when the movers arrive.  (Since he’s been off preaching at another church for the last 6 weeks, I am again admitting to God and you and everybody that Scott has done the lion-share of that work and I want him to know that I’ve told you that, and am not taking even half credit for all the work he’s done). 
I know, it’s an odd text for today, isn’t it?  Not one we would expect on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, as we’re thinking ahead to Advent and beginning our preparations for Christmas. We’re thinking about giving thanks. Maybe we’re thinking Baby Jesus. But today’s scripture takes us to one of the last conversations Jesus will have before he’s crucified.
Troubled Israel, as the books of Samuel begins, is waiting. Israel is portrayed as a marginal community. Threatened externally by the power and the pressure of the Philistines, Israel is politically weak and economically disadvantaged. But there is also an internal, moral and spiritual dimension to Israel’s trouble.  By the end of the book of Judges, Israel is shown to be a community in moral chaos, engaged in brutality, and betrayed by undisciplined religion.
As Scott and I were raising our three children, we equally encouraged each of them, telling them that they could be and do whatever they wanted to be and do, as long as they were willing to work for it, and to give their best effort. Doing this, they would succeed.
There are some folks who just struggle, you know? Not through any fault of their own, necessarily, just hard times seem to follow hard times. Naomi and her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah have lived together for some time, now. The older woman’s face bears the lines of the greatest heartache, but all have experienced difficult days. They aren’t related by blood, but they are family in every sense of the word; they are bound together by the love that each one of them has lost.
A blind man sits alongside the dusty road, just outside of the city of Jericho. Jesus has been in Jericho, and he’s now heading on down the road to Jerusalem. There are lots of people with him.  The disciples are there as always, but a crowd of others have joined the parade, as well.
It’s been an interesting season in my life these past couple of months as I’ve done sermon planning to the end of the year.  I’ve thought a lot about what I want to share with you: you will be the last community where I will serve as pastor, and I want to share with you what’s in my heart and mind. 
Scott and I have begun the process of packing—okay, I admit he’s done more than I have—and as he has pulled things out of the storage room downstairs, on more than one occasion, I’ve said—oh, so that’s where that’s been.
Every Sunday when we gather to worship together, we’re reminded that our mission, our purpose, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We say that we do that by loving God, loving others and serving others. That’s the plan. That’s the foundation of why we do what we do as a church. We gather on Sunday mornings to worship God and to be empowered for mission and ministry and outreach.
There are moments in life that take our breath away, aren’t there? Or, if they don’t take our breath away, these moments in life give us new breath. You and I may sometimes feel like the dry, disconnected bones described in Chapter 37 of the book of Ezekiel.  We may feel like there’s no life in us. But then, God gives us this moment, this experience (37:5), when God’s breath enters us and we come to life.
Judie shared with you this morning the Bible she received from her teacher when she was confirmed in the faith. I’ve brought along my 3rd grade Bible that I received at Epworth Methodist Church in Fort Wayne. Mine doesn’t have my name engraved on it and it’s not in as good shape as Judie’s Bible is, though I know from Judie’s story that she used hers more than I did mine. I’m glad that we have more kid-friendly translations these days because the Revised Standard Version was too complicated for this 3rd grader to understand. The small print and lack of pictures wasn’t so inviting.
My computer is one of those things I depend on most every day. I write sermons and letters and documents that are important to the work and the life we do here together. I can connect to the internet and find the answers to most any question I might have. I can order things I need and don’t need, pay bills, listen to music, to broadcasts and other people’s sermons.
Jesus and the disciples have been traveling along, off the beaten path. There have been healings and miracles, teaching and tragedy. If you look back in the 6th chapter of the gospel of Mark, you’ll see that Jesus has sent his disciples out to preach, they’ve dealt with John the Baptist, they’ve fed the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, and they’ve seen Jesus walk on water and calm the wind, out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. They’ve been working hard, they’ve seen and done some amazing things out there in the trenches. Now they’ve sit down along the road for a bite to eat.
Life is hard. It can be good and blessed and wonderful…and sometimes it can be good for an extended period of time, one good thing after the other, like you’re riding a wave. Other times it’s just the opposite: you wonder when the other shoe is going to drop. What’s next? What now? How can this be? Life can be hard.
For some of us, faith is invisible and impossible. For some people faith is some far-out idea. Occasionally, you and I talk about blind faith. The faith I have in mind for you today is not blind. I am not asking you to do something that is against your good judgment or your good reason. Faith is seeing fully. Sometimes we talk about faith as being some kind of impossible dream or wishful thinking. The faith of which I speak today is not just a pipe dream.