First United Methodist Church
Plymouth, Indiana

Sermons and Messages

Every choice that we make in this life should be made with the awareness that we are able to have a relationship with God because God has a relationship with us through Jesus Christ. As Christians we need to be honest about the hope we have that Jesus has never left us, that he remains with us by the Holy Spirit, and that he is faithful. He is not a placeholder in our lives, he is an advocate for God’s never-ending love, and it is through us that he continues his ministry. 
As the way, Jesus is our path to the Father. As the truth, he is the reality of all God’s promises. As the life, he joins his divine life to ours, both now and eternally. Jesus is the visible, tangible image of the invisible God. He is the complete revelation of what God is like.
He reminds us that a shepherd gains access to the sheepfold, the place of protection, through the gatekeeper, and that once he enters the sheep will follow him out, into the place of danger, because they trust him and they know his voice. The intimacy of the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep is demonstrated by the sheep’s ability to recognize the shepherd’s voice and the shepherd’s ability to call “his own” by name.

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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...
The festival of Passover is the liturgical celebration of the central theological belief of Judaism: the remembrance and thanksgiving that God saved Israel from bondage in Egypt, laying the foundation of the covenant between Israel and God. The first commandment given by God to Moses states, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2).  Worship belongs to God who saves...
Through the next 2 months, we are continuing the narrative that began in the book of Genesis, continues through Exodus and is completed in the Old Testament books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  These first 5 books of the Bible are known as the Pentateuch and they take us from creation, through the Patriarchs and into Egypt.  According to Exodus 12 (v. 40-41), God’s people remained in Egypt a total of 430 years before being led out of captivity and into the promised land...
He was 17, and as far as he was concerned, his family was lucky to have him.  He was without question (in his mind), the best looking, most intelligent son of Israel, and Israel (who we once knew as Jacob) had a lot of sons.  By this time, Israel has 12 sons and one daughter, but Joseph, being the 11th son and 12th child—was the first child born to Rachel, and Rachel had always been Jacob’s favorite wife. Israel looked at Joseph and he remembered his beloved Rachel.  He remembered...