Sunday Boxscore

September 30, 2007
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Welcome
Call to Worship
Psalm 91:1-4
Songs of WorshipMajesty (Hayford); How Majestic Is Your Name (Smith); Great is the Lord (Smith)
Invocation
Song of Worship
To God Be the Glory (Crosby/Doane)
Ministry Through Music
Worship through Prayer
Worship through Giving
Song of Worship
Joy Unspeakable (Warren)
Worship through the WordCreated Equal
Benediction

Created Equal

Paul writes to Timothy these words, “ 21 I solemnly command you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus and the holy angels to obey these instructions without taking sides or showing favoritism to anyone.” This is part three of our series titled, “Can You Give Your Life for the Cause?” We are taking a look at what it means to build the Kingdom in at 21st Century context. Today’s message holds the possibility of being controversial. Remember what I shared with you two weeks ago. Even as I went visiting yesterday, I was once again reminded of God’s great love for us and of His amazing grace.
I don’t share this message for the sake of being controversial, but I believe God has placed this on my heart to share with us. Remember my agenda, “to love you and the community and to build God’s Kingdom.” I have no other agenda, because Kingdom building is way too important.
One of the goals that I have for this series is to present what we as Wesleyans believe in several key social and moral areas. Pastor Greg Reynolds said yesterday that we need to stop apologizing for being Wesleyan. We don’t have to be ashamed. We have a great heritage. The vision statement of The Wesleyan Church reads, “Equipping and empowering churches for Great Commission ministries in the spirit of the Great Commandment. What is the Great Commission? To go and make disciples and teach them everything that Christ has taught us. What is the Great Commandment? To love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. My agenda for Preston Wesleyan Church lines up with this beautifully. Two weeks ago we looked at Micajah McPherson, a layman from Alamance County, NC. He was a man who stood up for what he believed in, even though it cost him. Slavery was a big issue in the south in the early 1800’s, to be anti-slavery was tantamount to treason.
Before we go any further, I would like to acknowledge some of our students who stood up for the Cause this past week. This past Wednesday was a nationwide event called See You at the Pole. Christian students were urged to gather around the flagpole. Several of our students were leaders during this event. I would like to acknowledge those this morning. Talk about practical application to a message. Do you know what it is like to stand out in front of the building praying while all your friends are passing by? I am proud and you should be proud as well for Anna, Christa, Sarah, Tyler, and Melissa who served as student leaders for this event. We salute you.
One of the areas that we want to look at this morning is in the area of equal rights. As Wesleyans, we truly believe that all were created equal. Genesis 1:27 reads this way, “27 So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” I remember it wasn’t too long after we arrived here that I preached from James 2 about favoritism. As we look at the scripture we will find several references to avoid favoritism or to use another word, discrimination.
James 2 reads this way, “ 1 My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?
2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?
5 Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? 6 But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? 7 Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?
8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.
10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.

James was talking about favoritism or prejudice or discrimination. Here he is talking about discrimination based social status or finances. We have some of that in the United States. We also have other types of prejudice; racial, gender, and religious. One of the great things about the Wesleyans is that we embrace equality, at least on paper. In fact, as you’ll remember our denomination was founded because we believed that there was no difference between slave and free – there was to be no slavery in this new denomination. Not only were there to be no slaves in the Wesleyan Methodist Connection, but there would not be any bishops either. Orange Scott, Luther Lee, and three others, succeeded from the Methodist Episcopal Church first because of the slavery issue, secondly because of the abuse of power by those at the top or the bishops. Instead there would be conference presidents. At a church’s local conference, every member received one vote, whether clergy or layperson. At district and general conferences, there would be an equal number of clergy and laypeople voting. This holds true all the way to the present time. At next year’s General Conference in Orlando, there will be an equal number of lay and minister delegates. The same holds true for District Conference held in Roanoke. There are an equal number of lay and minister delegates. It was a consistent application of a principle. Wesleyans believe in the priesthood of ALL believers.
Another way that Wesleyans apply this principle is in the area of human rights. In addition to be standing up against the issue of slavery, Wesleyans were also on the front line when it came to rights of women. Now, before we go any further, we are not talking about the radical feminism of the latter part of the 20th Century and forward, but about basic human rights.
The first Women’s Rights Convention was held in 1848. At that time, women were not allowed the freedoms assigned to men in the eyes of the law, the church, or the government. Women did not vote, hold elective office, attend college, or earn a living. If married, they could not make legal contracts, divorce an abusive husband, or gain custody of their children.
Then, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a Seneca Falls housewife and mother of three sons, sat down with a small group of Quaker and abolitionist women, and decided that these wrongs should be made into rights. They called for a Convention, open to the public, to be held in Seneca Falls at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, July 19th and 20th, 1848. There they presented a Declaration of Sentiments, based on the language and content of the Declaration of Independence. Stating that “all men and women are created equal,” they demanded equal rights for women, including – a radical idea – the right to vote. Over 300 people attended the Convention; the document was ratified and was signed by 68 women and 32 men.
Did you notice where this first women’s rights convention was held? It was held in a Wesleyan Methodist Church in Seneca Falls, NY. Again, we are not talking about radical feminism, but basic human rights. As I was listening to Debbie last week, she mentioned several times of countries where women and children don’t even have these basic rights. In many countries, women don’t even receive an education of any type. As Debbie noted this is one place were World Hope is leading the way. There are those in the west that consider Christianity is very controlling and it seeks to repress people. It is interesting to note that in countries where Christianity thrives, equal human rights seem to follow. Even though the United States is far from a Christian nation, we all enjoy the benefits of its influence. One only has to look at nations were Christianity is non-existent or has very little influence and you will see that these cultures and countries are male dominant and that female have little to no rights and that they are treated as nothing more than property.
Galatians 3:26 and 27 puts it this way, “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one Christ Jesus.”
Antoinette Brown was the first woman to be ordained in America. Her ordination sermon was preached by Luther Lee, one of the founders of the Wesleyan Methodist Connection. Again, it is a consistent application of principle. Not only do Wesleyans believe in equal rights for women, but we also believe that women can be pastors and can be ordained. Some of you may say, but our church was not Wesleyan Methodist, we came out of the Pilgrim Holiness Church and you are correct. Lee Haines, who is a former General Superintendent, wrote a paper a few years ago. In that paper he is quoted as saying that at one point in the Pilgrim Holiness history at least 40% of the pastors were women. Does that surprise you? I know it did me. It also surprised your board when I mentioned it a few weeks ago. The churches that merged into The Wesleyan Church, both have a rich history of ordaining women. In 2008, The Wesleyan Church will meet for its 40th Anniversary Conference. From what I have heard through various channels is that this may be a historic conference, because we may elect our first woman General Superintendent.
Some of you may ask, pastor are you a Pilgrim Holiness or Wesleyan Methodist? In all reality, I am a Wesleyan. These two denominations merged in 1968 when I was just five years old. So I really consider myself a Wesleyan and not a former anything. By now some of you are probably upset at me and that’s ok. I am unashamedly Wesleyan and the more I find out about our history, the more I am proud to be a Wesleyan and to be a Wesleyan pastor.
Some of you may say, so what! Who cares about all this history? Several weeks ago, I was driving the van and Pam was riding shotgun. Pam said, “If you look at the students we have tonight, you would think we pastor a multicultural church.” In fact, that particular night, Pam and I were one of the few white people on the van and that was ok with us. It’s part of the legacy that we have as Wesleyans. I think Orange Scott and Adam Crooks and Micajah McPherson and Martin Wells Knapp and Seth Cook Rees would be proud. By the way Martin Wells Knapp and Seth Cook Rees were the founder of the Pilgrim Holiness movement. If you look at many of the early Pilgrim Holiness Churches, they could be found on “the other side of the tracks,” ministering to the lesser in society. During the 60’s and 70’s many of these churches moved out those other side of the track locations. Now, we are left we having to reinhabit those places. There is a wonderful pastoral couple named Adam and Christy (both ordained) who are planting an intercity church in Michigan and by the way doing a great job. Two different woman pastors are doing similar ministries to the down and out in our district and we had the privilege of fellowshipping with them this past weekend.
Pastors Pat and Theresa are endeavoring to make a difference in the lives of people. They realize that all people are created equal and deserve to be treated with dignity. Can you give your life for the Cause? Can you love all people? Remember, God’s has made EVERYONE in his image. I challenge you to endeavor to make a difference in the lives of people every day. I challenge you to look at people through God’s eyes; to look at people through God’s love; to remember God’s amazing grace in your life and to show others God’s love, grace, and mercy. They desperately need you!

Weekly Lectionary Readings

Proper 21
September 30, 2007

Jeremiah 32:1-3, 6-15

1 The following message came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah. This was also the eighteenth year of the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. 2 Jerusalem was then under siege from the Babylonian army, and Jeremiah was imprisoned in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace. 3 King Zedekiah had put him there, asking why he kept giving this prophecy: “This is what the Lord says: ‘I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will take it.

6 At that time the Lord sent me a message. He said, 7 “Your cousin Hanamel son of Shallum will come and say to you, ‘Buy my field at Anathoth. By law you have the right to buy it before it is offered to anyone else.’”
8 Then, just as the Lord had said he would, my cousin Hanamel came and visited me in the prison. He said, “Please buy my field at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. By law you have the right to buy it before it is offered to anyone else, so buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that the message I had heard was from the Lord.
9 So I bought the field at Anathoth, paying Hanamel seventeen pieces of silver for it. 10 I signed and sealed the deed of purchase before witnesses, weighed out the silver, and paid him. 11 Then I took the sealed deed and an unsealed copy of the deed, which contained the terms and conditions of the purchase, 12 and I handed them to Baruch son of Neriah and grandson of Mahseiah. I did all this in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, the witnesses who had signed the deed, and all the men of Judah who were there in the courtyard of the guardhouse.
13 Then I said to Baruch as they all listened, 14 “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘Take both this sealed deed and the unsealed copy, and put them into a pottery jar to preserve them for a long time.’ 15 For this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘Someday people will again own property here in this land and will buy and sell houses and vineyards and fields.’”

Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. 3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. 4 He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. 5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. 6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. 15 When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. 16 I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”

1 Timothy 6:6-19

6 Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

9 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

11 But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. 13 And I charge you before God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good testimony before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you obey this command without wavering. Then no one can find fault with you from now until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 15 For at just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. 16 He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will. All honor and power to him forever! Amen.

17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

Luke 16:19-31

19 Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. 20 At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.

22 “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and his soul went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side.

24 “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’

25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’

27 “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’

29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’

30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’

31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’”

MSG

No, not Monosodium Glutamate, but Ministers and Spouses Gathering. The last 24 hours we spent with friends from the Shenandoah District. It was great to renew friendships with other pastors and spouses in the district. It was the first major event for Pastor Greg Reynolds. He and his wife Becky were wonderful hosts and we had a great time. Pam and I also got a chance to spend some time together which was nice. I’ve included a shot from out our hotel room window. We stayed at the Natural Bridge Hotel in Natural Bridge, VA. It sounds like we will be adding another night next year. It’s always nice when it is two nights instead of one.

Wednesday Night Thoughts

You can see below that the day started great and I happy to report that it continued on that track. Pam and I did some administrative things in the office first thing and set up for Mosaic tonight. Then we went out and did some more administration and visited one of our shut-ins.

I was a pretty ordinary visit until I read the scripture (I can’t leave until I do.) I read from Psalm 139 and as I read, I was overwhelmed once again by God’s great love for us and His amazing grace. After that I prayed not only with our shut-in, but also with another resident from the nursing facility.

This evening we had Mosaic and had 29 (which is not bad.) It seems the student are enjoying our new format and more seem to join in the singing each week. We tried something new tonight and that was to send the elementary students off by themselves and then teach the upper grades together. We’ll probably try it one more time and then evaluate it. They were just a little wired tonight. (It could have been the full moon!!!) I have used lessons from www.bluefishtv.com several times. Tonight’s lesson was called “Life Is Temporary.” The format goes like this: There is an opening question, then a short video clip, a few questions, then we take a look at what the Bible says and then an application section. The high school students were engaged, but the middle school students had trouble tracking (they love to talk.)

The important thing is several made commitments at the end. This is becoming a common theme (Praise the Lord!) Thanks for your prayers and keep it up.

gather.unite.pray

See You At The Pole 2007
Today was See You at the Pole – an event where students gather around the flagpole and pray for their school. This was the first time any of our students from any of our churches participated. I also say that as a proud father, because my daughter was the co-leader of the event (It’s completely student-led and volunteer) along with another student from our church. Not only am I a proud father, but I am a proud pastor to see that some of our students stood and and wanted to be counted. This has been a theme of our services over the past few weeks. There were between 40 and 50 students gathered on the lawn as you can see in the picture. This was a great way to start the day. Keep pressing on students!

A Hash Brown Potato Story

Each month, the men at our church gather for breakfast. We alternate the cooking duties and their are about four of us who cook. This month was my turn. I decided to make French Toast, with homemade hash brown potatoes, and bacon. The French Toast and the bacon turned out just fine. However the hash brown potatoes were another story. I learned some very valuable lessons. One if you are going to grate your own potatoes, don’t peel them ahead of time (because you have to put them in water.) I found out later that the secret to making great hash browns is to make sure the potatoes are dry. My potatoes were a looonnngg way from dry. When they hit the frying pan they became a big starchy mess and they absorbed a good portion of the oil from the pan. Nobody ate them and I can’t blame them. They were bad.

At that point I had another thought, I’ll take them home and make potato cakes out of them. Our family loves potato cakes. Good idead — I don’t think so. Last night, I tried to make potato cakes out of them — Can I say nothing and I mean nothing could save those potatoes. I started mixing them with some milk and bread crumbs and the usual ingredients for potato cakes. I even added some unusual ingredients, because the oil flavor overpowered the taste. I added paprika, chili powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and maybe something else, but none of that was going to help (but I was determined to save them.)

I put the potatoes on the griddle and made the nicest looking potato cakes I had ever made. We had quite a bit of the mixture so I even made some for the local wildlife (squirrels and the like) outside our back door. We had plenty of potato cakes at the table. We served them up with a healthy dose of ketchup, not even that helped. They were absolutely the worst thing I have ever made in my life. We ended up throwing most of the rest out to the wildlife.

So there, I learned my lesson ALWAYS make sure your grated potatoes are dry!

It’s been awhile since I had a story like this and there is some spiritual application. Those wet, sticky potatoes are like our sins. We try everything to hold on to them. We try everything to cover them up. We try everything to make them look good. Like I said, these were the best looking potato cakes I had ever made, but they tasted awful — nothing helped. We need to learn that the best thing we can do with sin is to get rid of it. Stop trying to make it look good and just ask God through the power of His Holy Spirit to get rid of it.