Average Joe with An Extraordinary Story

Summer Sermon Series

This summer I will be preaching a sermon series that parallels our Vacation Bible School for Grown-ups. I have titled the series “Average Joe with An Extraordinary Story.” It will begin June 11 and run through September 3.

average-joes

During this series I will use some of the lesser-known Bible characters and tell their extraordinary stories that happened in their lives. The plan is, I will play the character for that week!

Here is the summer schedule:

June 4 – Pentecost Sunday and Communion Sunday. This week we will look at the traditional Pentecost story, Acts 2:1-21, 37-47. The sermon title is “We’re On Fire.” Wear your red clothes or something with flames on it! We will also honor our pianist, Greg Wiggers for his 25 years of service to FUMC Sweeny with a reception following worship.

June 11 – First Sunday after Pentecost – This is the actual beginning of the sermon series. We will begin with the Son of the Widow of Zerephath and his encounter with the prophet Elijah and see how God provided for the widow, her son and Elijah. The Scripture lesson will be 1 Kings 17:8-24. The sermon title is, “The Widow’s Son.”

June 18 – Second Sunday after Pentecost – This week we will meet Naaman, general of the army for the king of Aram. Naaman contracted leprosy and would have to give up his position in the army and leave the community. Naaman traveled to see the prophet Elisha. Through Elisha’s instructions God healed Naaman. The Bible lesson will be 2 Kings 5:1-16. The sermon title is “The Aramean General.”

June 25 – Third Sunday after Pentecost – This week we will have a visit with the tax collector Zacchaeus and learn how Jesus found him! The sermon title is “The Wealthy Tax Collector.” Our Scripture lesson will be Luke 19:1-10.

July 2 – (Communion) – Fourth Sunday after Pentecost – On this Sunday we will look into the other time in the Bible that God parted the waters for the Israelites to cross. This time Joshua led them. The sermon title is, “He Led Them Across.”

July 9 – Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – There was a Pharisee who wanted to learn from Jesus and came to visit him at night. His name was Nicodemus. After this visit, Nicodemus had quite a story to tell. The sermon title will be, “He Came at Night.”

July 16 – Sixth Sunday after Pentecost – As Jesus was headed to Calvary he reached the point he could go no more. The Romans grabbed a man from the crowd. His name was Simon of Cyrene. Our sermon title on July 16 will be: “He Picked Up His Cross.”

July 23 – Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – There was once a man named Uriah the Hittite, an honorable man in the king’s army. He was married to a woman named Bathsheba. While her husband was away fighting for country, King David had an affair with the man’s wife. When she became pregnant, he tried to cover it up. When the cover up failed the king had Uriah placed in the heaviest fighting so he would be killed. The sermon title is, “In the King’s Sights.”

July 30 – Another of King David’s servants was a prophet named Nathan. When Nathan learned of the King’s treachery with Uriah, he took his life into his own hands as he went and confronted the king. Our sermon title on July 30 will be “God’s Brave Prophet.”

Aug 6 – (Communion) – The Apostle Paul wrote one of his shortest letters to a slave owner named Philemon. In this letter Paul asks Philemon to free a slave runaway slave named Onisimus and to allow Onisimus to come and work with Paul. Tradition has it that not only was Onisimus freed, he became a bishop in the early church. The sermon title will be, “The Slave Who Would be Bishop.”

Aug 13 – Moses married a woman from Midea during the time he was exiled from Egypt. Her father would become one to offer counsel to Moses. The sermon title is, “He Sent His Daughter Back.”

Aug 20 – There are always those folks who seem to have bad luck, who see to never win. Esau was one of those kinds of people, always coming in second to his younger brother Jacob. The sermon title will be – “The Man Who Couldn’t Win.”

Aug 27 – Hannah wanted to have a son in the worst way. She promised God that if God would give her a son, he would be dedicated to the service of God. Hannah had a son. She named him Samuel. True to her word, she brought him to serve under Eli in the Tabernacle. There God spoke to the boy. The sermon title is: “The Boy Who Heard God.”

Sep 3 – (Communion) – God called a man to be one of the early judges. This man wanted to be sure beyond a doubt that God really was calling him. The man’s name was Gideon. The sermon title to conclude this series will be: “Here Comes the Judge.”

If you are in the Sweeny area, I hope you will come for a visit and be part of worship with us. If you are a member of FUMC Sweeny, please make plans to attend as much as possible. I hope to see you in worship!

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Blessed… “It’s A Tragedy”

 

When Jesus finished saying these things, he left Galilee and came to the area of Judea on the east side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them. Some Pharisees came to him. In order to test him, they said, “Does the Law allow a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” Jesus answered, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the creator made them male and female? And God said, ‘Because of this a man should leave his father and mother and be joined together with his wife, and the two will be one flesh.’  So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, humans must not pull apart what God has put together.” The Pharisees said to him, “Then why did Moses command us to give a divorce certificate and divorce her? Jesus replied, “Moses allowed you to divorce your wives because your hearts are unyielding. But it wasn’t that way from the beginning. I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” His disciples said to him, “If that’s the way things are between a man and his wife, then it’s better not to marry.” He replied, “Not everybody can accept this teaching, but only those who have received the ability to accept it. For there are eunuchs who have been eunuchs from birth. And there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by other people. And there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs because of the kingdom of heaven. Those who can accept it should accept it” (Matthew 19:1-12, Common English Bible).

I was sitting in the senior pastor’s study. It was during my second year in seminary. We were talking about divorce. I honestly don’t remember why we were on that particular subject, I just know we were. What I do remember is the senior pastor saying, “Divorce is a tragedy.”

In the 20 years (wow, I can’t believe it has been that long ago) since this conversation I have had plenty of opportunity to think on what my senior pastor said that day. I have come to understand that my senior pastor was right.

The truth is, divorce happens. And, there are times when divorce is absolutely the best way to move forward. I truly do not believe that, despite what this text says, God expects a person to stay in an abusive relationship. I cannot accept, based on other Scripture, that Jesus wouldn’t praise a parent for leaving a relationship where a child was being abused and there was no other way to prevent the abuse from continuing. I might be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.

I have known it would be necessary for me to address this particular text since I started working on Matthew back at the beginning. I was not looking forward to it. I wan’t looking forward to it because I know I don’t have the answers for this. Further, being one who has never been divorced, I can’t say I know what it is like to live in any of the situations where people find themselves in our society.

What I do know is, we live in a throw-away society. All too often, we see a crack in the exterior, we see something as ruined, and we throw it away. There is a scratch in the paint on our car. Rather than living with the imperfection or going to a professional and having the scratch fixed, we trade the car in for a new perfect model. But, it isn’t long before we see that the new model isn’t really perfect either and the cycle continues.

What holds true for cars and other things I think is often present in marriage. When we find out our spouse isn’t what we first thought, when there is an imperfection present, we come to the conclusion we can’t live with the imperfection and we also refuse to see a professional to address the problem.

Further, even if I am wrong, I also know there is more grace in God than there is sin in us. If we accept the teaching in this lesson at face value, and that divorce is a sin, I know that God does forgive. Without question we are not perfect, but God does love us and will forgive.

Finally, there is one other consideration on this topic and that is forgiveness. All too often I encounter divorced Christians who have nothing good to say about their ex-spouse. Regardless of how true that might be, we must be able to forgive, not for their sake but for our own. During the course of this series, forgiveness has been the topic more than once. One of the key teachings in this is, if we want forgiveness from God, we have to be willing to forgive others who have been part of our lives. That would include ex-spouses. Forgiveness is the key to grace, grace we all need in our lives. God will forgive us, but we need to be willing to forgive as well.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Lord, How Many Times

Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?” Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle accounts, they brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold. Because the servant didn’t have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment. But the servant fell down, kneeling before him, and said, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan. “When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins. He grabbed him around the throat and said, ‘Pay me back what you owe me.’ “Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt. “When his fellow servants saw what happened, they were deeply offended. They came and told their master all that happened. His master called the first servant and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you appealed to me. Shouldn’t you also have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ His master was furious and handed him over to the guard responsible for punishing prisoners, until he had paid the whole debt. “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if you don’t forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:21-35, Common English Bible).

Do you ever get the feeling that sometimes Jesus is just plain unreasonable? I mean really. I am supposed to forgive the person who does something (sin) against me 490 times? That isn’t even realistic is it? That means I am supposed to keep track of how many times I get hurt by the people, all the people in my life, right? Each of them get 77 times according to our lesson while other translations say 70×7 or 490 times to take a literal reading of the text. I guess we should all go out and buy us a pocket ledger book so we don’t miss any. But, with today’s smart phones, I don’t really need to keep a pocket ledger, I can keep it right on my phone and I always (well almost always) have that with me. That would make it super easy to keep track and once that 490 times is up, well they are gone, out of my life!

I am speaking tongue-and-cheek of course. If we are attempting to keep track of the sins of others, I think it is a pretty good chance that we are totally missing Jesus’ point. I don’t think it is even realistic to think we can keep track of all those statistics, especially for we arithmophobics who suffer from dyscalculia (really I don’t know that I suffer from either, I just know I don’t remember numbers very well).

Jesus’ point here is, as long as we have people in our lives, we need to keep forgiving and keep forgiving and keep forgiving. If we are keeping track, we probably have failed to forgive, and if we fail to forgive, we shouldn’t be expecting God to forgive us. If all sins are sins against God, and God keeps track, be it 77 times or 490 or in between or considerably more, there is no hope for any of us. Because there is more grace in God than there is sin in us, we also need to strive to have that kind of grace within us toward those who share our world.

How do you move past the numbers to keep on forgiving?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Where Two or Three

“If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you’ve won over your brother or sister.  But if they won’t listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses.  But if they still won’t pay attention, report it to the church. If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector.  I assure you that whatever you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. And whatever you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven.  Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you.  For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them” (Matthew 18:15-20, Common English Bible).

When ever two or three people gather many things can happen. This lesson starts off on the negative side of things. “When someone sins against you…” When you have two people together eventually there will be disagreement and difficulty. There is a pretty good chance that someone will eventually sin against the other. When that happens, there is also a pretty good chance that some help might be necessary.

The lesson says go take someone else or two someone elses (I know, it really isn’t a word) with you and talk to the offender. If that doesn’t fix the problem, we are to take it to the church.

But, I would submit to you, there is something else to consider. In my experience, when I am upset with someone and believe they have sinned against me, more often than not, I have sinned against them too. If we both have our two or three with us, we end up with the church. If we both have people who agree with us, we just might end up continuing our stand-off.

What if, before we start to talk, whether it is with others present or just us, what if we were to pray together in earnest? What if we prayed together that God lead us to an equitable, realistic solution?

If we could agree to let God lead us, the lesson reminds us that God will do whatever we ask, WHEN WE AGREE TOGETHER. Jesus also reminds us in this lesson that when we gather, even two or three of us in His name, He is there with us. Could we really ask for more than that?

I can’t help but think, when we are caught in a disagreement, is going to begin with both of us in earnest prayer. When we pray, God is with us. We may well need another person or two who will help us in finding, in seeing God’s solution, but because God is with us, if we pray together earnestly, I know finding a real solution is more than possible, I can’t help but think it absolutely will happen.

How can God help you find resolution with another person?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Reason to Celebrate?

“Be careful that you don’t look down on one of these little ones. I say to you that their angels in heaven are always looking into the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If someone had one hundred sheep and one of them wandered off, wouldn’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillsides and go in search for the one that wandered off? If he finds it, I assure you that he is happier about having that one sheep than about the ninety-nine who didn’t wander off. In the same way, my Father who is in heaven doesn’t want to lose one of these little ones (Matthew 18:10-14, Common English Bible).

When we read today’s lesson, from a business perspective, it makes no sense. Why would a shepherd leave the overwhelming majority of his flock unattended to go out and search for one that wandered away? Sure, the one sheep is valuable but by leaving the flock unattended would leave 99 times the value in danger of loss. Sheep are not the most intelligent animals God created and if one would wander away, even under the diligent watch of the shepherd, the other 99 could disappear while the shepherd was out chasing down that one lost sheep. Perhaps if there were two shepherds there it would make more sense.

The truth is, however, this parable isn’t about what makes good business sense! It also isn’t about a finite being who is the shepherd, it is about an infinite God who can watch over each of us while still pursuing those who have wandered from the flock or perhaps have never been part of the flock.

When the shepherd, who has the infinite power to watch over the flock and at the same time pursue a wandering sheep, when that maverick comes home, it is reason to celebrate. As for the rest of the sheep, there isn’t need to celebrate them at that moment, they are already part of the flock. The way I see it, God celebrated our return when we were brought back to the flock.

Without question, the sheep in this parable are we who follow Christ or at least for the wanderer, a would-be Christ follower. And, as I have already said, sheep are not the most intelligent animals of the creation. Sometimes we aren’t either. It becomes easy for us to wander from the place God wants us to be, calls us to be. We know where we belong and yet all too often, we still wander. We need to be permanently on guard to insure that we do not wander.

I am reminded of the old song, “Since Jesus Came Into My Heart.” The second verse says, “I have ceased from my wand’ring and going astray, since Jesus came into my heart; And my sins which were many are all washed away, since Jesus came into my heart.”

It is my prayer that I truly have “…ceased from my wand-ring and going astray…” I know, “My sins which were many are all washed away…” I pray the same for you.

Where have you wandered? How did the ever-watchful Shepherd find you?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Don’t Mess with God’s Kids

“As for whoever causes these little ones who believe in me to trip and fall into sin, it would be better for them to have a huge stone hung around their necks and be drowned in the bottom of the lake. How terrible it is for the world because of the things that cause people to trip and fall into sin! Such things have to happen, but how terrible it is for the person who causes those things to happen!  If your hand or your foot causes you to fall into sin, chop it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter into life crippled or lame than to be thrown into the eternal fire with two hands or two feet. If your eye causes you to fall into sin, tear it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter into life with one eye than to be cast into a burning hell with two eyes (Matthew 18:6-9, Common English Bible).

We have all seen television shows or movies where the “mob” weighed someone down with “cement shoes” so they would “sleep with the fishes.” We laugh at the stereotypes we see in our entertainment even if we wouldn’t be thrilled about such a thing happening to us, or most anyone else for that matter. Still, the stereotypical buzz words do entertain us.

Jesus was not being entertaining in today’s lesson. In yesterdays reading we read that Jesus brought a child in among the disciples and talked about accepting God as a child. Today he continues saying that if any of us mess with one of these kids and cause them to stumble it would be better for us to “sleep with the fishes.” Jesus’ analogy is anything but pleasant for folks like us to think about.

What I have thought about today, however is, should we take  Jesus’ words about the children literally. Is it just the kid who we shouldn’t mess with to avoid cement shoes? I do think where Jesus says it would be better for us to have a millstone tied around our necks than to mess up one of these children. Or could it be, better to have a millstone than to cause a child of God to stumble.

I am not saying Jesus didn’t intend this literally, but we also need to remember all Jesus had to say about love of neighbor. I think it is safe to say that causing someone to stumble is not a sigh of love.

We are called, as people of faith in Jesus not to cause a child to stumble, not to cause a child of God to fall. It is true for children. It is just as true for a child of God.

How can you best avoid causing someone around you to stumble?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Of Innocence and Simple Faith

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then he called a little child over to sit among the disciples, and said, “I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven. Those who humble themselves like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me (Matthew 18:1-5, Common English Bible).

Yesterday we looked at our lesson from the perspective of becoming humble, becoming like a child and the idea that Jesus might have been talking about how, in the biblical era a child really was a nobody. Whether male or female the child’s identity was wrapped up in the identity of the child’s father. As they grew older and their roles in life changed, their identity would change as well. For more on this, go back and read yesterday’s post again.

Today we talk about a child’s understanding of faith as simple and innocent. We adults often complicate what should really be pretty simple. When we think about the Pharisees of Jesus’ day I think we can begin to see this as a possibility of what Jesus was talking about here. We adults, all too often, try to complicate what God didn’t make that hard.

In John 8 the Pharisees bring a woman caught in adultery before Jesus ready to stone her. The Pharisees are ready to condemn (and actually trap Jesus all at the same time). Jesus is ready to pour out grace.

When Nicodemus had his nighttime encounter with Jesus, Jesus laid things out in one verse that is often referred to as “the Gospel in a single verse.” I prefer two verses actually.

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17, Common English Bible).

The Pharisees were making things hard. Jesus was saying, “It isn’t that hard. You just need to believe.” I throw in verse 17 as well because it points that Jesus didn’t come to condemn the adulterous woman or anyone else. Jesus came that we might believe.

Our kids get that. All too often, we adults muddy the waters with other stuff. This doesn’t mean we should go around committing sin just because we feel like it. Adultery (and many other things as well) are wrong in God’s eyes. We should never make the mistake of believing otherwise. At the same time, however, we should always remember, there is more grace in God than there is sin in us.

We need to take faith as it comes. It is really a pretty simple matter. Accept faith like a child. Just believe.

How do you demonstrate your faith to the world? Is it simple, or complicated?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Jay and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved