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Luke 4:14-21
"It Must Have Been Important"

Today's gospel lesson from Luke begins after Jesus returns from the wilderness after being tempted in the dessert by Satan for 40 days.

What I found interesting as I sat down with this scripture passage, is Jesus' state of being upon His return.

Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit.

And so, I had to go back to the beginning of the chapter, to the beginning of the story, to hear the beginning before He went into the wilderness.

And sure enough, I found something quite interesting.

Reading from Luke chapter 4, verse 1, "And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan..." (where He had been baptized).

Here is the beginning of Jesus'; ministry following His baptism.

It must have been important for Luke to write down that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit before He went out into the wilderness to be tempted.

And I really want to relate to our confirmands, especially, this morning, or for anyone who has been baptized as an adult, that this is the act of receiving the Holy Spirit and then going out into the world, where we are tempted.

Now, we are obviously tempted whether or not we are confirmed or baptized as an adult.

The papers and the news on television and radio keep us apprised of continued violence amongst people.

Temptation to want to be better than someone else...
Temptation to have more money than someone else...
Temptation to kill another or harm another rather than reconcile with someone else...
Temptation to have more power than someone else...

It was all represented in Jesus'temptation in the wilderness.

But there was one thing...one thing...one thing that kept Jesus safe from the temptations of evil.

And that one thing was The Holy Spirit.

We have talked about temptation in confirmation...
...temptation to smoke cigarettes
Fortunately our youth have not been tempted to smoke pot or do drugs. But I'm sure they have been tempted to do things that are inappropriate.

I'm willing to wager that some have been tempted to cheat on a test at least once. After all, they're only human.

If they're willing to admit it, confess it to God and be sincere about not doing it again, God will forgive them.

But I believe they absolutely cannot resist all of temptation, and neither can any of us, without being full of the Holy Spirit.

We all have the ability to cheat.

Whether it is cheating on our taxes, and we justifying by saying that we don't like what the government does with our money.

And the legislators and government officials make too much money anyway.

But I sincerely believe cheating, stealing, and lying, is something we cannot do when we are filled with the Holy Spirit.

Most of you know how much I love the all you can eat crab legs at my favorite Chinese restaurant.
And they used to include soda with the price of the buffet.
They no longer do that.
Now I never get a whole soda.
I usually get at most glass because I like to fill it with vanilla ice cream and make a float for dessert.
And the girls that serve have not charged me for a soda on the bill.
But when I go to pay, I cannot steal or cheat or lie.
I simply tell the cashier to add the price of a soda to our bill.
He replies, "Thank you for being honest."
I could get away with not paying.
But my conscience could not.
In diametric opposition to being filled with the Holy Spirit, is an example of corruption so out of proportion it's not even funny.
My friend, Joshua, whom I often speak of, is over in Liberia.
He needs to pay the corrupt government $1200 in duty tax before they will release his car so he can get from town to town to preach the gospel.
Without his car, he has to pay very expensive taxi amounts to drivers that travel very infrequently from village to village.
Corrupt government practices are no secret.
I believe, corruption in government cannot be stopped without the power of the Holy Spirit.
Temptation is merely too great for most to resist.
What IS the Holy Spirit?
Is one of our questions in confirmation.
Who IS the Holy Spirit?
Why do we need the Holy Spirit?
Does the Holy Spirit help us?
Is the HOly Spirit present in our lives?
Great questions to wrestle with.
Essential questions to wrestle with as Christians.
For God as merely Creator, would be a distant God...
..A hands off God, so to speak.
But the Holy Spirit of God, dwells within our being, when we invite this powerful Spirit into our lives, and gives us a POWER to do what we could not do on our own.
The Holy Spirit beckons us to get up on a Sunday morning, no matter how comfortable our beds are.
The HOly Spirit beckons some to stay after worship today and study the healing stories of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit beckons some to come to church school prior to worship.
The Holy Spirit beckons the chosen to serve on consistory.
The Holy Spirit will call some of us to make Valentines for Vets next Sunday.
The Holy Spirit calls some to serve on altar guild and various other aspects of the mission and ministry here at Bethany.
The Holy Spirit calls some to missionary work, like my friend Joshua, and Betty Ryles and Helen Schneider's friend.
We desperately need the Holy Spirit.
The HOly Spirit gives us guidelines for living to keep us from temptation and harm's way.
Here in our text, The Holy Spirit is upon Jesus.
The Holy Spirit anointed Jesus to preach good news to the poor.
It is the Holy Spirit who inspires my messages to you.
Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I would be without words to share.
The HOly Spirit beckons us to give offerings to the poor, to feed the homeless men at Old First, to give baby formula to a new mother who has no money to purchase her own.
The Holy Spirit of God brings us through these doors to worship.
Without the Holy Spirit, this building has no meaning, other than to gather for social reasons.
The Holy Spirit is essential to our worship.
Otherwise our worship is meaningless.
The HOly Spirit of God sent Jesus to proclaim recovering of sight to the blind.
Miracles, signs, and wonders are evidence of the power and workings of the Holy Spirit.
Love's Miracle Story, hanging outside my study in the hallway is evidence of the power and workings of the Holy Spirit.
I could spend three days sharing miracle stories of healing with you.
Prayer that is not led by the Holy Spirit is misled.
But prayer that is led by the Holy Spirit is full of miracle power.
Words spoken producing more incredible results than the most world renowned surgeons.
God spoke, in the beginning, and the world was created.
We, as Christians speak, and when our words are led by the Holy Spirit, healing and supernatural miracles happen before our very eyes.
When Jesus finished reading the scriptures from Isaiah to those in the synagogue, He said to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
The scripture can only be fulfilled in your hearing.
The scripture cannot be fulfilled without you.
You are a part of the Holy Scripture.
You are a necessary ingredient in God's plan for the salvation of the world.
Let us not become weary in our quest to be helpmates for Jesus and Ambassadors for Christ.
Amen!



I Corinthians 13:1-13
What Is Love?

One of my favorite songs from the group Haddaway goes like this..."What is love, baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more."

Tina Turner sings, "What's love got to do got to do with it? What's love, but a second hand emotion? What's love got to do, got to do with it? Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?"

Elvis Presley sings "Love me tender, love me strong, never let me go."

A song from the musical "Carnival" begins "Love Makes The World Go Round."

As I was preparing this message for you, I decided to go to the internet and type in the word "love" in the Google search engine.

The results were that 1,070,000,000 (over 1 trillion) sites were found!

The first listing was called the The Love Calculator. It supposedly calculates the chance on a successful relationship between two people.And talking about love, I certainly couldn't forget the song "Love Potion # 9", where after drinking a love potion, the singer starting kissing everything in sight! The Beatles sang a lot of songs about Love,And Cirque du Soleil is performing an entire show around this theme using The Beatles' music. It's a show I would surely "LOVE" to see!!! With AOL's dating service, you can get tips and advice on love. On the Internet, you can even take a free love test and you can send love email greeting cards. There's a web site where you can check out love travel sites. But the site that I really wanted to visit was a site with love poetry where I discovered the site's favorite love poem that I'd like to share with you, entitled "When I First Looked Into Your Eyes". When first I looked into your eyeseach breath became a thousand sighs. My heart drummed out a thunder beatI glowed with joy from head to feet. The hand of love had touched my soul,as the bell of destiny began to toll. The tide of love began to rise,the world was filled with summer skies. My sodden clouds of cold and greyglowed with gold, then wisped away. A brilliant rainbow arched across,as waves of love began to toss. The air was filled with lovebird cries,when I first looked into your eyes. When I first looked into your eyes,all time and space were paralyzedAnd in that instant, I was showna universe I had never known. I dwell there still,in Paradise, when I look into your eyes." by Faith Mattke.

As Caroline Lloyd was cleaning out her mother's apartment, she was deciding who to give some of Helen Schea's things to. Caroline came over to church and handed me a bag with a gift she thought would be appropriate for John and me.
As I unwrapped it, I discovered a plate with a scene from Romeo & Juliet.

The Bible has a lot to say about love.

"Love your enemy as yourself."
"The Greatest Gift Is Love."
"Love is patient and kind."
"Love is not arrogant or rude."
"Love does not insist on its own way."
And I found it interesting that in reading the love poem I found on the internet, the author used images from God's creation to describe love.
After all, the true author of Love itself, is God.
We can write about love.
We can sing about love.
We can visit "love" destinations.

We can send cards about love.

But sometimes we get love a little wrong.

If we don't listen to an explanation of what love is from the original author of love itself, that is God's love, as found in 1 Corinthians, we may find ourselves in a position such as Ike & Tina Turner, ending up with a broken heart, not heeding God's word that love does not insist on its own way.

The righteous Christian must learn to love in a way that is self sacrificing.
We sing hymns like "Blessed be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love."

And "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling."

Listen to the words since sometimes when we're singing, we pay more attention to the tune than we do the message.

"Joy of heaven, to earth come down. Fix in us thy humble dwelling, All thy faithful mercies crown. Jesus, thou art all compassion, Pure unbounded love Thou art. Visit us with thy salvation, Enter every trembling heart."

It should be clear that when we sing about God's love, it is a pure love...
Not a love based on how pretty we are or how handsome we are...
Not a love based on our figure or the figures associated with our retirement account.

God's love is one of compassion.

A deeper love than we could ever experience without God.

I noticed that in the last 10 years, I have come to love my husband more and more every year.
After 5 years, I didn't think it was possible to love him any deeper.
But each and every year, our love has grown stronger and more immeasurable.
The love we have for each other includes God's description of love because we include God in our relationship.

But you don't have to be married to experience the deep, deep love of our Saviour.
Jesus laid down his life for us so that we could receive God's greatest gift of love in the form of compassion and ultimately salvation.

This gift of love is given to us freely.
There's no need for an expensive engagement ring.
There's no need for an expensive date or cruise to an exotic location.

The gift of love that God has for us is a free gift.

And all we have to do is receive it.


The hymn "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" continues, "Breathe, o breathe thy loving Spirit, into every troubled breast".

You see, often times, there are many people who feel like they don't need God.

They have their life together, and things are going pretty smoothly.

They reject God and turn their back on God, until one day, their life falls apart.
God never rejects them even if they have rejected God all their life.

God is always ready to breathe His loving Spirit into every troubled breast.

Each and every breathe we breathe is a loving gift from God.
The hymn continues, "Let us all in Thee inherit"

The inheritance of God's love is the promise that we belong to Christ. The Christ of the living and the dead.
When we receive Christ as our Lord, what we inherit is the gift of eternal life.

Our life on earth may be rough.
It may have a lot of bumps and bruises, because we have not yet perfected love.
We have not fully learned to love others as God loves us.

But when we trust God...When we have faith in God, then God shows us how perfect His love for us truly is.

God gives us a love that can remove mountains.
It can remove the tiniest hurt to the greatest suffering.

God's love never ends.

The Bible tells us that prophecy, tongues, and knowledge will all pass away.
God's not concerned as much about how smart we are.
What God does want from us is love.
Amen!




Ash Wednesday 2012

 

Spiritual Disciplines:  Fasting, Sacrifice, Resisting Temptation, Journaling.

 

As we go through our Lenten journeys, our time of preparation for Easter, we reflect on Jesus in the wilderness, and we may wonder how He felt.

 

Spiritual Disciplines are a way to get in touch with our connection with Jesus in an intimate way.

 

Please be careful, this journey is potentially life changing.

 

What happens when we Fast?

 

Spiritual Fasting is a practice which seems to be loosing ground in the church.

 

In today’s society, we have our cell phones, our internet, our cable, our satellite radio, our ipods and itunes, our video games, and lots of choices for fast food restaurants.

 

So the notion of “doing without” seems to be less and less desirable.

 

Some mega churches wouldn’t dream of preaching on sacrifice...they just want to lift up joy, joy, joy.

 

But look where sacrifice brought us.

 

Soldiers who sacrificed their very lives for our freedom.

 

Jesus, who sacrificed Himself on the cross, so that we would live forever, freed from the bondages of sin.

 

And so, to feel what He feels, what He felt, we have to sacrifice.

 

Because it is only through sacrifice, that we appreciate what we have to a greater extent.

 

What did it take for Haitians to leave their homes, families, and familiar settings to come to a country that speaks an entirely different language?

It took sacrifice.

 

When you are willing to make sacrifices, you are one step closer to Jesus.

 

My parents were poor when I was born.

My mother went without eating so that I could have the baby formula I needed.

 

She made sacrifices, and she was certainly close to Jesus.

 

In today’s culture, I noticed several times while doing my grocery shopping, young girls with WIC coupons getting free food for their babies.

 

But they are dressed to the nines in designer jackets, jeans, and shoes, with designer handbags, and lots of bangle bracelets sporting very nice hair cuts.

 

I really don’t see the sacrifice, since it is our government providing the means for this to happen.

 

I’m not sure what some young people are learning in terms of “doing without”.

 

On the other side of the coin is my friend Melissa.

On her Facebook page, she posted her kitchen which included a simple table and chairs and a plate full of fruit.

But the rest of the kitchen was bare.

 

She is learning what it’s like to do without.

And the joy of filling that kitchen is being accomplished by her wedding guests.

 

In sacrificing, we come to the spiritual discipline of fasting.

 

Not just fasting from food, but also fasting from words, clutter, and negative thoughts.

 

Your challenge, for this Lenten journey, is to feel the hunger that Jesus felt when he was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights.

 

I’m not asking you to go without food for 40 days, but here is the challenge.

 

Pick one of the following:

 

1.  Go without one meal per day until Easter, with the exception of Sundays.

 

2.  Go without dessert every day until Easter, with the exception of Sundays.

 

3.  Go without chocolate every day until Easter, with the exception of Sundays.

 

4.  Go without bread or pasta every day until Easter, with the exception of Sundays.

 

If you decide to skip a meal, use that time that you would normally eat for prayer or reading scripture.

 

If you decide to skip a certain food group, take the money you would have spent for that food and place it in a special location.

Then use the money you’ve collected during Lent for a specific charity to help someone else.

 

I look forward to watching the reality show Survivor since it shows me human nature at the core and I can learn a lot about people’s behavior.

 

People stuck on an island with little food being provided were willing to pay $100 for a piece of chocolate cake.

Everything you have becomes more valuable when you do without it.

 

Try going through an entire day with a blind fold on.

Guaranteed you will appreciate your eyes more the next day.

 

Try going through an entire day wearing mittens.

Guaranteed you will appreciate your fingers more the next day.

 

Try going through an entire day without talking...no words.

Guaranteed you will appreciate conversation, hearing, and speech the next day.

 

Here’s a challenge for resisting temptation...

Go to the mall or your favorite store, but just window shop.

Resist the temptation to buy anything.

 

As part of our “Complaint Free World” challenge a few years ago, many of us made an attempt to go 4 consecutive weeks without uttering one single complaint.

I think maybe I will try to give up complaining for Lent this year.

 

As part of our “Behavioral Covenant”, we are being intentional about resisting the temptation to gossip by going directly to the person who has upset or offended us.

 

It would be interesting to try to resist the temptation to watch television or play video games for the duration of lent with the exception of Sunday.

Now that’s a challenge...

Or maybe a little simpler, try to go without beer for the duration of Lent.

 

Listen to these qualities of ambassadors for Christ in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

Great Endurance in  hardships, conflict, afflictions, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watching, and hunger.

 

Not just endurance, but GREAT endurance!

 

How?

 

By purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the Power of God.

 

Using what weapons?

Righteousness for the right hand and honor for the left hand.

 

How is it that we can possess nothing, but have everything?

 

It is only through Jesus Christ, as our Lord and our Savior.

 

Through this Lenten journey, dare to take the challenge.

 

Amen.