Pentecost Sunday

On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in Me this way, just as the Scripture says.” (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)

John 7:37-39 – The Message

 

What a strange Pentecost Sunday! It seems that we would be able to celebrate the Birthday of the Church, the day when the disciples were touched by the Holy Spirit and were able to go and spread the Gospel in a way that all nations and languages could understand. But it is difficult to celebrate when the world is crying out and is in shambles.

I am disturbed by not one pandemic but two. This viral pandemic is crippling to so many who are overworked in unsafe conditions and to those who are out of work, as well as deadly to over 104,000 in the U.S. alone (and counting). Still, there is another pandemic in our midst; this one is crippling our integrity; our goodwill; our humanity and causing senseless death and destruction throughout our nation.

How is it possible that I could wake up one morning and hear of an officer with his knee on a man’s neck? How is it that there were three other officers assisting him? How is it that any one of us could righteously, quietly, weigh in on this act with opinions and spin some “story” of justification? Have we lost our minds? What happened to George Floyd was nothing less than an abomination! There is no excuse! And the pain, mayhem and destruction that has followed and become physically viral in other cities in these United States should be of no surprise!

In this season of Pentecost, I have many questions. My heart is aching and I pray yours is, too! How will all of this end? Where is the leadership? How is it that those who have the same skin color as mine get to wield power over those who look and sound different? What has this country come to? How could we ever begin to apologize for our part in any act that degrades or harms another whose color, orientation, race or any minority in this country. In this moment, I feel like Isaiah, “Woe is me!”

Still, maybe this is exactly where to begin: with apology and accountability and affirming my own inhumanity. I don’t know how all of this will come to an end (How can it end? Is it even possible for a good ending?) I just don’t know at this moment. What I do know, as Christ’s disciple, is that I must begin! And I must begin first and foremost in prayer! Many of us have learned what prayer does to us and for us. Prayer is an open airway to God. Prayer is the way to hear from God…His desires for our life. Prayer causes us to focus our hearts and minds on the subject of our prayer. Prayer moves us to action (if we are brave enough).

In John 7, the Gospel writer brings us to Jesus at the Festival of Booths (commemorating God’s provision for the Israelites while they wandered in the desert for forty years). This seven-day festival came around the fall, near the end of harvest. The High Priest, Levites, worshippers and crowds would gather…thousands of people, to give God thanks for providing water and light in the dark days in the wilderness and ask that they would know salvation. On the last great day of the festival, Jesus stands and cries out: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in Me this way, just as the Scripture says.”

Oh sisters and brothers, in this Pentecost week as we remember the Birthday of the Church, I say: cry out to God. Cry out: “Save us!” And then, expect that the Rivers of Living Water, Christ in us, will stream from us as we pray, especially as Christians, for those who are marginalized! Pray, “No More Hate!” Pray, “Repentance for racist views!” Pray “Healing and forgiveness when the world says, ‘Who Cares’! Pray in sorrow for how we have come to this place. Pray mercy and justice for the black and brown; homosexuals; undocumented immigrants; those underpaid and underserved; homeless veterans and the mentally ill…and the list goes on. And pray for their families. Pray for all of these who are vulnerable to a national mindset that has become privileged and entitled! Pray to become thirsty – parched; and, to ache to drink for the “Rivers of Living Water”…to bask in the Word for Jesus. Pray that Cason will say, “ENOUGH” and outdo each other in doing good and speaking good to each other and about others. We are empowered by the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer! In situations like this, it seems we can’t do much! But when I stop and think, I know I can do much more because I am His! And His Living Water flows out of me and His Living Water is healing! Come Holy Spirit!

With more love in my heart for you than you know and just wanting to be better –

Joy, joy amidst the storm…


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Aldersgate Day

A prayer of Susanna Wesley:

Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the church, or closet, nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that everywhere I am in Your presence. So may my every word and action have moral content. May all the happenings of my life prove useful and beneficial to me. May all things instruct me and afford me an opportunity of exercising some virtue and daily learning and growing towards Your likeness. Amen.

What a great day to celebrate John Wesley’s ministry legacy. David and I had so much fun putting together Sunday’s sermon celebrating Aldersgate Day, May 24, 1738; the day that Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed 282 years before. Growing up, I think that I knew that May 24th date even before I knew my own birthday. At the parsonage I have a wonderful picture of John Wesley hanging near the entrance door. It was a gift to my parents 60 years ago from a congregation where dad served in Baltimore. What a marvelous reminder of why we, as Methodists, care for the poor; spend funds on the mission and community; meet in small groups, and sing songs of the faith!

Though I have never been to Epworth – Wesley’s home, I can almost see him at his mother, Susanna’s, side learning to read from his textbook, the Bible, as she shared deep truths with him. She was so learned herself that she taught all of her children Latin and Greek. Our heritage is rich and begs us to use scripture knowledge in order to make sound decisions about how we spend life together at Cason.

I have never been to Aldersgate Street in London, either. I know that for Wesley, his year in America and the two years after his return, made him question his worth and vitality because the ministry was disastrous. And then came the invitation. Wesley reluctantly attended a small group meeting that evening on Aldersgate Street in London. As he heard a reading from Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, he felt his “heart strangely warmed.” Wesley wrote in his journal that at about 8:45 p.m. “while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” The Letter to the Romans, especially chapter 3, became a bedrock of grace and faith for him. In those moments, Wesley knew that it was not what he did but what Jesus did for him by dying on that Cross that changed him and reminded him again that he could live in Christ and make a difference to others!

On Pentecost, May 21, just three days before, Charles Wesley, John’s brother, also had a Holy Spirit experience. Charles writes in his journal that he had “a strange palpitation of heart” that caused him to exclaim, “I believe, I believe!” Several sentences later he continues, “I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ.” These men in their thirties were unstoppable and we at Cason, and all United Methodist churches, are the legacy of their great awakening and love for God and humanity.
This is who we are…the people called Methodist! I encourage you to stop and pray this prayer from Wesley’s Covenant New Years’ Service and let it penetrate your heart.

Joy, joy my friends at Cason! I sure love being your METHODIST pastor.

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O Glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.


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And The Walls Came Tumbling Down

I am always so touched with anticipation when Sam Owen brings the message.  Her presence, flow, knowledge and sheer joy in her delivery are obvious gifts from God.  This past Sunday’s message was no different.  As she unpacked the life of Joshua, I was reminded of how God’s hand was on Joshua from the beginning. As she shared, I could see Joshua’s faith growing.  Sam started in Numbers 13 (great read!) where God spoke to Moses to send the Israelite spies into Canaan, the Promise Land.  When they returned, the spies were amazed at how lush the land was (the Land of Milk and Honey), but because it was inhabited by giants, only Joshua and Caleb were willing to conquer the land. Why? Because Joshua and Caleb knew that God had promised this land. Thinking about it, what does that mean for us? Giants in our life may seem overwhelming, seemingly unable to fight off; however, if God is calling us, He will equip us and give us what He promises. I love that point.  Sam’s second point was just as poignant.  She took us to Jericho in Joshua 6 (don’t miss that read!).  It was here that God told Joshua to assemble the Israelites and march around the walls of Jericho 7 times (remember the song… “And the walls came a tumblin’ down).  Sometimes, God asks us to do strange things like march around a wall. And at times, He is very specific: march not 5 times or 8 times but 7 times around a wall or a circumstance. Joshua trusted God and God rewarded Joshua’s faithfulness. Sam’s last point took us back to Deuteronomy 31 where Moses called Joshua to succeed him. This leadership responsibility was relevant to Sam and our lives as leaders in our own situations. She likened it to taking on this leadership in her first year of teaching. The year before, she was an intern in a classroom. The lead teacher was always there to direct the students, just as Moses was there for the Israelites.  However, just as Moses passed the staff to Joshua, Sam’s first year teaching was on her own, it was her leadership that was required. 

 

Sam brought her message home: God gives us what we need to make transitions in our lives. For Joshua, it was to see beyond the giants; to be faithful to God even with a wall in front of him and finally, with the full blessing of God, for him to lead. Transitions are rarely easy, however; they bring us to a deeper dependence on God and move us toward being the person God created us to be. I am grateful to Sam for offering her wisdom beyond her years to us in worship.  Because of technical difficulties, many of you missed the last part of her sermon and the worship experience. If  you would like to be part of last Sunday’s worship experience – CLICK HERE


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Mother’s Day

Being a mother is hard work.

I’m definitely not qualified to give a sermon on what it means to be a modern day mother… I don’t have a clue! I’m not a mother and I think it’s safe to say I never will be. Now, I understand the dangers of speaking on a topic with which I have little first-hand experience. But, I have had a mother all of my life and now I am married to a mother of two.  That’s why I’m thankful that the Bible deals with this issue very well. That way, we’re not relying on my expertise…or lack thereof. But, we’re relying on God’s experience…and that beats all the so-called pop-culture experts. 

There was Rebekah back in Genesis.  She made sure that Jacob, not Essau, was the one that Issac blessed.  Later we meet Jochebed, the mother of Moses.  She saved her son by floating him down the river where Pharaoh’s daughter found him.  Jochebed was brought in to nurse her own son and taught him who he really was and all about God.  Hannah, the mother of Samuel, prayed endlessly to God for a son, promising that she would dedicate him to the Lord.  God gave her a son and she did as she promised, giving Samuel to Eli the priest to raise.  Bathsheba, the bride of King David stepped in to make sure that her son Solomon was named king over his older brother Adonijah.

That brings us to the most famous mother in the Bible, Mary.  Mary was an ordinary girl, no one special.  We sometimes think of her as this perfect, unblemished girl, but not once does the Bible say that Mary was sinless. In fact, Mary said in Luke 1:47 that her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior. In so doing, she declared her need of a Savior just as much as anyone else.  And Mary was not immune to fear…in fact her first reaction to hearing the news from the angel was fear. Was it the fear of criticism? Fear of uncertainty? Fear of inadequacy or the fear of change?  Or was it all of the above?  Wed can’t really fault her, in fact we all probably have felt those fears from time to time, especially mothers!  More than anyone, a mother fears that they won’t be good enough, that they will mess up, that they won’t be able to raise their child right.  Mothers shoulder quite a load.

The same four fears can keep anyone from being used by God. But Mary gives us an example of three qualities that kept these things from controlling her and enabled her to be used by God:

  • The desire to do God’s will.
  • The willingness to pay the cost
  • The faith to trust God’s promise

When Gabriel told Mary what God was going to do she had fear, but she did not have doubt. She did ask, “How shall this thing be, seeing I know not a man?” But she was not expressing doubt she was asking how such an awesome thing could take place.  Gabriel proceeded to tell her how it would take place and added, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” And Mary said, in effect, “Well, let’s get on with it.” The promise from God gave her faith to believe it would all come to pass. That faith also gave her courage to face all the potential difficulties that would lie ahead.

I think about that faith and courage and how Mary was steadfast in her acceptance and I think of the passage from Psalms 31:25-31:
 

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.

26 She speaks with wisdom,
      and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

27 She watches over the affairs of her household
     and does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
     her partner also, and they praise her:

29 “Many women do noble things,
      but you surpass them all.”

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
      but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
     and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
 

Yes, Mary was the ideal Mother because of her love of God.  And she had some special qualities we all need:

  • The desire to do His will
  • Be willing to pay the cost
  • The faith to trust His promises

To follow Christ every one of us, whether we are mothers or not will have to give up some fleshly stuff. It may be some of our habits…some of our relationships that are pulling us down…some of our dreams and ambitions. Mary was willing to pay the cost and God used her in fabulous way.

In fact, all the mothers in the Bible were used in amazing ways, much as he is still using mother’s today.  Think of Bill Gates or Elon Musk or even me who had the biggest impact on their lives…we’ll all tell you our mothers.

I wouldn’t be up here today if not for my mom.  She was always encouraging me. She reminded me yesterday that she had sent me a way to some youth event in Ohio and when I got home, I told her I was going to be a pastor. It took 40 some odd years, but she never gave up, she never lost faith, she never stopped praying (And Lord knows I gave her plenty of reasons to fear over the years).  I think of all the mothers out there right now praying for their kids.

I want to say thank you for what your desire to do God’s will, thank you for for the sacrifice you endure, and thank you for your faith to trust in God’s promises.

 

We love you!


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The Road to Emmaus

It’s hard to believe that just three days before Jesus walked with Cleopas and the other disciple that He hung on that cross.  And for us, a month later, doesn’t it seem so distant that we spent 6 in LENT grappling with and experiencing together the 24 hours that led up to His death on the cross and His burial? How can this story show me how I can be more intentionally one of Jesus’ apprentices, His disciples? It was only after Jesus and the disciples came to Emmaus; after Jesus had broken the bread; and, after He had vanished yet again, that the disciples understood what had happened. Luke tells us that Cleopas and the other disciple thought back and remembered that on the road that their “hearts were burning” when Jesus was sharing the scriptures with them. And their “eyes were opened” while He was breaking the bread. Two actions; “Hearing the scriptures” and “Breaking the bread” brought them to a place where they could do nothing less than run back those seven miles to Jerusalem to proclaim their testimony!

 

Rev. David Lose, a Lutheran clergy, likens that whole Emmaus account to our Worship Experience.  First, the Gathering, Jesus meeting the disciples on the road; Second, the revealing of the scriptures; Third, the breaking of the bread and finally, the disciples recognized Jesus and hurrying out to proclaim what they had experienced. Could it be that what was passed down through the centuries, millennia really, was that the only way that we can really share Jesus is if we spend time in the scriptures and in Holy Communion, participating in breaking the bread.

 

Oh, I know, sitting and reading the scriptures for some of you is labor intensive.  You just don’t like it.  I understand. Not everyone is a reader.  So I want to challenge you. What if you were to listen to the Word through a daily devotion on your phone or laptop/computer? Below, are suggested sites you can put in your phone or where ever you are reading this that may bring you closer to sharing Jesus more easily. I once read, “You can’t give what you don’t have.” Do you remember those wrist bands, “What Would Jesus Do?” I always thought how could anyone know WWJD if they did not spend time knowing Jesus through the scriptures and in their prayer and devotion time and the breaking of the bread?

 

I think of those disciples on the Emmaus Road and how disappointed they were until they heard Jesus share the scriptures starting with Moses and until Jesus broke the bread. As disciples of Jesus, we are in such compromising times and Jesus wants to intimately fellowship with us.  Will you spend time in the scriptures until your heart is burning? When you come to the table will you experience Jesus in the breaking of the bread where ever you are? 

 

Thank you my friends, for allowing Jesus to speak to you in the scriptures and for remembering that in breaking of the bread you are given opportunity to come close to Him. 

 

With more love than you know…joy, joy

 

Sites that may be right for you as you desire to grow closer to Jesus:

First 15: https://www.first15.org/

Godtube: https://www.godtube.com/devotionals/your-daily-prayer/

Our Daily Bread: https://inspiration.org/daily-devotional/your-daily-bread

Max Lucado:  https://maxlucado.com/listen


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I’m Going Fishing

Will you take the blessing of grace or not? As I continue to reflect on Sunday’s sermon, Jesus Is Still Here: I’m Going Fishing, from John 21:1-17, I find that I must ask this question: Do I want the blessing of grace? Some of you may say that this is a strange question. But I think about all the things that I do to sacrifice that blessing from God. Shall I list them once more…maybe a few: I sacrifice grace when I fill my head and heart with life’s worries and non-essentials instead of God’s promises. I sacrifice grace when I hold on to and lose sleep over what God wanted to take from me before I even got into bed. I sacrifice grace when I “stew about” what I don’t have the power to change in a situation, or worse, in someone else.  And the list goes on.  And as I sacrifice the blessings of grace, where is Jesus? I’ll tell you. He’s cooking breakfast on the shoreline for you; He’s standing at your side nudging you to pay attention to Him.  He’s sitting with you at the computer or while you’re watching TV and He’s saying to stop and listen to Him because He’s the only One with Good News. And to the disciples on the Sea of Galilee, He’s saying, “Hey, come and have some breakfast…let’s talk. I have an abundance of grace to share with you.” Think of the blessings that come when you turn for, just a moment, from you and turn to Jesus! Wow! Breakfast with Jesus at every meal! 

 

But, at times, I have to ask, “Why does He bother?” There are more important people He can influence. And when I think of those first encounters after His Resurrection, I will always be struck that Jesus chose to be with His disciples. Wouldn’t it have been great if He had gone straight to Caiaphas’ house or to show up on Pilate’s doorstep and stand before them and gloat! (I may have wanted to do that!). Or stand in the middle of marketplace in Jerusalem with Roman Guards looking on and perform a miracle or two – just for spite! But there is no blessing and definitely no grace in “showing someone up” is there? The deepest and greatest blessings come in our lives when we have spent time with the Savior and recognize what He has done for us…the abundant grace, He has shown us. When Christ the King, desires to spend time with us and meet us in our lives, that’s true grace! And you know what?  Because of that abundant grace, we can get over ourselves and turn around and be a blessing of grace to others by forgiving them, sacrificing for them and touching their lives.

 

As you navigate through this pandemic and live your life, take a look at what you are doing, what you are saying, how you are thinking and why. If you are too focused on you and your stuff, you just may be missing the abundant grace and blessing of Jesus’ presence. Don’t miss breakfast with Jesus this week!


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Peace Be With You

Worship at Cason these weeks after Easter Sunday are rich.  We are spending three weeks in the midst of recognizing that Jesus Is Still Here after His resurrection. Last week, we met the disciples (maybe there were 10 or maybe more) in a locked room for fear of what may happen to them because they were followers of Jesus! John 20 tells us that: it was the evening of the first day of the week when Jesus came and stood among them. In Biblical times and, even today on most calendars, the first day of the week is Sunday. You will recall for our Jewish brothers and sisters that the Sabbath is sundown Friday evening to sundown Saturday evening. For Christians, the first day of the week is when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.  Every Sunday is a little Easter.

Jesus appeared the morning of that first day of the week to Mary in the garden tomb and now to the disciples in the locked room. Among them, Jesus’ first words were peace with you and then He showed them His wounds. I want to remind you that last Sunday, I asked you what you thought of the Resurrected Jesus still having the wounds of His horrific experience. Think about that deeply.  I’d love to hear your responses.  Are those wounds disturbing or a comfort or do they make you feel guilty and do they give you peace? He, then, breathed the power of the Holy Spirit on them.  Friends, that power is ours as well, Jesus continuously breathes the Spirit into us. And finally, He gave the disciples (and us now) “Marching Orders.”  I will always be humbled by His mission: that we would live a life of forgiveness. In fact, Jesus gives us the power to forgive or to not forgive. We have that choice.  So, here’s what I think. I believe that a Christian cannot hope to have peace without forgiving and that a Christian is not strong enough to forgive with out the power of the Holy Spirit.  So you see, when Jesus came into that locked room to bring first peace; then, the Holy Spirit and finally, the power to forgive, He came to say to all of us, that they will know that we are Christians by our Love. Cason, because of Jesus in our lives, we are the place Where All Will Find And Know The Love of God! 

This Sunday,  we welcome yet another reminder that Jesus Is Still Here when, with the disciples, we meet Jesus at the beach, making a camp fire and encouraging His disciples in living the abundant life.  Don’t miss a minute of praise and worship; of prayer and proclaiming the Word and sweet fellowship.  Sunday, 9:15 and 11:00.  


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