Wired For Sound

2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.    Colossians 4:2-6
 
Sunday, I reminded us that motion pictures started as silent films.  There would be action then a slide would cut in with words all the while, a Wurlitzer would be playing dramatic music to go along with the movie scenes.  Then in 1927, everything changed.  My grandmother, Mary Ann was 15 years old.  The technology for talkies was unveiled.  The action, the words and the music were all in sync and all internal on the film.  Motion pictures were wired for sound.  And there was no turning back!
 
This was the Apostle Paul’s point exactly!  With the accounts of the Old Testament, words were on scrolls and people were reading them but there was little action.  They certainly did not make a significant sound.  It was not until Jesus came on the scene that the words and the actions were in sync.  Suddenly, Jesus’ followers were wired for sound!  Jesus not only told us how to live but showed us how to live!
 
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul assured the followers of Christ that they could go into this resistant community and share the Gospel.  This was possible because, through Jesus, they were already wired for sound and in sync with God through pray, in their walk with Him and their ability to speak up about the Gospel.
 
First, we are wired for prayer!  We are equipped to not only speak to God but to also hear from God!  When we are willing to listen, God will give us insight into particular situations.  God will open doors for us!  I like to call this tactical prayer.  It’s more than praying for what another person needs (God already knows that!).  Instead, it is praying that the Holy Spirit will touch you to influence lives around you for Christ.  Here’s a motto: Pray and don’t fuss!  God wired us for sound prayer!
 
Second, we must walk in wisdom!  Paul told the Colossae people: Walk in wisdom with outsiders, making the best use of your time.  The word “walk” in this context means simply to live our lives.  So, as you go, walk in wisdom!  I am at times ashamed at the amount of time I waste worrying or doing mindless things, when all the while God wants you and me, ordinary Christians, to intentionally demonstrate Christ’s teaching.  Honestly, we are it!  (Remember, we are plan “A” and there is no plan “B.”)  It’s not complicated; God has already wired us.  If we pray and we listen we can go on and live our lives.  As we go, we are called to just stay tuned in to God…intentionally making the best use of our time!
 
Finally, Speak Up!  Paul says in verse 6: Let your speech always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.  O-Oh, a lot of people think that when Christians talk with people that we are not very “Christian;” that our tone is harsh and words and attitude, judgmental.  We must prove the so called Christians wrong because that’s not what Paul says or what he understood Jesus to mean!  Paul insists that our speech should leave the resistant world wanting more!  Paul goes on to say: so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.   Introvert or shy Christians do not worry; there is no cookie-cutter approach to sharing the Gospel or your love for Christ.  And, yes, we will get questions from those who have been hurt by Christianity and may even be hostile.  The answer is that we don’t need to know all the answers.  Our call is to show GRACE!  
 
Still, we are called to grow in our ability to answer these questions – that’s why we must pray tactically and walk in wisdom.  Rev. James Dunn, a New Testament professor in England puts it this way: Paul expects the Colossian church to hold its own in the social setting of marketplace and meal table and to win attention by the attractiveness of its life and speech.
 

So, people of Christ, use your words.  Be gracious and winsome, and speak of Jesus.  Paul had every confidence in us.  He knows that God will use ordinary Christians even in a resistant setting.  Try this: wake up tomorrow (or do it now…why wait!).  And saying to God: Put me in places today where I can wisely exercise my grace and show people how love goes!  Seriously, since we are wired for it, why not live it?  Live in such a way that is compelling and attractive! This is what it will take in a resistant culture.  Can you imagine the number of people we would touch as people who speak of the love of Jesus?   Do this: pray, walk in wisdom and speak up and then, watch and wait; grace will abound and people will want to know what’s going on! 

 

I just love being your pastor!   

Joy, joy, Pastor Alexis


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You Can’t Make Bad Fruit Good

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good,  and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?                             Matthew 5:43-47

 

Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.                                                                               Matthew 12:33

 

You can’t produce, let alone share, what does not grow in your heart. 

Jesus was talking about good trees and bad trees.  His comparison to these trees is a direct call to check the state of your heart!  He said bluntly: How can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.  And there is hardly a better time than during the turmoil of these two pandemics: race relations and virus for Jesus to ask these questions.  Many of us are quick to say what we think Jesus would say about these tragedies.  And, you know what’s baffling?  Those who oppose each other – dare I say “hate” – each claim they know what Jesus would say.  And all the while Jesus says in Matthew 5 from the Sermon on the Mount – Love and Pray (actually, I would read all of Matthew 5 and 6). How long can we go on saying things like: “Well, I can be rude with my ideas because, ‘THEY’ are even more rude!”  Really? 

As Christians, is this all we have learned?  When someone hears you talk (or would hear you talk) about the political or racial matters before us (I know, now I’m meddling!), would they call you a good tree or a bad tree?  Would they say you have learned to love your enemy by the words you use and with the tone in which you use them?  Where are your ideas rooted? What’s coming out of your mouth!  Do those words resemble Jesus’ words in the least bit?

When Jesus refers to the heart of the tree, He was talking about the very center of the tree or the very core of it. What He is asking is what’s at the very core of you…deep inside?  He’s talking about what’s in our hearts!  He knows when our thoughts are full of grace — or not.  Are you rooted in Jesus’ love and the power He gives you to forgive?  Or are you taking sides, being sure that everyone on Face Book, Instagram, in your cell phone contacts knows exactly where you stand and where they are wrong?

You know that there is a battle amiss for your heart!  Jesus wants it but there are other forces that are at work who want your heart too.  A Cherokee grandfather told his grandson? A fight is going on inside me.” It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.  The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”  The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

What do you feed your heart?  If your heart is not grounded in good, it will never speak good – Ever!  Every conversation we have with another human being is an opportunity to curse or to bless – to build up or bring down.   Every business transaction is an opportunity to do justice and what is right or to take advantage of someone.  Good tree or bad tree?  Will grace come bubblin’ up in you in this tumultuous time?  The more of Jesus you put into your heart, the more His thoughts will come out of your mouth.

I thank God for the privilege to serve as your pastor here at Cason! 

Joy, joy, Pastor Alexis

 

FOUR WAYS TO NOURISH YOUR HEART

  1. Sink Your Roots in Jesus. Begin to ask questions instead of offering your “expert” opinions. Are your ideas really right and others peoples’ wrong. Instead, when an opinion stirs in you, try asking this question:  I wonder why?  It may come out like this: I wonder why I think this way, politically.  I wonder why those African Americans are protesting, putting their life on the line . I wonder why I am so agitated by what that person just said.  I think you get the point.  As one rooted in Jesus will you, “Wonder Why?”

 

  1. Nourish Your Roots in a Deeper Relationship with God! John Wesley called these Means of Grace!  He used two categories:

Works of Piety – What you do for yourself

  1. Read, meditate on and study the Scriptures
  2. Pray and Fast
  3. Attend worship regularly and receive the Sacraments (Holy Communion)
  4. Share your faith
  5. Be accountable for your actions

Works of Mercy – What you do for others

  1. Do good works
  2. Visit the sick and those in prison
  3. Feed the hungry
  4. Give generously
  5. Seek justice – ending oppression and discrimination!
  6. Address the needs of the poor
  1. Watch the Company You Keep! Seriously!  How many “Good” Christ-like Trees do you hang around that are producing good fruit?  How many withering Bad Trees do you hang around producing sour or no fruit?
  1. Watch What You Feed Your Heart. Garbage in- Garbage out … Good in – Good out!

 

REMEMBER: You can’t produce, let alone share, what does not grow in your heart.


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Alas, alas for you, lawyers and pharisees

Luke 11:37-40 from The Voice Bible

A Pharisee interrupted His speech with an invitation to dinner. Jesus accepted the invitation and took His place at his table. 38 The Pharisee was offended that Jesus didn’t perform the ceremonial handwashing before eating—something Pharisees were fastidious about doing. Jesus said: 39 You Pharisees are a walking contradiction. You are so concerned about external things—like someone who washes the outside of a cup and bowl but never cleans the inside, which is what counts!  Beneath your fastidious exterior is a mess of extortion and filth. 40 You guys don’t get it.  Did the potter make the outside but not the inside too? 41 If you were full of goodness within, you could overflow with generosity from within, and if you did that, everything would be clean for you.

 

A seminary professor told a story: There was once a rabbi, he says, who had a cat.  The cat loved the sound of the rabbi’s voice; and when the rabbi got up to preach, the cat would wander around the sanctuary and distract the listeners.  The elders decided that before worship began, they would tie the cat to a chair, and then it couldn’t wander.  So every Sabbath they did this. 

Worship started, the rabbi would climb into the pulpit to preach, and an elder would tie the cat to a chair.  Time passed.  Some years later the rabbi died.  A new rabbi came.  He got up to preach and was surprised to see an elder get up and tie a cat to a chair.  “What is this?” he said.  “Why are you tying this cat to a chair?”  “We always do that,” the elder replied.  “Before the sermon, we tie up the cat.”  The new rabbi shrugged and let it go, and to this day whenever a rabbi begins his sermon in that synagogue, there is an elder tying a cat to a chair, for a reason that no one remembers. 

The truth is that rituals can outlive their usefulness.  They can lose their grounding in that place of deep faith and turn into rules that we follow for no good reason–at least no reason anyone remembers.  This is a premise in this scripture in Luke.  Honestly, it’s not the most popular of scriptures.  There aren’t any miracles or healings and Jesus doesn’t invite anyone to sit down on the side of a mountain or a hill or on a flat plain for a parable or sermon.

The story is straightforward.  A Pharisee invites Jesus home for dinner, and when they sit down at the table, the man is a little surprised that Jesus hasn’t washed his hands.  After all, it’s basic, right?  Before you eat, you wash your hands.  The idea of somehow purifying yourself before asking God to bless food seems reasonable. Thoughtful. Good.  Rev. Anna Florence Carter, a Presbyterian pastor and professor understands ritual this way:

The Pharisees had a lot of rituals, and most of them were pretty good ones; they made sense.  It makes sense to wash your hands before you eat, doesn’t it?  Of course it does.  Let’s make a ritual out of it.  It is good to treat your guests with honor, isn’t it?  Yes.  Let’s make a ritual out of it.  The Pharisees did that all day long.  They kept track of the rules and the manners that structure our lives and keep things running smoothly.  She goes on to say: But rituals can also outlive their usefulness.  They can lose their grounding in that place of deep faith and turn into rules that we follow for no good reason, at least, no reason that anyone remembers.  It’s like continuing to tie the cat to a chair just before the preacher gives her sermon.  No one remembers why.

So, are rules good or bad?

Too much emphasis on rules will tarnish and eventually wreck relationships.  Truth is that we will never measure up to all the rules in the Scriptures.  And as long as there are people on guard telling others (or even you or me) that we have “messed up”, we will never feel worthy enough to come before the One who adores us.  The best that we can feel is repentance for our blame, shame, guilt and unworthiness.  This is not what our loving God desires. 

On the other hand, too few rules will make us reckless.  We do have a propensity to be self-centered.  And, the fewer the rules, the less we are concerned about others.  The less we will admit we need God.  The less we will show compassion and discipline and love. 

Before we start arguing the points of too many rules or not enough rules; let’s stop and remember that the rules and the rituals always have to reflect who we are as Christians:  We are called to love God and love our neighbor. Jesus told the Pharisees, stop washing only the outside of your cup.  The best way to clean inside your cup is with acceptance and generosity.  Nothing cleans us inside like giving from the inside of the dish to others!  How do you live your life?  As one who shows the good of God to others or are we caught up in “Looking Good” to others?

We read in Micah 6:8 how we to live: What does the Lord require, but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.  What if our rules and rituals reflected what Jesus is doing inside of us!  Remember that the point isn’t to show how clean you are and how dirty someone else is; it is to show the acceptance and generosity that Jesus shows us – to create a clean heart.  As we are bombarded with news of conflict, hurt and pain in our world this week, may our prayer be: Cleanse me, O God, from all unrighteousness. 

I just love being your pastor, Cason!  Joy, joy,

Pastor Alexis


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The Prodigal Son

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable:                                                                                                                             Luke 15:1-3

 

NOTE:  Hear Tommy and Eddie dramatize the Parable of the Prodigal SonCLICK HERE

So to be clear, the younger son took all his inheritance, with arrogance, a lack of respect to his father and his older brother and his unquenchable self-absorption and left town. The crowds and those Pharisees who stood just far off enough, but in earshot, surely knew the characters well: a renegade child, a faithful family member and a parent who would give the shirt off his back for their child is as common as the earth is old. 

The account gets messy about halfway through. The youngest realizes the errors of his ways, knowing full well that the animals at the homestead are eating better than he. So he rushes home and when (I just love this part) his dad sees him far off in the distance, it’s like a Hallmark Classic, the two of them start into a run until they meet and embrace and (as David shared in his message Sunday), they could live happily ever after!  Imagine the crowds: what could be going through their minds? Were some thinking that they were the prodigal son?  Were some parents still waiting for their wayward child’s return?  Did they get that one of the characters needed Jesus; one had Jesus in his life; and one was, in fact, Jesus?

Sunday, David reminded us that the father was indeed, Jesus, who in a moment will welcome back those who are arrogant, lacking respect, and unquenchable in their self-absorption.  Jesus’ forgiveness and love lavishes on even the worst of sinners. It is a happy ending.

Except…the parable isn’t over!

Jesus didn’t stop with the great feast the father threw for his younger son!  There was an older son that Jesus’ listeners had to reckon with.  This was the son who stayed and worked.  This is the son who watched his father sell enough land in order to give the full inheritance to his younger brother.  This is the son who was not around when his lesser arrived home because he was out in the fields working like a good son.  Jesus tells us the whole account of the elder son in Luke 15:25-32. This son comes on the scene during the feast. When he finds out about his younger brother, Jesus tells the crowd: The older brother became angry and refused to go in.  So his father went out and pleaded with him.  How dare this father lavish so much on the one who abandoned him. “What about me?” I can hear the older brother say. The younger son deserved nothing! 

What’s Jesus saying here?  Don’t miss this.  This older brother had no desire to celebrate his brother’s homecoming because he was thinking more of himself.  Was he any different than his younger brother?  Was he not, also, arrogant, lacking respect and full of self-absorption?

So, who are Jesus’ three characters?  God is the father.  How about the younger son?  Who does he represent?  Someone you know who has left the faith?  Who has wronged another?  Who is not like me?  And what about the older brother?  David shares (and I agree) there are many (dare I say, “most”) and most of the older brothers are us; those of us who have been faithful in the church and to God.  We are the ones working our hearts out in the field: sitting on the committees, always showing up on workdays; volunteering in the office or counting the funds, staff working extra hours; even giving our treasures consistently.  Without us, there just would not be a church!  Are we the older brothers who complain that this person is not dressed right and that person is not reliable?  And, then, there is that one who doesn’t act Christian enough. Ouch!  Could we who are steeped in church ministry be that older brother?  One way to know for sure is ask yourself when you see something that you don’t like: “What’s wrong with them…!” “How dare they…?” “I refuse to talk to them because of what they said/did…!”

And then comes the most painful of the “older brother syndrome” that says: I’m going to tell how I feel about that person but I’m not going to talk to them myself!  Oh, what sinners we Christians are.  We will murmur like those Pharisees but we are slow to accept or forgive or to listen and talk with godly wisdom.  And all the while the Father is saying, “Come to the party!  I have forgiven and I have big plans and there is enough for all!  Everyone is forgiven!  I’ll leave no one out who wants to come!”  And I wonder too, if Jesus is asking, “Who will you invite to come to the party?  Who will you seek out and show unconditional love, forgiveness, respect and grace to?”  

Friends, regularly I must check if I am being arrogant, lacking respect for others or unquenchably self-absorbed.  Am I missing the joy of the salvation of another who needs a Savior?  Am I unwilling to come to the party and bring others to celebrate?  Jesus is calling us to live, not like the older brother, but as one who welcomes everyone home!  Cason is the perfect home because Cason is: Where All Will Find and Know the LOVE of GOD!  Will you go after the lost and celebrate when the lost is found?  Will you love all people as God loves us?  Will you put any arrogance, lack of respect and self-absorption aside for the work of the LORD?

Thank you, David, for your powerful message on Sunday.  And thanks for loaning me the book that inspired you: The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by: Tim Keller.

I just love being your pastor, Cason!  Joy, joy,

Pastor Alexis

 


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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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