“Riding with Unforgiveness.”

SERMON​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Rev.​ ​Amos​ ​McCarthy

15th Sunday after Pentecost, September 17, 2017.

Title:​ ​“Riding​ ​with​ ​Unforgiveness”
Text:​ ​Matthew​ ​18:21-35
21.​ ​Then​ ​Peter​ ​came​ ​to​ ​Jesus​ ​and​ ​asked,​ ​“Lord,​ ​how​ ​many​ ​times​ ​shall​ ​I​ ​forgave​ ​my brother​ ​or​ ​sister​ ​who​ ​has​ ​sins​ ​against​ ​me?​ ​Up​ ​to​ ​seven​ ​times?”​ ​22.​ ​Jesus​ ​answered,​ ​“I tell​ ​you,​ ​not​ ​seven​ ​times​ ​but​ ​seventy​ ​times.​ ​23.​ ​Therefore,​ ​the​ ​kingdom​ ​of​ ​heaven​ ​is​ ​like a​ ​king​ ​who​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​settle​ ​accounts​ ​with​ ​his​ ​servants.​ ​​ ​24.​ ​As​ ​he​ ​began​ ​the​ ​settlement, a​ ​man​ ​who​ ​owed​ ​him​ ​ten​ ​thousand​ ​bags​ ​of​ ​gold​ ​was​ ​brought​ ​to​ ​him.​ ​​ ​25.​ ​Since​ ​he​ ​was not​ ​able​ ​to​ ​pay,​ ​the​ ​master​ ​ordered​ ​that​ ​he​ ​and​ ​his​ ​wife​ ​and​ ​his​ ​children​ ​and​ ​all​ ​that​ ​he had​ ​be​ ​sold​ ​to​ ​repay​ ​the​ ​debt.​ ​​ ​26.​ ​“At​ ​this​ ​the​ ​servant​ ​fell​ ​on​ ​his​ ​knees​ ​before​ ​him.​ ​‘Be patient​ ​with​ ​me,’​ ​he​ ​begged,’and​ ​i​ ​will​ ​pay​ ​back​ ​everything.’​ ​​ ​27.​ ​​ ​The​ ​servant’s​ ​master took​ ​pity​ ​on​ ​him,​ ​cancelled​ ​the​ ​debt​ ​and​ ​let​ ​him​ ​go.​ ​28.​ ​“But​ ​when​ ​that​ ​servant​ ​went​ ​out, he​ ​found​ ​one​ ​of​ ​his​ ​fellow​ ​servant​ ​who​ ​owed​ ​him​ ​a​ ​hundred​ ​silver​ ​coins.​ ​​ ​He​ ​grabbed him​ ​and​ ​began​ ​to​ ​choke​ ​him.​ ​‘Pay​ ​back​ ​what​ ​you​ ​owe​ ​me!’​ ​he​ ​demanded.​ ​29.​ ​“His fellow​ ​servant​ ​fell​ ​to​ ​his​ ​knees​ ​and​ ​begged​ ​him,​ ​‘Be​ ​patient​ ​with​ ​me,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​will​ ​pay​ ​it back.’​ ​30.​ ​“But​ ​he​ ​refused.​ ​​ ​Instead,​ ​he​ ​went​ ​off​ ​and​ ​had​ ​the​ ​man​ ​thrown​ ​into​ ​prison until​ ​he​ ​could​ ​pay​ ​the​ ​debt.​ ​​ ​31.​ ​​ ​When​ ​the​ ​other​ ​servant​ ​saw​ ​what​ ​had​ ​happened,​ ​they were​ ​outraged​ ​and​ ​went​ ​and​ ​told​ ​their​ ​master​ ​everything​ ​that​ ​had​ ​happened.​ ​32.​ ​​ ​“Then the​ ​master​ ​called​ ​the​ ​servant​ ​in.​ ​‘You​ ​wicked​ ​servant,’​ ​he​ ​said,​ ​‘I​ ​cancelled​ ​all​ ​that​ ​debt of​ ​yours​ ​because​ ​you​ ​begged​ ​me​ ​to.​ ​33.​ ​​ ​Shouldn’t​ ​you​ ​have​ ​had​ ​mercy​ ​on​ ​your​ ​fellow servant​ ​just​ ​as​ ​I​ ​had​ ​on​ ​you?​ ​​ ​34.​ ​In​ ​anger​ ​his​ ​master​ ​handed​ ​him​ ​over​ ​to​ ​the​ ​jailers​ ​to be​ ​tortured,​ ​until​ ​he​ ​should​ ​pay​ ​back​ ​all​ ​he​ ​owed.​ ​​ ​35.​ ​​ ​“This​ ​is​ ​how​ ​my​ ​heavenly​ ​father will​ ​treat​ ​each​ ​of​ ​you​ ​unless​ ​you​ ​forgive​ ​your​ ​brother​ ​or​ ​sister​ ​from​ ​your​ ​heart.”

The​ ​story​ ​is​ ​told​ ​of​ ​a​ ​Christian​ ​lawyer​ ​who​ ​read​ ​his​ ​bible​ ​on​ ​a​ ​regular​ ​basis.​ ​​ ​After reading​ ​some​ ​scriptures​ ​that​ ​talk​ ​about​ ​forgiveness,​ ​he​ ​decided​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​seventeen​ ​of his​ ​clients​ ​who​ ​owed​ ​him​ ​some​ ​money.​ ​The​ ​lawyer​ ​drafted​ ​the​ ​letters​ ​and​ ​explained​ ​the biblical​ ​basis,​ ​for​ ​sending​ ​out​ ​the​ ​letters,​ ​for​ ​the​ ​cancellation​ ​of​ ​the​ ​debts​ ​of​ ​the​ ​clients. The​ ​lawyer​ ​sent​ ​out​ ​certified​ ​letters​ ​to​ ​his​ ​clients,​ ​forgiving​ ​them​ ​of​ ​all​ ​their​ ​debts. Sixteen​ ​of​ ​the​ ​clients​ ​refused​ ​to​ ​signed​ ​the​ ​letter,​ ​fearing​ ​that​ ​the​ ​lawyer​ ​was​ ​suing​ ​them for​ ​the​ ​money​ ​they​ ​owed.​ ​One​ ​by​ ​one,​ ​the​ ​letters​ ​were​ ​returned​ ​by​ ​the​ ​postal​ ​service, unsigned,​ ​undelivered.​ ​One​ ​of​ ​them​ ​opened​ ​the​ ​letter​ ​and​ ​signed​ ​it​ ​and​ ​received​ ​the debt​ ​cancellation​ ​with​ ​great​ ​relief.​ ​​ ​In​ ​our​ ​world​ ​today,​ ​many​ ​Christians​ ​are​ ​faced​ ​with the​ ​painful​ ​decision​ ​of​ ​forgiving​ ​others​ ​who​ ​have​ ​offended​ ​them.​ ​​ ​Why​ ​is​ ​that​ ​so?​ ​​ ​Is​ ​it that​ ​forgiveness​ ​is​ ​a​ ​difficult​ ​thing​ ​to​ ​accomplish?​ ​​ ​Is​ ​there​ ​fear​ ​of​ ​reprisal​ ​from​ ​others? Do​ ​we​ ​comprise​ ​justice​ ​when​ ​we​ ​forgive?​ ​​ ​What​ ​does​ ​it​ ​mean​ ​for​ ​a​ ​person​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​the man​ ​who​ ​took​ ​the​ ​live​ ​of​ ​a​ ​family​ ​member?​ ​Are​ ​we​ ​compromising​ ​justice​ ​and accountability?​ ​​ ​Is​ ​it​ ​because​ ​of​ ​fear,​ ​or​ ​hurt,​ ​or​ ​pain?​ ​Or​ ​are​ ​we​ ​too​ ​prideful​ ​to​ ​ask​ ​for forgiveness,​ ​when​ ​we​ ​hurt​ ​others? Forgiveness​ ​is​ ​a​ ​difficult​ ​deed​ ​to​ ​accomplish.​ ​​ ​Sometimes​, ​people​ ​who​ ​offend​ ​us​ ​have no​ ​remorse,​ ​for​ ​the​ ​hurt​ ​that​ ​they​ ​caused​ ​us.​ ​​ ​Sometimes​ ​we​ ​are​ ​fearful​ ​of​ ​the​ ​fact​ ​that people​ ​who​ ​hurt​ ​us​ ​will​ ​come​ ​again​ ​to​ ​hurt​ ​us.​ ​​ ​Pride​ ​is​ ​also​ ​a​ ​factor​ ​in​ ​people​ ​not asking​ ​for​ ​forgiveness.​ ​​ ​Give​ ​and​ ​take,​ ​God​ ​has​ ​called​ ​us​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​those​ ​who​ ​hurt​ ​us. It​ ​is​ ​a​ ​divine​ ​command.​ ​​ ​It​ ​is​ ​important​ ​for​ ​us​ ​to​ ​listen​ ​to​ ​God’s​ ​word,​ ​and​ ​what​ ​He​ ​says about​ ​forgiving​ ​others.​ ​God​ ​is​ ​willing​ ​to​ ​cancel​ ​every​ ​debt​ ​we​ ​owe.​ ​But​ ​we​ ​refused​, ​to open​ ​the​ ​letters​ ​of​ ​scripture​ ​to​ ​us on forgiveness. ​ ​We​ ​continue​ ​to​ ​ride​ ​with​ ​the​ ​sin​ ​of​ ​unforgiveness. Let​ ​us​ ​consider​ ​this​ ​divine​ ​summon​ ​from​ ​God,​ ​to​ ​forgive,​ ​so​ ​that​ ​we​ ​can​ ​receive forgiveness​ ​ourselves.​ ​​ ​We​ ​will​ ​look​ ​at​ ​what​ ​forgiveness​ ​is,​ ​the​ ​origin​ ​of​ ​forgiveness, and​ ​the​ ​consequences​ ​of​ ​not​ ​forgiving​ ​others. In the​ ​first​ ​few​ ​chapters​ ​of​ ​the​ ​book​ ​of​ ​Amos,​ ​one​ ​can​ ​see​ ​that​ ​Jewish​ ​culture​ ​demanded that​ ​a​ ​person​ ​forgive​ ​three​ ​times.​ ​​ ​On​ ​the​ ​fourth​ ​count,​ ​a​ ​person​ ​was​ ​not​ ​forgiven.​ ​​ ​It was​ ​Rabbinic​ ​teachings,​ ​glean​ ​from​ ​the​ ​8th​ ​century​ ​prophet​ Amos, ​that​ ​a​ ​person​ ​be​ ​forgiven three​ ​times.​ ​​ ​So​ ​in​ ​the​ ​passage​ ​of​ ​scripture,​ ​Peter​ ​gets​ ​the​ ​confidence,​ ​that​ ​he​ ​would​ ​be commended,​ ​if​ ​he​ ​made​ ​that​ ​seven​ ​times.​ ​​ ​But​ ​Jesus​ ​in​ ​his​ ​answer,​ ​demanded​ ​that​ ​a person​ ​be​ ​forgiven​ ​seventy​ ​times​ ​seven.​ ​​ ​This​ ​simply​ ​tells​ ​us​ ​that​ ​there​ ​should​ ​be​ ​no limited​ ​to​ ​forgiveness.​ ​​ ​In​ ​essence,​ ​forgiveness​ ​is​ ​a​ ​big​ ​deal.​ ​​ ​What​ ​is​ ​forgiveness?
I​ ​want​ ​you​ ​to​ ​forget​ ​about​ ​every​ ​other​ ​word​ ​on​ ​your​ ​mind​ ​this​ ​morning​ ​and​ ​reflect​ ​on​ ​the word​ ​forgiveness.​ ​​ ​When​ ​we​ ​understand​ ​what​ ​forgiveness​ ​is,​ ​then​ ​we​ ​will​ ​understand what​ ​unforgiveness​ ​is. According​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Greater​ ​Good​ ​Magazine,​ ​psychologist​ ​generally​ ​define​ ​forgiveness​ ​as “a​ ​conscious,​ ​deliberate attempt,​ ​to​ ​release​ ​feelings​ ​of​ ​resentment​ ​or​ ​vengeance​ ​toward​ ​a person,​ ​or​ ​group​ ​who​ ​has​ ​harmed​ ​you,​ ​regardless​ ​of​ ​whether​ ​they​ ​actually​ ​deserve​ ​your forgiveness.”​ ​​ ​If​ ​this​ ​is​ ​true,​ ​then​ ​forgiveness​ ​means​ ​to​ ​allow​ ​ourselves​ ​to​ ​let​ ​go​ ​negative thoughts​ ​of​ ​bitterness,​ ​and​ ​resentment​ ​toward​ ​another​ ​person.​ ​​ ​It​ ​is​ ​to​ ​let​ ​go​ ​the​ ​thought to do​ ​something​ ​to​ ​someone,​ ​for​ ​what​ ​that​ ​person​ ​did​ ​to​ ​us.​ ​​ ​It​ ​does​ ​not​ ​mean​ ​to​ ​forget about​ ​what​ ​someone​ ​did​ ​to​ ​us.​ ​​ ​It​ ​does​ ​not​ ​mean​ ​that​ ​we​ ​condone​ ​it​, ​when​ ​people​ ​hurt us.​ ​​ ​As​ ​humans,​ ​we​ ​will​ ​always​ ​recall​ ​what​ ​a​ ​person​ ​did​ ​to​ ​us,​ ​but​ ​when​ ​we​ ​forgive them,​ ​we​ ​let​ ​go​ ​the​ ​bitterness.​ ​We​ ​also​ ​let​ ​go​ ​the​ ​mindset​ ​to​ ​harm​ ​the​ ​person​ ​in​ ​words, thoughts​ ​or​ ​deeds.​ ​​ ​The​ ​Greek​ ​word​ ​for​ ​forgiveness​ ​is​ ​aphesis,​ ​in​ ​English​ ​is​ ​release​ ​or let​ ​go. In​ ​1​ ​Samuel​ ​24:1-15,​ ​the​ ​record​ ​tells​ ​us​ ​that​ ​David​ ​had​ ​the​ ​opportunity​ ​to​ ​revenge, against​ ​all​ ​the​ ​wrong​ ​King​ ​Saul​ ​did​ to ​him.​ ​​ ​Saul​ ​sought​ ​to​ ​kill​ ​David,​ ​by​ ​taking​ ​three thousand​ ​of​ ​his​ ​young​ ​men.​ ​​ ​As​ ​Saul​ ​went​ ​into​ ​a​ ​cave​ ​near​ ​the​ ​sheep​ ​pens​ ​to​ ​ease himself,​ ​David​ ​had​ ​the​ ​opportunity​ ​to​ ​kill​ ​him.​ ​​ ​David​ ​did​ ​not​ ​kill​ ​Saul,​ ​but​ ​cut​ ​a​ ​piece​ ​of cloth​ ​from​ ​Saul’s​ ​robe.​ ​​ ​In​ ​verse​ ​12​ ​of​ ​1​ ​Samuel​ ​24,​ ​David​ ​told​ ​Saul,​ ​“May​ ​the​ ​Lord judge​ ​between​ ​you​ ​and​ ​me.​ ​​ ​And​ ​may​ ​the​ ​Lord​ ​avenge​ ​the​ ​wrongs​ ​you​ ​have​ ​done​ ​to me,​ ​but​ ​my​ ​hands​ ​will​ ​not​ ​touch​ ​you.”​ ​​ ​David​ ​had​ ​the​ ​chance​ ​to​ ​kill​ ​Saul,​ ​for​ ​the​ ​hurt​ ​he caused​ ​him,​ ​but​ ​David​ ​forgave​ ​Saul.​ ​​ ​David​ ​let​ ​go​ ​the​ ​bitterness,​ ​resentment,​ ​and release​ ​Saul.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​important​ ​for​ ​us​ ​Christians​ ​to​ ​learn​ ​that​ ​forgiveness​ ​is​ ​just,​ ​when​ ​we leave​ ​those​ ​who​ ​hurt​ ​us​ ​with​ ​God.​ ​​ ​David​ ​made​ ​an​ ​oath​ ​not​ ​to​ ​touch​ ​the​ ​descendants of​ ​Saul,​ ​as​ ​a​ ​sign​ ​of​ ​forgiveness.​ ​​ ​Here​ ​David​ ​realised​ ​that​ ​forgiveness​ ​comes​ ​from​ ​God, that​ ​forgiveness​ ​is​ ​a​ ​divine. In​ ​our​ ​the​ ​passage​ ​under​ ​consideration,​ ​one​ ​can​ ​see​ ​that​ ​forgiveness​ ​is​ ​divine.​ ​​ ​In​ ​this parable​ ​of​ ​the​ ​unmerciful​ ​servant,​ ​Jesus​ ​clearly​ ​points​ ​out​ ​that​ ​forgiveness​ ​is​ ​a​ ​must.​ ​​ ​In this​ ​parable,​ ​Jesus​ ​metaphorically​ ​talks​ ​about​ ​the​ ​kingdom​ ​of​ ​heaven​ ​being​ ​like​ ​a​ ​king who​ ​settles​ ​account​ ​with​ ​his​ ​servant.​ ​​ ​Forgiveness​ ​is​ ​an​ ​issue​ ​between​ ​Christian​ ​and God.​ ​​ ​God​ ​commands​ ​us​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​because​ ​He​ ​forgave​ ​us.​ ​In​ ​verse​ ​22,​ ​Jesus​ ​tells Peter​ ​that​ ​forgiveness​ ​has​ ​no​ ​limit.​ ​​ ​In​ ​Matthew​ ​5:46,​ ​God​ ​urges​ ​us​ ​to​ ​love​ ​our​ ​enemies, and​ ​pray​ ​for​ ​those​ ​who​ ​do​ ​harm​ ​to​ ​us​.​ ​​ ​Doctor​ ​Luke​ ​says​ ​the​ ​same thing​ ​in​ ​Luke​ ​6:27-28,​ ​​ ​He​ ​urges​ ​us​ ​to​ ​love​ ​those​ ​who​ ​curse​ ​us.​ ​​ ​This​ ​is​ ​a​ ​very​ ​hard thing​ ​for​ ​us,​ ​I​ ​must​ ​assume.​ ​​ ​The​ ​core​ ​of​ ​the​ ​matter​ ​is​ ​our​ ​love​ ​for​ ​God.​ ​​ ​If​ ​we​ ​love​ ​God, we​ ​ought​ ​to​ ​do​ ​exactly​ ​what​ ​God​ ​wants​ ​us​ ​to​ ​do.​ ​​ ​God​ ​does​ ​not​ ​give​ ​us​ ​an​ ​option,​ ​when it​ ​comes​ ​to​ ​forgiving​ ​people​ ​who​ ​hurt​ ​us.​ ​​ ​God​ ​is​ ​clear​ ​on​ ​this​ ​subject.​ ​​ ​No​ ​Christian​ ​is allowed​ ​the​ ​luxury​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​grudge​ ​in​ ​his​ ​or​ ​her​ ​heart​ ​for​ ​others.​ ​​ ​God​ ​does​ ​not​ ​want​ ​us to​ ​even​ ​be​ ​angry,​ ​with​ ​the​ ​person​ ​who​ ​hurt​ ​us​ ​for​ ​a​ ​day.​ ​​ ​God​ ​does​ ​not​ ​want​ ​us​ ​to​ ​even speak​ ​evil​ ​or​ ​slander the​ ​name​ ​of​ ​the​ ​person​ ​who​ ​hurts​ ​us.​ ​​ ​Seriously?​ ​Yes,​ ​God​ ​wants us​ ​to​ ​even​ ​initiate​ ​the​ ​process​ ​of​ ​restoring​ ​all​ ​relationships​ ​that​ ​has​ ​been​ ​broken.​ ​​ ​If​ ​you will​ ​take​ ​a​ ​ride​ ​with​ ​unforgiveness,​ ​there​ ​would​ ​be​ ​consequences.​ ​​ ​In​ ​Genesis​ ​45:4-8, Joseph​ ​having​ ​endure​ ​prison​ ​and​ ​a​ ​life​ ​of​ ​slavery,​ ​forgave​ ​his​ ​brothers​, ​who​ ​had​ ​come to​ ​beg​ ​for​ ​food.​ ​​ ​How​ ​many​ ​of​ ​us​ ​today​ ​will​ ​pardon​ ​a​ ​human​ ​trafficker,​ ​who​ ​sold​ ​us​ ​into sexual​ ​slavery​ ​or​ ​forced​ ​labor?​ ​How​ ​many​ ​of​ ​us​ ​will​ ​forgive​ ​a​ ​person​ ​who​ ​took​ ​the​ ​life​ ​of our​ ​love​ ​one?​ ​​ ​But​ ​I​ ​tell​ ​you​ ​the​ ​truth,​ ​God​ ​knows​ ​who​ ​molested​ ​you,​ ​God​ ​knows​ ​who rape​ ​you,​ ​God​ ​knows​ ​who​ ​stabbed​ ​you​ ​in​ ​the​ ​back,​ ​gossip​ ​about​ ​you,​ ​robbed​ ​you.​ ​​ ​He God​ ​said​ ​in​ ​his​ ​word,​ ​that​ ​vengeance​ ​is​ ​His​ ​to​ ​repay​ ​and​ ​not​ ​ours.​ ​​ ​All​ ​God​ ​is​ ​telling us here​ ​is,​ ​“In​ ​anger​ ​do​ ​not​ ​sin.​ ​Do​ ​not​ ​let​ ​the​ ​sun​ ​go​ ​down​ ​on​ ​your​ ​wrath.”​ ​Ephesian​ ​4:26 Our​ ​inability​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​has​ ​consequences. In​ ​verse​ ​32-35,​ ​Jesus​ ​Christ​ ​informs​ ​us,​ ​that​ ​the​ ​unmerciful​ ​servant​ ​was​ ​turned​ ​over​ ​to the​ ​jailers,​ ​who​ ​tortured​ ​him​ ​till​ ​he​ ​paid​ ​his​ ​debt.​ ​​ ​Christ​ ​likened​ ​this​ ​to​ ​how​ ​God​ ​is​ ​going to​ ​treat​ ​people​, ​who​ ​refused​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​from​ ​their​ ​heart.​ ​​ ​In​ ​the​ ​Beatitudes,​ ​Jesus​ ​says, “Blessed​ ​are​ ​the​ ​merciful,​ ​for​ ​they​ ​shall​ ​be​ ​shown​ ​mercy.​ ​​ ​Matthew​ ​6:14-15​ ​repeats​ ​the same​ ​command​ ​from​ ​God:​ ​“For​ ​if​ ​you​ ​forgive​ ​other​ ​people​ ​when​ ​they​ ​sin​ ​against​ ​you, your​ ​heavenly​ ​father​ ​will​ ​also​ ​forgive​ ​you.​ ​​ ​But​ ​if​ ​you​ ​do​ ​not​ ​forgive​ ​others​ ​their​ ​sins,​ ​your father​ ​will​ ​not​ ​forgive​ ​your​ ​sins.”​ ​​ ​The​ ​consequences​ ​for​ ​our​ ​inability​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​is​ ​that God​ ​is​ ​not​ ​going​ ​forgive​ ​us.​ ​​ ​It​ ​is​ ​even​ ​mentioned​ ​in​ ​scripture​ ​that​ ​before​ ​you​ ​bring​ ​your offerings​ ​to​ ​God,​ ​you​ ​must​ ​consider​ ​reconciling​ ​with​ ​people​ ​who​ ​you​ ​have​ ​quarreled​ ​with. It​ ​spells​ ​it​ ​out​ that ​people​ ​must​ ​make​ ​peace,​ ​with​ ​those​ ​with​ ​whom​ ​there​ ​is​ ​a​ ​problem,​ ​before you​ ​come​ ​to​ ​the​ ​altar.​ ​​ ​It​ ​does​ ​not​ ​only​ ​involve​ ​bring​ ​your​ ​offering,​ ​but​ ​praying​ ​to​ ​God.​ ​​ ​If we​ ​do​ ​not​ ​forgive​ ​and​ ​keep​ ​malice​ ​in​ ​our​ ​heart​ ​for​ ​someone​ ​else,​ ​God​ ​will​ ​not​ ​answer our​ ​prayers.​ ​​ ​In​ ​the​ ​resurrection​ ​narrative,​ ​Jesus​ ​Christ​ ​on​ ​the​ ​day​ ​he​ ​died​ ​on​ ​the​ ​cross, asked​ ​God​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​the​ ​folks​ ​who were​ ​killing​ ​him.​ ​​ ​They​ ​were​ ​casting​ ​lots​ ​for​ ​Jesus’​ ​garment, while​ ​Jesus​ ​was​ ​praying​ ​for​ ​them.​ ​John​ ​23:33-34​ ​​ ​Stephen​ ​prayed​ ​for​ ​those​ ​who stoning​ ​him.​ ​He prayed, even​ ​as​ ​they​ ​were​ ​stoning​ ​him.​ ​​ ​Acts​ ​7:58-60​ ​​ ​All​ ​of​ ​these​ ​actions,​ ​shows the​ ​significance​ ​attached​ ​by​ ​Christ​ ​and​ ​the​ ​apostles,​ ​on​ ​forgiving​ ​those​ ​who​ ​hurt​ ​us. This​ ​is​ ​important​ ​because​ our ​inability​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​can​ ​cause​ ​health​ ​issues. This​ ​is​ ​not​ ​a​ ​professional​ ​advice.​ ​​ ​It​ ​is​ ​an​ ​opinion​ ​of​ ​mine​ ​based​ ​on​ ​reading​ ​reports​ ​from researchers.​ ​​ ​According​ ​the​ ​Forgiveness​ ​Project,​ ​researchers​ ​have​ ​proven,​ ​that​ ​continue anger​ ​and​ ​hatred​ ​can​ ​cause​ ​chronic​ ​anxiety.​ ​It​ ​further​ ​explains​ ​that​ ​chronic​ ​anxiety​ ​can produce​ ​more​ ​adrenaline​ ​and​ ​cortisol​ ​the​ ​body​ ​needs.​ ​​ ​These​ ​things​ ​can​ ​deplete​ ​the natural​ ​killer​ ​cells​ ​the​ ​body​ ​needs​ ​to​ ​fight​ ​cancers.​ ​​ ​We​ ​will​ ​all​ ​agree​ ​that​ ​anger​ ​causes our​ ​blood​ ​pressure​ ​to​ ​rise.​ ​​ ​This​ ​is​ ​not​ ​healthy.​ ​​ ​It​ ​is​ ​important​ ​for​ ​us,​ ​to​ ​do​ ​away​ ​with bitterness,​ ​resentment,​ ​malice,​ ​as​ ​these​ ​things​ ​will​ ​prove​ ​bad​ ​for​ ​our​ ​health.​ ​​ ​Our inability​ ​to​ ​forgive​ ​will​ ​deprive​ ​us​ ​of​ ​blessing​ ​from​ ​God.   Church, let us be a church of forgiveness.

“A Call to Serve.”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
NEWTON FIRST, EAST SIDE, AND WALTON UMC
13TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
SEPTEMBER 3, 2017

Title:  “A Call to Serve”
Text: Deuteronomy 3:1-15.

1. Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” 5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. 7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God Jacob has sent you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me, from generation to generation.”

The story is told of a man in the West African Nation of Liberia. This man was given several hundred dollars by a missionary friend.  The man was from a little village and had never seen the U.S. currency before and did not know the use of the currency. He took the money and made a journey to a nearby village to see some relatives.  On his way, he encountered two children selling mangos.  The children gave a mango to the man free of charge. After eating the mango, the man took one of the currency and wiped his mouth. Realizing that the man did not know the value of the currency, they tricked the man into giving them more currency for more mangos. The children knew that the man had buying power because of the currency, but little did the man know that.  This is the case with many of us Christians.  We are rich with talents and the power to accomplish a lot.  But we do not realize that, and we use those gifts and talents for purposes that do not glorify God.  Sometimes we refused to use our gifts and talents, making excuses to God, that we do we not have gifts and talents.
Let us get a little personal with our lives as we deal with this passage of Scriptures.  All of us are on a journey on this earth.  The journey involves serving God and humankind after God calls us to serve. In the process, God has blessed us with talents to do just that. Some day God will ask us to give an account of how we used our talents. However, many people who have the talents, not realizing they have the talents, make so much excuses.  Many people make excuses because of guilt, hurt, shame, and feeling of incompetence.  We doubt our own abilities.  Moses was no exception.  Moses made numerous excuses.  Moses claimed he was a nobody.  Who am I? He wondered if people will question his past as a murderer and not believe in him.   Moses questioned his self worth and had no confidence in his own abilities.  He claimed he could not speak, he claimed he did not know what to tell the Egyptian Pharaoh, he claimed he did not know God’s name. Moses made excuse of not being eloquent.  Like Moses, God has blessed us with talents and abilities. Often, we make excuses about our qualifications, doubt our abilities, and run from God when He wants us to serve the most.  This morning for a few minutes, let us consider the call of God on our lives to serve.  In God’s call for us to serve Him in the various capacities, God is going to use brokenness, our refusal has tangible consequences on our Christian communities, and God is going to equip us when calls us.
God Calls a Person to Serve Irrespective of His Abilities.
To begin with, Let us remember that God is a covenant God. God sets standards with humankind and always follows through.  God is a covenant God.  He always told the children of Israel, that He God will bless them if they follow His commands. God tells us Christian if we believe Him, we will live in eternity. In this covenant with humankind, God calls us to service in different capacities.  In this light, when Israel was in captivity in Egypt,  God desired a point man to liberate them.  God wanted someone who would go toe-to-toe with the Egyptian King, Pharaoh. Whoever God mandated would be the one to initiate the salvation to the children of Israel. The man in the center of the account in this passage is Moses.  Moses must have had a rough beginning, but he was found by royalty.  He grew up in the royalty splendor of the Egyptians and was educated in the wisdom and philosophies of the Egyptians.  In Deuteronomy 34:10-12, Moses is characterized at the time of his death, as having no equal in terms of signs and wonders God had shown him.  There was no prophets in Israel that rose up after Moses’ death, who had known God face to face.  But Moses parts ways with God, when he commits murder.  He becomes a fugitive.  Moses, a murderer and a fugitive from the law ends up tending sheep. At this time, many will be questioning why would God want to use a broken person like to Moses to accomplish a very important mission like this?  But there is one thing I want us to lift this morning, before we answer the question.  God loves us very much to give up on us.  God loves us enough and wants to use the brokenness of our lives to accomplish his work. Paul in 2Corinthians 12:9 gives a reason why; for the grace of God is enough for every Christian.  God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses.  In this verse, Paul happily brags about his weakness, so that the power of Jesus can rest on him.  You see church, if you are broken this morning, the good news here is that God uses broken people.  God wants us to come broken and he will mend us.  The truth is, if we refuse God’s call, God breaks us and then mends us. In Jonah 1:3, We see this with the prophet Jonah. God calls Jonah and he rejects the call. Jonah runs and God reprimands him. God has a way of dealing with us, when we refuse to answer His call on our lives.  This is because there should be no excuse in answering the call of God upon our lives.  No matter what our situation is, no matter how unqualified we may be, no matter how illiterate we may be, God can use us.  God does not look at your mug shot, God does not look at past criminal convictions, or your state championship.  He can use anyone, anytime and anywhere.  Moses, a fugitive and a murderer, an accused felon, was singled out by God to champion the task of Israel’s salvation.  All God wants is your availability.  Your refusal to answer God’s call can put your church or community into danger.
When we considered the call of Moses, Jonah, Jeremiah, we will see that their failure to answer God’s call would have brought great disaster and suffering on their communities, and the nations in which they lived. When God called Moses, he wanted Moses to go to Egypt and challenge Pharaoh for Israel’s liberation. It was a defining moment for Israel.  It was through Moses’ willingness, the Jewish nation was to know who they were as a people in God’s redemptive plan.  The purpose of our calling is to serve others.  It is not something that we exhibit pride and take self glory. It is through our answer to serve God, the gospel would be preached and souls would be saved. When God called Jonah, it was to the service of Nineveh.  Not only was Nineveh going to languish, but the people around him was in peril.  When God called Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, he called him to speak the truth to disobedient Israel. Jeremiah knew it was telling the truth that would set Israel free. Israel was disobedient to God and His word. The consequences would be grave. (Jeremiah 11:9-12)  Jeremiah had compassion for those who were being deceived. But he refused initially with excuses.  Church, when we refuse to answer God’s call, we break covenant with God. When we break agreement with God, it has real consequences.  Our actions not to answer God’s call always affects our communities.  In the case of Jonah, his refusal imperiled those on board the vessel Jonah hid in.  When the mariners plan to jetty all the cargos and throw Jonah overboard, than the storm subsides. Jonah’s refusal could have had great impact on Nineveh.  Jeremiah’s refusal would have brought Israel to complete destruction due to the terrible apostasy of Israel.  Moses’ refusal would have caused Israel not to be liberated.  Failing to answer God’s call on our lives diminishes our communities.  If we have great talents and refuse to answer God’s call to serve, the harm we do is immense.  If we have talents and gifts and we use those gifts to the service of God, we will do more good.  Our call may not be the same as Moses, Jonah, or Jeremiah’s calling, but our calling is as important in the work of God as these prophets.  In the 1940’s, Germany was one of the most literate countries on the face of the earth, with some of the best scientists and technocrats. With Germany’s inability to use its vast wealth of talents to serve God, it extinguished more than six million Jews, started one of the most expensive world wars in human history. As a consequence of Germany’s actions, millions also lost their lives over a period of over five years.  The carnage that was perpetrated is a reminded to humankind of the refusal of nations to honor God’s word.  The answer to the call to serve God is the very reason why the American society is organized the way it is organized.  It’s laws, economics, its politics, calendar, it’s holidays, and even it’s moral and cultural norms are all made of Christian values.  It is because Christian men who founded this nation, answered the call of God to serve.  God called them and equipped them. When God calls us, He equips us for His service or for that which He has called us to do.
One thing I am 100% positive of this morning, you are not God. You may think you are unqualified to do the work of God in your own strength and eyes.  You may have great talents and gifts that you can use to do God’s work. You may still be inattentive to God’s call like Moses, whose attention had to be drawn by a burning bush. If you have to do anything in your own strength, then it is not of God.  You need God to give you the strength, the eloquence, the ability, and the power.  Like Moses, Jonah, Jeremiah and the many men of God who He called and equipped, God will equip you for His service.  Sometimes God just wants us to stop and know we are standing on Holy ground.  We need to stop, keep quiet, and turn towards that burning bush and hear God calling us and avail ourselves.

 

 

“Five Minutes with Jesus in the Storm”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

11th SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, AUGUST 13, 2017

Title:  “Five Minutes with Jesus in the Storm.”

Text: Matthew 14:22-31

  1. Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.  23.  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountain by himself to pray.  Later that night, he was there alone, 24. And the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.  25.  Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  26. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.  “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  27.  But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  28.  Lord , if it is you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”  29.  “Come,” he said.  Then peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  30.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  31.  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.  “You of little faith,” he said, “ why did you doubt?”

This passage of scriptures deals with a critical situation involving Jesus’ disciples.  The disciples are trapped in a fierce storm.  Matthew’s account of this incident informs us that Jesus compelled the disciples to go on the boat.  The account of this same incident in John 6 informs us that the people had wanted to make him king by force.  Not wanting his disciples involved, Jesus let them go ahead.  It was during the Passover, which was around April, obviously spring time.  It happened during the fourth watch of the night, which was around 3a.m.  The disciples were urged to go ahead in the boat, on a lake that was known for storms.  So anyone would agree that the disciples were in the will of God, but yet they are struggling in the midst of the storm.  They were commanded by Jesus to go across the Sea of Galilee.

Has there ever been a time, when you find yourself in a particular situation, where you have done everything right in the eyes of God, and yet you struggle?  I mean, have you ever been placed in situations, or the storms of life, and no matter how hard you try, no matter what methods you try, it appears or seem obvious that you cannot get out?  I believe someone here is going through such situation.  I believed we all go through times like that.  A time in life, when the storms of life will never come to an end.  Praise God this morning, for there is good news from the Word of God.  While the storms in our life are never good to us, they bring about results in our lives that will change our situation for the better.  Hebrew 12:11 reminds us that no situation in our lives, or no storms in life, however bitter is going to give us joy. Nevertheless, after awhile, it will yield us fruits of righteousness that we will experience.

I want us for a moment,  to pedal with the disciples in the storm with Jesus.  I do not know what storms you are facing this morning.  There is one thing that I know, the Lord knows why that storm is raging in your life.  It is my fervent prayer that the purpose of that storm will be clear to you as I minister to you for a while on “Five Minutes with Jesus in the Storm.”  I want to demonstrate to you that five minutes with Jesus in the storms of life will give you peace, power and it will leave you with a testimony.

Five Minutes With Jesus will give you PEACE!

The Story is told of a retired couple who have been worried about the threat of nuclear war.  The couple were afraid because on every news channel on Cable TV, the threat of nuclear war from the leaders looms.  The goal of the couple was to find the best place in the world that would not be affected by nuclear war, a place of peace and security.  The couple studied, and studied, and travel to many places.  Finally they found a place.  On Easter of 1981, they called their pastor from the new home they had found.  It was the Falkland Islands.  Surprisingly, their new home was soon turned to a place of war by the British and Argentine Army in April of 1982.

Everyone wants peace. In the midst of the storms of life, everyone of us wants the storm to go away and yearn for tranquility, peace, or calm.  Whether you are the governor of Kansas, or a human resource manager facing the pressures from workload and deadline at your office, or a student trying to prepare for school to get through another semester, or a landscape designer at your computer during springtime, or a pastor who has to pray for the needs of your congregation, peace is what everyone wants.  And many of us here will go to any extent to find peace.  If we are to be honest this morning with ourselves, we will admit that we experience more stress than peace.

We will all agree that people talk more about peace than we actually experience.  Today is like the day of Jeremiah.  In Jeremiah 6:4, the people cry for peace, but got no peace.  Many people live in comfortable homes, but domestic violence is at an all time high.  The cities in the United States are the most modern the world had seen, but the streets are unsafe.  One can find the best technology in terms of communication, but there is more misunderstanding.  In the very house of God, the church, the sanctuary, people come with anxiety that is almost impossible for the sermon to take away immediately.  The question here this morning is, where can we find peace in the midst of the storms of life?  In the midst of the storm, Jesus came walking on the waters.  They were afraid, and mistook Jesus for a ghost.  In the midst of the storm, you are fearful.  In your fear you act on your impulse.  You can make the worst mistake.  But in the midst of their fears and anxiety, confusion, depression, Jesus told them to be of good cheer.  He told them to be of good courage.  Five minutes with Jesus can give you peace. Romans 5:1 tells us, “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Five minutes with Jesus in the storm will also give us power.

In verse 27, Jesus shows up in the midst of the storm.  In verse 28 and 29, Jesus demonstrates His power.  Jesus did not only show up, but Jesus shows up in the fourth watch of the night.  In Jewish culture, the night had four parts: 6pm-9pm,9pm-12midnight, 12 midnight to 3am, 3am-6am.  The passage of scripture narrates that Jesus came in the cover of dark.  The darkest hour of the night.  Sometimes between 3am-6am.  It was the darkest hour of the night that the disciples were stranded in the storm.  In 1 Kings 8:12 Solomon reminds us that “the Lord said, “He would dwell in the thick darkness.”  You may be walking in spiritual darkness this morning.  Or you may be facing the darkest hours of your life, in the form of some difficulties.  Let me remind you that during the darkest hour of life, God is still God.  The disciples were in a struggle for their lives.  Mark 6:48 puts it this way, “toiling in rowing,” which gives me the feeling that they were going against the storm.  The passage clearly tells us that they were afraid.  When the disciples thought all hope was lost, Jesus showed up!  Jesus will not keep us from going into the storms of life, but fives minutes with Him will give us power in the midst of the storm.  Jesus said, “It is I.”  This word is a personal pronoun that is emphatic. It lays emphasis.  It is an expression of power.  It is the same word that Jesus Christ used to show His power.  “I am the door.”

“I am the bread of life.”  “I am the bread of life.”  “I am the good shepherd.”  Church, do you get the broader picture?  Jesus is telling these disciples to cheer up!!!  God is here!!  Five minutes with Jesus will give you the power that the world have never seen before.  Think about the three Hebrew, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  Think about Daniel.  Think about Noah.  In the midst of the storms of life, God give them the power to overcome.  If we can just understand the truth that Jesus is the great I AM, that he has the power in heaven and in the earth (Matthew 28:18), we will all enjoy power in the midst of the our storms.  Five minutes with Jesus will be a means of testimony to the greatness of God.

Five Minutes with Jesus will calm the storm and testify of God’s Greatness.

In the passage, verses 28 and 29 tells us who is in control of the storm.  It tells us who the master of the storm is.  When Peter heard that it was Jesus, he did not believe it.  But he knew one thing, if it was Jesus, He would be in control.  Peter urge Jesus to allow him to walk on the wave.  Jesus permitted it, and Peter began to walk.  Not very far in his walking, Peter saw the storm.  The narrative mentions that Peter was afraid, he began to sink.  Peter was not in control of the wave, but Jesus was.  When the storms of life are raging about us, when we can reckon with the truth that the Master of the Storm is Jesus, we will be able to rise above our circumstances, and walk on the water with Jesus.  The storms of life will tell of the excellent greatness of God.  It will focus our faith and help us grow in recognizing the greatness of God.  Church, if we spend five minutes with Jesus, we will succeed in navigating the storms of life.  We will remember who is in charge.  Our success in the storms of life hinges upon our willingness to acknowledge the Master of the Storm!!!!

The story is told of a man named Scott Davies.  Scott was on his way from work, to pick up his beloved wife for an event.  A storm of life came in the form of an accident.  The devil denied Scott the opportunity to enjoy his evening.  But there is one thing he did not denied Scott of, the Knowledge of the greatness of God.  His pastor was worried, and wanted word on how Scott was doing.  When he spoke to his wife, he could hear in her voice that she was worried.  She told the pastor that Scott was involved in an accident, he had said he was alive, but it was bad.  When the pastor spoke to Scott, Scott said, “Pastor, it could have been worse, but God was watching over me.”  I do believe that in the midst of the storm, Scott spend five minutes with Jesus.  Five minutes with Jesus will tell you that Jesus is in control.

It is often difficult to see the blessings in the midst of the storm.  Sometimes it is difficult to comprehend the Lord taking out any good out the circumstances we go through.  I don’t know the nature of the storm you are experiencing this morning, but I know the one that still walks on the water.  I fell in a well about 15 feet deep at the age of eight facing death by drowning, but the one who walks on the waves saved me.  Who knows that same man will show up this morning riding in your storm.  Five minutes with Him will give you the peace you so desire.  Five minutes with Jesus will give you the power you need to overcome your storms.  Five minutes with Jesus will testify of His greatness, goodness, love, provident, healing, and His salvation.

 

Vetting Ourselves for God’s Blessings

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

9TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, AUGUST 6TH, 2017.  

Title: “Vetting Ourselves for God’s Blessings”

 Text:  Genesis 32:22-31   22 ‘That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.  23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions.  24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.  25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”  But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob”, he answered.  28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”  29 Jacob said, please tell me your name.”  But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.  30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”  31 Then the sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.”

The text read involves God being revealed in human form through a mysterious incarnation. It also brings to our attention Jacob, the brother of Esau, and the son of Isaac.  Here, Jacob is being fearful of his past character of being a supplanter, a deceiver, and his past misdeeds toward his brother.  It is a time when Jacob was troubled. He believed that he and his family will be wiped out by his brother Esau.  This is evident in the subsequent verse where Jacob prayed to God for deliverance.  In his solitude, he struggles with the deity in a wrestling episode that would leave him wounded and bruised.  In this wrestling episode, one can see it as a role play of Jacob’s past life, where Jacob had always wrestled with doing the right thing in his life.  He had wrestle with God on many instances as it regards situations in his life.  In this passage, Jacob request a blessing during the wrestling, but he is being vetted with a question of what his name is, bring into question the meaning of his name as a person of deception. It is interesting to note that despite Jacob’s past, Jacob’s struggle also yields blessings from the God.

Like Jacob, there are many situations in our lives that would present imminent danger. There will be situation that would put us in a position, where we will fear for our lives or leave us bruised and wounded. As a little boy, Thomas Edison got a serious strike to his ear that left him with a hearing impairment.  The little Edison was deaf.  Thomas Edison’s struggle through deafness propel him to success in inventing many things. Like Jacob and Thomas Edison, have you had a difficult life situation where you are at a crossroad? You are at a place where you do not know which way to go?  Let us examine this passage of scripture, as a scenario, where we are at a crossroad not knowing which way to go.  We are at a crossroad facing dilemmas, challenges, and opportunities.  In such situation, we will need to vet ourselves, acknowledge our character, and embrace God’s blessings.

God’s Children Will Be Faced With the Dilemmas of Life

The story is told about a wonderful Christian family who had a young nineteen-year-old daughter.  The girl was bright and first in her class.  She received many academic awards and had many offers to attend some of the most reputable universities around the country.  She chose one of the best universities and went off to school.  On a Sunday morning at the breakfast table, her parents received a phone call from the authorities that there was bad news.  The caller informed them that their daughter had collapsed on her way to class and had died.  The parents were grief stricken, and question where they had gone wrong with God.  No matter where we come from, or where we live, trouble will come our way when we least expect it.  There are times bad things will happen to good people, that will lead us to question whether God is a just or fair.  In contrast, Jacob in this passage is faced with deep trouble for the life he had lived.  Jacob had tricked his brother out of his inheritance.  Therefore, Jacob’s name meant, “supplanter,” a person who takes something that rightfully belongs to someone else.  He deceived his father Isaac.  His character was not of good standing and so trouble was imminent. Whatever, the situation, whether we are good or bad, we will be faced with obstacles that will result in the vetting of ourselves as we seek God’s intervention or deliverance.  The Psalmist says in Psalms 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. A lot of the Psalms are Psalms of lamentations, meaning it was written during trouble times.  Paul wrote most of the letters from prisons. One of my favorite books, the Pilgrim’s Progress was written by John Bunyan while he was in prison.  The Bible is full great men of God who went through troubled times.  When God gets ready to give us the best of our lives, He allows us to go through the storm.  God allows us to vet ourselves to remind us of our character, so that He positions us to receive His blessings.

Vetting Ourselves Leads to God’s Blessings

In verses 26, 27, and 28 of Genesis 32, Jacob request a blessing from the one he wrestled with in the passage.  Instead of blessing him, the stranger inquired of his name.  Before God asks a question, God already knows the answer.  In this case, God already knew the name of Jacob, but God asked Jacob of his name to allow Jacob to acknowledged his past life as a deceiver, of the bad character he had assumed.  It was a time of retrospection for Jacob.  Here, Jacob is bound to articulate that name that bear no good character.  Jacob must say that name to allow a time of critical self-examination, a time of scrutiny, a time of evaluation, and time of appraisal. A common term used these day is the verb vet which means to check ourselves.  In the noun form, it can mean all that is mentioned above.

In Psalms 139:23-34, the Psalmist puts it this way, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive ways in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

In 2 Samuel 11 and 12, the story is told of David, Bathsheba, and the prophet Nathan. David had murdered Uriah the Hittite, coveted his wife Bathsheba and she bore him a son.  David did all this when the Ark of the Covenant of God was in battlefield. Kings were supposed to be on the battle ground.  But David remained in the luxury of his palace and sinned against God.  David resolved to hide his sin from the prophet Nathan, but the prophet exposed him.  When the prophet used the story of a rich man taking the only lamb of a poor man, David was justifiably angry at the injustice of the rich man.  But the prophet Nathan told David, “You are the man!” (1 Chronicles 12:7)  David was guilty of murder and adultery.  But David vetted, examined, evaluated, and appraised his past, and God forgive him and blessed him with a son.  We need to always vet ourselves.  We need to often search ourselves in the midst of our dark days, so that we prepare ourselves for God’s blessings.

God’s Blessings Sometimes Comes in the Cover of Dark.

Isaiah 48:10 says, “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.”  If you reflect upon how great men of God were blessed, you will know that they were not blessed from the palace, but some of the most difficult of places or situations.  Mildred Struven in Bits and Pieces agreed with this assertion, by pointing out that a clay pot that sits in the sun will only become a porcelain when it is put in the white heat of the furnace.  Our greatness blessings from God comes often times in the lowest moment of our lives.  God’s blessings sometimes come during the darkest moment of our lives.  Those who will find the path to God, sometimes find it in the dark.  I will compare this with the development of a film.  A film is developed in the dark.  It is during those dark moments of our lives that God brings out the best in us.

Jacob met God in trouble times.  He was faced with imminent danger.  He was in solitude having sent his wives away along with all his possessions.  He was alone in the dark.  It was at the darkest moment of his life, that God appeared and changed his name to Israel.  God blessed him.  Young Thomas Edison as a boy suffered deafness.  In this dark period of his young life, he summed up courage and invented the phonograph (the world’s first method of recording and playing back sound), the light bulb, the kinetoscope, the kinetograph, the kinetophone, the nickel-iron batteries.  He invented the carbon microphone. (Science.howstuffworks.com) There is no crippling situation, no bad character, no sin, that God cannot remove.  There will always be trouble somewhere, sometimes.  God want us to always examine ourselves in the midst of trouble, and God will meet us in the cover of dark to bless us.

Sermon: July 30, 2017

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS GEORGE MCCARTHY

8TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, JULY 30, 2017.

TITLE:​ “The Love that Will Not Let You Go”
Text​: Romans 8:31-39. ​   31.​ “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? ​32.​ He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him for us all-How will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? ​33.​ Who will bring any charge against those whom God have chosen? It is God who justifies. ​34​. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God, and is also interceding for us. ​35.​ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ​36​. As it is written: “for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37. ​No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. ​38. ​For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels, nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, ​39​ neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The story is told of a man, who sacrificed his son to save the lives of hundreds of people in Mississippi in 1957. Mr. John Griffiths worked tending the drawing bridge for a rail road. On this fateful day, he had taken his eight years old son Greg with him to work. Earlier on during the day, young Greg played in his father’s office. Like many young children, Greg asked many questions. Later during the day, a ship had come through and John opened the drawbridge. During this time, John realized that little Greg was not in the office. As he searched for his son, John came to the realization that his little boy had climbed on the gear of the drawbridge. John hurried outside to rescue the boy. The noise of a fast approaching passenger train and the ship drowned his voice and the boy could not hear him. Here, John was faced with the most difficult decision of his life: Saving his son would cost the train to derailed killing maybe everyone aboard; Closing the drawbridge would mean sacrificing his son. John pulled the lever of the drawbridge sacrificing his son. As the train passed by, John look at the faces of the passenger. Some of the passengers were reading, while others waved. All of the passengers were unaware of what had happened, or the sacrifice John had just made. John had to live that moment thousands of time. The sacrifice John made is reminiscent of the sacrifice God made by sacrificing Jesus Christ. God made the decision to sacrifice Jesus Christ to save billions from sins to eternal life. What great love God has for us sinners. And like the passengers on that train, many of us are unaware of the great love of God. Are you one of them this morning? Still so, while it is true that many disregard the great love of God towards us, God still make provisions for us to remain in His love. This morning we shall reflect together on the love which God provides for us. The Love that Will Not Let Us Go!!”

The Nature of God’s love.

The word love is one of the most used words in the Bible. It is used in many different contexts. To fully understand the word love, one must understand the context in which it is used. The first use of the word love in the NKJV of the Bible is in Genesis 22:2, when God instructed Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. It is used to show a father’s love for his only child. What is interesting here is that, one can draw a parallel from this narrative to God’s love for humankind in John 3:16, where God’s love for the world prompted Him to sacrifice His only son, Jesus Christ on the cross for our redemption. In the New International Version, NIV, the first mention of love is in Genesis 20:13, where Abraham mentions the reason for persuading Sarah to lie, “to show her love for him”. So one would easily misinterpret love to mean lying in order to show your love for someone. The word love can be difficult to conceptualize at times. At this point, one would raise the interrogative, what is the nature of God’s love? What does it means, when the Bible mentions, “For God so love the World?” What does it means when Paul points out that nothing would separate us from the love of God? It is in answer to Paul’s rhetorical question that I want to discuss the nature of God’s love. When my daughter was little and could not read, I thought her to recite 1 John 4:8, “God is Love,” as her memory verse for morning devotions, night prayers or any family prayer time. This is one of God’s attribute that transcends all barriers. This attribute of God knows no bound. This nature of God speaks to the fact that God love for humankind is without condition. This love is not depended on what man can do or cannot do, it comes from God directly. This simply means that God will never be in a position where humankind can never be loved by Jehovah God. God is unconditionally committed to the wellbeing of humankind. So Paul continues by emphasizing that there would be terrifying things that will come between us and God. Paul mentions hardships, sickness, and dangers seen and unseen. Paul talks about life and death not being able to separate us. We live in Christ and die in Christ. We are then raised with Christ to be nearer to God. None of these things can separate us from God because God loves us. I Corinthians 13 summarizes that God loves us in that God is patient and kind. God’s love is never haughty or selfish or rude. Because God loves us, all special gifts from him will someday come to an end, But his love for us goes on forever. That is why His love allows Jesus Christ to intercede for us actively. God’s love is a love that will not leave us, it continues till eternal life is made available to humankind. His love allows Christ to intercede for us.

Through the Love of God, Christ Intercedes for Us!

In the previous line of verse 34, Paul makes it clear that Jesus Christ who died on the cross continues His work on the cross through intercession. In 1 Timothy, Paul reminds us that “there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” By this, Paul is saying that Jesus Christ is serving as an advocate for humankind. Jesus stands before the face of God for us. Hebrews 9: 24. Jesus is serving as an advocate or parakletos as it is referred in the language. He is actively involved in our defense before Almighty God, against the charges of Satan that we can be no good to God. It is a priestly office that Christ is actively involved in. What made it possible for Christ intercession? Jesus Christ intercession before God was made possible only by the love of God. Because of God’s love, Jesus came and died for us. Paul mentions that in the verses before verse 34. God’s love allows great men of God in time past to stand before Him and intercede on behalf of others. Nehemiah’s prayer in Nehemiah 1:3-11 informs us that the children of Israel who survives the exile were greatly troubled and living in disgrace. But Nehemiah stood before God and acknowledge God for His greatness and a God who keeps His covenant of love with those who also love Him. In Exodus 32:31-32, Moses interceded for the sin of the people. Because of His love, God always answer positively for humankind to be redeem after intercession. Through this intercession, we have been made more than conquerors!

God’s Love Made Us Conquerors!

God’s love will never leave us. It has enabled us to be more than conquerors. When Paul talked about the things that will not separate us from God’s love, he mentioned terrible things like tribulations, distress, persecutions, famine, nakedness, the threat of danger, and the threat of murder. Joyce Meyer told a story about herself not experiencing or living a victorious Christian life, though she was a born again believer. She was not feeling any victory over the problems in her life. In this instance, she was not living fully for God or helping people. But as time went by, Sister Meyer study the word of God and developed a personal relationship to Christ. She began to understand what it meant to be more than conquerors. She realized that even before a problem came her way, she could overcome that problem through Christ Jesus. She made a wonderful conclusion, “In Christ, we are made right with God, we are His righteousness, and we have the power of Christ in us to live right.” As long as we as believers can look to the love of God, access that love, we will be victorious in all we do. God’s love for us is unconditional and everlasting, it enables Jesus to mediate before Him on our behalf, and as long as we access that love, we will be more than conquerors. GOD’S LOVE IS THE LOVE THAT WILL NEVER LET US GO!!!!!!!

Sermon July 23

SERMON BY THE REV. AMOS MCCARTHY
SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, JULY 23, 2017

 

Title: “The Uniqueness of the Christian Fellowship in the Family of God.”

Text:  Romans 8:12-25.  12. “Therefore brothers and sisters, we have an obligation-but it is not to the flesh, to live by it.  13. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. 14. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  15. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to son ship.  And by Him we cry, “ Abba,  Father.”  16. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  17. Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share His glory.  18.  I consider that our sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  19.  For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  20. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope  21 that the creation itself will be liberated from bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.  22.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  23. Not only so, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to son ship, the redemption of our bodies.  24.  For in hope that is seen in not hope at all.  Who hopes for what they already have?  25.  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

John Wesley in his theology of the Holy Spirit brings to the fold, the significance of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian.  Wesley points out that the work of the Holy Spirit is very important in the Christian life and experience.  Drawing from II Corinthians 13:14, Wesley teaches that anytime a Christian go through a godly situation, it is by the grace of Jesus Christ, the love God shows us, and the sweet fellowship of the Holy spirit.  And so we will all agree, that the Holy Spirit is needed as we sojourn in this world of constant violence, crimes, abuse, mistreatment, lies, deceit, and all manner of suffering.  If we as Christians will groan with the suffering of this world, be tolerant, and accept each other, the Holy Spirit is salient in achieving that fellowship.  If we as Christians will hope for the glory of God, which God will fulfill in our inheritance of eternal life, a life full of the Spirit is significant in our guidance to enjoy such glory.
In the passage of scripture under consideration this morning, the Apostle Paul reminds us Christian, of our duty, not to live by our sinful nature, but to live according to the Spirit of God. The sinful nature brings about human suffering: disease,poverty, war, and many other things, which are not pleasant at all.  Paul reminds us however, that the sufferings encountered by the family of God can be tolerable.  By groaning with our fellow humans in suffering, we Christians suffer with Christ and thereby receive the glory of God which is to come.  The Spirit of God gives testimony to the fact that, we all are children of God in the family of God: through the Spirit we embrace sufferings, so that we enjoy the glory to come.  Isn’t that wonderfully unique as we fellowship together as a family of God?  Isn’t it even more unique, when we groan in each other sufferings, so that we may suffer with Christ and receive eternal glory?  Let me share with you all this morning, the uniqueness of fellowship in the family of God.

Let us first consider it a fact, that a uniqueness in the fellowship in the family of God is that we live a life full of the Spirit of God.  Verse 12 and 13 of Romans 8 reminds every Christian of a duty.  It is a duty to not live by the flesh, but an obligation to live by the Spirit of God.  This debt of gratitude is to put to death the sin in our bodies, which is known as the mortification, or the putting to death, the sins of our bodies.  Even Jesus Christ was handed over to wicked men, and crucified to take away our sins.  Jesus was put to death so that we may have life.  So we have the duty to put sin to death, so that we may have life. This is only done by the empowering of the Holy Spirit or by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  If we are already Christians, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our bodies.  This idea of being led by the Spirit is to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit of God is all powerful.  In the Genesis account, the scripture tells us that the earth did not have any form and was empty, until the Spirit of God moves over the earth.  God Spirit hovers over the formless, shapeless, and purposeless earth.  The creative power of the Spirit of God, brought the physical earth into being.  God spoke and everything came into being.  If you have not given this any thought, think about it this way: This same Spirit moves over the sinful person and brings life out of that dead nature fill with sin. The first requirement of a good preacher is not the eloquence or the charisma or the ability to charm his way into the hearts of people, but knowledge of the word of God and the ability to teach it.  That knowledge comes through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit has knowledge of the deep things of God. Jesus Christ attests to this in John 16:13, “When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you in all the truth…”  The Holy Spirit has knowledge about truth which is found in the word of God.  The Holy Spirit enlightens our minds to scriptures and how to make scripture applicable in our lives.  If a Christian person who reads the scripture every time is tempted to burglarize a home, the Holy Spirit reminds that person of his obligation not to steal.  The person who is  being guided by the Spirit will resist the urge to commit that crime.  The Holy Spirit is our teacher, who will guide us into the word of God, and teach us how to apply it to our lives.  Like a surveillance video that watches everyone when you arrives in the parking lots of Dillon’s, leaves your car, enter through the doors, shops and check out your goods, the Spirit of God follows us everywhere we go.  It watches over us, the Spirit of God is tone to everything we think about, and everything we do.  The Spirit reminds us about the sins we commit, tells us through our conscience that we are in error, and we become guilty and do the right thing. Despite the rebellion we carry out, God never forgets us.  God Spirit guides us through the dangerous nights, storms and tornadoes and keeps us safe.  Many times, we are blinded by these realities due to sin, worries and anxieties, loneliness and grief, disaster and death, illness and sufferings.  It is important for us to remember that God, through His Spirit, protects us and is our strength and shield, a constant help in trouble times.  The Psalmist says, “the Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid? Even when the wicked came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.”  The Holy Spirit will guide us.  He bears the attributes of God: He is all powerful, all- present, and all knowledgeable.  His presence even testifies that we are the children of God.

Uniquely, we are God’s Children in the Family of God.  In the Roman world, adoption was an important matter.  It was important and complicated.  In this passage of scripture, Paul is not looking at the steps in Roman adoption, but the consequences of being adopted.  In this token, the person who is adopted lost all his or her rights in the family he or she at one time belonged.  The person assumed all the rights as a child in the new family.  Also, that person became heir to the estate of his new father.  In legal terms or according to law, that person’s old life was completely wiped out.  It followed that all debts were cancelled and the person entered a new life.  The adopted person was completely the son of his new father.  There were seven witnesses that attested to adoption in Roman adoption process.  Using Roman adoption system as a guide, Paul is painting a picture of Christians being adopted into God’s family, as he addressed the church at Rome.
In verse 14 Paul tells us that Christians, “who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.”  The Spirit also testifies with our Spirit that we are God’s children.”  This is done when we spend time in prayers with God.  This translate every Christian from the bonds of sin into a wonderful relation with God. At one time, the Christian lived in sin, and controlled the absolute sinful nature.  Fortunately, the Christian belief in God helped the Christian to take on a life full of the Spirit of God.  This work was not achieved by the Christian person, but by the mercy of God.  God made it possible for the old debt to be wiped clean.  In the new life, the Spirit testifies that we are now God’s children.  Not only God’s children but joint heirs to God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  The Christian inherits all the riches Christ has by being God’s Son.  Now if Christ suffered, the Christian also suffered with Him.  Christ is raised to enjoy glory with God, the Christian also will enjoy glory with God.  Why then do we groan?
Despite the fact that Christians are adopted in the family of God, the Christian live in a world, where the realities of the human situation exist.  In our inner man, we still battle with the sinful nature.  We wrestled with sin.  We battled with our own evil human nature of hate, jealousy, envy, love for material possessions, lustful desire, covetousness, lies, deceit, and many other things that brings barriers between us and God.  Outwardly, the Christian live in a world of death and decadence.  This is true because the first human family transgressed the law of God.  God had told Adam in Genesis 3:17, “Cursed is the ground because of you.” This ushered in human suffering.  In that state, man live in death and decay.  According to Paul in this passage, man now waits for a state of liberation.  In the passage, Paul further reminds us that through the testimonies of the Holy Spirit, man long for the total fulfillment of enjoying the glory of God.  In this same sphere, the Christian lives in Christ and Christ lives in him.  It is important to know that, while we live in this sinful world, we look beyond the world to God.  The christian does not see only the world, but the Christian see the power of God’s mercy.  The power of God’s love.  If this is true, then the Christian must always look to God for hope.  Paul here envision hope for the human race.

Uniquely we can hope to enjoy eternity with God, looking to God for to bring this to past.
In Hampton Sides’ “Ghost Soldiers,” the story of the infamous Bataan Death March is told.  According to this ‘Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission,’ the United States Army was forced to retreat from the Philippines.  Some of the men were held as POWs and were forced to walk more than 70 miles.  The POWs called themselves Ghost Soldiers because they thought they had been forgotten by their nation.  Like Senator John McCain of Arizona, they were kept prisoner of war for more than three years.  Over 500 of these soldiers were kept in the horrible Cabanatuan camp.  They were giving up hope, because they heard terrible stories of POWs being executed as Japanese soldiers were retreating.  About 120 US soldiers and 200 Filipino guerrillas overwhelmed the 8000 Japanese soldiers in this outstanding rescue narrative in the history of war.  One of the POWs, who was crying in a dark corner of the barracks, told one rescuer Alvie Robbins, “I thought we’d be forgotten.” Alvie Robbins told the POW that “they were not forgotten.”  Today, some of us feel that we have been forgotten by God in our hurts and frustrations.  We are apt to ask, where was God when my husband died, where was God when my child died?  When will God restore earth to its original form, where there will be no sufferings?
Verses 24 and 25 underscore the hope, and the glory Christian would enjoy as children of God.  This passage has in it, the fact that God will restore humankind to its original goodness.  It is clear that that promise is pending.  All humankind can do is to hope in it.  In verse 23, we see that the Holy Spirit makes us to taste of the fulfilment of this hope.  This opens a state of communication between the Christian and God.  Such communication takes the form of prayer.  We pray because the confidence in the hope lies in God’s hand.  God will come and prove Himself.  We just have to lean unto His everlasting arms.  The songwriter in a famous hymn says, “What a fellowship, what a joy divine.  Leaning on the everlasting arm.  What a blessedness, what peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arm.  O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim’s way, leaning on the everlasting arm.  What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arm.”  In the last verse of this hymn, it asks the question, “What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arm?”  In answer to that question it continues, “I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms.”  Church let us lean on Jesus while we work in this pilgrim way, where there would be no suffering, knowing that God will come and get us.
There uniqueness in the fellowship of the family of God is that we have the Holy Spirit to guide us into living a life of the Spirit; the uniqueness to be sons and daughters of God; And the uniqueness to place our hope in God for eternal glory.

Sermon July 16, 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Amos McCarthy

Title: “A Call to Pray”

Text: Matthew 6:5-7.  5.And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  6. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  7. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”

President Ronald Reagan on May 7, 1982, proposed to the Congress of the United States of America, a constitutional amendment to allow organized prayer in public schools.  According to a New York Times article published May 18, 1982, President Reagan believed the amendment would “restored the simple freedom of our citizens to offer prayers in public schools and institutions.”  The president asserted “that public expression through prayer is an integral part of the American heritage. “  What is most beautiful about President Reagan’s statement was that it would be of immense benefit for children of the United States to begin each day of school with prayer.  Prayer is the most fascinating thing a person can ever carry out.  Prayer is a sacred ordinance.  It is sacred because our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ spend a life full of prayer, setting Himself apart to pray.  Jesus Christ undertook a customary life of prayer.  Throughout the Gospel, especially the book of Luke, the prayer life of Jesus Christ is made evident.  In choosing the 12 disciples, Jesus Prayed.  During the transfiguration, Jesus Prayed.  When the disciples slept, Jesus went to pray.  Even on His dying cross, Jesus Prayed. Jesus Christ thread the sands of time as both man and God.  He had all attributes of God.  In his humanity he experienced the harsh realities of this world.  But he prayed in time of crisis(Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, John 18:2). Jesus went to pray every time He needed to pray.  If Jesus Christ, the anointed One of God engaged in many prayer rituals, don’t you think it is a divine command to pray?

The passage under consideration highlights the importance of prayer in Jewish culture.  Investigation of Jewish liturgy will lead to findings of prayer formula for meal time, on seeing the new moon, the use of new furniture, and the intent of prayer on any happenings in life.  But the down side of such prayer ritual can lead one to lose focus as regards the one who calls us to pray, God.  So Christ admonishes His followers to be cognizant of who our prayer should be about and directed to.  Prayer should be directed to God.  The more one directs one’s prayer to God, the more confidence one has in God. The early church was a praying church. Acts 4:24 tells us that after the church prayed, the place was shaken where they had come together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they utter the word of God with boldness. If believers are to trust God and lean not on their own understanding, then believers have to increase their prayer lives.  Since prayer is the key to changing our circumstances and a divine command from God, lets us briefly reflect on the theme: “A Call to Pray.”

Prayer Is A Call

In verse 5 of Matthew 6, it says, “And when you pray,…  One would see in this first part of the verse that Jesus Christ is mandating the disciples to pray.  He is not suggesting that they pray.  He did not say if you pray.  From this passage, it can be agree that prayer is a call that each person should answer because Jesus Christ mandates us to pray.  A call a divine summons by God for a person to perform a particular job.  The task here is prayer.  What is Prayer?  The Merriam Collegiate dictionary defines prayer as an address or petition to God in words or thought; an earnest request or wish.  Prayer can take the form of a supplication(the Greek word indicate reverence before the sovereignty), an intercession(usually used when trying to obtain something for someone) or thanksgiving.  Prayer is a communication between two entities.  You speak to God and God speaks to you.  David the king of Israel exemplified this kind of communication in Psalms 86:1, “Incline Thine ear, O Lord, and answer me; for I am afflicted and needy.”  David here is communicating with God.  Some of us will raise the interrogative, should one always ask God for everything?

God is all powerful!  He can solve all of our problems without us asking.  God empowers every believer to ask for anything a believer wants from God, and He God will give it to the believer.  Matthew 7 tells us that anything a person asked, the person will receive.  But God tells us that we should pray at all times.  God wants us to pray because it is a calling to serve and obey Him. (Luke 2:36-38) We pray because God command us to pray. (Philippians 4:6-7) God has summon every believer to pray.  It is a divine summon by God that believers pray in season and out of season, that we put on the whole armor of God, which is our prayer armor.  General Douglas MacArthur lifts the importance of prayer.  He acknowledged the fact that he was a soldier.  He pointed out that sometimes a soldier kills to build or rebuild.  But also acknowledged that he was more proud to be a father because a father always builds.  And if his sons will remember him as a father, they should remember him by repeating the Lord’s Prayer.  General MacArthur knew the importance of prayer. The command to pray comes from our heavenly father, God.  But the devil always tries to hinder this divine summon by getting believers to sin.   

 

Sin is a Hindrance to Prayer

God is a Holy God.  He is Elohim Kedoshim, meaning the Holy God. (Joshua 24:19)  Every time a believer deals with God, it is important to approach God remembering that God is Holy and does not take pleasure in anything sinful.  God commands us to pray and therefore wants us to set aside the sins that easily hinders us.  In Hebrew 12: 1 and 2, the writer urges everyone “to set aside the sin that easily beset us, running with endurance the race, looking unto Jesus the Author and finisher of our faith.”  In Psalms 66:18, the Psalmist points out, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”  Many known sins in a believer’s life can be hindrances to prayer.  A bitter spirit or unforgiven spirit (Ephesians 4:32), estranged relationship between a man and his wife (1 Peter 3:7), unbelief and doubts (James 1:6-7), and refusal to hear the Word of God (Proverb 28:9), are few among many things that hinder a man’s prayer life.  It would be tragic if any of these sins hinders our prayer.  We should do everything to stay away from the things that will destroyed our prayer life.

In 2 Chronicle 7:13-22, God appeared to Solomon and reminded him that He God would answer their prayers if they repent of their sins and pray.  In His appearance to Solomon, He reminds him that He is God. He shuts the heaven and stop the rain.  He God can restore it.  God says, “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and restore their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)    We live in a time when less people pray, less people go to church, and less people practice their faith.  Barna, a research group conducted a survey in September of 2016, taking into consideration the affiliation, attendance and practice  of Christians, to check on the state of the church.  In this data collection, out of 73% of Americans who profess to be Christians, only 41% were practicing their faith.  My father’s children, we live in a time of great skepticism and cynicism towards the church.  If the time has never been, this is a time for us to pray, and to pray harder than never before.  All these prayer hindrances can be taken care of, if a believer comes to God and pray hard.  Church, God is immutable.  He is the same God yesterday, He is the same God today.  And He will be the same God forever.  If we trust Him, our prayer life can be effective.

 

The Power of Prayers

In James 5:16, the Scripture reminds us that if believers confess their sins to each other, and pray for one another, they will be healed.  This is because “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” This verse reminds us that there is power in prayer.  God’s answer to our prayer may not always be immediately or God’s answer might not be what we asked for, but it is always going to be in the best interest of any one who offers prayers.  The power of prayer enables the believer to conquer enemies (Psalms 6:9-10).  It enables believers defeat demons (Mark 9:29).  Prayer has heal wounds and given men wisdom(James 1:5).  In the Guide Post, the story is told of a courageous farmer named Zach from Saline County, Kansas.  I read that the time for farmers to reap their crops is a busy time for farmers.  All that matters for the farmers is getting the crops in.  Zach says, ”Farming is not a just a  job, it’s a life, it’s  your blood and soul.  Farmers raise milo, corn, soybeans, wheat and hay.  Farmers also rebuild combines and harvest crops for other farmers.” Zach was injured in a farming incident in 2014.  At the hospital in Wichita, Kansas, Zach kidneys were failing.  His lungs were full of fluid.  Based on test results and the state of Zach’s health, the doctors had told his wife that as Zach lose his vital signs and his condition deteriorate, Zach would eventually died.  The small community of people prayed.  Everyone prayed for Zach.  Zach came out of comatose. Through prayers Zach is back with his community and involved in farming again and even operating a combine.  He is a father.  A wonderful person who testifies about the love others showed him through prayers.  

Church, there is power in prayers.  The word of God says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guide yours hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Let us engage ourselves in a stead prayer life.  God bless you.

 

  

 

Sermon July 9, 2017

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS GEORGE MCCARTHY
Pastor, Newton First, Newton East Side, & Walton U.M.C
Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, 9th July 2017

Title: “Marvels in the House of God!”
Text: Genesis 28: 16-17
“16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place: and I knew it not. 17. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

I am grateful to God first for another chance to minister His word. I am privileged to be His child. God bless you all.
Every Sunday, Christians gathered in their various places of worship to be in the presence of God. On this Second Sunday of July, we gathered here in this unique place of worship to render praise, to give thanks, make supplications or request, in the presence of God. As we gather here, I want us to reflect on the essence of congregating in the presence of God and the many wonders that can be experience in the house of the Lord. Are we here for God’s favor? To receive healing for a specific illness? To make a vows? To praise His holy Name? To give thanks? If there is any obvious reason at all for coming into the house of God, What is it one wish to glean from this experience? Let us reflect for a moment on what could possibly take place, when one comes to the house of God, the sanctuary of God, the chapel of God. Whatever the urge that drives us to the house of God, God is always here to meet us at the point of our need and show us His wonders. I want to accentuate the fact that no one ever leaves the house of God the same. If there is any time a person enters God’s presence, or in His sanctuary, broken, hurt, lonely, feels neglected, and leaves the same, there is something wrong not with God, but the person. Or if there is anytime a person comes to the house of God happy, joyous, grateful, and leaves broken, then there is something wrong with person. No wonder the Psalmist asserted in Psalms 84:10, that he would prefer to be a door keeper in the house of the Lord, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. I want to share with you this morning on the theme: “Marvels in the House of God.”

The passage of Scriptures read points to a time when Jacob a descendant of Abraham experienced God’s presence while at sleep. God met him at the place he tarried that night. When Jacob grasped the reality of the events in his dream, he concluded that God was present in the place. He reason that that place was the house of God: A place where God meets His people; and a place where God’s people have access to Him. Like Jacob, God met his forefathers before him and after him in peculiar places. Even the Psalter in verse 16 of Psalm 73 cried that everything outside is oppressive, ”…till he enters the sanctuary of God.” What really occurs in the sanctuary of God? At the end of that chapter, the Psalmist informs us that he would always want to be near God and tell of all His deeds. WOW!!
Jesus makes mention of Jacob’s meeting God in the latter part of John Gospel. What are the wonders of meeting God in His House?

The House of God Is Where Heaven Meets Earth
In verse 12 of the passage read, Jacob dreams of a ladder with angels ascending and descending. Verse 13 informs us that the Lord stood above the ladder and makes His presence known, “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac:” Talking about wonders in God’s House, it is important to first state that in the house of God, God makes His presence felt. There are many similar instances in scriptures(Old and New Testament) that God has made His presence felt in His House. In 2 Chronicles chapter seven verses 1-3, Solomon completed prayers. The record tells us that immediately he finished, fire consumed the burnt offerings and God’s Splendor filled the the House of God. The glory of the Lord filled the place. In the second chapter of the book of Acts, when the believers gathered to pray, the Holy Spirit came upon them. The presence of God was felt and many wonders were wrought: the believers spoke in tongues. What I want you to know is that in the house of God, God reveals himself to everyone regardless of our economic or social status, our race, gender, or creed, righteous or sinful. In the House of God there gossipers, back bitings, fornicators, adulterers, and all kinds of flaws. Like us, Jacob was with flaws when it came to his family: He store his brother’s birthright. He was flawed. But in the house of God, God made His presence felt to Jacob. He said, I am God. Isn’t that a marvel? When Isaiah met God in the temple in chapter 6 of Isaiah, Isaiah acknowledged his sinfulness, “Woe is me for I am a man of sinful lips.” But God still assured Isaiah that he was useful. God ask for someone to send. Isaiah said, “Here I am Lord, sent Me!” The weeping prophet Jeremiah made excuses to God that he was too young. But God told Jeremiah that even before He was born he God already knew him and set him apart to be a prophet (Jeremiah 1:4-9) God will always make His presence felt. God will display His glory through His presence when He used weak men to carry out His purpose. In the process, God will rekindle our hope.

The House of God Rekindles our Hope.
Each time one comes into the house of God, into God’s presence, one comes with an intention or an expectation, or an obligation. That intention could be to offer to God praise, to ask for favor from God. One comes into the house of God to expect a miracle, a healing, a revelation. Also, a person could come to the house of God with an obligation or a duty to pray, to worship, to give, or to sing a joyous song. In the passage, Jacob had come to this place with anticipation of a rest to continue the journey to find himself a wife. Jacob was filled with uncertainty. But Jacob met God at an uncertain time and experienced God’s wonder. In 1 Samuel 1-2, the story is told of Hannah, the wife of Elkanah. She was barren. In Jewish culture, children were a blessing. Hannah had no children and was a subject of ridicule of Elkanah’s wife Peninnah, who despised Hannah out of jealousy. Hannah in her grief, hurt, bareness, and hopelessness, Hannah decided to meet God in His House to put forth her petition. This is often the case with most of us, we come to God with hopes. Perhaps it is hope to repair a broken marriage, pray for a troubled teenage son or daughter, hope to alleviate our financial crisis(credit card debts, student loan, or mounting bills), hope for God to heal us or a relative or friend from an illness. I want you to understand that God always has a wonder, when you come to the house of God with these hopes: God gives the ASSURANCE THAT REKINDLES YOUR HOPE. God assured Jacob and rekindles his hope. In Genesis 28 verse 12 through 14, God rekindles Jacob’s hope in a time of uncertainty that He would bless him.

In the House of God, there Is Assurance of God’s Providence.

God assures Jacob of His providence and tells Jacob, “And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all the places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” God is Jehovah Jireh, a God who provides for us in due time. Often time we come to the house of God bitter, despondent, hurt, broken in spirit, suicidal, unforgiven. We come to the house of God like that because the world can be an unkind place where our very own abuse us or rejects us. In other instances we come to the house of God needy of many things. We come with the need for a child, the ability to speak, needy of love and a sense of belonging, or needy of financial breakthroughs. We come running into God’s House and God’s presence because that’s the right thing to do. Jacob needed hope and comfort in a time of uncertainty. Hannah came because of the unkindness of a marital mate, public ridicule, the hurt and shame of not having a child. There are times when our coming will be met
with scorn or rejection from the very people or leaders in the house of God. Hannah faced false accusation of “praying under the influence” in the house of God. A place where she had ran for refuge. Isn’t it sad to see Hannah in all her anguish and hurt being ridicule in the house of God. Church, the world would be unkind to us even the very place of worship. I urge you all that when you feel down and out, overwhelmed by the harsh realities of life, open your hearts to Jehovah and speak freely to the Hearer of Prayers(Psalm 65:2), Jehovah Jireh. Jehovah Jireh will make provision for you right here in His house. Jacob was present in God’s House and God assured him of His providence: That He will be with Jacob and never leaves Him.
I do not know about you, but there is never a time in my life that I have gone in the presence of God in His House and made a request, and God did not answer me. During the heights of my country civil war, I had a gun pointed at me and asked to step six feet back by a rebel soldiers so that he end my life and sent me back to my creator, God made provision and my life was saved. When I didn’t have a dime to my name to pursue graduate degree, God made His provision in full scholarship and I got a masters of divinity degree. When my mother died, I didn’t have a dime to bury her, but God made provision.
God’s provisions are countless. Let not come to the house of worship and linger in His house, in God’s presence, going through the act of worshipping God, and yet holding doubts and bitterness in our hearts. Lets us enter into God’s house with thanksgiving, ready to be blessed. Like Jacob, God will meet us here on earth in His House. God will rekindle our hopes, and Jehovah Jireh our Great Provider will make provisions for Us.
God bless you all.