Oconee Street UMC Online Service
July 12, 2020
Scripture Readings: Isaiah 43:18-21; 2 Corinthians 5:17
Sermon: “New Things”
Prayer / The Lord’s Prayer
by Hal Turner
March 19, 2015
I have been hesitant this year to volunteer for a devotional as my thoughts have been very chaotic lately. It seems I am always in a personal or faith crisis. After what once seemed a very real personal teen-aged encounter with Jesus, I have gone through life doubting that I was worthy of that Grace. People would tell me that my academic life made me incompatible with Jesus. Understanding physics, chemistry and biology I had been tainted by knowledge that prevented me from believing in the Bible. Then as I came out, I was told clearly that church law declared me incompatible with Jesus Christ. (it still does, lol.)
Yes I still feel a overwhelming sense of rejection from God and the Church. But of course as a person with PTSD I will always feel an overwhelming sense of rejection. It is a type of quicksand I find myself often stuck in. While searching for some deep insight to offer for a devotional I continue to find myself stuck in the mud.
One sound though occasionally echoes in my mind as a call to hope. The lyrics of an ancient psalm. A psalm of hope, renewal and freedom. So I offer those words as my devotional this lent. If you know the tune sing this with me.
I waited patiently for the Lord.He inclined and heard my cry.He brought me up out of the pit.Out of the mire and clay.He set my feet upon the rock.And made my footsteps firm.Many will see and many will see and fearI will sing, sing a new song…….Psalm 40 1-3 paraphrasedA song of Hope and Praise
by Joe Dennis
“The Lord is near to those who are discouraged; he saves those who have lost all hope.” –Psalm 34:18
Little thought went into it, and it likely took a few seconds to write. It was a text I received on Sept. 11, 2014 from a former student (who was in my class in fall 2011):
I was thankful for the millionth time that I learned the silence interviewing technique from you. Amazing what people will decide to share during a 5-second lapse in conversation. Thank you!
This seemingly nonchalant text may have changed my life, as it came at one of the lowest points of my life. The text came at 7:12 that evening, as I was in the middle of a breakdown. Hours earlier I had just left the hospice where we had transferred my father. With my flight back home in just a couple hours, I had to hurriedly say goodbye to my dad and kissed him on the forehead. I knew that was the last time I would talk to him.
My mom was an emotional wreck so I was trying to stay strong for her while at the same time keeping one eye on my watch to not miss my flight. I knew I had to see Carla and the boys — I had been home so little the last few weeks that Matthew thought I had moved out. Work wasn’t even on my radar. My inbox was so full of angry emails and my suitcase was packed with ungraded papers, that I feared venturing into work.
I sat in my airplane seat as tears streamed down my face. I had hastened my last conversation with my dad. I had evaded my mom’s emotional pleas. I have ignored my wife, my kids, my colleagues and my students. I had failed everyone. I had lost hope.
Then that text came.
It came seconds before I had to shut off my phone, leaving me the 2-hour flight to feel its impact: in a moment in which I’m feeling my absolute worst, I was still affecting someone else’s life for the better. That simple text message was the best thing that could’ve happened to me in that moment.
The message came from a former student, but I know it also came from God, lifting me up when I most needed it.
Prayer: God, in the time when we most need you, you are there. Help us see you, and thank you for being there for us. Amen.
God’s Child Now
Sermon by The Rev. Lisa Caine
Dec. 28, 2014
Luke 2:22-40 and Galatians 4:4-7
The birth of a child is an occasion that calls forth family, religious, and social traditions. Announcements are sent; sometimes a rose is placed on the altar or communion table in honor of the child’s birth; in some families a baptismal gown is handed down from generation to generation; parents bring the child to the church for baptism. There is something about bringing an infant or small child to the place of worship, and there offering the child to God and receiving God’s blessing in return.
In Luke’s gospel that we just heard, Jesus’ parents responded to his birth by attending to the religious obligations of their Jewish faith. Their ancestral traditions were a reminder to them that Jesus was born into the covenant established between God and God’s people Israel. Since the time of the Exodus, the first born son was to be given to God, and was to belong to God in a special way and dedicated to serving God. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple, Luke’s first audience would have remembered another mother who took her son to the temple. Hannah, who had been unable to have children, prayed for a son, and she vowed that she would give him to God for all his days. And so after Samuel was born, she brought him to the temple and “lent” him to God for life, and he would grow up to be the high priest, the one who chose and anointed David as the King.
Thus, when Joseph and Mary present Jesus to God in Jerusalem, they are in effect consecrating his life to God’s service. The angel Gabriel had told Mary that her son would be “holy” and called the “Son of God,” thus this story sets the stage for Jesus’ life to be devoted fully to God. And Luke tells us at the end of today’s reading that from the earliest of days, Jesus grew in wisdom and was favored by God.
Two thousand years have passed, and today Emily and Ryan have brought Cara for baptism. And although separated by centuries, and indeed by our understanding of God that has been revealed to us in Mary and Joseph’s son, there are similarities we can note that draw us together in very special ways with our spiritual ancestors.
First, of course, we share a sense of identity. In the epistle reading that Sharon read earlier, Paul says we are “adopted sons and daughters of God,” and since we are sons and daughters, we are God’s children now, and heirs through God. When we are born, we enter into our individual families, and when we are baptized, we enter into the larger family of faith. It is this family then that helps us hold on to our true identity as God’s child, when a multitude of external forces bend and shape us this way and that – things like what we do, where we go to school, who we know, or where we live.
Martin Luther is said to have reminded himself in times of despair, “I am baptized.” By stating his true identity, he was able to restore balance and proper perspective in stressful times. Perhaps for all of us, when nothing else seems to be going right on any given day, we can at least remind ourselves that we are baptized, that we are part of something much larger, much deeper, and much richer than ourselves that will outlast our current difficulties.
Second, we also share the need for community. Joseph and Mary took Jesus to a public place, the temple, and there they were encountered by Simeon and Anna, both of whom had been waiting for that day. Simeon held Jesus in his arms, and thanked God for the opportunity to see this child. Anna praised God and told everyone around her about the baby.
Earlier, you as Cara’s church family, took vows to live “according to the example of Christ,” and to” surround her with a community of love and forgiveness.” You are the Simeons and Annas of Cara’s life; the ones who will see how special she is; who will smile with welcome when she comes to Sunday School, and who will encourage her and show her how she too may grow in wisdom and in favor with God.
Baptism is a community undertaking, not a private event; it is a welcoming service. We are saying “this is your family; this is your home.” But what has been done here this morning is not simply a lone Sunday morning event because faith is a lifelong process of learning and growth. All of us are still learning, still growing. And our purpose here is to nurture, challenge, and deepen one another’s faith through our shared communion with one another. Together we develop our vision, our mission, our values, and our identity as children of God. And in difficult times, when any one of us has trouble remembering our core identity, our relationship with one another reminds us of our relationship with God, and reminds us that we are never without family.
Finally, we share an attitude of hope. Anna tells anyone who will listen that the redemption of Israel is near and Simeon thanks God that through many years of waiting he has finally seen God’s salvation. We believe too in the hope given to us through the Christ child. This hope allows us to testify that through Christ, God has given us the tomorrow that makes it possible for us to endure all that has happened to us yesterday. Life is not a simple straight journey from point A to point B. It holds many twists and turns, some doubling back, and repeating. But through its meandering path, we have the hope that we affirm each time we celebrate our other sacrament, the Lord’s Supper, and we say Christ has died – which admits that yesterday was pretty terrible; Christ is risen – but things have turned around now; Christ will come again – a great tomorrow awaits us. . With baptism we are connected to Christ and we receive the power and hope for all our tomorrows, a hope we are called to remember for ourselves and to share with others.
Today is a special day; Cara was named and claimed as a child of God. We welcome her to a journey that will take her whole life. Today wasn’t the end; it marked the beginning of God’s work in her life. The God who claimed her before she can understand, gives us and gives her hope for a future that is known only to God. What God will make of her, we do not know. Where God will take her, how God will surprise her, we cannot say. But this one thing we know for sure – just as Mary and Joseph knew about their own son that day so long ago in the temple – the God who has given Cara this promise today will be faithful to her throughout her life and beyond. In all times and in all things, God is with her and will be with her always. Thanks be to God.
Sermon by The Rev. Lisa Caine
May 4, 2014
Text of sermon coming soon.