Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sermon from June 24, 2012

4th Sunday After Pentecost – Job 38:1-11 and Mark 4:35-41 

Rev. Michael Fry preaching
at East Bethany PC
June 24, 2012

The most frequent command in the Bible is “Do not be afraid.” 

Time and time again angels and people who speak for God begin their speech or conversation with some variation of these words.  When the angel spoke to Mary to tell her that she would carry God’s child he said, “Fear Not.” 

After all it is scary to come into contact with the one who laid the foundations of the earth and set the boundaries of the sea.  God is greater than our understanding and we fear what we do not understand, we fear what we do understand – in fact we are very good at being afraid and some times fear paralyzes us. 

Yet we have this understanding of God as a Father who loves his children very much.  And the familiarity of this image engenders a misleading sense of ease with God despite God’s powerful nature and because God is all powerful it is right for us to fear the Lord, because as any parent there are times that I think God must be extremely frustrated and angry with us. 

When God answers Job essentially asking, “Just who are you to question me.”  God does so out of a whirlwind speaking out of a powerful windstorm that is not gentle or comforting – God is angry. 

Likewise, I don’t imagine Jesus gently asking his disciples, “Why are you frightened?  Do you still have no faith?”  And their response is fear at the power this man Jesus has that extends beyond healing to include being able to command both wind and waves. 

They thought that they knew this Jesus that they were following, after all he shared with them the hidden meaning of the parables that he taught.  They were part of the inner circle and had the familiarity with him that made them feel comfortable waking him up and accusing him of not caring that they are about to die in this storm. 

Remember that many of these men were fishermen; they were accustomed to boats, water, and presumably storms on the lake –that they were afraid of this particular storm tells us something significant about the conditions of the water that night.  And Jesus is sleeping through it – it appears that he does not care. 

And often times in the storms of our life it seems as if God is absent or at best asleep in the boat as we struggle to keep it afloat.  In our battles do we not also cry out, ‘God where are you?  Why is this happening?  and Don’t you care?!’ 
·      Don’t you care that people are treated without justice?
o   Don’t you care that people cheat and mistreat one another? 
·      Don’t you care that church participation is declining? 
·      Don’t you care that I am sick with cancer? 
·      And why don’t you come down and do something about it? 

Indeed, where is God in this?  Because it really does seem like God is absent. 

In this passage of scripture we learn that God is right there in the boat with us.  The disciples don’t know yet that Jesus is God.  We do because we are reading the story but they do not know it yet.  And they just woke God up – the biggest sleeping giant that there ever was and ever will be.  I’d be scared too! 

The truth is that storms are going to happen to us individually and as a community.  Storms are going to occur whether we are Christian, Atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, or Mormon.  Accidents and sickness are part of life.  But the difference is as Christians we believe and we have faith that God is with us in the boat ready and willing to calm the storm, even if our faith wavers we are promised that God is with us always. 

Rev. David Lose, a professor at Luther Seminary, sees a connection between faith and trust – if we have faith in a person or an organization then we have trust in them.  Think about it this way, when Alex is old enough to go to summer camp I’m going to check it out pretty thoroughly because I want to make sure he is safe while he is away.  I am trusting, that summer camp with my son that they have experienced and responsible councilors and staff that are going to take care of him. 

We trust hospitals to care for us and heal us and when they don’t or they make a mistake we loose the faith and trust we placed in them.  Non-profit organizations loose their credibility if they misuse funds that we donate to them. 

And unfortunately the church is not immune to this either because we place an immense amount of trust and faith in them because they are in many ways our connection to God. Trust is broken when a child is molested by a priest or a Sunday school teacher and not just with that person but also, with the church because that individual’s action reflects on the church that put them in the position to care for the children. 

If a pastor behaves inappropriately trust is broken because that person is supposed to relate God’s steadfast love, compassion, and challenge to the congregation.  A side effect of this can be that the congregation’s faith in God is broken as well.

Leaders are unable to lead if trust is not established or if trust is broken because people are not willing to take risks if they do not trust the person who challenges them.  And once trust is broken it is so hard to repair, so hard to heal. 

The disciples’ cry, “Don’t you care that we are about to die?” is fear induced response against Jesus, against God essentially saying that they don’t trust him.  Which is very different from saying, “teacher we need your help here, grab an oar.” 

And even though Jesus is peeved at the disciples apparent lack of faith and trust, angry that they accuse him of not caring he does not abandon them.   Jesus calms the storm and sticks with them helping their faith grow. 

They do not understand quite yet who he is or what he is about; before they had witnessed the healing of the sick and now have personally experienced his saving power in the storm.  They know that Jesus woke up in the storm when they called and gave them peace.  They know that nature follow his command and perhaps they are thinking that they better put more and more of their trust in him after all he is someone who had saved their lives, he is someone to be listened to, and he is someone they want to follow – and he is someone we want to follow. 

I wonder what you are afraid of and how together we might, ask for God’s help when the wind picks up and tosses our boat around on the water making us certain that we are about to perish?

Will we respond seeking guidance from the Lord that we trust?  Or will we blame and accuse God of not caring? 

The interesting aspect of this story of Jesus on the lake with the disciples is that Jesus does not punish their lack of faith, but gives them more reason to believe.  He invites them deeper in faith and trust in their relationship with God through him and this enables them to one day share the Good News that they were entrusted with. 

Believe the Good News that we too are embraced, despite our faults, and our lack of faith, that we too are invited into deeper faith and trust in God who has adopted us as sons and daughters. 

Remember, you are God’s beloved child; do not be afraid. 

I’d like you to turn to your neighbors and say, You are God’s beloved child; do not be afraid.

Believe the Good News, you are God’s beloved child; do not be afraid.  Amen.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Evening at the Ballpark (Batavia Muckdogs Game)

Friday, July 6th

Picnic begins at 6 PM with game at 7:05 PM (fireworks following the game)

$20/adult, $15/child (Ages 4-14), Kids 3 and under are FREE

Members and friends of the East Bethany and Covington Presbyterian congregations are invited to join together for a night of fun at the Batavia Muckdogs Stadium (Dwyer Stadium).  We will be enjoying a picnic and a Muckdogs game (vs. the Connecticut Tigers) with fireworks to follow!

We will have our own tent with an all-you-can-eat picnic of char-grilled Zwiegle’s hotdogs, hamburgers & cheeseburgers, watermelon, potato chips, pasta salad, potato salad and soda. 

We need a final count and payment in advance so we need RSVPs by Sunday, July 1st.  Members of the East Bethany Church can contact Susan Boyle (344-2931 or 704-2495) and members of the Covington Church can contact Laura Fry.  We need to include children 3 and under in our count as well, even though they are free. 

This is a great opportunity to invite friends and family to join us for an evening of fun while introducing them to our church families.  Share this information with all of your friends.  See you at the game!

Praying the Creed

From a blog called "...in the Meantime."  A video worth watching before the next time you pray The Apostles' Creed.

Praying the Creed

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sermon from June 3rd

Trinity Sunday – Romans 8:12-17 (John 3:1-17, and Psalm 29)

Rev. Michael Fry preaching
at East Bethany PC
June 3, 2012

As Christians we have received an incredible inheritance! 

But before we get to that, let’s think of the things we inherit…
·      Jewelry, land, houses, money, stocks, cars, and so on. 
o   If we have older brothers and sisters we have inherited the clothes they grew out of or the bicycle they used to use. 

And who normally inherits thing? 
·      People who are included in the will. 
o   And if there is not a good will then the people involved usually fight about who gets what and this can often turns in to bitterness. 

We have inherited things that we do not realize.  For example: we inherited the families that we are part of as well as their history that includes all the benefits and trauma or drama that come with them. 

We have also inherited the earth we live on, our faith, and the church that we participate in, which also like our family has a history that includes joys as well as disappointments and hurt.  

As children of God who are led by the Spirit, we are promised freedom and life.  As Sons and Daughters of God we have received the same inheritance as Christ – who was raised from death and is with God in heaven.  As heirs with Christ we have received the abundant gift of grace. 

As Children of God we are obligated to live according to the Spirit and to bury sinful actions instead of following human nature.   And in doing so we are freed from living by the constraints of this world. 

What I mean is that we do not have to play by the same rules as everyone else.  Of course the bills we have still need to be paid and if we have a job we should do it and enjoy it as much as we can but as heirs of God we do it with a different attitude which I think is summed up best in Micah 6:8, that our life with God requires us to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. 

When we do not do justice, love kindness, or walk humbly with God as we are called to do we become slaves to the world around us.  We get worn down because we look out for ourselves instead of others.  Trying to protect ourselves we become callous instead of compassionate.  We are concerned continually with the question, What is in it for me?  Which leads us to ask ourselves on Sunday morning, What am I going to get out of going to church?  Wrapped up in this question is, Is it worth the trouble of getting dressed and going? 

We learn this behavior and these questions because of just about everything that surrounds us – on TV, the internet, even billboards.  We learn this behavior from people who are around us – friends, colleagues at work, other children at school, people we look up to or who are prominent in our lives – such as parents, teachers, actors, and athletes. 

From these role models we learn – how to win and how to lose, how to handle anger and disappointment, attitudes of pride and arrogance or attitudes of grace and humility. 

From athletes we learn that performance is tied to their contract that is negotiated by an agent and that they are under so much pressure to win that it is acceptable to use steroids and super painkillers if it means that they can compete on a higher level. 

We learn of bounty programs like the New Orleans Saints football team where players were rewarded for intentionally injuring players on opposing teams during their games to improve their chance of winning. 

In politics we learn the importance of tearing down our opponents by pointing out their faults, exploiting their weaknesses, and encouraging fears that potential voters might have – this is further encouraged by how we can like or not like something or someone on Facebook, which is another kind of voting that we do. 

What we see teaches us how to view and interpret the world.  If we see negative images we are more likely to think negatively about our selves and be suspicious of other people.
·      In a normal day are we more likely to see images of life and healing or images of death and violence? 
·      Do we view the world we live in as a world of abundance or scarcity? 
·      Do we have a spirit of gratitude or do we take things for granted? 

Living by the Spirit as Paul encourages us to do frees us to live with compassion without fear, to share God’s love with others in word and deed, to enact the grace we have received.  We are freed to worship, to honor God and our neighbors, living generously in sharing what we have with others. 

In our every day lives, living by the Spirit frees us so that we may do what God likes instead of what the world likes, allowing us to be different from our neighbors. 

We receive status in God’s eyes, we are adopted as children of God.  Good parents not only love their children, but they provide for them, clothe them, protect them, comfort them, tuck them in at night, they set boundaries for them, and they teach them how to live. 

As Christians, God has freed us from captivity to the world and has promised to care for us in abundance. 

Let’s look at this abundance for a moment.  The very first miracle or wonder Jesus performs in the Gospel of John is turning water into wine.  He is at a wedding where the finest food and drink is provided and they run out of wine.  This is a disaster imagine going to wedding and sitting there waiting for your slice of cake only to find out that it isn’t coming because somebody miscalculated.  If it were me I’d be pretty mad. 

But not Jesus he goes and provides not just wine but an abundance of wine 180 gallons of the best wine you can imagine.  What was an opportunity for disgrace and criticism turns out to be a moment for grace to be shared and for the steward of the wedding feast to be complemented. 

So let’s go back to the cake that we are waiting for that is not coming and that we are insulted because we gave up our Saturday afternoon or evening to come to a wedding where the couple shows their ungratefulness for our support by not having enough cake and what happens, but suddenly more cake appears and this cake is even better than the cake that the others who got some earlier got.  I’d be thrilled and I’d want other to have an opportunity to taste this cake too. 

If God can do this with wine and cake think about the possibilities for our life! 

This is the inheritance of abundant life we receive when the Spirit adopts us as God’s own sons and daughters. 

And the Good News is – God has adopted you as his own beloved child.  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Change of Plans!

Worship in the Park which was scheduled for tomorrow is being moved back to the church due to the weather.  It is expected to be rainy and cold tomorrow so we thought this was the best plan.  We will still be having lunch and games after the service so just bring a dish to pass and enjoy a fun afternoon with your church family.

Mission Committee News This Saturday at 9:00am we are invited to gather at the First Presbyterian Church in Batavia to help with projec...