Sunday, October 24, 1999

Age to Age

Asbury First United Methodist Church

Text: I Corinthians 13:13, Mark 4: 35-41, John 15: 1-12, Ephesians 6: 13-17

Beloved, Sisters and Brothers in Christ, our children bring us so much week by week. We also recognize that the parade in which they have been involved is one into which we are folded, day by day and especially week by week. As they are processing down the center aisle we too find our places in a parade of God's faithful, God's covenant people through many years and many places and at many times.

This is the parade of Abraham, and of Isaac and of Jacob. This is the parade of Deborah and of Ruth and of Esther. This is the parade of Peter and James and John and this is the parade of the people of God at Asbury First in the year of our Lord 1999.

We are invited by the scripture read today to remember ourselves as part of God's people in the world. "I am the vine and you are the branches" and through God's fruitful presence among us God's spirit is giving life to the fruit of God's spirit in love, joy and peace and kindness and goodness, especially today in faith and in gentleness and in self—control.

Yes, we are the people of God and we have joined together in this moving, on-going parade of faith through time.

Because the Bible speaks directly to us and we honor its place in our common life today, we have asked four lay witnesses to raise their voices and personally to bear witnesses to the fruit of the spirit, the gift of faith and I'm so happy to introduce to you first of all, Barbara Steen.

Barbara Steen

The scripture I have chosen for this morning is I Corinthians 13th Chapter, 13th Verse (J.B. Phillips Translation) ,"In this life, we have three great lasting qualities-faith, hope and love-but the greatest of them is love."

As some of you know, Tom, my late husband and I lost out two children-Susie and Tom. The greatest gift we have is God's love-the essence of the spiritual life is love-that's really our only security-everything else can be snatched away. The things that have helped me are my deep faith, my love of God, my prayer life and all the love and support I receive from my friends everywhere.

I always remember Tom saying to me and to his congregations: "Our children are loaned to us, that we might learn from them-they have much to teach us. In life we have to learn attachment and detachment, for we only keep what we give away."

God is very real to me-I believe in the Holy Spirit-and I do feel His presence continually at my side. I am grateful to Him for still have a zest for life! That doesn't mean I don't have sad moments and lonesome days-of course I do-but God is the One I depend on.

I have learned many things regarding my spiritual journey. I need to make sure that my inner life and outer life are going in the same direction. Gordon Cosby, a dear friend, said, "One of the great weakness of our lives today is that, while we have talked about the inward journey, I doubt if any of us has actually worked with the inner life in the depth that is crucial." I feel strongly that this church, Asbury First, has this as one of its top priorities. Right, Bob?

I will close with these thoughts that have great meaning for me, and that ties into the scripture I have chosen for this morning. Tom said at Susies memorial service:

"The love God gave today,
Must be spent today,
Not tomorrow, or the next day,
But today.

You can't store up love,
Love has to be experienced day by day.
God only comes alive, as you spend
That which He gives you each day.
It is not given to hoard,
You have to love and serve God each day."

And you know what? That's where the blessing is! AMEN.

Rev. Robert Hill

These Beloved are the voices of the people of God, for one and all. Love is given and spent day by day. We receive God's grace like Manna in the wilderness, like euchrist morning and evening. Like the fruit of the spirit that is to be enjoyed, not enjoined. That is to be consumed not controlled. That is to be received, not achieved.

You are the people of God, your hallmark, your watchword is not I must, I shall, it is rather I may, I can. The world is full of potential. For freedom, Christ has set us free, and the Holy Scripture at 66 books together is a library about freedom. The bible is a book about freedom. So the pulpit is about freedom, and the church is the defense of the voice of freedom and the book of freedom.

We are celebrating today the glorious liberty of the children of God, and so from Age to Age we hear the voices of faith, faith is a gift we receive. Today we also have the honor of our high pulpit, fifteen feet above contradiction. A voice of the future to Jessica Dutcher who speaks to us about a boat and a storm and a Lord.

Jessica Scott-Dutcher

This scripture I chose was Mark 4: 35-41,where Jesus stills a storm. On that day when everyone had come he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side" and leaving the crowd behind they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great wind storm arose, and the waves beat the wind to the boat. So the boat was already beginning to be swamped, but he was in the stern, asleep in the cushion. And they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher do you not care that we are perishing? He woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, Peace, be still", and then the wind ceased and there was a dead calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" and they were filled with great awe and then they said to one another, "Who is this that did this? Even the wind and the sea obey him.

I've always liked this story, ever since my mom read it to me when I was little. In the book, "The Mouse's Story", the mouse lives on the fishing boat Jesus took out to sea that day. I can just imagine being the mouse on the ship, with the storm crashing and banging, and Jesus just sleeping.

I like this story because it reminds me that in the middle of our troubles, like the storm, Jesus can calm us down.

Rev. Robert Hill

In the midst of the storms of life Jesus can always calm us down by bringing to us the fruit of the spirit in this season of spiritual harvest. You are a people on a journey. You're a part of the parade of God's covenant folk. You also know at your heart, in the marrow of life that freedom is our great birthright, our living sense of God's presence.

But God also in the scripture gives witness to your life as a part of a community. The scripture is a communal book. It has a history, it doesn't fall from heaven without any intervening hand, it is human as well as divine it requires interpretation and so as the people of God we invest carefully and heavily in the interpretation of scripture. In the building and maintenance of a beautiful nave, in the setting of a high pulpit, in the support of clergy and other interpreters, the job of the interpreter, the main job is to be an advocate for that which is interpreted.

And so today we are a part of a community in which we know freedom, through which we parade in time. One among us, Robert Payne is going to speak to us about a parable and about a sower, I believe. Bob.

Bob Payne

In Mark 4:26-29 Jesus is explaining the kingdom of God to his disciples through the parable of the growing seed: He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain-first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come." Earlier in Mark 4, Jesus referred to the seeds that had fallen on the good soil as multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.

As I was growing up, my parents had introduced me to this story, and as I look back, it seems that there was a lot of reinforcement of it throughout the years. Things like the part of the Lord's Prayer about being led not into temptation, things like the golden rule, and even a lecture by Stephen Covey about valuing personal integrity above personal gain. Some of you have heard me mention a little prayer about asking for direction amid some of life's trying situations. As I pass through middle age, I start to see evidence of the value of adhering to this guidance. But the harvest I am reaping isn't material. The real harvest is the overwhelming feeling of support around me in all of my activities and responsibilities, whether it is at work, during family time, or as part f the Stephen Ministry. Sure, some seeds will not ripen, but consistent sowing of the good seeds will eventually be rewarded.

And speaking of seeds, as the chairperson of our Stewardship Work Area, I have also planted some in the form of pledge cards in the ritual of friendship tablets, so that any among us who might need a little reminder about our current pledge campaign could help Asbury plan its ministries for the coming year. In an earlier announcement, I referred to opportunities facing Asbury that are dependent upon additional funding, and asked if we could all consider taking a step in increasing our pledge. One way that some could do this is to continue pledging at the level which included the roof campaign, even after the conclusion of the roof project mid-next-hear.

Keep planting! Share the joy of harvest!

Rev. Robert Hill

Thank you Bob. What a picture of the divine Bob has shared with us. Did you see it? A sower went out to sow.

God is not worried. God does not fret. God does not have a furrowed brow. What a picture of optimism! Sisters and Brothers in Christ, we worship Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. The scripture is the story of the people of God, born for freedom. On parade in history, known in the person and work of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior.

We meet today at the intersection. At the dawn of the east, with the twilight of the west, of the cool of the north, and the calm of the south, of the transcendence, presence and love of God with the imminent, humble, earthly Christ, of male and female, black and white, rich and poor, one and all here at ground zero.

The scripture reminds us of our identity, our names, our baptismal covenant in Christ Jesus. So today we hear two voices that are a little older than I currently am and two voices that are a little younger and our final lay witness is Mr. Jessie Welch who loves the scripture from Ephesians about the whole armor of God. Jessie has received his Bible today, let us give ear to this word.

Jessie Welch

Therefore, take a whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Rev. Robert Hill

Thank you Jessie.

And are we not on parade, and are we not freed by God's grace and do we not receive the gift of the spirit of God known in faith, are we not bound together in community do we not find our name in that name that that is above every name? Beloved let love be genuine, hate what is evil, hold fast what is good, love one another with mutual affection, outdo one another in showing honor, never lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord, rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer, contribute to the needs of the saints. Practice hospitality. Amen.