One man's journey to find the way home
I am an American Baptist ordained minister. I began my life journey in Massachusetts, where I was called to help people understand what it meant to know a loving God. The call came during a time when I was wrestling with how to help my brother Kurt, who was diagnosed with Schizophrenia during my high school years. I was a new Christian by my senior year following trying to understand what it meant for me to care about a person like my brother who others tended to stay away from. |
After twenty three years in Massachusetts, God sent me to the land of Kansas City where I spent about 35 years of my life. I was a pastor, a resident chaplain, a supervisor in training and most recently a caregiver and security. Everything I have done vocationally has been with God in mind. That does not mean that I am totally comfortable with all the movings of the Spirit.
I am now in Erie where I do not know very many people. I came here because of my wife. She is from Erie and coming here was the right thing to do. It just plain made sense. My kids had grown up. I did not like Kansas city in terms of climate and was looking forward to a change. I had become very frustrated vocationally and longed to come to Erie to get a second opinion, because I honestly believed that was what God had wanted for me. I left behind kids and grandkids who I loved!!!! I had two jobs that I enjoyed. They were both very appreciative of my skills and I was making more money with the two jobs than I ever had. I heard more than once. ARE YOU CRAZY?
Well I can only say that I am in love with God's leading. I am starting all over again. It has not been easy. Maybe some of you can offer me some words of support. I am lonely despite the fact my wife is with me. She battles depression and has two siblings that are having similar battles. When it is all said I am in a depressed community with a depressed wife and her family. So I begin the conversation....
|Only God knows. My sermon is about witnessing to withness which means reaching out to receive God's power, walking with to know God forgiveness and compassion, celebration of partnership that leads others to know Christ.
This is the message I get from Matthew and Isaiah. Isaiah sharing clearly the difference between idolatry and worship, the old Jerusalem vs new, as it relates to being a caring presence and the importance of a church, Messianic mission that transcends a desire to become a people of God without desire to include others. Matthew is the gospel of the dreamer tax collector who shares the gift of Emmanuel to joeseph who will marry s virgin with child leading into a celebration of the great commission
My main story makes sense with Bible as paint brush, the desire not to water down and ultimately inviting other to join the dance of knowing Jesus, embracing this can be a reality.
|I am older by a couple days to my sermon, sobered quite a bit by reading Isaiah.
I would still stick to my parable focus and yet I. The light of the word for witness Ed, where one Hebrew letter sees the ayin as an eye and the other part that leads to life or death. This is the intent as Isaiah shares with Israel what puts them in the way of judgement from nation's that forced Israel to consider the difference between the work of God's hands working compassion and the works of men that were concerned with entitlement because of what I did, whether or not it included God.
The sense of painting a steeple offers up the hope of people in Jerusalem, not considering how false piety and ritual kept them from caring for the widow and oppressed. As siblings it could be easy to see the steeple and think what a great job it was only to be reminded as dad got closer to finishing the work as a storm approached the words repaint and thin no more. Even in our own day with best intentions we can water down the gospel and be faced with destruction.
As a youth this phrase came to me when! Was at my lowest point. I felt like I had failed and disappointed my church and God. A few years prior I received what I understood to be a call that came with financial and moral support and now wondering if it could end God came to me and shared a way out of my funk.
The first avenue or way out was to consider the power of God's hand. In Exodus God share how his outstretched hand will make a difference. In Isaiah 40 and 41 it is clearly stated before my main scripture verse.
In the gospels we read about the man with withered hand who was healed on the Sabbath as religious people looked on in anger. Jesus tells him to stretch out his hand as if to indicate it was God's hand.
In my own story of recovering it was a man with muscular dystrophy who became my main support in leaving my self pity and resuming my call. It started with us playing chess and overtime he learned of my desire to pastor. He became my main support as I headed back to college and seminary. During that time I assisted with tasks like eating and going to the bathroom. Little did I know at that time that activity was put to use in taking care of many others.
Ii. In the next arena is the temptations that can steer us from knowing forgiveness. Our own effort at sharing how we made an impression on God can get in the way of God delivering His own message when we need it most. Isaiah spends a lot of time talking about alliances that created trouble, tempting people to trust in the idols of other nations.
Jesus in the gospels is faced with three temptations by Satan in the wilderness that reflect our own struggles to accept God at deeper levels. First the is turning stones into bread, a reminder that God's word offers better provision. There is temptation to jump off the temple and realize with Jesus we don't test God. In Isaiah this turned into prophecy about Emmanuel that is the second scripture we study in Matthew. Lastly is the temptation to rule without cosezu
|It starts with the story of a painter with a withered hand terrified by the voice that comes out of the storm repaint and thin no more even as his partners stare on in amazement as to what will happen next.
The story cuts to how Isaiah in his own time 600 years before the coming of Christ answers a call in the temple. When hearing the question if who to send Isaiah says send me, little knowing the lessons that needed to be learned along the way.
In my own life knowing an experience of being called when a teenager was not nearly enough. A few years into my study I experienced a depression that nearly derailed me. This concept of witness to withness came to me when things were at their worst. This is the story of how one can ride up out of the ashes to discover a renewed sense of call that could only come from God.
Witness to withness means reaching out with withered hand. The text I will share comes out of Mark chapter three. There is a man with a withered hand being approached in the Sabbath as the religious authorities of his own time look in Jesus says stretch out your hand which alluded to God's own rendering out of Exodus if reaching out God's own hand to reveal power to overcome oppression. Sure enough he is healed contrast how he was able to receive power that the Pharisees could not.
In my own story it was the joining together if myself with a man who had muscular dystrophy, he became my support and God's own hand and bringing me back to a sense of a call when it seemed too easy to give up rather than disappoint people in the church who had given me financial and various other encouragement as I began my education to be a pastor. I would come to find out this new friend I met in rehab was very much into church and he cheered me on as I reentered the same place where my emotional crisis took place to see me graduate cum laude, even further as I went to seminary from Massachusetts to Kansas City
Ii. Witness to withness is finding the courage and wisdom to stand with God even as God wills us to stand with others. This is the essence of what Emmanuel is. God is with us. In the incarnational presence of Jesus Christ.
A. There is a great book about how Satan uses shame to enslave us and Jesus shares by standing up to Satan we know forgiveness.
1. There is no need to have to turn to stones into bread when we can know God will provide.
2. There is no need to test God by doing something fantastic like jumping off a temple.
3. The is no need to serve Satan in our darkest moment as Jesus was tempted to do when we serve the only God who stands with us to learn about compassion and love.
B. The story of Thomas and Jesus in the Upper room illustrates this point. Thomas has a hard time believing Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus stands with him as he does with us and says see the wounds, reach out and touch. We hear Thomas confession "my Lord and my God". Indeed celebrating Emmanuel God with us.
C. During my journey into seminary I went to counseling and psychiatrists who took me off medicine I had been taking affirming my journey to reaffirm my call after my calamity. During this same time I made acquaintance of a man from Pakistan who asked that I stay with him while awaiting his family to arrive. In the course of eating his tasty food I get a call from my family telling my little sister was dying from a rare disease. The doctor was already preparing family for the fact she would die I was asked to pray. And I am so glad David was with me in those moments he took over and lead us into fervent prayer. I shall never forget his voice bellowing over my tears. I have decided to follow Jesus. And yes my sister lived, is currently very active in her church, has five children and if all strange coincidences married a man named David. If God is for us standing with us who can be against us?.
III Witness's to Withness is learning to embrace others as I am knowing myself to be embraced by God. Isaiah alludes to this possibility in the coming of the suffering servant Messiah.
A. The prophet Elijah had his own battles with depression and out of the midst of this asks the question of Elijah from a still small voice in the breeze. He goes on to tell him his work is not done. This was the grand truth that brought me to Erie from Kansas City. God had more work for me to do and people who could not wait to see me even as I would recover that same fervency for ministry when I got there.
B. In that sense I have and am encouraging others to know the embrace of God. I recall my first day of entering on to the church grounds. There was a man named Paul cutting the grass and letting me know the office was open. I had not even called in advance. And I was to find out this church was American Baptist. I had been an American Baptist all my life. And wouldn't you know it the pastor's wife was there to embrace me.
C. The pulpit supply class has been a source of hope and encouragement. I am not sure what I thought would happen. In the last segment their was much talk about partnership and I knew my sermon and knew I can to the right place. None of us can do the task alone we need each other to take care of the needs of God's people wherever they are. This is the essence of being a witness to withness and how it works. And I look forward to learning more as I continue my work with intellectually disabled, singing cantatas, taking care of my wife which was what lead me here in the first place above all ministering in whatever way God would have me serve.
Conclusion: witness to withness is reaching out to know the power of God, standing with someone who needs our support and prayers and experiencing the embrace if a partnership of leading others to Christ as we are indeed continuing to be lead. I would invite us all for a time of celebrating what has been preached in the fellowship hall. Thank you so much for being here supportive of the giving of God's message.
|Witness to withness:
1. Repaint and thin no more
2. The craft room, God can be said to be crafty
I. God offers us all opportunity to enter the withered hand
A. Moses experience of withering
B. Jesus heals a withered hand on the Sabbath.
C. My dad was said to be withering away
Ii. Letting the feet of Jesus come alongside.
A. Casting aside shame.
1. More than the bread we eat, woman anointing
2. More than a great act, don't test God.
3. More than need to rule and be in control.
B. Jesus on the cross suffers with us.
C. Jesus offers as he stands beside us to enter the wounds to find out who God is.
D. Mom's peace in raising special ❤️ needs
III. The Holy Spirit calls in a gentle voice join the team.
A. The story of Elijah as it intersected mine.
1. Where are you going? The one loner
2. More work to be done.
B. By the holy spirit we are in this together in partnership to see God's work done and blessings flow.
Conclusion: Let us take time as so many broken people to embody this truth and come on board.
1. Reach up to join God's hand and then embrace the hands of others
2. Let us stand knowing we are not alone
3. Let us pray looking forward to seeing fruit if partnering to lead others to Christ.
Indeed repaint the image of church for others to see and thin no more. Witness to withness.