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A New Vision, January 7, 2018

January 8th, 2018

A New Vision

Isaiah 60:1-6 & Matthew 2:1-12

 

Bishop David Bard, who preached here in July, sent a New Year Message to Michigan United Methodists. Reflecting on his first year as Michigan Area’s Bishop, he said this, “This past year has been a year of deepening love—love for the Michigan Area, our churches and our people; love for our identified vision as a conference; to be Christ-centered, engaging in mission and ministry, developing and encouraging bold and effective leaders, and nurturing and growing vibrant congregations. I love that our vision serves an even larger vision, the vision God has for a newer world.” (The Joyful Journey, January 3, 2018, Michigan Area website)

The word ‘vision’ began to bounce around my mind, and I began to wonder what kind of vision would cause the three wise men to follow the star to Bethlehem.

This Sunday is called Epiphany on the church calendar, and it is a celebration of the coming of the three wise men. An epiphany is a new way of seeing or understanding. It is appropriate that we should begin a new year with an epiphany, a new way of seeing, a vision, an image of what our world can be, of what our lives can be. Like the three wise men of old, we need to open the eyes of our heart and our mind, to a new vision.

We read in Matthew’s gospel, that the three wise men journeyed to Jerusalem and ask King Herod, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. (v.2)

King Herod doesn’t know, so he asks his chief priests and teachers of the law of Moses. They cite Old Testament scripture, “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel” (v. 6) Old Testament prophecy told of the king of the Jews being born in Bethlehem.

Who were these three wise men asking the question? Tradition says they were men of high position from Parthia, near the site of ancient Babylon. They could have been Jews who remained in Babylon after the Exile. They may have been Gentile astrologers from the east, who studied ancient manuscripts from around the world and studied the stars.

Humans have always been fascinated by the stars. It amazes me that the stars we see today are the same stars God placed in the sky at creation. Jesus had a different perspective of the stars when he viewed them from earth than he had when he was in on creation. Doesn’t that boggle the mind?

Yet, what caused these astrologers, if that is what they were, to follow that star? Some think because of the Jewish exile centuries earlier, they would have had copies of the Old Testament in their land. They may have read Isaiah 60, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, the darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the people, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you—-Nations will come to your light, and the kings to the brightness of your dawn.—And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.” (vv. 1-3,6b)

Or maybe these three wise men had a special message from God directing them to the Messiah. Some scholars say these wise men were each from a different land, representing the entire world bowing before Jesus.

Whatever message they received, from their studying, or from God, these three wise men had a vision and traveled thousands of miles searching for the king, whom they found as a toddler, somewhere between one-and-half and two years old. They not only found him, they brought him gifts. What vision caused them to bring the baby Jesus the gifts they brought?

They gave him gold. Gold is a gift for a king. They also gave him frankincense. Frankincense was the sweet perfume that was used in temple worship and at the temple sacrifices. Frankincense is a gift for a priest. The Latin word for priest is pontifex, which literally means a bridge builder. The priest is a bridge builder between a person and God, and that is Jesus’ ultimate function. He built a bridge between us and God; He made it possible for each one of us to enter into the very presence of God. Think about the cross +, the vertical beam connects us to God. The horizontal beam connects each of us to Jesus. The third gift was myrrh – the gift for one who was to die. Myrrh was used to embalm the bodies of the dead. Jesus came into the world to die. At Christmas we remember this sobering truth – Jesus is the only man who ever chose to be born. We also remember that he chose to die. He gave himself to us in life and he gave himself to us in death, that we might have life.

I spoke last week of how the younger generations do not have a vision of hope for their future, and how this lack of vision is causing some to commit suicide. I found an illustration that encourages us to find a new vision for a better world. A vision not found in our life’s possessions or life’s circumstances, but found in loving and serving God and our neighbor.

Leo Buscaglia Phd., who wrote books on how to love one another, once told a story that happened while he was a professor at the University of Southern California. He had a student who was brilliant and filled with potential. Joel, however, had lost his meaning and purpose for living. He had no vision of a future.

Joel had been brought up in the Jewish faith, but like many young people he had wandered away. God had become a meaningless symbol. He had no motivation to live another day and no one could convince him otherwise. So he prepared to take his own life. On his way, he stopped by Leo’s office. Fortunately, the good doctor was in.

The student told Leo that he had lots of money, clothes and cars. He had been accepted at several of the top engineering schools to work on his Master’s degree. He had everything going for him, even good looks. Women circled around him like sharks. Yet he had nothing inside. There was no fire or passion in his belly. He had no vision, no joy, no enthusiasm, no peace, no harmony.

Leo said, “Before you take your life, I want you to visit some old people at the Hebrew Home which is adjacent to our campus.”

“What for?” the young man asked.

Leo said, “You need to understand life through the eyes of your heart.”

“The eyes of my heart?” the young man asked.

“Yes, you need to experience what it is like to give to those who have lost their connection to a meaningful life. Go to the desk and ask if there are people there who have not been visited for a long time by anyone. You visit them.”

“And say what?” the young man asked.

“I don’t know,” Leo said, “Tell them anything that will give them hope.” Notice Leo’s strategy–we get back what we give.

Leo did not see the student for months. In fact, he largely forgot about him. Then one day during the fall, he saw him coming from a bus with a group of seniors, some of whom were in wheel chairs. Joel had organized a trip to the baseball game with a group of his new senior friends who had not been to a game in years. Leo and Joel chatted for a moment. Just before parting Joel said, “Thanks for helping me find the ‘eyes of my heart.’” Leo nodded and smiled. *

This is Epiphany. Seeing life with new eyes. A New Vision. Seeing new possibilities in our life and in our world. That is what I pray for each of us this day. Whatever vision brought the three wise men to Bethlehem, that vision took them on a journey of faith. When they found the newborn king they offered him gifts, gifts that represented the best of who they were. This is the kind of vision we need as we begin this new year–a vision to build new lives and a new world.

If you’ve lost your vision of a future, I encourage you to go visit a shut in or someone in one of the many nursing homes we have in our area. Visit someone who may not have family or visitors. Share with them words of hope, and as you do, you too will find A New Vision for your life.

 

 

Pastor Rosemary DeHut                                                                          January 7, 2018

 

 

 

References: *Cited by Rev. Richard E. Stetler,

http://www.stmatthews‑bowie.org/Worship/Sermons/2004/sermon_09_26_04.asp.

By: Ironwoodumc

January 8th, 2018

In the Fullness of Time, December 31, 2017

January 3rd, 2018

In the Fullness of Time

Galatians 4:4-7 and Luke 2:21-35

(Quoted scripture us New Revised Standard Version)

 

It seems strange that New Year’s Eve should fall on a Sunday. Some of you are looking forward to New Year’s Eve parties. When our children were little, we would have a sleigh riding New Year’s Eve party at a nearby sand pit dressed in snow. The neighbors would gather with their children, all about the same age, and we’d build a big bon fire and roast hot dogs, drink hot chocolate and share snacks. The kids could stay up as late as they wanted, and we made great family memories. The children are grown now with children of their own, yet they still talk about the New Year’s Eve parties we celebrated as a neighborhood.

Sunday, New Year’s Eve; what an appropriate time to be in worship to celebrate Emmanuel, God with us in His Son Jesus. What an appropriate time to remember God’s mercy and grace, and to resolve to be better Christians in 2018; to resolve to love and serve God and our neighbor better in this coming year.

Of course, you may be like Lucy in an old Peanuts comic strip. Lucy is walking along the road with Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown asks her: “Lucy, are you going to make any New Year’s resolutions?”

Lucy hollers back at him: “What? What for? What’s wrong with me now? I like myself the way I am! Why should I change? What in the world is the matter with you, Charlie Brown? I’m all right the way I am! I don’t have to improve. How could I improve? How, I ask you? How?”

We all know a few Lucys, but most of us are aware that we need to make some improvements in our lives. However, change is never easy, even when it comes to following through with a few resolutions. I just heard that some of the top resolutions are; to get personal finances in order, lose weight, stop smoking, become healthier by eating better and getting more exercise, and improve personal relationships. Some folks even decide to attend church more faithfully. I think they’re going to start next week!

But the fact is that after only one week, almost a quarter of us have bailed out on whatever it was that we had resolved to do to better ourselves; after a month, almost half have given up. It is so easy for us to deny we need to change. Most often we see others who need to change, and we think like Lucy, “I’m all right the way I am! How could I improve?”

The typical cartoon sketch, we often see around New Year’s Day is the Old Year portrayed as a haggard, worn-out looking old man with a long white beard and the New Year portrayed as a fresh-faced newborn baby in a diaper. This cartoon picture reminds us that the last 365 days may have contained trials and tribulations, good things and bad things, events in our own lives, and global events, that if they were to be depicted in one single person, that person would look pretty well beat up and done in come December 31—a far cry from the full-of-promise baby New Year he had been twelve months before.

Since our passage from Luke always occurs in the church year so close to the end of the year, we see some similarity between the old man Simeon beholding the infant Jesus and the old man 2017 holding baby 2018. As Christians, I think we can see this passage as Luke telling us that one long period of the history of God’s people is now coming to a close and a new era—a new beginning—has shown up in the form of that infant Jesus.

Luke 2:25-32, “Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit Simeon came into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Here we have an old man ready for death, and he is holding the baby Jesus who is the new covenant to all people, not just the people of Israel. Luke would later write in chapter 22:20 that as Jesus was celebrating his last supper with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection is a new covenant, a new beginning for the whole world!

The other thing I would lift out is that Simeon was not a priest or someone special in human eyes, although he was special in God’s eyes. He was a simple old man — a layman — an ordinary person. Luke was only underlining a point he had begun to make by telling about the angels who visited Mary and Joseph, just ordinary folk, and the shepherds who were called from their fields and flocks to worship Christ: The coming of Christ was to ordinary people. Luke doesn’t even tell the story of the wise men; that’s Matthew. Luke’s whole concern, in the stories surrounding the birth of Jesus, is to emphasize one thing: Christianity is based on the faith of ordinary people. That’s what Luke’s whole Gospel is about. It wasn’t the priest and Pharisees who received the Kingdom of God, it was the laypeople, the untutored, the untrained, the unsophisticated. It was simple fishermen like James and John and Peter. It was unimportant public officials like Matthew. It was women like Mary and Martha and Mary Magdalene.

Christianity has never been a religion of priests, pastors and theologians; they are important as our leaders. Yet from the very beginning it has been ordinary people of great faith, living out their faith, who built the church.

God intended the church to be an organization of laypersons, all “righteous and devout” like old Simeon, who in simple faith, was ready to receive God’s Kingdom and rejoice in it. It is ordinary people who had the courage to build the Kingdom of God, and it is ordinary people who will continue to bring hope to our world, to build God’s Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven!

There was a fascinating conversation on Rush Limbaugh’s talk show a while back. Having just completed Tom Brokaw’s wonderful book The Greatest Generation, a book filled with inspiring stories of the WWII generation, Rush had taken the position that the current generation of young adults, those in their 20’s, are, for the most part, a bunch of whiners. He said that while they are constantly whining and moaning about the difficulty of their lives, when compared to the hardships faced by their grandparents’ generation, they actually have it easy. Their grandparents had endured truly devastating events like The Great Depression and WWII. The current crop of young adults, he concluded, doesn’t even have a clue about real hardship.

Once Rush had finished his monologue, a bright and extremely articulate, twenty-three-year-old called in and said, that while The Great Depression and WWII certainly created terrible hardships for the people who faced them, that he believed his generation faced an even greater hardship.

Limbaugh asked, “And what exactly would that be?”

The caller said, “The loss of hope.” He said that his experience indicated that many of today’s young adults had simply stopped believing that things were going to get better. They didn’t expect to live as well as their parents had lived. They weren’t expecting a brighter future. They have simply given up hope.

He said, The Great Depression, as terrible as it was, in many cases brought families together as they worked side by side in the hope of saving their families. Most of his friends, this twenty-three-year old said, grew up in families in complete disarray and disfunction and have given up the hope of ever having a real family experience of their own.

He continued saying, “WWII was a terrible event that obviously cost thousands of America’s young men their lives. Even though they knew the risks they still enlisted voluntarily by the millions because they saw it as a cause worth dying for. Most of the people in my generation,” he said, “can’t imagine anything worth dying for and they’re committing suicide in record numbers because many can’t imagine anything worth living for.”

He said, “Mr. Limbaugh, The Great Depression and WWII created terrible hardships. But I submit to you that the greatest hardship of all is living without hope.”

Simeon, an ordinary old man, saw the hope of the world in the baby Jesus, whom he held in his arms that day in the temple. As we close 2017, and welcome 2018: Do you see hope; in your personal life, do you see hope for our world? I do see hope, as I see God’s plan for His creation unfolding. I believe in God’s promise that Satan and evil will be defeated and Jesus and good will triumph, ‘In the Fulness of Time.”

I believe as the child did when he wrote a letter to God. A letter written in a childish scrawl came to the post office addressed to “God.” A postal employee, not knowing exactly what to do with the letter, opened it. This is what it said: “Dear God, my name is Jimmy. I am six years old. My father is dead and my mother is having a hard time raising me and my sister. Would you please send us $500? Love, Jimmy.”

The postal employee was touched. He showed the letter to his fellow workers. Everyone decided to kick in a few dollars. They were able to raise $300 which they sent to the family. A couple of weeks later they received a second letter from Jimmy, addressed again to God. It said: “Dear God, thanks so much for the money. But next time please deliver it to our house. If you send it through the post office, they take out $200.” Jimmy had enough faith to believe that God would deliver what he asked, and in the full amount!

I have faith and hope that God has begun and will continue to deliver what he has promised, in the full amount and in the fullness of time!

The Apostle Paul writes this in our passage in Galatians 4:4-7. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So, you are no longer a slave (to the law), but a child and if a child then also an heir, through God.

As adopted children of God, we have chosen to believe that Jesus is the Son of the One True God and we believe God raised Jesus from the dead, and we have hope!

The great philanthropist Stanley S. Kresge was often in the company of college presidents or other fund-raisers asking for endowment or financial aid. During the course of discussion, Mr. Kresge would always ask one question, “Do you think the world is better today than it was 2,000 years ago?” I ask you that question today. Is the world any better after 2,000 years since Christ was born?

I thought about this question. On this New Year’s Eve Sunday, I say to you that I believe it is. It was Jesus Christ and his teachings that lie behind all the efforts at social reform. It was Jesus who abolished the practice of gladiators in ancient Rome. It was he who put an end to slavery. It was Jesus who elevated the status of women. It was Jesus who blessed the children and sanctified childhood. It was Jesus, who by his emphasis upon the worth of human beings, inspired us to pursue liberty and justice for all people. It is Jesus who has given us a new way of life, a new standard of conduct, a new power for living. When Jesus Christ is born again in the hearts of men, women and children, it is He who saves our world and makes it a better place to live.

I find hope in Jesus, and I pray you do also. I have faith that God’s promises have already begun to unfold, and that they will end in victory over Satan: In the Fullness of Time!

 

Pastor Rosemary DeHut                                                                 December 31, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Ironwoodumc

January 3rd, 2018

The Gift of Love, December 24, 2017

December 28th, 2017

The Gift of Love

John 3:16-17

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

This scripture has become commonplace in our American culture. We see “3:16” on sports figures and roadside signs and other public places. I hope when people see this “3:16” they ask what it means, instead of brushing it off, because it has great meaning.

Some years ago a young woman named Karen became a missionary. She was a well-trained nurse, so she was sent to serve in a Methodist Mission Hospital in a remote corner in Africa. She loved her work. She knew God had called her to this special healing ministry…and she felt incredible fulfillment in bringing much needed love and medical care to the people in this impoverished region of the world.

But as Christmas approached, her thoughts turned toward home. Christmas had always been a wonderful time for her family. They would always go to church together on Christmas Eve.., and then open presents together on Christmas morning. What could she send to them? She wouldn’t be able to go home for Christmas that year, so she would send her presents by mail. But what to send? She had very little money and no place to shop and mailing a bunch of large presents was out of the question.

Then Karen thought of something. Some days later, a small box arrived at the front door of her parents’ home. When her mom found it and saw the postmark from Africa, she knew it contained the Christmas presents from Karen, her missionary daughter. On the outside of the box were written these words, in bold print:

“Please open on Christmas morning with the whole family.” So, on Christmas morning, after all the other presents had been exchanged, her mother opened Karen’s box. She found a number of envelopes. One for Karen’s dad, one for her mom, one each for her sister, her brother-in-law, her niece, and her nephew. When they opened the envelopes, they were surprised. Each envelope held a small piece of poster paper. The pieces had been cut in funny shapes. Suddenly, they realized it was a home-made jigsaw puzzle and each family member had a piece of the puzzle. Quickly, they went to a table and put the pieces together…and when the last piece was put into place, they realized that they had put together a heart. On the home-made poster paper heart were inscribed these words from Karen: “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, I give to you…I give you my heart.”

This is what God did for us on that first Christmas, He sent us His HEART! He sent a part of himself, His Son, to show us how much He loves us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (16)

I think verse 17 is just as important, because once when I asked children who Jesus was, a little girl answered, “He’s this guy who sits up on a cloud waiting for us to do something bad, so he can punish us.”  Her answer broke my heart. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

If you have been taught this lie, stop being afraid of Jesus. He was born, lived, died and was resurrected to show us ‘created in God’s image’ human beings, the breadth, and height, and depth of God’s love! Jesus is God’s heart laid open for us. Jesus is God’s gift of love.

What can we learn about gifts of love from the cast of the first Christmas? What kinds of gifts did they give God in return? They couldn’t see the whole picture when they were in it, and yet I see gifts of love they gave to God.

Mary gave God the gift of believing the angel Gabrielle, and trusting God with her life. Mary is a good example of what God calls each of us to give God. I believe God wants us to “confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, and through this we are given eternal life. (Romans 10:10, my emphasis) God wants us to trust Him with our life.

Joseph gave God the gift of honoring his commitment to Mary. Lack of commitment in our American culture today, is a huge problem. Even if people give their heart and life to God, many fail to honor their commitment to Him. We don’t honor our commitment to one another, or our children, or even showing up when we’ve said we would. I believe honoring our commitments would be a gift of love we should resolve to give to God.

The Inn keeper gave God the gift of hospitality. He did the best he could when he did not have room in the inn. He made room in his stable. We are so busy with our lives, we often do not take the time to open our homes to our neighbors, much less strangers. I confess that I am guilty of not giving God this gift of hospitality to others.

The shepherds gave the gift of worship and of sharing the good news of Jesus’ birth. They were the first evangelists! Do we make worship a priority in our life? Do we readily share the good news of Jesus? What a gift of love to God these would be, if we practiced them.

The wise men gave God gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; which Joseph could use when God’s angel told him to take the baby Jesus to Egypt to escape the murderous Herod.  Do we make giving tithes and offerings, which can be used to build God’s kingdom here on earth, a priority in our life? One thing I have come to understand is that we cannot out give God. What ever we give to God will be multiplied in His giving back to us.

What do we learn from the first Christmas? God gave His heart to us. Mary gave God the gift of her faith and trust in Him. Joseph gave his commitment to God and to the person God gave him to love. The Innkeeper gave God the gift of hospitality. The shepherds gave God the gift of worship and sharing the Good News, and the wise men gave God the gift of money to be used for beginning His Kingdom here on earth.

As you open your gifts this Christmas, I encourage you to ponder what gifts you can give to God, in return for the greatest gift of all: the gift of love, His heart, His one and only Son. Receive His Son, this gift of love, and your ultimate gift will be eternal life. Although God does not require you to give a gift in return, I wonder what gift of love you will give to God.

 

Pastor Rosemary DeHut                                                                                                                                                December 24, 1017

By: Ironwoodumc

December 28th, 2017


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Our Hours

Sunday Service 11:00 A.M. Central Time (nursery available)

Phone Number: 906-932-3900

Pastor: Rev. Rosemary DeHut

Pastor Rosemary is in the office on Wednesdays and Thursdays

Prayer

~~ For the renewal of the church Spirit of promise, Spirit of unity, We thank you that you are also a Spirit of renewal. Renew in the whole Church That passionate desire for the coming of your kingdom Which will unite all Christians in one mission to the world. May we all grow up together into him who is our head, The Savior of the world. Amen. ~~