Grounded in heritage: Reaching out with the love of Jesus
Pastor Rosemary and Joe
Partners in Ministry
Our Life Script, January 14, 2018
January 17th, 2018
Our Life Script
Psalm 29:1-11 and Mark 1:1-11
(Quoted scripture is New Revised Standard Version)
I listen to a lot of Contemporary Christian music while I drive some 30,000 miles each year doing ministry.
What I’ve found is the contemporary artists are more willing than ever to write songs from their heart, sharing dark places they’ve been in and how Jesus brought them into the light. Among my favorite songs is one written by Bart Millard and performed by his band MercyMe. This is what Bart says inspired him to write I Can Only Imagine.
“When my father died of cancer in 1991, he left me with the assurance that he was headed to a better place. He used to always tell me that I was getting the raw end of the deal because I had to stick around here. For several years following his death I would find my self writing the phrase, ‘I can only imagine’ on anything I could find. That simple phrase would give me peace and hope thinking about what my dad was finally experiencing.”
“Years later, in 1999, MercyMe was writing songs for an independent project. I remember coming home from a show and being wide awake on our bus at 2 o’clock in the morning. I was trying to write lyrics in an old notebook of mine, when all of a sudden, I stumbled across that phrase. About ten minutes later, the song was written. Some people say it’s amazing that it was written in ten minutes, yet it had been on my heart for almost ten years.”
I can only imagine by MercyMe
I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine
Chorus: Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine, I can only imagine
I can only imagine when that day comes
And I find myself standing in the Son
I can only imagine when all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you
I can only imagine, I can only imagine
This heartfelt song was written out of Bart Millard’s life script, what he experienced in his father’s death. The movie I Can Only Imagine is coming out in March of this year. Joe and I plan on watching it, and I’m hoping to take the youth of the church too.
For many writers of Christian songs, their songs are written from their hearts, out of what they’ve experienced in their lives. Think about Fanny Crosby, blinded in infancy because of a doctor’s treatment. From her life experiences, her life script, she wrote approximately 8,000 hymns. Hymns such as Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross. Words written from her heart. ‘Jesus, keep me near the cross; there a precious fountain, free to all, a healing stream, flows from Calvary’s mountain. In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever, till my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river.’ (#301, UMH) Fanny was literally in a very dark place and yet she found hope in the assurance that Jesus’ blood flowed from Calvary’s mountain for her sins, and she looked forward to finding rest for her soul beyond the river when she died.
Our Life Script: I believe who we are today is whom we have been. We are the sum of our life experiences.
Sometimes, because of abusive life experiences, we have a difficult time living a Life Script which pleases and glorifies God. Yet, A Life Script which pleases and glorifies God is possible when we give our heart and life to Jesus. Jesus is the transformation agent for our lives and our world. That is where baptism comes in.
In our reading from the Gospel of Mark 1:4-5, “John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean country side and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”
Baptism is a powerful symbol for the Christian. There is an Old Testament scholar and author named Walter Brueggemann who is influencing how many Christians are thinking about baptism. From reading Brueggemann’s writings, came the idea for today’s sermon title, Our Life Script.
Brueggemann begins by saying that everybody has a script. You and I have a script that we live by. Think of a script from which an actor reads. Each of us, says Brueggemann, has a script in his or her brain and we live our lives both consciously and unconsciously guided by that script. This script is the product of a lifetime of influences. Part of this script comes from the rituals in which our families engage. For some of us this may be as simple as, “My dad always said . . .” (2)
Part of the script comes from our family. Writer, James P. Lenfesty tells about an eleven-year-old boy fishing one night with his father. Suddenly the boy’s pole doubled over. He knew something huge was on the other end. With much effort he reeled it in. It was the largest bass he had ever seen. His father watched proudly, but then looked at his watch. It was 10:00 p.m. two hours before the bass season opened. “You’ll have to put it back son,” the father said. The boy couldn’t believe what his father was saying. No one was around. No one would know. Why should he throw it back? That was thirty‑four years ago. Today, the boy is a successful architect in New York City. He still lives by the ethics his father taught him that night. That is part of his script. (3)
Part of the script comes from our surrounding culture, especially television and advertising. The average American, we’re told, is bombarded by up to 3,000 ads PER DAY! Ads such as, “You only go around once in life,” or “Because I’m worth it!” or “Just do it.” With enough repetition these messages become part of us.
Central to our cultural script, says Brueggemann, is the assumption that happiness comes in a bottle, a drug or in a product. According to this script, “there is a product or a treatment or a process to counteract every ache and pain and discomfort and trouble, so that life may be lived without inconvenience.”
Here is the problem, says Brueggemann. This script has failed. It promised to make us safe and happy and fulfilled. Yet, the truth is, it has instead produced new depths of insecurity and new waves of unhappiness. Every survey tells us that we are wealthier than we’ve ever been our houses are bigger we have more discretionary income, we live better than any previous generation on earth and yet never have we been unhappier and more uncertain about our future. The script has failed. Never have we been more disconnected from the things that really matter.
When I sit down to have a meal with the teenagers of today we say grace before we eat. I offer to let them say the grace, asking what grace they say when they sit down with their family at home to eat. I can’t think of one teenager who says they sit down with their family to eat and say grace before the meal. Most say they sit in front of the TV or eat in their room while being on their computer or phone. This is a failed script!
What kind of a Life Script are we writing for our children’s life? A sixth-grade girl said the other day, “This is the day of life lived on our phones.” She’s been told technology will make us happier. Meanwhile our families are in shambles. Sales of antidepressants are soaring. People are suffering from all kinds of emotional disorders. The script has failed.
I’ve been speaking lately about the younger generation, not having hope for a future. This is because their Life Script may come from not having a relationship with God, or other human beings. It comes from a failed script.
Our physical, mental, moral and spiritual health depends on disengaging from and relinquishing the failed script, and living by a Life Script from the Word of God, the Bible. I believe this the task of the church and its ministry to detach us from that powerful, yet failed script.
That’s my job each week. Not to entertain you, not to reinforce world views you already hold, but to give you an alternative script that is rooted in the Bible and the love of God, exemplified in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His one and only Son.
Mark 1:7 reads, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.”
You and I are not worthy of the love and grace of Jesus, but I know for certain Jesus loves you and me because the Bible tells me so! I want to honor this love and grace of God given so freely through Jesus, by striving to live a Life Script that pleases God.
We will renew and affirm our baptismal vows today. We will read the renew and reaffirmation vows, and then come forward to dip our fingers in the baptismal font, touch your head, your heart and pray for as long as you wish. This is a new year, Jesus is the presence who can make you new again. Jesus is the presence who can help you live out a Life Scrip which honors and glorifies God.
Pastor Rosemary DeHut
January 14, 2018
References: 2. The Christian Century (November 29,
2005), pp. 22-28.
- “Catch of a Lifetime” in Stephen R. Covey, Everyday Greatness (Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 2006), pp.122-123.
January 17th, 2018
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,
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
January 3rd, 2018
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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
~~ 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. ~~