Ponderings
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June 2, 2014, 11:00 AM

We are never alone.

“After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” NRSV JOHN 17:1-11

 

I think that this is a marvelous text. Each phrase can be picked apart but each phrase needs the one that precedes it and the ones that follow.  They are all intertwined and they all go back to the very first verse, “In the beginning….”  Jesus has finished teaching and now begins to pray….after all it is called the “Farewell Prayer.”

Take the text above for instance. The very first opening words direct you to ask, “What words?” Then one might ask, “Jesus. Who is Jesus?” Who is he looking “up to heaven” to?  Who is his Father and what hour is he speaking about? How did his “Father” get all this authority and what authority did he have?” How do you get “eternal life?” Are all these people related? Where is this “Jesus” going?  See simple but oh so complex!

Notice right off the bat that Jesus does not bow his head in prayer…. He looks UP to heaven thereby signifying that his eyes are open . Then he starts his prayer by glorifying God!  Jesus is always glorifying God….ALWAYS. In that glorification Jesus has the authority to give eternal life. Eternal life in heaven, with the Son and with God. Remember a few weeks ago the text for Sunday was, “In my Fathers house are many rooms….I go to prepare a place for you.”

As I read this prayer I see it as Jesus’ prayer for the disciples. He is going to leave them, they will be alone, Jesus will not be there with them, protecting them!  He knows they will be alone, he knows they will fall away, that they will scatter, that they will deny him and that one will betray him. HE KNOWS!

This is really good news for us. Why? Because Jesus only left them alone so that he could do what he was born to do; to die so that ALL of us might be forgiven of our sins and in believing receive eternal life.

I know that Jesus is with me every day…every moment of every day. He never leaves my side, he never lets me go it alone. I know this because he told me so….and he told you, “I am with you ALWAYS, to the end of the age.” Matt 28:20b

He has never left us ….from day one to day zero …. He has never left. We are in him and he is in us! He never left. He gave us the Holy Spirit to protect, to energize, to enliven us so that we can believe, to teach, to baptize.

Jesus gave his all, even his words. They were not his words but God’s words. Jesus never takes credit for anything. Even in his final prayer it was important to begin with glorification of God before he did anything else. 

Friends, Jesus gives us the model for prayer, First and always first, glorify God, praise God for everything. We don’t have anything that God doesn’t want us to have. Pray for those around you and your neighbor. Pray always; when you drive, when you go about your day, when you rest, when you…. Pray…Look up to God and pray…GOD LISTENS and ALWAYS ANSWERS!

I have learned that God has a wonderful sense of humor. God loves unconditionally, God loved me so much that he sent me to you and called me to be your sheepdog two years ago! Two years can you believe it?  God has accomplished a lot through us and works with us every day as we feed, comfort, heal, and minister to God’s people in and outside of the four walls of this church.

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March 26, 2014, 12:20 PM

Working for God

"If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. " Romans 8:31-39 NRSV

There I was one day being asked by someone, "If not now when," he had listened to the Spirit move him to confront me to get with that question and take the next bold step in the journey of faith I was on for over 50 years. I answer in faith and veer off the path I was on and take on the call to ministry. 

Two years later that same person would come up to me as the Chair of the Committee on Preparation for the Ministry and tell me, don't quit your day job, no church is going to want you or call you ....you are too old, you are too energetic, you have too much of a background in church and finance, ...save yourself the trouble of trying to find a church because we have way to many folks looking for churches and  not enough churches with openings. Besides the fact no church will call you....they will be afraid to call you and they won't listen to you even though you know because it will be your first call they won't believe you know....by the time they are convinced you could pastor them....it will be time for you to retire.  Again, who wants to follow an old... new pastor?

Really? Ouch! When one is called to the ministry, as we ALL are, I believe we must look to the Apostle Paul and his writing about the confidence in his call. His letter to the Romans in chapter 7 and 8 remind us the task we are called to do is going to take dedication, perseverance and spiritual faith because folks are going to be hostile to God and God's messengers and workers. There will be sufferings (note the plural!). Jesus and  Paul assure us that there will be sufferings, Paul says it will be like labor pains but the Spirit will intercede. That is when Paul's words above ring out, at least to me and when we read this with the words of John 3:16 ringing in our ears...we know we are on the right journey.

Folks when you're on the journey for God, called by God and working for God, we know the only ones that have the power to accuse, condemn and judge are God or God's son Jesus Christ. God is on our side.  Our team will never lose so we must and are called to have confidence in God. I believe that Paul's eloquence in the words to the Romans show us the reality of God's love and that loves action in our lives.  Jesus does not promise us a rose garden but we hear of the gift of eternal life and experience the gift of grace in him. We must go where we are called and do what task we are called to perform.

Jesus' promise of the call he makes of us is found in Matthew 11:29-30 "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST IN YOUR SOULS. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light!"

Friends I am here to tell you that yes I am old, yes this is my first solo pastorate but God has united us together. Together you and I, along with God's help and support can do amazing things.

If we could just get the burden of a few things off of our shoulders we could get it done!  Our mortgage just went under the $100,000 mark and if we could get that paid off we would have the 1,300 each month to meet our general expenses. The load would come off of our shoulders and God can make this possible.

Paul makes it clear that God and God alone is the one who makes all things possible. We need to heed and to obey for we can do nothing without God's grace. If you ever get discouraged in your ministry or your daily life I urge you to read Romans 7 and 8. Your spirit will be lifted and your energy renewed ... it is true what Jesus said in light of what Paul tells us!

Peace,

Pastor Ken




February 25, 2014, 1:17 PM

A Serving Heart

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” NRSV MATTHEW 9:36-38

 

I invite you to contemplate the words written above. Study the words and listen as if you are in the crowd that surrounds Jesus....perhaps you stand right next to James, one of the "son's of Thunder." You would recognize him... he was the one that boasted he could drink from the same cup as Jesus....and would.

When you think about serving others—why do you do it? "Because I have to," is the common response. What if I told you today that you could serve because you want to not because you have to?

I think lent is a time for all us to learn from the heart, listen to the heart, and minister from the heart. Essentially we need to rediscover our gifts and talents and hone them for service to our neighbors and answering the call Jesus offers us.

What could happen in your life if you viewed serving not something you have to do to a view of something you want to do because you love God and love God's people? You love the people God has created and placed around you at church, home and in the community?

To serve from the heart I believe one needs to recognize that you work not for recognition but because you want to, because you feel the spirit in you. I believe that the joy, peace and light of Jesus shines from you. I believe we must stay spiritually fit. I believe you must lead by example and be a slave of everyone else..

Jesus is our model for service. I have never read that Jesus, after he healed someone, turn around to the crowd and say “Do you see that? Did you see what I just did? You cannot truly serve with a great heart, a heart of a servant if you expect recognition.

People came to Jesus from all over. He just oozed of Joy, of Peace, of Light. Again, imagine being in the crowd and watching Jesus. Oh the light that must shine from his face....the energy that must come from him....what strength is found! People could not get enough of him...."perhaps just a touch of his fringe..." I recall the prophet Nehemiah saying in 8:10, "For the joy of the Lord is your strength!"   I believe then to serve in the strength of Jesus we must serve with a heart of Joy and Light so others may see the strength of Jesus Christ.

If we serve in strength then we must be fit. In order to be fit spiritually we must as Paul states in 1Timothy 4:7, "Take the time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit. You must be disciplined...you must study...you must pray... you must keep your eyes and ears open.  Exercise your listening skills...look around...you will see what heavy lifting needs to be performed. Remember Jesus' yoke is easy...his burden is light. Just like in training or trying to loose weight...there are no shortcuts... NONE! So spiritual training takes maturity that can only be filled by Christ....Paul says, "The fullness of Christ."

Serving from the heart—so many of you are already doing it. You lead by example and folks will begin to recognize how to serve. My prayer for you this Lenten season is that you will be challenged to move to a higher level of service. I’m calling myself to that higher level of serving too. We are all in this together.

God is going ahead of you on your path. No matter your age today--God is already there, preparing your way, and calling to you to come and develop the heart of a servant.

Peace,

Pastor Ken

pupc@verizon.net   

www.pupcscranton.com

 




January 27, 2014, 2:30 PM

Living the Living Word

Our Pastor's Ponderings

 

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.              NRSV MATTHEW 5:1-12

 

Some call it the Sermon on the Mount. Some call it The Beatitudes. Some call it The Teachings. Some call it the Teaching or Wisdom from the Mount.  However, all too often it is taken out of its Jewish and Matthean context.   It is occasionally distorted, or as C. Bauman states, "has been dramatized, secularized, universalized, criticized, psychologized, politicized, and radicalized(C.Bauman, Sermon on the Mount: The Modern Quest for its Meaning(Macon GA:Mercer University Press, 1985, pg.62).

I say that it is Jesus' invitation, his wisdom given, to us to be like him. I believe he is showing/teaching us how to live our lives...HUMBLED and SELFLESS-centered.  Jesus is calling us to be gentle like him yet serve with a conviction that is like no other and God, only God, offers the end game.

Essentially, I believe, we are truly blessed when we stand in awe of God's words, are humble in the Spirit we have been given  and then minister in the call we are each chosen for.   These words, Beatitudes, these blessings, declare God's favor, not on attitudes but on conditions and behaviors that are to encourage appropriate actions. They tell us where God's blessings and future promises are! These are not laws that are abolishing the old ones either.

Later on starting in verse 17 Jesus tells us that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. If you really want to get a feeling for this I urge you to read Chapters 1 through 4 in Matthew (or come to Wednesday evening Bible studies and I will have done most of the heavy lifting for you).

My friends every little piece of scripture has meaning for us and how we relate and should relate to a loving God. The scriptures, however, need to be studied and read and interpreted. I urge you to do that. Yes, you can read and interpret scripture...do you?

 I really want to help you all with this. If you ever have a question about a text you read....please come and see me or email me.  Face to face is really preferred because as you read more will be opened to you and more will be cloudy. If I don't know the answer, and there will be times when I don't(for sure) , we can search together to find an interpretation that might make sense. I also have a lot of contacts that have even written books about most of these texts.

Mostly, I hope you read the texts in your Bible and realize the incredible gift you are given by God. God is revealed in the scriptures and you can see and experience that saving Grace we always talk about. God's words are not stagnate but are living. They are just aching to be interpreted by you, for a meaning to you, in a relationship God makes for you. What is really cool is that as we grow in God's grace even more gets revealed to us and sometimes what we thought before doesn't hold up now.  That is why we call it the LIVING WORD of GOD! 

God calls us to LIVE the LIVING WORD of GOD as well.  Remember, I have always said there is a call and a response...an action  and reaction. God's words must always be put into an action step or they fail to have the power that is intended. But power is not the intention.

The intention of the Word is to love, an Agape love. All of Jesus' teachings, wisdom and efforts are to state and show that we must do as we are commanded, LOVE GOD FULLY, LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS AS SELF AND GO DO IT! There is no and cannot be any other action.  Even the disciples found that out when they wanted to rain down the fires from heaven like Elijah...Jesus just said shake it off... Friends God will do the rest if it is GOD'S WILL. It is not our will.

Ours, Jesus', is a Gospel of Love, of Gentleness, of humbleness, of peace, of mercy, of comfort. That is how children of God live and react. Know that if you ever hear words from a preacher or other Believer state anything but love, inclusion, peace, caring, mercy for ANYONE they are not words of God....shake them off...turn and run the other way!

This all said....why not join us on Wednesday evenings at 7PM as we travel through the Gospel of Matthew....We look forward to your company, your spirit and fellowship!

 

Peace,

Pastor Ken

PUPC@verizon.net

www.pupcscranton.org

 

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January 9, 2014, 2:27 PM

I am resolved to..........

NRSV MATTHEW 28:16-20, THE GREAT COMMISSION

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Ahhh....New Year's is now upon us. By the time you read this we will have made our resolutions. Perhaps it was to loose weight, to stop smoking or to go to church every Sunday and Special Services (hey... I just had to put that one in.....lol).

If you know me, and now after 18 months you're getting glimpses, you find I am a planner and very goal oriented.  They are a few things I bring with me after 35 plus years in the corporate world where one must be that way. I finished planning out the Lenten season and Holy Week just before Christmas and now I am working on my weekly bible studies. But what about my goals?  What about your goals?

I have always found it good to reacquaint myself with the purpose I do things....sort of my job description. I look at and study what I am called to do. I am called to preach and teach the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am called to serve you all as your pastor and sheepdog. There are a lot of "things" that make up those calls. Many times our calls  in the "heat of the battle" , yes our lives as Christians really are battles, we get distracted. I often say we take our eye off of the prize. This happens many ways...just ask is the task furthering God's work or plan? I don't know about you all but my path, or should I say journey on that path, is one that is zigzagged.  Yes, as I look back I have been distracted by many a squirrel!

Yup, I know you all find it hard to believe (NOT!) that I can get distracted.  Maybe it was the heating system that stopped working, or the blower that did not  blow, or the chain in the toilet that broke. Maybe it was the internet that stopped working or the song that I just had to sing. Oh and then there's the cup of coffee I left in the microwave or in my coffee maker.   All of this while I was writing a sermon or perhaps the January Providence Post article.  SQUIRREL!  

 As far as I know Jesus is the only one born that knew why he was here. He never lost sight of his goal...his purpose....never. Just in the Gospel of John we are reminded that Jesus talked about his "hour" not yet coming 20 times....yes twenty! His first time when he was confronted with not enough wine at the marriage in Cana and the last in his prayer to God for his disciples and us in John 17:1-26. He never let the squirrel get him. He knew his divine purpose and he lived and stuck by it!  He kept his eyes on the prize...his hour...the hour(s) of the cross. He came to make good on the covenant God made with Abraham. He came to die for us to cleanse our sins so we might live with him in paradise eternally. He boldly walked his path and his was a straight line! He never lost his drive, his steadfastness, his love. Oh, he got frustrated be he never veered off path.   

My goal this year is to walk the path straighter, to not get distracted and not grow weary. I pray I don't get caught chasing the side issues and that I stay on task.  You see Jesus received all the "authority in heaven and on earth" and we are called to listen to him....to obey him.I pray I don't get caught in the arguments of the day or the distractions that are thrown at me. I pray and make my goal that if I do the things I am called to do that if some don't believe, it is OK, I just shake the sand off of my sandals and move on to the next task at hand.  I pray I trust the Holy Spirit does the work of change of heart and gives me the strength of heart to keep on keeping on!

I set as my goal that I devote an hour to prayer each day. I pray that by my example you all will devote an hour a day to prayer. Maybe not right off of the bat but in time. Start with five minutes and build.  When I pray the alphabet prayer it consumes 35 minutes just for you folks at Providence.  If you can't pray ... devote the time to doing God's work. I urge you to read Jesus' prayer for us in John 17:1-26.  Study it, think about it and keep it in your heart. When you get distracted be reminded that you are protected and given the strength of Jesus Christ. Then you can with that power, all that authority worship God fully, Love everyone like yourself and GO ....GO and answer the Great Commission. Remembering, Jesus is always with you, to the end of the age.

I pray you have a joyous and wonderful New Year! I look forward to seeing you on the journey this year.

Peace,

Pastor Ken

 


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