Free & Fit NJ - Sermon Sunday 27th October 2019 - Westwood United Methodist Church - by Timothy
Free & Fit NJ - Sermon Sunday 27th October 2019 - Westwood United Methodist Church - by Timothy Cheux
Theme: Respond....and give thanks.
Based on Lectionary Readings: Joel 2:23-28, 2 Timothy 4:16-18, Luke 18:9-14. Question. 1. How do you respond when it rains? During my first two years here in the United States and in the most beautiful city of the world New York I worked as a sport coach for Friends Seminary, a Quaker school, in elementary grades Kindergarten through fourth grade. We would play games everyday, outside on the yard and have extreme amount of fun playing all sorts of games including Handball, Soccer, American Football, Basketball and a whole host of different sports. With the younger ones we would play more recreational games like catch, skipping, tag and hop scotch; with one year group we even affectionately labeled our game "Tim tag" and perhaps I favored that group a little more. What you may not know about me is that I did not grow up on these here wonderful North Eastern American shores. My upbringing in Kindergarten through grade four were at a Church of England school back in sunny Bedfordshire, the Home Counties in the South Eastern part of the United Kingdom, roughly about 30 minutes outside of London. Whilst growing up we would often be outside playing on the playground similar to that of my new found friends at the Quaker School in New York City. Yet there was one major difference. What we did when the rain came. In our reading from Joel today we hear of the rain coming in the Fall, now in our current season, and the later rain coming in the Spring. In England when we get rain, we get on. If you are outside and it's raining we would carry on in Elementary School. Keep calm and carry on. That's an old English phrase. If it was raining or pouring if the big man upstairs is crying with rain we get on. If it rained at my school we would be outside playing in the rain. Herein the US, I experienced something quite different. A resistance. A panic. A functional strategic plan to retreat indoors to classrooms. I resisted. I insisted its not raining, how can we teach the children to grow up in a world without rain. It's not possible, it's not true and its dishonest. When your late for work and you have a deadline your boss, your debtors and your gas bill don't care if it's raining. How we respond matters. If it's raining we get wet, if it's pouring we get wet. Yet here we wanted to cover our children from the rain. We wanted to keep them dry, not catch cold and protect them from illness. These are all natural, right and good things to do. Yet is it true? Paul teaches us to meditate on things which are true in Philippians 4 and we must ensure that how we treat our young ones, our loved ones and ourselves is true. How do you respond to the rain? Perhaps we need that British perserverance. Hope. Courage. Belief. Truth. Humility to walk in the rain and just like when Jesus faced the temptations of the devil walk humbly with our God. Our passage in Joel today teaches us much like in Deuteronomy eleven and throughout the Old Testament that when the rain came it was a blessing. 23 So rejoice, O children of Zion, And delight in the Lord, your God; For He has given you the early [autumn] rain in vindication And He has poured down the rain for you, The early [autumn] rain and the late [spring] rain, as before. It goes on verses 28 to tell us how we should respond as a people, as a Church and as a congregation to the rain. Verse 28 says "It shall come about after this. That I shall pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams,Your young men will see visions." Right now with the person sat next, or nearest to you, I would love for you to pray for one another. To respond to the rain and to give thanks. We shall say together, holding hands, praying, declaring together the words of our God as we celebrate this season of new rain and he will pour his Holy Spirit upon us here at Westwood United Methodist Church. Repeat after me together as we pray and declare this verses 26 and 27 (Amplified version) adapted for us to respond, to give thanks and receive Gods promised today: We will have plenty to eat and be satisfied We will praise the name of the Lord our God Who has dealt wondrously with us; As Gods people we shall never be put to shame. And we know [without any doubt] that Our God is in the midst of Israel [to protect and bless us], And that you are the Lord our God, And there is no other; We are Gods people who will never be put to shame. In Jesus name Amen. In context God meant it all for good. God works all things together for good. Verse 32 helps us to remember that it shall come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord, Will be saved! Hallelujah, thank you Jesus. Question 2. How does God respond to our needs? How often do you find yourselves in times of despair and seeking to pray to God? This weekend I have been studying a course called Spiritual Direction as Contemplation. The professor at my school tells me that in meditation we talk to God and when we contemplate God talks to us. The theme for today's message is respond and give thanks, but how does God respond to us when we contemplate or even when we cry out to him in despair like David in the Psalms or as Paul experiences in today's letter 2 Timothy. 16 At my first trial no one supported me [as an advocate] or stood with me, but they all deserted me. May it not be counted against them [by God]. 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened and empowered me, so that through me the [gospel] message might be fully proclaimed, and that all the Gentiles might hear it; and I was rescued from the [d]mouth of the lion. Question 3. So then I wonder. In response to God. How do you and I give thanks? This November we celebrate the infamous American holiday of Thanksgiving. In my first year of dating Gods good, perfect and pleasing gift in my life the wonderful Liza Cucco we adopted this tradition in London where we were living and would invite friends, eat dinner together and share who or what we were thankful for and why we were giving thanks for that person or experience. It was a new holiday for me. Yet unlike the rain this new holiday made sense to me, I thought to myself we need to be giving thanks more regularly and Praising God. So thank you America. Thank you for Thanksgiving, it brings me the joy of the Flemington 5K Turkey Trot, the Festive dinner, the wonderful desserts and fellowship time with friends and family. We thank you and Praise you Lord for the wonder and joy of Thanksgiving Lord Yet, surely we should be giving God our thanks and Praise more than just during one meal? Surely we should think more deeply about how we give thanks? Let's look again at today's passage from 2 Timothy which reminds us about how Paul was reassured of Gods support, but like many of us before he was alone and only when trusting In Christ could be relying, trusting and giving thanksgiving to God. Verse 18 reads: The Lord will rescue me from every evil assault, and He will bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Question Four: How do we respond and give thanks in Prayer? So let's be like Paul, let's be giving thanks and Praise to God. However, how difficult is that? How quickly are we to forget in our responses? How do you respond when you speak to God? If your like me, I just give him a lot of lists. Requests, sins and accommplishments. I am pretty sure my to do list goes in there too. I am more like the Pharisee than the tax like the collector counting my victories and declaring to God how good I am becoming self righteous like the Pharisee in today's Gospel reading. Yet the tax collector shows us how we should respond. Luke 14: Verse 13 reads But the tax collector, standing at a distance, would not even raise his eyes toward heaven, but was striking his chest [in humility and repentance], saying, ‘God, be merciful and gracious to me, the [especially wicked] sinner [that I am]!’ We are called to respond and give thanks to God. So let's not be like the Pharisee, but let's be exhaling the Lord in giving thanks and Praise. As verse 14 Tells us their is a difference in perspective when we respond and give thanks. "I tell you, this man went to his home justified [forgiven of the guilt of sin and placed in right standing with God] rather than the other man; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself [forsaking self-righteous pride] will be exalted.” So let's exalt God. Let's Praise God. Let's respond to God. Let's Give thanks to God. Let's be forever trusting, praising and responding in giving thanks to God. Let us pray to God!