Sunday, November 28, 2010

When He Comes Again

Pastor Brad opened the service by citing the Annie Dillard quote, "How we live our days is how we live our lives." Today's message would carry the theme that how we live our lives matters.

It is the first weekend in Advent. Announcements included the following:
1) The Christmas Program will be December 12 at 4:00 p.m. here at the church.
2) Don't forget to bring your soup cans next week.
3) A request was made for anyone interested in baking cookies for people in prison should bring them by December 14th. See Ruth Anne Schelinder to make arrangements.

Today's Scripture reading was from Matthew 24:36-44.

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."

After a time of prayer Pastor Shannon gave the message.

When He Comes Again

The text for today's sermon was taken from Revelations 21:1-3.

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God."

The Book of Revelations is not a typical book of the Bible. It is filled with images, pictures and symbols that speak to us. In this passage, we see Heaven crashing into earth.

Brad attempted to convey to us that the Second Advent or return of Jesus might not be as sensationally wonderful as we imagine. If Heaven can be described as a place where things are as God wants them to be, are we ourselves truly ready for Heaven? If Jesus were to return tomorrow, would you be comfortable? It might actually make us un-comfortable. Are we ready?

Having noted that this is a book of "pictures" Brad's sermon highlighted a few of this for us.

1) God is light.
In Revelations 22:5 John writes that there will be no more night. The reason is apparent to anyone familiar with Scripture, for God is light.

In I Corinthians 4:5 Paul writes that God will bring to light that which is hidden. This includes our motives. And in the Gospel of Luke, it is written that there is nothing concealed that will not be made known.

Everything you do matters, Brad asserted. "We're called to live in the light."

Many people think God is like the Santa song where "he's making a list and checking it twice to find out who's been naughty or nice." But God is not making a list. When God shows up, He will by the light of His presence make us aware of our shortcomings.

Brad gave the example of people whose good deeds or good behavior convicts us, even though they have no such intentions. People who exercise make those of us who don't aware that we ought to, and people who are generous can unintentionally make us feel ashamed of our stinginess. In the same way God's purity and goodness will make us aware of our shortcomings there. God loves us, and knowing this will make us want to live in His way.

2) Our talents and gifts
Brad next read to us from Matthew 25, the parable of the talents. In the story, the one man was given ten, the second five and the third one. The first two used their talents, but the third buried his. The Master was not pleased.

We've each been given gifts. These are not to be buried. We're to do something with our gifts and talents, to use them, not deny them.

When Heaven crashes into earth, how we used our talents will also be revealed by the light. What have you been given? What did you do with it?

3) God is a consuming fire.
Many people think of hell as a place where people get burned up, and they associate this image with that kind of scenario. But the reality is different.

Yes, God is a fire, but the fire serves a useful purpose. In I Corinthians 3:10-12 Paul writes:

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw...

Fire reveals what the lives we've built are made of. The fire will purify gold, silver and precious stones, but will burn the wood, hay and stubble. When the Lord returns, His light will reveal what is hidden, and His fire will refine us.

The question, then, is what did you do with your life? And more importantly, what do you want to do with the life you have ahead of you as an act of gratitude to Him?

In closing Brad re-visited the passage once more from Matthew 24. No man knows the hour or the time. The Son of Man will return at an hour when you do not expect it.

Much to think about here. We were all challenged.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Pastor Brad greeted us warmly and began the service by noting that God is the object and subject of our worship. This was followed by several announcements of importance to our church family beginning with tonight's ecumenical service at Faith Lutheran Church in Culver.

1. Today was the last official week of Sunday School. For the next four weeks of Advent we will turn the Sunday School time into an Advent-ture time. It will be interesting, entertaining and thought provoking all rolled into one.

2. There will be a Thanksgiving Dinner with Chef Len here at the church for folks looking for friendly company or don't have family nearby. Dinner is free, though donations will be welcome to replenish the church Benevolence Fund. Time and place: 2:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, at the church. Call ahead to let us know you're coming, so we know how much food to make. 729-5476 or 729-7448 (Len).

3. New Life Covenant has signed up again for the Salvation Army's adopt-a-family program. We will help make Christmas special for a family of six this year. There is a sign up sheet for needs they would like fulfilled. Bring items by December 12.

Chuck, Ken and Darlene led worship this morning followed by presentations from Walt and Norm regarding progress the Building Committee has been making. Walt noted that the committee will be seeking input from the congregation and will be doing a lot of listening. Norm shared that there are a variety of preliminary designs but that a Needs Analysis has to take place before we have enough information to make any real decisions. This Friday and Saturday there will be a pair of work days to do site prep across the street. All are invited.

During the offering Chuck, Ken and Darlene sang, "It is no secret what God can do."

Today's Scripture reading: Luke 1:68-79

A time a praises and prayer preceded the message.


Brad began by having us look to the mid-portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Chapter 6 of Matthew's Gospel. The first part of the Sermon on the Mount is about the meaning of Kingdom living. Today's message focused on roadblocks to living in the Kingdom, chiefly these two:
1) If you need approval from others.
2) If have a need to acquire more and more material things.

He read verses 1, 2, 5 and 16 for us. In each case Jesus identified a good behavior which gets twisted when its motivation is "to be seen by others," whether doing good deeds, being generous, praying or fasting.

Brad stated that Image Management is a major problem that creeps into the church when we try to control others' perceptions of us. Image management is a game we play in an effort to get others to see us a certain way. Jesus' message to us, and Brad's this morning, cut across this tendency in human nature. Authenticity is who we are when no one is looking.

The opposite of authenticity is hypocrisy. The word hypocrite comes from the masked actors of ancient times who wore masks projecting externally something different from what they were. In other words, concealing what they were within in order to project something different.

Authentic people are the same wherever they are. Mask wearing can become such a way of life for many people that it becomes normal.

Brad noted two tests that address the matter at hand. The Audience Test: Who am I doing this for. The Secrecy Test: Would I do the same thing if no one knew?

Jesus used the example of giving. Why do we give? Is it to show off our wealth? Is it to exercise the power of affluence by influence? Is it to look good in the eyes of others? Or is it because of an authentic desire to help others and honor Christ?

In the Audience Test, the question is this... Is it about expanding the Kingdom, or expanding your kingdom? How much would we give or pray if nobody knew, if no one was looking? Know this, that God sees, even if no one else sees.

Brad shared a Max Lucado story about a time when he accidentally unplugged their freezer while they went on a vacation for a week. The stench when they returned was unbearable. Unfortunately, unless it was cleaned the freezer was useless. He made the point that cleaning the outside of the appliance, no matter how it was dressed up, would not resolve the problem of the stench.

Jesus talked about people who were like whitewashed tombs that looked good on the outside but were filled with dead men's bones. Scripture notes that the heart is deceitful above all things. What is needed is a spiritual catharsis to cleanse the heart.

Authenticity also includes being able to share our struggles. Brad cited the way Alcoholics Anonymous meetings begin with transparency. We need this same transparency in the church. Perhaps a 12 Step Program for Recovering Pharisees would be useful. The meeting would begin with, "Hi. I'm John and I'm a sinner."

It's time we tear off our masks and be real together.

Brad said he'd hoped that the sermon today with the sound of masks hitting the floor. His prayer is that each of us would have the courage to say, "This is who I am."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Finishing Well

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us..." ~Hebrews 12:1

Today is All Saints Day, a day when we remember and honor the saints who have gone before us. In his welcome, Brad affirmed, "I am who I am today because of those who ran the race before me." The service, therefore, opened with an invitation to place photos of loved ones who were influential in our lives. A slide show also played simultaneously during Darlene's introit.

With the baptismal font centrally placed and a small host of Shannon kin present it was evident that young Kaitlyn was to be baptized this morning in a special ceremony.

After singing Holy, Holy, Holy an offering was taken and the baptism of Kaitlyn Elisabeth Shannon commenced. Ed Newman read from Luke 20:27-39 and after prayers from the congregation, Brad & Darlene sang "May Those Who Come Behind Us Find Us Faithful."

Finishing Well

Brad began by reading about the faith of Moses from Hebrews 11:23-28 and finishing with Hebrews 12:1-2. "Keep running, don't quit," he said. Though never having run a marathon himself, he has seen them and knows that the start is always fun, but finishing is not always so. The beginning is the pleasure phase. Runners spirits are high, and everyone is getting off on everyone else's energy.

There are several stages runners go through when running a marathon. Beginning with the high, there is the establishment of a pace... but ultimately at some point along the way, depending on how in shape the runner is, every runner hits the wall. The test of every runner is whether they keep running when they hit the wall.

"Finishing is hard work," Brad said. "Finishing well is glory." Then looking earnestly to the congregation Brad asked, "Will you run with me till the end? Will you finish well?"

At this point Brad detailed for us the story of Moses beginning with Exodus 5. It's the famous account where Moses has returned to Egypt to confront Pharaoh. "Let my people go." Pharaoh was not impressed with this Hebrew upstart, and proceeded to put a heavier burden on Moses' people, to make bricks without straw. Despite believing he was following the Lord's leading, Pharaoh refused to listen and his own people abandoned him.

Moses was tempted to quit.

Brad told the story of a speechwriter for Mayor Daley who wanted a raise, but whom Daley continued to dismiss, arguing that the speechwriter should be gratified just to have the privilege of being associated with such a great American hero. Daley was famous for not reading through his speeches before delivering them, and this speechwriter decided to give Daley a little surprise. Mayor Daley was delivering an important speech to a throng of veteran's stating, "and so today I want to unveil 17-point plan to care for the veterans of this country..." With all eyes on the mayor Daley turned the page and read, YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN NOW YOU GREAT AMERICAN HERO.

In one sense, that is Moses. He's been called, reluctantly obeyed and though persistent he eventually hits a wall. The difference is, unlike Mayor Daley here, Moses was not alone. And neither are we.

Brad stated that if we're going to finish the race there are two things we'll need.

1) Persistence in Prayer
Christian persistence begins in prayer and ends in prayer.
Brad asked, "What is your challenge?" He then asked us to draw a line in the sand and say, "I'm going to do what Jesus commands no matter what." Persist in prayer. Don't go back; don't give up. Persevere.
2) No On Runs Alone
We're surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
The profile of a marathoner is not just sleek athletic types. Some are cancer survivors, others are amputees, and some of these in wheel chairs. The one thing all have in common is that the keep running till they finish the race. Don't give up.
The service ended with Brad praying for us in all our various points of need, after which we were ushered into Communion.