Sunday, May 22, 2016

THERE COMES A TIME TO BEND A KNEE: SCS 85


Sunday, May 22, 2016, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 85

PRAYER for Today:
Heavenly Father,
We know we are all broken and in need of your grace. Only You are able to heal the hearts and souls of all of us who are full of sin and bring light to the darkness in our lives. Help us Father to accept your freely given gift of grace that we might be reconciled to You. I pray my fellow sojourners will find a church which embraces them with open arms and shows them not just tells them about God’s love in Christ Jesus.
It is in Your Resurrected Living Son’s name we pray.
Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSON for Today:  

Luke 2:22-38 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple

22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
25 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. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 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, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
   according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
   and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.


SERMON for Today:

I am not going to add much to the Scripture Lesson today.   There is really only a single point I want to make sure everyone does not miss.  The point is faithfulness.  Simeon, lead by the Holy Spirit, was faithful in doing his appointed mission.  Anna ( in some translations there is a footnote calling her Hannah) was in perpetual fasting and prayer while spreading the message about Jesus.  What would the world be like if we were just a fraction as faithful to Jesus as the prophet Anna?

There comes a time to bend a knee a pray for the humbleness to surrender to the will of our Father rather than to our own desires and greedy hearts.  On bended knee to ask Him to guide us to do the work He wants us to do.  To serve Him His way.  To become a servant of the Savior means giving up self and looking to building the Kingdom by embracing God’s creation.

There comes a time to bend a knee and ask the Lord to help you learn how to love even your enemies. How to serve rather than demand to be served.  How to give yourself away as Jesus did.  

Our goal must become to learn how to bend a knee and answer His plea to become one with Him and one another.  



© Ed Cooper, May 22, 2016, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
  All rights reserved
(Ed Cooper is a retired minister and mental health advocate. He lives with his wife Patty in the mountains of East Tennessee.)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

THIS ELECTION CYCLE DOES NOT MAKE OUR FALLEN HEROES PROUD OF US


We will soon be celebrating Memorial Day, an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, which honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.  We will be showing our pride, honor and appreciation for those who gave their all, but I fear this election cycle does not make them proud of us.

The blood soaked ground of this country and of foreign lands should make us take our responsibilities as citizens seriously.  We have killed our own citizens in the name of our country by the thousands.  I am not just talking about the Civil War.  Think about the Trail of Tears and other assaults on the indigenous populations of this land.  We now use drones to do the work we once did close up.

How would any of our fallen heroes react to today’s political discourse?  Would they think arguing about President Clinton’s sex life was going to make our country better for the majority of our citizens?  Would they think that all the hate speech would produce the safer world that they died to create?

We need to be asking ourselves why we accept an election process more fitting a pig sty than a country that thousands and thousands have died for?   Think about this Memorial Day making a pledge to work for a political process that honors those who gave so much.  One that truly looks to create a community for all.  One where all of us are welcome and all of us can grow together.  They fought and died that we might be ONE NATION UNDER GOD INDIVISIBLE.

© Ed Cooper, 5/21/2016, Stoney Creek, TN
   All rights reserved

Sunday, May 15, 2016

MAY MENTAL HEALTH MONTH. HAS YOUR CHURCH ADDRESSED MENTAL ILLNESS?: SCS 84

Sunday, May 15, 2016, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 84


PRAYER for Today:
Heavenly Father,
We know we are all broken and in need of your grace. Only You are able to heal the hearts and souls of all of us who are full of sin and bring light to the darkness in our lives. Help us Father to accept your freely given gift of grace that we might be reconciled to You. I pray my fellow sojourners will find a church which embraces them with open arms and shows them not just tells them about God’s love in Christ Jesus.
It is in Your Resurrected Living Son’s name we pray.
Amen.


SCRIPTURE LESSON for Today:  

Romans 8:31-39 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

God’s Love in Christ Jesus

31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 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? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 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. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
   we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 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.

SERMON for Today:


May is Mental Health Month.
Since 1949, Mental Health America and our affiliates across the country have led the observance of May is Mental Health Month by reaching millions of people through the media, local events and screenings. We welcome other organizations to join us in spreading the word that mental health is something everyone should care about by using the May is Mental Health Month toolkit materials and conducting awareness activities. http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may



In 1988 I started looking at the question what faith communities could be doing to help those of us with a serious mental illness?  I am not talking about folks who I call the “worried well” or people who are sometimes depressed.  I am talking about persons with a major mental illness.  To be truthful with you I have not yet found a church that I am comfortable with, but that does not mean that others of my fellow sojourners are not in faith communities that have responded well to them.


Most of us do not want some special program or to be treated differently.  We just want to be part of the community of believers.  However, with so many Christians talking so mean about so many people it is hard for me to believe I would be welcome if they knew how sick my mind is.


Right now is just a few days after I was supposed to have completed a major conference on Faith Communities and Mental Illness In Appalachia.  It did not come off.  I had the speakers lined up, but when I thought I had Milligan College lined up as the place to hold it I did not.  After the meeting to arrange the details I got a call saying there would be no room at the inn (college).  During the meeting when I mentioned that I would be speaking from personal experience because I was bipolar the air got a sudden chill.  Before that when I was just someone recommended by a person who was a board member of Milligan and a professor there, I was fine.  Milligan is affiliated with the Christian Church/Churches of Christ which are the same churches that supported my family when we were on the mission field in southern Africa when I was growing up and that I have been affiliated with all my life.  I gave up on the conference after that.


The point of our Scripture Lesson is that Jesus/God will not stop loving us.  That thought has kept me going many times.  No matter who rejects me I know Jesus and God will not.  That is a powerful message for any person suffering through anything.  It is a great message for a person suffering with a brain/mind illness.  It becomes an even stronger message if it is delivered within a loving embracing community the person can belong to because we all long to be rooted.


Even if I never find a faith community my prayer is that my fellow sojourners will find one which embraces them with open arms and shows them not just tells them about God’s love in Christ Jesus.


© Ed Cooper, May 15, 2016, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
  All rights reserved
(Ed Cooper is a retired minister and mental health advocate. He lives with his wife Patty in the mountains of East Tennessee.)

Sunday, May 08, 2016

THE MOTHER of JESUS: SCS 83

My Wife, Her Grandson's Wife, Her Grandson 

Sunday, May 8, 2016, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 83

PRAYER for Today:
Heavenly Father,
We know we are all broken and in need of your grace. Only You are able to heal the hearts and souls of all of us who are full of sin and bring light to the darkness in our lives. Help us Father to accept your freely given gift of grace that we might be reconciled to You. We ask that Your will be done in our lives and that we may act lovingly towards our fellow sojourners who around the world are hurting so that they might see a little of You in our daily lives.  
It is in Your Resurrected Living Son’s name we pray.
Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSON for Today:  

Mark 3:31-35 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mark 10:29-31 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

John 19:25-27 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

25 And that is what the soldiers did.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Acts 1:14 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

SERMON for Today:

The mother of Jesus was faithful to her son even after His death and resurrection.  The sampling of Scriptures gives one an idea that even though Jesus did not always seem to seem close to his mother she never forsook Him.  She gave birth to Him under the shadow of shame.  She saw Him walk away from her and His family in order to carry out His mission on earth.  However, she was still at the foot of the cross.  She was at his tomb with the other women on Resurrection Sunday.  I cannot prove she was there, but I believe she was one of the “women” mentioned in the Gospels although not named.  She was there praying with the others before the Day of Pentecost.  You may be thinking she was just being a mother.  All mothers are not that devoted, but she is one mother who sat an example of how devoted we should be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Evangelicals and other Protestant Christians say Catholics put too much emphasis on Mary.  I say we do not put enough.  She showed us all the way.  If you had or have a good Mom be thankful you were so blessed.  Let Mary show you how to follow Jesus.

© Ed Cooper, May 8, 2016, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
  All rights reserved
(Ed Cooper is a retired minister and mental health advocate. He lives with his wife Patty in the mountains of East Tennessee.)

Sunday, May 01, 2016

ARE THERE PEOPLE WE SHOULD NOT PRAY FOR?: SCS 82

Sky Bridge, Red River Gorge, Near Pine, KY
Sunday, May 1, 2016, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 82

PRAYER for Today:
Heavenly Father,
We know we are all broken and in need of your grace. Only You are able to heal the hearts and souls of all of us who are full of sin and bring light to the darkness in our lives. Help us Father to accept your freely given gift of grace that we might be reconciled to You. We ask that Your will be done in our lives and that we may act lovingly towards our fellow sojourners who around the world are hurting so that they might see a little of You in our daily lives.  
It is in Your Resurrected Living Son’s name we pray.
Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSON for Today:  
1 John 5:13-21 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
14 And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. 16 If you see your brother or sister[a] committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God[b] will give life to such a one—to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal.
18 We know that those who are born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God protects them, and the evil one does not touch them.19 We know that we are God’s children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true;[c] and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.[d]
Footnotes:
  1. 1 John 5:16 Gk your brother
  2. 1 John 5:20 Other ancient authorities read know the true God
  3. 1 John 5:21 Other ancient authorities add Amen

SERMON for Today:
Raymond Edward Brown, S.S., (May 22, 1928 – August 8, 1998) was an American Roman Catholic priest, a member of the Sulpician Fathers and a prominent Biblical scholar of his era. Brown was a professor at the Protestant Union Theological Seminary (UTS) in New York, where he taught for 29 years and the first Roman Catholic professor to gain tenure there. Brown remains controversial among traditionalist Catholics because of their claim that he denied the inerrancy of the whole of Scripture and cast doubt on the historical accuracy of numerous articles of the Catholic faith. He was regarded as occupying the center ground in the field of biblical studies and opposing the literalism found among many fundamentalist Christians while not carrying his conclusions as far as many other scholars.  He wrote the following about today’s Scripture lesson.

It is not arrogance to recognize evil and those who do it, but Christians should be careful about deciding that such people are radically evil in themselves and cannot be prayed for.  REB, An Introduction To The New Testament

In today’s world it seems we that proclaim the name of our Savior do not have any problem at all condemning our fellow sojourners.  There seem to be more people calling each other sinners than calling each other to kneel at the foot of the cross.

I wonder if we still remember the power of the love God has shown through His Son to all of us.  The only “mortal sin” I know of is denying the Holy Spirit entrance into one’s inner being thus denying the existence of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 12:31-32 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
31 Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Part of the reason folks think they can be so sure they are right and therefore condemn the “sins” of others is because they take verses that come earlier in 1 John and claim they are perfect.  Perfectionism as a theological proposition is not possible to defend. Here is John Wesley, one of the fathers of the subject, on the subject.
In the year 1764, upon a review of the whole subject, I wrote down the sum of what I had observed in the following short propositions: --
(1.) There is such a thing as perfection; for it is again and again mentioned in Scripture.
(2.) It is not so early as justification; for justified persons are to `go on unto perfection.' (Heb. 6:1.)
(3.) It is not so late as death; for St. Paul speaks of living men that were perfect. (Phil. 3:15.)
(4.) It is not absolute. Absolute perfection belongs not to man, nor to angels, but to God alone.
(5.) It does not make a man infallible: None is infallible, while he remains in the body.
(6.) Is it sinless? It is not worth while to contend for a term. It is `salvation from sin.'
(7.) It is `perfect love.' (1 John 4:18.) This is the essence of it; its properties, or inseparable fruits, are, rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and in everything giving thanks. (1 Thess. 5:16, &c.)
(8.) It is improvable. It is so far from lying in an indivisible point, from being incapable of increase, that one perfected in love may grow in grace far swifter than he did before.
(9.) It is amissible, capable of being lost; of which we have numerous instances. But we were not thoroughly convinced of this, till five or six years ago.
(10.) It is constantly both preceded and followed by a gradual work.  
May The Spirit of God Be With You This Week and For Evermore. Amen.”

If God is going to forgive us of every sin other than speaking against or denying the Holy Spirit and Jesus has instructed us not to judge, is it time to get off our high horses and take to the ground and meet folks where they are with our arms outstretched welcoming them as lost sheep into the fold?  It is a sin not to.

© Ed Cooper, May 1, 2016, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
  All rights reserved
(Ed Cooper is a retired minister and mental health advocate. He lives with his wife Patty in the mountains of East Tennessee.)