Written and Shared by: Chaplain Chris Belfield
One of the inevitable signs of getting older is forgetfulness. Well, at least that's my excuse and I am going to stick to it. I readily admit that there are times that I need help remembering upcoming tasks and events. Years ago I developed the habit of putting down all the important events on a desk calendar so that I could refer to it as a memory jogger and also help with scheduling my time. I reasoned that if it was not written down in the calendar, I was not responsible as I didn't know about it. You can already imagine how well that flawed logic train worked. Now. With the technological advances over the years, it is easy to add events and tasks to home computers, tablets, and even cell phones so that there should be no excuses. There are programmed reminders when these devices are turned on.
What could be easier? Well, you have to take the time to enter the information first. I am old school and find it much easier to write it down on the paper desk calendar. I like the convenience (at least to me) of being able to flip through weeks and months at a time to see what I have done, am doing, and will be doing. There have been times, few thankfully, here I was supposed to do something or be somewhere and missed it. I checked the calendar and it was not there. Turns out I forgot to write it down.
Before you ask – I will already state that I am not so old school that I still have and use a Rolodex. I have made the leap to the 21st century and readily appreciate and embrace the use of the computer and phone to store all of my contact information. The only deficit noted is when there is a severed internet connection, which happened recently. Both the computer and home phone were disabled. Thank goodness the cell phone still worked. What did people do 50 years ago before all of this advanced technology? Oh, that's right – I was there, and we somehow managed to do just fine.
That brings us to the present and this week in particular. It is marked on my desk calendar that Monday is Memorial Day, so I don't have to write that down. If there was any doubt about it, the TV and radio have been extolling the great bargains that can be realized during this holiday weekend. Advertisements are telling us to have a happy Memorial Day. Why? Memorial Day is not a national holiday. It is a national day of remembrance. It is to pause and reflect on the ultimate sacrifice that so many men and women in uniform made while serving to protect our country –you and me. One of the regrets due to COVID-19, and there have been many, was the activities we could not do publicly. In 2019, the students at the Minnehaha Elementary School hosted a Veterans Day Program for the area's veterans. It was one of the most moving and appreciated programs I have ever attended. Among my fellow veterans and myself, there was hardly a dry eye when done. These children were sincere in their appreciation and visibly showed it. As veterans, we will never forget their service to us.
Now it is Memorial Day weekend. How will you visibly show your support for those who died in service to our country? What will you be telling your children and grandchildren about this solemn day? The local newspaper last week listed the different activities occurring around the county on Monday. Do you have time to attend one? On Friday morning, volunteers will be placing small American flags at the graves of veterans. What a great way to pay respect. We have plenty of flags and can always use the help. This is a time not to forget what so many others have given to us through their sacrifice. It seems little enough for us to take the time to honor them appropriately. See you on Monday. Our encouragement verse for this week is: John 15:13 (NIV) “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” May you be blessed by God's word.
First Lesson Ezekiel 37: 1-14
Psalm 139” 1-12
Second Lesson: Acts2: 1-21
Isn’t spring wonderful. It is busting out all around us. It seems that one day the trees were bare and the next they had leaves. There’s all the shades of green signifying new life. Things have been dry for a while and so the outpouring of rain from above is welcome.
Rain brings life – it is necessary for life. Much of the Middle East – including Israel is arid. it was particularly dependent on the outpourings of heaven. The Bible talks about a different kind of outpouring of heaven – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The rain pours down from the sky and gives new life to the land. It causes even the arid land to be fruitful. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is poured out giving new life that causes us to be fruitful. This is the outpouring that we celebrate today – Pentecost.
We think of Pentecost as the birthday of the church. But it wasn’t the first Pentecost. The Jewish people started celebrating Pentecost long before the Spirit was poured out on the disciples. Pentecost or in Hebrew Shavuot was one of the three annual festivals when people would make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. Shavuot was known as the feast of weeks – (or a week of weeks) starting 7 weeks after the second day of Passover. It was also known as the festival of first fruits.
It began as an agricultural festival as noted in Ex 23 and Deut 26. So that when the Israelites entered the promised land – the land promised to Abraham they would bring the first fruits of their harvest and offer them to the Lord – saying ‘I declare today to the Lord our God that I have come to the country which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us.’ and then they would pray a prayer describing the bondage of their ancestors in Egypt, their deliverance and their dependence on God, who brought them to “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 26:9). Jews were also required to give of their harvest to any poor dependents on Shavuot (“the Levite, the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow”), so that the holiday served as an occasion for mercy and social equality. (https://jewsforjesus.org/jewish-resources/jewish-holidays/shavuot/)
Celebrated God’s faithfulness God’s deliverance and acknowledged their ongoing dependence on God. As they celebrated God’s blessing of fruitfulness – they recognized that the blessings were not just for themselves They were to share those blessings with those that couldn’t provide for themselves
Later there was less agricultural emphasis and more a celebration of the giving of the law – that time when the Lord had led them out of Egypt and gave them the law on Mt Sinai. Even though there is no clear biblical basis for the association of Shavuot. a number of rabbis calculated and believed that that was when the Law was given.
With time there was more and more Jews living outside of Israel in Greek speaking regions. In those areas Shavuot became known as the feast of the fiftieth day and the way you say fiftieth in Greek is pentecoste (pen-tay-kos-tay')
You may remember that the people got impatient with God and Moses during the giving of the Law and decided to make their own god – a golden calf. Moses came down the mountain and told them to repent and return to the Lord. 3000 refused and as a result died.
Over a thousand years after Moses - God poured out the Holy Spirit on the disciples while Jews from all over were in Jerusalem celebrating Pentecost/ Shavuot. The scene was wild – there was the sound of a rushing wind the Holy Spirit descended and filled Jesus’ followers. It appeared like tongues of fire were on each one. A crowd gathered - they were from many different places and spoke many different languages. And each one heard the disciples speaking in their own language. Even though it was morning they thought the disciples were drunk. Peter explained that that which the prophet Joel prophesied was happening right before their eyes. Peter’s Spirit filled words convicted them of sin and 3000 were given salvation – new life -on that day.
On Shavuot – Pentecost - ages apart the Law was given and 3000 died and the Holy Spirit was given and 3000 came to new life. Pentecost links the old and new covenants. Death and life. Law and Spirit.
Pul writes in 2 Cor 3 the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
All of our texts highlight the Holy Spirit bringing about new life. Ezekiel speaks God’s Word over a lifeless bunch of dry bones and by the power of the Spirit those dry bones come together – they take on flesh and then God breathes life into them He speaks To Israelites in exile God is the God of the God of the impossible – death -> life – fools -> children Word has power to re-create Eph 2.1 – dead in trespasses and sins. Dead ppl cannot do anything to make themselves live. Breathes life God brings life through His Word in the power of the Spirit. Preached word – Water n word – bread n wine.
Who’s doing the verbs in Ez I have spoken n I will do it. We too can experience drought despair
No matter how far we have strayed God is in the business of bringing us back to life – regenerating. NO one is too far gone Dead -> new life. The impossible being brought back. Eph 2.4 – 10 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead [i]in our wrongdoings, made us alive together [j]with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the [k]boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [l]this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Skeletons when brought to life didn’t say look what I did. God alone doing the saving the regenerating the renewing Law we r hopeless in a dreadful condition dry bones w no hope of regenerating ourselves God is in business of bringing about New life God is the God of the impossible. Don’t trust what we see – don’t see whole picture what we feel.
Trust that God by His word and Spirit is creating new life
Word Spirit and Water - Word Spirit Bread n Wine - Preached word and Spirit
God is giving new life this morning Amen
Pastor Tom Summerfield
Written and Shared by: Chaplain Chris Belfield
I readily admit that I have always had a fondness for instructions and checklists. I mean, they give direction and purpose and at the completion, there is peace and harmony within the cosmos. OK, maybe not that grandiose, but they do help us complete a task in a specified order. I remember as a youth building model airplanes from the included instructions. Somehow mine never came out looking like the box art. My first real accomplishment with instructions was in 1974 when I installed air shocks on my 1967 Plymouth Fury Commander. Bright yellow with a black hardtop, 4-speed, and 318 engine. It was so cool. So cool that a Maryland State Trooper noted that my rear bumper was eight inches too high. That took the air out of my shocks real-quick.
A few short years later I learned of the military’s love affair with checklists for almost every facet of life that can occur from sunup to sundown. However, to be fair – the checklists ensured not only the proper
functioning of multi-million-dollar systems, but also personnel safety. Think about the last time you were on a commercial aircraft and watched the crew go through their pre-flight and safety checklists. Checklists are good. Checklists are our friends.
So it is that my penchant for checklists has carried over to the present time. Last Fall was a perfect example. I had recounted in a previous encouragement all of the steps taken to prepare for the inevitable Winter and highly anticipated Spring. This included meticulous preparation of the veteran snowblower for another season of conquests and the lawn tractor for the Spring Beautification Program. And then reality reared its ugly head. Sure enough, the snowblower, after 18+ years of faithful service decided it was time for eternal rest as it was coming to the point of diminishing returns to keep it operational. The good news was we supported our local merchants with the purchase of a new blower, which got used a total of three times. Never fails. But there was the assurance that the preparations for Spring would prove fruitful. Wrong. Here comes reality again. The lawn tractor fired right up on Monday so that on Tuesday, I could vanquish the miscreant grass and weeds that detract from an otherwise beautiful landscape. Full of anticipation for a successful foray into the yard, I climbed aboard my trusty 18-year-old John Deere and engaged the starter. Nothing. Dead as the proverbial doornail (never quite understood that one.) After over an hour of multiple attempts and YouTube searches, nothing. Never fails. We spent the next three hours with a push mower taking care of the lawn. This unexpected physical exercise was instrumental in convincing us to once again support the economy with a new purchase. We
also supported our local economy through purchases of incredibly cold and delicious strawberry and pineapple sundaes. We ordered a new machine from the big box store with an orange roof but were surprised to learn that the new machine won’t arrive for 3-5 weeks due to an acute shortage as a result of COVID-19 limited production for the past year. Never fails.
Well, OK, checklists are great for planning but don't take into account the unexpected. That's a fact of life. Sixteen months ago, we were just at the threshold of learning about COVID-19 and what the possible impacts could be. Instructions and checklists were developed as we learned more each passing day. And along the way, we learned to not only adapt and carry on but in some circumstances, to even excel beyond our expectations. We did not give up or lose hope. And now we are eagerly anticipating the gradual changes that will permit us a return to a semblance of the normal activities that existed in 2019. We are so close, but not quite there yet. It reminds me of running track in high school. A distance runner knows how many laps are required to complete the event. The hardest lap is not the last lap, but the next-to-last lap because the desire is to just finish now. Here’s the insight from that experience: the end is in sight and just
requires the disciple that training has taught us to see this race through to the finish.
Our encouragement verse for this week is:
Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)
“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” May you be blessed by God's word.
Last evening as I was finishing up the sermon, I got a call from Brazil. It was my friend and brother in Christ Kevin Brinkman. He is on our prayers for the sheep. His family were missionaries to India and his wife had a severe and sudden bout of MS. They are in Brazil to be with his wife’s family so they can help with the care and support of her and their three children. His wife is making some progress, but it is slow. It was fun because I told him I would be preaching on John 17 and he said wow Tom I was just praying and meditating on John 17 a half hour before I called you. It got me to thinking how he would answer the question - where’s your home. He grew up in Iowa lived for many years in India. Married a woman from India whose mother still lives in India and father lives in Brazil. Where is home for Kevin. How about his children – how would they answer the question – where’s your home?
Children of missionaries aren’t ever truly at home in their missionary country nor are they truly at home in their “home” country. They are called “third culture kids.” Often the only place they feel at home is among other missionary kids.
Our ancestors were immigrants and often the first and second generation of immigrants would talk about the home country. My mom’s family had been in the US for many generations and yet she always dreamed of going to her homeland of Norway
The nation of Israel lived in Egypt for hundreds of years. Generation after generation was born and raised there and yet they never considered Egypt their home. Their homeland was the land that God promised to Abraham.
These missionary kids, our immigrant ancestors and the Israelites who lived in Egypt all had a sense that where they were living was not their home. Do you ever get that sense? We’re born into this world and we’ve never been anywhere else. And yet we never really feel at home here. We’re never at home with the pain and sorrows, with the growing old and dying, with all the losses, imperfections, darkness and evil. Nothing lasts here - everything is decaying and passing away. Even in the best of circumstances we have this sense deep down inside that something is not quite right in this world - that something’s missing. This place, as wonderful and beautiful as it can be – is not our home.
Chapter 1 through 12 in John’s gospel records Jesus public ministry John 13 through 17 records his ministry to his disciples during the evening of the Last Supper. Chapter 17 records Jesus’ prayer for his disciples. Jesus prays to God the Father and the disciples get to listen in on it. It gives them comfort, hope and assurance as Jesus prepares them for his betrayal, crucifixion, and departure.
Jesus prays 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I am not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them away from [e]the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 Just as You sent Me into the world, I also sent them into the world.
We are not of this world. But we are not to live apart or away from the world. For hundreds of years some Christians were so fed up with the evil in society and the evil even in the church that they set up separate places and communities to live holier lives. That’s how monasteries were formed. And guess what – the evil isn’t just out there it’s in here. You can’t run away from it no matter how hard you try. Monasteries just invented new ways to sin – namely trying to attain righteousness – trying to earn salvation by their own efforts.
Jesus prays to the Father for those whom the Father had given Him,
Out of all the people in the world you and I are the ones that the Father has chosen to give to Jesus. We are each special and unique creations of God and at the same time ordinary sinners – just like the fishermen and tax collectors that God the Father chose to give to Jesus 2000 years ago. God gave them faith He gave them the Holy Spirit and He gave them His Word. Jesus prayed that the Father would keep them from the evil one and then sends them out. God gives us those very same things - the same faith, the same Holy Spirit the same Word and just like the original apostles - he sends us into the world – We have been entrusted with God’s Word and God’s message of good news. And God empowers us to proclaim this good news with our words and deeds – all for the sake of this world that God loves so much.
We are in the world not of the world. God picked you and me out of this world and gave us a new home. And one fine day we’ll join Pr Stew and all the saints that have gone before us. We’ll no longer be missionaries in this strange land. We’ll be home. Amen
First lesson Acts 10 34-48
Responsive Reading Psalm 98
Second Lesson 1 John 5 1-8
Gospel Lesson John 15 9-17
This week’s gospel lesson is a continuation of last week’s and so as we look at today’s gospel lesson we want to have last week’s in mind. Last week was all about the vine and branches and how we must stay connected to the vine if we are to bear any lasting fruit. This week Jesus explains how abiding or remaining in Christ and bearing fruit are tied to love. Last week’s passage didn’t mention love once and now love is all over the place - 11 times in our passage and 5 times in verse 9 alone. Jesus ties his love for us to the Father’s love for him – AS the father has loved me SO I have loved you. He commands his disciples to abide, remain - rest in his love.Then he goes on to say IF you keep my commandments You WILL abide in my love JUST AS I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love – again Jesus ties our obedience to his commandments - to his obedience to the Father’s commandmentsJesus makes his command very clear - love one another AS I have loved you. Isn’t that incredible? – AS I have loved you. Jesus didn’t avoid those that were difficult to love, he didn’t politely tolerate them, he didn’t love us in a patronizing way. He tells us and shows us what it means to love – laying down one’s life for another. While we were still sinners Christ died for us – we were enemies of God and enemies of the cross and yet Christ willingly stretched out his arms and poured out his blood for you and for me. Seeing as we are celebrating Mother’s Day today I’d like to share an example of the self-sacrificing love of one mother. On December 7, 1988, 55,000 people were victims of the worst earthquake in the history of Soviet Armenia. Susannah Petroysan and her 4 year old daughter Gayaney, had gone to Susannah's sister's apartment. It was on the 5th floor of a 9-story building. When the earthquake struck, Susannah just had enough time to gather her daughter in her arms before the floor gave way beneath them and they fell into total darkness. The entire building collapsed, and when Susannah regained consciousness, she was in complete darkness. She heard her daughter crying in her arms and reaching above her head she felt a concrete panel 18 inches above their bodies. Hours passed without any sign of rescuers coming to their aid. Gayane began to cry incessantly - she was thirsty. As time when by, the little girl's cries began to grow weaker until her mother realized it was likely that her child would die of dehydration before rescuers could find them. In desperation she felt around in the rubble and miraculously found a jar of Blackberry jam. Hours later the jam was gone and the little girl was still crying. "Mommy I am so thirsty, please Mommy give me something to drink." But there was no juice, no water, nor liquids of any kind available to save the life of her child. In desperation she cried out to God to help her save her daughter. At some point, Susanna had an idea. She remembered a television program about an ex- plorer in the Arctic who was dying of thirst. His comrade slashed open his hand and gave his friend his blood.“I had no water, no fruit juice, no liquids. It was then I remembered I had my own blood.”Her groping finger, numb from the cold, found a piece of shattered glass. She sliced open her left index finger and give it to her daughter to suck.The drops of blood weren’t enough. “Please, Mommy, some more. Cut another finger.” Susanna has no idea how many times she cut herself. She only knows that if she hadn’t, Gayaney would have died. Her blood was her daughter’s only hope.Eight days after the earthquake they were rescued. Susannah had saved her child's life through the gift of her own blood. This is a great example of selfless agape love. It portrays the way that parents often lay down their lives for their children. Not many of us have the opportunity to lay down their lives in such a dramatic way but day in and day out parents and caregivers lay down their lives to nourish the children entrusted to their care.Mother’s day is a wonderful celebration of motherhood. It’s got to be one of the busiest phone days of the year. Everyone is calling Mom. But when we mention the word mom, mother or Mother’s Day it triggers a wide range of emotions. For many it brings to mind an image of mom straight from a Norman Rockwell painting – mom the caregiver, the one we run to when we are hurting whether it is a scraped knee or a wounded heart – the word mom conjures up memories of warm hugs, incredible fragrances pouring out of the kitchen – turkey dinners, pies and cookies. At the same time, we recognize that human life is fleeting, and that human love and relationships aren’t perfect. So, while the mention of mom may bring a broad smile to one person, to another it may bring tears. Maybe it’s tears for a dear mom that has recently passed away. Or tears to a mom that has lost a child. Or tears for someone that would love to be a mom but hasn’t had the opportunity. Maybe thoughts of mom cause us to cringe from the hurts that we suffered or from guilt for the pain that we inflicted as a child or as a parent. We live in a fallen world and yet sometimes we are blessed to experience a taste of selfless love.I love the story of Susannah and her daughter. It is such a graphic picture of selfless love. And the corollary to Christ’s love is so apparent. By her blood she saved her daughter and by Christ’s blood we are saved. So we celebrate all the glimpses of selfless love that we have known, particularly today those of mothers. And at the same time we lift up to our God – in the name of the one who shed his blood for us -all the pain and guilt that we have suffered as children, as mothers, and as those that have longed to be mothers.The Bible tells us of a number of different mothers and I’d like to refer to these various mothers as we pray.
Let us pray We remember the mother and grandmother of Timothy - Lois and Eunice. They raised him in the faith. Faithful God, we thank you for mothers who teach us your Word and encourage us in our faith by example; fill us with your Spirit and empower us so that we might also teach your Word and proclaim our faith with our lives.We remember Abraham’s wife Sarah who was taunted by others in the household because of her inability to have children. And we pray for those who have struggled to be moms and feel left out this day when we celebrate mothers.Lord we remember Esther, who was raised by her cousin. and we give you thanks for children that come to parents in a variety of ways. We give you thanks and we pray for foster mothers and those that have become mothers through adoption.We remember the mother of Moses, Pharaoh demanded that all Hebrew boys be put to death and so she placed him into a raft on the river. Saving God, we pray for parents who struggle to raise their children in oppressive circumstances.We remember Hannah, who loved her child so much she handed him over to another to raise. Loving God, we pray for parents who have entrusted their child to the care of another.We remember Ruth’s mother in law - Naomi, who grieved the death of her sons. God we give you thanks for the children that have been entrusted to us for a time and we pray for parents who mourn the death of a child.We remember Ruth, who gave up her family to be family to another. and we pray for those who choose to be family to those isolated by culture, language or distance.We remember John the Baptist’s mother Elizabeth, who had a child in old age and we remember Mary the young mother of our Lord. And we pray for mothers of all ages We remember Rachel, crying for her children. and we pray for those mothers whose children are victims of evil and violence. We pray that you might keep children from evil and that they might live safely in their communities. We remember other mothers, not named in the Scriptures, like the mother of the prodigal son. and we pray for mothers who wait for a phone call or a visit, cut off from family and friends by distance or disagreement.
Nurturing God, we give thanks for those who enrich our lives by their presence who teach us about your abundant love who encourage us in our faith. amen
Susannah gave her blood to save and sustain her daughter. Christ gave his blood to save and sustain us. In the blood there is forgiveness, in the blood there is healing, in the blood there is love. Amen