Worship

Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany
January 30, 2011
Text: Matthew 5:1-12

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vH6FXeOtDTw

Doesn't it seem to you that our whole culture is devoted to promoting the idea that our chief goal in life is to be happy?
Advertising sells products based on how much happier we will be if we purchase a particular brand of shampoo or toothpaste or deodorant soap (although that probably affects the happiness of the people around us more than it affects us!). Many of us have bought into the idea that our major purpose in life is to be happy. And we believe we have an inherent right to complain when we're not happy.

The world defines happiness a certain way. But the Bible defines it differently. I think that to the world, happiness means
always getting things your way. But that's a dream. It's not going to happen. It is as hard to grasp as nailing a block of jell-o
to a tree.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reverses the way people usually think of happiness. Everything is the opposite from what
we expect. If His way were the same as the way of the world, Jesus would have said, "Blessed are the rich in spirit…." But
Jesus says the exact opposite. "Blessed are the poor in spirit." He does not say, "Blessed are the Ruthless for they shall inherit
the earth." He says, "Blessed are the meek." Statements like this can be difficult for us to understand.

The section from the Sermon on the Mount which I read to you from Matthew chapter 5 is a familiar passage known as the
Beatitudes. I can't possibly do justice to this section in a single sermon, so I've decided just to focus on one of the verses.

Verse 5: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

January 23, 2011
Text: Matthew 4:12-25
Jesus: Teacher and Healer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meCDRKDQcCA

I saw a Peanuts cartoon one time where Lucy was telling Linus, “I’ve decided that I should become an evangelist. You know that kid that sits behind me at school? I convinced him that my religion is better than his religion!”

“No kidding,” says Linus. “How did you do that?”

And Lucy said, “Easy! I hit him with my lunchbox!”

Hitting someone with your lunchbox is one way to get people to do what you want, but I don’t think it’s the right way to spread the Christian message.

Someone once asked me, “Should we be trying to convert people to Christianity?” And the answer is “yes, of course.” If we are not actively trying to convert people to Christianity, we are not doing what our Lord has commanded us to do. That does not mean that everyone in this room has to become a preacher or hand out pamphlets on busy street corners. But it does mean that, as a church, it is our highest priority to reach, convert and develop disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is our mission statement as a congregation. Like those first disciples, we reach out to others in the name of Christ because in Christ, God has reached out to us. That is evangelism. To know Christ and to make Him known. And that is why we do many of the things we do around here.

Jesus came to make disciples. Today, He tells Peter and Andrew that He will make them fishers of men. And if you will remember, the last thing He said to His followers before He ascended to heaven was: “Now you go make disciples of all nations.”

Obviously, we don’t get people to become followers of Christ by hitting them with our lunchbox. But we do have to spread the Word. Faith comes from the Holy Spirit. Faith is a gift. But it doesn’t just happen out of the blue. Faith comes through hearing the message of Christ. If people don’t hear about what Christ has done for them, they will never believe in Him.

January 9, 2011
Text: Matthew 3:13-17
Title: Know God by Knowing Jesus

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTb6aDw5o1k

In May 2010, there was a research experiment performed at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, where they hooked up the brains of 23 Dutch women to magnetic resonance imaging machines (MRIs) to study the neuroscience of advertising.

The scientists wanted to find out if using famous celebrities in advertising is truly an effective marketing strategy. So they took photographs of popular celebrities wearing and promoting a certain brand of footwear. They showed the test subjects photos of the shoes with non-famous models, showed them photos of the celebrities with the shoes, and then showed them pictures of the shoes by themselves. All the while, they have their brains hooked up to complex computerized machines that show brain activity. The researchers made a point of making sure the non-famous models were of comparable beauty as the celebrities to make sure the test subjects weren’t responding just to physical attractiveness.

What they discovered is that when they saw photographs that included the popular celebrities, there was correspondent brain activity that showed that the test subjects were more pleased and were feeling more positive emotions than when they saw pictures of the shoes with non-famous shoe models. And then later, when they saw the pictures of the shoes that had been previously shown with the celebrities, those same positive feelings appeared. So in other words, the positive emotions they had for the celebrities was actually transferred to the products themselves.

The researches concluded that using famous and well-liked people in advertising is effective. So let’s say you are a huge fan of Englebert Humperdinck. And then someone uses Engelbert Humperdinck to advertise a new weed-wacker. According to this study, your positive feelings about your weekend in Atlantic City will now be subconsciously transferred to the lawn appliance. That’s the power of getting the right endorsement.

I’m going to be bold and tell you that the Gospel reading for today is one of the most important stories in the life of Christ. Obviously, all of the Bible is God’s Word and is important. I’m not denying that. There are the four canonical Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We have four reliable eyewitness-based accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. Some of the stories you know about Jesus are found in Matthew, some in Mark, some in Luke and some in John. Some stories are found in only one Gospel. Other stories are recorded in two or even three of the Gospels. But did you realize that very few events in the life of Christ are recorded in all four Gospels? That’s true. Only two of them, Matthew and Luke, for instance, record His birth, which we made such a big deal out of around here just a couple of weeks ago. All four of them describe His crucifixion and all four tell about His resurrection from the dead. Other than the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the only event that appears in all four Gospels is His baptism in the Jordan River.

January 15, 2011
Text: John 1:29-42;
Jesus Is the Lamb of God

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ob7lUCTwHk

Have you ever noticed that when you are very knowledgeable about a subject, it can be pretty difficult to explain that subject to someone who knows nothing or next to nothing about it?

Doctors and lawyers are put into this position all the time. They deal in fields that are very complex and technical and are regularly put into the position of having to explain the intricacies of medicine or law to patients and clients.

Another example is the IT guy at your office. All you want to know is how to get your document to print, but he’s got to go on about routers and servers and networks, all important stuff, but which can come across to you as gobbledygook, if you’re not as well versed in the field.

I was reading a new book this week called, Even a Geek Can Speak. It’s a book to help people who are experts in complicated disciplines explain complex ideas to the average person or the non-specialist.

Every field has its own special vocabulary and its own jargon. Whether you are a mechanic, an engineer, a salesman, a musician or a brain surgeon, you converse daily in your own language.

Another area is sports. If you are not a sports aficionado, it can be confusing to listen to people talking about blitzes, offsides, pinch hitters, stolen bases and strike zones.

January 6, 2011
Text: Matthew 2:1-12

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MSi51la2KM

Tonight is the last time we will enjoy these festive Christmas decorations together. The twelfth day of Christmas was yesterday and today is Epiphany, the start of something new. The season of Epiphany begins on January 6th and goes until Ash Wednesday, or the beginning of Lent, which is in early March this year.

Take a moment and look below the tree at the Nativity Scene. I’m sure many of you had similar Nativity Scenes in your homes.

When I was a pastor at my former congregation in Pittsburgh, PA, we did a live nativity scene every year. Our church property was on a busy road. We built a little structure to represent a stable. Members of the congregation dressed up as Mary and Joseph, an angel and some shepherds. We built wooden animals and set them up. One year, we rented some sheep. We have costumes and props and special lighting. And when passersby would stop to view the scene or take a photograph, or maybe to pet the sheep, we would invite them inside the church to sit and listen to Christmas music and share some cookies and hot chocolate with us.

In addition to the Holy Family and the angels and the shepherds, we also had the three wise men. The Bible actually does not tell us very much about these Wise Men, who they were and where they came from. All it says is that they were from the East. Many scholars believe they may have been from Babylon, which is modern day Iraq. Even though traditionally, we talk about the three Wise Men, the Bible doesn’t tell us how many of them there were. All it mentions is that they brought three gifts and that’s why we generally think of there being three of them. They brought Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And even though we typically put the Wise Men out with the Nativity Scene with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds, it appears from reading the Gospel of Matthew that they were not actually there on the night of Jesus’ birth, but arrived some time later. It says in Matthew’s Gospel that Mary and Jesus were living in a house by the time the Wise Men arrived.

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