United Church of Pittsford
Serving, Caring, Learning Together

September 2017

Rev. Dr. Jimmy Reader

Rev. Dr. Jimmy Reader

August 27, 2017
TEXT:
Exodus 1:8-2:10
TITLE: “God Doesn’t Do It Without Us”
THEME: God does not work without us.

  •       The lectionary readings for today say two different things, and both are true. First, that God helps us, and we couldn’t live without the Lord. Second, that we help God, and in a way God can’t do it without us.
  •        Psalm 124 says that if the Lord had not been on our side, the flood would have engulfed us and the raging waters would have swept us away. [Especially fitting today as we pray for the people in Texas and Louisiana in the midst of the latest hurricane and drenching rains.]
  •       Romans 12 calls us to offer ourselves – our bodies! – as living sacrifices to God – to be transformed and show by what we do what God’s will is – and then to use God’s many gifts to bring about what God wants in this world.
  •       Everyone knows that God worked through Moses to bring the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt into the promised land. – Yet Moses was the one the people heard and saw as he spoke and acted with boldness, courage, and faith. God didn’t do it without Moses.
  •       But where would Moses have been without the women in today’s story? – Hebrew midwives, Moses’ mother and sister, Pharoah’s daughter
  •       We live in a time of anxiety and fear of what may happen.
  •       What can we do? - We can pray and ask God to act, to do what only God can do – to change hearts and minds. – We can then humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from our sinful ways, and trust God’s promise to forgive our sin and heal our land.
  •       The sins of our nation include greed, racism, and belief that violence solves problems.
  •       Even in that promise, it’s clear that God doesn’t do it without us. … We can’t do it without God, but God doesn’t do it without us!
Rev. Dr. Jimmy Reader

Rev. Dr. Jimmy Reader

September 3, 2017
TEXT:
Romans 12:9-21
TITLE: “A Transformed Life”
THEME: Be transformed and transform the world!

  • What does the gospel call the church to do? – One answer is that we are called to “heal and transform the world.”
  • Today’s scripture in Romans 12 speaks to the transformation we are called to experience.
  • Begin with vv. 1-2: “Offer your [whole selves] as a living sacrifice to God [and] do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” – Our “mind” has to do with the way we see the world – how we imagine life should be – and then making decisions every day to live that way.
  • Read along in verses 9-21.
  • This is a transformed life, the way we live when our minds are renewed, changed, transformed by the Spirit of Christ within us.
  • When we live this way, our everyday lives and decisions will have a transformative effect on people around us – on our relationships – and on the world. The more people who live this way, the more the transformative power of God will be unleashed in this world.
  • Can you imagine a world where everyone lived this way – with sincere love, with true hospitality, where we choose to live at peace with everyone, where we overcome evil with good? … Be transformed by the power of God and go out to transform the world!

September 10, 2017
           (The audio recording of today's sermon is not available.)            

TEXT: Romans 13:8-14  
TITLE: “Do No Harm”
THEME: Love sums up how God wants us to live – to do no harm.

  • Love “sums up” all that God wants us to do and how God wants us to live. – [The whole law…] is summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’…Love is the fulfillment of the law.
  • To love one another – this is the one thing we “owe” anyone – the one thing that God wants to be the focus of our life every day.
  • Jesus urged us to be ready when he comes, when the end of life comes (in whatever way it comes to each one of us) – How are we to “be ready”? By being more religious? Believing the right doctrines? How? – By loving one another, loving our neighbor as ourselves.
  • Put aside the deeds of darkness…do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.  – Darkness is the opposite of light (in scripture), and whatever deeds or desires belong to darkness are the opposite of the deeds and desires of light and therefore of love. - Desires of the fleshCarousing, drunkenness, sexual immorality, debauchery …  dissension, jealousy …none of these come from love because all of them cause harm to ourselves and to others.
  • We don’t want people to harm us, so we choose to do nothing that would harm others.to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, Paul says, is a core principle of love itself. – Is that not also at the core of the golden rule – do no harm“First do no harm” is a modern version of core principles of the ancient Hippocratic oath which medical doctors have traditionally taken. – To do no harm, Paul says, is a core principle of love itself. – Is that not also at the core of the golden rule – To do unto others as we would have them do unto us? We don’t want people to harm us, so we choose to do nothing that would harm others.
    Our challenge in applying this to our lives is in the meaning of the word “neighbor.” The OT clearly included “aliens”/ foreigners among people we are to love - and Jesus made a hated Samaritan the “hero” of a story about when it means to love our neighbor. – Think of any group of people who are discriminated against or who other people consider less than themselves. – What does it mean to do no harm?
  • Ask yourself, “Will this cause harm to the other person?” If it will, don’t do it. Find some word or action that will help and heal and not harm.Love does no harm.At the very heart of love is this thought – perhaps the best way to know what love “looks like”.
  • Jesus said in “the sermon on the Mount” that we are to love even our enemies -  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” 
  • Someone said: “The love of one another means giving up our claims to ourselves and our claims over others, however “right” and “just” they might seem according to our own ideas.” – Jesus gave up his life for us!, forgiving those who killed him and laying down his life for everyone…. God so loved the world!
  • Loving relationship is at the heart of the Trinity – 3-in-one. – We were created in God’s image, as people designed to live in love with God and one another. The only way to fulfill our purpose in life, to find true meaning in life, is to love not only God but one another, even those with whom we disagree, or who oppose us and hate us and make themselves our enemies.
  • irst do no harm. Then go on to do good. Love is about what we do, not how we feel. Love is how we act toward others, how we treat them, how we see them, regardless of how we feel about them. – Do no harm. Do what is good. Love one another. Love your neighbor as yourself, for this is everything God desires.

 

September 17, 2017

TEXT: Matthew 18:21-35
TITLE: “Forgive From the Heart”
THEME: We are called to forgive as God forgives.

  • Forgive from the heart. – But what does that mean?
  • To begin (from Romans 13) ... Love does no harm to another, so love fulfills the law – the law meaning everything God wants us to do.
  • “Forgive and forget” was never good advice. We don’t forget when someone has hurt us. But when we do remember what happened, what will we choose to do?
  • Peter asks the question many of us ask – how many times must we forgive? Seven times? … Jesus replied: No. Seventy times seven, or there is no end to true forgiveness.
  • Jesus tells a parable of a rich king who cancelled an unforgivable debt for one servant. That servant then demand immediate repayment of a small debt from another servant and  treated him harshly. The king then said:  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?You wicked servant, I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.
  • I do not think v.35 are Jesus’ words. Matthew seems to make the parables into allegories, in this story making this Gentile tyrant the same as God, and sometimes adding to Jesus’ parables something Jesus never said.  … God will do the same to you. – Really? Are we to be better than God? Are we to forgive without limit, but God does not?
  • As Christians we believe that Jesus most fully showed us who God is – by his words and his life. From Jesus, we know God to be compassionate and forgiving. One who loves even his enemies and gives up his life for them. One who forgives those who are crucifying him. One who does not seek revenge and who chooses not to save and not to harm others. – This is who we are called to be. 
  • Forgiveness does not mean:
    • To let someone keep harming us. (To forgive does not mean staying in an abusive relationship.)
    • To condone what someone is doing. (Excusing wrong behavior)
  • Forgiveness does mean:
    • To be willing to continue to love the person (to want only good for them)
    • To not seek revenge or do harm (this is love)
    • To let go of bitterness (which only harms ourselves).God’s heart is love.
  • God loved the world. If we live in love, we have seen God and know God, for God is love. – Be like our Father in heaven, Jesus said. Paul wrote: We are called to be like God – in our hearts. With hearts of love.
  • Through Jesus we know a God of compassion and forgiveness, one who never stops loving and always forgives. We are called to that life, and nothing less. May it be so.

 

September 24, 2017
(The audio recording of today's sermon is not available.)    


TEXT: Exodus 16:1-21  
TITLE: “When God Provides”
THEME: God grants what we need for today.

My story: I was a father and a pastor at 21 years old. By the time I was 30, we had 4 kids, and I had been preaching for nearly a decade. – We were young, maybe naïve – but we were dedicated in our calling and ready to risk everything to follow Jesus. I read a lot of books on faith and prayer and believing that God will provide for all our needs if we trust him. – That decade and the next, we “put God to the test” so many times. We prayed, we waited, we did what we believed God wanted us to do. … And we struggled financially and had some tough times. Over the years since – and to this day – I wonder what is true, or at least I’m still learning. What does it mean that God will provide? What did Jesus mean when he said, “ask and you will receive”? What did Paul mean when he wrote that God will “supply all our needs according to his riches”? – When we pray and trust and wait  - and, still ,whatever we thought God would do doesn’t happen, what then?

Reading through Exodus 16....
Vv. 2,8 - The people grumbled against Moses and God – If only we had died in Egypt… You have brought us out here to starve.” (Have you everfelt that way?)  – In spite of the miracles, and the evidence of God’s presence and power, as soon as they grew hungry and confused, they began to doubt everything.
V.13 – God provided! Quail in the evening and then in the morning…manna (bread) covering the ground. No matter how much they gathered up, it was enough. (But when some tried to keep it for the next day, it turned bad.) – God would provide day by day. And so each morning they gathered as much as they needed. And God continued to provide for 40 years!

  • Give us this day our daily bread, Jesus taught us to pray. – Then and now, the way of faith is to trust God in this moment, for this day, and trust that God will provide what we need tomorrow.
  • In the story of their wilderness wanderings, the people were grateful for awhile. Then they would lose heart and perhaps lose faith – and grumble again – and doubt again – and turn against Moses and God again. …. Yet God would provide - water from a rock, daily manna. In simple, surprising ways, God would provide.
  • Seldom has God provided in ways people expected. In all the stories of scripture, that seems to be true. God is gracious, even in the midst of our grumbling and unbelief, yet “God’s ways are not our ways.” What we decide we need and ask God to provide may not be what we receive. Yet what we receive will be what we truly need.
  • This prayer, attributed to an unknown confederate soldier, expresses it well:

I asked for strength that I might achieve;
       I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things;
       I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
       I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
       I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
       I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I had asked for,
       but eveything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered;
       I am, among all men, most richly blessed.

  • In those early years as a father and a pastor – trying to provide for my family and to lead the church -  I learned a lot. But I’m still learning. I would like to think that if I need something, I can tell God what that is and ask and trust – and God will grant it. … What I continue to learn is that God will provide – in simple, surprising ways – in ways that are not my ways. God will provide what I need day by day, with enough for today. And tomorrow we start all over again! May God grant me the grace to know deep in my heart that today God will provide what I need for today.