Showing posts with label sermons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sermons. Show all posts

Monday, October 27, 2014

Daily Vlog #299 Made to Give (60sSSS)

My friend a fellow pastor John Inverso explains generous giving in this stewardship season in his sixty second sermon summary. Perfect, just perfect.

Evangelism by Example

Explaining the apostle Paul's very different approach to evangelism and its application today.

Note to pastors: shifting from Thessalonians to Thessalonica can cause some challenges!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Sermon Concerning Domestic Violence Awareness

Due to technical difficulties, the camera was not working today. However, the message is too important not to offer for consideration. Below is the complete transcript of the sermon. 

Working for Mercy & Peace

Deuteronomy 34:1-12
October 26, 2014

       This is, without doubt, the hardest sermon I’ve written. Philadelphia Baptist Association has asked pastors to preach this Sunday on domestic violence awareness. While it is not entirely clear what all leads to domestic violence, an often silent and hidden epidemic in our culture and our churches, it is known that conditions leading to family stress ignite it. Right now, economic growth is below normal. Unemployment rates remain too high. Those individuals suffering beneath the poverty line have increased to roughly 50 million, around one in every six persons in our population. As we have seen working with the Interfaith Food Cupboard, the rate of food insecurity is far too high. Opportunities for advancement have dwindled. This is an incredibly stressful environment to live in and fertile ground for domestic violence. According to the pamphlet available from PBA, 2,135,000 women and men are abused annually by partners. Numbers like this can leave us feeling helpless and wanting to withdraw. However, using God’s methods of mercy and peace, as seen in today’s Scripture reading, we Christians can make a difference.
       Moses was an extraordinary prophet and leader. Moses had an amazingly close relationship with God. We are told Moses had God’s Spirit, received a divine calling and divine revelation from God. Moses spoke with God’s words. Here was the prophet who led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Moses formed this “stiff-necked people” into a nation. Listening to his father-in-law’s advice, he gave them a judicial system. All of the prophets who came later were compared with Moses. In the New Testament, parallels were made between Jesus and Moses, so powerful was Moses’ legacy. In Deuteronomy 34:10, it is written, “there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” No one short of Jesus would be used by God so intensely as an instrument of revelation. God spoke to Moses clearly and Moses saw God’s form without dying.
       And yet, Moses, for all his virtues, was a human being filled with human flaws, human fears, and a human temper. In his youth, Moses struck down an abusive Egyptian beating a Hebrew and fled to Midian to evade Pharaoh’s wrath. Later, in the wilderness of Zin, after the death of Miriam, Moses’ sister, at Kadesh, Moses was caught up in a quarrel among his people. They were waterless and sure they were going to die. They were accusing Moses of poor leadership, bringing them to this hostile place. God told Moses and Aaron to command the rock to yield water before the assembled crowd. This would be a sign of God’s power and holiness. Instead, Moses, apparently with temper flaring, proclaimed, “Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” Striking the rock with his staff twice, the water came. God saw this action as Moses’ lack of trust in God and God’s methods, stating, “Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” Moses was neither free of fear nor sin, though God made great use of him.
       For many centuries, that judgment, in the face of all Moses did right, has worried scholars. Many explanations have been offered but none seem to satisfy. Right now this is a painful story of judgment, harsh judgment. And Moses was about to die. Will this story be redeemed? There is a modern story about which we can ask the same painful question.
       Moses was in a situation of high stress both times when his temper got the best of him. The people of Israel became those famous “stiff-necked people” arguing and abusive when they were stressed as well. Great social stress today leads to domestic abuse, as we have seen. That is the dangerously fertile soil into which the evil seeds of cruelty fall and thrive. Seeking out an explanation for the cruelty involved in domestic violence, I turned to the Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling. The experts there explained that our life’s expectations are “mapped out” early in childhood. Those expectations grow as the years roll by and impact behavior. Generally speaking, if a child received love and care, those are the expectations mapped out for later life and that child is likely to be loving and caring. However, when a child is told constantly and unfairly that he or she is bad and is treated with cruelty and violence, the map of life’s expectations is altered and behavior changes. That child will likely exhibit cruel behavior later in life. Victims become victimizers as they try to decrease painful, pent-up feelings from their own trauma. This awful and wrong cycle perpetuates. Again, this is general. There are exceptions.
       Sadly, social attitudes going all the way back to the Code of Hammurabi, the oldest legal documents, have been lax on domestic violence. In the Code, the rights of a husband to discipline a wife and children as he saw fit were affirmed. In time, restrictions were placed on how men might exercise this right. By the 19th century, social reform movements made child and wife abuse less excusable. However, today, while there are laws in every state prohibiting assaults on family members, all too often there is reluctance to enforce them. Batterers are rarely charged and victims are encouraged not to press charges. Worse, victims are often blamed as being complicit in the abuse.
       Any community that tolerates interpersonal violence perpetuates it and passes it on like toxic seeds to the next generation. For instance, a 28-year-old contractor filed for divorce from his estranged wife, a wife he declared he no longer loved. One day, cancelling his wife’s home insurance, he obtained the necessary permits and demolished her three bedroom home. Fortunately, she and their three children were away. Quite a few men in the community called this violence “bulldozer justice” and supported the contractor. His community let it be known that violent, vengeful attitudes and behaviors were legitimate ways to end family disputes.
       Christian families are not exempt from this crisis. Some years ago, Methodist church women were surveyed and 68% revealed they had experience with abuse. Domestic abuse is a crisis facing peoples of every social and economic class, every ethnic group, both genders, all ages, and every faith. Like our story from Deuteronomy, at this point it feels like terrible, harsh judgment and leaves us in a quandary as to what we should do.
It is easy to imagine ourselves standing on some high mountain, looking longingly off into a promised land, but unable to reach it.
       While this is a story of God’s judgment, it is even more a story of God’s mercy and peace. In the Bible, among the nation of Israel, the infirmities of advanced age were often used to portray God’s judgment against the people. Weakness is the result of sin and rebellion. And yet, Moses, a man of 120 years was clear-sighted and vigorous. Moses’ past actions may have denied him direct access to the Promised Land, but God’s judgment is further muted by his treatment of Moses at the end. God is very gentle with his faithful, dedicated, if sometimes prickly servant. God grants Moses a rare delight. Ascending Mount Nebo, some 2,600 feet above sea level—there’s vigor in a 120 year old for you—God provides Moses with a view of the entire Promised Land as no mere mortal could. Moses sees in detail the future homes of the various tribes of Israel. God reminds Moses, “this is the land that I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob …” when the tour is finished.
The promise was about to be fulfilled. God shows mercy to Moses and Moses receives that mercy with acceptance, receiving also God’s peace.
       Throughout Moses’ long life he responded with a range of emotions to God’s calls. At times Moses was filled with self-doubt and fear, then with bravery in the face of great danger, and even offering up a gentle reproach to God to calm things when the people were at their worst. Just once did he stumble as God’s prophet, at Meribah, as his impatience and temper rose with his people. One scholar wrote that since Moses was a model for his people for all time to come, the price Moses paid for that lapse was high. Yet, when God’s justice collides with God’s mercy, as it did here, mercy prevails. In the end, the text even suggests God may have buried Moses God’s-self, providing a final moment of startling closeness in the relationship between God and his prophet. God helped Moses with his final mile on this earth. The text suggests, in Moses’ quiet observation of the Promised Land and his ending without complaint that Moses had serenity in the face of God’s mercy and peace. It is a hopeful end. How might we use those great qualities of mercy and peace today to change lives and offer hope to those struggling with domestic abuse today?
       Last week Paul asked the Thessalonians to do the “work of faith and labor of love” by imitating Paul’s efforts among the church. This week, in this story of Moses, we can see ourselves imitating the ways of God, the ways of mercy and peace. We can also take the message away that, even in the face of the turmoil created by domestic violence and the circumstances that aggravate it, we should continue to have faith. God’s great age of the peaceable kingdom will come and we can strive for the mercy and peace it represents in the here and now, seeing it from afar like Moses from Mount Nebo. Like Moses, we may not live in the Promised Land in which such violence is finished forever, but we can work toward it. We can have faith, like Moses, that God will guide us in our work.
       From this Scripture lesson we can also take the lesson that while our efforts might not be complete, like Moses we can pass them on to another generation and have our work continued, just as Joshua continued Moses’ work with the people of Israel.  Using God’s example of mercy over judgment and peace over wrath, we can contend with domestic violence. This never appropriate behavior is criminal assault. It includes physical and emotional abuse and neglect. The intent is to control others in the relationship. Victims include children and adults, males and females, the single and the married. Domestic violence takes on many forms, including name calling, putdowns, isolation from family and friends, withholding money, preventing partners from getting or keeping jobs, actual or threatened harm, assault, stalking, and intimidation. There is much we can do to help work against this crisis. Churches like ours can provide emergency help for victims. We can help victims get the legal, medical, and social help they need through persistent advocacy on their behalf. When no emergency centers are available, some churches have developed host home networks for temporary safe housing.
We can also help victims and families recover from long-term effects of abuse with guidance to counseling services and by sponsoring support groups. We can offer violent families the chance to build positive bridges with others, breaking their isolation for a healthier way of life.
       As a church, we can also offer up nonviolent images of family life so needed today. We can provide family-life education programs that offer instruction on non-abusive ways of parenting and conflict resolution. Pastors are offering up premarital and post-marital counseling to address domestic violence prevention.
       Further, we can work to reduce social stresses that are flash points for violence. We can work, reaching out with mercy and using peaceful methods against sexism, racism, poverty, and hunger, poisonous soil from which domestic violence grows. We can also speak out against domestic violence, making others aware of this crisis, and never supporting violent actions like “bulldozer justice.”
       American Baptist missionaries Ray and Adalia Schellinger, and their partners in Tijuana, Mexico, are working against domestic violence there with Deborah’s House, a shelter for women and children escaping severe domestic violence fostered by a harsh economy paying less than $1 an hour that demands 50-60 hour weeks, and offers no child care—when work can be found. At Deborah’s House, women learn the sewing business. Working together, these women form a business that allows them to make salaries three times higher than factory rates, allowing them to spend more time with their children, and frees them from violence. Ray and Adalia also provide counseling for abusive men, guiding them toward different, non-violent ways.
       Using God’s approach of mercy superseding judgment and peace instead of wrath, we can work against this terrible crisis of our age. Dedicated to this effort, we can make a difference.    

For more on ending violence, see: and
©2014 J.B. Snyder

Sunday, October 12, 2014

God's House, God's Rules

Exploring the Ten Commandments and what they mean for us in today's world. "This covenant was an invitation for the people to accept God’s love for them and choose to live the better lives God would have them live. That remains true for us today, all around the world."

Fun fact: "As an interesting aside, the law “honor your father and mother” was particularly aimed at the old and infirm. It let the people of Israel know that, unlike some other nations, it was not okay to send the old folks off on a trip in the hopes they’ll either be eaten by wild animals or die of exposure. If you wanted to stay on the land God gave you, you’d need to maintain higher, more humane family standards."

If you find yourself in the the Lansdowne, PA, area any Sunday, consider yourself to have an open invitation to come and worship with us. You will be most welcome!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

In One Spirit

From Paul's letter to the Philippians, Chapter 1, verses 20-30, delivered on September 21, 2014.

Beyond the Law's Letter

Sermon based on Romans 14:1-12, in which Paul grapples with the issue of cooperation and the law. Timely for us all. We are in the early experimental stages here at Lansdowne Baptist Church in recording sermons. We brightened this one a bit. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Changing Our Names

This is a little experiment we are conducting here at Lansdowne Baptist Church. While personally I hate to see and hear myself recorded like this, I'm putting those preferences aside if video sermons can be of help to others, including members who are away and who cannot leave their homes. This sermon was given prior to recent events but has relevance to all that is going on in that it reminds us of how God sees us and changes our names from the less-than-helpful names the world is so inclined to give us.

I hope you find this helpful. Have a blessed day.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Paul Reminds Us of Our Freedom ... Always

With the July 4th celebration of the independence of the United States, I was reminded of Paul's message to the Romans (chapter 6, verses 1-11) ... and to us all. Paul tells of what we have been freed from and what we are freed for by Jesus Christ.

Paul told the Romans that when they chose to follow Jesus, they received freedom from sin and freedom for a life in God through Jesus Christ. Freedom from sin meant freedom from sin’s penalty, sin’s power, and sin’s practice as a way of life. This was the newness of life Paul’s readers were to accept and live out. Paul asked his readers, “How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” Why would they want to, is the subtext. Here we have to step back from the modern concept of freedom a bit.Today we see total freedom as the ability to do whatever we want, whenever we choose. Not so with Paul back in the day. Freedom from sin was freedom for obedience to God. In Paul’s world, you were always going to be bound to one force or another. The choice was whether you would be bound to, “enslaved by” to use Paul’s language, sin and death, or to God in Christ Jesus and life eternal. There was no third way. “By no means!” That's what Paul would say. 

Living in freedom from sin and freedom for God’s true life and service for others seems like an awful lot of work, especially when we are tired and worn from all our other obligations. Like the first century followers of Paul, we too are tempted to ask “can we just keep to our old sinful ways and let God’s grace abound and handle it?” Paul responds to us just as he did to his original readers and hearers. “By no means!” He reminds us of our baptisms. In doing so, Paul reminds us of who we really are—even when we are frazzled—of what we have chosen, and what we have been freed from.

He is like that loving parent who gets his child’s attention when that little one is being naughty by saying, “That isn’t like you. You’re a better person than this.” We are called to walk in the new life ourselves and to believe that others can do so as well. This is important. We are not to be like that pigeon-holing boss who assigned everyone a specific label early on and never saw them any differently. We are to believe in the grace of God through Jesus Christ for ourselves and for others as we strive to live righteous lives, lives in which we are aligned with God and to service for others. We are to believe, like Paul, that we cannot occupy two spaces at once. We cannot live in the arena of sin and the arena of God. We must strive to convince ourselves that we no longer live in that old arena. We are free from sin and free for full life walking with God and helping others to do the same. We have to tell ourselves that the life of sin is the life dehumanized in which people are victims who suffer and die. In doing so, over time, the life in God’s arena becomes force of habit.

This will always be a challenge. There will be mistakes along the way. God forgives us when we ask for that forgiveness and are determined to try again. However, once the habit is set in place, we discover that in time, we do not wish to walk in the old sinful ways (sin being seen as actively working against the will of God for your life and walking away from God and God's ways) but choose instead the freedom to walk with God and to love our neighbors as God wishes us to do ... our neighbors being everyone. 

Enjoy your freedoms this 4th of July and always. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sermon Summaries: April 27, 2014: Through Our Closed Doors

On "Low Sunday," the Sunday after Easter, John 20:19-31 shows us the disciples on the evening of that eventful first day of the week after they have heard Mary Magdalene's joyful declaration that she had seen Jesus back, alive, after the crucifixion, after the burial. By evening the disciples had locked the door and hidden themselves away, afraid their own nation's leadership would seek to kill them as Jesus had been killed.

Jesus was unimpressed by their barred door. He stood among them, offered them peace, proved it was truly him by showing them the wounds, and replaced their terror with the Holy Spirit. The disciples rejoiced. They were given a mission to be sent into the world and God had sent Jesus. But the disciple Thomas had not been with them.

A week later, the disciples are again behind that locked door. They have tried to tell Thomas they had seen Jesus alive ... but they were no more successful at convincing Thomas than Mary Magdalene had been in convincing them. Fear tries hard to drive out belief. Jesus returns. Again he provides peace, again he provides proof for Thomas, and Thomas believes, making a truly profound declaration of faith in Jesus, "My Lord and My God!" This time Jesus also blesses all the readers and hearers who would ever be when Jesus said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." Fear had lead the disciples to disbelief and the same may be said of us all. 

Today, Jesus continues to walk through the barred doors we hid behind when we are afraid and find it hard to believe. He offers us peace and the Holy Spirit. Jesus gives us purpose and sends us out from behind our closed doors, out into the world where we need to be, among other people who help us and who we may help. 

When caught in the grips of fear, turn to Jesus. Allow Jesus to give you peace and purpose. 

Sermon Summaries; Easter 2014: When Your Name Is Spoken

From John 20:11-18, we follow Mary Magdalene to the tomb where Jesus' crucified body had been placed early on the first day of the week. It is the worst first day you can imagine. She arrives before first light to mourn the loss of her beloved teacher and Messiah. She finds the rock covering the tomb rolled back, Jesus' body gone, and in her grief she turns to a perfectly logical explanation. She believed the body had been stolen. She goes back to tell the disciples Peter and John, who confirm the condition of the tomb.

When Mary returns to the tomb, the disciples are gone. She is alone with her grief, or so she believes. She looks into the presumed to be empty tomb. She finds two men there where Jesus' body should have been. She is asked why she cries and who she seeks. Leaving the tomb, she finds another man coming toward her, a man she presumes to be the gardener ... until he says her name. Only then does she recognize the risen Jesus, and rejoice!

Take a moment to read the verse in which Jesus says Mary's name. Now, imagine Jesus saying your name under those circumstances instead. Do you hear your name given in a scolding, authoritarian tone, something gentle and kind ... or somewhere in between. How you hear your name will tell you much about the relationship you have with Jesus. It's worth considering.

When Mary heard Jesus' voice, it changed her life. She knew what Jesus had told them all was true. He had been victorious over death. To the early church, Mary became the apostola apostolorum, the apostle to the apostles, a very significant person. 

As the centuries have rolled by, many have heard their names called by Jesus and responded with joy and new purpose. The world has changed for the better. With Jesus' curing of the sick, those called to care created hospices alongside cathedrals for the care of the ill, the first hospitals. Those who heard their names called with a penchant for education, remembered Jesus' call to love God with all your mind. They established monasteries, academic guilds, and universities. Public education first began to deny Satan access to children's minds, children Jesus loved. The wonderful list of positive changes goes on, rolling down through the centuries like justice rolling down like water. 

Do you hear Jesus calling your voice today? How will you respond? Will you rejoice? Will you be changed and work to help change the world for the better? 

Rejoice! Jesus lives!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sermon Summaries: Palm Sunday, the King of Peace, and Shattered Expectations

Christians celebrate Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into the capital city of Israel, where David had brought the Ark of the Covenant, the footstool of God, and Solomon had built the Temple for God, and shattered expectations. The Israelites had come to the city for Passover. Visions filled their minds of Moses and God extracting them from slavery in Egypt and brought them into the promised land. Now, the people of Israel were eager for a new conquering Messiah, a warrior King who could free them from the oppression of Rome ... and any other threat that might come to light.

Jesus begins his entry into the city in Bethphage, an outermost village of the city, the farthest city from which bread could be baked for use in the Temple, on a donkey, a nursing mother donkey trailing her colt behind her. He was given a king's triumphal procession by disciples and followers, who placed cloaks and palm leaves on the road before him. While they cried out Hosanna to the Son of David, or Save Us Son of David! they declared his royal lineage. In Jerusalem there was confusion. Who was this? Could a true Messiah come to town riding a symbol of peace rather than a war horse as they had hoped. Could a Messiah be a king of peace arriving with devoted followers and disciples but no legions of troops to depose Rome? Could a true Messiah overturn the market stalls in the Temple that kept Gentiles away from God? Could a real Messiah spend his time around a high holy holiday proclaiming all that was wrong with Jerusalem and her religious leadership?

The people of Jerusalem were tasked with seeing if they could adjust their expectations from those of a warrior Messiah to a King of Peace. It is the same task all believers face. In a society that proclaims might makes right and cries out that individuals must arm themselves and take the law into their own hands in the face of evil  ... Jesus calls us to the life of peacemakers, breaking down barriers that divide people, reaching out a helping hand to strangers and enemies alike, working to end the injustices of our world just as he worked to end the injustices of his. What choice will you make?

Wishing you a blessed Palm Sunday and Easter every year, and a full and blessed life. Come by next Sunday and hear what is said in the sermon for yourself. Enjoy the prayers and hymns, the Children's Time, and the community too, all first hand. You will be most welcome.