Enjoy This Sunday’s service 10/18/2020
During the Health Crisis with COVID-19, your weekly or monthly donations can be made directly to the church by regular mail at 451 Riviera Drive NE Palm Bay, FL 32905.
Doing this will provide much needed cash flow for the congregation and will sustain us for several weeks until this crisis is over.
Thank you and God Bless
March 25th, 2018
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these holy words from the ancient writings contained in the Gospel According to Mark, chapter eleven, verses one thru eleven.”
11 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethpage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 11 Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
“Having heard how Jesus, rode into Jerusalem riding on a young colt, let us consider how the crowds greeted him that day.” They shouted out Hosanna! Hosanna! We shall now welcome Jesus into our town with the same joyous greeting.”
“Then Jesus Entered Jerusalem”
The stage is set! Jesus confronts his enemies as he ignores the warnings to stay out of Jerusalem. His disciples were well-aware of the danger that lay in wait for Jesus. Several times we hear his disciples warm him not to go. Yet, he shrugged them off. At this juncture, at this moment in history, at this point in time, Jesus does not put his personal wellbeing ahead of the need to fulfill his destiny, his call to allow the people to welcome him into the holy city of Jerusalem as the Messiah, their beloved and long-awaited Savior! “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” /Mark 11: 9-10/ In the Gospel according to Luke we hear how “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” ‘Jesus’ answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” /Luke 19:39-40/ Jesus was excited for them and knew they could not keep quiet! Nor was he willing to silently come into town on some secluded back street. No, Jesus was presenting himself as the King of the Jews!
There is not a question as to whether Jesus entered Jerusalem or not. He clearly did. There is every reason to believe that the people who greeted him were over joyed as they believed him to be the Messiah; the man who was a descendent from King David! There is also no question that Jesus did come to establish the Kingdom of God, here on earth, in his name! Without question, the Messiah rode into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday. Despite, the confusion by the people who greeted him that day as to what type of kingdom he was ushering in, Jesus entered Jerusalem. Regardless of what style of leadership Jesus was offering, the people welcomed him into Jerusalem. It was in Jerusalem where Jesus would bring his ministry to completion. The people thought they knew what that was to be; they did not.
A prominent pastor points out for us that the Bible doesn’t tell us about Pontius Pilate, whom served under Emperor Tiberius, parading in through the main gate of Jerusalem. Who is Pontius Pilate? This was the Ruthless Roman Governor, who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus. Neither do we know what the crowd shouted, when he and his military guard paraded into town, but you can bet it wasn’t, “Blessed is the coming of the Kingdom of our ancestor David.” That would be treason. And treason was punishable by? You guessed it, by execution on a cross.” /David Ewart/ Clearly, Pastor Ewart throws out a bit of sarcasm for us to muse over. We can be certain that when Pontius Pilot paraded into Jerusalem it was with pomp and circumstance and on a large horse, a great stallion was surely used for his ride into town; not some small frail young colt! Whether there was or was not two parades that day, I think you and I are starting to understand that there was a real difference between them, as Jesus was not the warrior king whom many of the Jewish faith believed the Messiah was to be! Yes, Jesus came to save us… we the people. But it would not be by military might!
The people, they expected a mighty soldier, a real fighter to overthrow the Romans! Pastor Peter Woods tells us of his understandings surrounding the glorious parade that the writer of Mark gives us, regarding Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. “At face value, it would seem, that the Jerusalem parade (for Jesus) by his ‘fan club’ is glorifying God’s name, but they are not really. They are simply demanding their own liberation. ‘Save us now!'” This is what they were shouting. They believed him to be their salvation and that they would be freed from their oppression through the leadership of Jesus. Yes, they believed Jesus would be their conquering hero!
However, the man Jesus was much like average folks, like you and me. So, after he went into Jerusalem, he spent much of his time as you or I might spend it. One theologian, his writings of which I often refer to tell us of his observations and conclusions regarding this point. “After entering the city and temple and observing the condition of things within the sacred building he retired to Bethany for the night. As far as we know he passed all his nights of the last week of his earthly life at Bethany, save Thursday, perhaps to avoid the rulers in the hours of rest and to have an opportunity for private conference with his disciples, which he could not have in crowded Jerusalem. Besides, he had loving friends at Bethany, who delighted to have him under their roof.” /B.W. Johnson/ This description fits the average pastor, any preacher as he or she comes to town preparing for a Sunday service. Unlike a soldier preparing his weapons and briefing his generals just before battle.
What are we, what are you expecting from Jesus? Every year, Christians around the world mark this occasion, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Palm branches and parades are common as we celebrate this occasion. Whether we cut any fresh palm branches to adorn our sanctuary or not, we still celebrate as Christians grateful for the meaning of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. No, he didn’t get cold feet and back out of it. No, they were not able to stop him. No, we do not fully grasp or fully understand what Jesus did for us. However, we stand beside the crowd that greeted him. We welcome Jesus into our town. We want the love and salvation which he symbolizes. We want to believe just like the people, the crowds of old. We want Jesus to free us from all that oppresses us, all that which weighs heavy on our shoulders. What a glorious moment, welcoming the Messiah, our Savior into our lives. Alleluia! Hallelujah! Praise God! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest heaven!
History tells us who Jesus was. He was born of a virgin named Mary, in a humble stable, a simple barn where the animals were fed, where they found shelter out behind an Inn; an Inn which had no room for baby Jesus and his parents. He was the boy that wandered away from his parents, when he was only twelve years of age, after they had traveled to Jerusalem. They found him three days later sitting in the Temple mesmerizing those that listened to his great knowledge and understanding of the writings in the Torah and the scriptures. Jesus was the one whom turned water into wine at the wedding in Canaan at the bequest of his mother. His enthralling and captivating way of teaching drew the crowds to him. He was the teacher whom scared the religious leaders for he did not sit quite about their hypocrisy. He offered the people new hope and new promise. He offered a new understanding of the scriptures putting forth new teachings which would be remembered and written for the future generations to read and learn from. The High Priests and Pharisees, they began to fear that his teachings would upset the arrangement they had with the Romans and create another military revolt, which would cost them their plush arrangements with their oppressors. Tradition and the gospel accounts tell us that Jesus was able to heal the sick, cause the blind to see and the crippled to walk! Jesus even brought a man back from death.
Tradition tells us about how we have responded to his short three-year ministry as the carpenter from Nazareth. Jesus, was thirty years of age, we believe, when he was baptized by John the Baptist at the River Jordan. He handpicked, twelve men to be his disciples whom would travel everywhere with him. He trained them to follow in his footsteps, which they did. After he was executed by his enemies, these twelve men hid in what tradition refers to as the ‘upper room’. After Jesus’ tomb was found empty they still didn’t understand. Yet, when he appeared to them there in the ‘upper room’ then their hearts were opened, and they began to understand all that they had been taught and all that they had seen Jesus do. Tradition tells us that because the man Jesus was willing to ride into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, despite all the dangers and all the risk to his wellbeing, and because he did so, the scriptures would be fulfilled, and we would be given the gift of his sacrifice for our sake.
Our experience tells us Jesus’ Spirit is with us. Yes, the man Jesus died on a cross a long, long time ago. Yet, because of the immense love which radiated from his being and from his Spirit and from the Divinity which was also his essence, he rose again and lives in the heart of Christians throughout the world. We also celebrate Jesus, through the Living Spirit which he sent to be with us. It is through this gift of love by which we are able to fully know and accept Christ into our hearts. It takes a lifetime to fully grasp the essence of the life of Jesus. The scriptures help us to understand the story and how others experienced him. It takes an open heart to receive in the fullness of the love of God. And, no, we were not part of the crowd that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem that day, yet, we are part of the crowd which now celebrates with those early followers. That is what today is about: celebrating and acknowledging Jesus coming into our town, our church and most certainly into our lives! Praise God!
The Chief Priests, the religious leaders at that time thought they could stop the movement that Jesus was stirring up; but they couldn’t. Pontius Pilot thought he could quiet things down by executing Jesus; but he did not. The people welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem. His enemies wrongfully, condemned him to death. The crowd that called for his crucifixion were wrongly informed of who he was. They picked the rebel warrior Barabbas instead of Jesus to be spared. All this notwithstanding, this carpenter’s son, the son of the Virgin Mary, he forgave them, he forgave all of us, for we did not know of what we had done. He forgave our sinfulness. That is love. Love everlasting.
Waving palm branches were a way of welcoming into town great warriors, as was the custom back in the time period of the Maccabees, a group of rebellious Jews whom flourished in the 2nd century BCE. The symbolism of this celebrated parade into Jerusalem was more than symbolic, it was revolutionary. This humble gesture has set the tone for Christianity to follow. History tell us that Christians have often forgotten the humility of Jesus. History tells us that many Christians have not shed the shame of hypocrisy. Yet, the gift of Jesus’ life, the ultimate gift of love still stands, awaiting our willingness to pick up our palm branches and march into the towns and cities that still seek God’s love and salvation.
March 18th, 2018
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now the prophetic words of the prophet Jeremiah, taken from the writings of Jeremiah chapter thirty-one, verses thirty-one thru thirty-four.”
31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt – a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord.
33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
“From out of this ancient writing let us now open ourselves, thereby, allowing our hearts to grasp its full meaning in our personal lives today, as modern-day Christians whom seek to know God.”
“We Shall Know God”
Getting to know God started a long, long time ago. Can you remember when you first became aware of God? Was it when someone close to you said: “God Loves You?” Was it when your Sunday School teacher first said: “The Bible tells us that God loves each one of us?” Or was it when you investigated and ‘looked’ into your first sunset and saw the mystic beauty of God’s Creation, displayed for you across the heavens! When did you first know God? If you do not know God, I must assume you are seeking to know God. Why else would you be here? I do fervently hope that each of us shall come to know God in a very personal way! Our scripture from the prophet Jeremiah is clearly meant to be words of hope. Let us cling to these words and not leave behind this ‘uplifting’ reminder of the promises of our God!
Many pastors would embrace this passage as one of hope, just as the people of Jeremiah’s time would have as well. Jeremiah was considered one of the more credible and recognized prophets of the Old Testament. It was believed his words were prophetic, foretelling what is yet to be. This visionary, believed that God would reach out to the people of Israel… making the love, the grace and the mercy of God, available to all people through a new covenant. This new promise would replace, updating the agreement God had made way back in time; that time-period when Moses led the tribe of Israel from their bondage in Egypt. Many would agree that: “The promise of a ‘new covenant’ in this passage may evoke the Christian scriptures, stories, and promises for many readers. Yet in their original context these words signified the promise of a faithful God to a devastated people for restoration, perhaps even in their lifetimes.” /Wil Gafney/ Today, as we look to these ancient words, surely many of us are still seeking such restoration and renewal. Therefore, it is so important to pause and be reminded of the prophecy of a new covenant.
Pastor John C. Holbert, reflects on this for us as well. “The early Christians saw this new covenant as dawning in the life and ministry of the one they called Lord. Yet, obviously, the day, now two millennia gone, has yet to move beyond the mere shadow of that dawn.” If you have come to know God, then you perhaps do not feel that the new covenant has yet to be fulfilled. Nonetheless, you cannot be blind to the realities of our neighbors all around us! There are a great many whom still feel marginalized and left behind in the Twenty-First Century. Or, perhaps this is how you are feeling. Lonely, isolated and not a part of the “American Dream’ or not a part of the ‘Saved” within the rhetorical proclamations by Evangelical Preaches throughout these United States. Surely, there are a great many of us in this category.
One, well respected pastor takes this thought just a bit further. “Sometimes we find ourselves asking whether God is anything more than a “supportive” but ultimately powerless presence. And yet Jeremiah said, “the days are coming.” Days of restoration, days of rebuilding, days of returning to hope and faith and joy. With this promise in mind, we can find the faith and not lose heart in the face of all that is wrong with our world.” /Alan Brehm/ As we approach our annual Easter celebration, let us be reminded of the promise, the new covenant that God made through these prophetic words of Jeremiah. Through this promise let us allow ourselves to raise up this message of hope! For without hope we are a condemned people!
Everyone of us, whom have ever started a project, then having reached a point of near exhaustion or hopelessness, know the feeling of despair. And yes, more than once, we must admit ‘if’ we are honest with ourselves, the project we started was left unfinished. That feeling of failure is something all humans experience at some point in their lives. If you do not believe you have ever failed, then you are most certainly in denial, or you are truly a unique individual! Either way, ever successful person knows what must be done after being defeated and the goal was not achieved! I am praying that everyone here knows the answer.
At a low point in my life, having failed at yet another sales or marketing position in the computer industry back in the 1980’s, a friend pulled me aside. For he saw my feeling of hopelessness spilling over into my life. He shared with me a story. A story I have every reason to believe was true. “Tim,” he said, “you know I am a wealthy man, yet, did you know I have gone bankrupt several times along the way. Yes, I lost millions; lost my home and even my car. Yet, the difference between failure and success is how one responds to defeat. What I did was, I picked myself up and started over. That’s right, you are only a failure ‘if’ you give up on yourself!” Then he went on to give me some practical advice in my personal life. Time has proven him to be absolutely correct! I reevaluated who I am, reeducated myself and started over. Thank God, my friend was willing to re-gift me with the promise of Hope!
Neither my story, nor my friends was unique. It is usually when we humans are at our wits end, and feeling hopeless, that we are willing to consider something new. One accomplished theologian tells us: “We are most ready to hear these words when our own efforts are exhausted. When we are weary of our inner turmoil we are ready to hear Jeremiah.” /Charles L. Aaron, Jr./ When Jeremiah made his prophetic proclamation, the people of Israel had been overrun by the Babylonian Empire. They were a defeated people. They had been scattered and placed in exile. Jeremiah’s words were words of hope. Jeremiah believed and prophesized that God was going to come and offer them a fresh start. Yet, they were warned that the new covenant would not be like the last. No, it would not be another Moses whom would come and rescue them! As Christians, we have come to know this to be true. What we celebrate at Easter is not the Knight in ‘shining armor’ whom came to conquer our enemies.
When we ‘reach out’ and ‘grasp’ the ‘branch of hope’, that last gateway, that last flight, that last chance, put out there as an escape from our dilemma, our troubles, we need to be willing to do so, without reservation! We need to ‘reach out’ and ‘grasp’ the ‘branch of hope’! We have already tried it our way. And it has not worked. We have already had time to feel sorry for ourselves and it has not fixed anything. No, if we are ready to ‘admit’ that we do not know how to go on from here, then perhaps, maybe, we are ready to try something new. It is shocking to realize how many people do not really want help! You see, there are those whom, though defeated, don’t trust the helping hand of another. Why, we must ask? Simply, because they are not yet ready to accept that they are in the pit of despair, the pit of failure and the humiliation of failure is something which they will not concede to, nor acknowledge! No, they still think that when people, places and things, ‘get out of their way’, their way will work again! A totally insane and foolish position as their way has never worked!
Most Christian theologians, well, at least most of whom I am willing to listen to, believe: “The New Covenant will embrace everyone in the community of faith. God, not the community will create love and fidelity so that everyone ‘from the least to the greatest’ will know God.” /Cathy L. Smith/ Right away, we have a problem, for this creates a dilemma for far too many people. Pride, ego, and personal biases get in the way for too many in our very own society, especially when we say something like this. Like what you should ask?! Like, “The New Covenant will embrace everyone, ‘from the least to the greatest’.” Public officials, politicians and leaders, most of them are smart enough to know they must at least say that they are serving everyone. Yet, wasn’t it Jesus whom said: “you shall know them by their fruit.” If Jesus didn’t say that then he sure inspired it to be said! If you believe we ought to live in a community where everyone is held in ‘high esteem’ and loved ‘equally’ by God, then what you do needs to portray that! Forgive me for focusing on public figures and leaders to make this point; they are not totally at fault. We as people, and I am talking about we Americans, we have become way too “I” focused. So much so that we are willing to disregard the needs of our neighbors and continually push aside the marginalized, especially, when they get in the way of our wants and desires!
As a typical small and struggling church, we pray we shall attract others to journey with us, as we seek to live out our personal journeys of faith. Also, those we are seeking to attract to our church want to know how we see God and most importantly how we come to know God! Furthermore, they want to know how we live into our relationship with God. In order to do so we need to be honest with them as-well-as with ourselves. We must confess our bias, we must acknowledge what everyone already knows: we need new members and friends to journey with us! Yes, sometimes we as a church become too “I” focused and it is embarrassing to confess this. Being a church, which serves the community in which it lives must draw together enough active members to do the work of the church. It is a fundamental principle. And to be effective in the local community we must draw from those whom currently reside within the area of our outreach. This is important as we need to represent the community which we are called to serve. The God we worship and the God whom we seek to serve, already knows this about us. The only question remaining is where shall we go from here?
Coming to know God from the experiences of those whom walked this earth before us – is a good place to start. Jeremiah fits that description. Like my friend, Jeremiah is saying to us “Get up and shake yourself off! God is not done with you yet! There is still hope! God is willing to make a new covenant with you and all people, and all churches! But you need to reach out and grasp onto this new vine, this new branch which shall be your rescue!” Knowing God by experiencing God in others, is a real step forward for many Christians whom have gotten bogged down with the ‘old ways’ of doing things. Just like knowing how to best contact a person in their twenties; ‘text’ them – don’t leave a message on their answering machine!
Coming to know God in a new way also means learning to do things in a new way! Once, it was OK to hide your feelings from others. Once, it was OK to pretend that everything is going well. Try something new: if it hurts… tell someone. If you are upset, don’t pretend you aren’t. Everyone already knows you are! If you want to be a part of the “New Covenant” the “New Hope” which Jerimiah spoke of, then Let God lead you in a new way! Then, We Shall Know God in a new way as well!