“A Parable of Life”

Mark 4: 26 – 34, June 17th, 2018

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard

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“Hear now these words from the gospel according to Mark, chapter four, verses twenty-six thru thirty-four.”

Mark 4:26-34

26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.

28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.

29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?

31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

“Having listened to the reading of these ancient words, let us now open our hearts and minds, to the Parable of the growing seed, and that of The Mustard Seed, as we seek out their meaning to us in the Twenty-First Century.”

 

“A Parable of Life”

Jesus was a gifted teacher and he had charisma that attracted the people of Jerusalem and throughout Palestine.  The people were hungry for a leader.  They did not all understand whom Jesus was, nor did they have a grasp on the new and refreshing message of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness.  Yet, they flocked around him and followed him trying to absorb as much of him and what he said and did, as they could!  I must assume, we, the people of the Twenty-First Century, we are hungry for what Jesus offers.  The problem with us moderns is we have had the teachings of Christ, shoveled at us in so many different and sometimes in so many meaningless and superficial ways!  It didn’t mean much when we heard it the first time and we still don’t get it the fifth or twentieth time either!  So why, why, O why, ought I open my mind and heart to this old teaching again, you ask?  I ask myself this question every time I struggle with this whole concept of teaching you something so vital as how are we supposed to get to Heaven?  What can I do?  How do I get there?  That is just the problem!  My question, the question that Pastors, Preachers ask themselves every week, are probably not the question you need an answer to!

Now this puts us in an awkward way doesn’t it!  Most of us either believe we are going to heaven or we don’t.  If you are wanting to go to heaven but are not yet sure about how you get there, keep listening to your heart and following the teachings of Christ and you will one day arrive.  All too soon, I might add!  If you are sure you know the way, please, please talk about that with others.  It sure would lighten the burden for pastor’s around the globe!

But, are not your questions way more practical than that?  How do I live without my precious loved one?  How do I find hope when the world I loved as a child has been thrown into such chaos, disorder and confusion?  Or is it that preverbal why question?  Why did this or why did that happen or not happen?  I am afraid only a very enlightened Holy Person, or someone with a ‘really’ big EGO would dare to try to answer one of those ‘why’ questions.

Let me suggest to each one of us that we look at our time together slightly differently this morning.  Let us simply allow our time of worship together to be, a time of renewal and an opportunity to revitalize our spirits.  I mean that ‘spirit’ that each of us nourish which cares for our personal needs.  There is nothing wrong with caring for oneself, and a time of prayer and a time of renewal through hymnody and worshipful music, can really help.  There is a catch, however.  You must become willing to allow this to happen for yourself.  The Spirit of God that we all seek; the spirit of renewal will only fill our hearts and revive the spirit of hope within us, if we allow it to!  I hate to be simplistic, yet, as individuals we must accept our responsibility in this matter.

The ultimate question we all hold in our minds, probably subliminally, meaning we may not be conscious of the central point, or the real concern at hand!  The question I propose to you is this: “We all want to find heaven here on earth, and most of us are discontent because no one has told us how to accomplish this.”  That is the question needing answering: We want to know how to be in the presence of God while we still walk, talk and interact with each other!  Now the answer to this question will indeed fill you with hope, if you are willing to listen to the answer.

Perhaps, the early Israelites were seeking the same answer to that subconscious question as well.  Based on what we know, the oppressed people of Israel were looking for a Messiah.  Their understanding of such was to be a conquering hero.  This suggests to me, they were looking for a more-earthly heaven.  A heaven which would free their sons and daughters to live a life, free of the oppression of the Romans.  This first parable, ‘The Parable of the Growing Seed’, one of several which Jesus taught to the gathering crowds.  He was striving to give them hope, hope that would relieve them of their earthly burdens and fears.  Jesus, like modern day preachers, was struggling with how to open the heart of a discouraged people.  ‘With this in mind’, Jesus taught them with his perplexing parables, seeking to offer them the familiar while seeking to teach them the holy message of God.  A message that was meant to up-lift them, and give them new hope, new promise.

Today’s lesson, which contains two parables, reminds me of one of the lesson I learned about while working with clay.  People of that time knew all about clay and pottery, every household had big and small vases and jars made with pottery which was essential to daily life.   There is even a scripture about clay.  Something about “We are the clay, and you are the potter.”  Way back in the time of the prophet Isaiah. /Isaiah 64:8/ Dear old Isaiah was prophesying, urging and proclaiming to God, ‘have mercy upon your people, for they are the product of your handywork!’ /Isaiah 64:9/ Isaiah was pressing God by reminding the Creator: “It is You, O God, whom forms us and molds us and creates us in ‘Your’ vision, as the Master Designer, to be the finished vessel, of which You, Our God, blessed for the work of Your ‘kingdom’ here on Earth!”  In the clay imagery, we are very pliable in the hand of our Maker.  However, we see the potter’s wheel, it is the clay that is molded in the hands of the Potter, not the clay which molds itself!  In today’s imagery we have a slightly different image to grapple with.  In this parable, we are more like ‘Johnny Appleseed.’  We simply scatter the seed, like any good farmer would do, and what happens after that… it is not up to the farmer nor you or me.  The very nature of creation via Mother Earth, nourishes the seedlings and causes them to grow.  In the parable, it is the farmer that harvests the seedling, which in the case of the parable, is grain.

Stepping out of the parable to seek out its parallel meaning, as all parables have, we shall see that there are several ways to view the lesson.  One is in the image of a farmer planting a crop.  In this we are the farmers and we are planting the seeds of God.  We are telling the story of Jesus to others, just as the Apostle Paul did when he journeyed to Corinth and the other cities surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.  In the case of Paul, he came to realize that once he had told the story of Jesus, it was the Spirit of God which nurtured the new converts along the path of faith.  As his voyages continued there were more seeds of knowledge and hopeful exhortations, which he was able to offer.  Yet, it was each seedling’s personal relationship with the Spirit and ultimately with Christ that caused them to grow to Christian maturity.  When viewed in this light, we are compelled to keep spreading the seed, the very words of God; allowing the Spirit to do its transforming work with those whom receive and accept God’s offer through Christ.

In a slightly differing view, the parable of The Mustard Seed, reminds us that God can take the smallest of seeds, the smallest of our sincere efforts, and grow them into a mighty bush, a huge successful and plentiful ministry, reminding each and ‘every’ one of us that we must not give up trying!  Sometimes it seems ‘hopeless’ this whole thing about following the will of God and trying to be like the early Disciples and spread the message of God’s love and mercy through Christ!  And yes, oh yes, sometimes it is exhausting and the road to heaven seems long and far, far away.  Yet, we are encouraged by Jesus himself through this simple mustard seed parable.  We are the seedlings of ‘little faith’ when we do not trust in the transforming power of God.  Nor ought we judge our own efforts through the results we see, for God sees with a different eye toward perfection!

Having gone this far, into this lesson, it is time for us to ponder a simple, yet profound question.  Are we, are you more like the parable of the growing seed, or do we, do you identify more easily with the parable of the mustard seed?  Or perhaps we can see ourselves in either parable?  One pastor tells us that by “Investing our lives in the church that seeks to bear witness to God’s realm of peace and freedom and justice in this world requires us: to step out in faith, so that what we’re doing will eventually bear fruit – even if we may not see it.  It means recognizing we’re in over our heads, but we can trust that God is working in and through us constantly.” /Alan Brehm/

The Parables offer us life itself!  They offer us a way to live with hope!  John the Baptist proclaimed: “The Kingdom of God is at hand!”  The ministry of Jesus was when God walked in our midst, Jesus, the Christ walked amongst us.  The God of Abraham and Moses is here amongst us now.  The Living Spirit of Christ is present and here with us now!  What if my message to you today is that signs of hope, signs of life, within God’s Kingdom are all around us!  “What if we (send you) to go out and to look, (what if I charged you to go out to look) for those places where’s God’s kingdom is sneaking in, or spreading out, or taking over little corners of our world?” /David Lose/ The pastor that first put forth this charge, he was challenging his listeners to have a little faith, have a little hope, that the Living God, is truly here amongst us!  And if we are willing and if we take the time to look, we will find evidence of God’s handy work.  Yes, indeed, the harvest is plentiful!  The seeds that good Christians like you and me, the seeds that we have scattered, there are some of those seeds which God has blessed and nourished and they are now doing the ministry of Christ, for surely, “The Kingdom of God is at hand!

Let us be reminded, on this Father’s Day, this time when we lift-up those whom parent us, let us be reminded that we are the seedlings that our Father in heaven has scattered.  We are the handy work of the Architects of Creation!  We have been blessed.  Get up, leave behind your doubts and look around.  Don’t seek out the half empty glass of water.  Seek rather the abundant glass of water which is half full!  The Love, the grace and the mercy of God is at hand!  “The Kingdom of God is at hand!”

Amen.

“Is Living by Faith Enough?”

2 Corinthians 4: 13 – 5:1, page 939, June 10th, 2018

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard

 


 

“Listen now to our lesson from The Apostle Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth.  Second Corinthians, chapter four thru Chapter five verse one.”

2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1

13 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture – “I believed, and so I spoke” – we also believe, and so we speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.  15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.  16 So we do not lose heart.  Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

5 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

  “Having heard these words attributed to the Apostle Paul, lets open our hears, as-well-as our minds as we seek out that deeper meaning meant for us on this day.”

 

“Is Living by Faith Enough?”

Years ago, someone I was working closely with, encouraged me to make a list of my priorities.  In so doing I had to decide what was important, necessary and what was truly precious in my life, and in what priority, first, second, third etc.  Surely, you know what I mean.  There is a real difference between things that are important, like food shelter and clothing, and what is precious like family, relationships and intimate things of this sort.  Have you ever written out or even thought about what is precious in your life?  Is it your spouse, your children, grandchildren?  How about your mom?  Moms are really-important, they are necessary, and they are truly precious!  I know that when I first got back from vacation, and my wife had been so sick, and we didn’t know what the doctors were going to do… I forgot it was Mother’s Day!  When I realized it at the Church Board meeting after church, I was so embarrassed.  To all our mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers here this morning, let me apologize!  I am truly sorry for my forgetfulness.  When I finally got home that Sunday after our Church Board meeting, I found Lois surrounded by our son Chris, his wife, three grandchildren and one great grandchild.  She had cards and text messages from the other two children and several more grandchildren.  I was so overjoyed that they had not forgotten their mom, their grandmother.  It made her day and mine as well.  A belated Happy Mother’s Day to all you mom’s.

Having now brought up our mom’s and put them on our precious list, I almost need another list as well!  For the list is indeed endless when it comes to talking about our moms.  It all began when they gave birth to us children, after nine laborious and backbreaking months!  In case you are not clear about this, without moms, none of us would be here!  Even Jesus had a mom, her name was Mary!  Yes, we truly ought to be grateful for their labor on our behalf!  My mother raised six of us children, while also being chief cook, housekeeper, and she kept our cloths clean and mended as needed.  The list goes on and on.  But, after fixing dinner on many occasions, she also got in the car and drove off to work as a ‘licensed practical nurse’.  She worked mostly by caring for people in their homes, thus spend a lot of nights away from our home.  I am sure she was an excellent care giver.  My mom was the authority in my life, and the person I went to when I was in need.  She was always there for me.  I sure hope, your mom is on your list.  My mom is just a memory now, yet, I can still feel the ack in my heart.  I honor that feeling as it helps me remember those special moments we shared together.  And yes, she is still on my list.

Next Sunday, is Father’s Day, they are important and necessary, also.  Precious… however, is not the right word to describe most dads, but there are many other words that do describe them.  Mine was a really-hard worker and dependable as well.  He made sacrifices for the good of the family on a regular basis.  I didn’t realize this until I was well on my way to maturity and adulthood.  Dad’s like Mom’s they have different qualities and traits.  Each is special in their own way.  We ought to simply have a day set aside for parents!  Then we could raise up our parents and the roles they play in our lives, giving thanks to God on a regular basis for all their love, their sacrifices and oh so many memories.  When we are younger we may not grasp how important memories truly are.  However, one day, our parents will be called home.  There, they shall join with all those whom have gone before them.  Yes indeed, parents deserve a lofty place upon our priority lists.  Another reason to have a day set aside for these who parent us and care for us, is the lines have blurred as to who has the role of mom or dad in families within the Twenty-First-Century.  We have single parent families and we have parents whom share the same gender.  We have stay at home dads, who care for the children, and we have mom’s that drive trucks, build houses and work on various construction sights.    We have woman who serve in the armed services doing the things we once though only men could do.  We have moms who hold high level management jobs and others sit on boards of directors for national firms.  We have women in elected government positions and some are senators, and we had one that actually ran for president!  Wow!  Yes, the lines between the roles of moms and dads has truly become blurred in our society.  We really ought to have a Parent’s Day on the calendar!

As special as my parents were to me I was taught there is at least one or two things that still need to come before them on my personal priority list.  Can you think who or what that might be?  I am sure you all know this, it is of course our Creator God whom gave life to our parents and that life was passed on to us through them.  Likewise, God’s love was upon them and now is upon us.  The Spirit of God uplifted our parents and that same Spirit still resides with us today!  One pastor asks the question another way.  “What in your life, your community, your congregation is most likely to cause you to ‘lose heart?'” /Janet H. Hunt/ Sounds like a hard question I am sure.  Each of us here today, and those who listen to my sermons on line, could come up with a list I am sure.  Take a look at your list.  If she or he, or even it is on your list, and you are not giving that person, that thing or that event enough of your energy, then get to it!  The time to do so is now!  Not one of us know when or if tomorrow shall come!  Nor do we know what tomorrow will bring.  If something is so important or so precious that you would lose heart, if you lost them or it, then you need to make a real effort to be sure you don’t lose them without giving them or it the attention they deserve!  Why did I include ‘it’ as well as they or them you might ask?  Because the thing that would make you lose heart, might be an election where the woman or man of your choice lost because you didn’t make your voice heard; or you didn’t bother to vote!  It is often very important!   It is the thing you sometimes leave for someone else to do!  Yet, it belongs on yours and it belongs on my ‘precious priority’ list!  Don’t leave it for someone else to do!

In verse 13: Paul’s say’s to us: “I believed, and so I spoke” – we also believe, and so we speak.”  The question about faith: ‘is living by faith enough?’  Yes and no.  Yes, I have preached to you many times that faith is the key that unlocks the door.  True enough, for faith unlocks the Spirit of God which gives you so many ways to know and better understand God.  We know that those whom Jesus healed he frequently said to them: “Your faith has made you well!”  Yes, it is through faith that we find the courage and become willing to seek forgiveness for our wrongs, for through Christ our debt has been paid and we are forgiven.  Yet, is this enough?  Look again at Paul’s words: “I believed, and so I spoke” – “we also believe, and so we speak.”  Paul is saying to us that when he came to know the grace of God through Christ… he came to believe.  Then he goes on to say that because of his belief he had to speak of it to others!  “And so, I spoke” says Paul.  And as he goes on he includes all whom now believe because he spoke of his belief saying: “we also believe, and so we speak.”  Is he saying to us: now that we have come to know the love and grace of God, we too are obligated, compelled even, to ‘speak out,’ sharing this with others?  If so, just how do we do this?  How do we share our faith?

I don’t know about you, but the one thing that I find annoying about pastors is that they are always pushing us.  Believe more, give more, love others more!  Come to church more!  Study the Bible, more!  Learn more by attentively listening to the pastor’s sermons.  By the way: Are you watching and listening to see if the pastor walks like he or she talks?  If you don’t, maybe you ought to start.  For if the pastor says one thing and does another – well.  I don’t honor hypocrites, and neither should you!  How does Paul walk?  What walk did Paul take once he experienced his conversion and came to know Jesus, the Christ?  He was imprisoned for saying what he believed.  Several of his letters are written from prison.  He was flogged for speaking the truth, the truth as he knew it!  He spoke about Jesus being the Christ.  He talked about the love, grace and mercy of God through Jesus the Christ!  In the end, the Apostle Paul, he was put to death for his belief, and for what he dared to say out loud.  Yet, he believed, so he spoke!

What you and I must never forget is this: if Paul had not carried the message of Jesus, out from Palestine, and out into the surrounding regions for which he is known to have visited, we may never have heard of Jesus.  If he had not written his letters, we may never have come to understand all of which this apostle wanted to teach us!  Paul believed in Jesus and all which he stands for; “Paul believed, so he spoke.”  Paul is clearly saying to us: you and me, we also believe, and so you and me, we speak.”  We are called to speak the truth as we know it!  That thing we hold precious in our heart may never happen, if we do not speak out about it; speaking the truth as we know it!

Is living by faith enough?  Yes and No.  Yes, faith is a gift and thus we ought to live with and by faith.  Yet, is it enough to only receive a gift and then never use it, nor share it?  No, of course not!  “We believe, so we speak!”  How do we do this?  We do it with integrity!  We are called to share our faith openly and willingly.

Amen.

“When is ‘The Right Time’?”

Mark 2: 23 – 3:6, page 814, June 3rd

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard

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“Hear now these ancient words from the gospel account according to Mark, chapter two thru chapter three verse six.”

Mark 2:23 – 3:6

23 One sabbath he (Jesus) was going through the grain fields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.  24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?”  25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food?  26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.”  27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

3 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand.  2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him.  3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.”  4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?”  But they were silent.  5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.  6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

“Having heard these words of scripture, let us now open our hearts as we seek out their meaning to us, in this present time in which we live.”

 

“When is ‘The Right Time’?”

I am half way through a six week, on line, course I signed up for.  It is all about Ethics and Spiritual Care (Lebacqz & Driskill) and Just Ministry Gula).  It is with the new PATHWAYS program which our denomination, the United Church of Christ is supporting.  I am taking it in conjunction with my role on the Committee On Church And Ministry, here with the Florida Conference of the UCC.  It is quite fascinating really.  Everything is done on line, except of course for the two books I am working from and the case studies and writings I must complete each week.  We interact via what is called a blog.  I understand, if you are my age, you probably don’t know what a blog is!  Neither did I.  Well, I post one of my two weekly writings on the blog, then my 14 fellow classmates from across these United States and the instructor open-up a discussion based on my essay.  The only problem with all this is I need to create space and time for these events each and every week.  I am free to do so at literally any time of day or night.  My dilemma, my predicament is deciding ‘when is it the right time.”  Well, I am still working on that.  What I have learned is I can’t do it on Sunday mornings, nor when I am working on a sermon, but there are ways to make-adjustments and exceptions.  Picking the right time, to do just about anything, can be a problem or perhaps cause a problem if one is not careful.

Take for instance the situations that have been created with our weather here in Florida these last few weeks.  After the rains started early this season, my yard man has been trying to find a balance with his timing for keeping my lawn and his many other clients lawns properly mowed.  He has often come on a Saturday and now and then he cuts my grass on a Sunday!  My neighbors don’t seem to mind when he comes on a Sunday.  They are glad to see my yard is kept looking neat and well cared for.  The yard guy is happy, he needs my business.  Thankfully, he came this past Thursday, it had been twelve days since he had cut it and I was concerned that the Sebastian City Code Enforcement folks would be writing me a ticket soon, due to the excessive length of my grass!  Likewise, if my air conditioner fails to work on a hot Saturday or Sunday morning, I will not wait until Monday to locate a repairman.  Furthermore, if the toilet backs up I will call a plumber to come fix it, ASAP!  Sunday is considered the Sabbath day, a day of rest.  Yet, how can one rest if you slip in the shower and break a leg or dislocate a shoulder!  On the way to the emergency room I sure will be praying the nurses and the doctors on duty have not decided they need Sunday as a day of rest!

Yes, when I was a young lad, I went to church and Sunday school.  My parents went too, if they were not working.  On those Sunday’s we would often have dinner together with our grandparents or other relatives.  Of course, my mom and my grandmother and others would work hard in the kitchen to prepare the meal!  Oftentimes, my dad and I would make a batch of fudge after dinner, unless of course, grandma had baked a cake or a fresh pie!  My brother Fred, well he would sneak off and go fishing when he could.  Yes, it is nice when families can set aside a day to get together.  It is a nice custom and absolutely, setting aside a day each week in our religious calendar to worship God and fellowshipping together is a good thing as well.  My parents and grandparents tried hard to set aside Sunday afternoons for family get togethers, after we had spent the morning in church and such!  The memories of them are good.  As the decades have slipped by, it just seems this type of fellowship and setting aside time to do ‘family’ things on Sundays, has faded for a great many people.  Young families, with both parents working full time, children trying to keep up with school work and sports activities… well it just seems to be, from my observation, that it is harder and harder for families, especially younger families, to really have quality time like I remember from my youth.  If the boss offers some overtime on Sundays, and you need the income, it is hard to say no.  The coach says, ‘you miss the game on Sunday and you are off the team.’  How can an inspiring baseball player afford to miss a game?  When the school choir or the band are asked to do a special performance on Sunday afternoon, who can say no!

Us folks from the Twenty-First Century are not the only ones who have struggled with this business of deciding ‘when is the right time’ to do something either!  As we look to our scripture this morning we see, that is, we hear about how Jesus challenged the religious leaders at that time, regarding their hypocrisy surrounding the Sabbath day.  It has been understood by theologians for a long time that “God never designed ‘the Sabbath Day’ to be a burden to us, therefore we must not make it so to ourselves.” /Matthew Henry’s Commentary/ From our vantage point here in the Twenty-First Century, it is ridiculous that the religious leaders at the time of our scripture lesson would pass judgment on Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath Day.  It is also absurd that they would criticize Jesus’ Disciples for picking a few ‘heads of grain’ on the Sabbath Day, either!  They were hungry for goodness sakes!  Well, this is perhaps our viewpoint from our time in history, but it was not the accepted norm back in the time of Jesus.  The Jewish customs and traditions were important to this religious sect.  The Rabbis, the Religious Leaders like the Pharisees and Sadducees, they worked hard to hold the tribes of Israel together with these ancient traditions.  The Ten Commandments which came about during the time of Moses were strictly adhered to, were they not?  The fourth Command read: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”  From these words comes this whole idea of how one is to behave on the Sabbath Day.  We Christians see the Sabbath as a Sunday.  Jews of our time observe Saturdays as their Sabbath Day.  And Orthodox Jews, adhere to this custom very rigidly.

The Rabbi, at the Synagogue in Middletown New York, where I served a church for almost nine years, his name was Joel.  Now Joel considered himself to be a Conservative Jew.  As such he adhered to the rules of observance on the Sabbath very rigidly.  On Saturdays he would not drive his car.  He would only walk to where he was going.  Neither would he conduct any type of business that involved finances.  I remember when the ecumenical clergy group wanted to get together on a Saturday to plan a joint event.  He finally relinquished and agreed to come but clarified he would not if it was raining as he had to walk.  We tried to offer him a ride, but he would not accept, as he didn’t believe we ought to be driving either!  Furthermore, he was the treasurer of the group.  And he would not discuss finances on the Sabbath.  I remember wondering how he got from “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” to not driving his car or doing finances?  The Rabbi, he was a good man.  Joel was well respected in the community.  Had a solid congregation that he had served for well over ten plus years when I first arrived in town.  He worked hard to be part of ecumenical activities and invited us to share in his Jewish customs when appropriate.  He had a clear mind when it came to ‘talk’ about public controversies surrounding religious holidays.  I remember the year it was getting to be a big movement to stop saying Merry Christmas (especially if you were a merchant waiting on customers), for fear of offending a Jew.  Joel said out loud to a large group of clergies one day: “Let’s have some integrity around this subject.  If you are Christian I expect you to say, ‘Merry Christmas.’  But if you are a Jew like me, Joel said, say ‘Happy Hanukkah!’”  He went on to say: “saying ‘Happy Holiday’ as the merchants now do, simply says… you are not observing anything other than your retails sales!”

To me, keeping the Sabbath’ holy’, is about how I take time to be humble and thank God for the bounty, the abundance of my life.  My wife and I have always tried to observe the holiness of the Sabbath, which we observe on Sundays.  We drive to church every Sunday.  It is way too far to walk here!  My wife writes out her pledge check every Sunday, I doubt the finance department of our church wants her to stop writing her check!  Also, Lois helps organize our coffee hour every Sunday, often being one of the last few to leave the church on Sunday as well.  She does this out of love.  This is what the Sabbath day is all about!  Setting aside time, out of your busy schedule, to be about the work of God.  Giving back a bit of what you have been freely given.  It is, of course, perfectly OK to go home, put up your feet after stopping for a late breakfast or an early lunch on the way home.  Perhaps there is some golf or a good movie on the television as well!  “When was the last time you enjoyed a leisurely Sunday?  What did you enjoy about the day?” /Larry Broding/

Amen.

Pastor’s Note June & July 2018

It all began on Memorial Day weekend with the naming of the first tropical storm of the season, “Alberto.”  The storm altered our plans and changed our outlook for a holiday weekend filled with barbeques and a flurry of boaters getting out onto the waterways for some outdoor fun in the sun.  Yet, we Floridians, we are a resilient people.  We improvised and found other ways to mark the occasion.

On this Memorial Day weekend, we found ways to honor our men and women in uniform, both past and present.  We did more than remember all the fallen, whom sacrificed for our freedom.  An unknown neighbor placed American flags at the end of all our driveways in my neighborhood.  There was a fabulous tribute to our veterans on PBS over the weekend.  As we start this summer season let us pray for all those who have sacrificed for our safety and those who now serve in our armed forces throughout the world.  In like manner let us remember the ‘first responders’ that are there for us and our neighbors when Mother Nature unleashes her wrath upon us, especially here in our home state of Florida.  Let us pray that this will be a quiet season, with no loss of life and a minimal amount of property damage as we step into the unknown of yet another hurricane season.

Together, let us remain strong in our faith, all the while praying for the good futures of others, including ourselves.  Let us be reminded of the need of those who perhaps have suffered a loss of a family member or job or are simply hurting from their personal struggles in life.  You and me, we are the  fortunate ones, we are here reading this note, with great hope and blessed expectations for our futures and for the journeys of our loved ones.  What a blessing.  As we reflect on the love of God and the  grace which has been bestowed upon us, let us be conscious and alert to all that is happening around us.  When we can, let us offer a helping hand or word of good cheer for those we interact with.  Let us pray, these next weeks will offer us renewed opportunities to live as Christians.  Let us hold our heads high as we celebrate the love of God!

Our college graduates have had their commencement days, and our High School graduates are preparing for their graduation ceremonies.  All seem excited about this time of change.  Parents, Teachers and Students alike.  Opportunities to put educations to good use abound!  As each generation steps into the limelight we all pray for their good fortune with a sense of hope.  Together, as they embrace the fullness of their lives, let us do likewise as we enter ‘into’ this new season with them.

May God’s blessing be upon us, one and all!   Pastor Tim Woodard.