“Love Endures Forever”

Psalm 107: 1-9 November 10th, 2013

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard


It has been written many times that: “The people of Israel suffered too much. They were enslaved by the Egyptians.  They were conquered by the Philistines, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans.  Their history is full of famines, wars, epidemics and corruption.  Yet they had a hymn of thanksgiving that they shouted as much as they sang.  We don’t know when it was written or who wrote it, but it is one of the most familiar and famous songs in the Bible.”  Psalm 100: you know the words: ‘Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth’… and it closes with: ‘For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever.’ 


The story of the people of Israel happened a long time ago, yet, why is it we still so fully identify with them and their plight?  Could it be that we still seek the faithful and steadfast love of a God whom still loves us – despite all that has occurred all around us and even in our own lives?  Perhaps: we still look for the assurance that God will still be with us – even after we spill that next glass of milk – and even after we have allowed it to sit and go sour.  Yes, we, like the Israelites have a lot in common, surely, this is why we and many like us still refer back to ancient scriptures to help guide our lives in this modern world we live in.


I heard a preacher declare: “It won’t surprise you to hear me say that we live in uncertain times – a time of wars, terrorism, extremism, manmade climate change and global economic crisis.”  It was a different time, yet, not that long ago.  It was a different place yet as he continued and as I reflect on his words – I see how they can still speak to us now: “And these times offer us a stark choice” he said: “we can respond with fear, a most natural reaction if there ever was one to the times we face, or we can live out our lives in the hope born in the Resurrection.”  The preacher proclaimed with clarity that day: “God’s steadfast love endures forever says the Psalmist!”  Indeed, Psalm 107 says to us today: “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.”


Another theologian from years ‘long past’ asked that age old question: “What makes someone grateful when surrounded by suffering?  It is not only a question for 17th century Europe” he stated, “but also for modern Americans and ancient Jews”.  His thoughts come from his witness, to the lives of others who have found God’s love, in the midst of their times of suffering and hardship.  


In the 17th century there was this Lutheran pastor in Germany named Martin Rinkard.   In the ‘on-line encyclopedia’ we read how this clergyman and hymnist served his church, town and people for 30 very difficult years – during the Thirty Years War from 1618 – 1648.  Some say it was the most devastating war in European history.  Germany lost up to 30% of its population; the male population was reduced by half.  Swedish invaders destroyed 2200 castles, 18,000 villages and 1500 towns (1/3 of all German towns).  It is amazing how few people seem to know anything about this period of history.


All of Europe fought during those 30 years, but Germany was especially devastated.  The war was horror upon horror with invasions, killings and epidemics that took hundreds of thousands of lives.  Pastor Rinkard served God and his people the best he could.  He gathered food that was often stolen.  His own family was starving. 


1637 was the year of the Great Plague.  At the beginning of that year there were four pastors in town – one ran away; Rinkard officiated at the funerals of the other two.  He sometimes conducted 40 to 50 funerals a day – a total of 4,480.  In May of that year his wife died.  Rinkard wrote a hymn for the times in which he lived and for which he is best know.  He wrote the text to “Now thank we all our God.”  Most church goers know the words: “With hearts and hands and voices; Who wondrous things hath done, In whom this world rejoices.  Who, from our mother’s arms, Hath led us on our way, With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.”  In a few weeks, as we prepare for our annual time of Thanksgiving, we will raise up our voices as we sing this hymn.  When we do so let us recall how gratitude has little to do with the state of things around us, but more about the state of our relationship with God.


So, let’s take a look at some other references to love in the Bible.  The first epistle of John records the famous words, “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”  This reference to God ‘being love’ is an understanding that is rooted deeply within ancient scriptures.  The word ‘agape’ is often used to help us speak of this type of love; a form of love that reaches the depth of our hearts and being far beyond that of simple romantic love.  Often times ‘agape’ is interpreted to mean that love which is equal to God, thus God is love.  Another way to say this is: God is love without boundaries.  Many theologians, throughout the ages, have interpreted this word ‘agape’ to represent divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, and thoughtful love.  Agape love therefore is a love equal to God, which embraces the concept of thoughtful unconditional and self-sacrificial love.   


One excellent example of thoughtful and unconditional love, a love that goes to the point of selfless sacrifice is that of a mother and how she gives deeply of herself to her children.  Something amazing happens in the months between conception and birth.  Most parents would willingly give their own lives for their children, and some do.  Imagine a society that fully embraces this ‘ideal’ of motherly love.  Now, please understand mothers and fathers; you are not expected to throw down your life or even your life savings, so that your son or daughter, or even your grandchildren can have a new laptop computer or a new IPod or even a new pair of the latest sneakers or jeans. Yet, giving up some sleep or private time to hear more clearly about their lives and their struggles, even if they seem trivial to you at the moment, may be the most important sacrifice you ever make!  Don’t leave it to some stranger, whom you know nothing about, to be the one that helps your loved one to open up and express their true feelings and needs.    


As you and I work to pass on to the next generation the values that we aspire to – let us be sure that we make ourselves available to them.  That is to say, we need to sacrifice a smidgen of our own lives in order to be more aware and a part of theirs.  If we do not do this then the next generation to follow us, will feel that we are disconnected from their realities, and therefore our value system is not pertinent to their lives.  When we are living powers of examples, such as Jesus was, and when we embrace the fullness of the struggles of those around us, as Jesus did, then we shall have some influence on how they see the world and how they view God.  Love begins with our relationship with God and with our selves first.  People, like our children and grandchildren, see clearly when we do or do not do this.  They will mold their lives based on what they see us do – more fully than on what we say or tell them to do.


The next generation is watching to see how you respond to the needs of this your church, the needs of this historic community church!  They will look to see if you are willing to give of your Time, your Talent and even some of your hard earned money, your Treasures, in these uncertain and changing times.  God is watching as well.  God’s love endures in good times and in hard, turbulent, and changing times.  Will your love for this church endure? What examples are you going to leave for those that follow you?  


In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus pushes us to take our use of love to another level.  “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”  Again I say to each one of us… others are watching us… to see what it is we shall do next.  They want to see how we respond to difficult times.  They want to know if this life we choose, the life of a Christian, the life of selflessness that we speak of… is it really how we live, they ask?  How we treat others, especially those who do not speak well of us or respect us, will speak volumes to those who look to us for leadership.  Those that look to us as an example to follow will copy our actions not our words.     

Love which lasts comes from deep inside of you; this type of love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.”  These words from 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen verse seven say it so clearly.  One can easily conclude that love of this nature has sacrifices.  Of course, in the ultimate sense God has offered such a sacrificial love to us.   What do we read in the Bible?  “God so loved the world that he gave his only son…”  What is this thing called love?  It is something that comes from God and is something so precious that although many may want to take it away from you, it is something that is freely given to you and it is yours to share and keep.  It can not be stolen.  Love is something that they can’t take away from you, but it is something you can give away. 


Love is a precious gift that can keep on giving no matter what life has dished up for you!  And there is no need to hide it or lock it away.  No matter how boldly you share it with others, regardless of how frequently you use it… the source and supply of love is infinite and cannot be taken from you.  Only you can shut the door on love.  Remember always, that God loved you yesterday and loves you today and shall love you all the tomorrows yet to come!  


Listen again to the ancient words of the Psalmist: “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.”    Amen.


Psalm 107


O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.


Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.


Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to an inhabited town; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.


Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; he led them by a straight way, until they reached an inhabited town.


Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.


For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.


Humbly Stepping Down

2 Kings 5:1, 8-11, 13-14

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard

When I was in my twenties, it was July 1974 actually, I had the opportunity to attend one of Billy Graham’s crusades in Missouri with my father; he really is a very impressive speaker.  During one of his many public speeches the ReverendGraham tells of a time, during the early years of his preaching ministry, when he was due to lead a crusade meeting in a town in South Carolina, and he needed to mail a letter.  He asked a little boy in the main street how he could get to the post office.  After the boy had given him directions, Billy said, “If you come to the central Baptist church tonight, I’ll tell you how to get to heaven.”  The boy replied, “No thanks, you don’t even know how to get to the post office!” /Author Unknown/

Every now and then, we all find ourselves needing a little humility.  Humility is not the subject that is generally taught in public schools nor am I aware of it being taught in our colleges on a regular basis.  There are courses that do speak of humility but for the average student the pressures of achieving the highest possible education, so that they can pursue that desired and sought after career, are simply more important.  Thus the few classrooms that do speak to the attributes of humility are poorly attended and go uncelebrated.

          For most of us… humility is something we have heard spoken about and from time to time we see it in another person, but seldom do we feel the true desire to pursue it.  If we truly desired it we would take the steps necessary to attain a smidgen of it. Even if we do see it as a virtue – we are unclear as to what we might do to actually make it part of our own personality.

          If you do consider embarking on the journey to acquire some humility consider these words: “Only those who feel little in the eyes of God can hope to be mighty in the eyes of men;” /author unknown/   And also, I urge you to bear this in mind: “What makes humility so desirable is the marvelous thing it does to us; it creates in us a capacity for the closest possible intimacy with God.” /Monica Baldwin/

          If humility is such a good thing why don’t more of us seek it?  Well, part of the reason is because there are some real stumbling blocks in the way such as: pride, arrogance, egotism and self-importance.  The greatest of these is pride.  Why, because pride is a self-centered preoccupation with, and overestimation of one’s own importance, abilities, or achievements, resulting in an unwillingness to submit oneself to God.  Consider this quote from the mouth of Beethoven: “Nothing is more intolerable than to have to admit to yourself your own errors.”

          So what is humility?  One definition is that humility is the lack of vanity or self-importance: humbleness, lowliness, and meekness.  It is thought that a humble person is generally modest, simple and down to earth.  A modest person does not think they are more important or better than others.  Now, let me stress this: It is important that we do not confuse humility with humiliation.  For humiliation is a verb not a noun and it is an action meant to embarrass someone or to make that person feel ashamed.

          Humility, on the other hand is often described as, “A characteristic by which a person considering his or her own shortcoming – has a humble opinion of them self – and ‘willingly’ submits to God and to others for God’s sake.” /Webster’s Dictionary/

          This morning’s scripture finds us back in the Old Testament.  We find ourselves in that time period before Christ, during the realm of Hebrew kings around the Eight Century B.C.  We hear an account of this man named Naaman, who is a commander of the army of the king of Aram.  We are told that he is considered to be a great man, a mighty warrior and is held in high favor with his master. There is just one issue… he has leprosy.

          Leprosy is a chronic and infectious disease.  It produces skin lesions and if left untreated can cause permanent damage to skin, nerves, limbs and eyes.  As late as 1995 the World Health organization estimated that there were between two and three million people permanently disabled because of leprosy.  Treatment for this illness has been available since the 1940s making forced quarantines unnecessary.  Yet, leper colonies have been reported as still in existence today in India, Vietnam, Africa and the Philippines.

          Treatment was not available back at the time of Naaman’s illness.  Thus we find Naaman seeking help from the prophet Elisha.  He was known to have the ability to perform miracles and to be in God’s favor.  “So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house.” Naaman came willing and able to pay ‘anything’ asked of him to cure his leprosy.  Yet, the only message he got from Elisha (who did not even come out and greet this great warrior) was this: “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.”

          This mighty warrior, who was not a Hebrew and was not a follower of the God of Israel, was not pleased that Elisha did not even come out and greet him.  He had expected that the prophet would place his hand upon him and cure him right there. He was outraged at the perceived insult.  Nor was he inclined to consider going down to the muddy river Jordan and actually wash himself seven times, not to mention get out of his chariot, lay down his armor, his weapons and his adornments then take the stairway down to the river where common folk washed.

          It seems quite apparent that the prophet felt Naaman needed a lesson in humility.  He was not seeking to humiliate Naaman with these instructions.  He was seeking to instill in this great warrior that he would need to totally submit himself in the presence of God to these simple instructions.  In so doing he would need to set aside his pride and ego and lower himself as a common man into the public waterway of the Jordan River.

          It took the bold persuasion of his servants to convince him to humble himself and give Elisha’s instructions a try.  “So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.”

          Naaman was no less than nor no more than anyone of us.  He did not naturally seek the path of humility nor do we.  His position in life taught him to rely on his own abilities.   And as he became a great and mighty warrior he began to give himself credit for his mighty achievements.  He was weaned away from giving his Creator credit for his abilities.  In his position of self-reliance and self-importance he had moved away from any honest concern for others around him.  His pride had made him the center of his own kingdom.  It was only his fear of the leprosy that had caused him to move outside his self-centered world.  Without realizing it Naaman had taken a step toward humility.

          There are many times in the Bible where we are called to begin to find our way to humility.  Look to the words found in Philippians chapter two verses three and four: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.  Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”  Throughout the scriptures we are called upon to humble ourselves.  Hear these words from 1st Peter chapter 5: verse 6: “humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God.”  And in the gospel of Matthew chapter 18 verse 4: “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

          It was once said to me that: “if you think you are humble then you probably are not.”  I suspect this was said to break down the pride and ego that was in the way, at that point in the journey.  Yet, many of those around us need to be built up.  Some need to know that true humility is accepting and utilizing all the: ‘God given talents’ and ‘gifts’ that God has given them.

          Naaman took the necessary steps of humility.  He did not find this easy.  He had to set aside those things he had grown to trust for something he was less sure of; the world around him respected his proficiency as a warrior, he prided himself in that.  Many have achieved status and recognition in our world for their achievements.  Moving from our worldly positions and becoming ‘right sized’ in the sight of God and those around us: is the hard part.

        Jesus could have ruled the world like no other king that came before him.  Yet, as we are told from the words written in Philippians chapter two verses six thru verse eleven, Jesus: “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.   And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.  Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

          What steps are we (what steps are you) willing to take?  Are we (are you) willing to become (a) student(s) in the pursuit of humility?  If the answer is yes, we (each one of us) shall become more intimate with our God.  Do we (you) possess the courage to set aside (your) our pride and ego?  Can we (can you) admit (your) our own errors? 

          The stairway is in front of us.  Let us not be afraid when the steps appear to move downward, as they did for Naaman.  Let us now begin the steps of humility, let us move down the stairway, taking each step one at a time, trusting that this simple act of humility will bring us, step by step, closer to our God.  In true humility… let us begin accepting ourselves as we truly are in the sight God.  


Based on a sermon by Rev. Scott Elliott (a former RUCC pastor)

A message for LGBT teens and others who feel oppressed.


This message focuses on two things from Matthew 5: (1) Jesus’ observation that “You are the light of the world;” and (2) his command in the lesson to “Let your light shine…”  Jesus is talking about people being light in the world.


Often sermons on this text are a call to being the shining example of goodness. The text can fairly be heard that way.  It is also sometimes understood to be a call to Christians who hide their religious allegiance in order to avoid being persecuted. The call is to let their religion be known and shine so their example allows others to see their goodness and give glory to God.  These are both fair ways to hear the text.


The beauty of the Bible and especially Jesus’ teachings is that they can have layered meanings. More than one meaning is possible and none necessarily has to be wrong.  It’s good thing to be a shining example of goodness in the world. It is also a good thing to not hide your Christianity so others can see the goodness and give glory to the God.  I want to suggest another good meaning. A third option. Jesus can be heard to teach all of us that we have a light to shine. Regardless of what others may say, what we ourselves might even think, Jesus sees us all for what we are, a great and good light, and we need to let that light shine!


This sounds simpler than it is. Many people live in darkness, many people do not understand themselves as being a light in the world. The culture and subcultures are often the root of this, telling folks they are lesser beings or making them aware that they do not fit cultural constructed “norms.” We see this with things like race and religion, gender and sexual orientation, things that make a person seem different from the majority or those in power is used to dampen the light – or try to do so.  This is particularly true amongst adolescents in the teen sub-culture. Over the past six months there has been a heavy emphasis on stories in the media of young adults who have taken their lives or had violence imposed on them by others both due to bullying based on sexual orientation.


Here are some facts that keep LGBT teen lights from shining:

 -9 out of 10 LGBT students have experienced harassment at school.

 -LGBT teens are bullied 2 to 3 times as much as straight teens.

 -More than 1/3 of LGBT youth have attempted suicide.

 -LGBT teens are 4 times as likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.

-LGBT youth with “highly rejecting” families are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than those whose families accept them. 1


These types of statistics sadden me greatly, they bring me to tears.  It is beyond reasonable doubt in the scientific and psychological and medical world, in the world of reason, that homosexuality is a natural part of creation.  It is a fact that a percent of humanity has been created by God as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender, L…G…B…T.


The Bible indicates that God has declared all of creation good. This necessarily includes LGBT! So it is natural to shed tears about people being hurt over how God made them.  My tears are not just about statistics and reports of people being brutalized for being LGBT. That would be enough to upset me. It is not just that I know dear people in this congregation who have told me stories of such violence in their lives. That would be more than enough to upset me too. But my tears go deeper than that, I have very personal experiences that bring me to those tears.


The first two statistics I read about bullying reflect my very own experience over 30 years ago in college and high school and middle school. First of all, for most males of my generation being bullied was pretty much your lot in life as you moved into school as an underclassman. The small males endured taunting and brutality by the upperclassmen and bigger kids in the class. Threats, hall gang violence, hitting, shoving, and lots of scary words were the norm.  I know. I was small until I was a junior in high school and harassment was an all too common place and occurrence at my schools.


No one should have to undergo such bullying. Gay or Straight, Black or White, Christian or Muslim or Jew, short or tall. When I got involved in theatre as a youth the harassment increased. You know why? Because in the teen world of the 1970’s to be an actor meant to a great many folks that you were a homosexual.  There was no logic to this. It did not matter that tough guy heroes of the culture, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson, were actors.


In the teen world I occupied, males like me who were in drama were, to use a legal phrase, ipso facto Gay. Period. You could have a note from your doctor saying otherwise, you could have lots of girlfriends, it did not matter, drama connections meant you were homosexual. It’s the craziest thing really.


I was not Gay, but that did not matter, I was perceived as Gay and became a part of some of the statistics we are talking about. I may not be bonafide LGBT, but, I was an honorary one. And so like 9 out of 10 LGBT students who experienced harassment at school, I did too. Like LGBT teens I was probably bullied 2 to 3 times as much as straight teens. Mean words, threats, assault and battery occurred. The worse of this bullying occurred when I was not only shoved around and harassed in the halls of my college dorm, but received anonymous written death threats from a gang of athletes in that dorm.  It was very ugly.


My best friend at that college had it even worse. When he went on to graduate school he was brutally beat up on campus by a bully who perceived him as Gay.  Both he and I were, however, not Gay. We were straight males, but we were subjected to very real, very scary, senseless violence because some boys declared us to be Gay by our major – if you can believe that.


But you know what? Even though our being straight did not prevent others from perceiving that we were Gay and trying to hurt us, it saved us from something else; The greater culture’s sense of unworthiness. We had to wrestle with others’ sense of our worth, but never our own or the culture as a whole.


When you are really LGBT (not just honorary) the culture tries to snuff out the light of your LGBT-ness, who you are.  The culture’s preferred norm is heterosexuality. Anything outside that norm is suspect. And people were raised back then – and even still today – to think there is something wrong with you if you are not heterosexual.


This is wrong of course, since all of God’s creation is not just good, but right…and frankly normal.  As straight men my drama pal and I did not have to wrestle every moment with the wrongheaded idea ingrained in our culture that there was something wrong with us. We knew that in reality we fit the heterosexual norm (even if we were actors).  I was not rejected by my family and I did not attempt suicide because of my sexuality, oddly enough all I had to do to become acceptable to those who bullied me was not be an actor. But even as an actor I knew I fit the sexual norm of the culture.


But my friends who were LGBT could not walk away from who they were made to be by God in order to fit in a culturally constructed box others wanted them in. There are, by the way, a number of folks in drama who are Gay. So while I suffered side by side with harassment from folks who knew I was in theatre, my Gay friends suffered wherever they were Gay – which was, of course, everywhere.


My closet and dearest friend in high school was named Scott. (A good name, if I do say so myself.) Our friends and family called him Scotty so we’d know who was being spoken to. Scotty was a wonderful young man with a sweet loving disposition and a singing voice that was otherworldly good. We did a number of plays together and believe it or not we actually worked up an amazing duet of The Star Spangled Banner that folks often asked us to sing. Scotty and I spent many a day together as close friends are wont to do.


When I was a high school senior I received a call from Scotty after he had taken a bottle of pills in an attempt to kill himself. He was one of the more than 1/3 of LGBT kids that have attempted suicide.  Thankfully we got him out of that attempt alive. But Scotty grew up to live his life recklessly with harmful, even near death events, as a not so uncommon feature.


Over the years I lost track of Scotty and a few years back I traced his older brother down in an effort to reconnect. I sadly discovered that Scotty had died in his forties of a combination of problems due to ill health. It may not have been suicide, but he died way before his time.


LGBT kids are 4 times as likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. LGBT youth with “highly rejecting” families are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than those whose families accept them. Scotty’s father rejected him outright, and so he fit both of these categories. 2


So did Jeff. Jeff went to church youth group and high school with me. Jeff was in plays with me, he was Barnaby to my Cornelius in “Hello Dolly” so we even sang a duet and danced together. Jeff looked up to me like a younger brother. He thought I was funny, so naturally I liked Jeff. He hung out at our house a lot.  Later when Nancy and I lived in LA, Jeff was down there too and we met up once or twice. But Jeff did not call me in LA after he took his bottle of pills. I wish he had. They found him dead of an overdose thirty years ago. I still mourn that loss.


It was very hard to be bullied as a teen. I hated going to school. I hated being small and helpless. But I never tried to take my life. Because no one had taught me that a major core of my being was not a light. My dear friends Scotty and Jeff, were taught otherwise. They were wonderful people and so full of light, but they could not see it. In many ways the culture hid their lights, even tried to put them out.


Both Jeff and Scotty could not see their own bright lights, they were hidden under the bushel of homophobia. Because they were Gay, Scotty and Jeff were told to be that way was to have no light, to be that way was to be a dark, sinful being going to hell. What nonsense!  What a harmful lie!


Jesus puts absolutely no limits or exceptions on his statement in the text we are considering. He literally says “You are the light of the world.” He can be heard to be speaking to every single person – that means each one of you.


WE are the light of the world. You and me are all lights of the world.  Everyone needs to hear that. Teens need to hear that. Scotty and Jeff needed to hear that. Today’s Scottys and Jeffs need to hear that. No matter where you have been, what you have done, what others may say, please take Jesus seriously: “YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.”


Last fall an online project began called the “It Gets Better” Project which shares videos and information with teens about a light at the end of the tunnel of teen bullying. It does get better, I can vouch for that having not been harassed for being a perceived Gay since I was 20 (which I know does not look like it, but it was a long time ago).  Here is an excerpt from the It Gets Better Project website:

 Growing up isn’t easy. Many young people face daily tormenting and bullying, leading them to feel like they have nowhere to turn. This is especially true for LGBT kids and teens, who often hide their sexuality for fear of bullying. Without other openly gay adults and mentors in their lives, they can’t imagine what their future may hold. In many instances, gay and lesbian adolescents are taunted — even tortured — simply for being themselves.

Justin Aaberg. Billy Lucas. Cody Barker. Asher Brown. Seth Walsh. Raymond Chase. Tyler Clementi. They were tragic examples of youth who could not believe that it does actually get better. While many of these teens couldn’t see a positive future for themselves, we can. The It Gets Better Project was created to show young LGBT people the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach – if they can just get through their teen years. The It Gets Better Project wants to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone — and it WILL get better.

What a beautiful ministry. You can google “youtube” and “It gets better” and find the videos with the message that “it gets better.”  Over 10,000 videos have been submitted so far with stories of grown-ups telling LGBT teens that life gets better after high school, that the bullies and bullying become much less important in life later on.  I have watched and posted many of the videos on my facebook. They are inspirational and touching, very powerful examples of God working in the lives and words of others.


There has been at least one mainline song that has made the charts that touches on this issue in a general way. You have probably heard it and not even known it. The song is called “Firework” it is sung by Katy Perry. Ms. Perry has a very powerful video of the song that makes the very point of this sermon, that echoes the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5 that “You are the light of the world” and his command to “let your light shine.”   I have no idea if Katy Perry knows that she is paraphrasing Jesus but, her song and video bring the very kind of hope we can hear in Jesus words. We are lights! And we are supposed to shine the light that we are.


That’s what Jesus can be heard to say in our lesson today. And he is saying it to everyone. “You are the light of the world! Let your light shine!”  Katy Perry’s song does the same thing. She calls upon those who are feeling less than light – perhaps even dark – to “ignite the light, And let it shine.”


Please go online and watch the video. Here are some of the lyrics, they are so uplifting:

You just gotta ignite the light,

 And let it shine.

 Just own the night,

 Like the Fourth of July.

 Cause baby you’re a firework.

 Come on show ‘em what your worth

 Make ‘em go “Oh, oh, oh!”

 As you shoot across the sky… 3


To every single one of you, not just LGBT folk, but all of you; LGBT, Straight, Young, Old, Middle-age, Teen, Men, Women, Black, White, Red, Brown, Yellow, Conservatives and Liberals, hear – HEAR – what Jesus says: YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD! LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE!





1. From the It Gets Better Project website at: http://www.itgetsbetter.org/pages/about it gets better project/

2. While Scotty’s father was, in my opinion, highly rejecting, the rest of Scotty’s family was not. Indeed, they appeared to love him dearly.

3. Katy Perry Firework lyrics found on http://www.directlyrics.com/katy perry firework lyrics.html